Tag Archive | Redemption

Only Because of God’s Mercy: God Uses Imperfect People

Hebrews 11 has been called the “Hall of Faith,” but have you ever really examined the lives of the people listed there? These are the people God used to change history, but Max Lucado has described the men and women listed in this chapter as “a rag-bag of ne’er-do-wells and has-beens who found hope, not in their performance, but in God’s proverbially open arms.”

Let’s examine a couple of these men of faith. Abraham, the Father of the Jewish people, lied about his wife Sarah, as recorded in Genesis 12:11-20, saying she wasn’t really his wife but his sister – a half-truth – even asking her to join in the lie because he was afraid the Egyptians would notice her beauty and kill him to take her as their own. And then a little later, he did it again. Not what I would call a man of integrity! And yet he has a major part in the Hall of Faith. God forgave Abraham and continued to use him for His purposes.

Then let’s look at David, whom God called a man after His own heart. 2 Samuel 11 gives us a dark picture of an episode of his life when he saw a beautiful woman and decided he wanted her, even if she was married to one of his faithful soldiers. He not only took Bathsheba for himself and got her pregnant, but when his scheme to cover up his sin failed, he came up with a plan to have her husband killed on the battlefield. Again, not exactly the kind of man I’d look up to. Yet David repented and was forgiven for these sins, and God continued to work through him in spite of his huge failure in this situation.

And there are lots of other imperfect people listed in this chapter, men who had genuine faith in God and were used by Him but still had major flaws in their character. And unfortunately, this wasn’t limited to the men God used in Biblical times. Even the genealogy of Jesus includes some women we definitely would not look up to as examples of godly women: Tamar was guilty of adultery, and Rahab was a harlot, just to name a couple of the women who are discussed in the Bible.

As I read a devotional from Max Lucado’s book Chronicles of the Cross earlier this week that spoke of the men and women God used in the Bible, the message was clear. God uses people to change lives and to change the world – and the only kind of people He has to choose from are imperfect people. He did this during biblical times, and He still does it today. God never condones sin – and there are consequences when we make wrong choices. God allowed Abraham to be chased out of Egypt because of his sin. David repented, yet he faced serious ramifications as a result of his sin. But what a clear picture of the loving and forgiving nature of our merciful and gracious God.

On this Thankful Thursday, lets give thanks for our God who doesn’t treat us as we deserve to be treated, but who gives us both mercy – not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace – blessing us in spite of the fact that we fail daily to live up to His standards. And let’s remember that God uses imperfect people – the only kind He has to choose from. In light of the amazing love and mercy of God, make yourself available to serve Him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian who served God faithfully in the midst of intense persecution by the Nazis that led to his martyrdom, said “Once a man has truly experienced the mercy of God in his life, he will henceforth aspire only to serve.”

God’s Unfailing Love

For many years, Bible reading and study has been a major priority in my daily life. The primary way God speaks to us is through His written Word, and in the weakness of my flesh I need to hear from God daily to know how to walk victoriously through the many challenges of this life.

This past week was not an exception to my habit of beginning my days with time in God’s Word. But it was an exceptional week of hearing from God. It was a week where God’s message to me was coming through loud and clear. It was a week of hearing over and over again: “Trust in My unfailing love.

Unfailing love is how the New International Version of the Bible translates the Hebrew word checed. Other versions translate it steadfast love, lovingkindness, mercies, faithfulness, kindness, mercy, and love. Why so many different translations for one Hebrew word? Simply because there is no single English word that fully expresses the meaning of checed.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says there are three basic meanings of the word, which always interact: strength, steadfastness, and love. This word is used 240 times in the Old Testament, most often in the Psalms. Vine’s says, “The term is one of the most important in the vocabulary of Old Testament theology and ethics.”

This single Hebrew word also includes the concepts of generosity and favor, of loyalty and mercy, of grace and faithfulness, of goodness and devotion, of protection and blessing. When used to describe our God, it applies primarily to God’s particular love relationship with those who are His chosen, those who have entered into a covenant relationship with Him. That includes you, if you have placed your faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins on the cross.

As I did my regularly scheduled Bible reading last week, each day it included this concept. God was obviously trying to show me something important about His character. Then the day after this began, we learned that we need around $40,000 in repairs on our home, due to damage from Hurricanes Ike and Harvey that was not covered by our insurance. I was feeling overwhelmed.

The next morning, one verse about God’s unfailing love especially stood out to me. It was Isaiah 54:10.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

‭‭As I read these words, I realized God had given me a promise to hold onto. What we are facing feels huge, but it isn’t bigger than our God. No matter what lies ahead, we can walk through it in confidence that His unfailing love for us will not be shaken and that His peace won’t be removed.

This week, I’m especially grateful for the special words God brings to life from His written word, when a verse or concept in the logos, the written Word, becomes a rhema word that we personally hear and receive as we spend time in His presence. For that to happen requires a commitment to open your Bible (or a Bible app) every day with expectancy that God will speak to you.

Is there a verse of Scripture or a concept taught in the Bible that God has used to encourage you recently? Give thanks to the Lord for being a God who speaks to His people. If God has spoken a special verse or passage to your heart that has encouraged you, don’t keep the good news to yourself. Share it with someone else. It may be just what they are needing to get through a difficult day.

Entering the Trail to True Freedom

Today is a special day in the United States of America, the birthday of our nation and the day we focus on the liberty and freedom God has blessed us with as a nation. But there is an even more essential freedom than political freedom.

As I was reading today in Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, I was reminded that the key to true freedom is knowing Jesus Christ personally. As Beth says, “Christ is the only entrance to the freedom trail.”

John 8: 36 expresses the truth so clearly: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

One of the most beautiful elements of salvation is its simplicity. Christ has already done all the work on the cross. Your response includes four elements:

  1. Recognize that you are a sinner and that there is nothing you can do to save yourself.
  2. Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and only He can save you.
  3. Believe that His death on the Cross paid the penalty for your sin, that He died on your behalf
  4. Surrender your life to Him and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.

If you do not know Christ personally, there is no better time to make that decision than today. If you already know Christ, is your relationship distant, close and personal, or somewhere in the middle? Knowing Christ begins with an initial decision, but growing in our knowledge of Him is an on-going process. My prayer for this day our nation turns it’s focus on freedom is that each of you will experience the freedom that comes from personally knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and growing daily in your knowledge of Him.

St. Patrick’s Day: The True Story Behind the Annual Celebration

St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated each year on March 17th, is about more than shamrocks and leprechauns. St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the life of an early Christian missionary.

In the fifth century, Ireland was a beautiful island enshrouded in violence and spiritual darkness. Warlords and druids ruled the land. But one man would be used by God to break through the darkness and introduce the light of Christ to this heathen land.

The man we now know as St. Patrick was born in Roman ruled Britain to a middle-class Christian family around A.D. 390. The grandson of a priest and son of a deacon, Patrick was exposed early to the truth of the Gospel, yet by the time he was a teenager he had rebelled against his Christian upbringing to the point that he was pratically an atheist.

Then his life took a drastic change for the worse. Irish raiders attacked his home and he was abducted from his village and thrown onto a slave ship headed for Ireland. At 16 years of age he found himself a slave in a foreign land, separated from everything he’d ever known. He was sold to an Irish chieftain named Milchu, who put him to work as a shepherd.

Patrick saw this difficult situation in his life as God’s chastising him, believing he deserved what had happened because of his rejection of the faith of his fathers. And while a slave in Ireland, his life began to change. Instead of becoming bitter, he turned to the God he knew about but had previously refused to acknowledge as his God.

Rev. Brady, the Roman Catholic Archbiship of Armagh and Primate of All of Ireland, says of young Patrick,

“He says, ‘I prayed a hundred times in the day and almost as many at night,’ Through that experience of prayer and trial, he came to know another God — God the Father, who was his protector. He came to know Jesus Christ in those sufferings, and he came to be united with Christ and he came to identify with Christ, and then of course, also the Holy Spirit.”

Patrick’s hard years of slavery came to an end six years later, when during a time of prayer and fasting God spoke to him that he would soon return to his own country and gave him clear direction when it was time to leave. He escaped and traveled 200 miles to the west coast, where he found a ship – the ship God had shown him in prayer – ready to sail. Though at first refused passage, after desperate prayer Patrick was allowed aboard. He returned to his home and family, where he began to study for the ministry.

Patrick had no desire to return to Ireland, but that was exactly what God asked of him. Philip Freeman, author of St. Patrick of Ireland, says:

“One night, he had a dream. There was a man who came from Ireland with a whole bunch of letters. And he opened up one of the letters and it said ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ And then he heard a voice coming out of this letter that said, ‘Holy boy, please return to us. We need you.'”

Patrick struggled in his soul, not convinced this dream was from God and having no desire to return to Ireland and minister to the same people who had enslaved him. Once again, he turned to God in prayer. He received the answer in a dream. God truly was calling him to return to Ireland as a missionary, and he stepped out in obedience to God’s leading.

Patrick gave 29 years of his life to ministry and established the first Christian church in all of Ireland. During that time, he preached the Gospel, baptized over 120,000 Irishmen, and planted 300 churches. Freeman declares, “What Patrick did was really lay the groundwork for Christianity.” Because of Patrick’s willingness to die to his own will and return to Ireland, the land of his suffering, in obedience to the Lord’s call, that nation was forever changed. Reflect on this truth as you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year.

Jesus, Our Redeemer

Since becoming a Christian as a young adult, I’ve heard Jesus called our Redeemer. And He is. But I was surprised when I began researching this name of Jesus that it is an Old Testament name for Jesus. While the New Testament speaks of the redemption that comes through Jesus Christ…

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans‬ ‭3:23-24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

… I could not find the actual name Redeemer used anywhere in the New Testament as a name of Jesus. Yet it obviously is an important aspect of Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth.

So what is a Redeemer? The Hebrew word translated Redeemer in the Old Testament (ga-al) conveys several ideas, depending on where it is used. In Ruth, it is used of Boaz, who is qualified to be Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer. It is used of redemption from slavery (such as of God setting Israel free from Egyptian bondage), of redeeming land by payment, and in a variety of other ways. But whenever it is used the key understanding is that a payment has been made and something or someone is has been bought back.

As our Redeemer, Jesus redeemed us from slavery to sin and death. He paid the price or ransom for our release and freedom, not with money but with His own life.

Titus 2:11 makes it clear that this redemption is by grace and has been offered to all people. But not everyone will receive the benefit of Christ Jesus being our Redeemer.

“‘The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,’ declares the LORD.” Isaiah 59:20 NIV

The New Testament makes it clear that this redemption is now offered to people of every tribe and nation, Jews and Gentiles alike. But the requirement to take advantage of it has not changed. Repentance of sins is the necessary response to the good news that Jesus came as Redeemer.

Redemption is ours by grace through faith, but once we have been redeemed, our lives will be different. Titus 2:12-14 shows what happens in our lives as a result of being redeemed.

It (the grace of God that brings us salvation) teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus‬ ‭2:12-14‬ ‭NIV‬

Jesus Christ Our Savior

Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines Savior as “one who saves from any form or degree of evil.” In the sense we are using Savior as a name of Jesus, it refers to the good news of salvation and forgiveness of sin available to us by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead. Easton explains, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ secures to the sinner a personal interest in the work of redemption. Salvation is redemption made effectual to the individual by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The idea of a Savior isn’t unique to the New Testament. From the Garden of Eden and the fall into sin, God has spoken of Himself being our Savior. One of many verses from the Old Testament calling God our Savior is Isaiah 43:3, which begins with these word, “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”  

Throughout the Old Testament, God delivered His people from perils when they walked in obedience to Him. But the promise of theSavior, of the One who would come to bring salvation from sin and restoration of relationship with God was still future.

From His birth, Jesus was identified as this promised Savior. When an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the field watching their sheep, this announcement was made.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke‬ ‭2:11-12‬ ‭ESV

After His resurrection and ascension to heaven, Jesus was recognized by the early church as the ONLY source of salvation.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Both Paul and Peter acknowledged Him as Savior.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus‬ ‭3:4-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:” 2 Peter‬ ‭1:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

While the price for our salvation has been paid, a response is required from us for Him to be our personal Savior.

It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John‬ ‭4:42‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I made the decision to accept Jesus as my personal Savior in 1971, when my eyes were opened to the truth that growing up in the church didn’t mean I knew Jesus as my personal Savior. If you haven’t made this decision, today can be your day of salvation. Listen to the following song, and then make wherever you are your altar of surrender to Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.

Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah

Revelation 5 uses two very different animals to describe two aspects of the nature of Jesus Christ, a powerful and ferocious LION and a meek and harmless LAMB. Jesus is both the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah, symbolizing His kingly authority and power,and the spotless Lamb of God, symbolizing His submission to the will of His Father to be the perfect sacrifice of the sins of mankind.

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” Revelation‬ ‭5:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Yesterday we looked at Jesus as the Lamb of God. Today we are looking at Him as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Genesis 49:9 describes the tribe of Judah as a “lion’s cub” (Hebrew words mean a young lion) and a “crouched lion” as if ready to attack. Based on this verse, the term “Lion of Judah” became the symbol of the Jewish tribe of Judah.

The following verse is the first prediction of a royal line of David which would come from the tribe of Judah.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” Genesis‬ ‭49:10‬ ‭NKJV‬

Jesus Christ is clearly identified in Scripture as a descendent of the tribe of Judah, and more specifically as of the line of David. When we use the name Lion of the tribe of Judah to describe Jesus, we are saying He is the Messiah who is to come as King of kings and Lord of lords, ruling in His eternal kingdom. (The meaning of the word Shiloh is debated by biblical scholars; some understand it to be one of the names of Jesus, while others simply translate it as “tranquility”or “peacemaker.”)

As I was doing some research on this name of God, I came across a quote by Nancy Leigh DeMoss that perfectly ties these two aspects of the nature and purpose of Jesus Christ together.

The triumphant, conquering Lion is also the slain Lamb. The Lion’s victory, the Lion’s overcoming, the Lion’s triumph was accomplished by His death as a Lamb. He conquered by His suffering.

Having conquered sin and death by His suffering, He is now our soon-coming conquering King. And that’s a good reason to give thanks today!