Redemption

Hallelujah, Sung by Emma

womanwashingjesusfeetJesus was once having dinner with a religious leader when suddenly, in walks a woman who had a reputation for living a sinful life. She is at Jesus feet, sobbing. She washes Jesus feet with her tears and dries them with her hair, kisses his feet and anoints them with perfume.

It was an incredible humbling and extravagant act of gratitude. She had found redemption. She had found grace. She had found forgiveness. (Read the full story below)

I have been sharing this story for a month or more at my nursing home concerts. This story inspired a new verse to a song that I have been singing to my girls for the past several months. It is extremely popular around our house and currently my two year old’s favorite song. I am sure you know it as well. “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.

There is hardly a day that goes by that my Emma doesn’t ask me to sing this song to her. Sometimes she drags my guitar or Ukulele across the room to have me play it for her.

Here is the new verse:

“Those who’ve been forgiven more,
respond with love to the Lord,
So remember all the grace He’s given to ya.
He pursues you when you go astray,
When you choose wrong and lose your way
Forgiveness gives you back your Hallelujah!”

I love those last few lines and have felt the Holy Spirits smile and presence at times when I sing it. Forgiveness gives you back your Hallelujah!

Please leave me a comment and be sure to subscribe.

From the Gospel of Luke:

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”” (Luke 7 NIV)

Categories: Forgiveness, Gospel, Grace, Redemption | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Will Love You Unconditionally

When I heard Katy Perry’s latest song Unconditionally it struck me as one of the most powerful songs I had ever heard! It is a message straight from God to every one of us of his unconditional love for us. I even question whether or not she wrote it and meant it as such. She has acknowledged she believes in God and happens to be wearing large cross earrings in the music video. It made me cry when I heard it. I dare you to listen to it and imagine God singing these words to you:

“Unconditionally”

Oh no, did I get too close?
Oh, did I almost see what’s really on the inside?
All your insecurities
All the dirty laundry
Never made me blink one time

Unconditional, unconditionally
I will love you unconditionally
There is no fear now
Let go and just be free
I will love you unconditionally

Come just as you are to me
Don’t need apologies
Know that you are worthy
I’ll take your bad days with your good
Walk through the storm I would
I do it all because I love you, I love you

Unconditional, unconditionally
I will love you unconditionally
There is no fear now
Let go and just be free
I will love you unconditionally

So open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart

Acceptance is the key to be
To be truly free
Will you do the same for me?

Unconditional, unconditionally
I will love you unconditionally
And there is no fear now
Let go and just be free
‘Cause I will love you unconditionally (oh yeah)
I will love you (unconditionally)
I will love you
I will love you unconditionally

One of my favorite Scriptures:

“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4:16-18 NLT)

Think of the following lyric of Unconditionally in terms of Jesus: “Acceptance is the key to be, to be truly free, will you do the same for me?”

Jesus accepts us just as we are. He does so on the basis of his sacrifice on the cross. In the above Scripture it says if we fully experience his perfect love, then we will never have to be afraid. We don’t have to be afraid because fear has to do with punishment.

What punishment is there left if Jesus endured ALL the punishment for sin at the cross? Can the same sins be punished twice? No.

The good news is that you are already forgiven and covered in grace and there is now nothing that can separate you from the love of God. This is just how good God is.

Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8 NLT)

I believe Jesus would say to us:

“I accept you. Not because of anything you’ve done or failed to do but because of my love for you and my sacrifice. I accept you. Not because you earned it or deserve it but because I love you! I died for you. I took your sin away on a cross. There is no sin so shameful that could keep me away. Everything that stood between us is gone! This is my gift to you: Forgiveness, grace, acceptance, unconditional love, and a home with me forever. This is all yours. I embrace you in spite of all your secrets and sinful ways and all your dirty laundry. My committed unconditional love and grace will help you learn a life of love and free you from your self destructive sin. I know everything about you. And I choose you. Will you do the same for me? Believe me. Receive me. Accept me” ~ Jesus

Categories: Redemption | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Beauty of Redemption

I am finally sharing this post after years of having a particular movie come back to mind time and time again. It continues to bless me with a glimpse of God’s redemption.

The Razor’s Edge is a movie in which Bill Murray plays Larry. Shortly after WWI, Larry goes on a quest to find truth, to find something worth living for, to find a purpose to life. He was not content to simply be who everyone else expected him to be, living the status quo life he saw all around him. No, he wanted more.

And so he parts ways with the girl he was seeing at the time, Isabel, and goes off for a year to tour the world, eventually finding himself up on a snowy mountain peak in Nepal. At the end of the year he returns to London to learn that Isabel had married one of Larry’s wealthy and influential friends.

One night, while all three of them were out to dinner together they saw in the restaurant an old friend of theirs named Sophie. Isabel related the gossip about her. Evidently she had gotten mixed up with drugs and alcohol and even worse had now resorted to prostitution. Right then and there Larry decides to rescue Sophie.

Larry takes Sophie home with him, to save her. He convinces her to stay with him each new day and they spend the days just enjoying life. Picnics, outings on the lake, long walks, good conversation… Soon the light comes back to Sophie’s eyes. She remembers what it was to have fun, to laugh again, to really be alive. She has hope.

It was in this unselfish daily outpouring of redeeming love, giving worth to Sophie, and restoring the beauty of her soul that Larry finds what he was looking for all along. He finds meaning and truth in true love. He never so much as makes a reference to her past. But instead he gently woos her, wins her confidence and trust and eventually her heart.

After many days Larry and Sophie become engaged, but Isabel, though married to another, is jealous and sabotages Sophie. She cuts her down with snide remarks and tells her that she doesn’t deserve to be loved by Larry. She doesn’t hesitate to remind her of her past and her words find their mark. Sophie is devastated and begins to drink a bottle of alcohol, a gift from Isabel.

Sophie leaves. When Larry learns that she is gone, he is soon in desperate search of her. Sadly, he learns that Sophie had returned to her old life and finds her at the brothel, drugged up, drunk, and surrounded by wicked men. He pleads with her to come home with him and she replies, “Don’t you see, you’re better off without me.” The men throw him out and beat him up as he struggles to rescue her.

The next day Sophie is found dead, floating in the river.

——–

In this story, I see the heart of God for us. We are “Sophie”. We all need a Savior to come to our rescue, sweep us off our feet, and show us how to live, laugh, and love again. But, our story could end as tragically as Sophie’s if we aren’t careful. We have to fight to embrace the love of Jesus. While it may be true that we don’t deserve God’s outrageous love, that doesn’t matter to him. It isn’t about what we deserve at all. It’s all about his passionate love for us.

There is a verse that saved my life found in 1 John 4:18:

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” NIV

or, as another translation puts it:

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” NLT

This verse gives me hope, that though I may still fear, it’s only because I haven’t quite yet grasped God’s perfect love for me. His love is still there. It still remains to be discovered, embraced and that’s encouraging! And then there’s that whole thing about punishment. Let me ask you, are there any sins left to be punished if Jesus took them all at the cross?

What remains then is, will we receive his love? Will we fight for that love, to hang on to that love? (Romans 8)

God will indeed receive you and lavish such love on you, never to mention the ways you went wrong in the past. But, you must not allow the devil to lie to you, and tear you away from the one who loves you so much that he would die for you (and he did). You must hang on to the hope that Jesus offers you. You need to believe!

There is a similar story found early in the book of Hosea in the Bible. Through this story God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute. Hosea’s wife then leaves him and gets mixed up with other men. Hosea searches for her and when he finds her, he even has to pay a ransom to buy his own wife back.

God orchestrated this story in Hosea’s life to represent God’s relationship with his people. That even though we have been, and are, unfaithful to him, as Hosea’s wife was to him, and even though we cheat on him with our sins, God still loves us. He will not divorce us as his people but will restore us and redeem us… if that’s what we want.

“God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” Hebrews 13:5 NIV

He doesn’t even wait for our hearts to turn toward him to redeem us. He redeemed us even when we still loved our sin. Even when we are still pursuing our wicked ways, he died for us. This is what Jesus has done for you and me at the cross.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrated his love toward us in this, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

It is Christ’s death that redeems us from death. It is Jesus who came to our rescue while we were still “in the whorehouse”. He will restore life and beauty to our souls.

One more note. We also must be careful not to play the part of Isabel in other people’s lives. Jesus wants everyone to come to the table of his love and grace. We cannot be obstacles to people coming to Jesus. There is room for everyone and we must not make it about who deserves to come and who is more righteous than the next and who deserves his approval more. No one deserves the extravagant love of God. But God is desperate that everyone knows his generous love and redemption.

Redemption is such a beautiful thing!

Always remember this:

You are loved outrageously by an outrageously loving God!

Love, by Jaeson Ma:

ps. Read Luke 15. This is the Father’s attitude toward us, and relates perfectly to this post:

Luke 15  (NLT)

1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.[b]’

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

Categories: Forgiveness, Redemption | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

In Search of Wonder

I realize I have become cynical of humans lately (myself included). I’m a pessimist (or perhaps a realist) and I don’t like it one bit. I have come to believe, (and I admit, perhaps I am deceived by the enemy), that we as humans are a judgmental and uncaring lot and by and large have lost our wonder.

We are also an ignorant bunch and, as I explained to my daughter today, this is absolutely fine in and of itself. We don’t know things, we aren’t aware of things and this is fine if we can admit it and remain humble and teachable and open to instruction and on to path of learning.

But the problem is this: we have the gall to be so very arrogant in our ignorance. As we “grow up” it seems for many it becomes more and more impossible to inspire us with the wonder, awe, and worship that every child is naturally gifted with. Our pride makes these impossible.

I have, however, met a few who are quite the opposite and grow more and more in wonder and awe of God and his creation and the simultaneous complexity and simplicity and beauty of life. These people enjoy life and people and themselves and most of all, God. They inspire me. I want to be on the path they are on and, thankfully, I believe I’m headed that way.

I haven’t blogged much on spiritual topics for several months because I had thought it was a waste of time. Who cares anyway whether I blog? Why try anymore to inspire others or to change hearts when people seem so stubborn and deaf to the truth? Perhaps I say this because I’ve come to know my own heart better. Perhaps I say this because I think too often of poor specimens to represent humans (perhaps I’m one of those poor specimens). And why am I so arrogant to think I was in a position to dispense enlightenment and inspiration to others anyway? I know what a capacity I have, at times, for dismissing the wonder and worship from my own life and for suppressing the glorious truth of Jesus.

BUT, I want to be inspired. I want to wonder and be in awe and truly worship God with all of my heart! And I want the same for you!

My three year old little girl Ellie helps inspire me and cause me to worship. I have been reading bible stories about Jesus to her from the Gospel of John.

My facebook post about it:

Ellies new bed time story book: The Gospel of John. We covered the story of Jesus raising Lazarus. Yesterday we covered the story when he turned water into yummy drink for the wedding celebration (it helped that she experienced some yummy drink (punch with serbert) at a wedding celebration earlier that day), and tonight the story of when Jesus drove out all the means and bads with a whip from the temple where God meant everything to be happy and loving, good and fun!

It has been so fun to excitedly act the stories out and communicate to her on her level. The other night as I put her to bed I asked if she wanted to pray. She prayed, “Jesus, please take all the means and scaries away. We love you God. You have a beautiful heart. You are the very bestest friend in all the world that I can see.”

I cried.

Yes, perhaps there is an ugliness and darkness that lives in the heart of every human and perhaps this is often distressing, frightening, saddening, and frustrating. But Jesus has a beautiful heart. He never gives up lovingly pursuing us and wooing us and trying to inspire us with themes of grace and love. He never gives up moving us toward redemption, relieving us of our profound ignorance and humbling our greatest enemy – our own pride.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

He doesn’t give up and we shouldn’t give up on each other either.

Please pray for me! Perhaps God will work wonders and inspire and enable me to serve him in unimaginable ways to inspire others to love God and recognize his beautiful heart. This is my prayer.

This topic of wonder reminds me of a man who sobbed at the sight of a rainbow. I blogged about that here: http://walkthroughtheword.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/genesis-redemptive-story/

Categories: Redemption | 2 Comments

Is Jesus Really the ONLY Way to Salvation?

I came across this image on facebook, posted it, and enjoyed a lively discussion. Jesus claims to be the only way of salvation. That is an incredible and very exclusive claim, which contradicts every other proposition for salvation or enlightenment, doesn’t it? I want to share with you why I know this is true.

Jesus said:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NLT)

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, repeats this idea as he addresses the Jews in Jerusalem:

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (NIV)

Could this be  true? Where does the evidence point? Or do we still care about such things as evidence and truth?

The Evidence:

Jesus fulfilled hundreds of specific prophecies, he performed miracles (even raising the rotting corpse of his friend Lazarus!), his Father testified about him from heaven in front of witnesses on three separate occasions, and he rose from the dead and appeared to more than 500 witnesses at once. I think it’s quite amazing that you can take the evidence that is presented regarding the resurrection and actually prove in a court of law that it did indeed happen. Everything hinges on his resurrection and God did everything to secure this ultimate witness and testimony to who his Son really is. I wrote and talked about this here: Resurrection

The Bible teaches us that God has revealed himself in Jesus. God has made a profound statement in Jesus! God is telling us, “If you want to know what I Am like, what I think, what moves me, what angers me, and how desperately I love you, then look no further than my Son Jesus.”

Why is Jesus the ONLY way?

Jesus came on a rescue mission to save the world. The cross was an essential part of this rescue but He didn’t want to go. Jesus was practically begging his Father, “If there is any other way, please, please, don’t make me endure this!”

Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:38-39 (NIV)

“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:44 (NIV)

His Father listened with a profound ache in his heart as His Son pleaded with him for another way. Don’t you think that God would have provided another way to save mankind if there were one? If anything other than Jesus resulted in salvation for mankind, wouldn’t he have not sent his Son to suffer and die on a cross?

But this was the only way.

God knew it was the only perfect way to rescue us.

Only through the cross could God be both just and loving. A price had to be paid, sin must be judged and none of us could survive the weight of sins judgement. So God himself stepped in and became the One to save us. Jesus bore all punishment for sin… every last drop of punishment for every last sin.

 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

Yes, God has made a profound statement to the world.

Here is your salvation, I give you my Son!

Jesus very name (in his own language is Yehoshua) literally means, “I AM Salvation” or “I AM your Savior”.

Those who receive him are made holy and new and free and have a glorious future in paradise with him. They are reconciled to God and have begun a relationship with him that will last forever. It’s this relationship – this connection – that is our salvation.

But Scripture is clear that those who reject him or ignore him are doomed. (Ignoring Him is rejection).

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18

The wrath of God remains on them, and they will suffer the torments of hell. Forever alone. Forever suffering the same torments, agony, and rejection that Jesus has already suffered for them. Yet they chose to reject his sacrifice for them and chose sin and hell instead.

So you see, Jesus really is the only way of salvation and we must choose.

We are not free not to choose. We must surrender our lives to Jesus and ask him to save us. He will! Ask him to save you right now! Read the Gospel of John to get to know Jesus better and then read the New Testament and then the whole Bible. Get to know God!

What are your thoughts? Leave a Comment!

Categories: Gospel, Redemption | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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