Refresh & Restore Stuff I've Been Writing

Refresh & Restore — October 22, 2020

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

Daniel 1:1-2

Greetings, Sojourner!

We are certainly living in strange times! It seems that every time we wrap our minds around the way the world is changing, it just changes some more. Fear seems to be the norm and peace seems to be either stuck in 2019 or just beyond our reach in 2021. We have had to survive viruses and murder hornets. And, to top it off, this is an election year!

With the present in such disarray, anxiety regarding the nature of the future is escalating. I talk to at least one person a day who mentions their feelings of uncertainty about the future. Most of them reference how unsure they are about the state of our country and how Christians will navigate this uncharted future.

It is in our nature to fear the unknown. And change is always less than welcome. However, I do not believe that we need to fear. But the fact that we do not have to be afraid does not mean that there will be no trouble. Look at Jesus’ words in John 16:

“In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33b

No matter the tribulation that we face, we can “take heart” because Jesus has already won the victory. We can withstand whatever may come so long as we keep our faith and trust in Him alone.

How can we be sure of this? It is because it can be seen in the Word of God. We have examples of people whose faith was put to the test. We can see how they reacted when the times got hard. We can see the substance of their faith, and, hopefully, learn from it and see that sort of faith grow in our own lives.

I can think of no better example of faith under fire than Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They lived under a corrupt government in Judah where even their king – a descendent of David – allowed his heart to lead him on to evil. These young men, along with many others, were kidnapped and sent into captivity in Babylon. They were living in times that were prophesied by Isaiah years before:

“Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your father’s have stored up till this day, shall be carried off to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

Isaiah 39:6-7

They had their whole lives torn apart, yet one thing set them apart from the rest – their faith in God! And they followed Him before their time of trial began. Even though they lived long before Paul penned these words to Timothy, they exhibited that God gives us “power and love and self-control” instead of a “spirit of fear” (2 Timothy 1:7). It was because of their standing relationship with the Lord that they survived, and that God received glory and recognition through their lives and actions.

These young men lived through things that I hope we never have to live through. After they were taken from their homes, they had their pasts and their futures stolen from them. All four of these young men had names that proclaimed something about God. Daniel (Hebrew – “God is my judge”) was renamed “Bel protect the king”; Hananiah (Heb. “the Lord is gracious”) was renamed “command of Aku”; Mishael (Heb. “who is like God?”) was renamed “who is what Aku is”; and Azariah (Heb. “the Lord is my helper”) was renamed “servant of Nego/Nebo”. Nebuchadnezzar knew that they were more likely to stray away from God if he isolated them from Him. He could not allow names that reminded them of their faith to get in the way of his own agenda. And he stole their future by having them made eunuchs. The fact that they could trace their lineage all the way back to Adam had become irrelevant since they were most certainly the end of their family trees.

Not only did he remove them from their heritage, but he sought to interrupt the practices of their faith by having them indoctrinated by “the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:4) and assigning them a “daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:5). They were being given permission to break the rules. I cannot imagine how appealing this must have seemed to these teenagers; it would be appealing to me as an adult! Their mouths must have been watering as they smelled delicious foods that were forbidden before. And God must have seemed so far away with all the terrible things they were going through. Yet they held on to their faith and the hope that one day Emmanuel (Hebrew – “God with us”) would come and bring the rescue they so desperately hoped for.

Look at the power that their faith held in their lives. “Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:8). He went to his captor – the “chief of the eunuchs” and asked that they be allowed to keep the dietary restrictions from the Law. Literally everyone else was partaking and breaking the Law. They were keeping up with the status quo. They were seeking the opportunities that thriving in Babylon could afford. But “God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1:9).

It is interesting to me that Daniel did this instead of pursuing that God rescue him from his captivity. We have already seen that it was foretold that all these things would occur and can reasonably assume that Daniel and his friends were familiar with Isaiah’s prophecy. So, rather than seek out comfort for themselves, they sought to glorify God with their lives by being obedient to His Word where they were. God gave them “favor” but it is vastly different than what we hear today. God’s “favor” helped them to be faithful to Him amid the trial. When everyone around them was compromising, they were holding fast to the promise. And that promise was more powerful than their fear of Nebuchadnezzar. They were living out Psalm 119:38: “Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared”.

These young men give us such a good example of faith. The circumstances that we are confronted with pale in comparison to what these teenagers faced. Yet there is coming a day when we may have to deal with similar things. In fact, there are places in the world where this is already the case. I think that Sinclair Ferguson says it better than I can:

“The same pattern employed by Nebuchadnezzar to draw Daniel away from the Lord is employed all around us today: isolation from God’s influence to produce holiness in our lives; indoctrination with the worldly ways of thinking (of course, we do not share all of the world’s conclusions, but too often we think about everything in the same way and operate with the same value system – how many of us would rather die for the glory of God than live halfheartedly for Him in a measure of comfort?); compromise with the riches of this world instead of…’solid joys and lasting treasures’…; confusion about our own identity and purpose.”[1]

I realize that this probably seems like a lot of bad news. And I know that the tone of today’s devotion is heavier than usual. But there is coming a time when we will wish that we had been faithful in the easier times. Let me assure you of this: the good news vastly outweighs the bad.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were right where God wanted them to be. When you look at the end of Daniel 1, you see clearly that God blessed their faithfulness to Him, and, even though He did not send them home, they were in a position so that many people – their kinsmen and Babylonians alike – could hear the truths about God. Their continued faithfulness during their trials showed the eternal value of following after the Lord. And no matter how faithful we are or are not to Him, He is always faithful to His people. It has been foretold:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Isaiah 43:1b-3a

That’s good news!

No matter what you are going through, Jesus knows you and wants to be your refuge in your time of need (Nahum 1:7). Will you reach out to Him and seek His help now (1 Peter 5:7)?

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Deuteronomy 31:8

[1] Sinclair Ferguson, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 21: Daniel

Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore — October 15, 2020

1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:1-7

Greetings Sojourners!

I have been thinking a lot about the effect that spending time with Jesus should have on our lives. Looking at the lives of Peter, John, and Paul make it seem somewhat unattainable for us – somewhat out of our reach. I do not know about you, but, many times, I find myself using the lofty examples of the apostles and other “heroes” in the Bible as excuses to not desiring to see the Spirit of God move more in my own life.

In the first part of this study, we saw that the Sanhedrin saw Peter and John’s “boldness” and were “astonished” that these “uneducated, common men” were able to speak with any eloquence; we also saw that it was “recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). That challenged me. Do I long for people to look at me and be impressed with my eloquent words or skills, or do I long for people to look at me and see that Jesus has impacted my life?

Last week, we looked at Paul’s trial before the Roman governor Festus and King Agrippa. Paul did not hesitate to share both the reality of his sinful past and the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather than seek to have himself set free, he shared how Festus and Agrippa could be freed from their sin and live through Christ Jesus. How much of my life is spent avoiding trials and tribulations, even for the sake of Christ? If it became illegal to worship Jesus (like it is in so many parts of the world), would there be enough evidence in my life to bring me up on charges – much less convict me?

The older I get, and the more I walk with Christ, the more fully I realize that I often fail. Looking at the first two verses of today’s passage remind me of this. I often struggle with submitting to authority because it shows me that I am not in charge. I would rather do things that serve me than to be “ready for every good work”. More times than I would care to admit, I “speak evil” of others and enjoy doing it. For years I thrived on “quarreling” and see this flare up in my life even today. And, while I may exhibit gentleness and courtesy on the outside, I am often angry, bitter, and rude in my heart.

I am glad verse three reminds us that our sinful lives should be part of our past – not our present, but all too often I find that I struggle with the same old sinful nature more than I feel that I should. Instead of being characterized as “once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another”, I find those qualities to show up in my every day life. I am thankful that, the more I walk with Christ and spend time with Him in prayer and in His Word, that those moments have less power over me. But I would much rather not struggle at all.

I identify fully with Paul’s words in Romans 7:15:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.”

If we are honest, we enjoy the sins that we habitually commit. But – if we are in Christ – our love for Him should produce a hatred for the things in our lives that go against God, namely sin. Longing to follow after God is a result of walking with Him. Wanting what He wants is too. But, while I am glad that verse 3 points out that there should be a difference between our sinful past and our present walk with Christ, I am eternally thankful for the gospel truths that show up in verse 4.


Let that phrase sink in.  I was dead in my trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2) – BUT GOD. I was lost and headed toward death (Romans 6:23) – BUT GOD. I was doomed to die and stand before the judgment of God with no righteousness (Hebrews 9:27) – BUT GOD.

We shift here from looking at all we can accomplish (verses 1-3) to what Christ alone can accomplish should we trust in Him as our Savior and Lord. You see, there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. Jesus is our only Savior. He is our only hope. And that is why verses 4 and 5 bring such good news: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy….” Our efforts do not save us – His effort does. Our own meager works condemn us, but His mercy saves.  Rather than give us the punishment due our sin, he “himself bore our sins in His body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).

Note that this is a result of his “goodness” and “loving kindness”. So often people want to paint God as cruel because of the existence of Hell. But, in “goodness and loving kindness”, He made a Way through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). We see in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God “desires all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth”. And through that knowledge of the Truth – again Jesus (John 14:6), people will see that they must turn away from their sin to God. Look at how God’s heart in this is shown in Ezekiel 18:23: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”

God is merciful, but He is also just. He cannot merely pass over our sin. This is why Jesus died on the cross – to pay our price for our sins (Colossians 2:13-14, Romans 6:23). God’s kindness in allowing people to come to a knowledge of the Truth (Jesus) and enter into His Kingdom through the living Way (again Jesus) is “meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

Salvation is also a result of God’s love. Many people are familiar with John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” He loved us enough to give His only begotten Son. Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:4-5 mirror and clarify today’s passage: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved….”

A love like that impacts one’s life.

Imagine that you and I are walking down a busy street together. While we are walking, we hear the roar of an engine and the screeching of tires a few yards behind us. There is barely enough time to understand what is going on, and I act solely out of reflex – shoving you to the safety of the yard while I (standing where you were just standing milliseconds before) take the full weight of the vehicle. Obviously, I would be dead. But you would be alive.

In that situation, you could definitely describe my actions as kind. Those actions would be characterized as a sacrifice. What would you say to my wife when she arrived at the crash site? What would you tell my children? How about your family – would my sacrifice come up as a topic of conversation?

You would tell everyone. My sacrifice would move you to words and gratitude. But I would be dead and my sacrifice would help only you.

We have been looking at the effect that Jesus’ presence – the effect of His sacrifice – on one’s life and how it should be evident. Jesus’ sacrifice is real in every way my hypothetical story was not – the main difference being that Jesus’ sacrifice is actual and He did not remain dead! The news of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf can help others be saved from sure destruction and damnation.            

If Jesus’ “goodness and lovingkindness” has appeared in your life, if He has saved you, it is time to make sure that His presence is producing a recognizable difference in your life. If you see no difference – no fruit, maybe it is time to assess whether or not you have moved from darkness to light – from death to life. The good news is that it is not too late to give your life to Him!

Refresh & Restore Salvation

Refresh & Restore — October 8, 2020

9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness of the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Acts 26:9-20

Greetings Sojourners!

I hope that this finds you well and ready to dive into God’s Word together!

Last week, we started looking more closely at what it means to have been in the presence of Jesus. Our theme verses for this devotional are Acts 3:19-21, and, in them, we see that “times of refreshing…come from the presence of the Lord”. Those words came from a sermon that Peter preached, and we followed those events through to their end when the hearers of that sermon were “astonished” that “uneducated, common men” – working class fishermen –  could have spoken so eloquently (Acts 4:13). It was clear to all that the only way this could have happened was that they “recognized that they had been with Jesus”.

So, today, we are continuing our look at what happens to one’s life when they have been with Jesus – when He has saved them and “caused [them] to be born again to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Peter and John were standing trial for practicing their faith, and it is the same for Paul in today’s passage.

Paul was standing before King Agrippa and was given the opportunity to “make a defense…for a reason for the hope” that was in him (1 Peter 3:15). I am sure that it had to be tempting to speak up for release. In fact, Paul had been imprisoned for a while by that point. Yet Paul saw this as an opportunity to share the gospel with his captive audience.

King Agrippa was really nothing more than a figurehead, but he had been summoned to hear Paul’s case by the Festus, an official representing the Roman government. Paul was originally put in jail for his own protection as some Jewish men had made a vow to kill him. He could have been released, but he had instead appealed to the emperor (Acts 25:25) since 1) it was his right as a Roman citizen, and 2) he felt compelled to take the gospel to the household of Caesar (Philippians 1:13, 4:22). You see, he had no desire to free himself from his worldly bonds because he was right where Jesus had already freed him to go – “…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

I have often heard people say that they wished that they had a life like Paul’s, but, hearing his testimony, I do not think that people have really thought that through. Paul did not candy-coat his story or gloss over the rough bits. He was unashamedly sharing his sinful past because there was “now no condemnation” for those actions (Romans 8:1); he had already been forgiven!

He testified to the fact that he had been heavily involved in persecuting those who are now his brothers and sisters. He testified to the fact that he put them in prison (where he now finds himself) and that he sought to have them speak against Jesus. Why did he share these terrible bits? He cannot have been proud of them. Why would he tell these strangers about his sinful past? He wanted them to understand that they too could be forgiven – that they too could be saved!

He moves on from his sinful past to the moment that he encountered Jesus. For us, it is through His Word and the prompting of His Holy Spirit as it is read or preached. But, for Paul, it was an experience like no other. The very same Jesus he was persecuting – and trying to convince people that He was dead – showed up on the road to Damascus! Talk about a life-altering experience! The very Light that he was trying to extinguish shined so brightly on that road that he became literally blind. And the gospel truth of the resurrected Christ that he was blind to suddenly became clear!

Any time that a lost sinner, dead in his or her trespasses and sins, gets saved and finds new life in Christ, it is a miraculous thing. Men and women dead in their sins can come alive in Christ through faith and repentance in Him – even today! Think of the awesome opportunity that Paul had that day: he stood before the political leaders of his day and shared with them how to be saved. Let us look at the message he proclaimed to them.

He shared with them that – just as his blind eyes were opened – the gospel of Jesus Christ could “open their eyes” (v. 18a). Isaiah 42:7 tells us that God can “open eyes that are blind” and “bring out…prisoners from the dungeon”. This is especially cool since the prisoner (Paul) is seeking for Christ to free his jailers from the true prison – sin! He hoped that – as he would later write – their eyes would be opened to see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

He also shared with them how Christ can turn us from “darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (v. 18b). This reminds me of the imagery that we read about around Christmas time: “…the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). Paul introduced them to Jesus who was the “life and light of men” and who “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome” (John 1:4-5)! He wanted them to have the opportunity to turn away from their lives of sin to the light and light that only comes from Jesus Christ.

The last part of his message focused on forgiveness. How many of us could forgive those who had wrongfully imprisoned us? How many of us can forgive things much less than that? But this was not some great character trait of Paul; it is a trait that comes from being forgiven of much ourselves (Matthew 18:21-35)! You see, Paul’s sharing of his former wickedness and life change through Christ showed that he remembered what Christ had done for him. And he knows and wants others to have it, too.

He wanted King Agrippa, Festus, guards, and anyone else who would listen to “receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith” (v. 18c). He wanted them to know that it is in Christ “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14) and that “to Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43).

I want you to know that the same thing is offered today. I hope that you have looked at the life of Paul today and noticed whether your life shows that you have been with Jesus. One day, we will all stand before Him, and we will either stand on the merit of our own works and the “wages of [our] sin” or on the merit of the work He did on our behalf and “the free gift of God…eternal life” (Romans 6:23).            

It is my hope and prayer that, if you are reading this, you have had your eyes opened by the gospel of Jesus Christ and moved from darkness to light, the power of Satan to God by repenting of your sins, believing in Him, and finding the forgiveness that only comes from Him. If you have, pray with me that God will make Himself evident in your life. If you have not received this eternal life, I would love to talk with you and introduce you to the One who gives it in abundance.

Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore – 10/1/2020

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

Acts 4:13-22

Greetings, Sojourners!

Last week, I heard back from one of my readers, and they referred to the devotion as “R & R”. That typically refers to rest and relaxation. While those are good things – and definitely things that I crave, it is much better and fulfilling to be able to rest in the presence of Jesus and be refreshed in our time spent with Him.

I find myself often returning to the verses that sparked the idea for the Refresh & Restore devotions:

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

Acts 3:19-21

We have talked at length over the last month about repentance. We have looked at how we have sinned against God and need to turn away from our sin to Christ our Savior. Now, I want us to see some examples of what it looks like to have been in the presence of Jesus.

Our passage today connects with these verses; they are part of the same event. Peter and John happened upon some people carrying a “man lame from birth” to the Beautiful Gate where he would beg for money (Acts 3:2). That man found more than he bargained for when he encountered Peter and John. Peter introduced him to the One who would change his life forever – Jesus. He told him:

“I have no silver and gold, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

Acts 3:6

And, just like everyone who has ever encountered Jesus, his life was changed thereafter.

Peter and John would proceed to have the opportunity to preach the gospel to a multitude of people at the temple because of this event and that man’s testimony. They testified to the amazing and miraculous salvation that takes place when people put their faith and trust in Christ. That same gospel still applies today for you and me! If we turn from our sin and put our faith and trust in Christ, we can find salvation as well!

Peter and John’s message travelled all the way to the Sanhedrin (Israel’s Supreme Court at the time). The powers-that-be were “greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). They set out – and succeeded – in arresting Peter and John. Their annoyance led to anger. But the gospel preached led to “many of those who heard the word [believing]” – “about five thousand” (Acts 4:4)!

The Sanhedrin felt that they had a duty to the status quo to keep Peter and John quiet. They tried the same thing with Jesus when they crucified Him. But, they were about to find that they could not stifle or silence the gospel. As Big John often says, “Preacher’s gonna preach!” Rather than being put out or discouraged by their arrest, Peter and John found themselves with a captive audience to hear their plea before the court. I can almost picture them smiling at the opportunity to testify!

I find it amazing that the people who failed to kill Jesus (well, they succeeded in killing Him for a few days) would ask as foolish a question as they did to Peter and John. They wanted to know “By what power or by what name did you do this?” For people who wanted them to stop proclaiming the name of Jesus, they sure went about it foolishly! Those who arrested Peter and John to quiet them just invited them to preach in the court!

It would have been easy for Peter and John to take credit for the healing of the lame man. It would have been easy for them to claim some sort of power and use it to manipulate the court into freeing them. They could have complied with the order to stop preaching. Or could they? There are many places in the world today that the powers-that-be have ordered that people stop preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. In those places, they would not care that good had come from people being saved, healed, or otherwise. They simply will not abide with the name of Jesus being proclaimed.

But the Bible is clear on the subject. The gospel must be proclaimed:

  • Jeremiah 20:9 – If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary holding it in, and I cannot.
  • Amos 3:8 – The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophecy?
  • John 15:27 – [Jesus said] And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:16 – For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

When one is saved by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone, they cannot help but proclaim it! And that is just what Peter and John did in response to the question of the court:

“Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by Him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:8b-12

Instead of seeking to free themselves from arrest, they sought to offer opportunity through the gospel for lost people to be freed from their sins and saved by Jesus!

The response of the court is that they were “astonished” that these “uneducated, common men” were able to preach with such “boldness” (v. 13). And their astonishment fell beyond Peter and John. The powers-that-be “recognized that they had been with Jesus”! May that be our testimony today – that people will recognize that we have been with Jesus, that we have been in His presence!

Spending time with God is always a noticeable thing. I know that I can tell a difference in myself and my own attitude when I spend time with Him in His Word and prayer. I also find that I cannot share what I have not experienced. Just as the lame man could not wait to run and tell everyone once he had been healed, Peter and John could not but tell people about the influence that Jesus had made on them – the impact of moving from death in their sins to life in Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5)!

The Sanhedrin were afraid for the gospel to continue because they had witnessed first-hand that it is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). It is quite a statement that the people who wanted to stop the preaching had a genuine belief that its preaching would cause the Way of Christ to continue and permeate their community. Do we believe that?

Are we spending time in God’s Word and in prayer and seeing it carry over into our lives? Are people looking at us and recognizing that we have been with Jesus? Unfortunately, we often just blend into the crowd. Our powers-that-be are not crying for us to cease preaching. But maybe we have yet to begin! May we think back to what Christ has done for us and proclaim it to any who will listen. Or else maybe we look and find that our lives have not yet been changed. What good news it is that Jesus specializes in just such a situation. “…[C]onfess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, [and] you will be saved” (Romans 10:9) Then, and only then can you rest and be refreshed in His presence!

Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore – 9/24/2020

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O LORD, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;  build up the walls of Jerusalem; 19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar. 

Psalm 51:13-19

Greetings Sojourners!

I cannot speak for everyone, but I have struggled through our study of repentance. I have struggled because, ultimately, repentance is not something that comes naturally to me. I have struggled because I like to believe that I have no need to repent. I have struggled because I am a sinner. But, sometimes, it is good to struggle – at least if you make it through to the other side!

We have been looking at the example of King David, seeing how repentance is an act of worship. David’s song of repentance, Psalm 51, has been our guide as we have discovered that we have sinned against God and are in need of Him alone as Savior. And, last week, we moved to some good news by discovering what it means to be restored to the joy of salvation. Today, as we wrap up our study of repentance, it is my prayer that we can look once again at the example of David and see how sweet it is to return to serving the Lord.

Even though David sinned against God – coveted, committed adultery, conspired to murder, and so on – he was still the king of Israel. When Nathan the prophet confronted him in his sin, he was the king. When he wept bitterly on the floor over the sickness of his child, he was the king. And when sat down to write Psalm 51 – you guessed it; he was the king.

Now, through most of this he was not in right standing with the Lord. Through most of these events, he was not worshiping the Lord. He was, for the most part, serving his own evil, sinful desires and not the Lord. And it is the same for us in our sin. We cannot serve ourselves and the Lord. We cannot succumb to temptation and seek Him. One excludes the other, just as the one act compromises the other.

But, while we would all most assuredly want to be restored to joy in salvation, we seem to lack joy in serving the Lord. I speak from experience in this area. I absolutely love that I get to serve the Lord today, but – not too many years ago – I literally begged God to let me not have to keep preaching and leading in worship. I hatched a grand, orchestrated scheme to leave ministry behind and get a regular job (or so I thought). I wanted to find joy in anything else, but I just did not want to serve.

I wish that this were untrue. I also wish that this did not show the sinful selfishness of my own heart. In those moments, I was more like Satan than the Jesus I claimed to serve. In John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, he depicts Satan in a similar light. There is a line in that poem that reads: “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” I absolutely hate the fact that these words echoed my sinful heart!

In Psalm 103:2, David says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits….” We want to be forgiven of our sin and have our diseases healed (103:3). We want to be rescued from “the pit” and crowned with the love and mercy of God (103:4). We want to be full and have our “youth…renewed like the eagle’s” (103:5). We want this, that, and the other. But what about wanting Him? And, in that wanting, serving.

This is where David is at the end of Psalm 51. Verse 13 shows us that once he had been restored he would “teach transgressors” the ways of God – and that those “sinners will return” to God! His reasoning for being cleansed is so that he have the opportunity to “sing aloud of [God’s] righteousness” (v. 14). David saw the opportunity to get to return to the service of his God and King as a privilege. He understood that he messed up.

It is good news for David – and for us – that our God specializes in sinners and mess ups! David, even though these words had not yet been written, knew and could testify to Jesus’ words in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Praise God for that truth! It is in these truths that we can echo David’s words in Psalm 51:15: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise”!

You see, God is not interested in keeping the status quo. He is not worried about appearances. Last Sunday, my pastor, John Goldwater, made the statement (while talking about God’s response and attitude toward sin in Jeremiah) that God is not an enabler.  An enabler is one who – through their own inaction – ends up encouraging (enabling) bad or dangerous behaviors in a person. An enabler sees the negative things that happen and does not intervene. No, our God is not an enabler. Instead, he grants us the opportunity to repent of our sin and turn back to Him (2 Timothy 2:25).

For David and Israel at the time, keeping with the status quo would have been the ceremonial acts of worship and sacrifices. David makes it clear in v. 16 that God had no desire to receive a sacrifice or burnt offering from him in his sinful state. Instead, God preferred the sacrifice of “a broken spirit” (v. 17). God knows that we are good at keeping up appearances. He knows what is in our hearts. And it is for that reason that he delights more in “a broken and contrite heart” than in the sacrifice of a whole herd of bulls. He delights more in repentant hearts broken over sin than a thousand sermons. For he knows that, if we truly love Him, our heart will show it; for it was God, Himself, who said, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34).

For me, those years ago, I had to come to a place of genuine repentance before I realized that I was not truly serving the Lord. I had to quit to begin working. I had to be humbled before I could serve. And, while I would not recommend the process, I am immensely thankful for it now.

I had to realize that I was not a sufficient Savior (Psalm 51:1-2). God did not save me so that I could be a major workhorse for Him. His Kingdom was not lacking in anything and in need of me. I was lacking and in need of the King (Acts 17:24-27)!

I had to be broken and find myself in despair before I could seek after the joy found only in Christ (Psalm 51:3-6, 11-12)! I had to be torn down and laid low before Christ would heal me and lift me up (Psalm 51:7-8)!  I had to look into the mirror of His Word and see the filth of my sin that covered me before I ever sought to be washed clean (James 1:22-23, 1 John 1:9, Psalm 51:9-10)!

But part of the journey is the perspective that it brings. I dare say that, if David had it all to do over again, he would have gone out with his troops to battle and stayed away from high vantage points above where beautiful women bathe (2 Samuel 11:1-2). If only going back in time were to be an option! Alas, it is not. But going back to God in repentance and relishing in his everlasting, steadfast love and mercy is!

I wish I could talk to my younger self. But that is not an option either. So, I rejoice that I get to talk to you now. I share what God has done in His Word and how He has blessed me. Where I once hoped to never have to serve again, I am now blessed with second-third-fortieth chances that I am not worthy of. I get to serve my King. And, while I am most assuredly not worthy of such a gift and opportunity, He loves me. And He loves and offers the same to you, as well.             Know that you are loved and prayed for. May you heed the call of Isaiah 55:6 and “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near….”

Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore — 9/17/2020

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:7-12

Greetings, Sojourners!

I am excited to bring you some good news today! That is, after all, what the gospel is – good news.

Over the past few weeks, we have been diving into what repentance is and how it fits into our walk with Christ. Part One showed us the example of King David. We saw how sin occurred in his life and how God uses David’s situation and the repentance that followed to teach us that repentance is a part of worship. Part Two helped us to realize that we need to acknowledge that our sin is against God and that we need a Savior.

The reality of our sin and our role in committing it is definitely bad news. My pastor, John Goldwater – who loves good news more than bad news, said in a sermon a couple weeks ago that we need the bad news to help us see and appreciate the good news. I agree. The reality of our sin and our realization that we need to cry out to our God and Savior Jesus Christ help us see the good news in the gospel. And, through the gospel, we can begin this week in looking at the good news regarding repentance.

As we journey through David’s song of repentance in Psalm 51, I hope that we can see what it is to be restored to the joy of salvation. I want to highlight the verses in today’s passage by looking at them in sections. As we walk through these verses, it is my prayer that you seek the Lord. Maybe you are missing the joy of His salvation in your life. It is my hope that you find yourself restored in your relationship to Him through the working of His Spirit in the reading of His Word!

vv. 7, 9

Verses 7 and 9 point to our need for cleansing. This carries over from last week’s passage, acknowledging our sin and need for salvation. The language that is used here – to be “purged” or “purified” with hyssop – brings up some Old Testament images. The priests used hyssop branches to sprinkle blood in various sacrifices. The biggest sacrifice was on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, when the priest would make a sacrifice on behalf of all of Israel and sprinkle the blood on the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. That day was very important in the life of Israel. It was a day that represented removing sin. But the priest would have to repeat it every year; in fact, Yom Kippur is coming up on September 28th.

The good news for us is that Jesus’ sacrifice takes away our sin forever! Hebrews 9:26b says, “But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” When we cry out to be cleansed, purified, and have the stain of our sin removed, we can rejoice because Jesus handles it once for all time! We can trust that God, through the finished work of Jesus, removes our sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). We can praise the Lord that He has “compassion on us”, tramples “our iniquities underfoot”, and casts “all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). You see, when Jesus cleanses from our sins, we are clean!

v. 8

If, at first glance, you find this verse to sound crazy, you are not alone. It defies logic and typical human thinking. Why would someone rejoice over being broken? Broken bones will certainly make someone cry out, but in praise? It is unheard of!

It is tempting to try and excuse this verse or glaze over it, but to do so would be to weaken what it is to repent. You see, repentance can only come out of a place of brokenness. Unless we reach that place in our lives where we truly understand our need to be saved, we will never submit to Christ. And, since our sin is against the holy, righteous God of the universe, the brokenness comes out of being chastised by Him:

  • Psalm 44:19 — …yet You have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death.
  • Psalm 32:3-4 – For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me, my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

But God does not break us to hurt us. He breaks us so that we find healing and Life in Him alone. There is good news because of the bad. The same hand that chastises us is reached out to pull us out of the muck and the mire, into His Fatherly embrace. 1 Peter 5:6-7 tells us to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”

Many people complain about old injuries and formerly broken bones aching when it rains or when bad weather approaches. For the believer, storms are going to happen in life – this much I can promise you. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 7:25: “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the Rock.” If you have your faith and trust in Christ, the wind and rain will not make the bones that He has broken ache; they will remind you of the grace and mercy He has already shone. They will remind you that His hand is outstretched to help you again and again and again.

v. 10

It is easy to forget that our hearts so often lead us astray. So much advice is spent trying to tell us to follow our hearts that we forget that God’s Word tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). And, while Jeremiah’s warning about our hearts is true, God also uses Him to bring us good news about our hearts: “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be there God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7). And how do we return to Him? By repenting of our sin and turning toward Him!

Through repentance and a relationship with Him, the reality is that He does create a new heart within us. Not only that, but He gives us His Spirit! I love these verses from Ezekiel because they give such vivid imagery for the change that occurs within our hearts:

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 36:26

That’s good news! A heart of stone is dead, but praise God He, “being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us…made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5)!

vv. 11-12

Our true fear is revealed in this portion of the song. We are afraid that God will abandon us, banish us, or stop loving us because we sin against Him. Everyone has felt this way as a child. I can remember a time in each of my kids’ lives where – when being punished – they asked if I still loved them. I can remember that it broke my heart when they asked. But do you know what I cannot remember? I cannot remember what they did to be punished. And the reason I cannot remember is because it has long since been forgiven.

We fear that God is going to abandon us because it is human nature to want to discard things that cause us pain. Part of repentance is acknowledging the pain that we cause our Father when we sin against Him. But the good news is that He will “never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Nothing will “be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

We can trust that He will not remove His Spirit from us because He is Emmanuel – God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23), and He has promised to be with us “always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 20:28). And it is because He will never leave us – because He will keep His Spirit with us – that we can rejoice! As painful as the process of repentance can be, it is – in and of itself – evidence of God’s Spirit at work in our lives (2 Timothy 2:25). So, if you feel the need to repent, rejoice! God is not done with you!            

I do not know where you are in your journey, but, I assure you, God is not done with you! Maybe you are cast down in your spirit. Maybe you feel like you are far away from the Lord. But let me encourage you to “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8a). Turn away from your sin and toward the Savior. Find joy in the comfort of His mercy and grace.

Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore — 9/10/2020

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Psalm 51:1-6

Greetings, Sojourner!

What a joy it is to have the opportunity to be refreshed by the presence of our Savior. Yet sometimes the joy – the refreshment – seems far off. Sometimes this journey seems longer than it should.

There are times when this distant feeling comes from outside sources – spiritual warfare, persecution, general difficulties. But there are also times where our times of struggle and lack of refreshment come from our own sin. We looked last week at a situation in the life of King David where His own sin caused difficulties. And, it was through that narrative, that we began to understand our own sin and see the grand example of repentance that we so desperately need.

King David is often held up as the human standard for worshiping God. And, it is through his example of repentance, that we see what is perhaps one of the strongest examples of worshiping – turning away from his sin and to the loving-kindness and forgiveness of his God. Psalm 51, basically, is a song of worship from David to God repenting of his sin and celebrating being restored to a right relationship with Him. We will look at this psalm over the next few weeks in three sections: acknowledging our sin/seeking the Savior, being restored to the joy of salvation, and offering our acts of service to the Lord once more.

David begins this song with a plea for mercy. The word for “mercy” in the original language means to show favor, to be gracious, or to show compassion toward someone. It is a plea for God to withhold the judgment and punishment that is deserved for sin committed. It is the cry of the guilty.

This may sound odd, but it is absolutely imperative that we understand that we are guilty of sin. Repentance cannot occur until we understand that fact. No one will seek a Savior until they are convinced of their need to be saved. And only those who are guilty of sin need a Savior.

David cries out for God to “have mercy” on him, and cites the “steadfast love” and “abundant mercy” of God as reasons for the mercy to be given. This reminds me of the way children will go to their parents after messing up. It does not matter if it is a toddler bringing the pieces of something he or she knocked off and broke or a teenager calling home after running the car off into a ditch; the cry is the same. They seek after their parents to remember their love for them as they dispense punishment. They seek for mercy to triumph over judgment (James 2:13).

Psalm 123:3 says, “Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.” When David appeals to God’s “steadfast love” and “abundant mercy”, it is because it is very much different than what the world offers. Instead of the “contempt” we deserve, we seek for God to “wash [us] thoroughly from [our] iniquity” and to “cleanse [us] from [our] sin” (v. 2).

The terms “wash” (Exodus 19:10) and “cleanse” (Numbers 19:19) fit with the Old Testament sacrificial system. Again, this reminds us that we are guilty of our sin and that there is no way for us to clean ourselves up. Only God can do that. The way that David shows us to repent here in Psalm 51 is mirrored in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” These truths are echoed in 1 Peter 2:24 and in the old hymn:

“What can wash away my sin?
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”[1]

David tells the Lord, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (v. 4). Does this mean that Bathsheba, who David slept with and who shared the child who passed away, was not sinned against? Does this mean that Uriah, the husband whose wife was stolen – whose murder was arranged by David, was not sinned against? Absolutely not. David was guilty as charged on all counts – covetousness, deceit, adultery, murder. But who decided that coveting, deceiving, adultery, and murder are sin? There is only One.

As important as it is that we understand our guilt and our need for God’s mercy, we need to know and understand that our sin is against God. You see, God is holy, perfect, just, and righteous. He created the universe and everything in it, and mankind holds a special place in that creation. God is sovereign over His creation. He made the rules and gives the commands. And going against His command is an act against Him.

It is quite an uncomfortable thought to think that we are sinners against a holy and righteous God. It is more uncomfortable to think that He is, in the very least, displeased with us because of our sin. It is another thing entirely to realize that our sin separates us from Him. Romans 5:12 tells us that “just as sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin…so death spread to all men because all sinned”. We are reminded that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). But, rather than leave us with our sin and death, King David leads the way to repentance and Life.

David reminds us that God “delight[s] in truth in the inward being” and “teach[es]…wisdom in the secret heart” (v. 6). God does not want to leave us in our sin. He has made a Way for us (John 14:6)! While David did not know the full picture, he pointed us in the right direction. There is good news to be had – even in the midst of sin and sorrow. And, being “grant[ed]…repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” that allows us to “come to [our] senses and escape from the snare of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:25-26) is good news, indeed!

We have looked today at what it is to be guilty of sin. We have seen a prime example of how to acknowledge that sin before the God we sinned against. But all of that is nothing if we are left in our sin. King David had faith that the “steadfast love” and “abundant mercy” of God would win out. Even though he did not understand it, his faith showed him a shadow of what we know through Romans 5:8: “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. This is an important truth for us to remember!

We realize this in salvation. When confronted by our sin and need for a Savior, we have the opportunity to repent of our sins and turn to Christ, trusting and believing in Him (Romans 10:9-10, 13). That act of repentance starts one following after Jesus along His Way. But repentance does not end there because, unfortunately, sin does not end there.

1 John 2:1a-2 tells us:

“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Where sin continues, repentance must continue. And, thankfully, God is not done with us once we have sinned against Him. It turns out His mercy is indeed “abundant”, and His love is indeed “steadfast”. And it is in these truths that we find ourselves at either an impasse or a challenge.

Will we continue in our sinning against the holy, sovereign God of the universe, or will be submit to Him, seek after Him as Savior and Lord, and repent of our sin?

I cannot answer this for you. I cannot repent for you. No one can. This is personal between you and God. And, thankfully, He is a personal God who specializes in forgiveness, grace, and mercy. So, I urge you to consider King David’s song. May you sing out to God as a plea for mercy. May your heart’s song be a plea to His love and mercy and seek forgiveness.

If you do not know Christ as your Savior and Lord, it is my prayer that you cry out to Him and trust Him to save you.  And, if you know Him already, it is my prayer that you “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).

As always, I want you to know that I love you and am praying for you, but, more than anything, I want you to know that you are loved by King Jesus. There is no greater love than that (John 15:13)!


Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore – 9/3/2020

19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago.

Acts 3:19-21

Greetings, Sojourners!

Twenty-one weeks ago, I began this journey of writing and sending out devotions. It has been one of the most enjoyable and challenging tasks that I have ever undertaken. I love the Word of God. And I love sharing that Word with others.

These verses grabbed my heart and inspired the scope and direction of these devotions. I wanted to show people that there are times of refreshing to be had in the presence of Jesus. I still want that. I wanted to show people that the way things are going on this earth are not going to be that way forever – that God has a plan for restoring His creation. The King of kings and Lord of lords – Jesus Christ, our Savior and God – has already won the victory. We can put our trust in Him.

But a key part of following and worshiping Him is a lot less enjoyable. Repentance occurs before refreshment. And repentance is not fun. I think Keri defined repentance better than I will ever be able. When she was first learning of the concept, she said it so simply: “I need to turn away from my sin and look at God”.

It seems like it gets, or at least feels, more difficult as the years go by, but it is always that simple. We are to look at the surpassing worth of our Savior and away from the filth and wickedness of our sin. We see who He is and what He has done, and our desire for Him should become greater than our desire to satisfy ourselves in our sin.

When I think of people who exemplify what it looks like to worship the Lord with abandon, there is perhaps no man in the history of the earth who has worshiped the Lord with such a heart as King David. The Bible describes him as one who “the Lord sought out…after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). And he loved the Lord.

David was an example of worship and trust before the Lord. He killed the giant Goliath to show God’s people that “there is a God in Israel” and “the Lord saves not with sword and spear” (1 Samuel 17:46-47). But David was a man, and he was a sinner.

1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired  about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”

2 Samuel 11:1-3

As much as David shows us what it is to be a true worshiper of the Lord, we can learn more through his times of sin than we can in his times of victory. We can learn as much, if not more, in the way that he followed God after Bathsheba than we can in him standing over the corpse of Goliath. We have more in common with him here and need to learn from his example of repentance.

You see, David’s sin here was not unique. It happened just like all our sin does. He was not where he was supposed to be. He was not doing what he was supposed to be doing. Is that not how we fall into sin – being where we should not and doing what we should not?

It was spring and the armies of Israel were out waging war. David was a warrior king. He belonged on the battlefield with his men. They “ravaged” but he “remained”. Then “it happened”. Sin happened.

I do not believe it was an accident that David was on that rooftop. I think he accomplished what he set out to do – to get to lust after a beautiful woman. You see, as much as we would like to convince ourselves and others, we enjoy the sin with which we struggle. Think about it: gluttons do not gorge themselves on lettuce and carrots but fried chicken and Little Debbie snacks; the prideful do not revel in their failures but successes. We struggle with sin that we enjoy and struggle with stopping. And sin works the same way for us today as it did with David thousands of years ago.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

James 1:13-15

When “it” happens for us, it begins in our hearts and minds. The idea is like a lure. It looks good to us. We occupy our minds with thinking about it until the point that the desire becomes acceptable to us. Once it becomes acceptable to us, it is only a matter of time before what is accepted becomes practiced.

We need to realize that, while the mechanics of sin is simple, the reality of it is not. James talks to us about how sin “brings forth death”. This is not a new truth; it is literally as old as mankind. We inherit the nature to sin from great-great-grand-daddy Adam. But our practice of sinning is our own. Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death”. And that is exactly what David found himself confronted with.

You can follow the story in 2 Samuel 11. David lusts after Bathsheba and then sleeps with her. Not only is he a married man, but she is the wife of one of his mighty men. Their act of sin ends with her becoming pregnant. David’s cover up goes to great lengths before ending with him having her husband, Uriah killed.

2 Samuel 12 shows us how God confronted David in his sin through the prophet Nathan. I urge you to read it. God confronts us in our sin through the Word as well. David’s sin cost him the life of the child of his and Bathsheba’s union. I cannot explain it. The reality of it pains me to my soul. It is just what God’s Word tells us happened. Just as it tells us that “sin brings forth death”. It is the truth.

But there is good news even in sadness. Repentance restores us to God. Once God’s judgment and punishment showed up in David’s life, look at his response:

Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped.

2 Samuel 12:20a

David turned from his sin and back to God. The Bible records David’s cry to God in repentance in Psalm 51, a passage that we will be walking through over the next few weeks.

It is my hope and prayer that you learn what it is to repent and turn back to God. I can attest to how painful a thing it is to be confronted with sin. But I can also testify to how worthy God is and how sweet it is to be restored to Him. So, if you want to experience a time of refreshing in the presence of the Lord, I pray that the Lord will grant you repentance (2 Timothy 2:25) and, instead of death, you experience Life in Christ:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved….

Ephesians 2:4-5

There is grace greater than our sin, and I pray you embrace it in Christ Jesus!

Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore – 8/27/2020

1 Peter 3:14-16 —

14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,  16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Greetings, Sojourners!

I have enjoyed our journey through 1 Peter looking at the hope that was offered to those original exiles and to us. As we get to our last passage today, I want to take a minute and remind us of the hope that we have looked at so far.

We have seen that the hope we have in Christ is different because it is “living” (1 Peter 1:3). We do not rely on a feeling or an experience because the object of our worship is the resurrected King Jesus; our hope is in Him. We have also seen how we need to prepare our minds for action by “set[ting our] hope fully on the grace” of Jesus (1 Peter 1:13); everything is under subjection to Jesus, including our thoughts. We were reminded that our “faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21) because of what He has done and is doing in our lives. Last week, we looked at how our hope in God adorns us (1 Peter 3:5) as we submit to God in our daily lives. How we hope determines how we live. And today, we are going to get a practical look at how our hope intersects and mingles with our daily lives.

One of the toughest aspects about being an exile is being different. Think about it. If you are an exile, you are from somewhere else – your very culture and values are foreign to where you are. That is the case for people who are living in exile around the world today.

When refugees flee from wicked dictators and terrorist regimes, they find themselves far away from home in lands that are not hospitable to them. Even in the US – a place known as a melting pot – refugees find it difficult because there are aspects of our culture that are foreign to them. And there are aspects of the refugee’s culture that are foreign to us. Think about the way that politicians, newscasters, and maybe even yourself or those around you have talked about the difficulties, or even dangers, of refugees coming into the country. People were/are afraid that these refugees would be more loyal to their homeland and be used to infiltrate our culture with terrorist ideals or – even worse – be a means by which the terrorists could gain access to us.

But God’s Word keeps reminding us: if we are born again, we are exiles. This world is not our home. The culture of a Christ-follower does not match up with the culture of the world. The values of a Christ-follower do not match up with the values of the world. Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:20 that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior”. We are to be more loyal to our heavenly homeland than to our place of earthly exile. And the ideals of our Savior and Lord are supposed to influence our place where He has planted us.

This causes difficulties both in us and around us. We struggle with our flesh because we desire to and do sin. We struggle with the world around us because we want to identify and fit into it. But God has called us to be different, and different is difficult.

Peter tells us that – if we live a Christ-like life – we will be reviled. This echoes Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”. Those who follow Christ will be noticeably different than the world around them. Just like in grade school, noticeable differences are noticed – and ridiculed. But Peter shows us a better response than “sticks and stones will break my bones”; he reminds us of our great Savior and the hope that He alone brings!

First, he tells them/us to “have no fear of them”. There is nothing that anyone or anything can do to us to remove our hope. There is nothing that can be done to remove our salvation from us. The most anyone could do is to kill us, and their greatest threat (death) is the believer’s greatest reward (eternity with Christ). Just as we looked at a few weeks ago, if we reverently fear the Lord, there is no reason to fear anyone on this earth.

Second, he tells them/us not to “be troubled”. This echoes words that Peter heard Jesus say on their last night together:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid”

John 14:27

This was a reminder to Jesus’ closest followers that things were about to get hard – harder than they could have imagined. It was also a reminder that He was – and is – Emmanuel, God with us! We need to set our hope on Him!

Rather than fearing or being troubled, we are to honor Christ the Lord as holy. We need to remember that He is unlike anything in this world. Holy at its most simple means set apart. God is set apart from everything in this world and above all that seeks to do us harm. We need to remember that. Having our focus set correctly on Christ reminds us that our “help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2). And, when we set our view of Him correctly, it impacts the way we live.

What Peter tells them/us next is a game changer. As I stated earlier, today’s passage gives us a practical application for our hope. Peter gives this advice: “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for are reason for the hope that is in you”. Wow! The hope you have in Christ should be so evident in your life that people want to know about it!

This is very convicting to me because, I know for a fact, that my hope has been less evident in my life this week than most others. I planned out the order of the passages in these devotions back in early July, and I had no idea what would be going on in my life in late August. But that is the beauty of the nature of our hope: it stays the same despite our circumstances!

So, here is the application I am preaching to myself today, and I hope it is of a help to you.

No matter the circumstances of my life, God is still on His throne. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). There is nothing that can unseat Him.

God was so moved by His love for the world that He laid His glory aside, humbled Himself, lived a sinless life, died the death I deserve, and rose again on the third day (Philippians 2:5-8, John 1:14, John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5). The gift of His life as found in the gospel is where I first found hope.

Once Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended back to the right hand of the Father, is high and lifted up with the name above every name, where He is interceding on my behalf as I type this devotion (Philippians 2:9-11, Romans 8:34).

Any suffering or trials that we may bear were first borne by Him, and He not only provides us an example for how to suffer well but has left us a Helper to get through it (Isaiah 53, John 15:18-27).

And, finally, He has poured out His love into our hearts that we may truly find peace and hope in Him:

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5

So I shall strive today to live – and hope – in such a way that people can see that I am not of this world because my Father is not of this world. I want people to see that I am an exile and seeking after something different than the world. Basically, I want to live my life in such a way that, when people want to know what is wrong with me, the answer is Jesus!

May we find hope in Him and point to Him no matter our situation!

Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore – 8/20/2020

1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

1 Peter 3:1-6

Greetings, Sojourners!

As we journey through 1 Peter looking at hope, I have to admit that this is not a passage that I initially wanted to cover. I thought long and hard about skipping it. This passage is not flashy. It is not exciting. In fact, if I am not careful, I can distract from its intended message.

But I am firmly convinced that we do not need flash or excitement. We need the word of God exactly as it is written. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that today’s passage is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for correction, and for training in righteousness” and that through it we may be “complete, equipped for every good work”. The Holy Spirit intended it to give hope to the exiles in Peter’s original audience, and He intends the same for us on our journey Home today.

It is not hard to see what the original context was here. Peter was talking to a group of people who were having difficult times for many different reasons. 1 Peter 2 covers people being subject to tyrant governments and emperors. It also covered how believers who had been sold into slavery were to treat their masters. Neither situation is ideal, and one is vastly worse than the other. Yet God called them to persevere and guard their conduct. Look at 1 Peter 2:19: “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly”.

That sounds ridiculous. From an earthly perspective – especially an American perspective, it is difficult to imagine why one would submit to unjust suffering. From a heavenly perspective, we see a picture of the mind and heart of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). 1 Peter 2:21-24 shows His example:

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.”

This shows us that Jesus patiently endured sorrow and was willing to suffer because His endurance gave time for our repentance. He bore the penalty for our sin on the cross. Basically, He died the death we deserve to give us the Life that He alone deserves. What a gift!

In the context of today’s passage, we see the picture of a godly wife yoked with an ungodly husband. I would love to say that this is an unusual situation. I genuinely wish that I could say that this is rare and instances of this are few and far between. But, just as Christ patiently endured until the time that our repentance came (or is still coming), these godly women show us what it is like to genuinely love someone and hope/pray for their salvation. Peter says that these women’s “respectful and pure conduct” can win their husbands to Christ.[i]

Look at the way Peter describes that conduct; he describes the conduct of these women to be their “adorning” – like beautiful clothing and jewelry! We have all met people who are just genuinely beautiful people. No matter what they wear or how they fix themselves up, they are beautiful from the inside out. We have also encountered people who – at first glance – are very physically attractive but whose internal ugliness eclipses any perceived beauty. Peter reminds these wives – and all of us today – to “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (v. 4).

The Bible is very clear on our heart: what is inside will show through to the outside. This is how Jesus put it in Matthew 7:33-34:

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

There are many who like to speak of good things and try to hide the evil in their hearts, but Jesus makes it clear that what is inside will bleed through to the outside. I can, unfortunately, speak from experience: hatred on the inside will inevitably show up on the outside. We will be known by the fruit our lives bear.

Peter reminds these godly women of the heritage that they share. He tells them that if they “do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (v. 6) that they are continuing in the legacy of Abraham’s wife Sarah who submitted to him.

Peter tells them that the adorning, the “hidden person of the heart”, is how the “holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands” (v. 5). And submitting to anything is one of the most difficult human actions. Submitting to something and giving it a place of authority is even more difficult.

So, what can we get out of all this? Where does the hope we need come into play?

Ultimately, our submission is to be to God, and I think that James gives us very good context for this:

“Therefore it says ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

James 4:7-8

If we are proud or puffed up, we hope only in ourselves. There is no place for submitting to Christ as Lord if our hearts are arrogant and conceited. If we are sitting on the throne of our hearts, Christ does not. So, we must submit to Him as Lord (Romans 10:9-10).

Once you submit to Him – once you are born again, saved, redeemed – things begin to change. What was dead inside of you is made alive (Ezekiel 36:26, Ephesians 2:4-5). Eventually, that inside change is going to work its way outside. It will affect your conduct and way of life. Your hope in the salvation that comes only from Christ is going to affect your outlook, your mindset, and your conduct. Are there going to be days and weeks where your old self and flesh win out? Unfortunately, there will. But the victory over all of it has already been won.

So, we find ourselves being willing to submit in order that people may be won to Christ. We find ourselves being willing to be reviled and persecuted so that those people mistreating us see our conduct, listen to the Word of God that we share with them, and their becoming our brother or sister when they repent and believe in Jesus. This, as usual, is easier said than done. But I can assure that it has value for your life. And it is absolutely what will eventually happen when you have genuine, living hope (1 Peter 1:3)!

I would urge you to think about godly people who you have seen endure hardship so that the gospel can go out. Maybe you have a pastor that endures hell from his congregation while we shares heaven with them. Maybe you know of someone who endures persecution in their work because they want to make sure their coworkers know the hope that comes only from Christ.

It is more likely that you know of a godly wife who puts up with more than you could imagine. You probably wonder how she could love her sorry husband or put up with his foolishness. You probably have told her that she should kick him to the curb for waste management to pick him up. But she sees something that you do not. She sees someone that needs saving. She sees someone who – if they would only repent and believe in Christ – can be so much more than you realize. She is looking at him like Christ looks at us.

And that should be the ultimate focus of our love: to see the people around us come to hear the gospel so that they can repent and believe. May the hope you have in Christ drive you to submit yourself to foolishness that He may receive glory! May the hope we have drive our conduct and our appearance. And, if we search our hearts and do not find that hope, may God grant us the repentance and faith in Him that we need the most!

[i] I know that there are genuinely terrible and terrifying situations built into some marriages. There is abuse and worse than I would ever hope to imagine people enduring. In those situations, do not hesitate to seek help or assistance.