God Who Redeems Our Past

Claude Houde

Whatever the circumstances of your life, God is able to change them for his glory. This biblical principle is not just a theory for me. I have met many people who were transformed by God despite horrors in their past. I know a young man from the poorest neighborhood of Montreal particularly well who experienced this magnificent and radical transformation.

Most of the men in his family were violent alcoholics. His father was depressed, perpetually out of work and showed all the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Night after night, this boy protected his little brother from his father's violence. As a teenager, however, he became what he had always hated. Alcohol, drugs, anger, delinquency, lies and violence were his lot. Until he was seventeen, he was completely out of control, disappointing and hurting everyone who came into contact with him. How many mornings had he woken up in a filthy Montreal ditch after spending the night drinking and fighting? More than he could count.

One evening, a policeman told his mother, “Don't worry, Madame. One day you won't have him on your hands anymore. Cases like him end up in prison or the cemetery.”

I was that boy. My circumstances predisposed me to reproduce the evil that had made me suffer so much. However, God in his grace came to find me. He took my heart, broken by beatings and rage, and changed it into his image. Our God transforms lives!

Years later, I still consider myself very imperfect, but scripture promises, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV). God made me a faithful husband, a committed dad, a love-struck grandpa and a man of God devoted to his service. God transforms circumstances and hearts.

Do not limit yourself to what you once were. Do not limit your children to who they are today. God is greater than all of that. Your family has no pain that the Lord cannot heal. Declare this truth in your heart for your spouse, your family, your children and your future. If it is true that all our traumas are relational, then so are our healings. In our relationship with God and his people, let us be renewed. What might have been for our harm, God can and will ultimately turn into good.

Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches. 

Where Leprosy Is Exposed

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Moses was a man touched by God, supernaturally called and full of revelation about who God was. He had a passion to honor God and grieved deeply over the sins of the people. Because of his humility, he was permitted to commune with the Lord and receive his guidance in ways that few other men have.

Despite this, Moses, like all men and women, still had a sinful, diseased nature, and God used a creative way to reveal it: "Furthermore the Lord said to him, ‘Now put your hand in your bosom.’ And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow’" (Exodus 4:6 NKJV).

Imagine the terror of reaching into your own chest cavity and touching leprosy! What an object lesson on the utter depravity of the flesh. Was God indulging in a little magic with Moses? No, this was a powerful lesson God wanted Moses to learn. He was saying, "When self is in control, you end up hurting people and bringing reproach on my work. When you work on my behalf in spectacular, fleshly ways, you minister death, not life.”

Moreover, he said, "I cannot use that old nature from Egypt. It cannot be transformed; it will always be leprous. There must be a new man who is immersed in the glory and power of the I AM!"

The Lord then told Moses to put his leprous hand back into his bosom. "So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out… and behold, it was restored like his other flesh" (Exodus 4:7). Thank God for that second, sanctifying touch!

Moses’ stretching forth his hand is a depiction of ministry, and his leprosy represents hidden, unforsaken sin. When a man of God stands on holy ground, his inner soul is laid bare and those sins are brought to light. He is driven to the tender mercies of Christ for healing and restoration.

Once the old flesh is crucified, the hand of ministry is purified and we are once again clothed in divine flesh. We can rejoice in the cleansing power of the precious blood of Christ.

What Is Holy Ground?

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Moses was tending sheep in the desert one day when God called to him from a burning bush. “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (see Exodus 3:5 NKJV).

Holy ground is not a physical place. When God commanded Moses to take off his shoes because he was on holy ground, he was not referring to a piece of real estate, but to Moses’ spiritual condition. A holy God must have a holy man who is on “holy ground.” God can't use a man until his spirit is ready.

Moses had finally arrived here at a place of reception, a time in his growth when God could get through to him. He was ready to listen and mature enough to humbly respond to the dealing of a holy God.

Please don't think for a moment that Moses alone was on holy ground. Israel, at the end of their hope, was ready to listen, too. I have never believed that God would keep an entire nation under slavery just to give Moses time to mature into a gracious leader. Our Lord is no respecter of persons. God, in those forty trying years, was preparing Israel as well as Moses. By way of loving judgment, the Lord was driving Israel back to the holy ground: a hunger for Jehovah.

While Moses was on the mountain being stripped of his rights (symbolized by the removal of his shoes), Israel was in the valley being stripped of all human strength. Moses would have no rights, and Israel would have no strength. God could prove himself strong on their behalf in no other way. The great I AM was being revealed!

We will have to travel the same route to usefulness. All self-pride and confidence in our ability to save ourselves will have to be stripped away so God’s glory can be revealed.

Help to Neither Murmur or Complain

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Our world is full of uncertainty. Chaos and unrest seem to spread hourly, causing fear to run rampant. My prayer each day is, “God help us not to murmur or complain. Teach us that these are signs of impatience and distrust of you, our faithful Lord.”

In Exodus 17, Moses described murmuring as “tempting God.” The children of Israel were at Rephidim and there was no water to drink. Doubt and fear were spreading through the encampment. The people forgot all the times in the past they had been delivered and once again began to doubt that the Lord was with them. “God, why did you bring us out of Egypt? Why didn’t you let us die there instead of bringing us to this place to kill us?” they cried. The murmuring reached a crescendo as they turned their anger toward Moses with calls to stone him.

Finally, in His mercy, God gave them water out of a rock. However, he gave it a name as a permanent reminder of their distrust, murmuring and complaining. “So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not’” (Exodus 17:7 NKJV)? It was to be a place forever remembered in Israel’s future.

We often feel we have a right to murmur and complain because our afflictions are painful and hard to bear. There are times I have been guilty of this, but each time I reread Exodus l7, a reverent fear of the Lord grips my soul. This account emphasizes that God takes our faithlessness very seriously.

God has seen us through so much in the past, and he has proven his faithfulness every time. When will we ever fully trust him? When will we wholly trust his promise to keep us, to love us, and to be our heavenly Father and keeper? If we could understand that everything will end up to God’s glory, we would rest in his Word. We would not complain or fear but would rest in the assurance that all who hold fast to faith will be blessed.

May God help us take this to heart in the testing times ahead. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!

Under the Rule of Grace

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

The prodigal son needed what the apostle Paul calls a “renewing of the mind.” This wayward son had a mindset of condemnation and was nervous about going back home. These words from the parable, though, show his father’s mindset: “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet’” (Luke 15:22-23, NKJV).

Today we have the same dilemma. Our Father rejoices over us, embracing us with loving arms. Yet we are sure that humility means digging up our past sins rather than accepting his grace. We think guiltily, “He has to be angry with me. I’ve sinned worse than others have.”

When the father’s servants placed his best robe on the son, it represented Christ clothing us in his righteousness. The father placing a ring on the boy’s finger signified our union with Christ. Finally, when they placed shoes on his feet it was a picture of us being shod with the gospel of the peace of Christ. This loving father was showing his child, “Away with those rags of self-effort to please me! I’m going to show you how I see you. You aren’t coming into my presence as a beggar or a slave but as a royal child, my son, who delights me. Come to me with boldness!”

The same is true for us. We must be renewed in our thinking about how God receives us. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, his flesh… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19-20, 22).

The word for “boldness” in verse 19 comes from a root meaning “an emancipated slave.” We no longer live under the law of sin and death but under grace. In short, God's love and mercy qualify us to enter his presence with confidence: “Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-13).