Day 23, Chapter 23: The Return
I like older things. I like antiquing, shopping in old stores, and studying history. Ceci and I have always liked vacationing in places that cater more to older folks. I'm not sure how I got old so fast.
While I do like older things, I don't like fixing or restoring them. I've never been into restoring furniture, homes, or cars. I tried to restore an engine once - never did figure out where all the leftover parts went, and couldn't understand why the stupid thing wouldn't run when I was finished. Probably a lemon.
Oh, and there was the table I once restored. Ceci was so impressed she gave it away. First, she reminded me of the passage of Scripture where three of David's mighty men heard he was craving water from his hometown well of Bethlehem. Even though the well was currently controlled by enemies, three brave and loyal men broke through enemy lines and brought David water from the well. He was so moved by their sacrificial love he wouldn't drink it: "Be it far from me before my God that I should [drink] this. Shall I drink the blood of those men who went at the risk of their lives?" (1 Chronicles 11:19). David poured it out as an offering to the Lord! The story has always moved me.
Knowing how much I love this story, Ceci reminded me of the noble act and compared the restored table to the water. "It's just too precious to keep," she said. "All that hard work you put into it; I think I'm going to donate it to Goodwill so a poor family that could never afford such an amazing table can enjoy it."
Moved me to tears! Still chokes me up just thinking about how much it meant to her. Anyway, that was my only successful furniture restoration. I figured I'd better stop there or Ceci would be wanting me to restore furniture all the time.
Of course, some people actually are into restoration and are good at it. God is into it - and He's the best. Yahweh can take hearts and lives that seem beyond repair and make them as good as new. In fact, healing broken hearts and restoring lives are both portions of Christ's mission statement:
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke 4:18; KJV)
The Son of God finds great pleasure in healing broken hearts and bringing deliverance to those bound by sin or oppression. He's a restorer and redeemer by nature, not the mean-spirited judge many believe Him to be.
Several years ago I counseled a young woman who had been horribly abused sexually. Her soul was broken, fractured by the pain of being abused by a family member. It was gut-wrenching to listen to her speak of it, in between the sobs and wailing. Over the years she looked to drugs and alcohol, sexual promiscuity, and even cutting to find a way of escape from her painful past. Of course, none of those things helped. After several weeks I was finally able to persuade her to forgive her abuser, lower the protective walls around her heart, and allow the Lord entrance.
The transformation was dramatic. The pain began to lessen and was gradually replaced by peace. She began to see herself as pure - not defiled - and special to the Lord. Experiencing His love allowed her to regain self-respect; it's special to be loved by Jesus. Ultimately, her ability to trust was restored and she is now healthy in every way and enjoys the pleasure of His company. Jesus heals and restores.
He also forgives. When we sin, Yahweh’s message to us, just as it was to Israel through the prophets, is "return to me" and be forgiven (see Isaiah 44:22; Zachariah 1:3; Malachi 3:7). The Scriptures tell us, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). When the returning takes place, the restoration begins. Both terms are actually the same Hebrew word in Scripture (shuwb). How revealing! When we return to God, we are restored to wholeness and purpose.
John's gospel shares the account of a woman caught in the act of adultery. The Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus, asking His opinion as to what should be done with her.
“The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now the Law of Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?’" (John 8:3-5)
Christ’s response is now famous: "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (v. 7). Then He stooped to write in the dirt. We don't know what He wrote - some surmise He was listing their hidden sins - but while He wrote they began to leave.
Jesus stood and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?"
She said, "No one, Lord."
Then came Christ's famous saying: "I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more" (v. 11).
What a wonderful story of forgiveness. Christ is looking to restore us, not condemn us. His forgiveness of this woman does nothing to lessen the wrongness of adultery. What it does do is exemplify the level and overwhelming power of Christ's redeeming love. He is waiting to redeem, not condemn.
Our distorted perception of God's intentions is well illustrated by the urban legend of a woman driving home alone one evening when she noticed a man in a large truck following her. Growing increasingly fearful, she sped up, trying to lose her pursuer, but it was futile. She then exited the freeway and drove up a main street, but the truck stayed with her, even running red lights to do so.
In a panic, the woman wheeled into a service station, jumped from the car, and ran inside screaming. The truck driver ran to her car, jerked the back door open, and pulled from the floor behind her seat a man hiding there. The woman was fleeing from the wrong person. She was running from her savior! The truck driver, perched high enough to see into her backseat, had spied the would-be rapist and was pursuing her to save her, even at his own peril.
So often we run from God, fearing His wrath, while He is pursuing us to save us from destruction. Instead of seeing Him as our Savior, we sometimes see only the promise of loss and a lack of fulfillment. I urge you - if you have sinned, stop running from Your Savior. Return to God; allow Him to forgive and heal you. He's waiting with His atoning blood.
One of my favorite hymns is one I remember from my youngest days:
There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.1
Millions have bathed under this fountain and lost their guilty stains. Neither your sin, nor your pain is stronger than the cleansing power of Christ’s shed blood.
Take the plunge.
Pray with me:
Father, no reputation has been as wrongly maligned as Yours. What a good and gracious Father You are; not only forgiving us when we return to You, but also healing our hearts and lives. This was, and is, Your mission statement. Even when we seem to be beyond repair, the cleansing power of Your blood is always able.
You have only good intentions toward us, Father. Yet we so often run from You. Help us, Holy Spirit, to always run to You when we fail. Your saving grace is always sufficient. We will stop running and return to You. Help us to see the incredible joy You receive when You’re allowed to heal a broken heart and mend a troubled soul. You ARE good, all the time!
In Christ’s name we pray these things...Amen.
Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company.
Dutch Sheets, The Pleasure of His Company (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2014), pp 191-198.
William Cowper, “There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood,” 1772 (lyrics in the public domain).
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