Commitment, Contentment, Faith, Gospel, grace, Hope, Humility, Jesus, Redemption, Restoration, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Victory

Waco’s Redemption

Washington Avenue Bridge, Brazos River, Waco, TX
Photo by Marlene McKenna

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

Ephesians 1:7, ESV

What does Waco, Texas have to do with redemption? If you’ve visited this small city in the hill country, made famous by the television show Fixer Upper, you’d know. After attending a women’s retreat in Seguin, a friend and I journeyed to Waco for some shopping therapy at Magnolia Market. What I found, however, was much more than great shopping. Waco is a city defined by the word redemption.

Not only are there several homes that have been brought back to life, there is also a thriving economic upturn because of the popularity of Fixer Upper. In fact, thirty-thousand tourists visit the city per week! But it wasn’t until we took a tour from Waco Tours (https://www.waco-tours.com/) that we discovered other organizations that were working to revitalize the poorer parts of the city.

For example, the library in East Waco was refurbished and a mural was designed to encourage education for the underprivileged who live there. There is also a non-profit grocery store called Jubilee Food Market created by Mission Waco that was placed in a “food desert” so that those without transportation would have access to healthy, low-cost food. Finally, we were told about a church that gathers the homeless who live in Waco for a church service every week under the bridge where most of them live. During construction, when many were displaced, Chip and Joanna Gaines opened the common grounds at Magnolia Market for their services on Sunday morning.

When you arrive, you realize very quickly that this is not a wealthy city even though there are very nice areas with rolling hills, green grasses, and a beautiful river. But God is moving mightily, meeting the needs of the poor through His people. Moreover, He is bringing people from all classes and races together in love. For instance, Jubilee Market offers jobs to convicts who are transitioning from jail to living in the world. At Jubilee, they find a place to belong when others turn them away. As one employee put it, “I now have hope for the future.”

In short, Waco is a place where you can see the Gospel lived out every day. It is an uncomfortable place where you are challenged to look at your own heart, beliefs, and motivations. It is a place of glory where Baylor University shines and a place of poverty where a homeless man bathes in the fountain at Baylor’s entrance near the Hilton hotel and the Brazos River.

Similarly, our hearts are complicated too. We love the Lord and yet do not always love Him with all our hearts or love others as Jesus loved us. Nonetheless, like Waco, we are being redeemed. Every day we walk in newness of life and have hope for the future. To me, Waco is a metaphor for spiritual sanctification. As we allow God to search our hearts, He chooses to cleanse us. Then, little by little, we are made more and more into the likeness of Jesus.

As we allow God to reveal the deprived and impoverished parts of our lives we can surrender to the process of redemption. Remember, there is a river as powerful as the Brazos in your own heart cleansing you from all unrighteousness. Remember, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Remember, there is a Jubilee Market where we can belong, no matter what we have done, and get fed by the One who paid the price. Remember, there is a place for us to gather as a Church and praise His glorious name for all He has done, is doing, and will do for His glory. Remember the Cross!

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”

Romans 3:21-22
Faith, Gospel, grace, Grief, Holiness, Hope, Jesus, Life, Love, Obedience, Rebellion, Redemption, Repentance, Rest, Restoration, Uncategorized

Death & Resurrection

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem
Photographer: Glen Bergstrom

Would you die a brutal death to save someone who hated you even if you knew you would come back to life? Easter is all about the death and resurrection of Jesus, but did you know that He died for people who hated Him? Do you see yourself? Yes, you are the one Jesus died for while you were His enemy. Easter is about you before you knew God and about you right now if you don’t know Him still. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). It also says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV). The language is so poetic we may miss the weight of the statement. Jesus was offered up to be beaten, whipped, scorned, rejected and crucified to pay for the sins of the world for all time so the world could be reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus Christ. He suffered and died for you and me before we gave Him a thought.

Even more fantastic is the fact that He suffered and died for the very people who were beating Him, the very people who pulled out His beard and spit on Him, the men who scourged Him and the soldiers who mocked Him. He died for the ones who pierced His hands and feet with nails. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus died for people who hated Him, for people who doubted Him and for people who rejected Him. Jesus died for you.

If you don’t think you needed Jesus to die for you than this may seem extreme. But the truth is we are all depraved and separated from a Holy God because of our sin. Yes, we are ALL sinners, meaning we miss the mark of holiness (which God demands because He is Holy). Because of our very nature we are born with the propensity to rebel and want to be our own God. The great news for you and me is that what God demands He also provides! We can enter into God’s holiness by accepting the gift Jesus is offering.

How do I know? Because I am living proof. Jesus took my sin and gave me His righteousness. I drank, for the first time, the Living Water. It was finished. Like a flower which bursts out of the ground, I was made new. The dead seed was my hard, sinful heart and Christ made me alive! The turning point for me was grief. I was broken and alone after suffering a huge loss and God met me in the darkness. Jesus said He was sent to heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to liberate those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18). Boy, did I qualify!

How did this happen? The Bible says,

Men become right with God by putting their trust in Jesus Christ…For all men have sinned and have missed the shining-greatness of God. Anyone can be made right with God by the free gift of His loving-favor. It is Jesus Christ Who bought them with His blood and made them free from their sins. God gave Jesus Christ to the world. Men’s sins can be forgiven through the blood of Christ when they put their trust in Him. God gave His Son Jesus Christ to show how right He is…He shows that He is the One Who has no sin. God makes anyone right with Himself who puts his trust in Jesus” (Romans 3:22-26, NLV).

Romans 3:22-26

How do we know this is true? Because He rose from the dead just like He said He would. There were hundreds if not thousands of witnesses to both His death and resurrection. No one could survive crucifixion, and no one could deny that He was raised because they saw him and ate with him and spoke with Him. It turned the world upside down because it was prophesied centuries before it happened, and everything made sense. They understood that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23, NIV).

You see, God is just and loving at the same time. His grace and truth are perfect; and God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) so we would never be satisfied apart from Him. Also, He is not only the Way and the Truth, He is also the Life. If you have ever placed a dead seed in the ground and witnessed its rebirth you have seen the power of God and a picture of Christ’s death and resurrection. Would you plant the dead seed of your sinful heart in the soil of God’s love and let Him resurrect you to new life? Will you believe He died for you and is Risen? He is Risen indeed!

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”

Matthew 28:5-6 NASB
Alan Jackson
The Old Rugged Cross
Covenant, Faith, Gospel, Hope, Life, Love, Uncategorized

True Love, True Life

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  John 14:6

All physical life is completely dependent on the sun.  That may seem intuitive but when I heard this statement recently I was struck by the physical parallel of a profound spiritual truth.  All spiritual life is completely dependent on the SON!  Even with its exclusivity, I have never heard anyone complain about the way life is sustained.  It is narrow, no doubt, but everyone seems to agree that without the sun we are all doomed.   However, many argue against the reality of Jesus, the Son of God, being the only Way to eternal life with the Father.  Colossians 1:15-17 says, He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  So, it is the Son of God who holds all things together physically, even the sun we so desperately need.  However, everything and everyone eventually dies.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  

But, how do we know that it’s true?  The answer is simple. When you accept by faith that Jesus died for you personally to pay the penalty for your sins that keep you apart from God because He is holy, and enter into a relationship with Him, then you are cleansed from all unrighteousness (literally in Christ or covered by Christ’s righteousness) so God no longer counts your sin against you because the debt has been paid by God Himself in the flesh (Jesus).  Because He loved the world so much He made a way for us to be reconciled with Him (John 3:16).  When we believe this by faith (accept the gift) we enter into spiritual life (born again) and are a new creation, completely forgiven and sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit.  This conversion from death to life is palpable and you will experience God in the same way a lifeless seed, when planted in fertile soil, watered, and exposed to the sun bursts forth into new life.  You will know by experience!

How I pray everyone who does not know God personally would realize that they are spiritually dead, like a seed, and would accept the gift of life from Jesus, the Light of the world, the living Water, the Son of God!

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:11-13 

If you would like to know more please check out the links below.

https://billygraham.org/answer/you-can-know-god-personally-as-he-comes-to-live-within-you-by-his-spirit/

https://www.cru.org/how-to-know-god/would-you-like-to-know-god-personally.html

Gospel, Grief, Hope, Life, Overwhelmed, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

O Death!

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

My friend is hurting.  The sudden loss of her beloved husband of twenty-five years on May 5th, 2017 to complication from brain cancer has left a void that can only be filled by God’s grace. She and her five children are grieving his absence but know He is in the arms of Jesus.

I cannot stop the tears as I grieve with my friend and sister in Christ. We were roommates before we both got married. She made my wedding veil but now the veil of physical death separates her and her husband, David. Yet, she is not alone. She too is in the arms of Jesus.

There are no words of this world that bring comfort to those who are separated from people they love. The covenant words “till death do us part” ring in our minds because it happens…to other people. Standing at the altar we don’t believe we will be separated by death, at least not at fifty and not while raising children. But our gracious God knows the number of our days and the days of those we love.

Praise our victorious God that He has conquered sin and death!  Before it is too late, share Christ’s eternal love and plan of redemption with those God has placed in your life.

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him so you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I love you Julie.

Gospel, Hope

Fools for Christ

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21

April is a month of favorites in New England. Spring melts away the tension of winter, the air is actually warm when the sun shines and the Easter celebration arrives. Still, April 1st has not been a favorite for me until now.  Traditionally, April Fool’s Day is celebrated by deceiving people into thinking or believing something that is not true in a lighthearted, fun way.  However, the foolishness of the gospel is the exact opposite.  The simplicity of God’s plan boggles the mind. It doesn’t make sense that we are offered a free gift without having to earn it.  Our first reaction is to ask, “What’s the catch?” But it is true.

When I came to know Christ eighteen years ago my eyes were opened by God to the truth and I believed not because I was convinced in my mind by a skillful argument but because God revealed Himself to me and I KNEW Him.  It was as real an experience as if I had met a person in the flesh.  He not only revealed Himself as my savior but LORD, convicting me to the core that I was a sinner living apart from a Holy God and I desperately needed someone to save me from God’s judgement.  It is hard to write it in those terms because it makes God sound mean but He is so loving.  He is the judge who determines good from evil and holiness from unrighteousness but he is also the Redeemer, sentencing justly and then paying the penalty Himself. It is foolishness to the world. But, isn’t it foolishness not to take the free gift and run? Isn’t it foolishness to run away from, instead of into, the arms of a loving God who takes away my sin and shame?

Also, like the inheritance of a rich father’s child, salvation is free to those who believe. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–” John 1:12    We don’t have to continue earning our salvation because we are His children.  It is finished and there is nothing we can do to change our heritage in Christ.  So, in Paul’s words, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great [resurrection] power for us who believe….” Ephesians 1:18-19a.

Therefore,  since we are Fools for Christ, let’s celebrate, decorating with the centerpiece of our Risen LORD, Who, by His resurrection power, brought us from death to abundant life.  No joke.