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Blessed Repentance

By |2022-11-26T01:33:15-05:00November 26th, 2022|

“BROKE” was the street name Grady answered to and those five letters were proudly emblazoned on his license plates. Though not intended in a spiritual sense, the moniker fit the middle-aged gambler, adulterer, and deceiver. He was broken, bankrupt, and far from God. However, all that changed one evening when he was convicted by God’s Spirit in a hotel room. He told his wife, “I think I’m getting saved!” That evening he confessed sins he thought he’d take with him to the grave and came to Jesus for forgiveness. For the next thirty years, the man who didn’t think he’d live to see forty lived and served God as a changed believer in Jesus. His license plates changed too—from “BROKE” to “REPENT.”

Repent. That’s what Grady did and that’s what God called Israel to do in Hosea 14:1–2. “Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. . . . Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: ‘Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously.’ ” Big or small, few or many, our sins separate us from God. But the gap can be closed by turning from sin to God and receiving the forgiveness He’s graciously provided through the death of Jesus. Whether you’re a struggling believer in Christ or one whose life looks like Grady’s did, your forgiveness is only a prayer away.

God Cleans the Stains

By |2022-03-30T09:06:03-04:00March 30th, 2022|

What if our clothes were more functional, having the ability to clean themselves after we dropped ketchup or mustard or spilled a drink on them? Well, according to the BBC, engineers in China have developed a special “coating which causes cotton to clean itself of stains and odors when exposed to ultraviolet lights.” Can you imagine the implications of having self-cleaning clothes?

A self-cleaning coating might work for stained clothing, but only God can clean a stained soul. In ancient Judah, God was angry with His people because they had “turned their backs on” Him, given themselves to corruption and evil, and were worshiping false gods (Isaiah 1:2–4). But to make matters worse, they tried to clean themselves by offering sacrifices, burning incense, saying many prayers, and gathering together in solemn assemblies. Yet their hypocritical and sinful hearts remained (vv. 12–13). The remedy was for them to come to their senses and with a repentant heart to bring the stains on their souls to a holy and loving God. His grace would cleanse them and make them spiritually “white as snow” (v. 18).

When we sin, there’s no self-cleaning solution. With a humble and repentant heart, we must acknowledge our sins and place them under the cleansing light of God’s holiness. We must turn from them and return to Him. And He, the only One who cleans the stains of the soul, will offer us complete forgiveness and renewed fellowship.

Hiding from God

By |2022-01-22T08:06:04-05:00January 22nd, 2022|

I squeezed my eyes shut and started counting aloud. My fellow third-grade classmates tore out of the room to find a place to hide. After scouring every cabinet, trunk, and closet for what felt like hours, I still couldn’t find one of my friends. I felt ridiculous when she finally jumped out from behind a lacey, potted fern hanging from the ceiling. Only her head had been eclipsed by the plant—the rest of her body had been in plain sight the entire time!

Since God is all-knowing, when Adam and Eve “hid from [Him]” in the garden of Eden, they were always in “plain sight” (Genesis 3:8). But they weren’t playing any childhood game; they were experiencing the sudden awareness—and shame—of their wrongdoing, having eaten from the tree God told them not to.

Adam and Eve turned from God and His loving provision when they disobeyed His instructions. Instead of withdrawing from them in anger, however, He sought them out, asking “Where are you?” It’s not that He didn’t know where they were, but He wanted them to know His compassionate concern for them (v. 9).

I couldn’t see my friend hiding, but God always sees us and knows us—to Him we’re always in plain sight. Just as He pursued Adam and Eve, Jesus sought us out while we were “yet sinners”—dying on the cross to demonstrate His love for us (Romans 5:8). We no longer need to hide.

Etch A Sketch Forgiveness

By |2022-01-10T08:06:03-05:00January 10th, 2022|

The little red rectangular box was magical. As a kid, I could play with it for hours. When I turned one knob on the box, I could create a horizontal line on its screen. Turn the other knob and voila—a vertical line. When I turned the knobs together, I could make diagonal lines, circles, and creative designs. But the real magic came when I turned my Etch A Sketch toy upside down, shook it a little and turned it right side up. A blank screen appeared, offering me the opportunity to create a new design.

God’s forgiveness works much like that Etch A Sketch game. He wipes away our sins, creating a clean canvas for us. Even if we remember wrongs we committed, God chooses to forgive and forget. He’s wiped them out and doesn’t hold our sins against us. He doesn’t treat us according to our sinful actions (Psalm 103:10), but extends grace through forgiveness. We have a clean slate—a new life awaiting us when we seek God’s forgiveness. We can be rid of guilt and shame because of His amazing gift to us.

The psalmist reminds us that our sins have been separated from us as the east is separated from the west (v. 12). That’s as far away as you can get! In God’s eyes, our sins no longer cling to us like a scarlet letter or a bad drawing. That’s reason to rejoice and to thank God for His amazing grace and mercy.

God Heals Our Brokenness

By |2021-11-18T08:06:11-05:00November 18th, 2021|

Collin and his wife, Jordan, wandered through the craft store, looking for a picture to hang in their home. Collin thought he’d found just the right piece and called Jordan over to see it. On the right side of the ceramic artwork was the word grace. But the left side held two long cracks. “Well, it’s broken!” Jordan said as she started looking for an unbroken one on the shelf. But then Collin said, “No. That’s the point. We’re broken and then grace comes in—period.” They decided to purchase the one with the cracks. When they got to the checkout, the clerk exclaimed, “Oh, no, it’s broken!” “Yes, so are we,” Jordan whispered.

What does it mean to be a “broken” person? Someone defined it this way: A growing awareness that no matter how hard we try, our ability to make life work gets worse instead of better. It’s a recognition of our need for God and His intervention in our lives.

The apostle Paul talked about our brokenness in terms of being “dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). The answer to our need to be forgiven and changed comes in verses 4 and 5: “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, makes us alive . . . it is by grace [we] have been saved.”

God is willing to heal our brokenness with His grace when we admit, “I’m broken.”

Crumbled from Within

By |2021-10-20T09:06:07-04:00October 20th, 2021|

When I was a teenager, my mom painted a mural on our living room wall, which stayed there for several years. It showed an ancient Greek scene of a ruined temple with white columns lying on their sides, a crumbling fountain, and a broken statue. As I looked at the Hellenistic architecture that had once held great beauty, I tried to imagine what had destroyed it. I was curious, especially when I began studying about the tragedy of once great and thriving civilizations that had decayed and crumbled from within.

The sinful depravity and wanton destruction we see around us today can be troubling. It’s natural for us to try to explain it by pointing to people and nations that have rejected God. But shouldn’t we be casting our gaze inwardly as well? Scripture warns us about being hypocrites when we call out others to turn from their sinful ways without also taking a deeper look inside our own hearts (Matthew 7:1–5).

Psalm 32 challenges us to see and confess our own sin. It’s only when we recognize and confess our personal sin that we can experience freedom from guilt and the joy of true repentance (vv. 1–5). And as we rejoice in knowing that God offers us complete forgiveness, we can share that hope with others who are also struggling with sin.

A Great Act of Love

By |2021-09-12T09:06:06-04:00September 12th, 2021|

In Oregon's Malheur National Forest, a fungus popularly known as the honey mushroom spreads through tree roots across 2,200 acres, making it the largest living organism ever found. It's been “weaving its black shoestring filaments” through the forest for more than two millennia, killing trees as it grows. Its shoestring filaments, called “rhizomorphs,” tunnel as deep as ten feet into the soil. And although the organism is incredibly large, it began with a single microscopic spore!

The Bible tells us of a single act of disobedience that caused widespread condemnation, and a single act of obedience that reversed it. The apostle Paul contrasted two individuals—Adam and Jesus (Romans 5:14–15). Adam’s sin brought condemnation and death “to all people” (v. 12). Through one act of disobedience, all people were made sinners and stood condemned before God (v. 17). But He had a means of dealing with humanity’s sin problem. Through the righteous act of Jesus on the cross, God provides eternal life and a right standing before Him. Christ’s act of love and obedience was powerful enough to overcome Adam’s one act of disobedience—providing “life for all people” (Romans 5:18).

Through His death on the cross, Jesus offers eternal life to anyone who puts their faith in Him. If you haven’t received His forgiveness and salvation, may you do so today. If you’re already a believer, praise Him for what He’s done by His great act of love!

Longing for God

By |2021-07-13T09:06:02-04:00July 13th, 2021|

When Conner and Sarah Smith moved five miles up the road, their cat S’mores expressed his displeasure by running away. One day Sarah saw a current photo of their old farmhouse on social media. There was S’mores in the picture!

Happily the Smiths went to retrieve him. S’mores ran away again. Guess where he went. This time, the family that had purchased their house agreed to keep S’mores too. The Smiths couldn’t stop the inevitable; S’mores would always return “home.”

Nehemiah served in a prestigious position in the king’s court in Susa, but his heart was elsewhere. He had just heard news of the sad condition of “the city where my ancestors are buried” (Nehemiah 2:3). And so he prayed, e had H“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, . . . ‘if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name’ ” (1:8–9).

Home is where the heart is, they say. In Nehemiah’s case, longing for home was more than being tied to the land. It was communion with God that he most desired. Jerusalem was “the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.”

The dissatisfaction we sense deep down is actually a longing for God. We’re yearning to be home with Him.

Facing the Darkness

By |2021-05-18T09:06:04-04:00May 18th, 2021|

In the mid-1960s, two people participated in research on the effects of darkness on the human psyche. They entered separate caves, while researchers tracked their eating and sleeping habits. One remained in total darkness for 88 days, the other 126 days. Each guessed how long they could remain in darkness and were off by months. One took what he thought was a short nap only to discover he’d slept for 30 hours. Darkness is disorienting.

The people of God found themselves in the darkness of impending exile. They waited, unsure of what would take place. The prophet Isaiah used darkness as a metaphor for their disorientation and as a way of speaking about God’s judgment (Isaiah 8:22). Previously, the Egyptians had been visited with darkness as a plague (Exodus 10:21–29). Now, it was Israel that found herself in darkness.

But a light would come. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2) Oppression would be broken, disorientation would end. A Child would come to change everything and bring about a new day—a day of forgiveness and freedom (v. 6).

Jesus did come! And although the darkness of the world can be disorienting, may we experience the comfort of the forgiveness, freedom, and light found in Christ.

Guilt and Forgiveness

By |2021-05-16T09:06:02-04:00May 16th, 2021|

In his book Human Universals, anthropologist Donald Brown lists more than four hundred behaviors that he considers common across humanity. He includes such things as toys, jokes, dances, and proverbs, wariness of snakes, and tying things with string! Likewise, he believes all cultures have concepts of right and wrong, where generosity is praised, promises valued, and things like meanness and murder understood to be wrong. We all have a sense of conscience, wherever we’re from.

The apostle Paul made a similar point many centuries ago. While God gave the Jewish people the Ten Commandments to clarify right from wrong, Paul noted that since gentiles could do right by obeying their conscience, God’s laws were evidently written on their hearts (Romans 2:14–15). But that didn’t mean people always did what was right. The gentiles rebelled against their conscience (1:32), the Jews broke the Law (2:17–24), leaving both guilty. But through faith in Jesus, God removes the death penalty from all our rule-breaking (3:23–26; 6:23).

Since God created all humans with a sense of right and wrong, each of us will likely feel some guilt over a bad thing we’ve done or a good thing we failed to do. When we confess those sins, God wipes away the guilt like a whiteboard wiped clean. All we have to do is ask Him—whoever we are, wherever we’re from.

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