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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.

Faith in Action

By |2022-11-22T01:33:02-05:00November 22nd, 2022|

A tornado blew through a community on a June evening in 2021, destroying a family’s barn. It was a sad loss because the barn had been on the family property since the late 1800s. As John and Barb drove by on their way to church the next morning, they saw the damage and wondered how they might help. So they stopped and learned that the family needed assistance with cleanup. Turning their car around quickly, they headed back home to change clothes and returned to stay for the day to clean up the mess the violent winds had created. They put their faith into action as they served the family.

James said that “faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26). He gives the example of Abraham, who in obedience followed God when he didn’t know where he was going (v. 23, see Genesis 12:1–4; 15:6). James also mentions Rahab, who showed her belief in the God of Israel when she hid the spies who came to check out the city of Jericho (2:25; see Joshua 2; 6:17).

“If someone claims to have faith but has no deeds,” it does them no good (James 2:26). “Faith is the root, good works are the fruits, and we must see to it that we have both” (Matthew Henry Commentary). God doesn’t need our good deeds, but our faith is proven by our actions.

Narrow Door Cafe

By |2022-05-28T09:06:03-04:00May 28th, 2022|

Croissants, dumplings, pork curry, and all sorts of scrumptious food await those who find and enter the Narrow Door Cafe. Located in the Taiwanese city of Tainan, this cafe is literally a hole in the wall. Its entrance is barely 40 centimeters wide (less than16 inches)—just enough for the average person to squeeze his way through! Yet, despite the challenge, this unique cafe has attracted large crowds.

Will this be true of the narrow door described in Luke 13:22–30? Someone asked Jesus, “Are only a few people going to be saved?” (v. 23). In reply, Jesus challenged the person to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door” to God’s kingdom (v. 24). He was essentially asking, “Will the saved include you?” Jesus used this analogy to urge the Jews not to be presumptuous. Many of them believed they would be included in God’s kingdom because they were Abraham’s descendants or because they kept the law. But Jesus challenged them to respond to Him before “the owner of the house . . . closes the door” (v. 25). 

Neither our family background nor our deeds can make us right with God. Only faith in Jesus can save us from sin and death (Ephesians 2:8–9; Titus 3:5–7). The door is narrow, but it’ wide open to all who will put their faith in Jesus. He’s inviting us today to seize the opportunity to enter through the narrow door to His kingdom.

The Joy of Good News

By |2022-02-27T08:06:04-05:00February 27th, 2022|

One evening in 1964, the Great Alaska earthquake shocked and writhed for more than four minutes, registering a 9.2 magnitude. In Anchorage, whole city blocks disappeared, leaving only massive craters and rubble. Through the dark, terrifying night, news reporter Genie Chance stood at her microphone, passing along messages to desperate people sitting by their radios: a husband working in the bush heard that his wife was alive, distraught families heard that their sons on a Boy Scout camping trip were okay, a couple heard that their children had been found. The radio crackled with line after line of good news—pure joy amid the ruin.

This must have been something like what Israel felt when they heard these words from the prophet Isaiah: “The Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (61:1).  As they looked over the wasteland of their wrecked lives and grim future, Isaiah’s clear voice brought good news at the very moment when all seemed lost. God intended to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives. . . . [To] rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated” (vv. 1, 4). In the midst of their terror, the people heard God’s assuring promise, His good news.

For us today, it’s in Jesus that we hear God’s good news—this is what the word gospel means. Into our fears, pains and failures, He delivers good news. And our distress gives way to joy.

This Is Grace

By |2022-01-23T08:06:03-05:00January 23rd, 2022|

Les Miserablés begins with paroled convict Jean Valjean stealing a priest’s silver. He’s caught, and he expects to be returned to the mines. But the priest shocks everyone when he claims he’d given the silver to Valjean. After the police leave, he turns to the thief, “You belong no longer to evil, but to good.”

Such extravagant love points to the love that flowed from the fountain from which all grace comes. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter told his audience that less than two months before, in that very city, they had crucified Jesus. The crowd was crushed and asked what they must do. Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Jesus had endured the punishment they deserved. Now their penalty would be forgiven if they put their faith in Him.

Oh, the irony of grace! The people could only be forgiven because of Christ’s death—a death they were responsible for. How gracious and powerful is God! He has used humanity’s greatest sin to accomplish our salvation! If God has already done this with the sin of crucifying Jesus, we may assume there’s nothing He can’t turn into something good. Trust the One who “in all things . . . works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

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.

Love’s Greatest Gift

By |2022-01-18T08:06:04-05:00January 18th, 2022|

My son Geoff was leaving a store when he saw an abandoned walking frame (a mobility aid) on the ground. I hope there isn’t a person back there who needs help, he thought. He glanced behind the building and found a homeless man unconscious on the pavement.

Geoff roused him and asked if he was okay. “I’m trying to drink myself to death,” he responded. “My tent broke in a storm and I lost everything. I don’t want to live.”

Geoff called a Christian rehabilitation ministry, and while they waited for help, he ran home briefly and brought the man his own camping tent. “What’s your name?” Geoff asked. “Geoffrey,” the homeless man answered, “with a G.” Geoff hadn’t mentioned his own name or its uncommon spelling. “Dad,” he told me later, “that could have been me.”

 Geoff once struggled with substance abuse himself, and he helped the man because of the kindness he’d received from God. Isaiah the prophet used these words to anticipate God’s mercy to us in Jesus: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

Christ, our Savior, didn’t leave us lost, alone, and hopeless in despair. He chose to identify with us and lift us in love, so that we may be set free to live anew in Him. There is no greater gift.

Washed

By |2022-01-09T08:06:04-05:00January 9th, 2022|

My friend Bill described Gerard, an acquaintance of his, as being “very far from God for a very long time.” But one day, after Bill met with Gerard and explained to him how God’s love has provided the way for us to be saved, Gerard became a believer. Through tears, he repented of his sin, and gave his life to Jesus. Afterward, Bill asked Gerard how he felt. Wiping away tears, he answered simply, “Washed.”

What an amazing response! That’s precisely the essence of salvation made possible through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. In 1 Corinthians 6, after Paul gives examples of how disobedience against God leads to separation from Him, he says, “That is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 11). “Washed,” “sanctified, “justified”—words that point to believers being forgiven and made right with Him.

Titus 3:4–5 tells us more about this miraculous thing called salvation. “God our Savior . . . saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth.” Our sin keeps us from God, but through faith in Jesus, the penalty of it is washed away. We become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), gain access to our heavenly Father (Ephesians 2:18), and we’re made clean (1 John 1:7). He alone provides what we need to be washed.

Drawn Near

By |2022-01-08T08:06:03-05:00January 8th, 2022|

In the wake of the coronavirus, retrieving something from my safety deposit box required even more layers of protocol than before. Now I had to make an appointment, call when I arrived to be granted entrance to the bank, show my identification and signature, and then wait to be escorted into the vault by a designated banker. Once inside, the heavy doors locked again until I’d found what I needed inside the metal box. Unless I followed the instructions, I wasn’t able to enter.

In the Old Testament, God had specific protocols for entering part of the tabernacle called the Most Holy Place. Behind a special curtain, one that “separate[d] the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place,” only the high priest could enter once a year (Exodus 26:33; Hebrews 9:7). Aaron, and the high priests who would come after him, were to bring offerings, bathe, and wear sacred garments before entering (Leviticus 16:3–4). God’s instructions weren’t for health or security reasons; they were meant to teach the Israelites about the holiness of God and our need for forgiveness.

At the moment of Jesus’ death, that special curtain was torn, symbolically showing that all people who believe in His sacrifice for their forgiveness of sin can enter God’s presence (Matthew 27:51). The tear in the tabernacle curtain is reason for our unending joy—Jesus has enabled us to draw near to God always!

The Word and a New Year

By |2022-01-01T08:06:04-05:00January 1st, 2022|

Michellan faced challenges while growing up in the Philippines, but she always loved words and found comfort in them. Then one day while attending university, she read the first chapter in the gospel of John. She said that her “stone heart stirred,” and she felt like someone was saying, “Yes, you love words, and guess what? There is an Eternal Word, One who . . . can cut through the darkness, now and always. A Word who took on flesh. A Word who can love you back.”

She was reading the gospel that begins with words that would have reminded John’s readers of the opening of Genesis: “In the beginning . . .” (Genesis 1:1). He sought to show that Jesus was not only with God at the beginning of time but was God (John 1:1). And that this living Word became a man “and made his dwelling among us” (v. 14). Further, those who receive Him, believing in His name, become His children (v. 12).

Michellan embraced God’s love that day and was “born of God” (v. 13). She credits God for saving her from her family’s pattern of addiction and now writes about the good news of Jesus, delighting in sharing her words about the living Word.

If we are believers in Christ, we too can share God’s message and His love. As we begin 2022, what grace-filled words can we speak today?

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