Love, Prayer, Forgiveness and Surrender

love, prayer, surrender, forgivenessIf we were, just for a moment, to talk about a few of the most powerful actions and ideas available to us then my top four would be 1) love in action, 2) prayer, 3) surrender and 4) forgiveness.  In these, Jesus Christ is our model and we can be assured that in order to become more Christlike we must work towards being excellent at all four.

And I say “work towards” because we don’t start our walk with Christ being strong in these areas and none of us, no matter how long we have been a child of God, are perfect in all four.  We’ve all got work to do or perhaps it’s more accurate to say we must continue(or begin) to surrender our selves to the Holy Spirit so that He can work in us and on us.  It is the work of God to change us, it is the responsibility of the person to surrender themselves so that they may be changed.

(So there’s number 3 from our list, right there, and please bear with me even if this is not in numerical order!)  Just as Christ surrendered his position in heaven and left his throne to come and live as a man, and just as Christ then surrendered his life for all so must we surrender our rights and desires to Him.  Our surrender is what allows us to accept Jesus Christ as savior and Lord and it is our daily (or even hourly) surrender that allows us to continue to grow and know Him better.

Closely related to surrender is forgiveness(number 4 from our list).  God forgives us of our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness and this forgiveness is applied to our past, present and future!  The entirety of the sin debt of every man, woman and child who has ever lived or will ever live has already been paid for.  The enormity of that act is difficult to comprehend but what it means for us is that we no longer have the right to withhold forgiveness from anyone or anything.  God forgave it all, every last sin, at the exact moment that the sin debt was laid on His only son Jesus.  For us, who have been so forgiven, we are now free to surrender our right to retribution, hatred, revenge and all thoughts of “getting even”.

Not only that, we must forgive ourselves and not hold on to guilt or failure.  And sometimes, we even need to forgive a situation or circumstance.  Sometimes things happen that aren’t in our plan and are not welcomed or appreciated and if we aren’t careful we can develop bitterness that will poison our lives and everything that we touch.  God’s children must forgive and the only way this can be done is in the power of the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ name.  We simply lack the ability to forgive and let go apart from the power of God in us.

So then, how do we access the power of God in us and live lives that are filled with the Holy Spirit?  We do this through prayer (number 2, here it is!) and meditation on God’s Word.  The Bible says we are to “pray continuously” and that we should “always, in everything, make our requests known to God with thanksgiving” and then, once we’ve done that, we can start to be amazed at what God can do through us and around us.  Prayer is powerful, not because of the words we say but because of who we are praying to; Jesus, in whom we live and move and have our being.  When we choose to communicate and cooperate with God it will always make an eternal and life changing difference.

And all of this, everything that we do, must be done out of a Christlike love for all people and to show love in action (number 1, here we are!)  Not love in feeling, which ebbs and flows and is only based on human emotion, but love like Christ has for all people and love that motivated Him to give up his own life to save all mankind.  Again, only God can change us to have a love like that and only through prayer, surrender and forgiveness can we share it with others.

God’s love never fails and never changes and He chooses to share it with us.  All that he asks is that we love Him in return by the way that we live our lives and the way that we treat others.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 1:13 (NIV)

 

If You Start Badly, Can You Still Finish Well?

confession, forgiveness, Psalm 40:2Does this statement sound familiar?  “I am my own worst enemy”.  Or how about this variation: “My biggest problem is me”.  Does this describe where you are?  Can you relate to feeling as if for every right thing that you do you also do two or three things wrong?  I admit, some days I am right there with you.

In fact, it’s been one of those mornings already.  As I write this I’ve already been beating myself up mentally over some things from yesterday that I wish I had done differently.  Mistakes were made and the worst part is, right in the middle of it all, I knew I was making the wrong choice and I didn’t do anything to stop it!

That’s a bad, bad feeling and it leaves me both angry and sad.  If I chose to dwell on it and wallow in it then it would be extremely destructive and the mistakes of yesterday would lead to even more mistakes today.  Choosing to stay in a place of self-pity would mean that I miss God’s blessing for today and miss out on being a blessing to someone else.  I recognize that and I don’t want it to happen.

Here’s the good part:  No sin or mistake of mine is ever big enough or bad enough to overcome God’s grace and forgiveness for me.  Praise God for that truth!  I messed up.  No question about that.  It was yesterday’s sin and I choose, by the power of Christ in me, to leave yesterday’s sin behind and move forward to whatever God has for me on this day.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

One of the first things I did this morning, even as I was feeling very low, was to give thanks and praise to God above.  Even when I’m feeling very bad, He is always very good.  At the same time, I confessed my sin and spoke to God very frankly and earnestly about it.  I acknowledged that there are parts of me that wants to do what God hates.  As hard as I try and as much as I want to be perfect, I’m not there yet and I still sometimes make choices that are wrong.  As frustrating as it is, I let my sin nature get the best of me and I have to be honest with God and admit that the only cure for me is more Jesus and less “me”.

This is my blessed hope.  That Jesus isn’t going to leave me as I am right now.  He’s still working on me, I’m not a finished product yet.  I am ever amazed that he chooses to use such an imperfect person like me to do His work and carry out His plan.  I can only trust in Him to finish what He started when He saved me and called me to be His child.  His love covers all of my sin and sets me free from guilt, if I am willing to let go of myself and trust Him with everything.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. Psalm 40:2 (ESV)

How about you?  Does guilt have a place in your heart today?  Does it feel as if your failures are hung around your neck like a weight that is dragging you down?  Do sadness and anger haunt your every step?  If so, then it is time to be free of it.  It is time to turn all of those things over to God who has already paid the full price for all of our sin.  There is no mistake, no error, no horrible act that was not covered by His blood that day at Calvary.  Confess it, commit to Him and let Him heal you of all that is broken and wounded.

 

The Good the Bad and the Rest

repentance, sin, confessionLife constantly surprises me.  You would think after 39 years I would be accustomed to the way that things work, but that just isn’t so.

My mistake is in thinking that I can attain some level of mastery in being a human being.  To be a human is to be error prone, selfish and often blind to what is most important.  So even if I do things right for a while, just wait, something stupid is coming.  I will inevitably muck something up and then spend a few days contemplating where I went wrong and what I can do to fix it.

This is basic human thinking.  Thankfully, I am no longer fully human.

Christ lives in me.  God in the flesh.  That means that I am to show the attributes and characteristics of God in how I think and act.  When I make a mistake I need to own up to it and realize that I am forgiven based on what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross at Calvary.  I am not to carry around a load of guilt and shame and cause that to make me hide from God.

The Good is that Jesus’ love for me does not change or diminish based on my behavior.  If I am on point one day and listening to the Spirit’s voice then I will produce the fruits of the Spirit and good things will come from that.  But God will not love me any more than He does right now.

Nor will He love me less when I display my fleshly characteristics and am selfish or thoughtless.  God’s love is constant and His offer of grace and forgiveness does not change.  This is a mighty and wonderful truth that I must never forget.  God loves me.  Right now, just like I am.

The Bad comes in when I do try and hide from God, either intentionally by ignoring His voice or unintentionally by wallowing in guilt and shame.  Either way, my focus is not where it should be.  Instead of focusing on Him, I become like Peter who focused on the wind and the waves and began to sink.  In this case, my “wind” and my “waves” are me and my problem.  And it is always a bad idea when I focus on anything other than God who is Sovereign.

So what’s the Rest of this process?  The Rest is what happens in between the absolute truth of God’s grace and redemption and the Bad of my sin and rebellion.  The Rest is where I must take the right steps to confess my sin and make Jesus the Lord of my life once again.  The Rest is always up to me and will always come down to my willingness to repent.

Action Hero Repentance

repentance, submission, forgiveness

Sorry guys, but you aren’t the type of action hero I am looking for this week.

While I concede that “hero” and “repentance” aren’t words that are normally found together in a sentence, it is my position that they should be.

 

 

In fact, I believe the best, most true kind of repentance requires heroic action.

Allow me to explain.

A hero is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities”.  While the commission of sin is never admirable and should never be applauded, admitting our faults and failures and taking action to turn from them most certainly should be applauded.  The honest person who is most open about their failures and reliance on God is the person that God can most use for His glory.  And I can certainly admire a person like that!

True repentance requires action.  Sometimes it requires heroic action.  True repentance isn’t just feeling bad about sin or even admitting that we have made a mistake.  True repentance turns away from the sin and the mistake and moves in the completely opposite direction.  Nothing shows God that we are more serious about walking with Him than when we turn away from sin and start living our lives differently.

Here is what true repentance looks like in real life:  If I know that I have wronged someone I go to that person and admit that I have wrong them and ask for their forgiveness.  If I know that I am tempted by lustful thoughts when viewing certain TV shows or movies, I no longer watch those TV shows or movies.  If too much time spent on social media sites and internet gaming is interfering with my walk with God, then I reduce or eliminate my exposure to those things until Jesus is first in my life again.

True repentance always, always, always requires us to act differently.  It may start with a realization and conviction by the Holy Spirit and it should involve confession; absolutely.  But until there is a motion made by us to cease our sin and to turn away from it, our repentance is not complete.

Do you want freedom from sin and to overcome that which binds you?  Then start to act differently.  God has a way of taking our small, stumbling steps made in weakness and amplifying them with His strength until we are taking great, God sized strides over and through our previous mistakes.

But it must start with our first step.  It must begin with a heroic effort on our part to really want to change and be different.  Show the Lord that you are serious and take action.  Engage yourself in action hero repentance and watch as God works a miracle in your life.

The God that Meets Us

God, seek, meetsHave you ever stopped to consider why God pursues us like He does?  I have, and it amazes me more and more all the time.  In fact, whenever I think I have gained a little bit of understanding about God’s great love He shows me something else that astounds me all over again.

God is love.  We say it all the time.  And we even think we know what it means.  But we don’t; not really.  We try to impose our idea of love and companionship on what God is doing with us and that of course leads us to a very imperfect understanding and a very distorted picture.  I believe this is why Paul wrote “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Matthew Henry, the respected 17th Century theologian, said it like this: “All things are dark and confused now, compared with what they will be hereafter. They can only be seen as by the reflection in a mirror, or in the description of a riddle; but hereafter our knowledge will be free from all obscurity and error. It is the light of heaven only, that will remove all clouds and darkness that hide the face of God from us.”

One day we will understand that God is love.  We will see Him face to face and I believe that first glimpse will far surpass the sum of every happiness and joy that we have ever experienced.  It will be worth the wait. It will be worth all the work. And it will far surpass the world that we have forsaken.

Even so, God is drawing us to know Him now.  Notice the last part of 1 Corinthians 13:12.  “Just as I also am known.”  God knows us.  He knows us completely and totally.  And yet He still loves and accepts us and invites us into a relationship with Him.

No matter how far we run, no matter what we do or what we become; God comes to meet us.

We see this illustrated in the parable of The Lost Sheep in the 15th Chapter of Luke.  The shepherd, who represents Jesus, looses 1 sheep out of his flock of 100.  He goes and searches for His lost sheep and when he finds it He picks it up, puts on His shoulders (can you imagine being in a better spot than carried on the mighty shoulders of our God?) and returns to the flock.  When he arrives home, all of His friends and neighbors (the heavenly host) rejoice that the one lost sheep has been found.

There is joy in heaven and on earth when God comes to meet us and we let him carry us home.  The desire of our Lord is to carry each and every one of His precious children home but he always gives us the choice.  It is our decision to make.  Just remember, the journey home starts when we allow God to meet us right where we are, just as we are.

Have you allowed God to meet with you?  Are you already on the path that leads to a home eternal?