A Redeemed Life!

During last night’s Easter Vigil I listend to the reading from Genesis 3 and I cringed…

…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. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. … 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. 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?”…

I hear God ask that question of the woman and my spirit shrinks in shame. I, too, am a woman who was once as easily deceived as Eve, rejecting God in favor of choosing my own way. If you are a woman reading this, perhaps you feel that same stinging conviction whenever you hear God saying, “What is this that you have done?”

But then, later on in the worship service, I read aloud the words of Matthew…

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Do you see it? Jesus–the one who redeemed the first man’s sin (as well as the sins of all who followed, men and women alike)–redeemed Eve’s careless decision in what feels to me to be a very personal way. Eve was the first to take a bite of that apple, the first to reject God. Similarly, the women were the first to see the resurrected Jesus, the first to declare the Good News that he is alive!

(At this point I feel the need to clarify that, while my comments are obviously gender-based, they are not to be interpreted as any sort of statement on feminism!)

As I read from Matthew’s gospel last night, my spirit soared with renewed freedom! I felt a kinship with Eve that no longer made me cringe, and a deep gratitude that God hates nothing that he has made…including Eve and me. I can look forward to the day when I will literally hear God say, “You are my daughter with whom I am well pleased!”

All this because Jesus was born and lived a perfectly blameless life, free of any careless choices…a life which he willingly laid down so that he could be raised up again to a new life…an eternal life, in which I am invited to share as though I, too, am blameless…his life which redeems mine.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

Believing Prayer

wisdom

There’s something exhilarating about a new Bible! Thumbing through my new ESV Study Bible, I found myself smiling with renewed interest and anticipation for digging into the scriptures, mining for God’s gold: wisdom.

I love the Psalms, and so I began there. Right away, I found a little nugget in the third Psalm. According to the study notes, in verses 1-2 the psalmist acknowledges what he sees. His enemies are many, and on the rise against him. They are taunting him, saying there is no hope that God will rescue his soul.

In verses 3-6 the psalmist acknowledges what he believes. He remembers that God has protected him, has answered his cries for help. He reflects on how he has been able to sleep peacefully, and he believes that it is God who has sustained him. And as he ponders his belief in God’s faithfulness, the psalmist’s courage and confidence are bolstered and he confronts his fear, refusing to let it deceive him.

Verses 7-8 are the psalmist’s prayer, calling again on God to save him, to crush his enemies, and to bless God’s people.

This pattern from the psalmist is one I need to practice consistently:

  1. Acknowledge what I see. Sticking my head in the sand is foolish. How can I effectively deal with something I refuse to see? Ignoring an issue doesn’t make it go away.
  2. Remember what I believe. Call to mind what God has already taught me, the wisdom I’ve already mined from God’s word. Reflect on God’s faithfulness, not just to me, but to all those who love him. There I will find the confidence I need to face the fear.
  3. Pray accordingly. I can either pray based on what I see or I can pray based on what I believe. 2 Corinthians 4:18 reminds me which is the wiser choice: “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Imagine our fate if Jesus’ final prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane had been based on what he saw coming–torture, abandonment, and a cruel death–rather than on his belief that God would resurrect Jesus, conquering death once and for all.

What do you believe? Your prayers may provide insight.

Do you need encouragement today?

1 thess 5As I pulled into the store parking lot the other day, a lady driving a van was attempting to pull out. She was in the middle of the drive, making it difficult for me to pull in. I was in a hurry and didn’t want to wait for her to exit. Anger rose up in me because she was taking up more than her share of space but, as I pulled even with her, she looked right at me and smiled the nicest smile. I couldn’t help but smile back at her. And I realized that my anger disappeared instantly!

I went inside the store to pick up a few things. I shop there regularly, so I knew where to find what I’m looking for. Not so much that day, however. They were rearranging the entire store! I had to search up one aisle and down the other, then backtrack across the store for something else. Again anger rose up in me. I finally had to approach an employee to ask for something specific. He was very nice and helpful in spite of the chaos surrounding him, and I immediately thought of the lady in the van and her lovely smile. So I smiled at him and wished him a nice day. Again, the frustration I felt dissipated immediately!

Later in the day, I had to go to yet another store. The employee at the check out was having difficulties with the register. I could see her frustration, so I looked her right in the eye, smiled a welcoming smile, and wished her a good day. When I walked away, she was smiling…and so was I.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says that we are to encourage one another and build one another up. Oxford dictionary defines “encourage” as to give somebody hope or confidence.

My daughter has been the best example of this to me. For 10 years she worked for Chick Fil-A, a company known for their high standards for customer service. She learned to smile and speak kindly to each and every customer that came to her counter, regardless of how they treated her. One day we were at a store together and, as we were checking out, my daughter made a point of speaking to the cashier. I, on the other hand, just paid for my merchandise and and gathered up my bags without saying a word. As we walked away, she said, “Mom, you were kind of rude to that cashier, don’t you think?” Certainly I had not intended to be rude; I was simply preoccupied with my purchase. But my daughter was right. I had treated the cashier as though she wasn’t even there.

Do you ever feel invisible? Has anyone ever just walked past you like you weren’t even there? Or ignored you in order to give attention to someone else who is nicer looking or seems more important than you? It’s very hard to have hope or confidence when you feel invisible or ignored.

The good news is that Jesus never looks past you or me. He never acts like we don’t exist. Jesus loves us beyond measure. He loves us enough to sacrifice His life for us. Because I accept His sacrifice and believe His power to raise the dead back to life, I have every hope and confidence that I will indeed be with Jesus for all eternity. And it’s precisely because I have this hope and confidence that I can afford to share it with others. I can smile at anyone and everyone. I can acknowledge every person I meet and speak words of encouragement.

So can you. If you know Jesus, you have the same hope and confidence of life forever with Him. You, too, can afford to encourage others. So as you go about your day today, look for opportunities to lavish encouragement on others. Give the gift of hope and confidence to everyone you encounter. Not only will you encourage them, but you will find yourself encouraged in the process!

And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. -1 Thessalonians 4:17b-18