Redemption.

Redemption.

This word is reverberating inside me tonight.

Those of you who have known me for a number of years would know that I was sick with severe eczema as a child and into my 20’s, and have been hospitalised a number of times for this condition.

I was talking to my mother earlier tonight and just reflecting on my childhood, and our journey together over the last 20 or so years. I was a very needy young child. One that needed lots of attention and affection but never really got it and in fact probably got rejection from a mother who perhaps didn’t know what she was doing

As I grew older this rejection and neediness developed in several key ways. Physically, I began to suffer with firstly bad asthma, then bad acne, and then eczema. Psychologically, I was hugely afraid of rejection and yet I craved acceptance and attention from people. I was deeply insecure. The eczema was a vicious cycle – the red, swollen and raw skin on my face particularly was cause for more shame and more fear of rejection from others.

The world spoke rejection, my flesh spoke shame.

Coping for me was escaping. I would escape in addictions to video games, and later alcohol. These were all superficial bandages placed over a festering inner wound. And all the while I was trying to get people’s attention to look at a fake puffed up Jeremy, while being ashamed and insecure inside.

God took me through a number of events beginning about 3-4 years ago where in more ways than one, he pulled off the bandages, exposing those wounds. Physically, my eczema perhaps had never been worse. I would go to work and would come home with blood splotches on my work shirts and pants from the raw exposed flesh. It was certainly one of the most difficult times of my life. I was hurting physically, and psychologically. I held desperately onto God not seeing any alternative.

The world spoke rejection, my flesh spoke shame. 

But Jesus began to speak redemption.

So tenderly, and mostly during my personal times of prayer and worship, he began to minister to my hurts, wounds, and insecurities. More than anything else it was a time where the deep love of God regularly flooded my mind and my heart both in the present but also in the past in my memory. I had one particular incident as a kid where I had so craved the attention of my mum and having not received it, I curled up on the ground in foetal position and just began to screech and yell. Jesus took me back to that memory and just wrapped himself around me, on that floor, holding me tight.

And Jesus spoke love and acceptance. He spoke redemption.

First there was emotional healing, but then surely enough, my eczema began to improve. Today, it is not quite all gone, but it is almost as if it does not exist. God is good to me. And the process of my emotional and physical healing was so closely tied to a restoration of relationship with my mother and her own journey of coming alive, it could only have been the work of a God who has not changed since orchestrating the singly most painful, yet life-giving event of human history 2000 years ago.

Steve Hwang spoke a deep word tonight on tribulation at Sydhop. I will attempt to paraphrase, adding my own nuances to it: we all experience degrees of suffering and trial in our lives. We are all products of a broken humanity and inside us are festering wounds that we can only manage to bandage up at the best of times. This is true whether we have the clarity to see it or not. And actually the deepest moments of trial and suffering in our lives are perhaps the products of God’s grace and mercy released to reveal the depths of our wounds. The question is: are we willing to come to a place of acceptance and patient endurance in these tribulations before God? If we do, then our tribulations and sufferings become our inheritance. He is a God of redemption. You see what was a weakness, and what was death, is suddenly our strength, it is suddenly our life. In the dying and in the suffering, there is life and there is freedom.

And this is our hope. And this is our story. And this is our testimony. That in every valley, Jesus is speaking redemption, and God is leading the way to the mountain top, that in every Bathsheba, there is a saviour born, that in every cross, there is life now and life eternal, that out of the ashes, beauty rises.

 

The wondrous dance of divine sovereignty and human freedom.

We must be sure of the reality that human beings have complete freedom and free-will. And yet in and the fullness of human freedom, God is completely sovereign. I don’t believe God has a plan B, he is far too sovereign. Jesus was not plan B. Somehow in the glorious dance of divine sovereignty and human freedom, both are fully in expression, and in this sense you cannot possibly miss out on what is God’s plan A for you.

The words of Joseph to his brothers in Pharoah’s palace come to mind:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Gen 50:20)”

Disobedience is not a cause for you to miss out on that God has for you. He is far too good to us, and far too sovereign. This reality doesn’t take anything away from the fact that we actually were disobedient. And this is the beauty of this ‘dance’ – divine will does not smother human freedom.

This is our hope – that there is redemption in every fall, hope in every valley, life in every death. When we look upon the events of crucifixion of Christ, in what was a great display of human ignorance and arrogance, lay the greatest redeeming act in the history of the universe. In that one event, in the fullness of human disobedience, hatred, pride and ignorance, the son of God was crucified by men. In that same event, in the fullness of divine design and goodness and redemption, the race of men was redeemed by God.

We are without a doubt the most blessed race to ever exist for the fact that we have perfect reason for the fullness of hope in every moment, and in particular in the darkest moments of our lives.

And so in such a way, we can see that in the beautiful reality of the Kingdom of God, there exists the space for the fullness of responsibility and accountability and yet a fullness of rest, peace and joy.

Musings on the nature of the Kingdom

I made a bold statement in my last post about the kingdom being a political, social, economic, cultural and religious revolution. And this post elaborates a little on that statement as well as taking a few tangents.

The Kingdom of God and Western Evangelical Christianity
The kingdom of God advances with the proclamation and the interaction of the gospel upon the spheres of this world and our lives. What I feel western evangelical Christians are clear on is that the gospel brings us personal redemption from our sins. And yet sometimes this is a bit of a lofty concept that never really finds a grounding in our Mondays and in our coffee drinking and teeth pulling.

And yet the gospel that Jesus preaches, and proclaims and enacts was not merely one that pertained only to people’s spiritualities. In the ‘gospels’ we see a gospel that permeates all spheres of our lives , and every cell in our bodies. It pertains to our physical bodies, it pertains to religion, it pertains to social structures, it pertains to cultures. And when we let this gospel invade our hearts and lives from the bottom up, as it often so gently does, like gentle ocean currents, all of a sudden we find redemption in all spheres of our lives. We find it in our hearts in it’s expansion and in it’s tenderising. We find it in our minds and in it’s broadening and sharpening and unveiling. We find it in our eyes in their opening and in their newfound sight. We find it in our dreams and in their discovering. We find it in our passions and in their awakening. We find it in our bodies and in it’s healing. And it creeps into our jobs and our relationships and etc. The gospel of the kingdom somehow gives real meaning and real worth to everything we find ourselves in.

Incarnation and Redemption
The nature of incarnation is “God with us”, in which the “with” is so very real. The divine becomes the fleshly, the sacred becomes the secular, God becomes man. There is a wholism if there is such a word, that is created by the divine becoming man and furthermore, a man with hands that fashions things from wood.

And in the becoming there comes a redeeming and a divinizing you could say – because God becomes man, and then lifts man to the level of God. And in this assessment of things, there can be no dichotomy between the sacred and the secular, the physical, the spiritual, the mental in the sense that one is not better than the other. For e.g. the pastor is not more spiritual than the layperson. The lay person does not do his job only to pay the pastors wages, but there is real inherent value in all activity and all ‘work’. In the same vein, the spirituality and teachings and lessons from the pastor must have real applications in one’s day to day working life. God and the gospel cannot be limited to Sunday mornings and the short prayer before our meals.  Spirituality is physicality and is psychology.

So this is my hope: that our King is in the business of redeeming.

He is redeeming every decision, every molecule and atom and quark, every personality, every emotion, every cell, every plane and dimension.

And he is in the business of redeeming a generation.