Restoration – Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daily Devotions

Thursday, January 29, 2009

                                                                                                              

Current Study: Reconciliation         

 

Today’s Topic: Reconciliation Brings Restoration

 

Today’s Scripture:   Jeremiah 15:19  Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me.”

                                        Jeremiah 33:10-11  This is what the LORD says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without men or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither men nor animals, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the LORD.

 

When I was born out in Pennsylvania almost 56 years ago, my mom and dad were missionaries with the American Sunday School Union. They had very little in the way of possessions. Mom wanted a rocking chair so she could snuggle and cuddle with her precious first born son. One of the farm families they knew from their missionary work told Dad that there was an old rocking chair up in the hay loft of the barn. They could have it if they wanted it. Dad climbed up and got it, took it home, cleaned it up, and put a new cushion cover on it. It was an old chair, and had no arm rests. It couldn’t have been very comfortable for mom as she supported the head of her baby with nothing to support her arm. But every child she had was rocked in that chair. When I was in high school I remember my grandma who lived with us sitting in that chair as she read her Bible. That rocker had become a family heirloom.

 

As time went by, the chair got older and weaker. One of the small rails along side of the seat cushion snapped. One of the braces between the legs cracked. It was hard to see the chair not being used for its original intent because it was broken. It just sat in the room as a conversation piece, but had no real function. I asked if I could have it. My request was granted. At the time we were living in a community that was surrounded by farms owned by Amish craftsmen. I took the chair to one of them and asked if it could be restored to useable condition. The hardest part would be duplicating the curves in the original side rails. He said he would do his best.

 

When we got the chair back it was beautiful. Every detail of the original had been duplicated. The cut, curves, and grain of the wood matched perfectly. I decided to put the chair to the ultimate test – I sat in it. There were no creaks any more. It rocked. I mean it literally rocked. Living right next door to us at the time was an antique dealer. I took the chair over to him and asked him to appraise it for me. He looked it over carefully. He noticed it had been restored, but only thought it had been refinished. He was not able to see the new parts that were put on the chair. He offered me $300 for it. I refused, and then told him the truth about the restoration. He didn’t care. He still wanted the chair.

 

I still have that rocker. I even sit in it every once in a while. Most of the time it rests in our guest bedroom which is our family heritage room. But that chair is more than just an heirloom – it has a new significance to me today. I see it now as an illustration of reconciliation. If you’ve been following closely this week you will notice that there have been four aspects of reconciliation we have discussed.

§         Responsibility

§         Reaching Out

§         Repentance

§         Restoration

Each one of those “R’s” applies to my rocker. I took personal responsibility for its condition. As a teen ager I may or may not have been the one who was actually sitting in it when the leg brace cracked, but I certainly did sit in it a lot, so I certainly was responsible. When I saw it was deteriorating and in some regards broken, I reached out to fix it. When I took it to the Amish craftsman I had to confess to him everything that was wrong with the chair so he could repair it all. I was willing to watch the chair be changed, and I was even willing to be changed if he told me that the chair was not repairable. Repentance requires change. When the chair was repaired, it was restored to its original function. In fact, after the restoration, the chair had greater value than before.

 

That’s reconciliation – taking responsibility for what is broken, reaching out in repentance, and restoring it so that it not only functions again but has greater value than before. That’s how Jeremiah describes it when he relates to us the LORD’s words – “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me.”  Reconciled relationships are restored relationships that bring honor to God.

 

Does your life seem to be a desolate waste, filled with broken things? Does it feel like you’ve fallen off your rocker. Let the words of the LORD encourage you – In the places that are deserted there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before. Reconciliation brings restoration. Restoration brings rejoicing. Your relationships can be restored, and they will rock! Get started today.

 

Pastor John

 

 

Repentance Brings Reconciliation – Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

                                                                                                              

Current Study: Reconciliation         

 

Today’s Topic: Repentance Brings Reconciliation

 

Today’s Scripture:   2 Corinthians 7:9-10  For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 

 

As far as the Biblical record indicates, the Apostle Paul wrote more letters to the church in the city of Corinth than to any other church. A careful reading of the two letters we have in the Bible reveals that there were at least two other letters he had written. One of those letters which we do not have but is referred to in Second Corinthians was, by Paul’s own admission, pretty harsh. He was having a hard time getting people of that church to stop their sinning, and to stop bringing that sin into the church. There came a time when he had to get really firm and forceful with them. Paul was acting righteously. He was fulfilling God’s call upon his life. The people had made their own choices that brought out the wrath of God against their sin from their spiritual mentor. What Paul did was justified. How he felt about it teaches us a lot about reconciliation.

 

As you read the seventh chapter of 2 Corinthians – and I encourage you to do so slowly and carefully – you will discover the love and compassion Paul had in his heart for the people he had to correct. After writing the letter of rebuke to them, he immediately felt sorrow over how it was going to affect the people he loved so much. Even though he had the right to write, he also had the heart to hurt. The New Living Translation puts Paul’s words in verse 8 this way – I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. That’s the kind of heart attitude we all need if we are going to see God reconcile relationships.

 

Far too many Christians bring a spirit of pride into their relationships. I know I’m right and when they finally realize it they will come to me and repent. That certainly wasn’t Paul’s attitude. Paul knew he was right, but his pride never overwhelmed the pain he was causing by being right. We get so wrapped up in the story of our won life that we stop caring about the stories being lived out by others. We especially seem to not care how our story is having a negative effect on their story. That uncaring spirit is especially magnified when we convince ourselves that we are not to blame for how they feel. But Paul shows us that true reconciliation is only possible if the one in the right cares about the one in the wrong, just as God the Father did for us when we were in our sin.

 

We can only imagine how much Paul must have prayed for the people to whom he wrote the letter of rebuke. His heart was breaking that he had to discipline those that he loved. As a parent I know what it’s like to walk away from a moment of discipline with one of the children and go to a quiet place and pray for them because I knew how much they must be hurting to have had to be corrected. In fact, I had that happen yesterday with one of the grandchildren. The correction of sin in any of our lives is painful because all sin is the prideful expression of self. It hurts to have self accused of being wrong. We take it as an attack against our value. We usually lash back at the one doing the correcting, trying to restore some self respect by minimizing theirs. That is what concerned Paul when he said he understood the pain he had caused them. He was afraid they would lash back at him rather than be led to repentance and reconciliation.

 

We must learn two things from this. First, we must not react in a prideful way when someone tries to correct a wrong in our lives. We must respond as Paul said the people of Corinth did. Look at what he says about them. I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. That’s incredible. That’s how reaching out to bring repentance results in reconciliation. That’s the kind of sorrow God wants all His people to have when they are confronted with sin in their lives.

 

Second, we must not react in a prideful way when we have to correct the wrong in someone else’s life. Paul wanted the hurt to last only long enough to bring them back to Christ. Pride seeks prolonged pain. Love seeks repentance and reconciliation. It would be easy for us in our sinful flesh to hope the hurt endures long enough to teach them a good lesson. Paul knew that would be our natural tendency when he contrasted that attitude with the heart of love in First Corinthians 13. He said, Love does not delight in seeing evil done to another. The true heart of love, while needing to correct wrong, feels the pain caused by the correction, and hopes change happens quickly.

 

Reconciliation only happens when repentance is present. Paul repented – not for writing the letter, but for the pain the letter caused. It was that spirit that proved to the people at Corinth that he truly loved them and desired what was best for them. As a result they were led to repentance and a reconciled relationship with God and each other. Each one of us is somewhere in this process in our own lives. We are either being corrected or we are having to correct another person. From either perspective, crucify pride, and let Godly sorrow bring you to repentance so reconciliation can happen.

 

Pastor John

Reach Out to Reconcile Others – Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

                                                                                                              

Current Study: Reconciliation         

 

Today’s Topic: Reach Out to Reconcile Others

 

Today’s Scripture:   2 Corinthians 5:19-20  And God gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors.

 

Once upon a time…I’ve always wanted to start a devotional that way. Once upon a time there was a man living a prosperous life in a distant land. Serving him in his household was a slave to whom had been entrusted much responsibility. Then one day, in an effort to not only be free but to be wealthy as well, the slave stole from his master and ran away. He travelled to the capital of the kingdom and while there met a man of God. As their friendship developed, the slave became a true believer in Jesus Christ. The man of God knew what had to be done – the slave had to return to his original master. He must confess his sin and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. He was filled with fear. How would he ever be able to convince his former master that he was different now? What if his master would not forgive him and throw him in prison for his crime? The man of God began to encourage him to be willing to suffer for his faith. It was powerful teaching because it was being backed up by personal experience. You see, the man of God was currently under arrest for his faith in Jesus Christ. He could testify to the sufficiency of God’s grace to endure any and all suffering that comes as a result of serving Jesus as Lord. So the slave agreed that he would go back.

 

Sitting in the room with the man of God was another man who had been very active in missionary work. He remembered the trouble they had when they had been together on a mission trip. He had deserted them and returned home before the trip was over. Then he had the nerve to come back with his cousin – a dear and trusted friend of the man of God – and want to go on another mission trip. The man of God refused to consider it, and had such a sharp argument with the cousin that they broke their friendship and went their separate ways. Now, years later, here they were in the same room again – the man of God and the deserter. All because the cousin had not given up on their relationship, and had reached out to begin the process of reconciliation.

 

As the man of God looked across the room and considered that restored relationship, he knew what he had to do. He would write a letter to the former master of the slave, and appeal to his spiritual understanding of God’s love. He knew the decision the former master had made for Christ years earlier. In fact, the man of God had visited the church he attended where he lived. He knew of the man’s faith and was especially impressed with the testimony of the man’s love for other believers. So a letter was composed. He usually had someone else write his letters for him as he dictated because his eyesight was so bad. But this time, because it was so important, he wrote the letter in his own handwriting. He appealed to the master on the basis of love, and gave testimony to the salvation and service of the former slave. He admitted that at one time the slave was useless to him because of his sin, but that now, in Christ, all that is forgiven and he has proven himself useful to the work of God. He even went so far as to volunteer to repay any debt that the master was still holding to the account of the slave.

 

He looked across the room again at the one who had been a deserter, and then he added one more line to the letter. He told the master that the deserter was present, and that he was now fully restored to relationship and was considered a brother and fellow worker with him in the Lord’s work. Then he closed the letter by saying, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirit.” He knew it was all about grace. He knew that this kind of reconciliation could only happen if God’s grace overwhelms our natural instinct for justice. He himself had dealt with that issue with the deserter some time previously. He had learned that it’s more important to reach out than it is to prove who was right. In fact, it’s in giving up the right to be right that we will discover true reconciliation. His letter was asking the master to do the same by the grace of God.

 

As the man of God finishes the letter, he looks around the room and sees another faithful brother in Christ. He decides to send him back to the master with the slave as another testimony to the slaves spiritual renewal. He seals up the letter, hands it to his fellow worker, and he and the slave leave the capital city for the long journey to the home town of the slave where the prosperous master lived. When they arrive, the letter is delivered.

 

That’s it. The story ends there. We don’t know how the master responded to the letter. We don’t know what happened to the slave. Sounds like the kind of ending I hate to a movie. But none of that is ultimately important. What is significant for us to know is that we are all responsible to reach out to seek the reconciliation of brothers and sisters in Christ when relationships have been broken for any reason. Barnabas did it with the Apostle Paul when John Mark had deserted them on a mission trip. The Apostle Paul did it for Onesimus when he had stolen and run away from his master Philemon. You may have had it done for you by someone who understood the gift of reconciliation that can be given to those who are suffering from the pain of separation. Now I urge you to do the same for others. Be a minister of reconciliation.

 

Pastor John

The Responsibility for Reconciliation – Monday, January 26, 2009

Daily Devotions

Monday, January 26, 2009

 

Current Study: Reconciliation         

 

Today’s Topic: The Responsibility for Reconciliation

 

Today’s Scripture:   Matthew 5:23-24  “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

 

I have no idea what started the fight. In fact, there had been a series of fights. One day we went to our bedroom, locked the door, and began slugging it out. I had thrown him on the bed and was in the middle of a flying leap from my bed to his when his feet came up into my midsection. He flipped me right over his head. The problem was that the bed was next to the wall, and my head went through the sheetrock. I missed going through the second story window by just inches. The fight stopped for a while as we developed a plan to cover the hole. But it wasn’t over. Days later I attacked him with some horrible words, and as he tried to punch me I ran from the house. He locked the doors. I found an open window. He closed the window on me while I was halfway through and began pounding on my back. I soon discovered that I was never going to be able to best my brother at anything – until I discovered golf.

 

So what do you think? Based on the facts of the story as told above, which one of us had the responsibility to go to the other and seek reconciliation? I’ll wait a moment while you review the case and try to decide which of us was to blame…… OK, enough time. I need to tell you that this was a trick. While the story is true in every detail, it’s a trick because in God’s eyes responsibility for reconciliation has nothing to do with who’s to blame. If it did, we would never be able to be saved and reconciled to God because in our sin we would never seek the One who is sinless. God’s model of reconciliation is for the One in the right to seek out the one in the wrong. Time spent determining blame is wasted time that prolongs the pain of separation.

 

Look closely at today’s Scripture verses. Do you see any mention of blame? I don’t. I see a person who knows that there is a problem between himself and a brother, but we have no indication of who was at fault. All we see is that any attempt to declare yourself right with God in worship is invalid if we are not right with one another.

 

If we look at the context of these words of Jesus, we see something very important. They are taken from what we now call the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus is teaching the people that there is a higher standard than the law by which we are to live. His first illustration of this is with the commandment “Do not murder.” Everyone listening to him agreed that this was the law. But Jesus carries the law to its fullest meaning when He says, “…anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” It is at this point that Jesus says “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

 

Now it gets really interesting. Follow the logic of Jesus here. He says murder makes us subject to judgment. He then says that anger expressed in sinful behavior to another person makes us subject to the same judgment. Then He says – ooh, this is so good – that if you know that your brother feels this way towards you – that he has something against you that is causing him to act sinfully towards you, that you are responsible to go to him and make it right before you come and worship God as if nothing was wrong. It is arrogant to come before God and worship when we know that someone else is in danger of God’s judgment because of how they feel about us. If we are to blame for their feelings it is even more prideful. But even if we are able to justify ourselves before God, Jesus says that until we are right with one another God does not want our offerings of worship.

 

There is yet another lesson in this we need to see. We are told to “go and be reconciled to your brother.” Notice that it clearly does not say to go and attempt to be reconciled. We are not let off the hook just because we claim to have tried our best. That may apply to a person who does not know Jesus Christ and is not our brother, but it doesn’t apply to brothers in Christ. There is never to be an unreconciled relationship in the body of Christ. Sound idealistic? Yes, but maybe that’s because we haven’t really taken the words of Jesus seriously enough. Maybe it’s because we are still participating in the blame game. Maybe it’s because we believe Jesus excuses our human weakness and doesn’t really expect His words to be considered as absolute truth. Maybe it’s because we just don’t want to try. Whatever the reason, I believe Jesus intends for His body, the church, to be the living example of people who are reconciled to God by modeling true reconciliation with each other.

 

I can’t tell you when it happened, or even how it happened, but one day I received a phone call from my brother that proved it had happened. I was finishing my first year of college and he was preparing to graduate from high school. He called to ask if he could be my roommate in the dorm for the next year. We were reconciled. I wish I could tell you the exact steps we took to get that way, but I can’t. But I can tell you about forgiveness, and I’ll do that tomorrow. For today, take a fresh look at your broken relationships. Eliminate the need to place blame. Initiate contact. Go and be reconciled. It is your responsibility before God.

 

Pastor John

 

Daily Devotions for Thursday, January 22, 2009

Daily Devotions

Thursday, January 22, 2009

 

Current Study: Reconciliation         

 

Today’s Topic: The Recipe for Reconciliation

 

Today’s Scripture:   Ephesians 1:3-10  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

 

This morning I stopped on the way to the office at the Great Harvest Bread Store where my son Josh, our church’s youth pastor, is the head baker. They weren’t open yet, but he let me in. He had just taken his new creation out of the oven – S’mores scones. They only made 20 of them as a test, so if you want one you’d better go right now. They were filled with crushed graham crackers and chocolate chips, and oozing with melted marshmallow. He gave me a half of one to try, and it was delicious. Now we just have to hope the owner of the store likes them when he gets back from vacation.

 

The reason I tell you that little story is this – what would a S’mores scone be like without marshmallows? Or chocolate? Or graham crackers? Leave any one of the ingredients out and it would not be a S’mores scone. That’s how I’m beginning to understand reconciliation. I intentionally used the same passage of Scripture today as I did yesterday because I see it as an ingredient list of reconciliation.

  • He chose us.
  • He determined to adopt us as His sons and heirs.
  • He has lavishly bestowed His glorious grace on us through Jesus Christ.
  • He has redeemed us.
  • He has forgiven us.
  • He has made His will known to us.
  • He has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

 

Leave any one of the ingredients out and it could no longer be called reconciliation. Yesterday we looked at forgiveness. Today, let’s go back to the beginning and talk about God’s decision to choose us to be reconciled. It is not my intention to create a huge debate about the relationship between God’s sovereignty express in election and man’s free will. I think far too much time has been wasted and far too many people’s spiritual lives harmed by such debates. By finite faith in an infinite God I believe both co-exist in His mind and will. In the words of John MacArthur, God’s sovereign election and man’s exercise of responsibility in choosing Jesus Christ seem opposite and irreconcilable truths—and from our limited human perspective they are opposite and irreconcilable. That is why so many earnest, well-meaning Christians throughout the history of the church have floundered trying to reconcile them. Since the problem cannot be resolved by our finite minds, the result is always to compromise one truth in favor of the other or to weaken both by trying to take a position somewhere between them. We should let the antimony remain, believing both truths completely and leaving the harmonizing of them to God.

 

Having said that, I also understand that true reconciliation begins with the sovereign choice of the One in the right to select and pursue the ones in the wrong. I dare not attempt to tackle the issue of whether or not this choice was limited to only some or included all who were wrong – that is for God to reveal to us when we are in His presence and able to fully know as we are known (1 Cor. 13:12). But from a present day human perspective, it makes sense for me to see it this way – it is the desire of my heart to see everyone in the world who is an enemy of Jesus be reconciled to Him, and I choose to have a direct influence on those with whom I am able to connect.

 

Before I stopped at the bread store this morning, I needed gas in my car. I stopped at the station where I have just started getting my fuel, and I went inside to grab a cup of coffee. The first time I filled up at this station I went inside to meet the owner. I chose to make a connection with him. I discovered he has owned this little station for many years. I asked him his name, and every time I go there I call him by name. Today we started talking about the price of heating our homes, and as we somewhat lamented the costs, I noticed that he was not really complaining. I then made this statement – “I’m so glad that God has promised to supply all of our needs so we don’t need to worry. He will never leave us or forsake us.” He responded by saying, “Isn’t that the truth?” We made a connection. I told him to have a blessed day, and he told me the same, and I left.

 

Meanwhile, sitting at the small table inside the door were two other men having coffee. It was obvious that they had been talking to the owner, because when I drove up they were together at the table. When I saw them I had the same desire in my heart to know if they knew Jesus, but on this day I had chosen to connect with only the owner. And without sounding arrogant, I had given the owner the opportunity to connect with me.

 

This may be very over-simplified, but for me it helps me to understand and trust the loving heart of God in election. He desires that none should perish in their sin, and that all should come to repentance. He has chosen to connect with me, and to give me the choice of my free will to connect with Him. As a result, we have been reconciled, which would not be possible if He had not first chosen to connect with me. Praise God!

 

Now, in your personal life, unreconciled relationships probably exist because you have not chosen to connect with the one who has wronged you. You have left out the first ingredient of the recipe for reconciliation. What will you do about it?

 

Pastor John

Daily Devotions for Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

 

Current Study: Reconciliation         

 

Today’s Topic: God’s Forgiveness

 

Today’s Scripture:   Ephesians 1:3-10  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

 

WOW! What a marvelous passage of Scripture that speaks of our reconciliation to God. He chose us. He determined to adopt us. He has lavishly bestowed His glorious grace on us through Jesus Christ. He has redeemed us. He has forgiven us. He has made His will known to us. How do we even find a starting point in all of that? Well, for me, it all starts with forgiveness. If we are going to truly understand the marvel of reconciliation, we must wrap our minds around the amazing concept of forgiveness. My heart is overwhelmed with joy as I think that God, based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, can and will forgive us when we humbly confess our sin, and will restore us to perfect relationship with Himself. That, my friends, is truly awesome.

 

One of my favorite writers and preachers is Charles R. Swindoll. In 1983 he published a book entitled Growing Strong In the Seasons of Life. It is copyrighted by Multnomah Press of Portland, Oregon. Chuck’s writing is powerful and expressive, and I want to share with you one of the passages from his book that deals with the issue of forgiveness. I pray that it will touch you as deeply as it has me.

 

The Broken Wing

 
It is quite probable that someone reading my words this moment is fighting an inner battle with a ghost from the past. The skeleton in one of yesterday’s closets is beginning to rattle louder and louder. Putting adhesive tape around the closet and moving the bureau in front of the door does little to muffle the clattering bones. You wonder, possibly, “Who knows?” You think, probably, “I’ve had it.. . can’t win.., party’s over.”


The anchor that tumbled off your boat is dragging and snagging on the bottom. Guilt and anxiety have come aboard, pointing out the great dark hulks of shipwrecks below. They busy themselves drilling worry-holes in your hull and you are beginning to sink. Down in the hold, you can hear them chant an old lie as they work: “The bird with the broken pinion
never soared as high again…”


Allow me to present a case in opposition to these destructive and inaccurate accusers. It may be true that you’ve done or experienced things which would embarrass you if they became public knowledge. You may have committed a terrible and tragic sin that was never traced back to you. You may have a criminal record or a moral charge or a domestic conflict that, to this moment, is private information. You may wrestle with a past that has been fractured and wounded by a mental or emotional breakdown. Futile attempts at suicide may add to the previous scar tissue and increase your fear of being labeled “sick” or “nervous.” It is possible that you live with memories, covered now by the sands of time, of an illicit relationship or a financial failure or a terrible habit or a divorce or a scandalous involvement. You feel that any one of these things might mar or cripple your reputation if the dirty details ever spilled on the table of gluttonous gossipers.


But wait a minute. Before you surrender your case as hopeless, consider the liberating evidence offered in the Bible. Take an honest look at men and women whom God used in spite of their past! Abraham, founder of Israel and tagged “the friend of God,” was once a worshiper of idols. Joseph had a prison record but later became prime minister of Egypt. Moses was a murderer, but later became the one who delivered his nation from the slavery of Pharaoh. Jephthah was an illegitimate child who ran around with a tough bunch of hoods before he was chosen by God to become His personal representative. Rahab was a harlot in the streets of Jericho but was later used in such a mighty way that God enlisted her among the members of His hall of fame in Hebrews 11.


Still unconvinced? There’s more. Eli and Samuel were both poor, inconsistent fathers, but proved to be strong men in God’s hand regardless. Jonah and John Mark were missionaries who ran away from hardship like cowards but were ever-so-profitable later on. Peter openly denied the Lord and cursed Him, only to return and become God’s choicest spokesman among the early years of the infant church. Paul was so hard and vicious in his early life the disciples and apostles refused to believe he’d actually become a Christian. . . but you know how greatly God used him. We could go on and on. The files of heaven are filled with stories of redeemed, refitted renegades and rebels.


How magnificent is grace! How malignant is guilt! How sweet are the promises! How sour is the past! How precious and broad is God’s love! How petty and narrow are man’s limitations! How refreshing is the Lord! How rigid is the legalist!


There is not a single saint who sits in a single church free from a few things he or she is ashamed of—not one of us! The one who thinks otherwise is worse than all the rest combined. In plain, garden-variety English, we were all taken from the same dunghill. And so we all fight the same fight with the filth of the flesh regardless of how loudly we sing, how piously we pray, or how sweetly we say hello.


Mark it—when God forgives, He forgets. He is not only willing but pleased to use any vessel—just as long as it is clean today. It may be cracked or chipped. It may be worn or it may have never been used before. You can count on this—the past ended one second ago. From this point onward, you can be clean, filled with His Spirit, and used in many different ways for His honor. God’s glorious grace says: “Throw guilt and anxiety overboard. . . draw the anchor. . . trim the sails. . . man the rudder.. . a strong gale is coming!”

 

Thanks, Chuck, for the great reminder that none of us lives beyond the reach of God’s grace, and that His forgiveness results in complete healing and reconciliation.

 

Pastor John

 

Daily Devotions for Tuesday, January 20, 2008

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

 

Current Study: Reconciliation         

Today’s Topic: God’s Initiative

Today’s Scripture:   2 Corinthians 5:18  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…

 

We are more apathetic than we will admit. Especially when it comes to conflict resolution. I know all too well about the “sweep it under the rug” philosophy of problem solving. I grew up in a Scandinavian home. But we’re not the only ones who have adopted and promoted this attitude. Somehow the Biblical admonition to “be at peace with one another” has been misunderstood and misapplied. Being at peace with one another doesn’t mean pretending that the problem never existed. Being at peace means to resolve the problem so that it doesn’t matter any more. Peace isn’t the burial of issues. Peace is the healing of the pain of issues. But somehow we have been duped into believing that time heals all pain. If we would just set aside our differences for long enough we will eventually forget that they exist. So we have become apathetic towards conflict resolution. We have created a false sense of peace based on a wrong understanding of reconciliation.

What if God had done with our sin what we do with the wrongs of others? What hope would we have if God simply swept our sin under the rug and ignored it, hoping that somehow it would go away so that we could relate to Him again? We would have to believe in a less than holy and less than just God. We would even have to minimize His love for us, because true love heals, not hides.

But God didn’t hide sin until after it had been justly dealt with. He didn’t offer forgiveness until sin had been publicly paid for. He didn’t provide healing from the pain of sin until it had been openly confessed by the offender. He didn’t invite us to a restored relationship until after the relationship with His Son had been forsaken. He didn’t reconcile us to Himself until He had first reconciled His Son to Himself by raising Him from the dead. He didn’t offer false peace based on ignorance of sin, but rather He offered true peace based on the knowledge and the forgiveness of sin. Every necessary requisite to a reconciled relationship with God was initiated and implemented by God. When He saw our sin, He set in motion the strategy of salvation. He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)

Last week the Holy Spirit gave me a very meaningful outline to explain God’s process of reconciling the world to Himself. I shared it with my church on Sunday. Let me share it with you today so you too can marvel at what God did to bring us to a place of peace with Himself.

§  God’s Holiness Fought Us – We came to a place in our lives where we knew that nothing we could ever do or offer to God would be able to change our nature so that we could stand in the presence of Almighty and Holy God. There can be no salvation from sin and reconciliation to God unless we first see God in His absolute holiness.

§  God’s Love Sought Us – He sent Jesus to pay the price for our sin – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should never die, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

§  God’s Justice Bought Us – Jesus paid the price for our redemption on the cross of Calvary. “You are not your own, you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

§  God’s Mercy Caught Us – After the price for our sin had been paid by Jesus, and justice was no longer in the way, mercy came running after us. God chased after us. What an incredible lesson in reconciliation – the One in the right chasing after the ones in the wrong.

§  God’s Grace Wrought Us – After catching us, God is shaping us. Every day His grace molds us into the character of Jesus.

§  God’s Example Taught Us – “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20) In the same way that God reconciled us to Himself, we are to go with the Good News and reconcile others to God and to each other.

 

In closing, I offer you the words to a song. It’s called Mercy Came Running, and was written by Dan Dean, Dave Clark & Don Koch. [© 1995 Dawn Treader Music/Word Music/DaySpring Music] Dan Dean is one of the members of the group Phillips, Craig, & Dean that performed the song several years ago. They are magnificent lyrics that express the marvel of mercy and our reconciliation to God. Read them slowly. Digest them well. Meditate on them often.

Once there was a holy place
Evidence of God’s embrace
And I can almost see mercy’s face
Pressed against the veil
 
Looking down with longing eyes
Mercy must have realized
That once His blood was sacrificed
Freedom would prevail
 
And as the sky grew dark
And the earth began to shake
With justice no longer in the way
 
Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures to the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me
 
Once there was a broken heart
Way too human from the start
And all the years left it torn apart
Hopeless and afraid
 
Walls I never meant to build
Left this prisoner unfulfilled
Freedom called but even still
It seemed so far away
 
I was bound by the chains
From the wages of my sin
Just when I felt like giving in
 
Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures to the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me
 
Sometimes I still feel so far
So far from where I really should be
He gently calls to my heart
Just to remind me
 
Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures to the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me
 
Pastor John