Christian Living

Abundant Redemption

Today I had a fairly lengthy conversation with one of my daughters about treating each time someone wrongs us as if it were the first time. It’s ironic because we’ve been talking about being complete on our podcast this week, Epic Every Day. Part of being a complete person is living in the present instead of hanging onto things from the past or sending your mind into the future.

Obviously, if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a passionate believer in the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation–forgiveness is a heart issue and something between you and God; reconciliation requires both parties to acknowledge their wrongs and work to make sure the problem doesn’t occur again.

The only way we can treat someone’s wrongs as though it were the first time they’ve wronged us is if we are steeped in the Gospel. See, the Gospel says that God redeems all the sins that affect us–both those we commit and those that are done to us. Sometimes it’s easy to get so focused on His future redemption (in the new heaven and new earth) that we forget about the now. I love in Psalm 27 where David* says “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Redemption isn’t just a future thing.

It’s amazing how much freedom has come into my life via that one concept. I love that I can stop beating myself up for things I’ve done in the past. It allows me to let go of my past baggage and press into the now. It wasn’t until I started Tapping/EFT on some of my past mistakes that I really felt how much of myself was trapped in the past. I really felt that I deserved to be punished–which is true, we do deserve death for our sin. Fortunately, that’s not the whole truth. Redemption means God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103). Basically, they’re an infinity away from us. And He’s given us Jesus’ clean record. So, punishing myself is actually contrary to the Gospel of grace. In essence, it’s saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough.

I don’t know if you have anything like that in your past, but I can tell you that it’s exhausting to never let yourself off the hook for something you did in the past. I was constantly weighed down by shame and regret. Mental energy went towards either avoiding thinking about it or wishing I’d done something different/figuring out what I should have done. Time went into running away from my past. Carrying that maelstrom around took a lot of work!

Redemption also means we can let go of what other people have done to us. We can trust God to heal us and to work out their sin for our benefit. It’s a mind-boggling idea. I will freely admit that there are things that don’t feel like they can be turned to good, and I think it’s worth noting that God only promises this for believers. People who don’t know Jesus don’t have the same promise, and I know I struggle with watching the evil in their lives apparently consuming them. The world is broken. God will definitely bring glory to Himself through every person, but He only promises “to work all things out for the good of those who love Him” (NIV, emphasis mine).

So, if you are someone who loves Jesus, no matter what has happened in your life, God can work it out for your good. Which means you can forgive people, no matter what they’ve done to you. It’s not easy, but it is freeing and better in the long run.

Psalm 130: 7 ~ O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption (NASB).

Blog_ Abundant Redemption

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Spiritual Rest

As we’ve just finished Easter, I thought this would be a good place to start. I don’t know about in your own spiritual journey, but I tried following rules before I succumbed to grace. If you’ve never tried earning your own salvation, let me tell you, it’s an exhausting prospect. It’s literally impossible to do right things with right motives all the time. And even if you could, any wrong things you’d done (or right things with wrong motives) would still be around proclaiming your sinful state (if you want to read more on this subject, I addressed it pretty thoroughly in my book Tales from a Spacious Place, pp 187-208). I spent quite a lot of time trying to cross all my t’s and dot all my i’s, and then I just gave up because nothing I did or didn’t do seemed to make any difference.

And that is when grace came in. God taught me that what I was incapable of doing on my own, He had done. Jesus lived a perfect life and died for me. He traded records with me. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus’ righteousness, rather than my sin.

It’s easy to come to an understanding of the Gospel and apply it at a single moment in time. I still find myself caught in a performance trap with God at times. But that isn’t who I truly am. The Gospel still applies to every moment of my life, not just that moment of salvation. Spiritual rest means that I stop trying to earn God’s favor, stop trying to live a right life on my own, stop putting on a show for God. Instead I rest in what Jesus has already done. I was so wicked that God had to die for me. I am so loved that He did it willingly and joyfully. Once the Gospel has permeated every facet of our existence there is such peace. No need to impress. No need to muster up love or any other part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Just relying on Him to work in and through and for me.

This kind of rest can’t be forced. And it can’t be faked. It can only be given by God. Where are you at with God? Are you spending all your time striving? Do you wear a mask with Him? He is so ready to rescue you from your own perfectionism. He is so ready to love you for who you are.

God, thank You for making rest impossible apart from You! Thank You for creating that need, so that we wouldn’t wander through our lives oblivious to You. Jesus, thank You for dying to bring us true rest. Change our hearts. Lord, we need spiritual rest and You are the only one who has it. Root us and ground us in Your love, so that we are never tempted to be anything less than real with You. We come to You as broken, tired people. Teach us the truth of Your Gospel in all the rest of the moments we have. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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The Unlikely Path to Victory

Strength in weakness. Power in relaxation. These concepts seem so antithetical–practically ludicrous.

Yet we find them writ large across the pages of the Bible. The gospel itself bleeds with these incongruities–God, Sovereign of heaven and earth, incarnate as a helpless babe, raised in poverty, crucified despite His innocence . . . crucified to rescue me. The powerful One sacrificed at the hands of powerless men so that they many be grafted in, that humans may have access to divine power (1 Peter 1; 2 cor. 4:7; Ephesians, John 15).

A martial arts class I’ve been taking has prompted meditation on the value of intentional weakness–call it “rest” or “relaxation.” It’s been fascinating to see the power of relaxation. My teacher frequently gives this illustration: Suppose you are attacked. Someone grabs your arm. If you tense up, they have a direct line to the rest of your body. They can move you about at will. Yet if you relax, your attacker retains possession of your arm and your arm alone. In fact, as my teacher likes to point out, the question becomes “who has whom?” Your attacker may have your arm, but in holding onto it, they themselves are tensed up and vulnerable to attack. You now possess a direct line to their core.

Spiritual warfare is similar. Isaiah 30:15 – “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: In repentance and rest is your salvation [to be free], in quietness [to calm] and trust if your strength[victory] but you would have none of it.” Victory is not found in striving, just as salvation is not by works. Jesus has won the battle already. Satan, his agents, and my own sinful nature are all defeated foes.

Victory is not found in thrashing around violently, like a cow caught in quicksand, nor in giving way to despair. Sometimes things just look like I’m trapped in quicksand. Life is hard and it’s not fair. These are the realities of living in a broken world.

However, appearances are deceiving. “Yet” and “haply” turn “bootless cries” into “hymns at heaven’s gate.” By God’s thought, reality is outwardly wasting away yet inwardly being renewed. Reality is that I have been grafted into God’s family and my loving Father works all things for my good.

Therefore, victory is found in relaxing and trusting God to win the victory. This is not to say it’s an easy task. Relaxing in the face of trouble is one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do–every fiber of my being cries out for action of some sort, be it fight or flight. Nor am I called to laziness. I still have a responsibility to position myself for victory. God still calls me to faith.

God, give me the faith to believe You . . . to rest in Your character and in what You’ve already done and are going to do. Help me to be proactively inactive, yet to obey and do whatever You’ve called me to do in the power of Your Spirit. Don’t let me get away with “having none” of Your salvation and victory. Thank You, Jesus, for winning the victory for me!