Grace for the Imperfect

Thank you Kelly Balarie for today’s message:

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many ~ Hebrews 12:15, NIV.

It wasn’t a major thing she did to make me upset. It was many minor things over many days. For instance, I shared a joy I was thrilled about, but she changed the subject. I sent her texts of love from the bottom of my heart, and she was either slow to respond, or didn’t respond at all. I showed love, but she didn’t invite me to things other friends were invited to.

Inside, I was ready to write her off.

I’ve invested so much, butI am done with her.

Consciously and decisively, I created distance when we were together: talking to her less, giving her short answers, avoiding eye contact, and paying attention to others more.

But at home, I felt convicted. What is true love if it is dependent on another woman’s response?

I’d looked to her response to define my worth. But in reality, my love isn’t unto her – it is unto Christ. I’d lost perspective.

Worst of all, I’d allowed something horrible to grow within me. . .

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12:15, NIV).

A bitter root was forming.

Do you have a bitter root forming within? Toward a co-worker? A husband? A friend? A child?

There are 3 ways to pull out bad roots:

1. Forgive.

Christ forgave us when we were still sinners. Likewise, we forgive others while they are still imperfect. This doesn’t negate or defend bad actions, but it frees us from carrying the weight of them.

2. Extend grace.

We can extend to others the very grace we could only hope to receive on our worst day.

No one is perfect. We all are growing. We hit busy seasons. Tough seasons. Rough seasons. Pain. Trials. Tribulations. Huge mistakes.

Christ-like love bears each other’s weaknesses, so as to carry the other person’s cross, even if only for a bit. This kind of love changes relationships, brings back marriages and restores what has been lost. It resurrects.

3. Receive grace.

Undoubtedly, I had eyes for myself in this situation. There was more to this woman’s responses. I could either beat myself up for what I’d done wrong or receive the grace Jesus paid for. The first option would keep me stuck in perpetual self-harm, but the other would set me free.

You too can let yourself off the hook, because Christ is not condemning you. The second you confess, you are blessed by His grace.

Have a blessed day!

How to Heal a Hurting Heart

 

When Life Seems Broken

Thank  you Gwen Smith for today’s message:

The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire. (Nehemiah 1:3, NIV)

Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king of a land far from his home. (Which means he held a trusted position that allowed him personal access to the king.) When some old friends came to town he found out that his people, the Jews, were in a terrible situation. Deeply burdened by the news, he wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed. He took the devastation of his people to heart and responded on a soul level.

The Bible shows us that Nehemiah prayed. He was pressed but not crushed. He told the Lord that he was sorry for the way he and his people had rejected God and for the ways they had disobeyed His commands. He remembered the instructions of God to His people and reminded Him of His promises. And he asked God to hear his prayer, give him favor and lead his responses.

I read this and see a vibrant example of the way I should respond when difficult situations come my way. When my loved ones are hurting. When my homeland is unsafe and vulnerable to attack. Here are a few basic faith principles we can apply that Nehemiah modeled in his prayer and in the conversations that followed.

#1. BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. Nehemiah wept and mourned in response to the situation. You don’t need to pretend that you’re “fine” when life hurts. Instead, You can do what Nehemiah did: cry. Be sad. Mourn. Grieve.

Because life is hard … and just because we’re Christians does not mean we get easy passes.

Thankfully, God knows sorrow well and is the generous source of comfort we need.

#2. PRAY. Nehemiah’s powerful prayer included the following. I’ve bullet pointed them to be a useful guide:

– Begin with confession (on behalf of you and your people).

– Remember and remind God of His Word.

– Petition on behalf of others (Pray for your people. Stand in the gap. Intercede.)

– Ask for success (Yes. You read this right. It’s okay to ask God to give you favor. Nehemiah did!)

– Ask for mercy (That the punishment we and our people deserve would be withheld.)

While following this template of Nehemiah’s prayer doesn’t guarantee any of us that God will answer our prayers as we expect Him to, it does give us a step by step path to follow that will focus our hearts on God’s intervention.

Then, after Nehemiah prayed, the Lord allowed the king to see that something was wrong. And the Lord allowed Nehemiah to experience the favor he asked for. BUT he had to face his fears in order to step into the provision God had for him. And this shows us another great takeaway…

#3. DON’T LET FEAR HOLD YOU BACK. Nehemiah was heavy with sorrow and the king noticed. In chapter 2 the king asked Nehemiah what had made him sad. “So the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” (Nehemiah 2:2)

Insightful king, right?

The next words Nehemiah writes are, “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” (Nehemiah 2:2-3)

Amazingly, the king cared! He asked what he could do to help, and then provided Nehemiah with everything he needed to go back to Jerusalem and help his people rebuild the ruins.

Nehemiah could’ve shrugged off the king’s question. He could’ve said,Nothing is wrong, my lord! I’m fine. All is well. But he didn’t. Even though he was afraid, he spoke truth. He didn’t let fear hold him back. And as a result, he was equipped with what he needed and was mobilized toward healing.

Are there complications that have your heart grieving and sifting through ashes?

Are you trying to keep a stiff upper lip and carry those broken burdens quietly?

God is all about rebuilding broken hearts and hopes, friend. He specializes in transforming smoky ash heaps into beautiful displays of His grace. He will move you toward that beauty and healing as you move toward Him in distress as Nehemiah did.

Have a blessed day!

The Power of Confession

Thank you Kelly Balarie for today’s message.

When he got in the car, he kept his head down, looked away, and muttered some words. Not hearing him outright, I said, “Son, what is it?”

He muttered, “I made a mistake. I looked at someone’s paperwork at school and copied their answer. I didn’t tell my teacher, but I told God ‘I’m sorry’. I will never do it again.”

I conveyed to him that he did right thing by confessing to God and deciding to change. God forgives. God keeps no records of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). Our sins are cast into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, ESV)

Jesus takes away the burden of sin, when – through confession – we allow him to do so.

But, later that night (and I mean way-late), I felt a finger-poke in my side.

There he was, standing there, fretting, and worried. He cried, “Mommy, I have to text my teacher now. I feel so guilty. I want this off of my back.”

And, he did. The next morning, he wrote her a text essentially saying he was sorry. That he didn’t want to carry this anymore. That he needs to feel better.

And, after he pressed send, I was amazed. The transformation was huge. He went from being down and dejected to dancing and jubilant. He jumped around the house rejoicing and full of new life.

This is a picture of repentance. When we let go of the guilt, we carry to receive the blessing of the cross that Jesus carried – we always find new life.

Part of the process is forgiving our self. Have you forgiven yourself for the wrongs, the guilt, or the burdens that weigh you down? If Jesus forgave you, can’t you forgive yourself too? If Jesus paid the ultimate price, hasn’t he fully purchased all your mistakes?

If you’ve confessed your sins to God, but still don’t feel life, you might consider doing these three things:

1. Confessing to any other people involved, as God leads you.

2. Letting go internally. This means you release the guilt, shame and burdens to Jesus from within you and receive his gift of forgiveness, once and for all.

3. Choosing not to dwell any more on what issue God has already set you free from.

I’ll never forget the look on my son’s face after he got that burden “off his back.” We can do the same today. Freedom is right on the other side of asking for and receiving forgiveness.

Have a blessed day!

Thankful Thursday: Mistakes

A mistake is defined as “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.” .  We have all made them from the little ones to the ones which wreck our lives or those around us.  Do you think of them as leaning lessons and are grateful for the mistake?  OR do you beat yourself up swearing to never do anything “stupid” like that again?

I will admit, depending on the mistake – I can go between the two.  No matter how you handle the mistake, you are not alone. It’s likely all of us have repeated some of our mistakes at one time or another and reacted differently each time.  The truth is if we never made mistakes, we wouldn’t learn much so it is one of those things we should be thankful for.

The good news is, you can learn from your mistakes. Then, instead of repeating them again, you’ll gain valuable wisdom to help you in the future.

1. Acknowledge Your Errors

Regardless of the size of the mistake or who it has effected,  you have to accept full responsibility for your role in what happened.  You need to ask yourself, “What role did I play in this?”.  The answer can be uncomfortable sometimes (okay, maybe most of the time), but you need to own your part.  Once you have said “I messed up,”  you can start to learn from it.  This is all part of changing and hopefully, not making the same mistake again.

2. Ask Yourself Tough Questions

You don’t want to dwell on your mistakes (this is a tough one for me) BUT reflecting on them can be productive. I don’t know about you but when I dwell on mistakes, I tend to beat myself up a little bit.  So, if you ask yourself these tough questions, it can turn a bashing session into a productive one:

  • What went wrong?
  • What could I do better next time?
  • What did I learn from this?

Write down your responses and you’ll see the situation a little more clearly. Seeing your answers on paper can help you think more logically about an irrational or emotional experience.  Let’s face it, we have all had them at one time.

3. Make A Plan

Beating yourself up for your mistakes won’t help you down the road.  It’s important to spend the bulk of your time thinking about how to do better in the future.  Make a plan to help avoid making a similar mistake. Be as detailed as possible but remain flexible since your plan may need to change  No matter how you track your progress, find a way to hold yourself accountable.  Remember what works for one person might not work with someone else.

4. Make It Harder To Mess Up

How will you be sure not to mess up again?  Does willpower alone prevent you from taking an unhealthy shortcut or from giving into immediate gratification (I want what I want when I want it). Increase your chances of success by making it harder to mess up again. Find creative ways to become more disciplined. If using credit cards is your struggle – cut up the cards or freeze them.  Yup, in a big block of ice.  Whenever you try to thaw the block of ice, you will realize how ridiculous the situation is and stop spending money you don’t have.

5. Create A List Of Reasons Why You Don’t Want To Make The Mistake Again

We all have weak moments and the next thing you know, we have made the same mistake again!  Why not create a list of all the reasons why you should stay on track and be self-disciplined,  you can refer to during tough times. Put the list some place where you can see it – if shopping is a problem, put the list in your wallet next to your debit/credit cards.  If flirting on social media is a thing, post your list on your computer so when you start scrolling or are tempted you see the list.  Is it a guarantee?  NO but it may help you to resist the temptation.  Self-discipline is like a muscle. Each time you delay gratification and make a healthy choice, you grow mentally stronger.

Mistakes aren’t always one big blunder. Sometimes, they are a series of little choices leading to failure.  So pay attention to your mistakes, no matter how big or how small they might seem. Recognize each mistake can be an opportunity to build mental muscle and become better.

Have a blessed day!