I’m a bookworm, but I don’t buy, keep, or re-read books unless they’re very, very special. Those that merit a permanent place on our bookshelves are the exceptions. Today I want to share an exceptional book with you which my husband and I have just read together. It is truly a keeper!
Miracle on the River Kwai, by Ernest Gordon, is a story of grace in the worst possible of circumstances. Under the most extreme duress, despair and hopelessness were transformed to faith in God, redemption, and selfless love for one another. It began with a few POWs who sacrificially served and even laid down their lives to save others in what had been a dog-eat-dog environment, every man for himself. The power of God changed lives long-term as they served, taught, shared and worshipped with one another for several years as the war raged on. When they were finally released, one of the men said, “I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It was rough, all right. But I learned an awful lot that I couldn’t have learned at the university or anywhere else.”
When hard times come for me, I pray that God’s grace and power will do the same, shining through the darkness to refine my character in ways that may not be possible through peace time.
This morning when I woke up, I did not pray for our terminally ill granddaughter as I have been doing. She is healed and happy—in Jesus’ arms, as of yesterday noon. I am deeply grateful for this assurance that she is no longer suffering, either here in her cancer-ravaged body or in some netherworld. My confidence is based on two things:
1) God’s promise of total and complete forgiveness for those who turn over their lives to Him and trust Jesus’ sacrifice to save them from the punishment we all deserve for our sins. (And yes, my sweet Emmeline was a sinner too.)
2) We have a note from Emmeline’s parents, dated April 2008, saying how she had made this decision to ask Jesus into her life. And her life bore out the character and Christ-likeness that He produced in her. She was a blessing to many.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:55-58)
If God came to you in person and introduced Himself, what do you think he would say? Incredibly, this actually happened to Moses, and those words re-echo through the pages of Scripture.
On Mount Sinai, Moses had seen powerful signs of God’s presence, including thunder, earthquake, fire, trumpet blasts, and more. But still not satisfied, he begged God for the privilege of seeing His own glory. God did not allow Moses to see His face but he did let him see his “back” as He passed by. This was accompanied by a full introduction to His name and character:
The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out,
“Yahweh! The LORD!
The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations.”
This foundational description of God’s character is cited at least seven more times throughout the Old Testament. It is the way He wants us to remember Him. (Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2)
God’s primary nature is love: compassion, unfailing love, faithfulness, forgiveness, mercy, patience. But He is not a big teddy bear in the sky! He is also holy and cannot tolerate sin and rebellion. For more about God’s love and patience, Israel’s rebellion and then God’s response, read Psalm 78. It’s quite a story!
This was the headline in one paper today. Lance Armstrong’s fall is filed in my mind alongside the disgrace and demise of notorious characters like Saddam Hussein and Khadaffi. And I am reminded of God’s promise/warning that evildoers will surely reap the consequences of their sin sooner or later. Just as sure is His promise that those who are godly and faithful will be rewarded. My problem is that I’m too impatient. It’s hard to wait while evil keeps winning and the innocent are oppressed. Psalm 73 is a great read for times like this.
A TV commentator talking about Lance’s talk with Oprah said that “full confession must precede redemption and forgiveness.” Wow! I wonder if he realized that he was expressing deep spiritual truth as well. I pray that the world won’t just gawk and point fingers at Lance, but that there will be soul-searching to see where we are denying the truth and condemning ourselves. Confession and repentance are a heavy price to pay, and there will be consequences—BUT aren’t redemption and forgiveness well worth it in the long run?
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!