Thursday, September 29, 2011

September 30, 2011

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.  Ephesians 1:1-10

Paul, the Great Apostle begins his greeting to the Ephesian church by reminding them of the great redemption they have in God through His Son, Jesus. That sounds like something good but what IS redemption and what does t means?



"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will."

The well-known and somewhat controversial Tomy Campolo share this experience from one of his many out of the box outreach attempts:

I had to go to speak in Honolulu. Well, sometimes you get L.A. and sometimes you get Honolulu. If you go to Honolulu, because of the distance from the east coast where I live, there's a six-hour time difference. And I woke up at about three o'clock in the morning and I was hungry and I wanted to get something to eat. But, in a hustling city like Honolulu at three o'clock in the morning, it's hard to find anything that's open. Up a side street, I spotted this greasy spoon, and I went in. It was one of these dirty places and they didn't have any booths, just row of stools at the counter. I sat down a bit uneasy and I didn't touch the menu. It was one of those plastic menus and grease had piled up on it. I knew that if I opened it, something extraterrestrial would have crawled out. All of the sudden, this very heavy-set, unshaved man with a cigar came out of the back room, put down his cigar, and said, "What do you want?"
I said, "I'd like a cup of coffee and a donut."

He poured the coffee and then he scratched himself and, with the same hand, picked up the donut. I hate that. So, there I am, three-thirty in the morning, drinking my coffee, and eating this dirty donut. And into the place comes about eight or nine prostitutes. It's a small place, they sit on either side of me, and I tried to disappear. The woman on my immediate right was very boisterous and she said to her friend, "Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm going to be thirty-nine."

Her friend said, "So what do you want me to do? Do you want me to sing happy birthday? Should we have a cake a party? It's your birthday."

The first woman said, "Look, why do you have to put me down? I've never had a birthday party in my whole life. I don't expect to have one now."

That's all I needed. I waited until they left and I called Harry over and I asked, "Do they come in here every night?”

He said, "Yes."

I said, "The one right next to me..." "Agnes."

"Tomorrow is her birthday. What do you think about decorating the place? When she comes in tomorrow night, we'll throw a birthday party for her. What do you think?"

He said, "Mister, that is brilliant. That is brilliant!" He called his wife out of the back room. "Jan, come out here. I want you to meet this guy. He wants to throw a birthday party for Agnes."

She came out and took my hand and squeezed it tightly, and said, "You wouldn't understand this, mister, but Agnes is one of the good people, one of the kind people in this town. And nobody ever does anything for her, and this is a good thing. I said, "Can I decorate the place?"

She said, "To your heart's content."

I said, "I'm going to bring a birthday cake...

Harry said, "Oh no! The cake's my thing!"

So, I got there the next morning at about two-thirty. I had bought the streamers at the K-mart, strung them about the place. I had made a big poster – ""Happy Birthday Agnes" and put it behind the counter. I had the place spruced up. Everything was set. Everything was ready. Jan, who does the cooking, she had gotten the word out on the street. By three-fifteen, every prostitute was squeezed into this diner. People, it was wall-to-wall prostitutes and me!

Three-thirty in the morning, in come Agnes and her friends. I've got everybody set, everybody ready.

As they come through the door, we all yell, "Happy birthday Agnes!" In addition, we start cheering like mad. I've never seen anybody so stunned. Her knees buckled. They steadied her and sat her down on the stool. We all started singing, "Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to you!"

When they brought out the cake, she lost it and started to cry. Harry just stood there with the cake and said, "All right, knock it off Agnes. Blow out the candles. Come on, blow out the candles." She tried, but she couldn't, so he blew out the candles, gave her the knife, and said, "Cut the cake, Agnes."

She sat there for a long moment and then she said to me, "Mister, is it okay if I don't cut the cake? What I'd like to do, mister, is take the cake home and show it to my mother. Could I do that?"

I said, "It's your cake." She stood up, and I said, "Do you have to do it now?" She said, "I live two doors down. Let me take the cake home and show it to my mother. I promise you I'll bring it right back." And she moved toward the door carrying the cake as though it was the Holy Grail. As she pushed through the crowd and out the door, the door swung slowly shut and there was stunned silence. You talk about an awkward moment. Everyone was motionless. Everyone was still I didn't know what to say. So, I finally said, "What do you say, we pray?" It's weird looking back on it now. You know a sociologist leading a prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes at three-thirty in the morning in a diner. But, it was the right thing to do. I prayed that God would deliver her from what dirty filthy men had done to her. You know how these things start some ten, eleven, or twelve year old girl gets messed over and destroyed by some filthy man and then she goes downhill from there. And men use her and abuse her. I said, "God, deliver her and make her into a new creation because I've got a God who can make us new no matter where we've been or what we've been through." And I prayed that God would make her new.

When I finished my prayer, Harry leaned over the counter and he said, "Campolo, you told me you were a sociologist. You're no sociologist, you're a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?"

In one of those moments when you come up with just the right words, I said, "I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at three-thirty in the morning."

I'll never forget his response. He looked back at me and he said, "No you don't, no you don't. I would join a church like that!"

Tony Campolo saw an opportunity to show redemptive love to a young lady who never experienced true love. She had only known lustful use and abuse which diminished her as a peson and made her an object. Agnes was trapped in a dead-end life with no way out. That is until someone with real love sought her.

Wow! That sounds a lot like you and me! We were lost in our trespasses and sins. We were trapped in the slavery of darkness and desire. But "God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  Romans 5:8

Redemption is a wonderful thing! Redemption means that God sought you!

September 29, 2011

"And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Hebrews 9:10-14

The value of anything is a function of its demand and its availability.

Also, value is determined by the price someone is willing to pay.

This is why redemption is such a highly prized commodity. Everyone would love a second chance in life but those are hard to come by. In fact, it was impossible to have a second chance until Jesus purchased it through the shedding of His blood upon the cross of calvary. On that cross He bought back in blood what Adam had lost by his sinful rebellion against God.

Adam sold us out when he disobeyed God in Eden. God had created him especially to tend the garden and produce food to meet the needs of his family. When he allowed himself to be decieved by Satan he surrendered the power and authority given him by God. Jesus, born sinless and living without sin, He became the sacrifice tfor our sins to settle the debt for those sins.

Being redeemed means you have been bought back out of slavery and into God's glorious freedom. Through the shed blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, God paid the price to ransom you from slavery to sin and death and hell. As the song declares, "He paid a debt He didn't owe to release you from a debt you couldn't pay".

When God redeemed you from slavery He didn't take you as a slave but He adopted you as a child! As a child of God you are a joint-heir of all the riches and all the authority that belonged to Jesus. So, redemption means you were set free - you were bought back from abject poverty and absolute slavery into glorious freedom as God's child! You have gone from having nothing to having everything!

"Redemption" is a term of endearment! Now you understand why?!