Archive

Tag Archives: redemption

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3:22-24

20100613-IMG_2651

After the fall into sin, Adam and Eve began to feel shame, covering themselves with fig leaves, and hiding from God. God searched them out and asked them four questions – all of which he already knew the answers (see the text below).

  1. Where are you?
  2. Who told you that you were naked?
  3. Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?
  4. What is this you have done?

God asked these questions to help Adam and Eve own their sinful rebellion, and confess to him, looking to him for redemption and help. Alas, however, such was not to be the case: Adam and Eve both played the blame game, had no faith in God that he could undo their terrible deed, and got honest enough only to admit that they were ashamed of their nakedness.

God gave the first Gospel promise in v. 15 (speaking to the serpent):

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

There would come a descendant of the woman (Christ) who would crush the head of the serpent (Satan), but who would suffer a mortal wound in the process. It would cost Jesus his life to defeat the devil. But he would do so, and even then his death would be a mere bruised heel in the context of eternity, for as we know, Jesus rose from the dead and reigns on high at the right hand of God.

There is the curious conclusion to this chapter when God determines to keep Adam and Eve from taking the fruit of the tree of life from the garden and live forever. Adam and Eve are banished from the garden and angelic sentinels are posted to prevent them from attaining immortality while on this earth. 

God wanted man not to live eternally in this state of fallenness, as “poor miserable sinners.” This benefit would come to those who sought God’s reign in Christ and the salvation that he offers by grace, received by faith. 

You might wonder just how merciful such an action was. Wouldn’t it be better to live eternally here on earth? On a good day we might think so. But as we age, or see our parents aging and dealing with the onslaught of physical frailty, we might reconsider. What if you didn’t have the hope of a new heaven and new earth? What if truly even the best of life here and now was as good as it gets? 

The Preacher says, “he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In other words God has designed us so that there is a sense of transcendence and spiritual reality that is the faint echo of eternal glory. When we yearn for something better, for justice, truth and love, it is because though guarded, God has revealed the existence of such things. And though guarded from experiencing them fully on this earth, we have been promised this eternal glory in the life of the world to come.

Genesis 3:7-21

7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Exodus 15:13 (NKJV)

You in your mercy have led forth the people whom you have redeemed.

Philippians 3:20

Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

  
When we saw the movie Act of Valor, one scene stuck out in my mind…after the fact. When the goup of Navy Seals fought their wany into the prison where a CIA operative was held, they asked her some specific questions like, “What street did you grow up on? Who was your best friend in junior high? What color was your first car?” These were asked of her to determine whether or not she was who she claimed to be. We learned later that our son had to provide similar questions and answers when he went into Iraq as a Navy airman. That was a chilling and surprising discovery!

What we did not find surprising, however, was that when they explained who they were and why they were there, she followed the Navy Seals out of the prison, onto the helecopter, and to freedom. Redemption yields followership. Someone rescues you, you’re more inclined to follow them. 

God has redeemed us. He rescued us from death and the devil. We follow him because he has redeemed us. At least we do as we remember what he has done. Redeemed we follow our redeemer. 

There is yet, however, another aspect to God’s redemption and leading of us his people: We not only follow him, we look for him to come and bring us all the way home. The question we need to embrace today is whether we will follow God as he leads us daily. More than that, will we look for him in order that we may be led by him to our ultimate rescue and redemption?

Jonah 2:6

You brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.

1 John 3:8

The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

20120123-0001-72

When we visited Israel three years ago, one very powerful experience for me took place in a pit. We were in the basement of Caiaphas’ palace in Jerusalem. We had already seen places of great significance: the Mount of Olives with the ancient olive trees, where Jesus prayed on the night he was betrayed. We saw the birthplace of Jesus – now surrounded by churchly ornamentation, and places of veneration. We saw the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and tomb both inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But somehow the experience of being in that pit stays with me.

The reason has to do with what happened there. We were led down three levels into a deep pit where I was asked to read Psalm 88 for the group. The psalm expresses much of the angt Jesus experienced at his betrayal and arrest. It was likely that Jesus was in a pit such as the one we were in. When I got to the last phrase of the Psalm, “my companions have become darkness,” the lights were turned out. We were in the pitch darkness of the pit. 

We were able to climb the narrow steps up out of the pit once the lights were turned back on. But to be brought up out of the pit was still a welcome experience. Jesus not only endured the pit, the darkness, the abandonment, torture, shame, scourging, death of the cross, and rest in the tomb, but through that destroyed the works of the devil. He has been glorified, raised up from the pit, he reigns from on high.

Whatever pits we may have to endure, we can be confident that our ultimate end is not the pit, but the glory of heaven, and the life of the world to come. In the mean time, we look for glimpses of that glory and foretastes of that perfect deliverance, and thank God when we experience God’s favor and rescue today.

Genesis 39:20–21

Joseph remained there in prison. But the Lord was with him.

Hebrews 13:3

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them.

The entrance to Death Row inside Angola Prison

The entrance to Death Row inside Angola Prison

I walk from my car to the double gated entrance at which there is a three story guard tower. There is massively strong and reinforced steel door at ground level, and thick tinted bulletproof windows around the top of the tower. A small walkway twenty feet off the ground runs around the perimeter of the tower. A basket with a rope and pulley is attached to a arm on one side of the walkway. The guard asks, “Name, and purpose of your visit?” There is no chit-chat; no friendly banter. I tell them I am there for a pastoral visit. He lowers the basket to me and instructs me to put my identification in the basket. Once they have seen my ID and verified that I do have an appointment in the chaplain’s office, they return my drivers license and I am allowed to go through the first of two gates giving me access to a 20 foot no-man’s-land between two 15 foot razor-wire-topped fences. The electronic lock clicks shut. Seconds later the other lock opens and I walk up a sidewalk to a second security station. At this station I go through a similar protocol. Only this time I walk through a metal detector, and they do not return my drivers license. I am in prison. I am about to visit a prisoner who is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole.

When I meet Bobby, he is dressed in white pants and shirt – as are all the prisoners in this maximum security prison. The visit begins with prayer and a Bible reading. I learn his story. He professes to be Christian. He acknowledges his guilt. But he also says he should not be here without the possibility of parole. Some time later the visit ends and I am allowed to retrieve my drivers license, walk out through the double gates, past the guard tower, to my car, and make the 25 mile trip back to my family. That memory is more than 25 years old: my first of several visits to the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas State Penitentiary. I got to know Bobby and visited him several times before moving to Texas. He is still in prison as far as I know.

Since that time I have visited several other units in the Arkansas system as well as the once most bloody prison of all: Angola Prison in southern Louisiana. One major difference between my experience in Arkansas and in Louisiana: there is a seminary inside the prison at Angola. Through the efforts of Burl Cain, the prison warden at Angola, that prison has undergone the most incredible change imaginable. From a reputation as the bloodiest prison in the United States, to becoming a model of true rehabilitation and Christian redemption, the change is nearly beyond belief. Burl Cain is a man of faith and wisdom. He even brought a Bible College program into the prison there!

I have only the faintest inkling of what it is like in prison – though I have visited prisons several times in my life. But I do know there are people there who have been redeemed and whose lives have been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They have heard the gospel, repented of their sins, and in some cases – as in the seminary and inmate-chaplain program at Angola – have experienced the fullness of God’s grace by mediating that grace to others within the prisons.

There are some very bad people in prison; people who deserve to be there (including even some of the prison pastors serving in Angola and now also at the Darrington Unit near Sandy Point, south of Houston). But if God’s word is for sinners, and God’s grace is for the lost, there is no place more clearly in need of the grace and truth that is embodied in Jesus Christ than in prison.

We may think that tougher laws and harsher prison sentences are the way to save our society from evil’s influence. But the game change that society needs is the message of the Gospel, the call of Jesus to repent and believe, and the power of the Holy Spirit shaping our lives as sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father. That message changes lives in prison. Whether or not these men ever see the outside of the prison walls those who have been freed by the Gospel are precious to God. We are called to remember them.

Genesis 3:1-6

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

20100614-IMG_2708

A few days ago a friend who had returned from a fishing trip to Alaska gave us several salmon fillets. What a treat! We love to grill salmon on the barbecue and consider this gift most generous. We are looking forward to the fresh wild caught Pacific salmon! We will invite our friends to join us when we grill these.

Just this evening several of us who are part of the discipleship huddle at St. John went on a missional service project to the home of a single mom. We raked leaves and brush, cleaned out gutters, power washed, trimmed trees, cut off branches that were on the roof of the house. 14 man hours later we had made a significant dent in the neglected care and upkeep of this house. We hope she receives the blessing with thanks to God.

Our friend gave us the salmon not because we need food, or even because we cannot afford salmon (though it is not inexpensive!). He gave it out of the goodness of his heart; because he respects me as his pastor and friend. We gave the ministry of lawn care and exterior house maintenance also out of the goodness of our hearts. But there is another wrinkle to our gift: the wrinkle of sin. She is no longer married to the father of her children. He is not in her life or providing for the care of their house. There is no fault implied in regard to that, just an observation. But the reality of broken relationships – especially marriage – and broken homes and needy women is a fault of life in a broken and fallen world.

When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit more than just nakedness and shame ensued. Sin entered the world, and death because of sin. We see it everywhere we turn. Our desire as followers of Jesus was to shed the light of his redeeming love wherever we can. We don’t know whether she will recognize it as such. But we do know that there was a need that we were able to fill.

While we were working there several neighbors passed by on the street. None asked what we were doing. None offered to help. That’s sad, but yet more evidence of the fallen nature of this world: neighbors and communities do not always respond to others needs as they should. Thank God he responded to our need by sending his Son to be our Savior. The blessing of his forgiveness and abundant and eternal life is the greatest blessing of all.

Thanks to Jerry Kieschnick for sharing the following story…The interesting attestation at the bottom (from snopes.com) does not take into account an even greater truth: Jesus Christ determined that to show true faith and perfect love for God and man, he would offer himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for sins. Any sacrifices we make or learn of are truly dim reflections of his great sacrifice. Now he is risen from the dead. Now he reigns on high. He will come again to receive his own whom he redeemed into his eternal kingdom. May we be moved by his faithful love to give ourselves to help others.

Normandy D-Day Sites

Memorial Day
 
Since we will observe Memorial Day this coming Monday, I thought it appropriate to send next week’s Perspectives article early. So from my file come two stories with an important connection.

STORY NUMBER ONE

Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie.” He was Capone’s lawyer for a good reason.  Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends, as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn’t give his son; he couldn’t pass on a good name or a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scarface” Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity.* To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified.

Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine. The poem read:

“The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still.”

STORY NUMBER  TWO

World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare.
He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship.

His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way toward the American fleet.

The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes.  Wing-mounted 50 calibers blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent.

Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.

Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft.

This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of World War II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

So, the next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It’s located between Terminals 1 and 2.

WHAT DO THESE TWO STORIES HAVE TO DO WITH EACH OTHER?

Butch O’Hare was “Easy Eddie’s” son.

*NOTE: For those who check such things, online watchdog Snopes says: “When Easy Eddie did eventually provide information that aided federal authorities in sending Capone to prison for income tax evasion, it was far less likely that he did it because he had an attack of conscience, wanted to right the wrongs he’d done, or sought to teach his son the value of integrity. More probably he turned state’s evidence because he could see the handwriting on the wall: Capone was going to be nailed with or without his assistance, but by doing the government a favor, Eddie could keep himself out of prison. Some sources even suggest the connections Eddie made by turning government informant were what got his son Butch a berth at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.”

Notwithstanding that grounding of “Easy Eddie’s” story in reality, these two stories demonstrate that even when children are raised in less than desirable moral circumstances, they still have the possibility of becoming people of integrity, valor and courage. Eddie O’Hare was such a man.

The peace of the Lord be with you!

 
 
Dr. Gerald B. (Jerry) Kieschnick

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism – Eph. 4:5

Genesis 6:5-9

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

20140330-3088

Cal Thomas believes the movie is a good sign, but suggests that the book is better than the movie, while others say we ought to go see it. Pastors.com (founded by Rick Warren) says Christians should go see the movie. World Magazine’s Sophia Lee offers a most significant insight. She says the film, “nails God’s wrath, but but misses His mercy.” I believe that to be a significant issue, and worthy of much conversation.

The wrath of God is real but too-often-dismissed characteristic of God. He is often ignored, or rejected, or made into some sort of grandfatherly doter in the minds of many. He becomes merely an old man, sitting in a rocking chair, white hair, and at best watching, but perhaps sleeping. But look at the skies break loose and the waters rushing in to drown mankind. Even better watch as God’s Son bears the brunt of his wrath on the cross. God’s wrath is real, and not to be dismissed lightly.

But God’s love is greater, even, than his wrath. That’s what the cross of Jesus is all about. It’s about God’s love intervening between us and himself, and in love for us, Jesus sacrificing himself for our sins on the cross. If for no other reason than that we appreciate the reality of God’s wrath on account of our sins, Noah the movie is a good start. But since there is far more than just God’s wrath, let’s never consider the job done when we convince someone that the Bible is true, and that a man named Noah and his wife and sons and their wives were saved by God through the ark – together with the animals.

Let’s also remember the great drowning that happened at our baptism: the sinful nature was drown, the body of sin was put to death. We were buried with Christ in baptism, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too may walk in newness of life. Thanks be to God!

Romans 7:13-24

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

20140228-2753

Some time ago a woman I knew, a mother of two, went through a painful divorce. It was hurtful to her and her children; deeply so. One place of relief she and especially her children experienced was in a support group for single moms and their children. When her son encountered other boys in the same predicament and pain he was experiencing he was visibly relieved. He had been especially hurt by his dad’s departure, and didn’t think anyone could understand him. He learned otherwise that particular evening.

That was a sad discovery to have to make, and even more sad that there are any number of boys and girls who experience such pain. But this is a similar response to people who read Romans 7: “Yes! That’s my experience too. Someone understands my spiritual struggle with sin! I cannot seem to get on top of it!”

I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

To know that even the great St. Paul, missionary extraordinaire, struggled with sin he could not conquer is somehow comforting to those of us who might not be as stellar in our Christian walk. But this truly is a sad comfort. There is little comfort in giving in and saying, “Well we’re all sinners after all.” That is true, but it’s a fatalistic approach, like saying – in the face of impending doom, “We’re all gonna die.” True, but not comforting.

Our true and great comfort is that we have a deliverer. There is a redeemer. He is our Lord Jesus Christ. He has ransomed us from sin and Satan’s prison. And though we’re not fully out there is a path to freedom, and One Day we will find ourselves fully delivered. In the mean time we will struggle. The world and our own sinful flesh will conspire to take us down. But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ that we will be delivered. We may find some comfort in others’ pain and failures. But the greater comfort is founded in the fellowship of those who – in spite of their sin, struggles, and pain – look to Jesus Christ who delivers us from our wretchedness.

Romans 6:12-14

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

20140301-2856

Adrift at sea for 47 days, Louis Zampeini knew better than to drink sea water. It would only fuel his thirst for more and spell his ultimate doom. Addictions are like that: whether it’s alcohol, drugs, sex, or electronic devices, they end up taking life from us, even as we yearn for more of the false-thrill they bring.

Paul warns here against letting sin reign in our bodies, bringing us under the sway of its compulsions. Specifically he seems to be pointing toward sexual sins and addictions. But the reality of sin’s entrapment is something to be avoided. The reason for this, however, is not simply because of the harm that such addictions bring. We have been redeemed, brought out of the terrible dungeon of slavery, and into the freedom of grace. We do not work our way out of this bondage by our law-keeping. It is God’s gift to us. We could never rescue ourselves.

We are free. We are under grace. We need not put out to sea in a flimsy life raft without food and water. We need not abandon the place of God’s grace and redemption in favor of the squalor of unrighteousness. So our hands reach out to those in need, with kindness, and food, and shelter. Our body parts are used to listen to the discouraged, to speak words of forgiveness to the penitent, and to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who seek to protect innocent lives.

We are no longer slaves to sin. Any number of years – or even days – in such slavery is too many.

Acts 2:32-36

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Tinge of Pink

I have been at the FiveTwo WIKI Conference for the past three days. During that time I have heard from some excellent speakers, visited with some great friends, brothers and sisters in Christ and colleagues in ministry, as well as having participated in some edifying workshops. High on the list of great speakers are Michael Frost, Dr. Lorena Gonzales, and Bob Goff. Each brought a different perspective and focus regarding missional living.

Michael Frost spoke about the Reign of God as something to announce and demonstrate. Bob Goff talked about holding out cups of water lightly by the rim (a marathon running analogy). Dr. Gonzales shared her encounter with real people living in poverty and how God lifted them out of poverty, and eventually also out of economic poverty.

The centerpiece of all this? Jesus’ work in people’s hearts and lives to redeem, give hope, restore lives, and bring salvation.  Frost told of “STREET PASTORS” ministered to people in a community dramatically reducing the incidents of alcohol-related violence, while sharing Jesus’ message of forgiveness with broken people. Gonzales told the story of a five-time convicted felon who was redeemed from a life of drug abuse, then introduced her and let her tell her story of shame turned to delight. Bob Goff shared how he helped bring the first Ugandan witch doctor to trial and conviction for the brutal attempted murder of an eight-year-old boy. He used his story to urge us all to “do Tuesday” rather than “do ministry.” In other words, live your life for Christ rather than compartmentalize your Christian witness or service.

What gets just a bit tricky has to do with a reaction I heard of from some of the participants. For the message was heavily centered in the realm of God’s reign (sovereignty) rather than our more familiar and well-founded (Lutheran) Christo-centric message. This was a nagging concern of mine as well, but not to the point of dismissing the message. In fact, I believe the “Reign of God” (a preferred term to “Kingdom of God”) is an important corrective to our sometimes one-deminsional message of salvation. We have a great handle on justification by grace through faith. It’s the center of Lutheran theology. We sometimes, however, neglect to talk about the purpose for Jesus’ redemption, “that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom…” (cf. Luther’s Small Catechism, 2nd Article).

This week was that corrective. It’s all centered in Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God. He is the King of kings and the One before whose name all people will bow. He is our Redeemer and the centerpiece of history and faith. So just as a beautiful centerpiece adorns a table, I want Christ to adorn my life and be on prominent display in all that I do. I’m deeply thankful for his redemption and his continuing grace in my life. I want to live under him in his kingdom and serve him today. How about you?

Acts 2:29-41

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying,“Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.