Bandaids & Bulletholes: Supplication

Lesson Three: Supplication
A s k i n g   F o r   F o r g i v e n e s s  

Memory Verse: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” —Psalm 51:1-2

If confession and lamentation have led us anywhere, it must be to the cross. If we do not take this raw wound, freshly cleaned and exposed, and then bind it, it will again fester and rot. It is not enough to confess. It is not enough to have sorrow. We must then believe that there is forgiveness! We must apply the eternal salve of Jesus’ salvation to our wounds of sin if we have any chance of recovery. 

There are many places in Scripture where we can find evidence of God’s disposition toward sinners who confess sin, grieve sin and then run to him. But few are as powerful as the image of the Father running to his wayward son in Luke 15. 

11There was a man who had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

—Luke 15:11-24

What prompted the younger son to seek his father’s forgiveness?

How did the son ask for forgiveness? What was the disposition of his heart?

What kind of response was the younger son expecting from his father? What response did he receive?

Describe the father’s reaction to his son’s return. Is this what you would expect to receive? How would you have responded?

This passage of Scripture is profound enough to sit in for days, weeks, months, years. Do you believe that this is the kind of reception you receive from our Heavenly Father when you run to him, humbly and eagerly asking for forgiveness? Do you believe that he runs to you? Close your eyes for a moment. Picture the Father coming toward you, running. Feel the grass under your feet as you run to him. Feel your breath quicken as you pick up speed. Feel the desperation to reach him. Feel the relief of knowing that he is the one who has come toward you first. Now, feel his embrace. Stay there for a moment. Stay there until you believe it’s true.  

As a child of God, did you know that when the Father looks at you, he sees the righteousness of Jesus and not your sin? (Col. 3:3-4) Forgiveness for the Christian is as simple as turning to the cross and believing that it’s true. It is when we turn away from the majesty of Jesus and the forgiveness he’s purchased for us on the cross that we forget this forgiveness... and turn to sin instead.

As we’ll detail in the next lesson, forgiveness enables us to turn away from our sin and to the Father who loves us—and keep doing it again and again.

To close this lesson, engage in this action step:

  • Find a quiet place, away from people, where you can be alone. Get down on your knees, close your eyes—yes, literally—and ask God for forgiveness from your sins. Open your hands—again, literally—and picture that you are receiving it. Believe that you have received it. After the experience, record your thoughts in a journal.


Bandaids and Bulletholes: Lamentation

Lesson Two: Lamentation
M o u r n i n g   Y o u r   S i n 

Memory Verse: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” —Psalm 51:3

Confessing sin, laying it all out on the table for what it is, is a huge step in the process of cleaning out the wound. However, it can be so easy to play the same game that we’ve played since we were 5 years old: saying “sooooorry” through gritted teeth without really meaning it. How do we avoid pretense in our confession? Usually it involves doing something we rarely want to do—feeling the weight, grief and emotion over our sin. 

The prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament was given a pretty tough break. At an early age, God commissioned him to speak to the people of Israel—the people through whom God had chosen to display his character to the world before the time of Jesus—about their sin. Ultimately, Israel did not heed God’s warnings through Jeremiah and he did what he said he would: he disciplined them for their rebellion.

Some reflections from this time of discipline come to us from Jeremiah through the book of Lamentations in the Old Testament. Let’s take a moment and consider the grief of the people of Israel over their sin.

18“The Lord is in the right, 
for I have rebelled against his word; 
but hear, all you peoples, 
and see my suffering; 
my young women and my young men 
have gone into captivity. 
19“I called to my lovers, 
but they deceived me; 
my priests and elders 
perished in the city, 
while they sought food 
to revive their strength. 
20“Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; 
my stomach churns; 
my heart is wrung within me, 
because I have been very rebellious. 
In the street the sword bereaves; 
in the house it is like death. 
21“They heard my groaning, 
yet there is no one to comfort me. 
All my enemies have heard of my trouble; 
they are glad that you have done it. 
You have brought the day you announced; 
now let them be as I am. 
22“Let all their evildoing come before you, 
and deal with them 
as you have dealt with me 
because of all my transgressions; 
for my groans are many, 
and my heart is faint.”

—Lamentations 1:18-23

In what ways did God allow Israel to feel the weight of sin?

What response did the weight of sin produce in Jeremiah? In Israel?

It’s not easy to catch even a twinge of the sorrow or consequence of our sin. But read the next set of verses and see what this sorrow produces:

19Remember my affliction and my wanderings, 
the wormwood and the gall! 
20My soul continually remembers it 
and is bowed down within me. 
21But this I call to mind, 
and therefore I have hope: 
22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; 
his mercies never come to an end; 
23they are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness. 
24“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, 
“therefore I will hope in him.” 
25The Lord is good to those who wait for him, 
to the soul who seeks him. 
26It is good that one should wait quietly 
for the salvation of the Lord. 
27It is good for a man that he bear 
the yoke in his youth. 
28Let him sit alone in silence 
when it is laid on him; 
29let him put his mouth in the dust— 
there may yet be hope; 
30let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, 
and let him be filled with insults. 
31For the Lord will not 
cast off forever, 
32but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion 
according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 
33for he does not willingly afflict 
or grieve the children of men. 

—Lamentations 3:19-33

What differences do you see in this passage versus the previous passage?

Consider verses 31-32. Do you believe that—even when God causes grief—he is still being compassionate? Why or why not?

There are a lot of things to consider in this passage. First, God is the only one who can cause us to have true grief over our sin. Left to our own devices, we would probably choose to remain unaware. Also, it is important to note that “godly sorrow” (which we will go into later) doesn’t mean that we beat ourselves up, punish ourselves or feel guilty about our sin until we’ve paid the price. That is not what Jeremiah is doing, nor is it the goal for us. Jesus has already taken this beating. Jesus has borne the punishment. Jesus has already removed our guilt by his work on the cross. The grief we feel moves us toward one thing: knowing the steadfast love of God and believing that we can put our hope in him for rescue. That is where the grief of Jeremiah led him and that is where we are being led, as well.

For the next action step, read the text of the following hymn, Hiding In Thee, by William O. Cushing. Reflect on how the author responds to the sorrow of his sin and consider the same truth in light of your own.

O safe to the Rock that is higher than I,
My soul in its conflicts and sorrows would fly;
So sinful, so weary, Thine, Thine, would I be;
Thou blest Rock of Ages, I'm hiding in Thee.

In the calm of the noontide, in sorrow's lone hour,
In times when temptation casts o'er me its power;
In the tempests of life, on its wide, heaving sea,
Thou blest Rock of Ages, I'm hiding in Thee.

How oft in the conflict, when pressed by the foe,
I have fled to my Refuge and breathed out my woe;
How often, when trials like sea billows roll,
Have I hidden in Thee, O Thou Rock of my soul.


Bandaids & Bulletholes: Confession

In reading this lesson over, I almost can't stop laughing. God's providence brings a smile to my face. I had no idea how much this lesson was going to learn me, so to speak. The threads God started to weave last year continue work their way through my heart—and yet they're only the fringes of his ways. There's still such a long way to go. 

Confession is not something that comes naturally to me; perhaps you can relate. The inclination of my heart is not to walk in the light, but rather to hide in darkness and shame. It is a deep, damaging and poisonous root that our First Parents planted, my own parents watered and I have willingly tended ever since. The mercy of God has been extended to me in that he—the Master Gardener—willingly tends to me, pulls at this root and heals its poisonous effects.

What is it about confession that makes us cringe? Easy. No one wants to be put to shame. However, what we often fail to see is that confession—telling the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, no pretense, no running, no hiding—as part of the repentance process is the very thing that abolishes our shame. Choosing not to tell the truth about your sin, your fear, your pain and all the subtleties of your heart keeps you in bondage to shame and secrecy. And let me tell you, shame is an exacting and debilitating vice with a grip that will surely sap every ounce of your vitality until it finishes you. 

If you're afraid to break away from hiding and shame, perhaps you need a glimpse of what's on the other side. In his encounter with the woman at the well, Jesus paints a picture for her of what she wants the most: a well of living water that will never run dry, a satisfaction that never becomes stagnant, a comfort and a joy and a life that will last. She wants a love that won't leave. And when the woman says she wants this living water, how does Jesus deliver it? Through her confession. She needed to tell the truth of who she was, where she was, what she was trying to satisfy herself with (to no avail). She needed to step out of hiding in sin and shame and into worship. Jesus was after her heart. He went on to tell her that true worshippers worship in spirit and in truth; and that is the very thing he's after in us. Jesus longs for us to believe that he is the ultimate satisfaction of our souls, our only rescue, our only hope and to acknowledge the sin and shame that he is eager and completely resolved to forgive. 

In this last year, confession has been the catalyst of the truest and most honest worship, deepest joy and most spacious freedom I have ever had. When I close my eyes, I can see it. Although confession is not the end, it serves us as a vehicle of gracious means. 


Lesson One: Confession
T e l l i n g   t h e   T r u t h   A b o u t   Y o u r   S i n 

Memory Verse: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight...” —Psalm 51:4a

One of the biggest problems with sin is that it is deceitful. You may be able to acknowledge that it is there. You may even be able to see the effects that it has on you and on those around you. But being convinced of its deadliness? Having no doubt about its severity? Those things can be allusive. King David, in Psalm 40, goes as far as to say that “his iniquities have blinded him and he cannot see.” Yes, your sins will blind you. Yes, you are sometimes inadequate to see these things by yourself. 

There are a few things that can help expose our sin and free us from our blindness. One of those things is the Word of God. Let’s take a moment and see what else David has to say about his sin and answer some questions.

1O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, 
nor discipline me in your wrath! 
2For your arrows have sunk into me, 
and your hand has come down on me. 
3There is no soundness in my flesh 
because of your indignation; 
there is no health in my bones 
because of my sin. 
4For my iniquities have gone over my head; 
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. 
5My wounds stink and fester 
because of my foolishness, 
6I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; 
all the day I go about mourning. 
7For my sides are filled with burning, 
and there is no soundness in my flesh. 
8I am feeble and crushed; 
I groan because of the tumult of my heart. 
9O Lord, all my longing is before you; 
my sighing is not hidden from you. 
10My heart throbs; my strength fails me, 
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me. 
11My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, 
and my nearest kin stand far off.

—Psalm 38:1-11

Who is David talking to in this Psalm? What does this say about who is most effected by our sin?

What are some of the ways David describes his sin?

What are some of the effects of sin?

This is an altogether disturbing picture of what sin does to us. It blinds us, crushes us, afflicts us, causes relational discord. The evidence of sin’s destruction is pretty blatant; not much convincing is needed.

In verse 9, David makes an interesting statement. He says that all his longing is before God and his sighing is not hidden from God. This—more than anything else—is the heart of confession. It is the disposition of a heart that desires to hide nothing from God and acknowledges that nothing is hidden from God. Also, it is acknowledgement of who the sin is truly against.

How does it feel to know that God sees your sin?

Is it easy to tell God about your sin, or hard? Why or why not?

Sometimes it’s easy to confess sin. Sometimes it’s not. It usually depends on where a given sin falls on our sliding scale. Key word: “our.” God sees all sin the same... as punishable by death (Romans 6:23). Every sin, even down to the smallest “white lie” necessitated the brutal death of Jesus as payment. Knowing the weight of his sin, David says this:

17For I am ready to fall, 
and my pain is ever before me. 
18I confess my iniquity; 
I am sorry for my sin. 

—Psalm 38:17-18

David doesn’t just reckon with the fact that God knows and sees his sin. He moves into feeling sorry for his sin. We’ll deal with this thoroughly in the next lesson, but for now, we’ll leave it at that.

It may seem as if this lesson is full of bad news, but be assured. The good news is far better. Keep in mind, this is a process. We need a complete picture of the bad news in order to feel the weight and light and heat of the gospel of grace. Remember that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) We’ll get there. For now, let’s close this lesson with our first action step:

  • Ask God to open your eyes to your sin. Not just the sins on the surface, like lying, impure thoughts, etc. Ask God to dig deeply into your soul to find the roots of these sins. What does everything seem to boil down to? You may be surprised at what you see. Also, be brave and ask those closest to you what they see as sin in your life. Because sin is blinding, we need the eyes of others to help us see both our sin and God's gracious response to it.


Bandaids & Bulletholes: Introduction

For this next series of blogs, I'm going to post lessons to a curriculum I wrote last year about dealing with sin (namely, the process of turning from it) called 'Bandaids and Bulletholes.' 

While it was specifically written for a class assignment, it wasn't long before it was writing me. Jesus—in the way that only he can—had me write these things down and then journeyed me through them. But that story is for a another day and another series of blogs (and now that I've said that, I am definitely accountable to write them). 

This series is intended to be pertinent to an individual and equally effective when done with someone else or with a group of people. However you slice it, I hope it cuts deeply.

The following is the introduction. Seemed like a good place to begin...

Picture this. 

The world is at war for... well... the umpteenth time in history. You’re part of the allied forces (A.K.A. “Good Guys”) and currently in the middle of a decisive battle that could be the tipping point for this war, determining whether good or evil will prevail. You’re making the charge against enemy lines and the unthinkable happens. Your best friend—who just happens to be running alongside you—gets shot. You stop what you’re doing to triage the situation. Needless to say, it’s pretty bad. You start getting out some supplies to make a tourniquet that will bind the wound (at least until a professional can see to it) and your friend tells you to stop... and pretty forcefully, at that. You ask why and get this response: “Don’t worry, don’t worry, put that stuff away. I just need a bandaid.”

...Come again?

“Yeah, it’s not too bad. A bandaid should be fine.”


You may not be a doctor (or maybe you are), but it doesn’t take much knowledge and experience to know that a bandaid isn’t going to cut it when it comes to a bullet wound.

The same is true of sin. 

What is sin? It is disobeying God by commission (consciously doing things we know he has told us not to do) and omission (consciously not doing the things we know we need to do). It is rebellion; war against our Creator-God. Since our first parents, Adam and Eve, we’ve all been there, done that and gotten the T-shirt, certainly. But do you know that your sin is fatal? Do you believe that it has the power to significantly destroy you and the people around you? You wouldn’t deal with a bullet carelessly just as you shouldn’t deal with your sin passively. A bullet hole needs to be properly diagnosed, thoroughly cleaned, covered with disinfectant, tightly bound, checked periodically until it’s healed and the area surrounding the wound also needs to be rehabilitated. Likewise, the fatal blows of sin need to be acknowledged for exactly what they are, exposed completely, covered in the forgiveness of Jesus, turned from repeatedly, and—whenever possible—have the effects restored.

Christian, are you trying to cover up your bulletholes with bandaids? The good news is that your rescue has come, and his name is Jesus.

The hope and aim of this study is that you will say, together with the apostle Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! . . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 7:24-25a, 8:1)


Take Heart

Been thinking a lot about the sufficiency of Christ in all things... including the things that we deem our greatest desires and the absence of which produce what we consider some of our deepest wounds. Women, let Jesus be the one whose love satisfies your heart and whose leadership shapes the trajectory your soul. Men, let the church be the bride for whom you labor to provide and love as you love yourself. (Ephesians 5)


Big Buts

Consider how your life, your heart, your thoughts are shaped by big buts. I'm serious.

There are some incredible big buts:

  • "BUT God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved..." (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV) 
  • "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, BUT we trust in the name of the LORD our God." (Psalm 20:7 ESV) 
  • "BUT when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit..." (Titus 3:4-5 ESV) 
  • "BUT this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV)
  • "So you are no longer a slave, BUT a son..." (Galatians 4:7 ESV)

And there are some not-so-incredible but still very big buts:

  • I know God forgives me, BUT I can't forgive myself. 
  • Jesus is my all; BUT if I lose this one thing, I've lost everything. 
  • "For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; BUT the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. (Hebrews 4:2 NASB) 
  •  God is sovereign, BUT he doesn't care about suffering. Definitely not my suffering.
  • "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' BUT do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46 ERV)

This is not profound, but it's huge. The buts that consume you will become you. 


Isn't it ironic?

Irony is a funny thing... by definition. It’s finding 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. It’s meeting the man of your dreams... and then meeting his beautiful wife. Irony is responsible for making you laugh at really, really inappropriate times and for inserting various “f” words into otherwise benign phrases (e.g. “fan-frickin’-tastic”). Or something like that. So I’m told.
But irony is also something very not funny. The Greeks defined the ironic life as a sad, sad song with a sad, sad ending. The ironic life was one of failure, of destruction... of blindness. In literature or drama, an ironic character would spend his or her days cocooned in ignorance, experiencing the throws and blows of life without ever really knowing why everything they touched seemed to fall apart. But what is perhaps worse than the not-so-blissful ignorance of the ironic character is the fact that the audience knew exactly what was wrong—the whole time—and couldn’t say anything. Perhaps they wanted to, but that fourth wall is in no way transparent. It’s a mighty fortress. No matter how much you yell at the TV, no one is going to hear you. (Except for, of course, the poor sap who you watch TV with. Or your cat, or something.)
I often think of myself as an ironic character, chained and bound by her “tragic flaw.” I can’t seem to hear (or choose not to hear) when God graciously knocks at that fourth wall, bringing truth, bringing sight, bringing grace, rewriting the tragedy. Rather than stopping the show and letting him speak. But he keeps knocking. 
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.”—Isaiah 55:1-5
The ironic life is the shameful life. It is a life—as Harvey Turner described on Easter at Living Stones—that is completely consumed with the question “what is wrong with me?” and ignores the answer. The shameful one believes that he or she has a tragic flaw that is a mystery to them and completely obvious to God, to others... or it would be if they let anyone get that close. The shameful one believes that both parties identify and judge them by their tragic flaw and not by grace. The shameful one tries in futility to compensate for this ‘tragic flaw’ by spending money for what is not bread and working—fingers to the bone—for what will never satisfy. This is the life of shame. And this is what’s wrong with me, and maybe you.
Maybe you’ve spent your life trying to convince yourself that what you’ve purchased is satisfying, is good enough for you, when it clearly is not—because it’s not the Bread of Life. Here’s the truth about our sad, sad situation: it doesn’t have to be. The God of the universe is offering an everlasting covenant that can never be broken. How? Because Jesus died for shame. He died for every tragic flaw. He rose again to extend his loving arm and smash the dividing wall between us and him. He crushes the fourth wall. He breaks power of irony. He knows what’s wrong with you and wants to show you—your whole life long—how he’s healed you. 
I am broken by the fact that he keeps knocking, keeps offering, keeps forgiving, keeps talking, keeps prodding, keeps listening, keeps pursuing, keeps providing... keeps loving. Broken. There is no greater love, no greater sustenance, no richer taste I’ve ever known or will ever know. I am broken by the fact that he is healing my blindness and giving me eyes that can see the truth so that I may be free from my shame. I am broken by the fact that he sets me free to love others as he does... to witness, to plead for, to yearn for the freedom of many. 
You don’t have to resign yourself to the ironic, shameful life. He can give you a new story. He may or may not give you a knife in the middle of 10,000 spoons, but he can show you how he's better than what you think you need. He can show you that he's the answer to your shame and more satisfying than the cockamamie solutions you've invented. Let him.