Monday, October 29, 2012

I AM Changes i am: Something Else!

A little more about redemption & forgiveness (the two go hand in hand) that I find important.  Look at these passages of Scripture:

What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions...For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.  For it was for freedom that Christ set you free.  (Romans 6:1-2a, 12, 14 & Galatians 5:1)
Now let’s look at the full meaning of “redemption” as defined by my Greek Lexicon, which says redemption is “deliverance on account of the ransom paid from the power and ultimate consequence of sin, which Christ procured by laying down his life.”  It adds, “to remove the guilt, punishment and power of sin.” 
Redemption isn’t just a onetime past action.  Redemption is an on-going, present tense, help for today.  To tap into Christ’s redemption is to plug into the Spirit, who lives in us (Romans 8:9) and so, the power of the one “who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us (Romans 8:11).”  Redemption is a reminder that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).”  Redemption is a fact that I don’t have to live crippled by sin – anymore.  Will I?  Sadly, yes.  I’ll never be completely freed before heaven (that is the hope of eternity).  Yet, the truth is that I can, indeed, live more and more to Jesus, and less and less to my own fleshly nature, and sinful desires.  The truth:  Because of redemption and forgiveness, I AM NO LONGER A SLAVE TO THE POWER OF SIN.
What’s the key? The Spirit who indwells me.
My redemption and forgiveness mean that not only am I in Him (Jesus), but that His Spirit is in me.  “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh...If you are led by the Spirit, you will walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 18, 25).”   
The result will be a whole new me...who looks a lot more like Jesus: loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, who exhibits self-control (Galatians 5:22).  I like redemption & forgiveness (freedom) for they are making me a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).                       
PS.  What identity truths are for today?  How about focusing on these:
In Christ, I am a new creation.
In Christ, I am indwelt by His Spirit.
In Christ, I have resurrection power over sin.
In Christ, I am freed from the fleshly nature.
In Christ, I am no longer a slave to sin.
In Christ, I can do all things...

Monday, October 22, 2012

I AM Changes i am: Redeemed & Forgiven

He has delivered 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.
Colossians 1:13-14.
“Redeemed!  How I love to proclaim it... Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.”  The last couple weeks, the words to that great hymn have been going through my mind.  Over and over, they seem to be stuck on replay.  The apostle Paul was big on this identity truth.  Redemption & Forgiveness were his theme song.  The blind hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, who penned the words to the hymn, seemed to see and understand the truth better than most who could read it.  “Redeemed,” she wrote, “...and so happy in Jesus.  No language my rapture can tell!”  As I have mulled and marinated my mind in these words, I recognize just how deeply she “got it” – never to forget it.  She washed herself in the theme daily...and lived with gratitude (from everything I’ve ever read about her life), just as Paul did.
The redemption story is this simple.  At one time, I stood on an auction block, a slave to sin, being passed around from one owner to another, when Jesus found me standing there in my naked shame.  He loved me at first sight; chose me; then paid the price to redeem me (as a treasured possession); and when I was handed over to him in my chains, he set me free (forgiveness).  Loved.  Chosen. Redeemed.  Forgiven. Freed.  These are powerful words!!!  With absolute certainty, there is an oh-so-happy-in-Jesus-no-language-my-rapture-can-tell relationship between us!  At least, there should be!  When we grasp the fullness of redemption and forgiveness, we live in its declaration of grace.  It’s one of those moments when we declare with all that is in us, “I WILL NEVER FORGET.” 
Yet, sometimes we do forget.  We allow ourselves to get comfortable in the new life as a free man.  We start to believe we’re entitled to more.  We settle into the day in and day out routine of safety and security in God’s love, and we start to neglect the relationship.  Or worse, we ignore it. Or maybe even worse, we choose something in place of... When this happens,  Jesus becomes invisible.  Then, when things get tough, we start to think he’s abandoned us.  Not true!  Jesus is with us always.  It’s his covenant promise to us.  If we don’t sense his presence, maybe it’s because we’ve forgotten.  Maybe it’s because we’ve stopped letting the words of redemption and forgiveness fill our minds, move into our hearts, and draw us into that closeness of the oh-so-happy-in-Jesus-no-language-my-rapture-can-tell relationship.
Ever since the words to Fanny's hymn have circled around in my brain, my prayer has become: May I NEVER FORGET!
“I think of my blessed Redeemer. I think of Him all the daylong; I sing for I cannot be silent; His love is the theme of my song.”

Monday, October 15, 2012

I AM Changes i am: Treasured Possession

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.  The Lord has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession (emphasis mine).
Deuteronomy 7:6
 (He) gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own (emphasis mine), eager to do what is good.
Titus 2:14
 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (emphasis mine), that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 
1 Peter 2:9
     What do you own that you treasure?  I possess a lot of things that I highly value.  They don’t cost a lot money-wise, but because they hold a lot of memories, they are treasured:  pictures from my past (especially of my children), artifacts we brought home from Kenya, gifts given to us by special people, books that brought a life-changing message, a box of old recipes that belonged to my mom (in her hand-writing), poetry written by my dad...these are the treasures of my world.  Pieces of nostalgia.  I couldn’t part with these things for any price.  What do you treasure?  I’d love to sit and compare notes.

     I also love to look for treasures.  The bargain variety.  I especially like the treasures of the past.  On any given weekend, you might find me at The Brass Armadillo treasure hunting.  Some people obsess over treasure hunting.  I can’t say I obsess; it’s more like a hobby.  It was more the previous for Robert Ballard.  At age 25, he began a search for the sunken Titanic.  Those who knew him said this quest became the sole force that drove his every day.  He lived, ate, breathed, and slept Titanic information.  Finally at age 42, his mission came to a close when he finally achieved his goal.

     The Hebrew word for treasured means the same thing to the Lord as it does to us.  It signifies a private possession one has personally acquired and carefully preserved.  So, what does this mean to you and me that we are “treasured possessions?”  The Word is clear that the Lord considers us his treasure.  Indeed, we became the obsession that drove the Lord Jesus Christ from his heavenly home, where he lived in close connection with his Father.  You and I were his motivation to limit himself to a human body, then to suffer physical and emotional pain, and ultimately death, in order that we could be freed from the depths of our sin.  Jesus "lived, ate, breathed, and slept" the desire to have us as his treasured possession.

     Here’s where the analogy with Ballard breaks down.  While Ballard was credited with the discovery of Titanic, he never could possess, or “free,” the very thing he sought.  When the Lord pursued us and found us in our lostness, he longed to possess us.  This is good news!  In our society to be possessed by another has some negative connotation.  No man desires to be owned by another.  We see that as slavery.  Not so in God’s economy.  It is not slavery, but freedom.  Freedom to work, and move, and live abundantly.  His possession of us simply speaks to the greatness of our value; we were bought at a price when he found extremely high price.  He would not give us away for anything!  We.Are.His.  Say it, "I.Am.His."  Being his possession is very personal.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I AM Changes i am: _____________(for you to discover).

You have to do a little work to figure out what identity statement is yours to reflect on today.  So, get your fingers ready to do the walking, ‘cause you’ll be turning some pages of Scripture (honestly, there’s no prettier sound to me than hearing the pages of the Word turn).  As you look the verses up, write in the blank; this will be your key identity truth on which to focus.

John 3:16
Psalm 13:5
Jeremiah 31:3
Psalm 31: 7, 21
Psalm 32:10
Psalm 33:5
Psalm 36:5-7
Isaiah 54:10
John 15:9
Ephesians 3:17-18
Fill in the blank:  I am _________________!

It’s taken awhile to get to this one.  If I’d been “planning ahead” properly, this should have been #1.  It’s foundational.  Everything about the Christian life is built on this one strong unbending, unfailing truth.  It’s the reason there’s grace.  It’s the reason there’s a heaven.  It’s the motive behind everything else you are.   Paul prayed that his new believers would understand the height, the depth, the width, and the length of this truth.  There’s nothing you can do to earn it.  There’s nothing you can do to change it.  You can’t be loved more.  You will never be loved less…no matter what!

Interestingly enough, it is the very truth that hovered over Jesus as He entered His temptation and battled the enemy, while at His weakest.  It’s the very truth that kept Him sweating drops of blood in the Garden instead of running out of Jerusalem and Judea as fast as He could go.  It’s the very thing that kept Him hanging on the cross.  You are amazingly and undeniably (even though unworthy) loved!  Me, too!

What difference does this fact make in our lives?  Someone else said it well.  If I truly BELIEVE this fact, I can:

Handle praise or rejection.

Deal with my success or failure.

Resist temptation
I don't have to:

 Prove my worth

Make a name for myself

Be right

In other words, I will be what I believe!  I will live loved.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I AM Changes i am: Victorious Overcomer

For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
I John 5:4-5

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ... 2 Corinthians 2:14

I am a victorious overcomer!

I’m looking at these verses, staring at the word “AM” and feeling completely befuddled.  Am is a present tense word.  The verses don’t promise me someday.  They don’t declare me to be in progress.   The word means in the now, right here, this minute.  Scripture tells me that my God is a Victorious Warrior, and, as a result, I am, as well.  This is not true.  I may have had some occasional rare glimpses of possibility, but nah, I am not an overcomer. 

Not long ago, I sat at a church dinner held in honor of a group of young men from the Sudan.  These boys, after watching their parents shot down in front of them, and their homes burned to the ground, marched across their massive country on foot, traveling mostly by night, journeying to freedom.  In spite of wild animal attacks, lack of food and fresh water, unmarked roads, rough terrain, weather difficulties, no maps, and no adult leadership, they kept going until they crossed into Kenya and found hope, and new life, in a refugee camp (you can Google the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan and read their story in full).  They deserve the title “overcomer.”  My blessed life pales in the arena of steadfastness, patience, and joyous thanksgiving these true overcomers exemplified.

Yet, as I dig a little deeper into the Biblical definition of “victorious” and “overcomer,” I think I’ve discovered something.  There is a problem with my perception.  I look at victory through the lens of the world, rather than through the eyes of God.  For some reason, his view is much different.  How do I know?  I recently re-read the story of Gideon (Judges 6 & 7).

Gideon, in my eyes (or as the rest of the world might view him), is a wimp.   Hands down.  If I had a picture dictionary, his face would be the one I’d expect to see next to the word fraidy-cat (in his defense, my picture could be an alternate).   During the days of Gideon, the Midianites ferociously cornered the Israelites.  They frequently attacked, destroying their livelihood, their crops, and their livestock.   God came looking for a man he could use to lead Israel out of bondage, and for some reason, he picked Gideon.  He found Gideon, busy beating out wheat…in a wine press.  In other words, Gideon, hoping to avoid conflict, hid in a place where he would be least expected.  I don’t think I’d really want to be found hiding when God came looking for me, but…back to the story.  I rather expected the Lord’s greeting to be a bit stern, but just goes to show I neither know God well enough, nor respond like him.  God’s greeting to this fatalist?  “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior!”  Seriously?  Yep, the Lord saw something, I sure didn’t. 

What was it?  Since Gideon is listed in Hebrews 11 as one of God’s heroes of faith, I reckon that’s it.  In spite of the fear, in spite of hiding in the shadows, the Lord saw a glimmer of something capable of growth:  a faith that would result in obedience.  What caused Gideon to turn the corner?  There in a wine press, he saw a big God, who promised to be with him.  In response, Gideon did a little evaluating – if he had God-with-him, what good were the idols to whom his people had been clinging?  So, he tore them down.  Once the idols were removed, Gideon was free for the Spirit of God to come upon him.  The rest is history…

Maybe I could turn a corner, too.  Being a valiant warrior doesn’t mean an absence of fear, it means having the presence of God (Emmanuel, God with us – Christ in me, the hope of glory).  Being a valiant warrior doesn’t mean having all the right experiences, it means destroying all the wrong relationships with the “other gods” to whom I pay allegiance.  Being a valiant warrior doesn’t mean I’m capable, it means I’m available…WHEN…

So, I feel qualified to stand by the Gideons of this world and boldy declare that I am, indeed, a valiant warrior, even now, simply because God has promised me his presence, I’m learning to identify and tear down idols in the way, and stand (not, necessarily fearless) but available for when he calls.