Grace

Chosen

Ephesians 1:4 (NLT)

“Even before he made the world,
God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.”

I hope you all will forgive me for digressing from my “Who I am” series for this week. But God spoke to me this week in an illustration that I want to share with you. You see, as I was walking home from dropping the kids off at school on Wednesday, I came across a random Chihuahua. He was in a yard that I didn’t recall him belonging to, and he started barking at me, and then he followed me briefly (and forgive me, the picture is a bit blurry–he wouldn’t stand still). He finally decided to stay where he was, but as often happens when I encounter a stray dog, I began to daydream. What if he followed me home? What if he refused to leave? What if he chose us to adopt him?

Now, you have to understand—and I mean no disrespect—but we are NOT Chihuahua people. We like BIG dogs: Bernese Mountain Dogs, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundlands, those sorts of dogs. But there’s something about the idea of a pet choosing you, isn’t there? About them adopting you, if you will. At least there is for me. So, I thought to myself that, if this dog indeed were to choose us, we might find ourselves inviting him into our lives and our home and becoming his forever family. We might.

There’s just something about being chosen. It’s like destiny, do you know what I mean? That’s one thing (among many) that I love SO much about God. He has chosen ME. He has chosen YOU. Psalm 11:3 says, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” There is such comfort in knowing this. The old hymn states, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!” But I dare say, “Blessed assurance, I am HIS!” Know this assurance today, and rest in the peace that comes from being His chosen.

Advertisements

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?

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

Just As…

Joshua 1:16-18

They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do,
and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things,
so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses.
Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words
in all that you command him, shall be put to death;
only be strong and courageous.”

We’ve been studying Joshua lately, and I’ve been trying to focus on new angles that I may not have noticed before. In the passage above, that angle came as I read “Just as we obeyed Moses…” I quickly flipped back to the preceding verses to make sure that I was properly attributing the quote. And I was—it was the Israelites that made this claim, without batting an eye. I wanted to yell, “Blasphemy!” Seriously?! Just as you obeyed Moses?

And how was that, exactly? By building and worshipping a golden calf? By whining and moaning all through the desert? By questioning Moses and God at every turn? By threatening to have Moses replaced as your leader? By refusing to enter the Promised Land for fear of its inhabitants? By failing to put your trust in God, no matter how many times He proved himself faithful?

Just like that, huh? I can only imagine Joshua’s response to that.

I could sit in judgment of the Israelites all day long, but you know what? God chose them as an illustration of humanity. And that means that many times, the way that I obey God turns out to be just as the Israelites obeyed Moses, which is not very well. So, to me, this passage was a reminder of grace—the grace God had for the Israelites and the grace that He continues to show me. Grace is often described as unmerited favor. And it is just as unmerited for me, and for you, as it is for anyone else. When we forget that is when we begin to place ourselves in a judgment seat that belongs to God alone.

May we view ourselves rightly, that we may also rightly view those around us.

Staying When You Want to Stay

Psalm 85:12
“The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.”


Romans 8:17
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

 DPP_0057

Over the last couple of weeks, our pastor at church has preached sermons on the following two titles: 1) Going when you want to stay; and 2) Staying when you want to go. After this week’s message, I began to think to myself, What about staying when you want to stay? Doesn’t that feel wrong, somehow—as though it’s too easy? Maybe even a little bit selfish?

During the service, the worship team played a song by All Sons & Daughters called “All the Poor and Powerless.” I had never heard the song before, but a couple of lines struck me: “All the hearts who are content, and all who feel unworthy….” I think the song was originally intended to refer to two groups of people here. But it spoke to me as a both/and, rather than an either/or, kind of thing. In so many ways, I do feel content where I am—in the physical space and the spiritual community where I find myself. And that makes me feel unworthy. I certainly don’t deserve such blessings.

But then what is grace, after all, but unmerited favor and undeserved blessing? And even as we ask ourselves why God would give us so much, He is looking at us and seeing his son’s righteousness and his faithfulness. And He consequently showers us with his reward. May we then join in praising him for those many blessings, saying “Blessed be your name, in the land that is plentiful, where streams of abundance flow, blessed be your name!”

#RootedInWaco