The Greatest Triumph

As we approach Holy Week, church activities, sermons, and social media will be inundated with messages about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A couple days ago, I was thinking of what my Easter post would be and realized very quickly I did not want to tell same “old” story. So I asked myself “what makes the death and resurrection of Jesus so unique that it is worth commemorating?” The answer came from an unexpected scripture in the book of Psalm:

No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them— the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—so that they should live on forever and not see decay… But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.

Psalm 49:8-9, 15 NIV

Wow! When I read this a few days ago, it was like a light bulb went on! This scripture not only emphasizes the fickleness of life but speaks volumes about the work of Jesus. This is why his death is so important. Because no one can redeem the life of another, God had to redeem us Himself. He did so by coming down to earth to be a ransom for our lives. This is Jesus’ greatest triumph. The sermon this sunday made this point even more real for me. Whenever we talk about triumph it suggests a victor. The binary of a victor usually connotes the fact that there is a vanquished or a loser. Human victories are usually at the expense of others but what makes Jesus’ ransom and victory so unique is that it was at his own expense!

His death and resurrection was sign to the whole world that the ransom had been paid. He made a payment that was enough to ensure that we could live forever and not see decay. We know this because God raised Jesus from he dead so that he himself would not see decay (Acts 13: 34-35) and made him the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18). Jesus became the poster child of a costly ransom paid. And for all of us who believe in Him and accept his redeeming work on the cross, Psalm 49 reads that “the payment is enough and we too will live on forever and not see decay”. We know with confidence that God HAS redeemed us from the realm of the dead and has already taken us to Himself. He did this victoriously when he exchanged His life for ours… He does this victoriously everyday in our lives with the work of His Holy Spirit drawing us in relationship with Him and He will do this victoriously when we close our eyes in death to this world and open them again in eternity in His presence.

This is why Jesus’ death is so important. This is why His resurrection is significant. In His death and resurrection lies our greatest triumph and victory : Eternal life.

God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.

John 3:16 CEV

Yours Truly.

Finding wholeness in your story

Yesterday something interesting happened to me. I had started gathering together my thoughts for this post and all of a sudden I had writer’s block. So I decided to put the post aside and pick it up again after church and guess what we talked about in church? The power of sharing your story! I know without a shadow of doubt God is telling me something important and so here goes.

I have spent the last three weeks thinking about wholeness and how to find it after going through harsh life experiences (whether it was by your own doing or not!). I had been reflecting particularly about the story of the Samaritan woman at the well and how she was transformed from the woman who went to fetch water at midday so no one would see her, to one who run into the city screaming and drawing attention to herself. I concluded that sometime during her encounter with Jesus and when she left her pot and run she found wholeness.

For those of you who do not know the story, it is found in John 4:1-42. Jesus tells this woman about the things in her life that had brought her shame and instead of pushing those things into the deepest, farthest corner of her heart and mind, she brings it all into the light and allows God to replace her brokenness with wholeness. She had a sordid and maybe scandalous history with men and so she goes to the well when no one can see her or gossip about her and yet after her encounter with Jesus we see her running into the city screaming “come and see a man”. The very thing that had impugned her, we see her declaring with all boldness, “I have met a man”

There is something liberating about owning your story and being prepared to speak to the transformation that happens after we encounter Jesus. Personally, I believe that is how we manifest and live the wholeness that God perfects on our inside on the outside. Something powerful happens when we own and tell our story: the shame and condemnation that secretly creeps up on us when we dare look in that deep dark place in our minds where we hide our past sins and failures lose their power. Those areas get illuminated by God’s light as we bring them to light through our stories.

But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:7 NIV

When we encounter Jesus in our situations, and allow Him to, He makes us whole. But feeling whole is a different story! Here is where embracing the concept of growth becomes important. To feel whole, we need to give ourselves permission to grow from our experiences. The Samaritan woman would have never had the confidence to speak about any man (let alone a Jew) in public if she did not embrace this concept of growth. There is a quote that I have come to adore that spells this out clearly:

Just because you did something wrong in the past does not mean you cannot advocate against it now. It does not make you a hypocrite, you grew. Don’t let yourself or others use your past to invalidate your current mindset. Growth is a concept. Embrace it.

UNKNOWN and I have modified.

Growth means being able to appreciate how far you have come and that means being honest with yourself about where you’ve been. Many Christians “conveniently forget” or to be blunt pretend they have never done anything wrong even to themselves all in the name of “old things have passed away”. And while I am not advocating for constantly dredging up the past, I believe it is important to acknowledge it and be willing to confront every aspect of you, the good, bad and ugly so none of it has a lasting hold on you.

For some, telling our stories means being consistent in telling people about God’s goodness in our lives. And for others it means James 5:16. But for most of us, it means acknowledging that thing that we are so ashamed of in our lives and then refocusing on what matters most. The samaritan woman did this: she acknowledged that she was living a scandalous life but did not stop there… she took the conversation further to explore how this dark thing in her life had affected other areas of her life… primarily her ability to worship God freely; and that is how she became whole.

Wholeness is within our grasp and one way it can be found is in having the boldness to share your story of how God transformed you and how he has brought you into His light.

Yours Truly

Priorities

Last week I came to the end of what has been weeks of binge watching the show New Amsterdam and the natural consequence of that was that I started to internalize the show. I spent the entire weekend asking myself “like some of those unlucky patients on the show, what if I was given 4-6 weeks to live; what will my priorities be?”

As I pondered over that, I thought about the things that have taken front and center stage in my life recently particularly, my job, my family, my educational pursuits, my acts of service and my pursuit of God (in no particular order). And believe me it was not an exercise in futility. I quickly realized what I would give up in a heartbeat to make space for other things in my life. And not only that, I found I had no space for regret, no space to look back; all I could think of was what I was yet to accomplish and how I could do all of that in 4-6 weeks.

Far too often we are robbed of precious time by cluttering our lives with priorities that have very little substance to add to our lives or we live stuck in the shadows of our past; be it past glories or failures. Thankfully, God has an encouragement for us through the words of Apostle Paul:

 But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

I don’t know why this scripture invokes the image of someone running a race but this was such a rich encouragement after going through my exercise and coming across this scripture in my bible readings. I felt God saying to me, “there is no time like the present to readjust your priorities and set your sights forwards and heavenwards”. I realize that what I value and prioritize will differ from others and so I offer no suggestions except one: that your priorities get you closer to the prize for which God has called and culled you to Himself. And I end with this food for thought:

 Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV

Yours Truly.