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Posts Tagged ‘salvation’

“EGR,” she quipped with a smile and an exaggerated sigh.  My quizzical look prompted a response.

“You know…extra grace required.”

Unexpectedly, our prayer for others had shifted from intercession to a Christianized version of gossip cloaked in false compassion.

And I wondered…how many people say THAT about her….me….you?

Wishing I hadn’t asked for an explanation and feeling stained by the knowledge, I realized Christ knew the truth from eternity past–I had been born wrapped in an invisible package of sin.

If others knew the truth?  If they only knew about the unkind–even cruel–words that have crossed my lips…the ugly thoughts that have flitted through my mind…the actions shadowed by regret. Can you relate, dear friend?

Extra grace required.

But, there is something beautiful about my story….about the story of every person who has a personal relationship with Jesus.   Even though He knew me as a sinner, Christ envisioned me as a saint.  Even as lies or curse words were breathed from my mouth, the Life Giver imagined a tongue calling out His name in praise.  Even my rash, selfish actions fail to stand between me and the person I will someday become–the one He had in mind more than forty years ago.

There is no doubt…before I ever took my first breath, Jesus knew.

Extra grace required.

And, He loves me anyway.

 

Scripture for Reflection

For it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:8 NIV)

…Everything that we have–right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start, comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:27 MSG)

 

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

For years, I’ve struggled to understand.  How can there be rest in a world like this…in the here-and-now reality of government sponsored terrorist attacks, state approved drug consumption, and families reeling from the long-term effects of terminal illness…abuse…divorce?

Religion tells us we’ll find peace in doing…living life in a certain way…proving to God that we are worthy of approval. 

Television “experts”  and self-help gurus reassure that we create our own peace–“Happiness is in your spiritual DNA. It is what you experience when you accept yourself…” (Dr. Robert Holden).

The world promises we can find peace in the anesthetized power of sexual encounters…bank accounts brimming with wealth…or the uninhibited consumption of a non-demanding, high-resolution screen.Fish Symbol on Cross

No…religion robs us of joy and promotes the desire to help others–a desire born of a self-centered motivation to earn heavenly favor.

If happiness were  innate, then there would be no such thing as genetically based mood disorders.  Say “goodbye” to depression.  Adios, anxiety!  We have the power!

And money?  Sex?  Inanimate screens?  In and of themselves, they aren’t bad.  As givers of hope, though, they are only mere fillers for unmet emotional and spiritual needs!  As soon as the money has been spent, the comforting arms have disappeared, or the ‘off’ button has eliminated the constant Twitter and Facebook feeds then what remains?  Lonely, broken people.

Jesus?  He promised something more….a one-of-a-kind, once-and-for-all, happily ever after.  It may seem slow in coming, but there is a place prepared with you in mind, Dear One–your forever home with a tender Father willing to temporarily move into time and space in order to bear your burden and mine .

This is a sort of rest that extends beyond the ten o’ clock news and personal problems.  Soul-rest exists in the glorious triumph of Christ’s resurrection, His assurance of  forgiveness, and the holy grace of eternal restoration.

Scripture for Reflection–

Isaiah 53:3-4

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Fish Symbol on CrossI want to be your encourager today–the one who reminds you that Christmas is the day Eternity entered the world…that moment when the Holy One stepped away from God’s glory to lay shivering a midst the squalor and stench of man’s inhospitable world.  For within that unremarkable town in an unknown stable, a young woman wrapped filthy rags around the King-turned-flesh.

And she must have wept tears of joy…and sorrow–knowing that God’s Miracle-child had been meant for more.  The world should have received the Lion-made-Lamb with shouts of praise and proclamations of the Messiah’s arrival!  God incarnate should have been wrapped in blankets of silk stitched together with threads of gold and silver!

Yet for thirty-three years, Jesus lay his crown of glory aside.  The one who breathed life into the spirit of man gave up His glory the moment the power of the Most High stirred life in the virgin’s womb.  Why?  Because of love.  Nothing more.

Dear friend, Eternity entered the world that we might have eternity.  But not just any eternity, nor an eternity spent shivering in a place of corruption…a place without the Lion-made-Lamb. He lived a man’s life–from cradle to cross–with you and me in mind so that we might experience Eternity himself.

It was His plan all along–this quiet redemption.  His impoverished birth for our heavenly re-birth.  His tattered swaddling clothes for our white robes.  His unheralded nativity for our celebrated homecoming.

The day Eternity entered the world is much more that Christmas–it is Christ.

Verses for Reflection

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God.  (Luke 1:35)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor. 5:17)

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, … (Revelation 7:9-17)

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The imperfect Christmas unfolded like a crumpled piece of gift wrap–its bright colors diminished by the absence of a firstborn son and a father more dedicated to the child than the comforts of home.  And I think of the journey he made yesterday in a quest to lavish love on one who may not understand–a love with its source from above…and within.  A love patterned after the One who is Christmas incarnate.

That first Christmas?  The One who is Christmas left His glorious home and chose mortal flesh; His immortal glory shrouded by helpless  mortality.  The God whose breath filled the lungs of the first Adam now inhaled–the unpracticed movement of the babe foreshadowing the shallow breathing of a soon-to-be Savior gasping on a crude, wooden cross.

That Christmas?  God’s firstborn son had forsaken the comforts of His heavenly home. Stripped of His heavenly robes, the Christ lay helpless and shivering…cloaked in nothing more than rags.  And I think of the journey he made in a quest to lavish love on those who may not understand–that the imperfect might one day be made perfect.  

 

Verse for Reflection

For unto us a son is born; unto us a son is given…     Isaiah 9:6

 

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Heather role-playing Mary and baby Jesus

Heather role-playing Mary and baby Jesus

From the moment the Thanksgiving turkey graces the table until my children unwrap the last present beneath the tree, my radio is set to local stations boasting of jingle bells and roasting chestnuts.  Yesterday, the words “you’d better watch out, you’d better not cry, better not pout–I’m telling you why” bounced around the living room while my daughter tried to convince me–and her older brothers–that Santa Claus “is too” real.

Heather’s continued belief is surprising given a recent school event. Having just lost her seventh tooth and wanting to share her bounty of wisdom, my daughter perched on top of a bench in the lunch room and announced to all of the 2nd grade students within range, “There is NO tooth fairy.  Your parent’s are the tooth fairy!”

Still, this same little girl is convinced she saw Saint Nick one distant Christmas night.  And the childhood fantasy continues…for now.

Unlike the fantasy, though, there is One who does more than watch us pout or cry.  He is more concerned about our heart condition than our outward behavior.  He is more interested in giving His life than sharing a toy that will be broken in a few months.  Instead of watching from afar, He left heaven’s perfection to bring salvation to imperfect men.

He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  He is the Alpha and Omega.  He is the creator of heaven and earth.  He is the babe in the manger, the sacrificial Lamb, and the firstborn from the dead.  He is Jesus.  And whether people believe or not–He is real.

Scripture for Reflection

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  You know my every thought when far away.  You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest.  Every moment you know where I am.  You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.  You both precede and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head.”  Psalm 139:1-5

 

 

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Then the LORD God said, “I see that it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make the companion he needs, one just right for him.  Genesis 2:18

Exotic flowers of every hue  filled the garden with their beauty while nightingales whistled a love song.  Admiring the innocence and perfection of the young couple, their Father smiled in approval.  Adam and Eve were married.

From the beginning, God intended marriage to bless the men and women joined in this one-of-a-kind, soul binding union.  We know, though, the simplicity of marriage was forever altered when the inaugural couple chose self before God.  Like the thorns that sprouted from the ground as a result of sin’s corruption, disharmony erupted in the fledgling relationship.  If you’re married, you’ve experienced this yourself–finger-pointing, fault-finding, or disappointment in one another.

Some have experienced marriage at its worst, others are struggling to hold fast to their vows, and a few are on a marriage mountaintop.  Whatever place you are in today–even this very moment–be encouraged.   While a husband and wife are meant to bless one another, true fulfillment comes from our relationship with our Heavenly Husband.  He is the one who can meet every need, relieve every worry, and love perfectly.

3 Action Steps You Can Take

    • Give thanks for your husband–Let God AND the man in your life know how you’ve been blessed because of him.  If you’re marriage is struggling, look each day for one positive thing he’s said or done that you can mention in appreciation.
    • Reach out to others–Couples need other people.  Don’t rely only on one another to meet the impossible task of fulfilling every need.  You’ll both be better equipped for marriage if you have friends.  Need guidance?  All couples do at some point.  Don’t be afraid to seek counsel from a couple you admire or even professional  assistance.
    • Perspective–As much as you may love your husband, have you thought about Him lately?  He loves you perfectly and completely.  If you’ve been let down by the hope of a marriage made in heaven, dear friend, then one day you will celebrate a relationship like none other–the bond shared between you and your Heavenly Husband.  He waits for you with open arms.  If you haven’t already, why not ask Him to be part of your life today?

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