Archive for the ‘Redemption’ Tag

God’s Delight in Me [God’s Love Letter]   Leave a comment

Matt. 1:5 Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth.

Ruth was the original Cinderella.  From a pagan, destitute widow she became the affluent, honored bride of Boaz and the great-grandmother of King David.  Tales of rags to riches are told in a thousand tongues, and American versions come with a moral: work hard enough and every pauper can reach the palace.  Whether Carnegie or Rockefeller, Lincoln or Edison, our heroes rise from obscurity and poverty to wealth and fame by their own sweat.  But this is not Ruth’s story.  The central message of Ruth is redemption, deliverance purely by grace.

Ruth didn’t go looking for God in the promised land, but God went to Moab looking for Ruth.  When He showed up, she embraced Him and clung to Him through ten years of childlessness, the death of her husband, and the loss of her home, and in that destitution she followed Him back to Israel.  Her faith was truly remarkable, but it was faith, not self-reliance or reward.  Faith is simply throwing the doors open for God to come in and do His thing.  And the more of God we let in, the bigger the difference He makes, though major renovations are not easy or quick or painless (ask my wife about this!).

Boaz is the “kinsman-redeemer,” a wonderful foreshadowing of the coming Messiah who would rescue the poor and broken.  Boaz was rich, powerful, and widely respected, but like his coming King, he saw a penniless migrant as wholly worthy of his heart.  She was not a charity-case for whom he had pity, a bride who would always feel inadequate and undeserving of his love, abashed by his greatness, self-deprecating and daunted, always working feverishly to avoid his disappointment.  Rather Boaz considered himself blessed and delighted to have her.  What did she bring to the marriage?  Only herself… which was the one thing Boaz wanted.  She filled his heart.

From Ruth’s line would finally come the promised Messiah, stepping across an infinite gap of greatness to be with the ones He loves.  We are the center of His thoughts, the passion of His heart.  He valued us at the price of Himself, His own life.  The bond between the most loving husband and wife, of Boaz and Ruth, is a pale image of His embrace of us, drawing us into His heart until we are one.  It is not too much to say that He has tied His eternal happiness to us… we can break his heart and make his heart sing.  But whatever we do or do not do, His love for us never weakens or wavers because it is anchored in His very nature.  We bring nothing to this relationship but ourselves, and that is what delights Him and fills His heart.

 

 

 

 

Posted June 16, 2013 by janathangrace in Bible Grace

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Grace Described   Leave a comment

“Grace… [is] the force that infuses our lives and keeps letting us off the hook.  It is unearned love—the love that goes before, that greets us on the way.  It’s the help you receive when you have no bright ideas left, when you are empty and desperate and have discovered that your best thinking and most charming charm have failed you.  Grace is the light or electricity or juice or breeze that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually grateful as you are to be there.

“It is amazing.  I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”  –Anne Lamott Traveling Mercies

Posted February 18, 2013 by janathangrace in Reading

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From Garbage to Glory [God’s Love Letter]   8 comments

                           

Matthew 1:5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab.

Garbage CollectorIn America, our job defines us.  It is the first, most important identifier when we’re introduced, “Good to meet you.  So what do you do?”  Sometimes it’s even tacked on like a surname: Joe the Plumber or Bob the Accountant.  With one word we label, categorize, and define someone from the moment we meet them.  Just imagine if your meaning as a person was distilled into the name Karen the Harlot.  You are suddenly no longer a person, but a commodity, and the worst sort of commodity, associated with all that is unclean, cheap, and dark.  When someone hears “prostitute,” they do not think of giggling children, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and butterfly kisses.  Rahab was part of a cursed race of uncircumcised philistines and she was known as Rahab the Harlot.  Then God came.

In the gospels, Jesus was a trash-magnet.  The discards of society were drawn to him like the starving to a feast of love.  They found in him the acceptance and respect and embrace they never knew.  Like father, like son they say, and the God of Israel was the Father of all widows and orphans, the poor and lost.  He saw in Rahab what no one else saw, and said of her “I want her in the royal line as mother to my Son.”  The beauty in all of us  originates always with God, and it is our faith, not our goodness, that opens the door to his glory.  Those least able to “make a name for themselves” are the ones most welcoming of grace.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom heaven.”

RECYCLED RAGS

RECYCLED RAGS

2,000 years after her first appearance,  we find Rahab again.  Her past has not been air-brushed away–she is still “Rahab the Harlot”–because grace does not re-write our past; it transforms that twisted frame into an instrument of glory.  She is now immortalized in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith as a model for us all to follow.  God embraces a pagan prostitute simply because she opened her arms to him by faith.  God does not ask us to patch together the shredded pieces that make up our lives, but asks us to trust him with those tattered remnants.  He makes all things beautiful, all things placed in his hands.

This 3 minute video is a remarkable parable of grace

Posted December 10, 2012 by janathangrace in Bible Grace

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The Ups After the Downs   Leave a comment

Things were going fairly badly this last weekend.  My several hundred dollar chain saw died before Friday’s storm, which not only was a loss of that amount, but prevented me from making money clearing trees for the thousands who had trees down (about every other house on our street, for instance).  A huge tree from our yard was uprooted and crushed our neighbor’s shed, and I was trying to find out our home-owner’s insurance deductible (but the insurance company was closed for the weekend).  Our power went out, and hundreds of dollars of food was spoiling in our fridge and freezer.  We had no air conditioner or fans or ice on the very week the tempurature decided to climb above 100F.  My mower stopped working in the middle of cutting a lawn on Saturday, and I had no way of getting it up the steep ramp into the back of my truck (it weighs 500 lbs.).  I had to finish the 1 acre lot with my push mower (in said heat).  We had no internet to know what was going on (when the power would be back on, for instance), and my brother, undeterred by our lack of electricity, suddenly showed up in town for a visit (from the West coast)… we offered him warm orange juice and a candle to use the bathroom.  In this sweltering heat, we soon found out the electricity would be out for a week.

The financial hit was troubling me most as I have been unable to drum up enough clients to make my summer mowing economically feasible for us.  On Monday, I reached State Farm and found out that since this was an “act of God,” my neighbor’s insurance would be responsible to cover the costs.  My wife and I had been planning to visit a nearby friend (her “step-aunt” I guess) to celebrate the 4th and spend the night.  When they found out our electricity was down, they very graciously opened their home to us and allowed us to pack our refrigerated food into their fridge and freezer.  So here we sit in a beautiful lakeside house for the week, forced to have a vacation we could never afford.  As we were packing up to drive down here, Kimberly brought out a netbook she had but never uses.  I forgot it was around, and suddenly I realized I have the replacement for my laptop (which I’ve been badly missing for 2 months) only smaller and so much handier.  I figured out how to get the mower onto my truck (backing it up to a bank where I had towed my mower and pushing it in on the level ramp), and on Monday I was able to fix it with a $6 spring.  All in all, the week has been a wonderful refresher.

Posted July 4, 2012 by janathangrace in Life

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God’s Love Letters #6: Why Tamar?   Leave a comment

Matthew 1:3 Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar

Art from Trash

Perez and Zerah are named together because they are twins, but why Tamar was mentioned is a quandry.  None of the honorable women before her in the genealogy are noted, but when we hit a scandal, Matthew has to dredge it up.  Well, he didn’t really have to go digging because the Old Testament itself was quite blatant about the whole sordid affair.  Tamar was Judah’s widowed daughter-in-law, and she prostituted herself to get pregnant by Judah.  Anyone proud of their genealogy would surely have skipped past this crooked branch, but Matthew, for some reason, calls attention to it, as though reminding his readers that their glory was not from their ancestors, but from their gracious God who could use the worst to bring the best.  It is not to God’s discredit that he used such flawed materials to construct his kingdom, but it shows the incomparable power of his redemption.

God is in the salvage and reclamation business, and he is so creative that he makes the results better than if they had come from perfect materials.  His second creation far surpasses his first, not just restoring innocence, but infusing us and our relationships with a far greater life force.  The glories of forgiveness, mercy, patience, sacrifice, in short of grace, were unrevealed in Genesis one.  It is natural for beautiful things to be appreciated and enjoyed, but that is such a meager understanding of love compared to that revealed by one who treasures the broken and ugly, so much as to sacrifice himself for our sake.  Without the Fall, we could not have experienced the depths, lengths, and heights of God’s unconditional love.

WHO IS LOVED?

Being loved for only what is good in us is a direct building block of legalism–be good and you will be loved.  If we are loved only in our beauty, then we are unloved as ourselves.  How astonishing to discover God saying–be bad and I will love you every bit as much.  Unshakeable security only rests in an unchangeable love… for, as Paul tells us, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”  He cannot stop being a love-filled God, even though it breaks his heart.  It seems to me that we have a far greater awareness and experience of God’s love than Adam and Eve who literally walked with God daily.  Who can express the deep peace and intense bond that comes from being loved wholly, being embraced with our every defect?

Posted June 14, 2012 by janathangrace in Bible Grace

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God’s Love Letters #5   Leave a comment

Matthew 1:2 Abraham fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers. 

Finally brothers!  Until now this family, chosen to be a great nation, barely survived with one child of promise per generation.  The world must wait until Abraham’s great-grandchildren before the redemptive family tree grows more than one branch.  I know that feeling well—-waiting.  When God’s promises to redeem my situation seem long overdue, I begin to doubt God’s love.  Why is he taking so long to respond?  Doesn’t he care?  For instance, why is God taking so long to fix my depression?

Peter throws out an intriguing idea, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you.”   God is not distracted, uncaring, or negligent about my needs.  It is not we who are waiting for God to act, but God who is waiting for us to be ready, who watches our progress with sympathy, not disappointment.  His patience is not a bridled impatience, but genuine good will.  He knows it takes time.  He is okay with it taking time.  In fact he plans for it to take time.  He is patient.  In my urgency to reach the resolution, I want to hurry the process, but God’s focus is on the journey, his grace is at work in the process itself.  Too often I miss his grace for today in my anxiety for the bigger deliverance that is farther down the road.  My impatience is really towards myself rather than God.  I blame myself for not growing faster, for bungling his stream-lined plans for me.  But should we suppose that if Abram had had greater faith and faithfulness, he would have had a dozen sons at 39 instead of one at 99?  Why have I always thought that God was in a rush?

I think I have long been under the impression that God’s attributes are somehow in competition with each other.  In this instance, his righteousness is at odds with his sympathy.  He wants to hurry me into holiness, but he is being “patient” with me, which basically means he is holding himself back from chiding or nagging or otherwise showing his frustration at my slow growth.  He is impatient, but hiding it.  I guess that is how I have always pictured his so-called patience, and why I am so prone to agree with “God’s” condemnation of me.  I need a new God, a good God, a God who is truly patient, not just pretending to be patient.

Posted April 14, 2012 by janathangrace in Bible Grace

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Winter Blossoms   Leave a comment

About 10 years ago my oldest sister Mardi gave me a peace plant from her home.  For the first couple of years it had several blooms, but with my haphazard watering and giving it sunlight, it soon stopped blossoming.  When it drooped, I would water it… if I were around and noticed.  I think it has more roots than dirt since I have never repotted it, not wanting it to get bigger.  A less hardy plant would have just given up (as many of mine have!), but this one persevered.  It put out nice green leaves, usually with brown shriveled tips from over-watering or under-watering (I still can’t tell the difference).

After 8 long years of barrenness!

This winter, Kimberly brought home an even more pathetic small peace plant.  She had left it in the care of a colleague while she was out of town, and he had forgotten to water it.  The leaves were mostly curled brown and crumbling to the touch.  We cut off all the dead leaves which made it look less scorched, but more pathetic, and started to water it.  And here in the middle of winter and struggle, we have been delighted with both plants deciding to bloom!  The flower on my plant lasted a whole month before I burnt it with incorrect watering of some sort.  Kimberly’s flower is just starting.

On good days, I think of it as a parable of our lives, a promise of what is to come, a hoped for sweetness and beauty from a long gestation of suffering and pain.  I wish for you, friends, a glimpse of this beauty which is developing in you as well.

first glimmer of life and beauty

Posted February 4, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal

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