Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

nc1aLast Night I did my new presentation on what may be my favorite verse in all of Scripture, 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone and the news has come.” I was trying to think of a good painting to do with it. I’ve already done butterflies and frogs exploring the metamorphosis concept of complete change, but that wasn’t quite right, So I went at it a completely different way.

First off I did something I almost never do. I started with a white surface. I usually speed paint on black. I started off by doing a very simple line art self portrait. What the congregation may not have realized is I was really gobbing on the black paint. Then I added some sky blue around it. What they didn’t know. was it was my intent from the beginning to wreck the painting. Taking paper towels I smeared it into a cloudy mess and then quit. When I began to speak, I spoke of how we basically start as a clean slate, but then life happens and we sin and we get splattered by the effects of sin and it makes a mess of us. I then talked about what it means to be a new creation in Christ—the way He transforms and renews and redeems us.

nc1bAt the end of the message I painted a picture of Jesus over the mess. The reason, when Christ redeems us, He allows us to put on His righteousness. The finished project was a little less successful than I like. For some reason my surface started to warp and it was falling out of the easel. Speed painting while holding your surface with the other hand is not easy. Nonetheless, the painting which took a total of about 8 minutes for both phases demonstrated what it was supposed to demonstrate and I was pleased.

Here’s the point, in Christ there is grace and forgiveness, but there is also transformation. Your past does not dictate your future. You can be redeemed. God can take your life and make it into something new. He can take the best of you and make it better. He can redeem the rest of you and turn it into a powerful testimony. God created you and He can also recreate you and when He does (and He will if you ask Him) you will be a new creation.

Well tomorrow is Easter, or Resurrection Sunday if you prefer. Skimming through social media, I have been seeing a lot of memes referring to Ishtar. Now most of us English speaking people say that name phonetically, ISH-tar, but according to the memes the proper pronunciation of the word is “easter.” I’m not sure that’s true, but it’s on the Internet so it must be, right? These detractors are referencing a pagan fertility goddess usually expressed as a nude woman, often with a multitude of breasts. They are saying that Easter has it’s roots in paganism. That when Constantine “christianized” the world, he appropriated all matter of pagan things into the church. They say similar things about Christmas, and I think they’re missing the entire point of the day in the process.

What is Easter really about? Isn’t it redemption? Jesus came and died on the cross and rose again to pay a price we could not pay. He paid the price for us, which is quite literally redemption. Jesus is all about redeeming things, about redeeming people. He is the savior. Scripture tells us that creation waits for all the people who will come to Christ to come, because when that happens, He will also redeem all of creation to the way God intended it to be (According to Romans 8:19), no longer in bondage to the power of sin. I’ll say it again, Jesus is all about redeeming things. I know He redeemed me. I am not what I once was. I am redeemed, a new creation.

Is the name Easter derived from the name of a pagan goddess, I don’t know, perhaps, but Christ redeemed that name and now it refers to a holiday on which we celebrate resurrection. Opponents will also point to the use of eggs and chicks and rabbits as evidences of the fertility rituals associated with this pagan idol. Perhaps this is correct too, but again hasn’t that also been redeemed. Associated with the resurrection, these things symbolize what they represented before the fall, new life, the very thing Jesus came to give us. Again these symbols have been redeemed.

What about the bunny? Surely that has to be about fertility, right? For the record, I am not saying that some of these things cannot get out of hand. I am fully aware that, to a lot of people, the bunny is more important than the cross, but friends, changing that is up to the redeemed. Our calling is the ministry of reconciliation, calling people to be reconciled to God in Christ and when we take that calling seriously, a strange thing will happen, a multitude of new believers will be “born” or rather born again. The church will begin to reproduce quite rapidly, perhaps even like rabbits. I am being a bit tongue in cheek here, but the fact remains, the church is a living organism and healthy organisms reproduce. Were we more about our calling to the Great Commission and less about researching the past of things Christ redeemed, perhaps we would be more effective. Redemption changed the story.

Call it Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, but whatever you call it, celebrate the Redeemer and point others to Him. That is our purpose.

88Of course we know that God is the Creator of all there is, but have you ever considered that God is an illustrator? It’s true. Look at your Bible and you will see illustrations all over it. No not the pictures and icons and things that may be in there. No the illustrations are hidden in the words and today we celebrate one of his greatest.

A thousand years or more before Jesus, God set in place a sacrificial system, a system, where lambs and other animals were sacrificed for the sins of the people. Did you ever wonder why? Does God have something against the sheep? No God created them. And while I know there is that verse about how the sacrifices are a sweet savor to the Lord, I also really don’t believe it is because God loves the smell of burning sheep flesh. I think God was trying to show us a couple things.

First, He’s showing us that sin costs. The price for sin was a very valuable possession that now had to die and be rendered useless. Second, God is showing us very literally that sin kills these are both superbly illustrated in the sacrificial system, but there is something more.

These sacrifices prepared us for the ultimate sacrifice. Remember the lambs sacrificed had to be perfect, flawless, without blemish and their blood had to be shed. The Bible tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. The sacrificial system was put in place to prepare us for Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, shedding His blood once and for all. Remember how John the baptist introduced Jesus. He said “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus’ death on the cross was illustrated centuries before by a loving God, so that we would be ready to receive Him. He gave us a framework by which we could understand the ultimate gift of love.

Today is Good Friday. I’ve sometimes wondered why we call it that. I’m pretty sure if you told Peter on that day that it would be called Good Friday that he may well have punched you in the face. That day would have felt like a lot of things but none of them would have been good. We call it Good Friday because we know what happened next and because we understand the significance of the moment. We understand that in part because of God’s illustration centuries before.

Be blessed on this Good Friday and live a life that illustrates God’s love to the world.

creachermemenew3It probably is improper to assert that God has a problem. But if He did have a problem it would be with Public Relations (P.R.). Actually it’s not God who has the problem, so much as it is the people who are entrusted with handling His P.R., the church.

In 2 Corinthians 5, We are called Christ’s Ambassadors. (18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.) We are entrusted with this message of reconciliation, telling people how to be reconciled to God through Christ. Somehow I don’t think we’re doing it right. People have this picture of God that says He is a mean, malevolent being who hates us and sits on a cloud with a lightning bolt waiting to pick us off at the first sign of error. People get this picture because some of us wave signs telling people God hates them, and because more people are so locked in on sin, that they forget to love.

Of course there is another side of it. People have this idea that God is a universalist who lets anything and everything go. He’s sort of like Santa Claus, up there just waiting to make all of our dreams come true. The problem with this way of thinking is that the first time something doesn’t go just the way we think it should, God is an illusion who cannot be real because we had a problem. It’s a false image. God is not some marshmallow, pushover, He is the holy and righteous Creator.

It’s a pretty massive P.R. Problem and it is our fault. We need to put forth a better picture of God. So let’s paint a better one. The true one reflected in Scripture. God is love and He loves us all. He loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die in our place to save us from our sins. What God hates is sin and Hates sin because He loves us. Sin separates us from God and God loves us perfectly and profoundly. So when we say He hates people because they sin, we lie and give a false picture of God. The Bible says “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If He hates us because we sin then he hates us all and we are without Hope. That’s a false picture of God.

And when we try to redefine sin to make ourselves and our society feel better about our sin, we lie and that lie keeps us in our sin separated from God. Another false picture of God.

So what is the true picture of God? A loving, perfect Father who gave His only Son to erescue us and adopt us into His family. A loving Father who teaches and cares and at times corrects, all for our good. A loving Creator who made everything and knows how it all works, what doesn’t work and what will hurt or kill us. Then like any loving Father, He warns us about the things that will hurt, kill and destroy us. He lovingly calls those things sin and warns us to stay away from them.

Once Jesus was asked “What is the greatest commandment?” He replied, ““‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” What He was saying was this. If we love God in that way, we will try with all that is in us, not to do the things that break our Father’s Heart and we will strive to stop doing the things that put Jesus on the cross and if we love our neighbors, we will live out this faith in a way that shows them the God that loves them.

God doesn’t hate anyone. God hates sin, because He loves us.

I did an event called Redemption at Widener University on Tuesday night. It was a cool creative evening combining the talents of several of the students with me and an amazing musician named Angela Burns. You really need to check out her music.

If you’ver ever struggled to tell the story of Jesus and what that story means to us, you might want to show them this video.

To learn more about this artist and his ministry, click here.

I’m having a hard time finding the sculptors name but his work is astounding.
The sculptor takes wood chips, soaks them in water for many days. He uses a tree from Russia (Red Cedar).Then he starts building his pieces, which takes him about 6 months, 10 hours a day to finish.

Why do I post this? Because I never cease to be amazed at the level of creativity out there. Most people look at wood chips and they see mulch, kindling or scrap. This man looks and sees fur and feathers and turns something most would throw away or burn into works of great beauty.

In some ways this is a metaphor for our lives with Christ. There are times when we and others see ourselves and not having much value, but in the hands of our Creator, our lives become a thing of beauty!

I was talking to a dear and trusted friend about some of the great things that are happening in my ministry right now, especially related to A Night AMOK. I said, most sincerely that I am having fun. She challenged me on that a little bit, thinking fun might be “trivializing” it a bit (my word not hers). Because she is such a trusted friend, I took her comment to heart and began trying to redefine it by explaining how I am feeling.

I’ve expressed before on this blog how when I am doing things like A Night AMOK, I feel like I am doing what I was created to do. It’s one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. I described the feeling I get as I am doing these paintings as an almost child-like joy and that’s when it hit me. At 48 I am doing what I dreamed of doing as a small child.

I remember being a child and making art, writing and telling stories and acting things out. I dreamed of making movies though that was outside the realm of possibility for a little kid in the early seventies. My school years were pretty terrible and most of that was driven from me or beaten out of me by my peers. I spent a lot of years wandering around trying to figure out who I was. When I look at A Night AMOK and a lot of the other things I’m doing now, I realize the Lord has restored my childhood dream to me. Thing about it. I am painting large pictures, using them to tell stories combined with “movies” I’ve made. I’m even acting. God had given me back what the enemy has stolen and with His help I will use it to His glory for the rest of my life or until He tells me to stop. My life has come full circle.

My friend was right, fun is too trivial for what is happening to me right now, but I really am enjoying every moment.

God is good!

I had a great night last night with the folks from The Foundry Church and the Logos Student Ministry at Widener University for their event Redemption. The program was opened by the always amazing Fourth Man Furnace. Then Brian Easter came out and did half of his set. I did my piece “The Collector” from A Night AMOK, Pix of JC and then Brian Easter came back out and finished off the evening with a set of worship music. It was a great night, I had a great time and pray that God was glorified.

Thanks to Pastor Chuck and Joy Kieffer, Hair Kelly, Fourth Man Furnace and Brian Easter for agreat evening of worship and ministry. I love doing what I do.

By the way if you haven’t heard Brian Easter yet, check him out.

From the film, Les Misérables, the story of a heartless convict named Jean Valjean who is transformed by a single act of mercy; a powerful illustration of God’s forgiveness, mercy, desire and power to change the heart of a sinner into a heart like Jesus.

What could you change with a little grace? Who could be changed by a little grace?

Forgive as you have been forgiven.