Tag Archives: forgiveness

A Prize for the Best Bad Guy

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But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust, wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over the truth.  Open your eyes and there it is!  By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see…  So nobody has a good excuse.

What happened was this:  People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.  They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.  They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.”  It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out.  And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshipped the god they made instead of the God who made them…

Worse followed.  Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either- women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men.  Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men- full of lust.  And they paid for it, oh how they paid for it- emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose.  And then all hell broke loose:  rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing.  They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating.  Look at them:  mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-haters, bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags!  They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives…   And it’s not as if they don’t know any better.  They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face.  And they don’t care- worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!

Sound familiar?  If Romans 1:18-32 doesn’t describe our modern era, then I don’t know what does.  We applaud those who behave the worst.  We turn our world upside down to accommodate deviance and perversion.  We shame and scold traditional values.  We tolerate what God has called intolerable.  And we are surprised when all hell breaks loose.

We need to repent as a nation and come back to God.  Only through repentance will we ever find satisfaction with this life.  This is why we needed a Savior.  We needed to be saved from our own wretched, filth.  We needed to be saved from the bad choices we made.  It is because we CHOSE SIN that we are destined for hell.  And Jesus died to rescue us from that horrible consequence.  

Thank you Jesus for dying for our sins.  We are astonished at our own sinfulness.  We are astonished that you would still love us.  We honor you as God and put you in your rightful place above all.  We crown you with thanks and worship!  Good Friday is indeed good… for us.  

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

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“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” -Tom Bodett

shampoo kidHave you ever read the back of a shampoo bottle before?  I did once.  It actually had directions on it!  They said, “Lather, Rinse, Repeat.”  How odd, I thought, wouldn’t the shampoo be strong enough to do the job the first time?  Why repeat?

Several years later I read somewhere that some marketing guy came up with the idea to put those instructions on the bottle of shampoo.  His idea was considered folly until the end of the fiscal year showed a 30% increase in shampoo sales!  Of course then he was hailed as a genius.  I still don’t know why it worked, but apparently people believe what they read on the back of shampoo bottles.  After all, why would your shampoo lie to you?

There are times in life when I’ve felt like I was reading the back of the shampoo bottle, spiritually speaking.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat… and repeat and repeat and repeat until the lesson is learned.  God keeps us cycling through lessons until we master them.  For example, have you noticed how forgiveness is not a one-time shot?  You have to deliberately forgive someone and let go of hurt feelings over and over again until it becomes second nature to you.

You have to flex those spiritual muscles over and over, building up their strength, concentrating on your form, until those spiritual movements are habits.  Forgiveness, tithing, prayer, a devotional life, taking captive every thought, not lusting, not coveting, not gossiping… all of these spiritual actions take training.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Having to repeat a life lesson because you just didn’t learn it the first time around is not something to be ashamed of, it’s just how us humans learn.  Practice makes perfect in the spiritual realm too.  Anything worth learning is worth repeating until you have it down perfectly.  Forgive 70×7.  Capture and return stray thoughts to God a hundred times a day if you have to.  Bounce your eyes away from lust inducing images over and over again.  Repent as many times as necessary.

If Jesus told us to forgive our brother 70×7 then how much more is our Heavenly Father disposed to forgive us over and over when we fail and fall short, but want to keep trying.  Do it again.  Repeat the lesson again.  You haven’t mastered it yet.  I want you to nail this one.  Try again.  And again.  And again.

Repeating lessons over an over is like Father God running next to our bicycle as we learn to ride without training wheels.  We fall, he picks us up again and sets us back on the bike.  Try again, Child.  He is our patient, loving Father.  He gives us chances to repeat lessons because he loves us and wants us to succeed, not to punish us.  This is for our good.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbird/19648336/”>thejbird</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com/People/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>CC BY</a>

Those who despise grace…

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Friday is the day for our weekly spelling test in my 5th grade class.  When the test is over, the kids exchange papers and we grade them together as a class.  Those kids are so hard on each other.  Every week someone complains that their friend’s “O”s look like “C”s or their “A”s look like “U”s.  They demand that every “T” be crossed and every “I” be dotted.  I’m sure some of them have a future in some government office.

I am constantly trying to teach them about grace.  My 5th graders are hard on each other and don’t give each other much grace because they don’t recognize their own need for grace.  They have very short and selective memories.  They remind me a lot of some Christians.

When Christians are hard on each other, demanding perfection of each other, it is because they do not see their own need for grace.  Pride has blinded them to their own faults, and they undervalue God’s power to forgive.

Jesus talked about this.  He said, “He who has been forgiven of much, loves much.”  The woman weeping at his feet was a prostitute.  The host, who forgot to give him water to wash his dusty feet when he arrived at the house, was a Religious Leader.  Who loved Jesus more?  The one who had been forgiven of more sins.

Those who do not recognize their own need for grace will always be hard on the people around them, like my 5th graders who are tyrants with a correcting pen.  Once a person sees their own trashiness, smells their own filth, and understands all that God has had to put up with in cleaning them up, then that person is tender and sensitive to the cleaning up process in his neighbor.  He says, “There but by the Grace of God would I go.”  If it were not for God’s Grace towards me, you and I would be in identical straits.

Has Pride blinded you to your own need for grace?  Are you hard on people?  Ask God for the brokenness that comes with understanding your own pathetic state before a pure and holy God.  Tenderness comes through brokenness.  Compassion is born of humility.

Grace is Messy

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I’ve been thinking about this blog now for some time and it’s just been a matter of sitting down to actually write it.  I am not writing this to embarrass anyone, so I’m not going to use any names.  The reason I’m writing this story is to cure you of the idea that you have to be perfect to serve the Lord.  I want you to put out of your mind once and for all the incorrect idea that missionaries or ministers or pastors are perfect.  Put that lie out of your mind once and for all.  Grace is messy.  Each of us have been and forever will be the recipients of sloppy, messy, beautiful, ugly grace from God.  Grace is about fresh starts, Happy New Year.

This past week I have spent a few days at a World Missions Summit where I reconnected with some of my best friends from around the world, other missionaries.  I was struck by a continual theme in their lives as we shared family updates and stories of our lives since we last saw each other.  I am stunned by our universal need for grace.  Our lives are sloppy.  Our details are messy.  It’s like we are all children learning how to color in the lines.  Nothing is perfect.  But Father God still takes our childish, out of bounds coloring and proudly displays it on the family fridge.  We are learning the unforced rhythms of grace.

One friend told me that their family counselor told them, “the only way we can do this is imperfectly.”  Liberating Grace!  Her teenage daughter is learning to be a mother.  My friend still aches for the mission field they left behind to nurture their daughter through a difficult season of life.  It is imperfect at best.  Grace.

With detached emotions another friend reported to us the details of a painful divorce he endured this year.  She ran off with another man.  He told us without flinching, “She just didn’t want to be married to me.”  I choked back my own emotion thinking of how much pain he was holding behind his brave face.   Walking out of the hotel at the end of the weekend, we saw him talking in the lobby with a girl he met at the convention.  Healing, renewing grace!  Fresh start.

Broken by abuse as a child, and now ministering through her scars, my dear friend has remained single when all the other girls were getting married.  Brave woman- broken girl, she kept every man at arms distance and the ones she let into her heart were as jostling, joking little brothers.  She has found powerful healing in God’s strong grace.  Now she is feeling sparks, long dormant, flying to the surface.  Her first love is back, fresh from a divorce where his wife walked out on him and the children.  This is life changing, challenging grace.  But it’s not cut and dry.  It’s a confusing and slippery second chance to love and be loved.  Tender, broken grace.

If our lives were pretty and tidy, we would not need grace.  We can speak of Grace and preach of Grace and sing Amazing Grace how sweet the sound because we WERE the wretches who were saved by it.  We once WERE lost and broken and dying of our wounds.  Now we are found, healed, and saved to live again.  Grace means we live with scars.  Grace means that Father God still loves us when our lives are imperfect and resembling King David.  Poet warrior king who was a man after God’s own heart, yet he still fell into adultery, lies and murder.  He fell and was restored again by God’s messy grace.  It’s what grace is for and why we all need it.

May your New Year be full of messy, much needed Grace.

Where do Babies come from?

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We were just having an ordinary lunch at home when my 5-year-old asked a random question.  Out of the blue she says, “So, when you’re married, does God sneak up on you and put the baby in you?”

Fork suspended in mid-air between my plate and my mouth, I had to force myself to look at her with a straight face.  “Why yes, my dear, that’s exactly how it happens.”  I’m a good mom, and I didn’t want to traumatize her with more information than I thought she could handle at age 5.  After all, we still don’t use the anatomically correct names of the body parts in our household.  Imagine explaining the Birds and the Bees with vocabulary that includes “nibbies, yoo-hoo, and cheeky monkey”.  I don’t think so.

But the Apostle James wasn’t so concerned about the tender innocence of his readers when he wrote his description of how a “sin baby” is born.  In James 1:14-15 he wrote:

“The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us.  We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lusts.  Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby:  sin!  Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.” (The Message Version)

Other versions say when we are dragged off and enticed by our own evil desires, then sin is conceived.  God does not tempt us.  Satan has been around long enough, watching the human race, that he’s an expert at where to find our weaknesses.  With a little depth sounding and poking around, he quickly finds your pressure points.  That’s when he attacks… not head on, but from the side, all sly and sexy, easy and secretive.  “Did God really say you couldn’t eat of ANY fruit in the garden?”  That meanie, old God.  He doesn’t want you to have ANY fun.  Bait and hook, you’re caught.  Then he can drag you away and rape your spirit.

When, because of your lusts and desires for more, you open your mouth and swallow that hook, you are impregnated.  As a zygote turns into a baby, so a tiny lust grows into sin.

God told Cain, brother of Abel and first-born of Adam and Eve, “Sin is crouching at your door waiting to pounce on you, but you must master it!”  In Abel’s case, a bad attitude led to jealousy and hatred of his brother which led to murder.  When sin becomes an adult, it becomes a real killer.  It may kill others, but it will always kill you.

You can’t hide that Sin Baby behind your little fig leaf.  God sees all.  God knows your thoughts even before you do!  No, the only way to kill the Sin Baby is to expose it.  Throw it out from the shelter of your warm embrace.  Repentance is the only thing that can stop this deadly spiritual cycle.  “Repentance” is not a popular word, but it is the only cure for the hook you swallowed.  Tell Father God what you’ve done.  Tell him you’re sorry and ask him to forgive you.  God draws near to the broken and contrite heart.  A bruised reed he won’t break off.  Repent and He will forgive you and heal you.

The Lord’s Prayer for Today

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“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production… Here’s what I want you to do:  Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God.  Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.  The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant.  They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God.  Don’t fall for that nonsense.  This is your Father you’re dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need.  With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.  Like this:

Our Father in heaven reveal who you are.  Set the world right; do what’s best-as above, so below.  Keep us alive with three square meals.  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.  You’re in change!  You can do anything you want!  You’re ablaze in beauty!  Yes.  Yes.  Yes!

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do.  For instance, you can’t get forgiveness from God without also forgiving others.  If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

~Matthew 5:5-15 The Message Version.