Lost and Found

On business in London, I decided to visit Buckingham Palace during a free afternoon. I took a taxi to the palace, and after exploring the area, I decided I would walk back to my downtown hotel. That is quite a distance, but I enjoy walking and I needed the exercise. Confident in my sense of direction, I headed off. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a residential neighborhood, and as I turned corner after corner trying to find my way out, I began to feel unsafe. I realized that my wandering was not leading me to my destination; in fact, it may have been leading me to a place I didn’t need to be. Fortunately, I had a city map in my pocket. It took me awhile to figure out where on the map I was, as the direction I had gone was the complete opposite of the direction I thought I had gone. Thanks to that map, I was able to navigate out of the neighborhood to a subway station and safely back to my hotel.

In the grand scheme of things, my getting lost in London was not that big a deal. Getting lost in life, however, is a very big deal with potentially eternal consequences.

Sin separates us from God. We read in the third chapter of Genesis about the very first sin, Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, and its consequence. Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. They were banished from the very presence of God. Indeed, sin separates people from God. And the Bible tells us that unrepented sin separates people from God forever. Without rescue, our eternity under sin is apart from God in a place called Hell.

In today’s modern society, there is a notion that “truth” is relative, that every person is free to define truth for himself or herself on whatever basis the individual believes to be most desirable. Many practices and lifestyles that are sinful in God’s eyes are encouraged and celebrated today – even in many Christian churches. This is not, however, unique to our modern times. The Apostle Paul wrote about this very phenomenon in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans (see Romans 1).

Today’s passage tells us that we all have gone astray. Although God has laid out a clear path for us to follow, we fail to do so. We either forget or ignore God’s Word or, worse yet, in some cases we decide for whatever reason that God’s Law somehow does not apply to us. Some say that times have changed and the rules of human behavior must change with the times. But that is not what God says.

When sheep go astray, they need a shepherd to find them and bring them home. When humans wander off of God’s path, we need a Shepherd to find us and bring us Home. And that is exactly what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection.

Notice that today’s passage comes from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53 comes after Isaiah lays out the human condition in sin, apart from God. And, more than 700 years before Jesus was born, God tells us through this great prophet that He has a plan for our rescue. God’s plan of rescue through Jesus is foreshadowed and prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Indeed, pastor Nickey Gumbel of HTB Church in London often reminds the readers of his daily devotional that the Old Testament must be read and understood from a New Testament perspective – The Old Testament, just like the New Testament, is all about Jesus. It is all about man’s sinful condition apart from God and God’s plan of rescue through His Son.

What does this mean for me today, April 22, 2020? Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 3:23-24 NASB

That sounds a lot like the prophet Isaiah, does it not? Although I stray from God’s paths often – many multiple times each day – I know that my eternity is secured through the blood of Jesus. And, with that knowledge, I don’t have to wallow in my sin. I don’t have to worry about sin’s eternal consequence because Jesus, the great Shepherd, found me and bore sin’s consequence in my behalf. And in yours. And, so, in the words of the great Nat King Cole, I can “pick myself up, take a deep breath, dust myself off, and start all over again…” That, my friends, is freedom in Christ.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credits: Me in front of Buckingham Palace: Selfie. Bible verse image credit YouVersion Bible App.

(c) workisministry 2020

When in Trouble…

The Psalms offer so much, from cries of despair and repentance to promises of comfort and deliverance. I recently wrote about God’s provision of strength and courage during trying times. Today, God offers rescue:

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”

Psalm 50:15

Our home was one of many flooded by the federal government in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. We evacuated by boat as the flood waters rose. Kind volunteers with bass boats along with the US Coast Guard helped us and our neighbors safely escape the rising flood. We were dropped off at the entrance to our neighborhood on Memorial Drive. The transportation we were told would be waiting to take us to shelter was nowhere to be seen. Upon asking a police officer sitting in his parked cruiser about that, he replied, “you are on your own.”

I was angry and frustrated. There we stood, rain falling, my wife, my son and I with four wet dogs and a crated cat. We had nowhere to go and no way to get there. I honestly didn’t know what to do. At that moment, a black Cadillac Escalade pulled alongside us. The driver got out of the vehicle and said, “you look like you need a ride. Where can I take you?” I protested, hesitant to load our wet animals into his beautiful SUV. He told me trucks can be cleaned, “get in and we’ll sort this out together.” After about three hours, a change in vehicle (more kind strangers with a jacked-up Dodge pickup truck) and a few phone calls, we were safe and warm at the home of a coworker. Now we could assess our situation and make our plan.

God rescued us that afternoon. He sent that man and his daughter in the black Cadillac to pluck us off the street and escort us to safety. It’s that simple. As sure as my heart beats and my fingers tap this keyboard, I know without a doubt that the events of that Monday afternoon were the work of our loving and rescuing God.

But it doesn’t end with His rescue. There is a tradeoff here. “I shall rescue you and you will honor Me.” My gosh, how will I do that? As I ponder this, I think back to the words of the kind volunteer in the black Cadillac Escalade:

“Get in and we’ll sort this out together.”

Of course, that’s not Scripture, but his words remind me that God is walking with me through this life. He doesn’t leave me to sort this out on my own. God is interested, He has a plan for my life, and when I seek His will through Scripture and prayer, He guides my footsteps. He shows me my strengths and my weaknesses. He helps me sort this out. I started this blog, workisministry.com, as one way of honoring Him. This was His idea, conveyed to me in a moment of prayerful contemplation (See About workiministry.com). I can honor Him by seeking opportunities to serve others. I can honor Him with my words, my attitude, and my conduct. I can honor Him by striving to be salt and light to the world around me. There are plethora of ways I can honor my Lord.

You know, we all need to be rescued. Our greatest need for rescue comes from the condemnation we deserve as the consequence for our sins. Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). Here is the good news: God has already executed our rescue from sin. Just this past weekend, we celebrated the greatest Sacrifice in history as Jesus gave His life on the cross on Good Friday. Then, Sunday morning, we celebrated the greatest Victory in history as He rose from the dead on the third day, just as He said He would. Indeed, our greatest need for rescue has already been met. All we have to do is believe.

God cares about what happens in your daily life. He cares about what’s happening at work, at home, wherever you might be and whatever situation you may encounter. Sometimes it may seem that He is nowhere to be found, but He is there. Sometimes it may seem that He doesn’t hear our prayers for rescue, but He does. What He promises here, in this succinct little verse, is to hear us when we call and to rescue us from our trouble. Seek Him. Call upon Him. Know that He is God. His ways are not our ways. The rescue may take longer than you’d like and it may come in a way that you did not envision – perhaps in the form of a kind stranger in a black Cadillac – but it will come. It will come.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019