Friday, May 23, 2014

Buying Back

Did you know that another way to say redeem is "buying back"? So when we say Jesus is the Redeemer, we are saying he bought us back. Back from what you may wonder? Back from sin and a death away from God.

But, I've also heard Jesus often referred to as the kinsman-redeemer. Do you know what a kinsman-redeemer is? I had only a vague idea until I read Lois Tverberg's book, Listening to the Language of the Bible.

Think back to the days of the Bible. Do you ever read about insurance companies? Or, benevolent people and organizations restoring homes? Or, the government using tax money to help the people recuperate in any way? There were no funds to help you rebuild after a storm tore up your field, or house, or place of business. So, the place people went to for help was their family. Relatives, as a kinsman-redeemer, were expected to come to the aid of family members in need.

In this way, if a person had to sell their portion of the family farm because of bad investments or bad crop growth then the kinsman-redeemer would buy the land to keep it in the family. Or, if someone got so indebted that they became a slave the kinsman-redeemer would buy them back.

The family member would remain obligated to his redeemer and belong to him, but not as a slave. He would be like a close family member. The example Lois Tverberg gave was the story of Boaz and Ruth. Boaz bought the land from Naomi in order to keep it in the family and this included Ruth, whom he took as his wife.

So, Jesus bought us back by his death and resurrection. We are in a sense indebted to him for the price he paid. But, he doesn't see us as his slave or servant. He sees us as family members who've been saved from being eternally separated from the heavenly realm. How awesome is that?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Where's God?

Do you remember a few weeks ago I wrote about bad things happening? Recently, it seems the global outcries have increased. . .what with, school girls being taken away from families while they were at school. . .countries invading other countries because the old regime wants their power back. . .fellow country men killing each other in order to gain political control. It doesn't appear to take much for men to kill or attack others, whether they are helpless girls or armed fellow citizens.

It's really sad to see all this happening. While most of these countries do not recognize God as their god, there are some who might ask why doesn't God intervene? In a sermon years ago, the pastor stated God can't be expected to be around when things turn bad if he wasn't asked or accepted when things were going good; he can't be where he wasn't asked to come in.

While this is true I had my eyes opened to another possibility when I read Amos 4. God called a 'non-prophet' shepherd, Amos, to speak prophecy about destruction to the well-to-do temple-going people in Bethel during a time of relative peace. Chapter four talks about what God is sending and what he has already caused or allowed in order to get the attention of his people so that they will turn back to him.

What gets me is how similar Amos 4 sounds to today. One city getting rain, almost too much, and another city on the brink of severe drought. One city borrowing water from another. The destruction of vegetation by pests. Diseases and murders. Some people being spared from the edge of destruction and still not turning to God.

Amos does speak of hope, though. In verse 5:4 he tells the people to seek God so that they may be saved. And, he ends his prophecy by saying that the destroyed cities will be rebuilt and vegetation restored.

So when I think about how bad things look, I hope to remember God will use this to bring people to him. God's purpose is being served. Let's pray that not only in our country, but in countries being thrown into the eyes of the world, there will be a calling out and returning to the one true God.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Eating to Forgive

Is there someone you enjoy eating a meal with? Or someone you avoid during meals? Is there a reason why you feel that way? Do you ever use a meal as a way to get to know someone better? Of course, there are all kinds of special meals where you may or may not have a choice who gets to join in. . .birthdays, wedding receptions, Christmas, Thanksgiving. . .I suppose the list could go on and on.

There's one meal where everyone from all walks of life is welcomed, and we celebrate it in churches across the globe. That's the last supper, better known as communion. Even those who don't frequent the door of a church may know of this meal, since the scene is recreated in many paintings.

The last supper, or Passover meal, introduces the disciples to the new covenant with Jesus. He tells them how his body and blood will take away the sins of the people. They may not have understood what he was saying at the time but they did later on. Through him there is salvation. . .our ticket to heaven, so to speak. There is, however, another meal that carries as much or more weight in the end.

Not long after that last Passover meal the disciples did the unthinkable. All but two scattered. How did the disciples know they were forgiven for running away when it really counted? Especially after they told Jesus they wouldn't run; that they'd always be there.

According to Dr. James Martin, in his book Exploring Bible Times, there was an ancient custom known as a meal covenant that signaled to those invited that they were forgiven and accepted. He referred to the meal in Psalm 23 as being of this nature.

When Jesus ate in front of the disciples in the upper room in Luke 24 he was showing them not only was he alive and well but that he forgave them. And, in case there was any doubt as to his forgiveness, he did it again. In John 21, Jesus was the provider of the meal when he called the disciples over to join him on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. This second time he was assuring the disciples they were forgiven and accepted by him.

Now that's the meal to remember. Even when we deny him, even when we fail to accomplish all we set out to, even when we show our weaknesses to the world, Jesus will forgive us and accept us back to his celebration table.

Friday, May 2, 2014

When Bad Things Happen

I don't like it when bad things happen. Nobody does. Especially when it happens on a large scale or to someone we love. It can make us angry at God. Or, beg the question, "Why God? Why did you allow this bad thing to happen?"

But, here's the shocker. Bad things happening and evildoers have always been around. If you don't believe me, just read the Bible. Hello, that's God's book. And, God being in our lives will not stop things we see as evil or bad from happening. . . look at Luke 13. Those things occurred while Jesus was walking among the Israelites. So if evil is not new and may eventually find its way to our doorstep, how do we deal with it when it happens to us?

Last week I saw a city struggle with a threat to its children. Parents responded in a variety of ways. But the law enforcement officers rose to the occasion and kept each and every school safe. A lesson can be learned from this I feel.

It was a moment to learn where our weak point is. For most mothers our children are our weak point. We would rather die than see anything bad happen to any of our children. For fathers, their nature is to protect and do what they need to do to protect their heirs.

Some may ask, "Why has God allowed evil?" Well, it's not really God allowing the evil so much as he allows man to have free will. Free will to choose Jesus as Savior. And, free will to choose to follow the natural path of man that leads to various degrees of evil. Of course, many things are not seen as evil until it involves children, then it gets our attention.

But if your faith is in God, knowing he will take you only when your days are completed, then nothing can stop you from doing his will. Nothing can stop you from going into the world.

So this brings up the question, is death a bad thing?

To those living and breathing, death removes someone from our lives. We don't get to speak with them, or hug them, or even argue with them anymore. It brings a separation that some have trouble dealing with. On the other hand, death takes the person who leaves us to a spiritual plane where there is no fear because God's peace surrounds them. There is no anger because things are good and righteousness rules. There are no questions because God's presence brings all the answers.  Heaven celebrates when another soul joins them.

I don't want to sound like I'm down playing the anguish a parent feels when a child is lost to heaven, but I want to encourage us as parents to downplay the stigma of death being a bad thing. We will all die. . .some day.
When my children were young, as a way to keep them in line and safe, I told them they could fall and die if they continued the questionable activity they were performing. That usually got their attention. Then one day I was admonished by the Lord, "That's why people are afraid of death." I stood speechless. And from that day on I never spoke of death as being an awful result of an action.

As my mom approached the day of her death she shared what she was experiencing in the spiritual realm. She told me, "Be happy because it's all good. It's ALL good. Be happy."

As I grieve her passing I remind myself. . .it's all good where she's at. I still cry for her. And I still have an emptiness that only her pictures and paintings can fill. But it's all good. And some day. . .I'll be there. . .where it's ALL good.