our way into redemption

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south. (Psalm 107:1-3, ESV)

We are good at announcing victories. We have awards ceremonies and podiums and medals and elaborate speeches. We are good at announcing victories, but how do we announce our redemption? How do we talk about our soul’s resurrection?

Because I believe this is indeed the greatest cause for celebration. Redemption is the best reason to throw a festival or plan a party.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

Let us commemorate our being found when we were lost, our being victorious when we were defeated, our being alive when we were dead! But our joyful, victorious entry into redemption is not carried by our proud steps of accomplishment but on the weary, beaten back of a perfect Savior. We are carried, limp and lifeless, by Christ to victory and we finish with the greatest reward.

Jared C. Wilson writes, “We disobeyed our way into fallenness, but we cannot obey our way into redemption.” (Gospel Deeps, p. 161)

He is our way into redemption. He is our victory and our celebration is in His name and for His fame. He is our way into redemption and He is the only way to announce victory in this life.

Wilson includes this list in his book Gospel Deeps and I think it pulls us into powerful proclamation as the redeemed children and inspires victorious living in the promises of our Redeemer. Wilson writes on page 160, “He has hemmed us in; he has us covered:

Christ is in us. (John 14:20; 17:23; Rom. 8:10-11; 2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:27)

Christ is over us. (Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 11:3; Col. 1:18; 3:1; Heb. 3:6)

Christ is through us. (Rom. 15:18; 2 Cor. 2:14; 5:20)

Christ is with us. (Matt. 18:20; 28:20; Eph. 2:5-6; 2 Tim. 4:17)

Christ is under us. (Luke 6:47-48; 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Cor. 3:11)

Christ is around us (that is to say, we are in and through him). (John 14:6; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 3:4, 14; 5:17; Gal. 3:27; Heb. 7:25)

We are good at announcing our victories, but this victory in Christ is like no other. We announce His victory in our redemption and we announce His sovereignty in our resurrected lives. I can imagine no greater speech than a life that speaks to this work.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

These reflections come as I read through Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson. I definitely encourage you to pick up a copy and read it for yourself. It’s one to read through slowly and process with other people (or on a blog!). Here are some other posts on my reflections on the book: Lord, I need Youmy heart will never not be His, living risen on a Monday, further up and further in you go.

living risen on Monday

It had its own paragraph, tucked away on page 117 in Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson and this one sentence struck a chord that has been resonating ever since,

If suffering was good enough for Him, shouldn’t it be good enough for us?

Well, wow. What to say here… We all say “yes” because it would seem so horrible to say anything else. Our Savior, Christ the Lord who holds all things together died. He held all things together as fully God while walking around as fully man. And then…

He allowed Himself to be undone unto death so that we might rise and be held together in Him.

And Christ was never less than perfect. Though he died the death of a criminal, He never lived less than perfectly. The God of all creation became like us (whoa) and then became sin for us (wow) and suffered every temptation for us (oof) and endured death on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God (oh my).

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

The resurrection swell of Easter was still spilling over yesterday, burying again the death of Jesus with the triumph of his third day victory. The Easter season, according to the church calendar, has really just begun and I want to observe the fullness of it. Because resurrection changed everything, not just a food-packed Sunday selected by the lunar calendar. EVERYTHING. And, I think it’s good to have a season set apart to reflect on the weight of “everything.”

Even a full season won’t condition my heart as it should, but God has promised to complete the work He has started and to make perfect (in Christ) my imperfect attempts to believe. And so, I stand in the swell of the Easter season asking what it looks like to live risen on Monday… and Tuesday – Friday.

What happened in the living, dying, and rising of Jesus happened in real time – the clock measured His footsteps up to Calvary and the three days after he died. The light broke the dawn on Sunday, marking the morning and Jesus’ day of resurrection.

But the glory of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is not contained on the calendar. Before the foundations of the world (Romans 8:29) – before the light broke the first morning and before the ground felt the weight of any feet – God planned to lavish love on His chosen through the person and sacrificial work of Christ.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
how vast beyond all measure,
that He would give His only Son,
and make a wretch His treasure
(How Deep the Father’s Love, Stuart Townend)

The beauty of God’s love for us runs as deep as eternity stretches long. We know from Psalm 115:3 that God acts out of His pleasure, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”

Just let the weight of “whatever He pleases” sink in deep. He was pleased to plan before the dawn of time for our redemption. He was pleased to send His Son, who emptied Himself and died in our place. He was pleased to bring reconciliation through the resurrection. It was God’s will to crush His Son so that we could be counted righteous.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10-11)

What does it mean to live risen on Monday and Tuesday and Saturday? It means believing that God’s love was not constrained to a weekend nor the power that it produced. God was planning in the forever past for our redemption and prepares a place for us in the forever future.

Christ’s suffering did not take away from God’s glory, but revealed it. In Christ, God pulls back the curtain so that we can gaze on His glorious character and find it is nothing like anything we know. What we see and savor in Christ will allow us to endure the suffering the same way – revealing the glory of God.

Living like I’m risen means believing God planned all along for me to rise and trusting God to keep His promises.

making melodies

I remember standing on the wooden pews and singing in Dimnent Chapel during college. The notes got all mingled together above our heads and bounced off the stained glass in the post Sunday night worship sessions.

“I’m making melody in my heart to You
I’m making melody in my heart to You
Pouring out Your praise with everything within”
(Matt Redman)

Now, I know my heart makes melodies whether I ask it to or not. It’s just a thing it does – sing, I mean. That can’t be a surprise, with the amount of music I post here.

Sometimes the songs are of the G, C, D, E variety with simple words and rhythms. Other times, they sound a little more complicated and painful. This song is some sort of mixture, but it is hopeful.

Yes, hopeful.

Love is what has brought us here
With the courage to come near
Chase away our pride and our fear
With the Light to carry
With the Light to carry on

This past weekend I went to John Piper‘s Desiring God Seminar on TULIP (5 points of Calvinism) in Minneapolis. Eight hours of lecture with live Q & A interspersed throughout is pretty heavy – one of those times where you are unsure whether to write anything down because you know what you do write down won’t be enough. (If you’re interested in the slides, they are here for free.)

One take-away I’m still clinging to on Tuesday night is hope. The kind of Romans 5 hope that doesn’t disappoint. Because God is sovereign, I have hope. Because nothing happens outside of God’s control, I have peace that my hope is secure. I can rest even while the world appears to be crumbling – even while there is death and disease and addiction and pain, I have a hope secure.

My pride and fear and sin and doubt are chased away by the Light of One who is mighty to save. God’s promises are trustworthy and His words pierce into the deepest dark with a light that exposes (Ephesians 5) sin for what it truly is: rebellion. And when my heart was dead without any hope of revival, His Light reached out and called me into right relationship while empowering me to take each step by grace.

He called me out of darkness and into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9) and then gave me the grace to walk until the sun shone on my face. What hope we have in a God who takes what is dead and makes it alive! What hope we have in a God who extends grace for salvation and grace for the saved to be sanctified. What hope! 

This message of God’s sovereignty is not about being puppets or robots as much as it is about God’s grace enabling those He has called to freely choose Him. This is the kind of hope that makes the dark clouds fade away – the kind of hope that is enduring because God is eternal.

This is the kind of hope that makes melodies in my heart – sometimes simple and sometimes complicated – reminding me who allows the dark clouds and who gives strength to endure.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

pink grass – an illustration

A couple weeks ago, I wrote the post, “what if the grass was pink?” and thought it made all sorts of sense (of course, all my ideas do… in my head). Judging from my sister’s blank stare and a stranger’s lengthy comments about how I wanted to dismantle the entire psychiatric system (among other things), I decided I had maybe missed my mark. This is my attempt to give an illustration that will hopefully make it more understandable and less like I want someone on acid to take over the world.

This is an exercise in imagination, so put on your best thinking hat. Ready?

A collection of cans of paint and other relate...

——-

Imagine a palette of paints with every color possible (I know, it’s a pretty big paint palette). Now, imagine your world in monochrome. Imagine everything you see and touch today as some shade of black/white/gray. Imagine the computer screen and your clothes and your make up and the flowers on the table and the sun outside… imagine everything you see is like the world of “I Love Lucy.”

Things are pretty dull in the colorless world, yes?

Okay. Now go back to that palette of paints with every possible color (even colors we can’t think up). Imagine someone choosing, color by color, how to bring your world to life. With an infinite palette of options, the possibilities are endless.

Roses could be… turquoise. Tree trunks might be… sapphire. Sunlight will be… purple.

——–

It’s not hard to imagine ourselves as artists painting a canvas where up is down and the sunshine glows blue. I suppose today they call it abstract.

So, why is it so hard to imagine the infinite number of options God had when He created everything in the beginning? We’ve since found thousands of reasons to explain WHY the sun shines golden and the grass grows green, but couldn’t it have turned out differently?

God could have chosen any color to paint the sky.
He chose blue.
Now there is a whole new beauty wrapped up in the mystery of a blue sky.
God could have chosen any of an infinite amount of colors.
He chose blue.

Yes, we can explain why it is blue scientifically, but it didn’t have to be blue. God didn’t consult science textbooks as he spoke things into existence, to see whether certain color combinations were possible or if the law of gravity would really be universal.

Science just attempts to explain how God ordered everything by divine choice.

If the sky was green we would find scientific support that would lead us to believe it couldn’t be any other way.

And that is how we cheat ourselves out of the magic of Creation. I mean magic in a good and not creepy sense.
I mean… the look you got in your eyes when you first saw fireworks because you didn’t think such beautiful explosions possible.
I mean… the building emotion you feel when you watch a stunning sunset or witness a double rainbow or wake up to see mysterious fog lifting from a lake.

There is a healthy sense of awe I hope I always feel when I stop to think about how (out of an infinite palette of options) God chose the luscious color green for grass. Because, you see, it could be pink.