Category  |  Salvation

A Sad Story

Painfully, the evil that has long been swept under the rug—sexual abuse of many women by men who had power over them—has come to light. Enduring vile headline after headline, my heart sank when I heard proof of abuse by two men I admired. The church has our own sordid scandals. These days are a reckoning.

King David faced his own reckoning. Samuel tells us that one afternoon, David “saw a woman bathing” (2 Samuel 11:2). And David wanted her. Though Bathsheba was the wife of one his loyal soldiers (Uriah), David took her anyway. When Bathsheba told David she was pregnant, he panicked. And in a despicable act of treachery, David arranged for Joab to have Uriah die on the battlefield.

There was no hiding David’s abuse of power against Bathsheba and Uriah. Here it is in full color, Samuel ensuring we see this wretchedness. We must deal with our evil.

Also, we must hear such stories because they caution us against the abuse of power in our times. This was David, “a man after God’s [own] heart” (Acts 13:22), but also a man who needed to be held accountable for his actions. May we also prayerfully hold leaders accountable for how they use or abuse power.

By God’s grace, redemption is possible. If we read further, we encounter David’s profound contrition (2 Samuel 12:13). Thankfully, hard hearts can still turn from death to life.

Back in the Battle

As a child, she had hurled vicious words at her parents. Little did she know that those words would be her last interaction with her parents. Now, even after years of counseling, she can’t forgive herself. Guilt and regret paralyze her.

We all live with regrets—some of them quite terrible. But the Bible shows us a way through the guilt. Let’s look at one example.

There’s no sugarcoating what King David did. It was the time “when kings go off to war,” but “David remained in Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1). Away from the battle, he stole another man’s wife and tried to hide the deed with murder (11:14–15). God arrested David’s downward plunge (12:1–13), but the king would live the rest of his life with the knowledge of his sins.

While David was rising from the ashes, his general Joab was winning the battle David should have been leading (12:26). Joab challenged David, “Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it” (v. 28). David finally got back to his God-appointed place as the leader of his nation and his army (v. 29).

When we permit our past to crush us, in effect we’re telling God His grace isn’t enough. Regardless of what we’ve done, our Father extends His complete forgiveness to us. We can find, as David did, grace enough to get back in the battle.

Will You Come Back?

Ron and Nancy’s marriage was deteriorating rapidly. She had an affair, but after some time she admitted her sin to God. She knew what He wanted her to do but it was difficult. She shared the truth with Ron. Instead of asking for a divorce, Ron chose to give Nancy a chance to win his trust back by showing that she’d changed. In a miraculous way God restored their marriage.

Ron’s actions are a picture of God’s love and forgiveness shown toward sinners like you and me. The prophet Hosea understood this well. He was commanded by God to marry an unfaithful woman as a way to show Israel their status of unfaithfulness before Him (Hosea 1). If that wasn’t heartbreaking enough, when Hosea’s wife left him, God told him to ask her to come back. He said, “Show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress” (3:1). After all their disobedience, God longed for a close relationship with His people. Just as Hosea loved his unfaithful wife, pursued her, and sacrificed so much, so God loved His people. His righteous anger and jealousy were motivated by His great love.

This same God longs for us today to be near Him. As we come to Him in faith, we can trust that in Him we will find complete fulfillment.

Ready for Restoration

While stationed in Germany in the army I purchased a brand-new 1969 Volkswagen Bug. The car was a beauty! The dark green exterior complemented the brown leatherette interior. But as the years took their toll, stuff began to happen, including an accident that ruined the running board and destroyed one of the doors. With more imagination, I could have thought, “My classic car was a perfect candidate for restoration!” And with more money, I could have pulled it off. But that didn’t happen.

Thankfully the God of perfect vision and unlimited resources doesn’t give up so easily on battered and broken people. Psalm 85 describes people who were perfect candidates for restoration and the God who is able to restore. The setting is likely after the Israelites had returned from seventy years of exile (their punishment for rebellion against the Lord). Looking back they were able to see the Lord’s favor—including His forgiveness (vv. 1–3). They were motivated to ask the Lord for His help (vv. 4–7) and to expect good things from Him (vv. 8–13).

Who among us doesn’t occasionally feel battered, bruised, broken? And sometimes it’s because of something we’ve done to ourselves. But because the Lord is the God of restoration and forgiveness, those who humbly come to Him are never without hope. With open arms He welcomes those who turn to Him and those who do find safety in His arms.

 

Victory Parade

In 2016 when the Chicago Cubs baseball team won the World Series, for the first time in more than a century, five million people lined the parade route and gathered at a downtown rally to celebrate the championship.

Victory parades are not a modern invention. A famous ancient parade was the Roman Triumph, in which victorious generals led a procession of their armies and captives through crowded streets.

Such parade imagery was likely in Paul’s mind when he wrote to the Corinthian church thanking God for leading believers “as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession” (2 Corinthians 2:14). I find it fascinating that in this imagery, followers of Christ are the captives. However, as believers we’re not forced to participate, but are willing “captives,” willingly part of the parade led by the victorious, resurrected Christ. As Christians, we celebrate that through Christ’s victory, He is building His kingdom and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

When we talk about Jesus’s victory on the cross and the freedom it gives believers we help spread the “aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14). And whether people find the aroma to be the pleasing reassurance of salvation or the odor of their defeat, this unseen but powerful fragrance is present everywhere we go.

As we follow Christ, we declare His resurrection victory, the victory that makes salvation available to the world.

Football and Shepherds

An intriguing element of English football is the team anthem sung by the fans at the start of each match. These songs range from the fun (“Glad All Over”), to the whimsical (“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”), to the surprising. “Psalm 23,” for instance, is the anthem of the club from West Bromwich Albion. The words of that psalm appear on the façade inside the team’s stadium, declaring to everyone who comes to watch the “West Brom Baggies” the care of the good, great, and chief Shepherd.

In Psalm 23 David made his timeless statement, “The Lord is my shepherd” (v. 1). Later, the gospel writer Matthew would tell us, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). And in John 10, Jesus declared His love and concern for the human “sheep” of His generation. “I am the good shepherd,” He said. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v. 11). Jesus’s compassion drove His interactions with the crowds, His responses to their needs, and, ultimately, His sacrifice on their (and our) behalf.

“The Lord is my shepherd” is far more than an ancient lyric or a clever slogan. It is the confident statement of what it means to be known and loved by our great God—and what it means to be rescued by His Son.

Every Story

I opened the whimsically illustrated children’s Bible and began to read to my grandson. Immediately we were enthralled as the story of God’s love and provision unfurled in prose. Marking our place, I turned the book over and read the title once again: The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.

Every story whispers His name. Every story.

To be honest, sometimes the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is hard to understand. Why do those who don’t know God seem to triumph over God’s own? How can God permit such cruelty when we know that His character is pure and that His purposes are for our good?

After His resurrection, Jesus met two followers on the road to Emmaus who didn’t recognize Him and were struggling with disappointment over the death of their hoped-for Messiah (Luke 24:19–24). They had “hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (v. 21). Luke then records how Jesus reassured them: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

Every story whispers His name—even the hard stories because they reveal the comprehensive brokenness of our world and our need for a Rescuer. Every act, every event, every intervention points to the redemption God designed for His wayward loved ones: to bring us back to Himself.

Honest to God

My three-year-old grandson’s day was off to a rotten start. He couldn’t find his favorite shirt. The shoes he wanted to wear were too hot. He fussed and fumed at his grandmother and then sat down to cry.

“Why are you so upset?” I asked him. We talked for a while and after he calmed down, I gently inquired, “Have you been good for Grandma?” He looked thoughtfully at his shoes and responded, “No, I was bad. I’m sorry.”

My heart went out to him. Instead of denying what he had done, he was honest. In the following moments we asked Jesus to forgive us when we do wrong and to help us do better.

In Isaiah 1, God reasons with His people about wrongs they’ve committed. There were bribes and injustice in the courts, and orphans and widows were taken advantage of for material gain. Yet even then God responds mercifully, asking the people of Judah to confess what they’d done and turn from it: “Come now, let us settle the matter . . . Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).

God longs for us to be open with Him about our sins. He meets honesty and repentance with loving forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Because our God is merciful, new beginnings await!

The Lord Rejoices

My grandmother recently sent me a folder full of old photographs, and as I thumbed through them, one caught my eye. In it, I’m two years old, and I’m sitting on one end of a hearth in front of a fireplace. On the other end, my dad has his arm around my mom’s shoulders. Both are gazing at me with expressions of love and delight.

I pinned this photo to my dresser, where I see it every morning. It’s a wonderful reminder of their love for me. The truth is, though, that even the love of good parents is imperfect. I saved this photo because it reminds me that although human love may fail sometimes, God’s love never fails—and according to Scripture, God looks at me the way my parents are looking at me in this picture.

The prophet Zephaniah described this love in a way that astounds me. He describes God as rejoicing over His people with singing. God’s people had not earned this love. They had failed to obey Him or to treat each other with compassion. But Zephaniah promised that in the end, God’s love would prevail over their failures. God would take away their punishment (Zephaniah 3:15) and He would rejoice over them (v. 17). He would gather His people into his arms, bring them home, and restore them (v. 20).

That’s a love worth reflecting on every morning.

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