When you read the New Testament from Acts onward, you see a flurry of cities and regions where the Holy Spirit is working in powerful ways. Many are the stories of God moving through the apostles in these areas. Thessalonica, where a newly planted church takes the area by storm - spreading the gospel everywhere. Troas, where Luke, the evangelist preached. Philippi, site of Paul’s first evangelical sermon and where a powerful church was planted. Berea, the home of the “more noble” believers who searched to see what the Scriptures said. Ephesus, site of the first mega-church where Timothy pastored is also a church to whom Paul wrote. Remember the Temple of Artemis, where the pagans worshiped Diana and started a riot? And who can forget the island of Patmos, from where John wrote his book of Revelation following the visions God gave him.
These are the cities, places, and stories you want to see, experience, and learn more about. But a great trip to this region will also include Themapylae, where Greeks fought for their freedom during the Persian wars of 480 BC. The Greek city-state, Sparta, is the topic of numerous movies and historical battles, and of course, Athens, the jewel of Greece.
I’ve read of these places for years, but have never been there. All that is about to change. I’m leading a trip in November of 2024, and I want to invite you to come with me. If you’ve been to Israel, you know how a trip to that region can help the Scripture be even more meaningful with historical facts and details that you can actually experience. Well, the same applies to Greece - the gateway of the gospel as it made its way across the continent and eventually across the sea to the Western world of which we are a part.
Consider joining us for the 2024 Trip to Greece! This link will give you the details, but the Bible itself will chart the course. I’ll be teaching through each of these cities and regions and can’t wait to discover who is going with us! Join us if you can!
Click the link HERE for full information about our upcoming trip to Greece!
In preparing to write an article on the need to pray for Israel, I came across Greg Laurie’s article – and decided that he’s said it all. Read and enjoy!
Link to Article Here -> Why Christians Should Support Israel
Pro-Life. It’s one of those words that we like to be identified with. Of course we are pro-life!
But pro-life is more than pro-birth, isn’t it? At the very least, being pro-life means that we have a strong conviction that life begins at conception and that the unborn child is highly valued and to be protected! This conviction is why Mid-Cities Women’s Clinic began decades ago and has helped tens of thousands of children be born. We’ve watched this take place and rejoiced.
Did you know that the overturning of Roe v. Wade (the Dobbs Amendment) has meant that many, many more children will be born and that those people who are pro-life will have opportunity to celebrate, encourage, and support those new (and often very young) families begin their new life? The church (that’s us) who has been there to help protect unborn children can also be there to support these newborns and their moms.
What does it mean to be pro-life immediately beyond the birth of a child? It means we encourage and support these courageous moms who face financial and circumstantial challenges and decide to have the child. Some make the decision to raise their child as a single parent and others make the decision to place their child for adoption - all the while weathering the storm and propaganda of a culture that does not value that child’s life.
What can the church do to minister well to these courageous moms?
We can reach out to and encourage them. “Embrace Grace” is a ministry that lovingly and relationally reaches out to the moms-to-be who face these decisions and encourages and loves them in practical and supportive ways. These moms-to-be are given the gospel and discipled well. Those who minister to these moms are literally being the hands of feet of Christ. Cross City has an Embrace Grace group, and we’re seeing God do some really special things. I’m thankful to be a part of a church that reaches into our community in this way.
We can come alongside them as they come into the church and explore their future here. Most young moms-to-be have not imagined that a church would invite them in and show loving support. We have an incredible opportunity to demonstrate the love of Jesus toward them - and celebrate life with them.
We can celebrate this aspect of being pro-life! Ministry like this needs to be known and shown. I hope to tell you many stories in the days ahead that will encourage you and inspire you to see more and more what being pro-life is about.
Then, what about moms who choose life for their baby and believe it’s best for their child to be adopted? Additionally, there are many children from difficult situations who need a family to care for them. To be pro-life is to make sure we’re caring for these children, too!
This is why encouraging fostering and adoption in our church is so crucial. Foster and adoptive parents are to be celebrated! They see a need that they sense a call to meet and step up with courage and conviction to be a very, very big part of the solution. Every fostering and adoptive parent I’ve met senses this very personal call from the Lord - and they commit their lives to fulfill it well! The closer you get to these families, the more you admire their ministry of love.
Pro-life. It’s much, much more than a mantra. It’s way of life and ministry.
Not even kings are exempt from grief. Even if one could control a kingdom, have all the resources at their disposal, and a thousand people at their command – still, grief finds us.
King David, who provide us with both positive and negative pictures of how to live life – gives us yet another illustration. This one is a lesson of how to get through devastating grief and emerge on the other side with solid faith.
David’s greatest moment of humiliation took place when he took the wife of an Israeli soldier who was at war, bedded her while her husband was on the front lines, impregnated her, and attempted to cover it up by arranging her husband’s death. David then had his sin exposed by the prophet whom God sent to call him out.
Now David and Bathsheba are married, and she has born the son from their sinful union. David has repented and has come back to the Lord, but the child is gravely ill and dying, a direct judgment upon David by God.
As we get into this story, let me stress that the greatest amount of grief experienced in life is not the result of the direct judgment of God upon our individual actions. It’s true that all sin and death constitute God’s judgment upon sinful mankind from Adam onward, and as such, we all experience grief and loss in this life. It’s also true that God has shown at various times, just as in David’s life, that He may allow grief and misery to take place specifically because of individual sin. All grief and all loss, however, are not the result of our actions.
In New Testament times, Jesus was asked this very question:
“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in Him.’” John 9:1-3
Clearly, tragedy and grief are not always caused by sin in our lives. But grief does happen, and we know it well.
There is a time where each of us will experience pain in this life. No one is exempt – not even King David. Give the Bible credit for telling real life stories where not everything seems to end well. It’s the ultimate real-life book, and David is going through real pain.
As David is confronted for his sin and repentance takes place, Nathan the prophet pronounces that the child will die. Nevertheless, David, who knows how to pray, begins to intercede for the child.
“David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground.” 2 Samuel 12:16
As all his household staff and counselors stood around him, trying to console him and attempting to sustain him with food, David simply would not give up on his child.
It is seven long days later that the child dies. and the servants are fearful to tell David, concerned that grief would overwhelm him and he’d take his own life. The text reveals the depth of their alarm. If his grief was intense at the beginning of this seven days, imagine how exhausted and beat up he is at the end.
David is doing the very best he can do – but he’s struggling.
I realize that some of you, reading of David’s grief, are reminded of your own. For you, it might be seven days – or even seven years that you carried that grief until you found relief, or the ability to bear it. For others, the grief has yet to end. In these seasons, so many feel alone. Often, grief triggers anger and bitterness. Some deal with the struggle by blaming themselves or others. Some blame God. Many lose balance between faith and reality.
It may be that you’re exhausted with grief, and you wonder where God is.
When we read this account of David’s grieving, we’re looking for moments when God steps in and speaks, or acts, or causes others to intervene. We want to see something, anything to show that He’s still in control. Yet, we don’t see that here.
We see a man walking by faith when heaven is silent. It often happens that way.
There is a time when you’ve done all you can do.
David did all he could do. His actions are very clear.
He confessed his sin to God. “I have sinned against the Lord.” 2 Samuel 12:13
As the confrontation occurred, David gradually owned his actions and confessed to God. This is an important part of our responsibility.
Still, even as he prays, David knew catastrophe was imminent. Nathan has pronounced the judgment to David in an unmistakable way. It’s the equivalent of a police officer at your door in the middle of a night. A nurse escorting you to a family room for a private conversation. A doctor giving you the verdict after surgery. The discovery of something you never imagined would happen.
Still, he interceded in prayer. “David therefore inquired of God…” 2 Samuel 12:16
He’d done all he could do.
By the way, it’s OK to grieve, to cry, to weep – you need that space. We need to give others that space in their time of grief, as well. Much as we dislike this “time,” it comes.
Solomon acknowledged this about life. “There is an appointed time for everything…. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance.” Ecclesisastes 3:1, 4 Of course we love the laughing and dancing, but the weeping and mourning are just as real.
Something common to all our painful experiences is the unanswered question we ask over and over of God or others, “Why?” When we cannot see the rationale of evil and pain, we yearn for some logical or theological answer to why it’s unfolding in our lives.
“If I could just know why, I could justify this horrible time in my mind,” we say.
Sadly, we rarely get the answer to the “why” question. It’s probably the wrong question.
Instead, ask, “What now?”
If God is not going to give me an answer to “why” and if I cannot reconcile my pain by reasoning or justifying it in some way, I need a next step. Hence, “What now?”
It’s a great prayer. “Lord, what do I do now? I’ve accepted this tragedy. What’s next?”
Keep in mind that we are not ready for this prayer unless we’ve done all we can do. Some never do come to God, never pray, never accept the facts we’re faced with. Those of us who do not do all we can do will never leave the scene of the crime. It will haunt us forever. We will waste our lives looking for revenge or resenting God for what we thought He should have done.
Yet, we’re told that taking revenge, exacting justice or fixing the wrong is not our job. The Bible repeatedly reminds us that God goes where we cannot go.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:18-19
If we’ll believe Him, God will go and exact revenge in a way only He can.
An acquaintance of mine who’d been sexually abused by his father growing up did all he could do to forgive and reconcile with his father, but the relationship simply could not be restored. The father was unwilling to face it. In grappling with this seemingly unfinished business, my friend had to come to the stopping point of realizing he’d done all he could do. God would have to do the rest.
This sense of injustice, of unreconciled relationships or situations that seem to call to us to do more will often make us restless. We cannot forget it. We worry. We look for open doors. We pray. It becomes our journey – a journey of walking wounded for many years.
However, if we know we’ve run to God, confessed any known problem in our lives, interceded for our loved one or the situation we face – if we know that – then we must accept that we’ve done all we can do. Our limitations have full stop moments. We are at a dead end.
But God is not finished. He’s not at a dead end. He never is.
There is a time when we must get up and go on.
Life won’t wait on the wounded. Life moves on past us if we don’t get up and go on.
During the ministry of the Old Testament prophet Elisha, an interesting story unfolds. The Aramean armies have camped around and besieged the city of Samaria and are starving its inhabitants. Four lepers sit outside the gates deliberating what to do. Finally, one says:
“Why do we sit here until we die? If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ then the famine is in the city and we will die there; and if we sit here we die also. Now therefore come and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we will live; and if they kill us, we will but die.” 2 Kings 7:3-4
In other words, “We may die either way, but at least we’re making an attempt to live.”
They go into the enemy camp and find it deserted. Unbeknownst to them, God had caused the armies to become afraid in the night and they fled. These four lepers walked into an empty, yet fully stocked camp with all the food and drink they could imagine.
There’s a lesson here. It may feel bad at the moment, and we may not know exactly what the next day holds for us, but to remain in place, starving (or wounded) won’t help us either.
There’s a time to get up and go on.
To watch David move past his grief is inspiring. He takes four important steps that we can all take:
First, David looked within himself and found a place of acceptance. Having done all he could do for the child, he accepted the loss and grief, and took a step forward. He gets up off the ground where he’d lain, he washed and changed his clothes, and came into the house of the Lord and worshipped. In answer to his servants’ questions, he responded:
“While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may life.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” 2 Samuel 12:22-23
I cannot explain how one worships in grief, but I know it can be done. Part of it is simply realizing that we cannot control our world around us, and part of it is yielding to the God Who is in control. David worshiped after his child had died. Job worshiped after losing all ten of his children and all he possessed. Coming back begins with worship – where we say, “All I have is yours. I surrender all.”
Neither Job (who was guiltless) or David (who was guilty) questioned, resented or doubted God. They didn’t wallow in grief, nor did they rake themselves over the coals with blame.
Some who read this are victims with grief caused by another. You may be angry at those who perpetuated the pain you experienced. Remember, God will settle this one day in a just and fair and righteous way – a way you could never arrange. Trust Him.
You must come to accept that the pain is real, and that only God can bring justice.
Second, David looked behind him and found his place of responsibility. While he knew he was responsible for his sin – and the derailment his sin had caused - he also saw what God had done in his past to place him on the throne. He had people who depended on him, who looked to him for security and the welfare of the nation. While his sin had created doubt about his leadership, he found a way to address his failures while owning up to his responsibilities.
Third, David looked around him and found a place of ministry. “Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba…” 2 Samuel 12:24
The word here implies that David comforted her from deliberate and intentional effort to help. Though he knew he’d brought this on her, this wasn’t action from pity or grief. It was his attempt to help her get past the pain. When we reach out to others, it takes attention off our own pain. While it may still be present, it is muted by the ministry we give to others. It helps us find purpose in our sufferings. It helps us begin a cycle of hope instead of perpetuating the endless process of pain and misery.
Decades ago, I heard the message of a Viet Nam war veteran, Clebe McClary, who had been seriously wounded in battle. He returned home and began to rebuild his life and future with his wife, who’d waited for him through the time and damage of war. Noticing many veterans around him who were struggling to move on from the same things he’d faced, he created an acrostic to encourage them that they could overcome their past. The acrostic, FIDO, stood for “forget it, move on.” He talked about when speaking, he created a sign that emblazoned the acrostic on his vehicle, but he also lived it. FIDO was Clebe’s blunt way of saying to others, “We can do this. With God’s help, we can do this. Let’s go!”
FIDO has been constant reminder to me that we must move on. It also causes me to remember that there are people all around us who need to be encouraged to move on.
Fourth, David looked ahead and found a place of opportunity. “…and he went in to her (Bathsheba) and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon.” 2 Samuel 12:24
Considering all they’d been through and all their relationship stood for, this is not just a casual recording of the facts. It is notably specific.
David is moving forward. From his repentance over his sinful actions to his surrender during a time of grief – David is doing his best to be faithful again. He’s determined to be faithful to God, to his wife, and to the future.
This is not the same man who lusted after Bathsheba and sent for her. David has changed. He’s now looking for the promise and opportunity God might still bestow on him, and he knew that to be in the next generation. Solomon, the son they eventually conceived, became the greatest and wisest of all kings. Solomon’s name means “peace, wellness,” and during his reign, God did amazing things that he would not during David’s reign.
During a time of peace, years before the encounter with Bathsheba, God had given David a promise. While David desired to build a temple for the Lord, God told him, “No.” God also told him that his son would build that temple.
“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 2 Samuel 7:12-13
David is pursuing that promise, and it’s only by the grace and forgiveness of God that it took place.
David’s part was getting up and going on.
Ron Dunn was a well-known Bible teacher in America during the late 20th century whose life encouraged many. His wasn’t an easy life. He was well acquainted with grief and heartbreak.
After one tragic season of life where he’d lost his own son to suicide, he returned to his congregation with an unforgettable message.
“All I’ve taught you from Scripture is true. I want you to know, I’ve been to the bottom, and the bottom is solid. When you get there, you’ll learn that His is a foundation we can stand on.” Ron Dunn
Somehow, God had allowed Ron Dunn to reach down deep, draw on God’s power, and come back from grief.
Somehow, many have walked the path of grief and inexplicable shock, found the way the reach down to a solid foundation, and began rebuilding.
David’s story tells you how.
Parenting is one of the greatest adventures of life! Kim and I have enjoyed more than three decades of being parents together, and now that our youngest is 26, we’re also moving into the season of grandparenting! It’s a fun time, and I’m surprised by how much conversation goes into what your new grandchild will CALL you. Here’s a newborn baby, and we’re all talking about what name we’re going to train her to call us. Like I said, “fun times!” Who knows what she’ll actually say!
If you’re a parent, you know the big truth that we’re pointed to in the Scripture. Here is it: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. What a great principle! This proverb in not a promise, but a great principle to live by in your task of parenting. Every good thing we do in the way of investing in our children will bear some kind of fruit in the years ahead - work ethic, responsibility, spiritual insight, or some other fruit.
When I was a young parent, in my zeal, I took this as a promise from God. I wanted it to be a guarantee, and we sure wanted to do our part. As Kim and I continued our journey of parenting, we were dedicated to be faithful parents who trained our children well. As we went along, however, we were reminded of another Scriptural principle - that each person (or child) has a free will and an individual responsibility to God.
When our children made adult decisions that were contrary to their training, we often asked “where did we go wrong?” It may have been the wrong question. No parent is perfect. Also, no parent can guarantee the result of their training. Instead, we learned to ask another question altogether.
Instead of second-guessing our parenting, we began to ask, “How will God personally work in my child’s life?” I’m convinced that’s the best question to ask and the best prayer to pray. Candidly, the way I pray for my adult kids these days is every bit as intense and focused as when they were little children.
Ultimately, the way God worked in OUR lives to reveal Himself and become very real to us is the same type of way He will work in THEIR lives. We must trust Him to do what we can never do.
Ultimately our confidence can never be in our performance as parents but in His capability as God of the universe.
Occasionally, you become familiar with an individual or family that has experienced generational family trauma or abuse in their lifetime, but were able to forgive those who hurt them - and chart a new course for their own family.
These are huge seasons that influence the future with grace and victory - and leave you saying, “Only God.”
I saw this unfold in a big way recently, and was able to say, “only God” with that individual. This person was raised in an environment where he saw both the best and worst in parents. One parent was amazingly patient, kind and supportive, while the other was angry, abusive and spiritually dark. The kids had quite a lot of forgiving to do - and many harmful, evil examples to overcome. Over the years, they saw a pattern tracing back several generations and began to understand the curse that had to be overcome.
But overcome they did! In the middle of this story is a loving, faithful God who walked them through every step of forgiveness, release and the finding of purpose in the midst of chaos. This is something “only God” can do.
The after-story: Instead of abuse and anger, there is grace and kindness. Instead of regret and remorse, they are passing down light and purpose and love. The One who was able to accomplish all this? Christ - in them.
Future generations are blessed when we break the curse of sin in our lives and in our family and purpose to pass on the grace and love of the gospel.
God really does make all things new.
One of the greatest gifts my wife and I have ever received is the gift of a trip to Israel. The year was 2007, and Kim and I were busy in ministry and raising our family. While Israel has always been a dream trip for us, we didn’t have the resources for a major trip, nor did we know how we’d cover all the home bases - so it wasn’t even a thing UNTIL we got a call one day. On the other end of the call was a friend who said, “I want you to go to Israel, and the expenses are covered!” After some surprised expressions and some definite prayer, we were ready to go.
By the way, you never know how one act of generosity can impact a person’s life!
I learned this, as well - one trip to Israel can truly enrich your life and deepen your appreciation for God’s Word.
Here’s my Top Ten List for why a person should want to go to Israel:
1. It’s THE place where Jesus was born, walked, taught, and did His miracles. It’s fascinating to be there!
2. You stand in the shoes of the original disciples - almost literally - as you hear Jesus’ teachings in those spots.
3. As you visit various places, details of Scripture fall into place like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fit together.
4. The hubbub and busyness of Jerusalem take you back to the crowds surrounding Jesus in the day.
5. You are impressed by the dedication of the Jewish people for preserving the Word of God from scrolls.
6. When one prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, close to where Jesus prayed in those moments, it’s powerful.
7. You look around at the visitors to Israel and realize the whole world is STILL captured by Jesus.
8. The archeological digs and finds remind you that what you read in Scripture is fact, not fantasy.
9. PETRA! Anyone who goes to Petra in Jordan talks about it to everyone. Look it up. Go with us!
10. The walls of Jerusalem where David walked - Masada, where the Jews battled Rome - the Sea of Galilee - the Temple Mount - Engeddi, where David hid from Saul - the Dead Sea - the baptism service in the Jordan River, and of course, communion at the Garden Tomb.
OK, there’s no real way to get everything in a Top Ten list! I’ve not even mentioned the amazing friendships you form and conversations you have with your group. It’s an experience you should want and one you should pray about.
Our next trip to Israel will be in March of 2024, and we’d love to have you consider going with us.
When I was 6 years old, I became gravely ill and had a high fever for an extended period of time. One of my earliest memories is one of my parents holding me in a bathtub filled with water and ice in an attempt to break this fever. I didn’t understand at all what was happening.
That night, the fever broke, and I began to recover, but a result of the fever I lost 90% of my hearing in both ears and my world went largely silent. As a young boy my world became one with moving lips and actions that had no sounds. I felt alone and separated from everything around me.
My amazing parents jumped into efforts to solve my silent world that included lip-reading classes, hearing aids, and thinking through every possible way to help me function in a hearing world. Elementary teachers in my small town joined the army of helpers and I honestly believe this team of incredible people made my world so much better than it could have been.
But life was still difficult and I had some weighty questions. Why is everyone else normal while I have this hearing loss? Where was God when this was taking place? How can a God who is supposed to be able do anything sit idly by when I’m struggling badly?
I was convinced that life was unfair and that I was a victim.
I can’t remember how many times God reminded me “I’m not done with you yet. The story is not over. Why can’t you trust Me for the next chapter?”
Slowly, I learned to trust Him for one thing, then another. And now, daily. He’s still not done! My journey of faith continues, and I’m in no way disappointed with what He is doing!
“What would these lives have been like if they had never listened to God or been open to His help? How would their stories have been different?” It’s not difficult to imagine how badly things would go with any of these biblical characters if they hadn’t stopped, listened and obeyed.
I frequently think about where I would be today if I were “on my own.” I don’t like what I envision.
Have you wondered if God was done with you? Have you stopped entertaining the “what if” question that God sometimes surprises us with? “What if God were to do this work in my life, or answer this prayer? What if He were to give me next steps in the days ahead?”
Let’s remember some things we’ve learned:
Reminder #1 - God is completely aware of where you are and what is taking place. Sometimes this truth is uncomfortable, especially when we prefer things be hidden. At other times, this is the most welcomed truth in the world. I may feel lost, but God knows where I am!
Reminder #2 – You’re never alone. God is there. He is with you. This is generally true in that God is omni-present. He’s literally everywhere. .
Reminder #3 – God still gives promises and keeps them. Some of the greatest stories in the Bible involve promises God gave to His people that He kept, no matter how impossible the circumstances were. God still gives promises and keeps them.
Reminder #4 – God’s resources are endless. The wisdom displayed by Abigail and Esther in trying moments is impressive. God gives amazing insight, strength or resolve.
Reminder # 5 – Patiently waiting for God to speak or act keeps us from self-destructing. Moses’ anger and compulsion kept setting him back instead of moving him forward. If he’d only waited for God to work, his life would have been far simpler! It’s true of us, too.
Reminder # 6 – Grace and grit work well together. We can’t do anything well without God’s grace, but He also calls us to endurance. It’s important to hang in there while waiting on God to work. We hang in there when marriage is challenging or when raising kids is making us crazy. Those seasons will pass if we don’t give up. We have to hang in there when life feels awful, knowing it will change at some point. We must hang in there because the opposite is to give up. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” 2 Corinthians 15:10
That’s grace and grit.
Reminder #7 – During every difficult season, God is building our character to become more like Christ. If we remember that God is always at work to help us become more like Christ, then this reminder is a welcomed one.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:28-29
He’s shaping us. He’s shaping YOU, and knowing He is using our circumstances to cause us to be more like Christ is a great encouragement.
Sometimes life is not what we thought it would be. Or maybe it’s not all of life that seems misaligned, but a big piece is out of kilter and is seriously holding us back.
Maybe our faith is shaken because God is not doing what we think He should do.
We see – again – evil triumph over good, and the injustice disappoints us.
We pray – and see or hear nothing from the God who tells us to call out to Him!
Our marriage or family – or our prospects of those are disappointing.
We trusted someone, and they betrayed our trust – and it hurts.
Have been in any of these places? Have you felt this in your life in any way?
Somewhere in the grief that those things cause in us, we look around us for someone to blame, and in the search we land on God Himself. Where WERE you? WHY did you let this happen?
If you’ve felt this way before, you’re not far from where Peter was in John 21. He’s lost his grip on faith and has gone back to what he knew from before – which was fishing. Jesus has died in what Peter perceives as a crushing defeat – and even though the tomb is empty, it’s not making sense to this fisherman yet. Peter’s plan for Jesus has bit the dust. He’s disillusioned.
The dictionary defines “disillusioned” as a having lost one’s ideals, illusions or ideas about someone or something. Peter was there. It’s true that Peter didn’t know the bigger plan, and it’s also true that he had some ideals and hopes about Jesus that were his OWN, but so do we.
And that’s why WE are sometimes disillusioned, as well. It’s why we’re close to giving up.
And then Jesus shows up on the shore while Peter and the others are in the boats after a miserable and fruitless night of fishing. Just for moment, imagine you’re in that tiny boat on a dark sea all night, and you’ve been grumbling, along with the rest of them. You see the man on the seashore calling out to you. “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” “No,” you answer. “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.”
I love that Jesus comes to people in their doubt and disillusionment. He does this over and over! I love that He tells them to do something that seems ridiculous. THEY (you and your boatmates) are the experts when it comes to fish. (We just have to remember Jesus is the expert over all of creation)
Well, the disciples do what He says and suddenly, everything changes. The nets are so full they cannot haul it all in. John sees the evidence, looks again at the shore and says, “It’s the Lord,” and Peter dives in the water to get to Him. What are YOU doing at that point?
We usually run away from God when we’re disillusioned. This is what Peter was actually doing at the beginning of this story – he was rowing a boat AWAY from the Lord until Jesus reached out, and now he is swimming BACK to Jesus on the shore. In the ensuing and amazing conversation that follows, Jesus restores Peter’s faith – and he never doubts again.
What Jesus does to help Peter, he can do for any of us.
He did this for my family when we walked through an incredible seasons of loss and disappointment. He helped us put the pieces of our faith back together and helped us to get on the journey with him once more.
When we have this kind of conversation with Jesus, He reminds us of who we are. He helps us remember how to truth again, and He reminds us how to LOVE JESUS again.
“Peter, do you love me more than these? Tend My lambs.” John 21:15
And then on the heels of that, “Follow Me.” John 21:19
Just as Jesus said “Follow Me,” to Peter and the disciples in the beginning, He says it again on the other side of doubt and disappointment. “Follow Me.” He’s saying that to you today.
God wasn’t done with Peter and God’s not done with you. As you read Peter’s comeback story – and the stories of others – my prayer is that you’ll trust Him with your own story.
On the other side of all these things, I think you’ll come to appreciate a verse that my wife and I hold near and dear. It is this one.
“As for God, His way is perfect.” Psalm 18:30. It may not seem so in the beginning, but by the end, you’ll be saying the very same thing.
This chapter of God’s Not Done With You is for everyone who has sinned. That, of course, is all of us. The reason we sit down and talk about this subject is because it is so common to the human race, and so often we’re blinded and deceived when it comes to the solution for our acts of sin. We don’t know what to do when we’ve blown it.
This is about the choices and actions we regret. It’s about temptations we’ve fallen into and messes we’ve made. It deals with what to do when we don’t KNOW what to about our sin. If this gets your attention, I can predict how you might feel. You may think God is done with you. You may think you just messed up too big for God to help you. If you think that, you may be encouraged by what I’m about to say.
The tragic story of King David and his deep dive into sin is very, very well-known. I call this “the most infamous act of the adultery in the history of the world.” Maybe you know the story as it’s told in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. Two chapters details this sad chain of events, providing everything you need to see what sin looks like. This story also involves one of the most complicated, reluctant responses to sin. David messes this up worse after he messes it up the first time. The result is a set of circumstances beyond complication.
Here's the story in a nutshell: David called for the wife of an Israeli soldier who was at war, bedded her while her husband was on the front lines, impregnated her, and attempted to cover it up by arranging her husband’s death. David tried to hide all this, but God sent Nathan the prophet to expose his sin and make it public to all of the kingdom.
David is in free fall. No one can stop his fall, except David himself, and he can only do this by confessing his sin and repenting. David is done until this happens. God is going to put him on the shelf, until repentance takes place. It’s convicting!
Before we see the solution to all this – it’s good to pause and remind ourselves:
Sin is always a setback. Sin is never in secret. Sin is not the end.
There is a way out. Psalm 51 is that beautiful chapter where David confesses his sin to God.
Psalm 51 is when David stops hiding, stops running from God and starts running TO God. Our first response is anything but running to God – even though God has made it clear that He wants us to run TO Him. Think about Adam and Eve. Jonah. David. The prodigal son. Run TO God, not away.
You know, repentance is a subject that people talk about a great deal. I’ve seen many try to define this in various ways. There’s no doubt David needs to repent. But at the core of it, repentance is running to GOD, because when we run to God, we (by necessity) run away from sin!
So David is running to God, and what we learn in Psalm 51 is so helpful. If you’re coming back to God – or even thinking about it, remember these principles.
1. Run TO God directly. You don’t have to go through any intermediary. Run directly to God.
2. Take ownership over your sin. God doesn’t play the blame game. We think we can see a million reasons why we did something wrong, and we’re eager to blame others, but God doesn’t accept it. Take ownership. Say, “I was wrong.”
3. When you come back, trust in His mercy and forgiveness.
The Scripture gives us great hope that God will be merciful. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” Psalm 51:7, 9, 12
Do you see what David recognizes in that statement? David recognizes that only God can do those things for him, so he throws himself at God’s feet. Purge me. Wash me. Hide your face from my sins. Restore me. This is how you come to God.
David’s situation was bad, but God’s mercy was great. I don’t know what you’re dealing with today, but God does – and He is able to take you on the same journey of forgiveness and restoration that David was on. Trust him to do that for you.
Thoughts from John Meador and insights from God's Word.