Saturday, February 25, 2012

40 Days of Atonement Feast - Days 3 & 4: Redeemed by Grace

I decided to start our study in Colossians thinking it wouldn’t take me long to get through this book. We are on day 4 and I’m only on verse 20 of Chapter 1…this book is full of atonement!

On Day 2 I studied the Preeminence of Christ and was so moved that I stayed there yesterday. This morning as I was looking forward to moving on I felt like there was still more to uncover here. So I decided to unpack verse 20 even more…especially since it starts off with “and through him”.

Colossians 1:20
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

I’m reading through the Reformation Study Bible (RSB) and the footnotes are really helpful. The following is written for verse 20: Humankind’s fall into sin brought with it the corruption of all creation, seen and unseen. Through Christ’s incarnation and atoning death, God’s righteousness is satisfied, peace between God and humankind is restored, the eventual glorification of the created order is assured, and the rebellious spirit beings have their powers limited.

I think I could spend the next week unpacking the atonement themes in this section! The ideas of incarnation, atoning death, righteousness satisfied, peace restore, glorification assured and rebellious spirits limited had me wanting to know more. I could define what each idea meant or represented but I wanted to know them deeply. So, I started looking up the cross-references and the first one mentioned is Romans 3:22-26 which interestingly enough is what I had permanently inked on my arm last summer.

So I jumped on over to Romans 3 and then realized I could spend a week here also! I love these verses, obviously!

Romans 3:22-26
22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance He had passed of former sins. 26 it was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Again the Reformation Study Bible breaks it down in the footnotes:

Through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe – knowledge, mental assent, obedient trust, and reliance on Him (RSB).

My Response: I’m realizing that I throw “faith” around pretty often and at times may be desensitized to the enormity of what faith is and how much I really possess. Before I can bask in the richness of the cross, I first have to acknowledge (continually) that Jesus has been revealed to me by the Holy Spirit, has given me the ability to respond (by choosing me), I have agreed with and chosen to trust this truth as Gospel, and now I put my “earthly” life in His hands moment by moment in complete reliance on Him.

Fall short of the glory of God – consequences of sin; made in the image of the glorious God (RSB).

My Response: I continually exchange God’s glory for my idolatrous heart and my ruined desires have led me to a distorted image of God’s divinity. I constantly want to define what I believe is good and 99.9% of the time involves my comfort, stability, and happiness while negating the peace and joy that I possess 100% of the time even in the midst of suffering and wrong-doing.

Justified – the opposite of condemnation. Declaration of the sinner to be just and it comes through the imputed righteousness of Christ. It is final and irreversible. We now share the same righteous status of Christ, with whom we are now united forever (RSB).

My Response: I fully get and have no trouble accepting that I am no longer subject to condemnation; God condemned His son in my place. I, however, struggle to receive the imputed righteousness of Christ. Through my actions and behaviors, it is pretty evident that I do not fully see myself or my sin as ugly as it truly is. I often feel quite justified on my own merit rather than through the righteousness that was imputed to me. So gross!

By his grace as a gift – emphasizes the divine initiative and mercy in freely granting our salvation (RSB).

My Response: I don’t deserve this grace – I didn’t do anything to earn it and I can’t do anything to keep it. Yet my mind still wants to reason that I can somehow do something to share in the recognition.

Redemption – Freedom gained through the payment of a price; released from the former condition of bondage in sin. Accomplished through Christ’s death, the ransom price for our salvation (RSB).

My Response: Redeemed by Grace, for me, is a constant reminder of the beauty of the atonement. I had it tattooed on my arm, I chose this for my blog name, and it has always resonated with me. My sin has been paid for, redeemed at the Cross. I have been set free and given a new life free from a previous wrong-doing. It no longer binds me and it no longer identifies me. How amazingly wonderful is this truth?

Who God put forward – Christ died as a propitiatory sacrifice that satisfies the divine judgment against sinners, bringing about forgiveness and justification. Paul is careful to indicate that the sacrifice does not cause God to love us; the opposite is true as it was His love that caused to sacrifice his son (RSB).

My Response: God so loved that He made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be in sweet union with Him!

By faith – Faith is the instrumental cause, not the ultimate cause, of justification (RSB).

My Response: Because of my faith, I am forever in union with Christ’s righteousness; it is my identity.

To show his righteousness – In dealing with Christ as sin-bearer and the human person as sinner, God does not compromise his own holiness, nor is the necessity of sin being atoned for. Yet He graciously provides a salvation that mankind was incapable of obtaining (RSB).

My response: God made a way for us to be forever reconciled for Him; we could not keep our part of the covenant. He had uphold both ends of the deal on our behalf.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friendship: A Heart (left) Undone

Friendship has always been a strange concept for me. Growing up I did not have a lot of friends but I did have very close friends for seasons and then there was always the kids on the block. I had a very close friend, Tammy who was the daughter of my parent’s closest friends. We were friends from kindergarten through 3rd grade then she just kind of dropped away as her parents did eventually as well. I then became best friends with Jill, the granddaughter of my neighbor from 3rd grade through 5th grade. Both of these gals were two years older than me. My bestest of best friends Kristen and I were inseparable from 6th-7th (then a slight falling out) and 7th-8th until she moved away to Hawaii in the 9th grade. In the 10th grade I met Diana and we were really close until the last few months of our senior year. Post high school my only close friends were the men in my life and that’s another story. I did have another close friend, Kelly, in Colorado who was very dear to me. She was about to have a baby when I met my husband and I just up and left without telling her and she has never forgiven me. It is probably the one relationship that really grieves me because I know how I hurt her.

I never understood why these relationships just fell away; I always thought something was wrong with me or that maybe they learned about my abuse and believed what I believed, that I was gross and dirty. I honestly don’t know what happened however looking back now I realize that I never learned how to be a friend. Interestingly, I am friends on Facebook with every one of these gals except Kelly (she deleted me) yet I have never asked them why. Growing up the only friends my parents had were two other couples; one couple they saw regularly and the other maybe every few years. We had a huge family and maybe because of that there wasn’t time or need of friendships, either way friendships weren’t modeled in my family.

Friendship has been on my heart a lot lately. I have met some incredible women the last few years and I absolutely adore them. In the last six months however some relationships have been significantly strained; some through sin (on my part and theirs), some through distance and circumstance, and some through “perceived” issues. When people just drop out of my life I have always allowed them to without ever calling them to more, that’s how I understood friendships to be. Some, I’ve withheld myself in an effort to “protect” my heart, which is truly sinful.

I had the blessed opportunity to restore two broken relationships this past week. The first was a dear friend who I had neglected for a period of time when life just got too crazy. I have been so grieved for this relationship that I would wake up in the middle of night sobbing. The few times I had reached out I had been met with resistance and coldness that honestly frightened me more than not having her as my friend. I finally got to a place where this was a friendship I could not risk losing, I had to keep fighting and repenting and reaching…and she finally responded! Our reunion has been so very sweet and I am so thankful at this second chance.

The second was one in which I was withholding my friendship thinking I could “protect” my heart. The crazy thing is 1) I don’t have the ability to protect my heart 2) she doesn’t have the power to hurt me and 3) God hasn’t called me to “safe” friendships but to live life openly and lovingly in the midst of messiness so that He may be glorified.

I was reading Ann Voskamp’s blog this morning on friendship and was struck by the responsibility I have as a friend ( Ann wrote, “It doesn’t matter what you get done if you’ve undone a heart – and there are no real accomplishments apart from relationship. I pray that someday I learn not in synapses but in marrow and in bones.”

I didn’t grow up seeing a godly marriage or watching godly parenting but that hasn’t gotten me off the hook to participate in a biblical marriage or be a godly mother so why do I feel “excused” from being a godly friend? My prayer is that Ann’s words would come back to me often as I realize a friend is in need or a friendship has not been cared for. When I think back to Kelly in Colorado and her undone heart, I know what a horrible friend I was, and I recognize that all I can do (and have done) is ask for forgiveness but I can use my godly sorrow to not allow another friendship to fall away without fighting for it.

For my friends reading this I too ask more of you, please be willing to fight for our friendship when I miss, as surely I will. I ask for your forgiveness publicly for holding each one of you to a higher standard of friendship than I have held myself to.

40 Days of Atonement Feast – Day 2: My Personal Jesus

The Preeminence of Christ
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

My study for Day2 was Colossians 1:15-20 and I spent a lot of time here pondering what Paul was saying. As I looked up cross references and really considered the “preeminence of Christ” my head started to get tangled up in the mystery of the Trinity. As I started to reason myself through it I had to just remember the basics…God exists as three persons, yet he is one God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are equal yet distinct.

I know that I cannot come to God the Father without the work of God the Son on the Cross or without the work of God the Spirit, all three persons are required for a relationship. What I was realizing though is that when I think of my relationship with God, it is always with God the Father. I know in my heart I cannot get there without Jesus’ atoning work on the cross or without the Spirit in me yet my prayers and conversations and relationship always seem to be with the Father through Jesus. So yesterday as I was getting all tangled I wondered why I did not relate more with Jesus and only see Him as the means to the Father if they are one? Do I fully (in my heart) understand what “through Jesus” really means and does my worship reflect this?

What’s even more perplexing is that God is invisible, I have no image or reference point of what He looks like or how big He is…when I think of God the Father I think I see a being the size of our universe. Jesus however I can experience, I know He was fully man and I can wrap my mind around that. He walked in my footsteps, He knows what it is like to suffer, He knows physical pain and discomfort, He knows what sorrow in the flesh feels like…why would I not be more inclined to be relational with Jesus? For now, this is how I best relate to the idea of “through Jesus”. I can experience God fully as Jesus is a perfect representation of God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I have to confess that clearly I still have some distortions even though I know and speak Gospel truth. Growing up I did not have any understanding of who Jesus was, what He did, or that He was even God. God was God and Jesus was His only begotten son that He decided to kill, this never made sense to me.

I fully understand, believe in, and have hope in all the significance of the cross. Jesus died in my place, fully taking on all my sin and in exchange giving me His perfect righteousness. Not because I in any way earned it but truly as a free gift of Grace and Mercy! I am holy and pure and only because of His atoning work.

My repentance this Lenten season is living fully in relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

40 Days of Atonement Feast – Day 1: Prayer of Repentance for My Mr.

In celebration of the Lent Season, our family does a 40 Day feasting on the Atonement. So rather than focusing on what we have given up for God, we focus on Him and what He accomplished on the cross. Our family spends the 40 days studying some (or all) aspect of the atonement and then we share with each other what God is doing in our hearts each day.

I am starting in Colossians this year and yesterday I read Chapter 1 through verse 14. I was immediately struck by the beautiful prayer Paul writes to the church. As I reflected on this prayer I realized that this is how I should be praying for my Mr., daily! Then of course the conviction set in. My prayers for my husband are usually me-centered…they always relate back to me and my comfort, my security, my peace, my needs. At times they are Mr. centered but more in a worldly sense rather than godly; his reputation, his needs, his comfort, his peace.

The beauty of Paul’s prayer in praying this for my Mr. is that it covers everything he truly needs, it is my greatest desire for him, and it is completely God-centered. So Mr., here is my prayer for you and I pray that God would keep this close to my heart so that I would pray it often.

Father God, I pray that you would give me the strength and endurance to not cease in prayer for my Mr. I ask that you fill him with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of You Lord, fully pleasing to You, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of You. May he be strengthened with all power, according to Your glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to You Father, who has qualified him to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. You have delivered him from the domain of darkness and transferred him to the kingdom of Your beloved Son, in whom he has redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thankful for Being Right

We have had a pretty hard week, probably the hardest since September. It’s like we finally ripped the Band-Aid off an old wound to find out the wound hadn’t healed and now was exposed to the air and stings anew.

In the recent turn of events I have wanted to respond, to state the truth, to be heard, to be justified. My inability to do so has left me hurting and angry. The scenarios of how I can set the record straight have played out a thousand different ways in my head, how the conversation would sound or the email would read. Instead, I have stomped my feet and shaken my fists. I have wanted this injustice righted and acknowledgement of wrong-doing.

In my spinning, the lovely Mr. redirected me to the only real truth that counts…the gospel. That in my weakness His strength has been perfected; the real injustice of Jesus on the cross and my need to be right was perfected in His rightness. My need for other’s to see this rightly or us differently was causing me to focus on me and not my need for Him. That my peace and joy was being dictated by how other’s perceived us or the situation and not on the truth that it can only come from God and I already possess both. My peace and joy are not dependent on anything; actually they are the two things I can count on with 100% certainty.

Even though in this particular scenario I could point fingers and be cleared the truth is that I have a long list of sin and wrong-doing that I am in fact guilty of. I can set my list up and then evaluate the “severity” of the sins and then focus on how I have been wronged rather than my own wrongdoing because those are less severe. Thankfully, that is not how the gospel works. I stand as guilty in my sin as the murderer without the cross. The cross however says that because Jesus stood in my place as the guilty one, I am as justified and righteous as the murderer. Only the cross has the ability to declare this as truth not my list of injustice, pain, incorrect facts, etc.

I am so very thankful that I can rest in this truth. I can stop spinning and scheming and playing it through my head. I am free to just rest in the presence of my Lord who cleared my name long ago. Lord please continue to give me this strength in my weakness, that my spinning would be an instant reminder of my need for you and that I can just stop and rest.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thankful for the "Top 3's"

My husband and I are lousy daters. This might be simply because we never dated, we met and married. We were living in separate states and on our third meeting, he proposed. We were married the next month and never did date night. It wasn’t until about 5 years into our marriage that we “attempted” date nights and usually (for lack of planning) we would end up on the couch watching TV. When we finally did get a good rhythm of planning date night and actually going out I have to admit they were a bit awkward. We would sit there kind of staring at each other and asking the “so how are you” questions that would fall pretty flat with the “not bad” answer. This might surprise most of you who know us as my husband is really gifted at getting right into the heart but date nights have never been like that for us.

Last Valentine’s Day was the best and worst ever. We started the night off just completely missing each other. I had planned a very romantic evening, with a special gift, and we had reservations at one of our favorite restaurants. I don’t even remember what my deal was but I remember throwing a fit just before it was time to leave and not wanting to even go out but we worked through that. I think another argument ensued before we even got to the restaurant and again we worked through that. Our dinner was absolutely the most amazing meal we have ever shared together and during this time we were pretty connected. The food and wine was spectacular and my heart warmed up to my husband again however on the way home yet another argument broke out, this one landed my husband on the couch and me upstairs crying alone.

So I think the distant memory of that night plus just a heavy season I had pretty low expectations of this Valentine’s Day. We started the evening off both kind of tentative. This was more from just a very hard couple of days and wanting to share and be vulnerable both neither of us desiring for the “situation” to overshadow our evening so we sat there for a few awkward 20 minutes or so trying to find a rhythm of checking in but protecting that which neither of us wanted to speak of. We both agreed we were both feeling the weight and heaviness but we were feeling ok.

Then my Mr. leaned and asked me what my “Top 3” ways I feel loved by him and an area for improvement. As I thought about this question it just opened up the flood gates and I couldn't even respond through my tears. As I tried to gain composure in the middle of this intimate setting (there were only 3 other couples in our area), my mind reflected on the last few months. One of my “endeavors” this year is to write a weekly blog about things I am grateful for. As I have mentioned, I have a hard time relating to what I’m thankful for because that which I’m not generally thankful for overwhelms my being. My husband has been one of those things. I have for years been far more focused on his areas of lack and where he doesn’t love me well, and those things he does that drive me crazy, and how I would fix him if I could. So as we have reconnected the last few months I have become a little more fearful of losing him. In one of these moments of considering all things I have lacked…God showed me how much my Mr. truly cares for me. As I consider everything…how he serves me, how he pursues me, how he is never ok with disunity, I’m in awe of how God picked the perfect man for me. He protects me, he guards me, he adores me, me honors me, he provides for me, he challenges me, he grows me…he truly cares for me, unbelievably. As I considered life without him for even a moment, I drop to my knees and praise God for loving me so unbelievably well through this man.

The next two hours were spent reminiscing about all the Top 3’s in our eight years of marriage. This was such a sweet time of sharing and laughing and crying…simply beautiful. This was an evening of intimate sharing and thanking God for all He has done and is doing in our life. At moments, the conversation was heavy and serious and at other moments full of giddy laughter and silliness. Absolutely, one of the most intimate and life-giving evenings of our marriage…full of intention and purpose and a beautiful reminder of how much God has given us and grown us. We occasionally added the question of how could we improve and these were received openly and thankfully.

This was truly a beautiful evening that has overflowed into our entire week together. I have been so open and soft towards my husband and just yearn to be in his presence…truly a gift!

Thank you Mr. for your love, service, and care of my heart, soul and mind…always and fervently. You are a true representation of Jesus Christ in my life and I experience Him more and more each day because of you. I love you, always!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thankful (sinfully) for Sunshine!

Last week the glorious sun made an appearance over Seattle for a few days. It wasn’t quite warm but you could feel the warmth of the sunshine and for an early February it felt magnificent. Unfortunately, I was busy and really didn’t get to enjoy it. Truthfully, I think I avoided it; however once it made its appearance I realized I began to reminisce about warmer, happier days long ago.

For the first time in eight years, I started to long for warm sunny days in California. I haven’t missed California since the day I left. Driving out of California towards Colorado was the easiest thing I ever did and I never looked back. Why suddenly was I longing for a place that only reminded me of heartache and devastation? Not much good happened in California, it was a distant reminder of tons of abuse and abandonment…

I honestly could see myself back in California, the warmer winters with the dry wind. The hot summers where the air conditioner would kick in at 7am in the morning, the hot nights trying to fall asleep with just the sheets on and a cool damp wash cloth plastered to my forehead…why was this appealing to me now?

I realized that I had started to idolize the sun. I was dependent on its presence to improve my mood; its presence dictated a happy disposition. Seattle winters can feel dark and lonely, especially when you grow up in the California sun and gray days are a rare occurrence. Even though California represented some of the darkest moments of my life, the sun was a shining light that I have missed. I had to face the fact that I had been looking for some external factor in my life to dictate my mood…sunshine.

So as the sun shined bright last week, I found myself in greater sadness and isolation. What I realized was that I am constantly looking for some external factor to “save” me from my current circumstances; to relieve my current pain or situation. That a little “sunshine” would make everything ok for a moment. I realized that my circumstances really drive a lot in my life. I am constantly looking for a way out of my current situation…the sunshine a reminder of days past.

Seattle (and its dark skies) currently is a representation of pain and (false) hope lost and refocusing on someone place other than here seemed perfect and right. This just led to the conviction that I was looking to external comforts to get me through the pain rather than leaning in on God and expecting and hoping that our circumstances are His right and perfect plan.

So as painful as it is right now, I am thankful that the sunshine has hidden itself from our presence and I have no choice but to search for warmth and comfort it in its rightful place…at the throne of God.