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Redeemed

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe” (Psalm 107:2).

Facebook overflows with national headlines about politics and tragedies. Celebrity quotes buzz from Twitter as if it were a beaten wasp nest. Instagram, Periscope, and Pinterest offer the newest trends and latest tips on how-to anything. Blogs on every subject abound. I’ve shuffled through Books-a-Million’s vast aisles, wondering how many e-books exist for each tome on their shelves.

The overwhelming volume of written messages can bog the motivation of writers like me. Has it all been said? Maybe my time would be better spent folding laundry–again. At least my lips can be put to better use eating chocolate. After all, what words can I offer a world inundated by stories?

Scripture insists the world needs critical stories which I alone can share–my stories. Jesus redeemed me. The Lord crafted me as a vessel for a specific message to be poured out into a thirsty world. No matter how many books, blogs, or tweets flood the media, His words remain significant.Christ’s transforming breath deserves sharing. I must not prioritize laundry, chocolates, or statistics ahead of those still needing His rescue.

Telling my personal tales scares me a bit. I never feared speaking before hundreds, but was terrified the first time I shared my redemption story before dozens. Even if I weren’t a blogger, writer, or speaker, the Lord would still call me to share His effect on my life with others.

We’re all vessels, crafted with a unique God story. Each testimony carries a critical taste of antidote for the world’s terminal illness. Someone needs your message. A neighbor. Blog readers halfway across the world. Only God knows whether your outpoured life brings His rescue to one or to many. Either way, it’s certainly worth saving them.

Start where you are. With those in your immediate community. Include His praises in conversation. Pray for the Lord to create opportunities and guide you to share more.

Redeemed (1)

We each have inspiration which no one else can offer. Let’s encourage one another, and refuse to be stingy with our stories. Please comment about the Lord’s impact on others through you (past, present, and upcoming). I look forward to reading your testimonies!

megaphone

“They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. . .Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders . . .And let us run with perseverance. . .fixing our eyes on Jesus. . .so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” –Hebrews 11:35-12:3

Jack-o-lanterns and costumes lay waiting. Candy reserves mount inside each doorway. We muddle through the workweek amid the season’s orange and black decor. The time nears, and we do our best to prepare against the horror of facing a princess with nothing sweet to offer.

Halloween stirs mixed responses of aversion, occult obsession, or ambivalence in the name of family fun. Although pagan rituals once took place during harvest season, early Christians promoted neither ambivalence nor aversion to the October 31st holiday. On All Hallow’s Eve, shortened to Hallowe’en, Christ followers entered a two-day festival honoring those who  paid the ultimate price for their faith.

This week offers an opportunity to celebrate those who persevere in faith by living their example. Join those Christians who observe All Saints Day by taking a moment to learn from the stories of martyrs. Support contemporary missionaries who risk their lives daily to share Jesus. Better still, take the step of becoming an ambassador to shine His hope wherever you go. Instead of joining the occult practices or condemning the lost, we can reach out in love and prayer.

Like the story of the jack-o-lantern, we carry the light of Christ so that it can shine into the darkness of the world. Carve a smile onto your face this Halloween, and let His hope and love gleam toward all the little princes and princesses who cross your path.

happy jackolantern

Pumpkin Parable (Original author unknown):

First, God picks a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch and brings it in from the field. He chooses you.

He then washes all the “dirt” off the outside. He cleans away the outside influences. Old things are passed away and all things are become new.

Then, God carefully removes all the tangled messes of lies and confusion, pain and fear, and the slime of sin. He cleans out all the icky stuff from the inside. 

He replaces the seeds of doubt with the light of faith, hope and love. The Light of His Spirit warms and transforms us.

Then He carves a new smiling face. His powerful presence changes our life. 

 He shines through our life for all to see.  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)

Jesus, please cleanse me of fear, disdain, and sin. Fill me with Your brilliant presence and make my life shine powerfully for You. Amen.

I don’t venture up onto my roof often. In fact, I only brave that weak-kneed climb if no one else volunteers to help with an annual task. My core tightens as I wobble those initial steps. After I reach the center and grip onto an anchoring structure, my lungs relax for a full breath. I look out across the treetops as dusk honeys the heads of our neighborhood live oaks. My view extends beyond our street to the school, ballparks, and the mass of homes further outward.

A moment on the peak shifts my perspective. The sunshine’s caress penetrates my cheekbones. The breath of a fresh season revives my senses. I consider distant homes as my neighbors. At this moment, when God secures my quivering frame, the world feels both larger and more intimate. Standing on the rooftop, I recognize myself as a saint.

As twilight darkens my view, time demands my return to life on the level earth below. I resume my daily routines, walking across the dust of the past toward the tomorrow from which it will grow. The miseries and burdens of passers-by permeate the stagnant air. I see despair in their eyes and feel the pull of hopelessness from their hearts. So much pain. I reach out with an urge to help, but hesitation quivers in my fingertips. I, too, have knees prone to buckling. Who am I to offer them strength? What if I let these fragile neighbors down? My doubts and fears tire me, and I begin to sink onto the curb of purposelessness. The suffering of life on the roads and in the alleyways tempts me to forget I am a saint.

Rays warmer than sunbeams lift my drooping chin. I need not search with my eyes to know Who is there.

“You are not made to be a saint for the rooftop,” He says. “Nor are you made to pour your own strength out to sustain these others.”

I want to leap from the curb and snuggle in His arms. Every muscle of my body, to the core of my soul, longs to soak in His presence forever. “Keep me with You,” I say.

My spirit inhales a heady draft of His invigorating fragrance.

“You are a saint because I am with you. Here on the road…” He turns my shoulders to face out across the vast neighborhood, through the nearby fences and into the world beyond them. “And out there. I am the strength you offer, the healing you convey. You got your bearings on the rooftop so you can live My purpose while you’re down here.”

I crane my neck, attempting to glimpse His brilliance. Though my eyes fail to capture a view of the Son, He has not left me alone. The Word of my promise-keeping God anchors my certainty about His location–within my heart.

I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20).

The confidence that He remains with me girds my weak knees to venture out into the world and steadies my frail arms to reach out to bless those who suffer. I do not merely give myself to those in need, but I offer Someone far better. He alone can transform the unsteady roof climber into a earth-treading saint. The Son Who did so for me can change any willing soul. With such immense suffering, the world needs more saints to climb down and share His love on the roadway. Let’s reach out together, in His strength, to leave no neighbors to despair of hope.

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John17:20-23).

 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:18-20).

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:14-16

Drought left the western earth thirsty, a tinder box waiting to catch with little more than a warm breath. One stray ember sparks a relentless blaze. Forest fires rage across thousands of acres and acrid smoke plumes across an entire state. Ready conditions require little to spur great flames.

We searched through sodden ditches. Green wood and rain soaked logs filled the truck bed. After an hour of persistent effort, we nurtured forth a glimmer of light. We fed the resistant stack, refusing to lose hope. A sweet reward loomed ahead, so  we worked with undaunted perseverance. Soon, the glow warmed all who surrounded it.

On fire

Joy overwhelmed me, since I had no intention of missing out on s’mores.

Christ calls us to act as His fire starters in the world. Some territories will receive the healing light of Jesus’ grace like parched brush. Flames will blaze from their hearts with an instant wildfire and spread to thousands of souls. Other ground we must cover lies sodden with resistance, and might not respond to our friendly invitation right away. We must not give up hope on those who question the truth, but continue reaching out to build light into the soggy pits of this world. Focus on the eternal goal and persist in love.

Imagine embracing the glimmering hearts of those Christ has sparked through your life of loving friendship. What joy we have in that hope, for a reward far sweeter than s’mores awaits us.

High tide waves glide ashore. The foamy caress adds a kiss of salt to the sugar sand. Water and pristine beach glimmer together in sunbathed glory. Breezes carry the fresh hint of brine, a lovely scent for visitors to carry home in their hair. As the weary sun droops, visitors retreat to their cars. Waves recede by the hour. The water abandons its affair with the sparkling sand. The beach reddens as the evening bares its hidden layers. Low tide reveals its messy and broken elements. Dead matter lends itself to the wind, no longer a delightful aroma. A lone beachcomber searches through the seaweed tangles, believing this moment a prime opportunity to find the most beautiful shells. I prefer high tide moments. My faith glows like noon’s rays. I feel connected to and appreciated by others.  Endless possibilities shine around me. Purpose scents the air I breathe, and its fragrance blesses all passersby. I work harder, finish more projects, and smile. Happiness and motivation ebb as low tide hits. The hidden regions of my heart, mind, and soul rise to the surface. Brokenness and mess glare at me, demanding attention. I resent my odorous attitude, but must deal with the source of the problem to remedy the symptoms. Dealing with the litter looms as an impossible task to conquer alone. Thanks to my Helper, I don’t have to face the ordeal alone. The Holy Spirit combs through my inmost being. The Lord identifies the gunk stinking up my soul and helps clean it out. He also untangles the mess to illuminate my unrecognized treasures. Were it not for low tide, the latent needs and assets would remain underwater. Thank you, Lord, for creating value during the low points of life. I praise You for restoration, healing, and renewed purpose. Let my next bright day glorify You all the more.

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; 

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow…

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…

 Restore to me the joy of your salvation     and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,     so that sinners will turn back to you… Open my lips, Lord,     and my mouth will declare your praise.  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;     you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;     a broken and contrite heart     you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:7,10,12-13,15-17).

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;     he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted     and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,

    but the Lord delivers him” (Psalm 34:17-19).

Leprechaun impostors frolic along beer-scented streets. Shamrock patterned underwear hangs in the local department stores. Party favors honor the shamrock as a lucky charm, rather than a symbol explaining the Holy Trinity. Tavern patrons cheer St. Paddy without praising his evangelism. Most cities celebrate St. Patrick’s day with little regard for the saint or his legacy.

Despite its lighthearted intent, one holiday tradition reflects the influence of a saint. Authorities load small boats with special equipment. The sanctioned crafts launch a vibrant green dye into the water. Wherever they go, the river transforms into a beautiful new flow of color.

The Lord commissioned and equipped an escaped slave to transform the spiritual environment of a nation. Saint Patrick delivered the gospel to Ireland, leaving a glimmer of hope across the nation’s landscape. He blended new meaning into existing symbols. Wherever he went, vibrant news of eternal life sprang up alongside his path.

Scripture refers to all Christ-followers as saints. Equipped with the truth and anointed with the Spirit, we each have an opportunity to change the spiritual environment wherever we go. The culture around us starves for the truth, and a few small vessels can transform the world.

Will you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with me by greening a bit of the river around us?

“This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah” (Ephesians 3:8).

“I have become its servant, according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:25-27).

The uplifting impact chocolate delivers to the mind and body cannot be measured against other culinary experiences. Though reputed as a craving for women, cocoa attracts both genders in like numbers. We pursue its complex flavor, energy boost, and enhanced focus. The endorphin lift simulates the joy we so desperately need.

Widespread love of chocolate comes as no surprise. Consumers clamor for any form of the confection. Cheap candies and artificial flavorings fly off store shelves. Yet, not all chocolate-like edibles offer the same benefits. Substitutes fail to provide flavonoids, antioxidants, or a positive effect on mood. 

Fine chocolate stands above counterfeits. A distinct and incomparable category. Pure and rich, the silken textures deliver an unparalleled experience. Those who taste its genuine benefits can never expect satisfaction from lesser sources. Fine chocolate nourishes the body and mind, while delivering a boost to the heart.

Like fine chocolate, our souls crave the true source of joy and nourishment. Though alternatives claim to provide for our needs, only God can satisfy and sustain body, mind, and spirit. The pure, rich love of our Savior offers abundant life beyond our imagination. With one taste of His love, our deepest cravings melt away. Nothing else can fulfill His promises of hope, life, and unconditional joy. The intense, complex encounter with a loving God remains impossible to describe in words. Once His Spirit sweetens and coats the soul, the delicious transformation speaks for itself. The flavor embeds itself on the tongue, scenting breath and flavoring all that enters or flows out. 

Perfect bliss must be shared. Though we cannot force others to grasp His exquisite quenching of our spirits’ deepest thirstings, we can offer a kiss of blessings to others. Invite the hungry to taste our divine joy. Smile often, as a glimpse into our hope. Listen to the desperate cries of those who consumed artificial gods, and offer a warm sample of caring. Breathe the truth and wrap arms around those shivering in the shadows of falsehood. 

Love of chocolate does not surprise anyone. Sharing Greater Love can shatter the imagination’s ceiling and buoy the soul.

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