You Redeem

As I was driving the other day, I turned to one of my playlists and this song by Aaron Shust came on. It has stayed with me over these days.

You redeem, You redeem
You restore what’s been stolen from me
You reclaim, You release
You rebuild with the words that You breathe.
You redeem.
Miracles will happen, healing will come
The plans of the enemy ruined, undone!
You redeem, You redeem
Let Your revival awaken me!
You reclaim, You release
You rebuild what’s been broken in me.
You redeem!

We live and breathe in a world that is in need of redemption; first from the penalty and power of sin that exists in each of us, but also from the brokenness that comes from our rebellion against God and also that of others which impacts us directly and indirectly.

We feel the groanings!

There are broken places in every life. We live in a fallen world where our Redeemer is at work, but we will not be free of the “fallenness” this side of eternity.  Some of those places are but small cracks, almost imperceptible over time, and easily shed from our souls, while others are cataclysmic and create gaping wounds that can heal when given over to the Savior’s hands for Him to mend and restore.  But, if not careful, they can also remain exposed or reopened and the wound deep and fresh.  If not ignored, healing can come again but, if disregarded and unguarded, that place will remain, as with a physical wound, a place of infection that can grow and spread. 

We can choose to make those gaps wider, deeper, and beyond repair, or we can submit them to the Lord and let Him rebuild us and those broken places.

For our God is the redeeming God, our Savior is the Repairer of the breaches, the Restorer of the broken places, the One who has taken the punishment. He is the One who is making all things new for those who have received His redemption by faith in Christ, even when we cannot see or feel it.

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making all things new.’… ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true!’” (Revelation 21:5)

The world and even other followers of Christ are going to hurt us; the enemy of our souls is seeking our demise physically, spiritually, and emotionally. But, as we intentionally set our gaze on God alone, as we lay down those “good things” that we have made idols, even those “holy expectations” of others that God intends and desires but that may not be so, and find our satisfaction in the love, faithfulness, and tenderness of the Father, we can be settled, content, and even full of joy regardless. 

God, the Repairer of the breaches, the One who is able to “restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,”* can also redeem and rebuild “what’s been broken” in us. He can and is calling us to die to ourselves because, in living for self-satisfying desires, we are walking with dead man’s bones and creating broken places. Yet, as we die to our self-focus, we can live in the joyful obedience of His presence.

He is more than able to revive, awaken, and redeem lost time and give us a boldness to stand in the gap for others, to stand against the schemes of the enemy that wants to destroy our walk, our witness, and our relationships, to march on in newness of life so can find healing for the broken places in ourselves and help others in their own.

Then can we sing, and even laugh with great joy, that “the plans of the enemy (are and can be) ruined, undone!” 

We are called to a more restful and less fearful place in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the love of the Father, and in the presence of Jesus who defeated the enemy of our souls on the cross and through His resurrection from death.

We can walk securely and boldly in the surety of hope that we don’t have to live in the broken places any longer! 

“You have made known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Psalm 16:11

*Aaron Shust, You Redeem

**Hymnscape collection by Katelyn Harbaugh Art: “This is My Father’s World”

*Joel 2:25

For Such a Time As This

I was having a conversation the other day with a young woman who has a popular blog. Many young women are encouraged by her raw honesty, influenced in their thinking by her words.

As we spoke, she shared that people can be cruel online, that she had had people make harsh, unkind comments on her feed and in direct messages, calling her out and pushing back on some of her posts.  She admitted that, while she understood what was being said and agreed that she needed to be clearer about certain aspects of her writings, the way it was presented to her was not perceived as being “in love” but rather quite caustic, so it was hard to receive. 

For such a time as this, we must be willing to speak and hear truth and make sure others are as well, but we can do it in a way that the ones to whom we address will not be quick to disavow our comments because of the acidity of our presentation, the hammer with which we drive our words. 

Sometimes we need to speak the truth to people; even the sincerest believer can word something in a way that comes across incorrectly, define something in a way that is contrary to God’s Word, or make a choice that needs a reset.

Of course, we must hold one another accountable; the Bible makes that clear.  Of course, we must guard and protect the Truth of the Bible and the Gospel message.  And we need to be direct, so that the importance of the point is not lost in the shuffle to “be nice.”  But perhaps we can increasingly speak in a way that opens the avenues for dialog, training, mentoring, teaching, and leading back to the only source of Truth – the Word of God. 

Might that not be what Paul meant when he said, “Speaking the truth in love,” then proceeded with the purpose of speaking that truth, “…(so that) we will grow up to become in every aspect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15) rather than remaining “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” or living “in the futility of their thinking…darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:17-18) 

We speak truth to one another, in a manner worthy of the Gospel, in love, for a God-centered purpose, to grow each other up in newness of life, to protect the Truth being presented in the marketplace of ideas and in relationships, to strengthen one another against the attempts of the enemy of our souls to make light of the fear of the Lord, His commands, and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Receiving truth, even spoken in love, is not always comfortable; in fact, it may feel harsh if it is pushing back on a “pillar” of our platform or a comfortable spot in our lives we don’t want to address and we may balk when it comes to us, but we must always ask the Lord, “What do you want me to hear from what is being said, is there truth in it, and how must I respond to be faithful to you?”  Don’t effectively shut down other believers and/or the people in your life who know you and love you most if they are not always just your “hype person,” one who makes you feel great about yourself but sometimes at the expense of truth.

Speaking the truth in love, we must take care to do just that…speak it in love but always first bathed in prayer, taken to the throne of God, and asking the Holy Spirit to direct both our words and the heart of the one to whom we communicate.

Whether it be speaking to a fellow believer or to an unbeliever with whom we hope to share the good news, Peter reminds us to do so “with gentleness and respect.” (I Peter 3:15) We can and must be faithful and uncompromising yet bold and kind, making sure our words are grounded in the whole counsel of the Word of God and not just a cultural preference.

Our words must always point others back to HIS Word!

The unbeliever may not be moved, but they will remember the way in which we interacted with them and, prayerfully, the Lord will use that in their journey towards an understanding of the Gospel and a surrender of their lives by faith to God through Jesus Christ.

Even when we speak the truth in love to another believer, be it one we know or don’t know, it may not be received in the way we intended, with a heart willing to hear, receive, and consider the validity of the comments.  Our motives may be misconstrued, and it may end poorly.  In fact, the person may reject what is said completely.  But our goal must always be obedient faithfulness to Christ, glory to God, and a desire for the good of the other person as well as any that will be affected by their words, as with a writer or speaker, or their actions and/or choices.

If the person is a true follower of Christ, even if their initial response is negative, they will heed the Holy Spirit’s prompting and either make a revision on their platform or reset their course so that God is glorified, and no one is hindered from coming to a true relationship with the Savior or injured in their walk with Christ.  Or, if the conflict is between two believers, they can return and say, “Let’s readdress that rightly and without fear of rejection.”  Both are attitudes bathed in the grace of God and desirous to be faithful to what is true. 

As believers, we have a responsibility to follow Jesus, to live by God’s commands. Our words must be faithful and true as we follow Him who is Himself, Faithful and True. Our actions must reflect a life submitted to the Lordship of Christ, not continuing in self-gratification and self-love. But, at times, we will fail to speak and live rightly, and it is the one who loves deeply that will communicate with us for the end goal of glory to God and restoration to us.

Let us love well in words and actions and receive that bold love well so that we may be display the true Gospel to ourselves and to the watching world.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins…(do all) so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen!”  (I Peter 4:8, 11)

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  (Proverbs 27:17)

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up…” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to counsel.”  (Proverbs 12:15)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

Dying to Self

We know what we want…so we get it.

We know what we feel…so we say it.

We know what we want to do…so we do it.

Even if we know it is not the right choice, we have long learned to live for self and ignore anything or anyone that gets in the way of our “pleasure.”

We may have a momentary hesitation of “maybe I should wait” or “maybe I shouldn’t do it at all” and we may experience a twinge of regret if we proceed, but we are masters at subduing that regret and rationalizing our actions.

When we have not prepared ourselves to say no to ourselves…

When we have not trained ourselves to walk away from what is not best or what is, in fact, wrong…

When we have not disciplined ourselves to stop and think about the effects of our actions on others…

We step out and do whatever we “feel” like doing without a true thought to anyone else.

We see it all around us; self before God, self before others. Often, we shake our heads when we see others doing the very same thing – living in the moment for self, wondering how they could be so blind; yet how often do we move forward in the same mindset?

Everyone would understand, so it is okay.

No one will know; well, God will know – but He will understand my humanity and forgive.

Surely this is right because…and we fill in the blank.

There are no consequences; except there always are – to ourselves and, with very rare exceptions, to others in some way.

And, with each, we justify why we should please ourselves more than obey God and respect Him as well as ourselves and others.

Dying to self is hard.

Dying to self takes training; with every success, it is easier the next time.

Dying to self reveals the heart of one to the heart of God.

Dying to self leads to freedom for the believer and the unbeliever.

In a powerful scene from the movie “God’s Not Dead,” a mother, who has been unable to speak, speaks to her atheist son after he compares his “perfect” life to her life of physical problems. He has long “lived for self” and is certain he has the greater position.

Sometimes the devil allows people to lead a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God. His sin is like a jail cell except it’s all nice and comfy, and there doesn’t seem to be any need to leave. The door is wide open. Then one day, time runs out, and the cell door slams shut, and suddenly, it’s too late.

God’s Not Dead

While it is true that the unbeliever often misses the grace and forgiveness of God, enamored with the “stuff of life,” might we also consider that, when people choose to live for self rather than dying to self, even those who are redeemed children of God, they are also living in a jail cell of their own making? God calls us to obedience, to dying to self, for His glory and our greatest good.  He has set boundaries that we may think, at times, are keeping us from experiencing happiness but which are actually intended to increase our joy. 

We can walk out of that jail cell and into the light by learning and training ourselves to say “no” to ourselves and “yes” to what God says is right and good and is His best for us, that which is honoring to Him and to those around us, that which will ultimately give us lasting and deeper pleasure and joy than a momentary choice in time.

Will that always be easy? No, especially if we have long given in to those choices whether it be actions, thoughts, words, or attitudes. But how awesome to run the race with perseverance, to find grace in our time of need and celebrate it with the Lord and maybe another when we walk out of the jail cell and say “not today” making it easier the next time, and to be able to “feel His pleasure” as we die to self and live for the Lord.

We can be assured that, if we ask the Lord to show us those areas, He will be faithful to do that and sometimes use others to reveal and to encourage, and He will be equally faithful to be present in the moments ahead and give the joy and delight for which we long!

Then and only then will we truly live!

“I will run in the path of Your commands, for You will enlarge my heart.” Psalm 119:32

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these traits is nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” 2 Peter 1:3-9