Defining Redemption

In my opinion, the word that captures my relationship with God better than any other I know is “redemption”. I love the words to that old camp song:

I’ve been redeemed – I’ve been redeemed
By the blood of the lamb -By the blood of the lamb
I’ve been redeemed- I’ve been redeemed
By the blood of the lamb-By the blood of the lamb
I’ve been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, filled with the Holy Spirit I am
All my sins are washed away, I’ve been redeemed

But, what exactly does it mean to be redeemed?

The Greek word “lutroo” is commonly translated redemption, and means gaining release by the paying of a ransom. In ancient Greece, during war-time, men of importance held hostage as slaves until a bounty was raised, and paid to the victor to redeem them from bondage.

That is exactly a picture of our lives, right? We are held hostage by our poor choices and the sin in our lives. Then Jesus steps in and pays the ransom for our freedom. Peter says it like this:

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. ” I Peter 1:18-19

Here is a little exercise you can try with your kids or grandkids to help them better understand redemption. I suggest you use it with older children. Choose something of great value to the child in your life, perhaps their favorite stuffed animal, or maybe a video game, or even (gasp) their phone. Take it and hold it hostage. Set the redemption price high. Make it money, or chores, whatever is appropriate for your child. Don’t return the item until the ransom is paid, then have a discussion using some of these questions:

  • How did you feel when your important item was taken away?
  • How do you think God feels when sin takes you away from Him?
  • How high of a price would you be willing to pay?
  • Read I Peter 1:18-19 together.
  • What does that tell us about the value God puts on YOU?

Watch this little video “Twice Owned” it brings a picture of redemption in an old story to life.


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

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Defining Righteousness

In Washington DC, is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is responsible for storing the perfect samples for weights and measures. There you will find the prototypes used to define feet, and measure pounds, liters and meters. Measurement is so precise that they use a bar of Platinum with exactly 10% iridium, cooled to 0 degrees Celsius at sea level in the 45 degree of latitude, to calculate the length of a meter. This is the standard.

The root of the word righteousness is to be straight – or to act like the standard – live up to the standard.

What is the standard? –

 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”Romans 8:29

Our standard is Jesus. To be like Him is our goal.

So the measure of your righteousness, is how close you mirror the Savior. If you are like me, that is not very close at all. Still, there is hope because

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

The Chinese character for “righteousness” is fascinating. It’s composed of two separate characters one that by itself means” a lamb”, the other for “me”. When “lamb” is placed directly above “me,” a new character “righteousness” is formed. So when the Lamb covers me…I become righteous.


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Define Repentance

Want to know what repentance is? – stand up, turn to the right, keep going…a little farther. Now stop at 180 degrees, facing opposite direction from where you started. Repentance is to turn around, if you’re in the military, it’s “about face”. To go the other way. To change the direction of your life and your heart.

Repentance begins with a sorrow or regret that happens when we become aware of having offended or hurt someone, and is completed with a commitment to live differently.

Scripture talks about it a lot.

I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended… Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret… (I Corinthians 7:9-10)

Over and over in the words of Scripture repentance is linked with forgiveness:

  • God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins (acts 5:31)
  • And He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and in His name repentance and forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed to all nations (Luke 24:47)
  • Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

Repentance is an emotional reaction to the realization that we have fallen short, and don’t deserve the favor of a perfect, holy God. That Godly sorrow is then paired with a commitment to change direction.

In the Kingdom of God, we find that as soon as we turn and take a first step toward Him, God comes running to us. Like the father of the prodigal son, our Heavenly Father sees us while we are “far off” and meets us on our way home.

So, don’t wait. Don’t put off making the turn. Start now!

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19)


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Defining Atonement

The Hebrew word for Atonement is Kaphar (Kaw-Far), it literally means to “cover over”, or to appease. The idea is to pacify an authority for a wrong that has been done, to give a gift that may cause the judge to look past the offense.

From the third chapter of the Bible, we learn the lesson, “If you sin, then you will die.” Romans 6:23 repeats this message:

“for the wages of sin is death…”

This causes our Loving God a big problem because we all have sinned, and deserve the punishment for our sins, eternal death. Yet his great desire is for a relationship with us. He needed something that will cover over our sin.

In 1987 there was a movie titled “The Last Emperor” this movie told the story of Pu Yi the last Emperor of China, crowned when just a child. In one scene his brother asked him, what happens when you do something wrong? Yi reply’s, someone else is punished. To demonstrate, Yi breaks a jar, and one of his many servants is brought in and beaten for the transgression.

That was the answer for us. Someone else would be punished for our transgressions. The only one qualified to put back together what sin has torn apart is Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God. The sacrifice of his life on the cross covers over our sin.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

Even though the Hebrew word for atonement means to “cover over”, I like our English word at-one-ment. Atonement puts our relationship with God back together. Jesus’ sacrifice makes everything right with the law of God, gives us a clean slate, and makes us “at one” with God.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Defining Sin

From our earliest days watching cartoons we’ve known that sin is bad. Watching that little devil, dressed in red, with horns and a pitchfork talking the innocent hero into doing wrong, we knew in our hearts, that sin is bad.

Now you’re a bit older. Maybe you have a little “cartoon watcher” of your own, and you realize your view of sin could use to grow up some too.

Take a moment and do this little exercise. Find a few pieces of paper. Now wad them up into balls. Go set your trash can across the room. Next throw your paper balls into the target. Did you make it? Great! But if you fell short, then you just demonstrated the word we translate “sin”.

Hamartia is the Greek word for “sin”. It means to miss the mark. It was an archery term. The very center of the target is called the “Mark”, today we call it a bullseye. Any arrow that did not hit the “mark”, or the Bullseye, anything that fell short, or flew too far, or missed even a fraction of an inch, was Hamartia…sin.

So, if sin is to “miss the mark”, then what is the mark for my life? What is the target or the standard? The Bible gives us some insight into God’s standard for our lives:

I Peter 1:16

“Be Holy because I am Holy”

Ephesians 4:22-23

 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Sin in our lives extracts a terrible price. There can be physical consequences like anger, addiction, violence, broken relationships. There are always spiritual consequences, Paul says in Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death” – Sin separates. Like death separates us from those we love, sin separates us from others and from God himself.

You see, God by his Holy nature cannot have anything to do with sin. It is like light and dark. When you turn on the light in a dark room, where does the dark go? – I’s just gone. This is how God and sin operate. Sin cannot exist in the presence of the Holy God. And if sin is there…God is not.

Well then. If God won’t be where sin is, what hope is there then for my life? I certainly don’t live up to the standard Jesus set. I do things I don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I know I should. Both of these “miss the mark”. So why even try?

Because at the heart of the Good News , we learn that Jesus paid the price of our sin. One perfect gift for us all.

2Cor 5:21

We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I know when we look at sin and then at our own lives, it’s so easy to become discouraged. But DON’T STOP READING our definitions. Trust me, as you look at more of those mystery words we use in church, you will find a freedom and joy you never imagined possible.

Hang in there, we’re on this journey together.


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Saint

Summer is a wonderful time of the year! I especially love the picnics where everyone shows off their very best recipes. I bring my Mother-in-law’s famous strawberry pie. Well, I bring it if I can keep it unmolested until it’s time to eat. I can’t count the number of times I’ve found a little hole in the perfect red surface, evidence that someone has plucked a strawberry from its nest of yummy goodness. Luckily some well-placed whipped cream has covered a few sins now and then.

Over the years I’ve gotten smarter and now I make two pies. One is for our immediate enjoyment, and the other is set aside, with a note that says Hands off! Reserved for the picnic!

I tell this little story because it paints a good picture of a word we use in church, and over the years have lost sight of it’s true meaning… Saint.

Most of the time we use the term Saint to talk about someone who is perfect in their behavior, a character who might be “holier than thou”, but the term actually comes from the Greek word Hagiazo, which means to “set apart for a specific purpose”. Hagiazo shows up in scripture in a variety of forms:

  •  As an Adjective – we translate it Holy
  • As a noun – we translate it Saint or Holy People – that’s YOU!
  • As a verb– we translate it sanctify, make holy, or consecrate

So you see, being a Saint is not about what you DO, it is about who you belong to.

What does all this mean? YOU are God’s strawberry pie! Set aside for a sweet relationship with Him, with a sign for the evil one that says “Hands Off! This one is mine!”

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy (hagion) nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. I Pet 2:9

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Words: Making “Churchy” Words Simple

God has this thing about the spoken word. When you get right down to it, words are what God uses to actually create things.

Go back to Genesis, and we learn:

”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit God was hovering over the waters. And God SAID “let there be light” (Genesis 1:1)

What did God use to create? – Words. Over and over the phrase “God Said” is repeated.

What God wanted, expressed out loud with words, brought all of creation into being.

If we fast forward to the Gospel of John, and read the first part of the first chapter.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made.” (John 1:1-3)

What God wanted… expressed out loud, in the person of Jesus, brought all of history into relationship with Him.

You see, God has a thing about words. And if God thinks words are important, then we should too.

I understand, it’s hard enough trying to figure what’s going on today when you’re ‘earjacking’ your ‘hipster’ ‘boomerang child’ making a ‘duckface’ wearing her new ‘kicks’ while she’s ‘chillin’ with her ‘bestie’.  And yet, we expect ourselves to fully understand what a middle eastern, nomad who lived over 3,000 years ago, meant when he wrote part of the Bible!  Don’t be so hard on yourself! It takes work, and time, and often a friend to walk alongside you.

So let’s go on a journey together.

Over the next few weeks we’ll feature common “religious” vocabulary words and take a deeper dive into what they mean.  We’ll look at how they are used in scripture and sometimes even outside of scripture.  We’ll try to look at things in simple terms and stories, so whether you have been in church your whole life, or are just starting out in your God walk, you’ll find something to help you.

Hey, drop us a line if there is a word you want us to explore. We want to hear from you. After all, we’re on this journey together!

Go to the GPS page, and see the “Words: Making Churchy Words Simple” article to follow our study.


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

 

This New Year:
Pray, Pray, Pray

This poem was written by dad (Ralph Snyder) on December 31, 2008 as he looked toward our family gathering the next day to celebrate New Year’s Day. At that time he looked back over the past year and saw the path that he and his family had traveled. 2008 had seen many challenges in our family. However, he also made sure to look forward. His focus was putting Christ first. His desire for himself, my mom, his children, and his grandchildren was for each of us to focus on God no matter what paths our life journey took us on. Through the highs and the lows, he wanted to make sure we prayed. What better way to keep our eyes focused on God than to pray to God, seeking Him first and foremost in our lives.

What better way to face a new and unknown year than to pray to the One Who is the author of that year. He is our Creator and the One Who knows what is going to happen. Why not give all of everything over to Him and give Him control

Make sure this year to take time to pray, pray, pray.

 

If you need to kick start your prayer life this year, check out Project Prayer or the Project Prayer Resources.

Moving Forward


Looking back makes it impossible to effectively move forward.

As our young sons enthusiastically ran out the front door to meet their grandparents, grandpa said, “I’m going to get you!” and took off running toward them. Michael quickly changed directions to run away. When he looked back to see how close grandpa was, he ran smack into a rather large tree. He hit the tree so hard that he fell backwards onto the ground and (I’m told) lost consciousness. Looking back made it impossible for Michael to safely move forward.

Another time, as we were hiking in the woods, our oldest son Steven turned around to tell us something as he continued to walk backward. As he went to turn back around, he hit the side of his head on a tree at the side of the path. Looking back had made it impossible for him to see the path ahead.

Jesus told his disciples: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

In order to ensure his plow would make a straight line, a farmer would fix his eyes on a point in the distance and aim for it. If he took his eyes off that point, his plow would begin to veer off course. A distracted farmer would have a field full of crooked rows. If he wanted the job done right, he kept his eyes pointed straight ahead and aimed for that fixed point.

In order for us to be effective workers in God’s kingdom, we must keep our eyes focused on Jesus. He is our fixed reference point. If we look back (or around) at our problems, our lives and work will veer off course. We might even run into a few trees!

As we begin to think about making New Year’s Resolutions, we need to look to Jesus for direction. While it is okay to look around (and, yes, even back) in order to evaluate the last year and make plans for the next. Once we’ve done that, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, begin moving forward, and not look back.

As you walk through this next year, may you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Remember that looking back will make it impossible for you to effectively and safely move forward. May God bless your journey this coming year!

 

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2016 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.