Forgiveness and Blessing

God’s people are not exempt from falling into sin.  In fact, it is overtly stated throughout scripture that there is none who does not sin.  However, as God’s people – His dearly beloved  – we can rest assured that when we sincerely repent from our sin; crying out to Him to forgive us and change us and and committing to change and turn from it – He will not only forgive and cleanse us – but He will surely bless us!  What must we do? Humble ourselves. Pray. Seek His face. Turn from our sin.  This promise was spoken to God’s people Israel, but I believe that as God’s people today this truth still applies.  When you sin (and you WILL sin) – submit to God’s authority; cry out to Him for forgiveness; listen for His direction for you; and commit to never go back to doing that thing and I believe that even when we sin grievously and find ourselves in the hand of our enemy – He will turn that thing around!  Our sin will surely bring with it unpleasant consequences but it is His good pleasure to bind up our wounds – even those He inflicts upon us.  Our pride will bring us to destruction – but if we humble ourselves under His mighty hand – He will exalt us in due time.  He knew we would falter – and He has always made a way for us to set things right with Him.  Forgiveness and blessing!  Who wouldn’t serve a God like that?!

If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:13, 14

Giving Up The Right to be RIGHT

Even the most humble among us has a desire to be right – or to be defended.

Our right to be right can totally overshadow our privilege to be loving!  Laying down our rights – It’s not natural — but it is godly. 

When we were on home assignment some years ago, there was a misunderstanding between a local pastor and what he thought was the intent of our youngest son to insult his son.  The principal of the school knew our son and knew this was a case of a missionary kid not understanding the culture of the USA – it happens!!  The boys were fine – but the father of the other child, a local pastor, was quite upset – so the principal suggested that we go to him and talk about what happened; perceptions versus reality. We went to this pastor to apologize for the misunderstanding and to keep this issue from escalating – this pastor’s response to us was, “I want my pound of flesh!”  And he said this with a SMILE!!!  It all worked out but this highlighted for Lloyd and I the depravity of even the best of us.  Oftentimes an apology is not enough! We want the wrong to be made right according to our own standards.   I’m so glad Christ didn’t feel that way!!  Oh Lord — can you imagine!!??!!

If you call yourself a follower of Christ you must – MUST be willing to take the hit.  If they call you a liar, it needs to be enough that you know you didn’t lie even if they print it in the paper and post it on Facebook.  If they take what is rightfully yours – you need to have enough faith in the Lord that He will provide what you need and that if there is to be be any vengeance, it belongs to him.  If they do cheat you (or cheat on you) – you have to forgive and not give in to your desire to spread the news far and wide that they are a cheat, instead praying that God will forgive and cleanse them from all unrighteousness.  It’s that whole concept  of giving them both your cloak and your coat – when they want to take your coat. 

We are known in America to be a litigious nation.  But as members of the Body of Christ — we need to decide to actually live like we were just in this world (sojourners) and not of this world (citizens).  Novel idea.  This really good looking preacher I know says these words to me and to his children often – “You have no right to be right and no one’s reputation matters but His.”  Think about it ..

My prayer is that my own heart will long for the world to see only Him in my actions and that I will be willing at all times to take the blame; take the fall; carry the weight — knowing that He will uphold me with His righteous right hand!!

Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?  1 Corinthians 6:7b

Making the Choice to Respond Like Christ

Overcoming EvilI think it would be awesome if people who made a decision to reject Christ would change their minds after interacting with a believer. I mean we know how to treat one another – even though we don’t always do well in that — but how do we treat those who are not a part of the Body of Christ. Enemies can come from without and from within – do we treat our Christian brothers and sisters with more deference and grace than we do the lost?

Consider this – what do you do when you find a person has been slandering you? What is your reaction when you find that someone has ‘stolen’ an opportunity from you? What is your response when you feel you have been shunned by someone? What about when someone messes with your money? your children? your spouse? Detractors can come from within the Body of Christ and from outside of the Body of Christ; do you react to people the same regardless?

For most of my life I have treated antagonists the same, whether within the household of faith or outside of it — I Treated Them Badly! For a long time I stood on my right to be right and my freedom to not be walked over. Truly, I was not a good friend and I didn’t have many good friends. And then I begin to study God’s Word about what was expected of me as relates to people relations and I found that I was to do good to ALL people, but especially those in the household of faith. That blew my mind! To know that I needed to treat Christian brothers and sisters well was fine — but that I was supposed to treat ALL people well was eye opening. When I asked God why – His response was “so that they might know Me”. There it is — it wasn’t about me after all!

As I continued to talk to the Lord about my own life and behavior I learned that my life should be attractive to those outside of the household of faith. Meaning that people who are not Christ followers should be awed by the way I treat my Christian brothers and sisters even when I have been wronged and further, those who are not believers should be attracted to me because of the grace and kindness that they receive in response to a wrong action done to me. Those who know me well know that I made an about-face; and my life has never been richer, fuller or freer! Praise God!

We have a duty to live in love among one another AND out there in the cold, cruel world. We are not expected by our King to return a wrong done with a wrong done. The world is showing its ugliness today; the world is showing hatred borne out of ignorance today; the world is showing disdain for us — but what should our return action be? It has been said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” MLK Jr. It is not easy to do – but the Holy Spirit is in us to help us to act as our King wishes and when we act as our King wishes – we will walk in His favor and not in judgment. Tit for tat might feel good for a moment, but there is no long term satisfaction in anything other than love.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (‭Romans‬ ‭12‬:‭21‬)

Divine Do Overs

DoOverBob Carlisle wrote a song back in 1996 that was made popular by Donnie McClurkin, “We Fall Down”. The song talks about a person discovering the grace of God in His failures – realizing even people of God made mistakes and the grace of God covered them and gave them a new start. We all have different testimonies – but all of us have made our share of mistakes – we have all said and done things that we later regretted and as we take a backwards look at our lives, we know it was the grace of God that kept us. As for me – I am amazed at how the Lord has kept me in spite of me! My testimony is that I faltered, but  because of His grace – it was never fatal!

God does not delight in our mistakes but He delights in our desire  to obey Him. Even when we falter, He sees our hearts and knows whether we are truly seeking His will or seeking to satisfy ourselves. When you desire to obey Him — when YOU desire to obey Him — when you DESIRE to obey Him — when you desire to OBEY Him; He will honor your obedience with His presence and power in your life!

Sometimes we step out in front of God; moving before we get his direction about something that seems urgent. What does stepping out in front of God look like?  It looks like:  getting something off our chests when we should’ve keep quiet; taking out a payday loan when we need to manage the funds we have; buying that sale item when we don’t really need to be spending; eating that last piece of pie when we know we don’t need it; getting into a relationship that we know is ungodly; compromising our morals because it seems like an easier way; etc.  When we move outside of His will, we are failing to exercise our right to rely on The One who will always guide us to the best action and decision for our lives. When we fail to follow His lead – we will miss out of His best for us.

The great thing about being a Christ follower is that because we are His chosen ones – we have access to His grace. Because we have access to His grace — we always have access to a course correction.  We might have to go back to the drawing board — but He will be there waiting to redirect us – to get us headed in the right direction.  He knew we were going to muddle things; He knew we couldn’t keep His commandments without His intervention; He knew that we would botch even His simplest commands — so, in His great love, He sent us a Savior! He gave us unlimited access to His grace!  When we mess up He has a giant eraser AND a beautiful paint canvass!  How awesome is that?!

Here’s the deal — we all make mistakes; but He, in His infinite kindness towards us, will always be willing to give us a do over. We can rest assured that as we trust in Him and seek to obey Him (seek to OBEY Him!); He will honor us with His direction and His presence in our situation. Take a step back from your situation; your temptation; your stressor — He will gladly guide you in the right way allowing you to start over because it gives Him great joy to bless your life when you are leaning on His understanding and not your own.

Our mistakes do not have to be fatal errors — we really can start over!  CTRL/ALT/DEL — reboot — start again.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. (‭Psalms‬ ‭37‬:‭23‬)