The Redeemed Life

a Christian blog cultivating spiritual growth

Archive for July, 2013

29 July
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Times are Changing…

Ran across this article and thought it was pertinent to believers today.  Favorite quote in the article:

“You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.

Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.”

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/27/why-millennials-are-leaving-the-church/

What do you think about the article?

24 July
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A Glimpse Into Our Savior’s Heart – Luke 13:31-35

Luke 13:31-35 – Listen

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Redeemed Mind – Learn

This passage focuses on Jesus’ path to the cross.  Some Pharisees attempt to warn Him about Herod’s plot to take His life, but Jesus continues on, knowing that His purpose is not to die a senseless death at the hands of Herod, but instead to give His life as sacrifice to restore rebellious sinners to God.  Jesus foretells that His ministry work will continue until “the third day,”  referencing His resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday.  As the God-man, Jesus mourns about the consistent hard-hearted “religious” people in Jerusalem who failed to live up to God’s standard and takes on a motherly tone and speaks of a mother hen’s desire to pull her children together to comfort and protect them.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

Jesus cared deeply for people who rejected Him.  In the face of hatred, misunderstanding, and ignorance, Jesus speaks words of love and patience.  This passage reveals a glimpse into the heart of our Savior.  He is heart-broken over the countless times His people had rejected Him.  Yet amazingly, He continues to offer His love and grace to the very people who had made themselves enemies against Him.

Reading this today, I am reminded that Jesus love for His people has not changed.  He still shows love and concern for those who hate Him.  His deepest desire is to bless those who curse Him.  To love those who hate Him.  And to make friends out of those who were once enemies.  When we think of God’s love, no words will ever be able to describe the scandalous affect that He showers on His unworthy people.

When was the last time you realized that His love for you doesn’t change, even in the face of sin, hatred and rebellion?

When was the last time you thanked Him for that undeserved love?

Will you take a moment now to worship Him in your heart?

Redeemed Life – Grow

Jerusalem was the religious epicenter of the Jewish world during Jesus’ day.  It was the recognized place of worship where all the Jewish elite gathered to practice their religious rituals.  To every observing eye, it seemed like the place where serious religion happened.

But Jesus saw right through that.  He saw their hearts.

While the people looked religious on the outside, their hearts were centered around themselves.  While they said all the “right” prayers with their mouths, their real desires played out in their sinful lives.  While they acted holy on the outside, their interior lives were putrid and filthy.

This Scripture passage functions as a mirror into our own lives.  It points the finger at us and asks, “Do you identify with the people of Jerusalem?”  Do you think you’re saved because you call yourself a Christian or do “Christian things” every once in a while?  Do you put up a religious mask around certain people to make it seem like you have it all together?

God sees past the our exterior facade and looks at the most important part of who we are: our heart.  He desires you to live in obedience and love 24/7, not just on Sunday mornings.

What does this passage reveal about your heart?

22 July
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Narrow Doors and Grim Warnings – Luke 13:22-30

Luke 13:22-30 – Listen

22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Redeemed Mind – Learn

It is a little known fact that the prophet that speaks most about the judgment of hell is Jesus Himself.  Over and over again in the Scriptures, He warns His hearers about the real danger of missing His message of saving grace.  This teaching uses physical examples (the narrow door, the Lord of the House, etc) to describe a future spiritual reality.

This is one of the most frightening passages in the entire Bible  because  those who have been cast out in judgment also claim to be people who knew Jesus in some way.  They ate with Him (fellowship) and heard His teachings (preaching), yet they were not included as part of God’s redeemed family.  This seems to indicate that simply knowing about Jesus does not lead to salvation.  Something more is needed to find salvation.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

When people hear judgment passages from the Bible, many tend lash out in rebellion and anger.  They are upset because they have an incomplete view of Jesus Christ.  The truth of the matter is that Christianity’s core centers around a gentle Savior who has come into the world… but is also returning as a righteous, judging King.  The merciful, gracious Jesus that most people know is only half the picture.  Throughout the Scriptures, there are echoes of judgment and grace, promises of a future redemption for the family of God, but also severe condemnation for the enemies of His Kingdom.

We who have been redeemed await not only the blessings of Kingdom life, but also a final retribution God will deliver to an unbelieving world.  We worship out of appreciation for being saved, but there is also a clear reason why there is a consistent theme in the Bible about “fearing” the LORD.

Redeemed Life – Grow

As you read this passage, what tone of voice did you hear as Jesus send away those outside His house?  Did you hear a feeling of estrangement or even hostility?  A passage from Matthew 7:21-23 sheds light on this cryptic teaching.  In it Jesus says,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

“Ex Urbe” by Medici – Latin for “Out of the City”

The key here seems to be God’s knowledge of us, but specifically, an intimate knowledge, a personal relationship.  Those who have kept Jesus at a distance for their entire lives find themselves strangers and enemies of God, and here Jesus warns that estrangement leads to judgment.  The key to salvation is an intimate knowledge of Jesus, as a Friend, Brother, Savior and King.  It is one thing to know about God.  It is a completely different thing to know God.

Jesus was intentional about making sure this message was given to all His hearers.  He wasn’t seeking to condemn, but rather to save.  He desires us to live with the reality that this final judgment is coming so we can choose wisely.

How will you allow His words to affect you today?

15 July
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The Kingdom of God – Luke 13:18-21

Luke 13:18-21 – Listen

18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

Redeemed Mind – Learn

In response to the preceding healing miracle, the crowds in the synagogue rejoice in the work that Jesus does among them.  Jesus takes this teachable moment to explain exactly what God is doing – He is breaking into our world of darkness, establishing His heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ.

Jesus illustrates this spiritual reality by using 2 examples that would have been easily understood by His hearers: a mustard seed and yeast.

Both examples start out as something small and insignificant, but as the seed grows into a plant, and as the yeast permeates dough, their final form is immense compared to their humble beginnings.

This stands in stark contrast to what the Jews of that time were expecting of God’s coming Kingdom.  They were looking for a massive political upheaval leading to instantaneous transformation of their world.  Instead, Jesus comes on the scene, not changing culture and politics,  but establishing His humble Kingdom by caring for those who were unimportant and insignificant.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

In the midst of the chaos of our lives, we hear Jesus’ promise that one day His Kingdom will be fully and permanently established in our world.  As we see His Kingdom slowly break into our own lives, we also have to deal with the reality that everything is not yet as it should be.  We still feel the paralyzing effects of sin in our world.  We still experience abuse, shame, fear, isolation, and loss.

The challenge before us as believers is living our everyday lives in light of the “big picture.”  Knowing God’s promise is one thing, but believing it will come to pass is another – it is called faith.  Through that lens of faith, we are able to see the corruption in our everyday lives from a new perspective.  As an old hymn describes it,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
.”

Redeemed Life – Grow

What perspective do you have when you look at your life?  Have you lost sight of God’s coming Kingdom?  Does the reality of His return impact the mundane things of your daily life?

Jesus’ presence in this world was the first step of God’s reclamation of a world that was lost due to sin and rebellion.  In this passage, Jesus promises us that one day His Kingdom will be fully established on earth.  That is our blessed hope.  Not that we will solve all the problems of our world, but that He will return and finish His rescue plan.

Will you allow that to impact how you spend your time?  How you approach conflict?  How you treat relationships?  Will you allow yourself to see life through that lens?

13 July
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Happy Saturday!

Hello again friends!

I hope you have a restful weekend!  I reread this quote from CS Lewis and thought it would be fitting for the work we do here:

“We may be content to remain what we call ‘ordinary people’:
but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan.

To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice.
To submit is not conceit or megalomania; it is obedience.”

-CS Lewis in Mere Christianity

I pray that you experience God is new and refreshing ways this weekend!  See you next week!

-Dom

11 July
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God in a Box – Luke 13:10-17

Luke 13:10-17 – Listen

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This Sabbath healing miracle brings Jesus into conflict with the religious leaders once again.  This time, their objection to Jesus is that He shouldn’t be “working” on the Sabbath in terms of healing the crippled woman.  Jesus responds by challenging their critical heart – these religious leaders “work” in caring for their barn animals, but are unwilling to “work” to care for God’s sons and daughters.

If you’re familiar with the Bible, you may be asking yourself – where does it say that healing can’t happen in the Bible?  Short answer: it’s not in there!  These religious leaders had added law upon law, adding to God’s Word in an attempt to be sinless by their own effort.  In their effort to keep the law on their own power, they crippled their ability to love and serve one another.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Jesus shames these Jewish religious leaders by exposing their internal hypocrisy.  Their actions showed that their hearts were more inclined toward serving their man-made laws rather than caring for those whom God had placed around them.  The core issue with these Pharisees was an issue of worship.  They had lost sight of worshipping God, and had subtly been worshipping the creation of their own hands – self-imposed laws that they thought made them holy.  Jesus chooses to enter into the mess of their hearts and engage them on the core issue – their hearts were far from God, even though they looked like the religious elite.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Throughout the Bible, there are stories about the success and failures of men and women as they interacted with God.  The relgious leaders in this story were upset with Jesus because He challenged their view of God.  They thought that they could please God by adding rule after rule on His Laws, but in reality they were trying to place God in a box where He’d be predictable and easily manipulated by their “acts of worship.”

Its important to remember that they did not set out expecting to get it wrong!  They really tried hard to pursue God, but did it in the wrong ways.

Have you unwittingly placed God in a box in your own life?  Have to taken the easy road and thought “if I just do this, God will be happy with me and He’ll get off my back.”  Its all too easy to treat God like a machine (put the right thing in and He will spit out the good things we expect).  Its much more difficult to realize He is a Person who wants a relationship with you.

If I’ve learned anything so far, its that the hard choice is usually the right choice.

In your thinking, allow God to be bigger than you’re comfortable with.  Only then will you begin to see Him as He is.

08 July
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The Immanence of Judgment – Luke 13:1-9

Luke 13:1-9 – Listen

1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

These passages speak of the impending judgment looming over the original hearers.  Jesus uses an agricultural example that any of his hearers could understand.  In the Ancient Near East, garden land was in high demand, and any plants that failed to produce a crop were cut down and used as firewood, freeing up precious room for another plant which could produce fruit.  In this teaching, Jesus directly speaks about their rejection of Him, comparing them to the fig tree that had 3 years to produce the fruit of repentance, yet failed to do so.

As an example of God’s mercy, the barren fig tree is given one more year (ie – another “season” to repent) before God consumes them with fiery judgment.  It is interesting to note that the Greek grammatical structure indicates that the plant will still fail to produce a crop, showing the futility of that generation’s efforts to truly accept Jesus.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Many people, including Christians, maintain the false belief that God is supposed to be the “divine grandpa” up in the sky who is at hear a big softy… An old, perhaps borderline senile old guy who lets his grandkids get away with whatever they want.

In truth, passages like this challenge that comfortable view of God as something we can manipulate or control.  These passages of judgment stir within each of us a sense of awe, fear and reverence.  God is indeed fatherly, loving, patient and kind.  But let us not be fooled for a second, forgetting that that He is also holy, just, and powerful beyond imagination.  The truth in these passages tells us that He will reveal a holy judgment on all people who have foolishly presumed on His grace, forgetting that He is also the pure embodiment of justice.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

This passage reminds me of a scene from the Chronicles of Narnia.  In this scene, two characters are talking about Aslan the Lion, who in that story line is the embodiment of Jesus Christ.  A couple of the children ask the residents of Narnia if Aslan is safe, to which they reply:  “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Over and over again, the Word of God is called a light that guides our feet on the path leading to eternal life.  It is meant to pull us out of the microcosm of our little worlds, and refresh our perspective on eternity.  Have you lost sight of our wildly, unimaginable powerful God who has moved heaven and earth to call to you to Himself?  In the hustle and bustle of daily life, have you thrown God on the back burner?

Lets be intentional today to live in the reality that God is just and holy, and He will return when we least expect it.  Are you living like you’re ready to meet Him?

04 July
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Happy 4th of July!!!

Dear friends,

Happy 4th for those of you in the States!!

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, let us also remember the shadows of joy in this world will one day be a reality in the Kingdom of Heaven!  Thank you Lord for freedom from the old ways of life, and the ability to live, move and have our being in You!
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”
– John 8:36

I pray you have a fun and safe time celebrating Independence Day!!!

02 July
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See What’s in Front of You? – Luke 12:54-59

Luke 12:54-59 –Listen

54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

The key to understanding these teachings in knowing that Jesus is speaking about people failing to see Him as He is – God, who has come to us in flesh and bone.  Jesus demonstrates that people understand how to read and predict weather patterns, but they fail to see the obvious signs that show that He is the Son of God.

Along that same train of thought, Jesus goes on to teach people that they only have a limited amount of time to settle accounts with each other and with God.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

While there is a sense of frustration in Jesus voice, it is clear that He wants to be seen, acknowledged, and known.  He not content to simply be a Creator, watching His people from afar.  He desires to be in dynamic relationship with each person He has created.  And He does not rest until we have our eyes and hearts focused on Him.  Its pretty amazing to think the self-sustaining God of the universe has a soft spot for us.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Reading this passage, I have to remind myself that the people Jesus was talking to were not idiots.  They were simply people who lost sight of the important things that God placed right in front of their noses.  Caught in the rush of daily life, they failed to see God standing right in front of them in the person of Jesus!

What in your life distracts you from seeing the things God has placed right in front of you?  Have you been caught up by the busyness of your job?  A romantic relationship?  Dwelling in the past?  Have your spiritual eyes been lulled to sleep by the things of this world?

Listen to these words from Ephesians 5:

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Take full advantage of this truth and live with the awareness that God places gifts right in front of us.  All we need to do is open our eyes and see.

01 July
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Hindsight is 20/20 – A Look Back

Hello again friends!

I apologize that I haven’t been on here for a while!  Things in my personal life have been crazier than normal over the last couple months.  My wife and I were blessed with owning our first home!!!  It feels oh so good saying “good bye” to the old noisy crime-ridden townhouse with no backyard which virtually sits on a freeway (hm… perhaps there’s some resentment there)…  And now its all about pretending to be an adult long enough to figure out how to be an adult…  Home ownership rocks!!

 

Along with that, I was blessed to move into a chaplaincy position at the Portland Rescue Mission.  Its been an amazing adventure and testament to God’s faithfulness… but I’ll get into that in just a bit.

Portland Rescue Mission

Add on top of those things that we have moved our work site from the heart of Downtown Portland to a new facility in NE Portland called the Harbor.

I have heard it said that moving houses and changing jobs are some of the top stressors that people experience throughout the course of their lives.  But all things considered, I think its been a success!  I haven’t gone into depression, lost (too much) hair, or died, so I think I’m doing pretty good!

Over the last two months, I have been keeping tabs on the amazing ways that the Lord has been working in my life.

If we were to rewind my life to about 2 years ago, we’d find Dominic in a pit of despair and anger, stewing over the frustrations that God had placed in my life.  I was looking everywhere for a ministry job where I could use my passions to serve God, but no matter where I turned, there were just no job openings.  I was upset with God, painting myself as a victim (“I’m doing my best to serve you, but you keep slamming the door in my face!  Why are you picking on me?  Won’t you just let me have what I want?!?!”).

I was also getting fed up with our housing situation.  Our cars had both been broken into multiple times, we had a cramped house with no backyard, and due to the traffic flow outside our house, we had to circle the block every time we wanted to pull into our driveway.

I remember laying in bed one night, unable to go to sleep because all I could think about was how life wasn’t going my way.  And in the midst of that, I prayed, silently hating the answer I got from God – “Wait.  In time you know I will give you what you need.”

So in the midst of it all, I still continued making steps toward finding work, moving forward with finding a better home, and trying to stay alert to what God had in store for me.

Looking back, I see the Lord blessing me bit by bit.  But over the course of years, I see the flood of goodness and grace that he poured on me, even when we all know I didn’t deserve it.  Just the other day, I caught myself thinking, “I feel blessed with where God has placed me.  I love the work I do, I love where I live, and I love being able to see it for what it is – a gift from God.”

Now I am not saying that “I’ve arrived” by any means.  What I am saying is hindsight is 20/20 and what I see is God working in my own life – faithful to His promises of love and mercy spoken in His Word.

I know that there are lots of readers who are in a place of frustration and despair – my encouragement to you is to keep taking steps forward, knowing that God will always provide for you when your need arrives.  Martin Luther once wrote, “pray like it all depends on God.  Work like it all depends on you.”  Others of you can rejoice and thank God today for the goodness and grace that He has showered on you.  My encouragement to you is to continue to adore our Lord, and keep finding things to be thankful about!

I don’t know what path God had called you to walk in the here and now, but I want to be able to encourage you that you are not alone.

I would love to come alongside you, whether in joy or frustration, but in all things hopeful that He is faithful.

Where are you on your path today?