Month: March 2015

The Cost of Redemption

1 Peter 1:18-19

“…you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”

I’ve always wanted to adopt a baby, and our family is getting closer and closer to making that decision with each passing day. Of course, we all know that this is a very expensive process—that’s no secret. But a few months ago, I realized that it was probably going to be several thousand dollars more expensive than even I had anticipated. Worth every penny, no doubt, but this new information was likely to put a very real kink in the logistical feasibility of our plans. I remember asking out loud, and to no one in particular, “Why does adoption have to cost so much?”

“So much?” I felt God whisper the question in the privacy of my own heart. And all of a sudden, the parallels between adoption and REDEMPTION began to resonate throughout my soul.

Galatians 4:4-7 declares that “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive adoption as sons.” What’s more, Colossians 1:13-14 tells us that “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

And just how much did that cost? It cost the blood of Jesus, His very life. According to 1 Peter 1:18-19, we “were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold …but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” Mark 10:45 says further that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” A ransom. Have you ever heard of an inexpensive ransom? So, in short, our redemption cost EVERYTHING. We might ask how God did it, and the answer is clear in Ephesians 1:7: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”

In light of this greatest of sacrifices, more costly than gold and willingly offered, I am convinced that, if I ever do have the chance to hold my adopted baby in my arms, I will be asking myself, How in the world did this cost so little?

Strength to Submit

Last year around this time, I became convinced that our son, Tijge, had lymphoma. Okay, not entirely convinced, but well aware of that possibility. You have to understand—I’m the kind of person who has not only contingency plans, but contingency plans for contingency plans, almost contingency flowcharts. My mind operates kind of like a “choose your own adventure” plot map. I know it sounds like a tedious exercise to some, but for me, it’s a way to prepare myself to always accept and submit to God’s will, whatever that may entail.
Tj Tonsils 10-Hospital

But somehow, this felt different. Even though I could see countless good things—Kingdom things—coming from any outcome, it seemed wrong for me to accept those outcomes on behalf of a 3-year old boy who couldn’t begin to understand the why behindany of it. I thought about the Bible and about the many examples that Scripture gives of people who were given strength to submit to God’s will. For example, in Genesis22:9, we’re told that Abraham “bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.” Most of us picture a young boy in this story, but scholars estimate that Isaac was at least a teenager, and possibly as old as 25. Surely, he was capable of overtaking his aging father, if he had chosen to do so. But he chose to submit instead (thankfully, God intervened just in time to prevent his sacrifice).

And then in Luke 22:41-43, we read that, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus “knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’” and that “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Of course, in this case, Jesus knew the reason for his suffering, but still pleaded that there might be any other way to redeem the world. As we know, there was not, and He obeyed.

I could recount example after example from Scripture of believers given supernatural strength to submit to God’s will, even when it seems like too much to ask and too much to bear (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace; Daniel in the lions’ den,; and David and Goliath, to name a few). But one thing struck me about all of these examples—consent. These individuals all made a cognitive decision to submit to God. So what about when we’re asked to, in essence, choose submission on someone else’s behalf? Where is our precedent for that?

Well, having pondered it for weeks leading up to Tijge’s diagnosis, I came up with the answer. WE are the precedent. We are God’s children, and He sometimes chooses hardship for us in the interest of the greater good. Sometimes the only thing in our control is our response to our circumstances. And just as in the Garden, where an angel appeared to strengthen Jesus, God will grant us strength to submit to his will.

Ultimately, I chose to believe that a God who could help me to see past pain and suffering to His greater glory could surely also strengthen a little boy to do the same. In this case, it didn’t come to that. But the deeper faith that came through this time of wrestling will surely strengthen me when God’s plans for me call for submission.

The Hearts of ALL Men

Luke 23:42-43
“And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom!’
And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.’”

Ecclesiastes 3:11 is one of my favorite verses because it declares that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. It gives me comfort to know that my own longing for heaven and for home is a God-given desire, and one that need never be stifled for the sake of fitting in or smoothing over. But, as we spend this season reflecting on the significance of Easter and of Christ’s suffering on our behalf, I’m more moved to focus not on the fact that God has set eternity in my heart personally, but on the fact that He has set that same sense of the eternal within the hearts of ALL men—all humankind.

Luke 23:42-43 illustrates this perfectly. It’s the account of the thief on the cross who confesses to Jesus and places his trust in Him. A hardened criminal, if you will, and his last thoughts were of heaven. I can’t imagine he’d spent much of his life considering his eternal condition. And yet, at the one moment that counted most, that was the only thing on his mind. You know what I love even more? That Jesus honored this man’s dying request. God didn’t set eternity in our hearts to be stingy with it, or to snatch it away. He longs that each of us would accept His gift of eternal life. 2 Peter 3:9 (NASB) assures us, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

I have to confess that sometimes I do feel like God has been slow to keep His promise to me. Like Moses, I long to see His Glory face to face, pleading, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.” But, if I shift my focus off of myself and on to all men, I’m led to pray instead for His continued patience and dedication to widespread repentance: “Give them one more day, Father, and forgive them—for they know not what they do.”

Like Jesus Does

“All the crazy in my dreams,
Both my broken wings,
Every single piece of everything I am,
Yeah, she knows the man I ain’t,
She forgives me when I can’t,
The Devil, man, no, he don’t stand a chance,
‘Cause she loves me like Jesus does.”
(Eric Church)

There’s a country song that came out awhile back and has been popular ever since, called, “Like Jesus Does.”  I remember a time last summer when I was playing this song, and I took the kids out onto the deck at their grandma and grandpa’s house. They took turns dancing with me and would throw their heads back and laugh, full of joy. At that moment, feeling showered with undeserved blessings, the words of the song and the deeper meaning of the lyrics hit me in a way they hadn’t before.

This is how Jesus loves me. He knows my every dream and my every failure. He knows every sorrow and every sin. And even though the Devil would love to use every bit of my past (and my continued struggles) against me, he doesn’t stand a chance, because Jesus loves me like He does.

No doubt, you’ve heard the saying that “there’s nothing you can do to make God love you any more than He does. And there’s nothing you can do to make Him love you any less.” And truer words have hardly been spoken. God is love. He is grace. He is mercy. He is forgiveness.

What could we possibly do to deserve this? Nothing. All we can do is love Him in return, and love others “like Jesus does.”

And what better time to reflect on these simple truths and powerful convictions than in the weeks leading up to Easter, when God—through His son Jesus—declared this unfailing love for us, once and for all.

cropped-lj-with-mom-51.jpg