The Redeemed Life

a Christian blog cultivating spiritual growth

Archive for January, 2014

20 January
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Everyday Faces

I love people watching.  Not in the creepy voyeur type of way, but simply noticing people in public places like coffee houses, restaurants, airports, etc.   Its so fascinating to watch people go about their daily lives, and I have a habit of trying to figure out what they’re thinking.  Some people are obviously in a rush and you can see on their face that they aren’t really present in anything that’s happening around them.  They’re thinking about someone, or something else.  Other people are out with friends and they’re smiling and happy, catching up on gossip or simply taking time away from the daily grind of life.  Others look sad or lonely, some bored, etc.

Its so amazing to think about these people in the context of their own lives.  They have families, friends, a history full of successes and failures.  These people have hopes and dreams.  They are unique and each have their own story to tell.

And in light of what we have been talking about here, these same people have eternal destinies.  Its hard to think about the realities of Heaven and Hell on such beautiful innocent days where all I want to do is notice and watch the beauty of people going about their daily lives.  But therein lies the rub.

The realities of Jesus teachings on Heaven and Hell are meant to do exactly that – shake us out of our comfortable nests and remember exactly who we are and where we are.  In the bigger picture of the Gospel story, we are people, just like those who come and go, who have had our eternal stories changed forever.  In the midst of the chaos of each of our lives, Jesus called our attention to Him and in effect, redeemed everything that we have ever done or will do.  In this time He’s given us, we find ourselves in an active battlefield where angels, demons, God and the devil all, wage war for people’s souls.

The business of Hell is meant to be an uncomfortable subject because the realities it presents confronts us personally.  Who are you friends with that you’ve never built up the courage to ask what they believe about God?  How many members of your family live lives devoid of God’s truth and love?  How many times have you felt God tug on your mind and heart to speak to someone about His goodness, mercy, and truth?  How many times, like me, have you ignored those “divine nudges” and opted instead to bow your knee to the god of “being comfortable?”  I know I have hundreds of times…

This last Sunday, I was invited to preach at the Portland Rescue Mission’s church service.  The passage was included John 14:6.  In it, Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

While I could tell you stories about how much I hated this passage before coming to Christ, I will simply tell you this: I have come to believe what Jesus said.  And that fact should always shape the way I interact with people.  Not that I’m to cram Jesus down their throats, but I am to be concerned if they know their Way in this life.

While I could give excuse after excuse about why it shouldn’t be me or why now is not the right time, the truth remains.  I have been called to tell people about the Way to Heaven, and as I think about it, I could very well be the only person that know the Way that God has placed in their lives.  That means responsibility and responsibility, for me, means discomfort.

But God never said it’d be comfortable, did He?

In the reality of that discomfort, Jesus reminds me of this truth, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”  He didn’t leave me alone in this task, but promises to be readily available when I for His help.

One last thing – we are not called to this task alone.  This is a team battle.  What support and prayer do you need as together we awkwardly walk into the moments that God has prepared for us?

Whose faces are coming to your mind?

08 January
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What the heck… Or should I say what the Hell?

Hey readers… while we’re talking about uncomfortable things in Christianity, why not keep going and talk about hell?

I recently finished a book by Francis Chan & Preston Sprinkle called Erasing Hell.  It was a book written in response to another book called Love Wins by Rob Bell.  In the book, Chan challenges the idea that everyone will go to heaven, and takes a long hard look at Jesus’ words in the Gospels.  The website describes it well:  

“In this groundbreaking new book, Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle take on the topic of hell and our eternal destiny, with a sense of humility and a deep respect for the inspired Word of God. They will address questions such as “Will everyone be saved?” and “Does God Get What He Wants in the End?” as well as reviewing in depth, everything Jesus said about Hell.”

I would definitely encourage you to read it if you’re at all interested in the topic, or perhaps if you’re like me and struggle with ways of explaining it to other people.  But be warned!!  It is brutally honest and the authors do a fantastic job of giving an unflinching, unapologetic view of the Biblical picture of hell.

Tomorrow, I’ll be writing about how this book challenges my all-too-comfortable view of relationships and personal responsibility as a Jesus follower.

Stay tuned!  This could be awkward… and who wants to miss that?

06 January
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Luke 14:25-34 – The Cost of Discipleship

Luke 14:25-34 – Listen

 25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.  34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?

Redeemed Mind – Learn

There is a big part of me that doesn’t want to talk about this passage.  But being honest with God and others means dealing with everything God said, not just the pretty, comforting things… darn.

This is a hard passage because those who have something against Christianity, Christians, or Jesus will gravitate to one word: hate.  From that one word, they will choose not to listen to anything else and set up a “straw man” of Christianity that has little to no substance.  According to the ESV Study Bible, “’Hating’ is a Semitic expression for loving less (cf. Gen. 29:30–31; Deut. 21:15–17; Matt. 10:37).”  The basic idea is: if you love anyone or anything more than God (wife, husband, kids, money, job, etc), then Jesus says you’re not really a disciple.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

Allow me to make a confession:  there are many times when I read my Bible and in my arrogance I cringe and think, “God!  Why the heck did you have to go and say that!”  Its going to make it so much harder to share your message if you keep saying dumb stuff like that!”  Like the child of an alcoholic father, I find myself fumbling for excuses and answers that normalize the things that I find to be embarrassing…  This is one of those passages that challenges my pride and makes me question where my heart is at when I share Jesus with others.

I recently finished reading a book by Francis Chan called “Erasing Hell.”  What really struck me was the way he openly struggled with the hard things that Jesus has to say about judgment, punishment, and wrath.  And in the end, I too came to the realization that I have to stop apologize for God, and apologize to Him for being so embarrassed of His words.

Redeemed Life – Grow

When Jesus draws the line in the sand and defines what it means to follow Him, He also pleads with His hearers to count the cost of following Him.  He says you are expected to calculate whether you think its worth it to follow Him or not.  It means taking a brutally honest inventory of your life, relationships, desires, and dreams… and then consider if it is worth letting them all go to follow Jesus.

This is serious business people.

The faith we are called to is not full of puppies and rainbows.  It is a gritty, sacrificial, painful marathon that Jesus predicted only a few will finish well.  Jesus called it “bearing your cross.”  The imagery that Jesus uses is the equivalent of a modern day death sentence – and the strange paradox is the invitation to come and die is actually an invitation to live eternal life.

Fellow readers: have you counted the cost?  Are you willing to let it go to follow Him?

05 January
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A New Year and New Resolutions

As we enter into another new year, I have thought through countless resolutions that would better my life… Eat better, spend more time on the things that matter, spend less time on things that don’t…  I think you know how that goes.

One resolution that I read a few years ago seems to capture the desire that drives this blog.  Jonathan Edwards, an American Puritan pastor from the early 1700’s once wrote:

“Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently,

as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”

I pray that together, we can look back on 2014 as a year that is marked by this very resolution… that in 2015, we can plainly see that we have grown in the knowledge of God and His Word.  I like to think of it as prepping for eternity 🙂

01 January
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Here’s to New Beginnings!!!

Hope you and your loved ones had a safe and blessed New Years!

 

Stay tuned for upcoming changes for The Redeemed Life in 2014!  I look forward to growing with you!