Posts Tagged ‘Redeemer’

notre dameHow did this get past me after all these years? Honestly, I was so sure that this phrase, “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” made most popular in Handel’s Messiah, was from Isaiah, like so much of that great oratorio. Instead, I’m reading along in Job, and there it is jumping out at me.

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and he will stand upon the earth at last.” [Job 19:25, NIV]

Remember now, this is Job, one of the oldest texts and yet the Redeemer appears, the vindicator, the deliverer, the rescuer: only the Messiah, who Job proclaims despite his exhaustive litany of sorrows, losses, betrayals, and sickness. His redeemer lives. And mine.

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Artwork by Jo Smith

My mother used to tell me that my name, Irmgarde, meant “guardian of the hearth,” which didn’t do much for me as I didn’t imagine myself a homemaker. In later years, I discovered, my name actually means “guardian of a small enclosure.” This is what God does for my heart too.

II Timothy 1:12b
. . . because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

Truthfully, I always think of that small enclosure around my set of close friends and family. I imagine a corral and I am standing at the gate, protecting them from harm, from predators. I am grateful that the Holy Spirit is standing just so at the entrance to my deepest places. This is my warrior King.

It’s part of our agreement. As I turn over my stuff and give God access to my closed places within, I am promised Presence.

We have a triune God (at minimum) to help us get a handle on the work that each entity might play: God, omnipotent and sovereign, manages the big picture (the life maps) while Jesus, the Redeemer, became human to empathize and experience life within the context of time and space and to create a Way to unite us with God by endowing us with the Holy Spirit who indwells any who will accept this arrangement, this gift, this promise, this mystery.

We are understood in all those arenas. . . . and probably more.

God embraces the surrendered soul. Jesus modeled surrender.

My challenge? To accept the paradox that surrender is security; surrender is strength; surrender is safety.

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Paul is a little testy with the Corinthians in Chapter 4. He compares his lifestyle with theirs. It would be like comparing Mother Teresa’s lifestyle with mine. Indeed, what is wrong with this picture?

I Corinthians 4:8a, 9a
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! . . . For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena.

I was uncomfortable reading Paul today. After all, he’s writing to me just as much as he’s writing to the Corinthians. Compared to the poor of the world, I am living a king’s life. Compared to the relative wealth in any third world country, I am still living like royalty. In Africa, the villager measures wealth by land and cattle and food to eat. In America, we measure wealth by extraneous “toys” like electronics, paper money, investments, cars, and multiple bathrooms in a house.

This is still my stumbling block. It always has been and until my life changes, it will continue to be a plank in my eye [Luke 6:42].

I am afraid to be poor again.

How many times have a I sat in a Bible study or small group and talked about our wealth? We nod our heads and agree it’s problematic, but then we all return to our three and four bedroom houses with two and a half baths and two cars sitting in the driveway. Minimum.

Or, to make ourselves feel better, we drag out the Biblical examples of the wealthy who were close to Jesus: Joseph of Arimathea (who gave up his tomb for Jesus) or Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who climbed a tree to see Jesus and entertained him that night (oh, wait, he gave a way huge portions of his accumulated wealth that day).

Honestly, there’s no getting around it. Our wealth is a type of sin. We can tithe 10%, 15%, or even 20% and still we are carefully holding and caring and multiplying the remainder.

Oh, we say it’s only the “love of money” that is sin [I Timothy 6:10]. So, I don’t “love” money? I just love what money can buy. I love it’s power so much I spend more than I earn and put myself in debt.

Paul says to imitate him. I can’t do it. There’s a reality check. No. I have to find my own balance between culture, commitment, and Christ. This is not the first century.

I have no real solution. But I do know that it’s here where the voice of God must enter my soul and bring revelation. It is here where grace must make her appearance. It is here where mercy must do battle with condemnation. It is here where potential change must be embraced within the loving arms of a Redeemer.

Just as Jesus accepted the prostitutes and beggars, he accepts me. And just as he transformed them, he can transform me. I don’t know what that will look like. I cannot know the true outcome of this picture. I can only trust the Artist.

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Some things are absolutely the same in all of us: the spirit-spark and the potential for union with God, our essential humanness. Upon that foundation, there are God-given differences, or gifts that drive our responses. It is here that uniqueness is born.

I Corinthians 4:7a
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive?

My journey is a combination of essential human spirit, God’s gifts, and my interpreted embellishments. The combination of these three make me unique, but the first two, the Godly gifts, give me the ability to walk, run, or leap through life. My human spirit has the potential for anything. It is resilient and full of hope. It is like an ember of fire, ready to ignite.

God’s gifts are varied. Sometimes, the gifts enhance and sometimes the gifts limit. They are the things we cannot control. We were born to whom we were born. Those parents and families were enhancements or limitations. We came into the world with our skin (whatever color), our senses (whatever combination), our body, our country, our era, etc., all gifts from God, depending on the individual.

And so, as we live and grow, we respond to these gifts. Some of us are challenged to overcome poverty while others are challenged to overcome wealth (after all, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God . . . ” [Matthew 19:24]). Some of us are challenged with poor health or disease while others are challenged with hard hearts and fear.

Each one has his or her own cross. Who am I to say that my cross is more difficult or easier than another. Some claim the wealthy have it easy, but then, don’t they still die and suffer like the rest of us? Others say those in good health glide through life, not knowing their hearts are broken by grief and betrayal.

The more I do on my own, the more difficult my life will be. The more I “kick against the goads” [Acts 26:14], the more challenging the journey. The more I denounce my circumstances, particularly the God-given ones, the less likely I’ll integrate them.

I cannot go back and change my past. But starting today, I can accept what was before and embrace a newly crafted future with God. This is part of the Redeemer contract. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [II Corinthians 5:17]

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There really isn’t much point in beating myself up for every mistake or worrying about the “judgments” of others when I screw up. There is only one judge that matters.

I Corinthians 4:3-4
I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me

The whole “judging” thing is my true Achilles heel. It’s a habit. It’s a trap. It’s a sin.

And to make matters worse, I turn the same eye inward. I am hard on myself too. No one escapes that voice.

But the answer is so simple. There is only one true Judge and that one knows the whole story. That One knows the reasons. That One knows the best help along the way. That One will intercede for me. That One is both judge and defender.

If I could really let go of judging others and myself, I believe I could love more freely. Love and “judging” cannot live together. Love accepts the now and holds hope in the heart for tomorrow.

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Acts 11:17
“So if God gave them [gentiles] the same gift as he gave us [Jews], who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I [Peter] to think that I could oppose God?”

How often do we make judgments against others? How often do we doubt that God can touch a life? How often do we assume that we have “it” right and the others do not?

If we didn’t doubt, we would be telling our story every day. We would be loving everyone whose life path crossed our own. We would love as Jesus loved.

One would think I’d get this right by now. After all, I was once on the other side of the story.

After I accepted Christ as my guide and my King, my savior and my redeemer, I returned to acting school in New York (I was in my brother’s home for the holiday). As people began to hear about my conversion experience, I was told quite bluntly (and more than once): “You? You are the last person that I would ever expect to become a Christian.” My life was so depraved that no one imagined that I could change. My language was peppered with swearing; I really doubt there was one sentence I could say without some form of f**k, sh*t, or any of the other expletives, be they verbs, adjectives, adverbs or nouns. I was a regular drug and alcohol user. I was active sexually. I even worked as a bookkeeper in a place where I kept two sets of records. I was a liar and a thief. I justified my behaviors easily because I was totally self-absorbed.

There were some things that actually did change overnight but there were many other lifestyle habits that did not. Was I any less a believer or lover of Jesus?

I can see now that it was the Holy Spirit who was my patient teacher. And I am learning that it’s not about “being” a Christian by following the laws or rules. Instead, it’s about walking on the Way, a process of integrating the kingdom of God into my heart, mind, soul, and eventually, my daily life. The Bible can open the door but it is the body of believers who walk through it together that changes lives.

A young woman who was in one of my bible studies once asked me if I really believed that a Democrat could be a Christian. And I say yes, because God is not limited by political agendas, sin, violence, or religious dogma. God can touch anyone, teach anyone, love everyone. Who am I to oppose God?

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Acts 10:43
“…All the prophets testify about him [the Messiah] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” [Peter speaking to the gentile family of Cornelius]

My daughter is in English 12 and apparently, most of these classes are reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (a wonderful book in my estimation) and I was looking forward to discussing it with her. What was striking to me was her lack of mercy… in the sense that she and her class spent a lot of time discussing the lead character’s flaw/mistake and how he spent the rest of the book “seeking redemption.” In her mind, there was no true redemption possible: his boyhood friend was dead and gone. That was his burden to bear.

Two things came to mind as we were talking. First and foremost, of course, as a believer, is that this is the whole point of the Messiah, Christ Jesus, the great redeemer. No sin is too great that it can’t be covered by the blood and promise of the Christ.

But secondly was the realization that very few teenagers have experienced something in their lives, so horrible, so wrenching that they would need to search with all their hearts for the peace of forgiveness and redemption. They cannot imagine making such a huge mistake that someone would die or be permanently injured or lost. There is no room for true mercy and grace.

I am also reminded of an old friend whose husband broke their marriage covenant and had an affair. She, too, was unable to extend forgiveness or grace. And all I could think was that someday it would be she, herself, who might face her own unthinkable sin or crime. Then she would be the one who needed redemption.

In fact, we are all capable of great sin. We are fooling ourselves to think that we couldn’t act selfishly in the face of difficult circumstances.

Naturally, people may also act nobly. I am not saying that we, as humans, always choose the evil way. There are many who have lost their own lives or lived sacrificially. But I think they are able to do this because they have faced the truth of themselves.

For many years, I have never felt comfortable praying the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I just couldn’t identify with this concept of calling myself a sinner… what had I really done so bad.

But now, the longer I am a follower of Jesus, I see the truth within. I am no better than any other. My sin is no less than another person’s sin. Even Paul bemoaned this state in Romans 7:19, “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Oh yes, I am in need of a redeemer. I am in need of forgiveness and mercy and grace every day. My sin is too great for me to carry alone.

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