To the Lost and Abused


You are not forgotten. 

You are not irrelevant.  

This world of sin and sinners is often a place where young girls are sexually abused.  Where little boys are ignored by their fathers or beaten by their fists.  Where the small or disadvantaged are trampled by the anger or selfishness of warped men with warped hearts.  

Creation groans under sin.  

And Satan delights in it.  

He hates truth, hates Jesus, and loves pain.  

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?

Genesis 3:5

And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’  And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.  But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done.  Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’  Then the Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites!  Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’  As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. 

Like 13:11-17

This is a world where Satan often whispers a violent and treasonous song over the most helpless of people, and then dances to their fear and their pain and their bewilderment.  And it is a world where others join his twisted song.  

But it is not his world.  

Hear me.  

Let Hell and death and sin clamor for your soul.  Let them.  But their loudest ragings will not prevail if you will despair of all other hopes and instead call out to Jesus, like a lost and helpless child.  

Let your anxieties and all your most jagged memories creep up on you like old ghosts with sharp teeth.  They will not get to claim you if you are ransomed by the King of Kings.  

Let pain be pain and fear be fear.  Neither will have the last word if you will believe in Jesus.  

I know you have been wounded to the bone.  

You don’t trust people.  You don’t trust God. And you don’t trust “the world,” by which you probably mean people and God.  

You have heard that God is different from the one who abused you, but you don’t believe it.  

Believe.  

The one who violated you?  I know he used you.  But this is a God who was obliterated to bless people just like you.  

He lied to you.  But this is a God who speaks only truth; He can do no other.  

He promised to change, to be better, only to hurt you time and time and time and time again.  But this is a God who endured Hell and shame and death and agony to keep His promises. 

This God is different from the one who hated and harmed you.  Unimaginably different.  This Jesus will never leave, never forsake, never forget you.  He would rather die than lose those He claims, and the Cross stands as a vertical proof of it.  This is a Lord with a heart for the lowly and the bruised, and who breaks all the violent who refuse to repent. 

You have suffered.  

So has He.  

And at the place your suffering and His meet, namely your faith, a new song starts.  One that sin and death and Satan hate to the core.  

And one that is no whisper, no lie, and that never, ever ends.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 

1 Peter 5:8-9

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A Marriage, a Death, and a Public Faith

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Abraham was not always a perfect husband. He was, at least twice, pretty despicable as far as husbandry is concerned. He gave his wife Sarah away in order to save his own skin, first to Pharaoh in Egypt and then to King Abimilech in Gerar. He also relented to his wife’s momentary faithlessness (shadows of Adam and Eve, perhaps?), submitting to her plan to have a son by his slave woman rather than wait on the birth of the promised son. By not putting the brakes on his wife’s plan, he harmed his family and at least two other lives. Then he even washed his hands of the slave woman who bore the resulting son once Sarah changed her mind in envy or anger.

But despite the sins of our flawed spiritual father, he was a man of great and Godly faith. And even though she committed her own transgressions, Sarah was a good match for him in that sense. The New Testament confirms Sarah as a faithful woman in instructing Christian women 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. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 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 3:4-6). Sarah hoped in God, she believed and trusted in her eternal city (Hebrews 11:11-16), and she submitted to her husband in Godliness.

At the beginning of Genesis 23, this woman of faith dies, and her husband of about a century is left to bury her in still-strange soil, far from the pagan place of their births. He probably mourned for a time right near her body (23:2), and he may have even buried her with his own hands.

I can’t imagine. I mean I really cannot even successfully recreate in my mind and my heart what it would be like to lose your companion of a hundred years (for perspective, a hundred years ago as I write this World War I was going on and the airplane was a 12-year-old invention). I have no idea what it would feel like to see such a relationship succumb to the curse of death after decades and decades marriage. And for Abraham and Sarah it was a marriage spent walking a strange land as Abraham spoke with God directly of His promises and His ways. God has made us so that when we marry we leave our former families and cling to our spouses, and when that relationship is ended by death it is heartbreaking. When it happens in a strange place where you’re wandering for God’s sake, it would have to be nearly devastating.

Abraham mourns for his wife at the beginning of Genesis 23. But then he rises and goes to the sons of Heth, the Hittites. These are the people of the land there at Hebron (not far from where Jerusalem would later be). He humbly asks some of them if he can purchase a tomb there to bury his dead wife, and the Hittites, believing (or at least saying that they believe) that Abraham is a prince of God, are happy to oblige.

Abraham does not haggle over the price of the tomb he asks to buy, nor the field that it is in. While we’re not given any of the state of his mind by Moses, the author of Genesis, it’s reasonable to assume this man who one chapter earlier faithfully took his boy to Moriah to sacrifice him by God’s command, this man who simply believed God would provide the ram once he arrived at Moriah, was trusting God here as well. No need to scheme, manipulate, maneuver. God had made the promise of a son and kept it. He had made the promise of home and was keeping it. Abraham didn’t have to manufacture a great business deal, here, in buying this tomb. God had blessed him with riches in Egypt (despite his sin), blessed him financially again in Gerar (despite his sin), and it would appear that God’s repeated provision and Abraham’s repeated faith had now left him in a position of humble, peaceful trust. He appears to be one who could mourn with hope, could grieve with belief.

And all of this was done in public. The Hittites saw him bury his wife this way. His son (we would have to assume) saw him mourn while behaving with humble honor. His household and slaves would have been witnesses to their master’s faith and his trust in the God of the Promise.

Abraham believed in the God of Jesus Christ. He had faith in the Gospel that was preached to him beforehand, as well as in the specific promises made to him there in Canaan. And that faith, that obedient belief in God, shaped his heart and life and circumstances in wonderful ways.

Abraham shows us it is possible to publicly bury your spouse in a manner that glorifies God. But only by faith. It’s possible to mourn and be a sojourner and suffer in such a way that God in Christ is made to look good, but only by belief and trust in His goodness and Gospel.

By faith we can live as the humble, hopeful, public people of King Jesus. By faith we can have good lives, good deaths, and eternal inheritances.

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Woman

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There is a type of woman that the world around me values little.

Her work and precision and sacrifice aren’t the sort that modern American movies or commercials honor. Her compassion is quieter but more costly. Her obedience less glamorous though more beautiful. Her courage less brash, more prayerful.

Her love for others is real, fervent, and exhausting, as opposed to the sort of “love” that Tweets on social justice but can’t be bothered to spend six hours on a Saturday at a nursing home or spend $30 a month sending food and supplies to a child in Indonesia. It is the sort of love that costs her time and money and sleep and hours many others spend watching television or going to bars or playing video games.

Minutes and hours spent changing the diapers of tiny but real human beings, humans with eternal souls who are made in the image of God. Who will someday be offered peace with Him through Jesus’ Gospel. While other women doing other things will receive more praise and more Facebook likes and would be the sort more likely to have a TV show written about them, she makes oatmeal and hot dogs and gives hugs and teaches the Bible to the human lives she has been entrusted with by the Father.

And she is probably the best example in 21st century American life of the truth that it is far, far easier to talk love than to do love.

In a culture filled with people who clamor for pay raises, new cars, more square footage, or attention from their peers, she chooses to live for something eternal rather than glitzier, lesser treasures. The shape of her children’s hearts and the hope that they will someday worship the Lord become increasingly beautiful things to her, though the world may not understand that. She is perhaps thought of as cute though misguided; sweet but outdated.

The ones who don’t value such work miss the meaning of the word work (as do many men whose families go spiritually unfed, by the way). Just as they often miss the meanings of the words bravery, love, and life. They miss that the God who authored goodness from His own character and displayed it to the world in His sacrificial Son is also the God who authored motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, redemption, the human body, sunlight, and tomorrow. He is the One who not only knows what is good but designed its goodness.

And however this woman would say it or phrase it, it’s this that motivates her. She trusts the loves Her Abba Father has given her because they are His loves. They are the type, the sort, that He gives to her. And she knows this.

“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, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 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. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 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

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” 1 Timothy 2:8-15

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and not ashamed.” Genesis 2:18-25

This woman, this lover and humble student of Jesus, knows her good God built her, and that He knows what is best for her. She is confident He will redeem and remake her by His Son’s blood and resurrection into an even more obedient and joyous daughter of the Most High God. Just as she hopes He will resurrect her husband to be a more obedient adopted son. And just as she hopes her children will be ushered into the only Kingdom worth being a part of. She will spend most of her energies and fight many of her battles here: Her soul, her husband’s, her children’s. Her life in service to God’s glory and their good.

She prays for her worldly friends who don’t follow Jesus. She texts and calls and has playdates with women who do. While others may post about social or governmental issues on social media, she spends late hours at night knitting hats for children in Ukraine or packing shoe boxes with Christmas gifts for Samaritan’s Purse or getting groceries for her housebound relative. She may post things online, too, but it might have to wait just a bit. Her hands just happen to be busy a lot of the time, because real love puts more sweat on your brow and wrinkles on your hands and miles on your odometer than it does data on your wireless bill.

I couldn’t care less about recreating the American 1950s. Why I admire this woman, and why I hope more women desire to be like her, is that God admires her. He tells us this is lovely to Him and it pleases Him. As it does when a husband gives of himself, dies to himself, and is jealously protective for his wife’s good. As it does when both are willing to give up everything, even earthly life and the comfort of each other’s arms, for Him and His glory.

I admire this woman because she lives in sacrifice to the King, serving Him with real obedience. I voice my admiration for her because what she do does not get praised in my culture very often. And because it glorifies the God she loves.

21 Quick Hit Statements on the Old Testament

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1) It’s the most misunderstood piece of literature in America.

2) It is a part of one story, not just a connected companion of the New Testament.

3) It was Jesus’ favorite thing to quote, and He taught that it all pointed to Him.

4) God preached the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith to Abraham in its first book, Genesis.

5) It was written by God using men (their minds, hearts, and hands) to put the words down.

6) There are laws God gave in it that were only for the Jewish people living in Israel for about 1,000 years, but also laws God gave that reveal His desire for human behavior for all time. God always condemns idolatry, but if you read Acts or the letters in the New Testament, you’ll see He does not always condemn shellfish.

7) It contains poetry, history, preaching, future-telling, pieces of wisdom, and other kinds of writing, and all of them (in their own way) point to Jesus.

8) The oldest book in it was probably written about 1400 BC, and the newest book in it was probably written about 500 BC.

9) A lot of its books are technically anonymous, not having author statements (like Paul’s letters do).

10) Moses wrote 5 (and maybe 6) of the books in it, Solomon probably wrote 3, and Jeremiah probably wrote 2.

11) We can trust that it’s God’s Word because Jesus trusted it’s God’s Word.

12) Copies of many of its books about 1,000 years older than any previously known copies were found in some caves by the Dead Sea in the 1940s. The fact that they were almost identical to the copies from 1,000 years later backs up the claim that the Bible is the most accurately copied piece of writing in human history by a long shot.

13) God has the same character and heart in it as He does in the New Testament. Compare Ezekiel (OT) and Revelation (NT), Nehemiah (OT) and 1 Peter (NT), Proverbs (OT) and James (NT), or Exodus (OT) and Acts (NT).

14) God commanded care for the poor, oppressed, foreigner, and widow in it.

15) God killed sinners who wouldn’t repent (turn from their sins and to Him) in it.

16) God saved a prostitute named Rahab, a cursed non-Jew named Ruth, and a philandering husband and murderer named David in it. And then He put all three of them them in the bloodline of His Son Jesus.

17) It helped to shape the English language through the King James Bible and the German language through Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible.

18) It contains the most Godly love poem ever written: Song of Songs.

19) It contains descriptions of God’s coming victory over sin and death and His re-creation of the world.

20) It contains clear pictures of Jesus (check out Isaiah chapter 53).

21) Its main points are the same as the New Testament’s: God is perfectly good, we sinned against Him, He wins, and we can be a part of it (and part of His family) by His grace through our faith.