I know my Redeemer lives

Life is complicated. It’s wild and crazy and stressful, and if you let it, the crazy problems can become what you focus on. Or the bad things in life can become the elements that control you. Why is it so much easier to focus on the things that are going wrong than it is to pay attention to what’s going right?

I’m going to be brief this morning because the concept today is very simple.

Sometimes in life, I know I feel like things spin out of control. And it’s very tempting to rely on what I feel. It’s easy to rely on emotions because they’re easily accessible. But whatever else emotions are, they are deceptive. Because you can’t trust what you feel. It changes from day to day. It changes as you get older. It changes for no apparent reason most of the time.

So sometimes — really most of the time — we shouldn’t rely on what we feel. But we should rely on what we know.

Generally speaking, what we know doesn’t change. Of course, everything changes eventually. But things we know for sure don’t.

The verse today comes out of Job. And if you’ve never read the book of Job, it’s quite an interesting story. This man was a good man, and God was pleased with him. But Satan claimed that if God took away all of Job’s things, Job would curse Him. So God allowed Satan to do terrible things to Job and to his family, and Job turned right around and praised God in spite of everything.

That’s where we find this statement in Job 19:25.

25 “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
      and he will stand upon the earth at last.

Have you ever gotten to the point where you just don’t know what to feel anymore? Where you’re so overwhelmed with work or family or life or some combination of all the above that you can’t even identify what you feel? When all life feels like it’s going down the drain? I’ve been there before.

And when I’m there, I can either choose to keep focusing on the parts of life that are going crazy. Or I can choose to step back and focus on what I know to be true.

I know my Redeemer lives.

It’s as simple as that.

Jesus is alive. He loves me. He’s got everything figured out. God never makes mistakes, and He never breaks His promises.

I know that. I forget it sometimes because it’s easy to feel like everything is out of control, but that’s when I have to remember what I know. And I know that God has everything covered because that’s what the Bible says.

Life is crazy. Jesus isn’t.

Attitude is like Faith – you can’t see it but it changes everything

Does anyone else struggle with their attitude? Generally speaking, I’m usually okay, as long as my day is going all right and no one upsets me . . . or if nobody expects more out of me than I’m prepared to give . . . or if people don’t act like buttheads . . . or as long as people don’t drive like idiots . . .or as long as people do their own jobs. If everybody else manages to behave, I am usually able to keep my attitude in check.

But on the days when the people around me don’t behave? Yeah. Watch out.

It’s so strange too because all it takes sometimes is one thing going wrong — or one person acting stupid — and my attitude (and all of my good intentions) can go down the drain. How silly is that? That one person can affect my entire attitude?

My attitude is mine. It’s my choice. It’s not like you’re born with a bad attitude, even though some people act like it. Our attitudes are a choice we make, usually every morning when we wake up. In my case, my attitude is a choice I make after I drink my morning coffee . . . . But it’s a choice I have to keep making throughout the entire day.

Attitudes are kind of like faith because it’s something you choose and have to keep reminding yourself that you’ve chosen even when the world blows up around you. Attitudes aren’t some ethereal, abstract concept floating around in the ambiguity of life’s gray spots: they are real, concrete choices you have to make every moment of every day.

When I wake up in the morning, I can choose that I’m going to have a good attitude today and that no matter what happens to me I’m going to keep that good attitude. But I guarantee that I will have to remind myself of that choice a couple of hours into my day when someone cuts me off in traffic, or when some kamikaze suicide driver pulls out in front of me off Bently Road (it happens every morning). And then I’ll have to remind myself again when I get to work and discover that some project I worked my butt off on yesterday has been redone and I have to spend another week on it.

Attitudes are important because they determine how we handle the events in our lives. It’s beyond optimism and pessimism. That’s more of a personality issue. Like whether or not you say a glass if half empty or half full. I have always said half full. I know someone else who says half empty. I’m an optimist. This other person is a pessimist. But we both have good attitudes.

Attitudes reach beyond our personalities. Beyond our inclinations and proclivities. Beyond our talents and our identities.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:5-8 that we need to have an attitude like Christ had.

5You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

 6 Though he was God,[a]
      he did not think of equality with God
      as something to cling to.
 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
      he took the humble position of a slave[c]
      and was born as a human being.
   When he appeared in human form,[d]
    8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
      and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

That is a tall order. Have an attitude like Christ? Is that even possible? How can we even begin to do something like that?

Jesus was God. Period. It wasn’t that He was a man who God had chosen. It wasn’t that He was a man who had worked hard enough to be good enough. It wasn’t that He was even just the Son of God. He was God. (He is God, rather.) They are one and the same.

While He was on Earth, He could have demanded royal treatment. He could have had people bowing at His feet, worshipping Him. He deserved it. Even before He died for us, He deserved it. He would have been well within His right.

But He didn’t.

He was born in the dirt and filth of a stable. He grew up in a poor home. He was a blue-collar worker, a man who worked with His hands. He was despised by the people of his town because they looked at Him like an illegitimate child.

I’m telling you what, if anyone was entitled to have a bad attitude, it was Jesus.

Just imagine what it was like for Him. God sent Him down here, first of all (They’re the same, but They’re different; don’t ask me to explain the Trinity and don’t try to explain it to me either because you can’t). Jesus had lived in Heaven so how could Earth even begin to compare? It was filthy and nasty and dirty and poverty stricken, full of people who were vile and cruel and wicked on good days. And Jesus was here to die an agonizing death for us, so He lived with that knowledge hanging over His head for His entire life. Can’t you imagine what He must have felt when people mistreated Him? When people spoke ill of Him or made fun of Him or pressed Him to do things for them that they should have done for themselves? He could have easily put on the martyr attitude. Or the put-upon child attitude. Or the whiny attitude.

And it’s not like He’d done anything to deserve ill treatment, either.

He was God, in the flesh, on Earth, being mistreated. And what did He do?

He healed people. He loved people. He laughed with people. He cried with people. He was humble. No, He was beyond humble. I don’t think humble is a good enough word to describe the life Christ lived on Earth. I just think it’s the only term available to us at the moment.

So how can I justify getting angry at bad drivers? How can I justify letting my attitude slip into something dark and moody when someone mistreats me? I can’t. There is no justification for it. I’m sure Jesus had bad days too, but they didn’t affect His entire attitude. And that’s what I need to work on. When events in my life all feel like they’re stacking up into a mountain that’s higher than I can climb, I don’t need to get gunchy . . . I just need to take a step back and let God help.

I need to have an attitude like Jesus did. And I need to keep that attitude, no matter what happens to me throughout a day. I may have to decide to keep that attitude twenty times in a 24-hour period . . . but when the day is over, it will be worth it. Because even if everything in your life is going down the drain, if you can keep a positive attitude and keep your focus on God, you can deal with anything. You can have joy in the worst circumstances. Not only that, but it’s so much easier to remember that God is in control.

We only search for things we can’t replace

This might come as a surprise for folks, but I’m a disorganized sort of person. No matter how I try to organize things, they all end up falling to pieces. I don’t really understand it. Because in my head, I have a plan. My mind is orderly . . . it just doesn’t look like it. Maybe that’s the key. I’m actually organized, but my organization method looks like chaos to someone who can’t read it.

Ha. That reminds me of my first supervisor at the WSU Library, when I was a student worker. She asked me in my interview why we file things correctly, and my response was so that other people can find them again. Understanding that concept I think is what got me the job. But that concept is a lot easier to apply to a job than it is to your entire life.

Due to my disorganization, unfortunately, I lose a lot of things. I misplace papers, flash drives, hair elastics, shoes, keys. You name it, I’ve probably lost it at one point or another.

In the case of hair elastics, when I lose one, I just go get another one off the roll. Since I don’t really care if they coordinate with whatever color I’m wearing, it doesn’t matter which one I use. They’re all the same. So that usually isn’t a problem. However, it becomes a problem when you run out of hair elastics on the roll. But by that point, you have them scattered all over the house, so it’s easy to find one again.

In the case of flash drives . . . . Yeah, that’s a big one. To give you an idea of how much I use my flash drive, I just had to switch my main flash drive out for one with more room becuase it was full. My main flash drive had a 1GB and I upgraded it to a 2GB. That wouldn’t be a big deal if I carried images and photos and other media sorts of things on it. And I do. There are a few of those files scattered around on it. But the vast majority of the files on my flash drive are Word Documents. Stories. Shorts. Skits. Plays. Almost 1GB of writing. That flash drive is my entire freakin’ writing life — 17 years of it.

Yes, I have it backed up. In more than one place. I learned that the hard way one day when I couldn’t find my flash drive anywhere.

I’m telling you, that was gut wrenching. That was about two years ago. So 15 years worth of writing had just disappeared. I didn’t know where it was. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I tore my room apart. I tore my house apart. You would have thought that flash drive was worth a million dollars or something (well, maybe someday it will be if I can ever get into print! Lol!). But I eventually did find it. It had fallen out of my bag at work. Since then, I’ve dropped it in parking lots and always miraculously recovered it. I’ve left it in restaurants. I’ve lost it in my car (but that’s par for the course since I get lost in my car).

I know I’m random, but I thought about all that when I read today’s verse, Luke 19:10.

10 For the Son of Man[a] came to seek and save those who are lost.”

The Son of Man is a title Jesus used to refer to Himself. Basically, Jesus is declaring His purpose. Jesus came to Earth to seek and to save. He came to Earth looking for people who were lost. I think that should tell us something, both about ourselves and about Jesus.

We are precious to Jesus. If we weren’t, He’d just find a replacement for us. But we matter to Him. So He spent time and effort to come down here looking for us.

Beyond dying for us, He cared enough about us to search for us. There are also stories in the Book of Luke about a shepherd who loses a sheep and a woman who loses a coin. Both of them search tirelessly for what they’ve lost until it is restored to them.

That’s what Jesus did. That’s what He does. We’re pitiful, silly little people wandering around down here with no real purpose, only interested in living for ourselves. And Jesus comes down here looking for us, and when He finds us He tells us taht there’s so much more to live than us, so much more than what we can see. And He doesn’t give up until we give in and follow Him.

Now I keep a backup of my flash drive, but the flash drive still always holds my most currently updated information. And if I lose it before I get the chance to back it up, you’d better believe that I’m going to spend as much time as I need looking for it. Because it’s precious to me. It’s not like a hair elastic that I can just replace. My flash drive is one of a kind because it contains all the files I’ve created.

We are unique to God, and when we are lost, He won’t hesitate to spend as much time as He needs to come find us. And that’s comforting to me on so many levels, because as much as I am a disorganized person, my sense of direction sucks too. Both figuratively and literally.

The hard part is following Him when He shows up. But He’s the one who came looking for me. He’s the one with the map. And He’s the one who knows the road. Refusing to follow Him probably isn’t a good idea.

Change stinks . . . or does it?

Change is hard. It doesn’t matter what is changing, I find it difficult to adapt. Maybe it’s because I’m a creature of habit. Maybe it’s because I get too comfortable. I’m not really sure. Change is just hard for me.

I know many other people who don’t struggle with change, though. Some people thrive on it. It seems to me that these folks never stop changing. Like they can’t ever do the same thing twice or they decide to change things just to keep life interesting. Personally, I find life interesting enough without changing my plans or my habits daily.

However, sometimes change is good. I know it’s necessary most of the time. And even the changes I don’t like, I can see the need for, even if I have a hard time adapting to it.

The book of Hebrews is one of the deepest books of the Bible. It’s really really difficult to wrap my head around most of the things that go on in Hebrews, but one of the concepts throughout the book is change. Hebrews is talking about the difference between the old religious system that used to be the way to God and the new promise God has set up through Jesus.

This was something that had to change. It needed to change. The old system was flawed, broken, insufficient. It had worked for the time being, until the time was right for God to send Jesus into the world. But after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the old system wasn’t necessary anymore. So it was time for a change.

In the old system, people had to live under the crazy, detailed laws set down in Leviticus. They had to make sacrifices, portraying a picture of innocent blood spilt for their sins. There was a laundry list of things people had to do to be right with God in the Old Testament. But every rule and every law people had to follow pointed forward to the promise God had made them — that the rules He’d set up were only temporary and that Someone Better was coming to take away their sins.

The whole chapter of Hebrews 7 is talking about Jesus as our High Priest.

Israel had hundreds of high priests, and they had a tremendously somber responsibility of being the ones who communicated with God. The priests were the ones who made the annual sacrifice. They were the only ones allowed into the holiest chamber of the temple, where God’s presence resided at times. The high priest, I guess you could say, was the intercessor for Israel. The high priest was the one who stood in the gap and communicated between God and the people of Israel. But the high priests before Christ were limited because they were only human. They sinned. They died. They could only do so much.

But Jesus isn’t limited by humanity. He was human, so He knows what it’s like to be human. But He’s also God. Jesus lives forever so as our new High Priest, His priesthood lasts forever.

This is where we find our verse of the day in Hebrews 7:25.

25 Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save[e] those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.

Through Jesus, we have direct access to God Himself. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, because He gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins, when we choose to believe that, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us, and we are granted access to the throneroom of God. We no longer need to go to a priest to ask forgiveness. We can just ask for ourselves. We no longer need anyone to stand between us and God; Jesus already did that once and for all.

If you read the Old Testament, you’ll see that there were many high priests and most of them were utter failuers, if not in their leadership than in their family lives. But Jesus is something different. He always has been something different.

The old system didn’t work. It was like putting a bandage on an amputated limb. It treated the symptoms and not the illness itself.

What Jesus did changed everything.

Change is hard and difficult to get used to, but some changes have to happen. Some things need to change. And God had been planning this specific change for millennia. For thousands of years, God had been promising that the old system would go away in favor of a New Covenant.

Change is difficult. It’s scary. It’s unknown and it always presents a risk because you don’t know what else changing your life will affect. But if God is calling you to change something, you need to do it. Because when God directs a change, the results will be better than what you’re living with right now.

Best kept secret

Do you have secrets? I do. There are a lot of things that only I know. A few of them I’ve shared with others, but there are still some things that I haven’t told anyone. Some secrets are very deep and important. Others are less important, like the name of a character in a manuscript I haven’t written yet. In either case, no on else knows these secret things.

Whether it’s wise or not to keep something secret probably depends on the motivation for hiding the truth. I know as an author keeping a ending of a manuscript secret is a good idea; otherwise, no one will want to read your book. Conversely, keeping a secret about breaking the law or doing something that is morally wrong for fear of getting caught isn’t a good idea.

Although secrets are good and find in some cases, keeping secrets isn’t the best option, generally speaking. People aren’t meant to live secret lives. We’re always better off if we live in the open, being real, being genuine.

The verse this morning got me thinking about secrets but not in the context you might think.

Colossians 1:27-28

27For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

 28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect[a] in their relationship to Christ.

These verses come right after a verse where Paul is explaining that for many generations past, the entire message of God, the whole story of God’s plan, was kept a secret from different people groups other than the Israelites. Now, I can think of a few examples in the Old Testament where the Israelites reached out to different cultures and one or two people would respond and become God Followers. But it was rare. The Old Testament is all about Israel, its history, its failures, God’s triumphs, its kings, its children, the mistakes they made.

All Israelites all the time.

Is that because of Abraham and God’s promise to him? Is it becuase God knew non-Israelites at the time wouldn’t be receptive as a whole to Him? I don’t know. All I know is that when the New Testament starts, the entire culture of Israel has changed. And when Christ arrives on the scene, He doesn’t just reach out to Jews, He reaches out to non-Jews. The Bible calls them Gentiles. And they follow Him.

And at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, after Christ has raised from the dead and is ascending into heaven, He gives what people call, the Great Commission, ordering His disciples into the world to preach the truth to people who don’t believe. Jesus sends them out into the world to all people.

This is what Paul is talking about in Colossians. The riches and glory of Christ are for the Gentiles too. It doesn’t matter if we’re not Jewish, Christ died for all people. And everyone can be saved.

Christianity isn’t a club where only the super important are allowed entrance. That’s the way a lot of churches treat it, but that was never how Jesus lived it. He loved everyone. He healed everyone. He accepted everyone . . . well, everyone except the arrogant religious elite. But even among the religious elite, a man named Nicodemus showed humility and came to Christ with questions, and Jesus never turned Him away.

There are more stories than I can count in the New Testament about Jesus interacting with Gentiles. Some of the Books of the New Testament were even written to Gentile churches.

The truth of God’s Word was once kept secret from anyone who wasn’t a Jew. But that was in the past. The message of Scripture and the truth of what God has done shouldn’t stay secret anymore. But we are always tempted to keep it that way, because we have bought into the lie that faith is better kept as a secret.

It’s hard, though, because you want to be treated normally by your coworkers and your friends, and I know I get scared because I don’t want people to think I’m a freak. So most times I back off and bite my tongue. But Christ isn’t supposed to be the best kept secret in the world; He’s supposed to be the Person everyone wants to know, the Friend everyone wants to talk about.

Christianity isn’t exclusive. Neither is God. And I’m glad for that, otherwise I wouldn’t know Him. The Jews are God’s chosen people, but right now we’re in the Age of the Church, focusing totally on Gentiles. But the Age of the Church won’t last forever. So we need to do what we can to reveal the secret of Christ to the rest of the world before we run out of time.

Live for Christ while you can because the day is coming soon when there won’t be anyone left to tell Christ about. If He’s a secret now, the day is coming where His secret will be out and you won’t be able to tell anyone about Him anymore.