The Lover Who Refuses to be Jilted


I am not a big fan of tabloids or magazines highlighting stories of the rich and famous being rich and famous. I do bump into them at the checkout counter at the grocery store, hair salons, and an occasional mention at the end of a newscast on a slow news day.

When I see the cover story or if I happen to glance at the contents, I discover that Solomon was right. There really IS nothing new under the sun. Romances today blow apart and are often thrown out before the ink on the marriage certificate dries and although the reasons vary, the most common reoccurring issue appears to be unfaithfulness. Every scheme imaginable to get rich without hard work ultimately gets exposed. Truth hijacks every lie.


Mistakes happen. Everyone agrees on that even if our own are harder to admit. Men and women (each and all of us) are mistake prone in every area of our lives whether in relationships, academic or professional areas, or even in the kitchen when that “foolproof” recipe flops just as the doorbell rings and company arrives.

Some mistakes are bigger than others for certain. How others respond to our mistakes is pivotal. How we respond to our mistakes varies, but can make all the difference.

If our mistakes are met with understanding, instruction, or second chances and we own them, we tend to recover despite our disappointment and embarrassment. If our mistakes are met with disdain, anger, and harangue, we either lash back or withdraw into ourselves.

By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have had more than a little experience with mistakes. Our response to them has likely shaped our view of other people in all sorts of positions as well as ourselves and perhaps God. We have either gained courage or grown or we have never risked again and remained stuck.

It can be easy to feel betrayed when we mess up. That sense might come from how a relationship changes or dissolves, whether it is a personal one or a work-related one. It might also come from us toward ourselves for failing to give as much time, attention, and care to the person or thing that the mistake involved.


If we admit we are guilty as charged, we often still cannot regain what was lost. We have broken trust and that does not get easily repaired.

It would be nice if God kept us from making mistakes and messing things up, but you and I both know it doesn’t work that way. We have choices and from Adam and Eve onward, we have a timeline that shows our choices may very well take us down a path that leads to a bad ending.

I love stories and reading the Bible provides me with some of the best stories ever written.

Time and again I see a mistake is made. What kind of mistake? Take your pick.

Abram and Sarai can’t have children, but have been promised too many heirs to count. Time goes by and they aren’t getting any younger so they decide not to wait and help the process along. Sarai has her maid sleep with Abram and Ishmael is the result. Their impatience doesn’t change God’s plan to give them a child of their own that will be His own special people, but it does result in two sets of offspring whose differences are still at war today.

David, the giant killer, the one called a “man after God’s own heart”, the one who praises and trusts God, becomes king of Israel. He is blessed with wives, children, and a kingdom, but one day he sees a beauty bathing on a rooftop and wants one more thing. He summons her to his bedroom and arranges for her husband to be killed. You know the story. The first baby born of this unfaithfulness dies.

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The incredible truth is that God is committed to us and working through us. He stays with us in the midst of chaos, wreckage, dishonor, and disgrace. He was from the very beginning an expert at creating something out of nothing; moving from void to substance, dust to flesh.

God knows how to make something incredible happen on the other side of our mess, our mistake.

He does so in spite of us if we yield to His mercy and grace, if we yield to His ever-pursuing love.

He can make all things new even for those of us who make mistakes and messes after we know and seek to follow Him. He weeps and aches over our failures and we should never take His mercy and grace for granted. But we should never believe the lies that may echo in our heads that His love can cease for us when we fail. His commitment is everlasting.

The Lord is the lover who refuses to be jilted by us.

He is a lover like no other.

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Our Conflict with Wilderness

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I am not sure what comes to your mind when you read the word “wilderness,” but most of us will not put it on our “bucket list” of places we want to be certain to visit in our lifetime. It won’t likely show up in the listing of top vacation spots on most travel websites either.

A dictionary definition of “wilderness” uses these words: “an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region; a neglected or abandoned area of a garden or town.”

That doesn’t sound very appealing. Many of us have not visited a region known as “wilderness” for those reasons and more, but many of us have described seasons of our lives where it felt as if we were in a “wilderness.”

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Such seasons can come from a crisis of some variety that plunges us into a sense of isolation, hopelessness, and emptiness. Some of those seasons come when we have turned our backs on the Lord through commission or omission. Depression and anxiety can feel like a wilderness as well.

If we can avoid anything remotely connected to “wilderness,” most of us will do us unless we are one of those “off the beaten path” types eager for such vacation adventures offered.

Reading the Old Testament gives us a number of very vivid pictures of the wilderness. There is the story of Hagar after Sarah forces her to leave with Ishmael. Moses initially flees there after killing an Egyptian and of course the children of Israel’s route to the Promised Land goes right through the wilderness (actually a series of wilderness places – Mt. Sinai, Paran, Moab), but there are others as well such as when David flees there when Saul is out to take his life.

Jenny Phillips in an article for the American Bible Society offers an insightful view of wilderness in the Bible:

“The wilderness of the Bible is a liminal space—an in-between place where ordinary life is suspended, identity shifts, and new possibilities emerge. Through the experiences of the Israelites in exile, we learn that while the Biblical wilderness is a place of danger, temptation and chaos, it is also a place for solitude, nourishment, and revelation from God. These themes emerge again in Jesus’ journey into the wilderness, tying his identity to that of his Hebrew ancestors.”

One of my favorite descriptions of Jesus being led into the wilderness or desert is found in Ken Gire’s exceptional book, Moments with the Savior: A Devotional Life of Christ:

“It stretches before him like an endless wasteland, frayed with gullies, littered with splintered rock and sun-bleached bones. Stoop-shouldered hills are hunched all around him. At his feet, impoverished plants reach skyward, like beggars desperate for alms. But the eyes of heaven are unsympathetic. They offer no tears. Only the compensatory promise of night.”

That physical place might not be in your experience, but the feeling of such a place may be one you are acquainted with or perhaps know now.

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It seems impossible for us to consider other aspects of these very stories when we are in the midst of such a time. We forget that God provided for Hagar and Moses in their first wilderness experiences with Him.

We forget when the children of Israel were out there in the wilderness complaining about the food, water, and accommodations that God was in their midst.

The Tabernacle was located in the very center of their encampment with the Levites encircling this holy place.

We forget that God sheltered David and his mighty men in the caves of the wilderness.

Our conflict with the wilderness is evident in all this. None of us wants to be there and yet there is testimony about the good that is accomplished in us when we are there and as a result of that season.

We grapple with the evidence that God led Jesus into the wilderness. He led the children of Israel into the wilderness. On our worst days we can be tempted to question how a loving God could do that.

One thing is also clear: In the wilderness God ultimately gets our attention.

Everything and everyone else has been stripped away so all that dulls our eyes to see Him cannot distract us or muffle our ears to hear Him.

Jenny Phillips notes in her article on the wilderness that being there has a number of functions:

“It serves as a place of barrenness and hunger, a source of nourishment from God, a location for God’s testing and revelation, and a context for the transformation for God’s people.”

The conflict within us about the wilderness reaches a peak when we face the question central to the experience: “Do I trust you, Lord?”

Our response will determine the outcome.

Our choice transforms our character.


The Paradox of God’s Presence


A cursory reading of Old Testament books like Leviticus (where I am currently reading) can easily leave a person scratching his or her head. As we read about the ways to live in God’s presence, it can be easy to get lost in the weeds amid the descriptions of rituals, sacrifices, matters of purity, feasts, and the roles and requirements of priests. If we do we will miss the central theme of what our eyes are skimming.

The centrality of this is God’s holiness and how we can come into the presence of a holy God.

How we do it shows our respect and honor for his holiness. That He shows the way is evidence of his love and longing that we no longer be separated from Him. He desired to enter into a covenant relationship with his people.


Even though the New Testament reminds us to be holy and somewhere we know or have heard that God is holy, we have likely heard more messages and read more books about God’s love than God’s holiness. If we are asked to define it, too often our words trip over themselves.

At some point we have heard and understood that to be holy is to be set apart as unique. As one who desires to follow Him, we are to be unique as well and not look like those who are not his. Sadly, we too often look, talk, and act much like those who do not claim Him.

Holiness is not a quality of character that comes in our human DNA.

Our sin nature (not unlike the stories we read in Leviticus) gets in the way of our relationship to the Lord. The place where we may get lost in the weeds in Leviticus is God teaching his children how they (sinful) can risk living in his holy presence. (All those animal sacrifices and purity laws seem impossible.)

God is well aware of our condition ever since the first bite of the fruit in the garden that was not to be touched. He knows well that it separated us from Him and He has been showing us the way back ever since.

Of course God had a plan for that, a plan to bring us into wholeness again through the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb, Jesus. He offers us grace, mercy, and love, but He also provides for transformation. He sets about transforming our character, showing us that we are called to holiness. And that is only something his transformation can accomplish.


The thing about holiness is that no matter how much we try to do or say what we know we should and practice all the things we see as a part of Christ, we cannot really make ourselves appear holy outwardly (let alone inwardly).

Holiness includes goodness and such Christ-like characteristics can only occur with a transformation of our heart by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Then that can be expressed in our external actions and only then.

When the Lord starts cleaning house in our hearts and souls, it is no quick tidying up. Beyond the obvious clutter, dust, and dirt He may see, there are those other things that we hide or don’t even recognize about ourselves − our motives.

John Eldredge puts it this way in his book, The Utter Relief of Holiness:

“Everything we do has a motive behind it. This is such a helpful category. It will be the dawning of a new day for us when we can simply accept Jesus’ offer of genuine integrity by looking at our motives.”

Looking of our motives is not for the faint of heart.

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That quest will expose more than we often want to see of the core sin issues that plague us in this life. We will see how often we do things or say things to gain favor or avoid consequences or punishment, how often our fear of man rules our choices. We will also bring to light the truth that our efforts to meet or maintain a moral standard, a life of integrity, miss the point. His interest is not in the letter of the law or doctrine, but rather in the spirit of it.

We don’t throw those standards out the window, but a transformation of our heart to wholeness and holiness is the only thing that can bring us to living by love as the Lord does (along with the other higher laws that were central to his life). Once it is woven into the fabric of our being, it is what allows us to love Him and serve Him above our desire to please others. And that is evidence we are set apart.

The work on the cross and our acceptance of the Lord’s grace means He now lives in us. That doesn’t mean we are perfect, but it does accomplish something we could not do otherwise:

What is crucial here is this: now we have an option. Without the cross, sin would simply rule in us and over us unchallenged. The hope of genuine goodness could never be ours. But because of the work of Christ for us and in us, we now have the possibility of living a life filled with the captivating goodness of Jesus.”  

John Eldredge

God knew what it would take to get to the heart of the matter − our hearts. No amount of animal sacrifice or ritual could accomplish what we needed to be reconciled to Him who was wholly pure, good, and holy.

What is the paradox of living in God’s presence? 

Living in the presence of our holy God is living in pure goodness, but we cannot forget it becomes dangerous if we rebel or insult God’s holiness.


Living with Uncertainty

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Few things can be as difficult to deal with as living with uncertainty. It nibbles at our hearts, minds, and spirits as few things can. It feeds anxiety and fear that can gradually erode our resolve to defeat its tactics. It causes distraction, fatigue, sleepless nights, and more. It comes in all sizes. It comes from sources outside of us and within us and occurs so often that we can wonder if the onslaught will ever end.

The power of uncertainty seems to have ballooned since the worldwide pandemic that we hoped would end so we could return to whatever was “normal.” Of course, that didn’t mean we would be free from it. We still experienced uncertainty about our own competency in areas present before the pandemic and other things like our daily work, financial provision, healthy relational connections, health concerns, and all those things we were waiting on that we hoped would bring us hope and success and wanted more than ever during the pandemic.

But things didn’t turn out the way we hoped. Nothing seemed to go back to the way we remembered it to be and there were new things to face like the impact of the virus and the vaccine, the economic disaster for many, war in places whose names we did not think much about before, earthquakes and storms creating destruction. The constant drumbeat of all news sources seemed set to create more uncertainty each time we checked a device or heard a report.

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How easily we forget that uncertainty of one sort or another is a part of life for us and has always been so since we were forced out of a perfect garden by a Creator who provided all we needed and loved us perfectly. Whether it meant foraging for food or seeking shelter from the weather or predatory animals or people, nothing has been quite as simple as the life we were originally created for. If our spiritual lives have a core of solid beliefs that have birthed faith within us, we withstand it all better even with the tests.

Faith brought with it trust but if you have journeyed very long in life or your spiritual development you know on some level that trust is honed by waiting and sometimes waiting for a long time. Trust is putting faith into action where our beliefs birth faith to believe and then needs to buoy us up to strengthen trust when the answer doesn’t come right away or perhaps for quite some time. There are also times when the answer that comes is not the one we wanted and believed we absolutely needed to keep going.

The hard truth is that trusting is hard and suffering often is a part of the development of trust and none of us handle suffering very well at all. But it comes to all of us at one time and in one way or another and despite its harsh path, it is where we develop character and roots that go down deep into the soil of our early faith and belief. We grapple with why a loving God, Father, lets us and so many suffer.

“The reason God lets us suffer is to chip away what doesn’t look like Jesus, otherwise we will keep on making the same old mistakes.”

R.T. Kendall

But not all our suffering comes from our own mistakes…

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We didn’t start the war, cause the tornado, overspend on the company’s budget, or do what they said would cause cancer and those things still happened and we needed to face them, and endure as best we could. But we believed in a falsehood that life would be fair if we followed the rules and lived a good life with responsibility and care for all that was given to us. Life on this earth after we left the perfect garden and our ancient relatives made the wrong choice was never going to be fair in the way we believed it should be. And if we are honest, none of us could stand up to the standard that would mean we deserved that. We have weaknesses and falter regularly even if we try not to do so.

A perusal of our biblical heroes shows us examples of how often our imperfection needs the chipping away that suffering and trials of all kinds accomplishes even if we have accepted the gift of grace from the perfect sacrifice of Christ. And for them, and us, He often allows us to come to the end of ourselves and all we have relied on save Him alone to show us He is enough!

A look at the life of Joseph with that wonderful coat of many colors shows us that suffering often comes to prepare us for something we could not have imagined and an opportunity to be used by Him in ways that surprise us and all those who know us.

“Many of us have never been brought to the place where we have needed God alone. The only way we can sometimes come to feel the presence of God is when God pulls the rug out from under us and we begin to fall. Then we cry to him, and possibly for the first time we feel him.”

R.T. Kendall

But if you have known such a place, it is that very thing you never wanted to happen that gives you the bridge of trust to walk across and find Him right beside you. The beavers in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe of the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis have it right when they talk about Aslan: He isn’t safe, but He is good.

After all, who can you name who would die for you when you didn’t deserve it?

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When Everything is Shaken


Today I am taking in the blessing of sunshine on a cold midwinter’s day and savoring the hint of spring such a day brings. I do that even though crocuses are still deep underground and no hint of green shows on the branches of forsythia bushes.

My hope is not in what I see, but faith in the memory of other springs as well as Who created them. Today they have adjusted my thoughts caught up in the discouraging news that pummels me from every corner of the world. News that reminds me more than a few things are amiss.

It seems that nearly everyone I speak with speaks with concern about what is happening in so many places in the world. It doesn’t take long in such conversations to start to feel agitated or even fearful. It is a temptation to see no light in the darkness growing larger on the horizon.

If no light is seen, perhaps it is because we are not looking for light in the right places.

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I am currently rereading some passages in the book of Isaiah as a result of a sermon series on this Old Testament book we enjoyed a few years ago at our church. I am struck by the reality of how dark the world was that Isaiah was living in. Yes, darkness was there in abundance, but Isaiah also pointed to the future coming of the Messiah even though he was writing between 750-700 BC.

I cannot help, but read the prophet’s words and not think of the world as it is in 2023 and see the possibility of a corollary.

What were the problems the people of God were facing back then? Rather than get caught up in the specifics of the kings (good and not good) and their friends and/or enemies, I want to look at the truth of the problems behind the problems. What were the people looking toward that deepened their darkness?

God’s people were trusting in the wrong things.

They were trusting in other kings. They had turned their back on God and determined to trust instead in the chariots and horsemen of Egypt. Later they entered into alliances with Assyria and then Babylon to help them despite how ungodly and misaligned they were from these godless nations.

They had also begun trusting in other gods, things produced by their own hands. Idolatry was rampant. It was easier to trust in what they could buy or make than to trust in the Lord.

To these they added trust in themselves. In short, they had become self-reliant. Perhaps it was their pride in their own wealth or skills, their reputation or past success that built up this over estimation of what they alone could do or accomplish.

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The people of God had also chosen to seek the voice of their leaders before seeking the voice of the Lord. Their trust was in the kings and leaders they had asked God for so long before, rather than in the Lord.

On top of all this, they had not humbled themselves nor repented of their faithlessness.

Yet God loved them so much, He chose to allow everything to be shaken they had trusted in so they could come face-to-face with the unshakeable.

I wonder if that is not true of us today.

Could it be that we have trusted more in governments and leaders of all types and persuasions, programs and treaties from one end of the earth to another, drones and technical equipment beyond our imagination, words of men more than words from God?


What I see ever more clearly is that darkness has been a reality for many years and many eras, to think or believe otherwise is to operate in denial. Before you reject that idea, consider the sense of darkness that pervaded the entire world through two deadly world wars. We can glance over our shoulder and see clearly that example.

For us, even as in Isaiah’s lifetime, there was light ahead that could be seen for those who looked and trusted in God more than in any of the things they had begun to trust.

The shaking seasons of our lives have often ultimately gifted us with the surest sense of the Lord’s goodness and trustworthiness.

Major Daniel Webster Whittle served during the bloody American Civil War, a time of great darkness in the United States. But years later, the light of the gospel and the influence of Dwight L. Moody resulted in the lyrics of 200 hymns flowing from his life. One of his refrain’s many of us still knows was written in 1883:

But “I know Whom I have believed,

And am persuaded that He is able

To keep that which I’ve committed

Unto Him against that day.”

When I look for light in the midst of darkness when everything is being shaken, I am reminded He is allowing it to reveal to me what is unshakeable.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”

Ps. 20:7-8 (ESV)