Rebuilding the Ruins

By |2020-12-28T08:06:03-05:00December 28th, 2020|

At seventeen, Dowayne had to leave his family’s home in Manenberg, a part of Cape Town, South Africa, because of his stealing and addiction to heroin. He didn’t go far, building a shack of corrugated metal in his mother’s backyard, which soon became known as the Casino, a place to use drugs. When he was nineteen, however, Dowayne came to saving faith in Jesus. His journey off drugs was long and exhausting, but he got clean with God’s help and with the support of his Christian friends. And ten years after Dowayne built the Casino, he and others turned the hut into a house church. What was once a dark and foreboding place now is a place of worship and prayer.

The leaders of this church look to Jeremiah 33 for how God can bring healing and restoration to people and places, as He’s done with Dowayne and the former Casino. The prophet Jeremiah spoke to God’s people in captivity, saying that although the city would not be spared, yet God would heal His people and would “rebuild them,” cleansing them from their sin (Jeremiah 33:7–8). Then the city would bring Him joy, renown, and honor (v. 9).

When we’re tempted to despair over the sin that brings heartbreak and brokenness, let’s continue to pray that God will bring healing and hope, even as He’s done in a backyard in Manenberg.

Morning Mist

By |2020-12-07T12:12:11-05:00December 11th, 2020|

One morning I visited a pond near my house. I sat on an overturned boat, thinking and watching a gentle west wind chase a layer of mist across the water’s surface. Wisps of fog circled and swirled. Mini “tornadoes” rose up and then exhausted themselves. Before long, the sunlight cut through the clouds and the mist disappeared.

            This scene comforted me because I connected it with a verse I had just read: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist…” (Isaiah 44:22). I had visited the place hoping to distract myself from a series of sinful thoughts I had been preoccupied with for days. Although I was confessing them, I began to wonder if God would forgive me when I had repeated the same sin so consistently.

            That morning, I knew the answer was yes. Through his prophet Isaiah, God showed grace to the Israelites when they struggled with the ongoing problem of idol worship. Although He told them to stop chasing false gods, God also invited them back to Himself, saying, “I have made you…you are my servant…I will not forget you” (v.21).

            I don’t fully grasp forgiveness like that, but I do understand that God’s grace is the only thing that can dissolve our sin completely and heal us from it. I’m thankful His grace is endless and divine like He is, and that it available whenever we need it.

The Triumph of Forgiveness

By |2020-11-10T08:06:02-05:00November 10th, 2020|

Mack, having struggled with drug abuse and sexual sin, was desperate. Relationships that he valued were in disarray and his conscience was beating him up. In his misery, he found himself unannounced at a church asking to speak with a pastor. There he found relief in sharing his complicated story and in hearing about God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Psalm 32 is believed to have been composed by David after his sexual sin. He compounded his wrongdoing by devising a sinister strategy that resulted in the death of the woman’s husband (see 2 Samuel 11–12). While these ugly incidents were behind him, the effects of his actions remained. Psalm 32:3–4 describes the deep struggles he experienced before he acknowledged the ugliness of his deeds; the gnawing effects of unconfessed sin were undeniable. What brought relief? Relief began with confession to God and accepting the forgiveness He offers (v. 5).

What a great place for us to start—at the place of God’s mercy—when we say or do things that cause hurt and harm to ourselves and others. The guilt of our sin need not be permanent. There’s One whose arms are open wide to receive us when we acknowledge our wrongs and seek His forgiveness. We can join the chorus of those who sing, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (v. 1).

Never Too Sinful

By |2020-09-24T09:06:02-04:00September 24th, 2020|

“If I touched a Bible, it would catch fire in my hands,” my English professor at a community college said. My heart sank. The novel we’d been reading that morning referenced a Bible verse; and when I pulled out my Bible to look it up, she noticed and commented. My professor seemed to think she was too sinful to be forgiven. Yet I wasn’t bold enough to tell her about God’s love—and that the Bible tells us we can always seek God’s forgiveness.

There’s an example of repentance and forgiveness in Nehemiah. The Israelites had been exiled because of their sin, but now they were allowed to return to Jerusalem. When they’d “settled in,” Ezra the scribe read the law to them (Nehemiah 7:73–8:1). They confessed their sins remembering that, despite their sin, God “did not desert” or “abandon them” (9:17, 19). He “heard them” when they cried out; and in compassion and mercy, He was patient with them (vv. 19, 27–31).

In a similar way, God is patient with us. He won’t abandon us if we choose to confess our sin and turn to Him. I wish I could go back and tell my professor that, no matter her past, Jesus loves her and wants her to be part of His family. He feels the same way about you and me. We can approach Him seeking forgiveness—and He will give it!

Don’t Be Deceived

By |2020-09-17T09:05:04-04:00September 17th, 2020|

The spotted lanternfly is a pretty insect with speckled outer wings and a splotch of bright red on its inner wings that flashes when it flies. But its beauty is a bit deceptive. This insect, first spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014, is considered invasive to North America, which means it has the potential to harm the environment and economy. The lanternfly will “eat the innards of practically any woody plant,” which includes cherry and other fruit trees, and leaves a sticky goo that leads to mold—killing trees outright or leaving them with little energy to grow fruit.

In the story of Adam and Eve, we learn of a different kind of menace. The serpent, Satan, deceived the couple into disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit so they would “be like God” (Genesis 3:1–7). But why listen to a serpent? Did his words alone entice Eve, or was there also something attractive about him? Scripture hints at Satan being created beautiful (Ezekiel 28:12). Yet Satan fell by the same temptation he used to entice Eve: “I will make myself like [God]” (Isaiah 12:14; Ezekiel 28:14).

Any beauty Satan now has is used to deceive (Genesis 3:1; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:14). Just as he fell, he seeks to pull others down—or keep them from growing. But we have someone far more powerful on our side! We can run to Jesus, our beautiful Savior.

Debt Eraser

By |2020-06-23T16:32:12-04:00June 24th, 2020|

Stunned is just one word that describes the response of the crowd at the 2019 graduation ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. The commencement speaker announced that he and his family would be donating millions of dollars to erase the student debt of the entire graduating class. One student—with $100,000 in loans—was among the overwhelmed graduates who expressed their joys with tears and shouts...

What’s in a Name?

By |2020-05-11T12:05:56-04:00May 17th, 2020|

In God’s timing, our son Kofi was born on a Friday, which is exactly what his name means—boy born on Friday. We named him after a Ghanaian friend of ours, a pastor whose only son died. He prays for our Kofi constantly. We’re deeply honored. It’s easy to miss the significance in a name if you don’t know the story behind it...

Friends Again

By |2020-04-17T12:01:46-04:00April 21st, 2020|

A mother and her young daughter are sitting in church one day. During the service, opportunity is given for people to publicly receive God’s forgiveness. Every time someone walks forward to do so, the little girl begins to clap. “I’m so sorry,” the mother later tells the church leader. “I explained to my daughter that repentance makes us friends with God again, and she just wanted to cheer for everyone...”

Freed from Our Cage

By |2020-02-10T12:13:57-05:00February 13th, 2020|

While out taking walks, writer Martin Laird would often encounter a man with four Kerry Blue Terriers. Three of the dogs ran wild through the open fields, but one stayed near its owner, running in tight circles. When Laird finally stopped and asked about this odd behavior, the owner explained that it was a rescue dog that had spent most of his life locked in a cage...

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