Categories
forgiveness

Like It Never Even Happened

Do we still feel guilt for sins God has forgiven?

Have you ever heard of Wite-Out™? I’m pretty old, so I remember it well. In a world with no word-processing software, Wite-Out™ allowed you to cover a mistake with correction fluid and then type over it instead of throwing away the document and starting over.

Of course, it didn’t make the mistake go away. The mistake was still there—it was just hidden. With word processing, one keystroke erased the mistake forever.

Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now and let’s deliberate over the next steps to take together…” The word translated as, “deliberate,” means to judge, to convict or clear. It is a judicial word and implies deliberation in a court with a decision pending as to whether the defendant is guilty or innocent.

In God’s courtroom, we all stood guilty. We couldn’t even make a case to defend ourselves. Our only hope was to throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.

The verse goes on to say, “Yahweh promises you over and over: ‘Though your sins stain you like scarlet, I will whiten them like bright, new-fallen snow! Even though they are deep red like crimson, they will be made white like wool!’”

Instead of the guilty verdict we deserved, he offered us grace, mercy, and complete forgiveness of our sins.

The word “scarlet” referred to a cloth that had been dyed twice, making the stain permanent. Washing wouldn’t get rid of the stain. No amount of scrubbing could budge it. It would take a miracle to return the twice-dyed scarlet cloth to its original white color.

A miracle is exactly what we received. Our sins aren’t just hidden or covered over with Wite-Out™. Our sins are completely removed, just like someone pushed the “delete” button. Through the blood of Jesus, the permanent stains of our sins are gone and we are returned to our original stain-free condition, beautiful and glittering like new-fallen snow.

When our sins are forgiven, our record is expunged. In God’s eyes, our sins disappear. It’s as though they never even happened.

Sometimes we bring those sins back up and rehearse the guilt and shame in our minds. We beat ourselves up for something God has declared forgiven and dismissed. Maybe God knew we would do this, because he reminds us again in Isaiah 43:25, “I, yes I, am the One and Only, who completely erases your sins, never to be seen again. I will not remember them again. Freely I do this because of who I am!”

Our sins, our mistakes, our regrets—God doesn’t see them any longer. He doesn’t even remember them. Why do we feel guilt about that which God has forgiven? We are no longer condemned. We are righteous. The past belongs in the past. We can move our focus off the mistakes in our past and place our focus on the glorious future God has prepared for us.

Dear God, thank you for forgiving my sins. It’s so awesome that you don’t even remember them. You aren’t holding a grudge against me. You aren’t angry with me. You love me so deeply. Help me forgive myself just as you have forgiven me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
Handling Life's Problems

Run to the Father

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:24)

I’ll never forget the first time I learned about leeches.

I was eight years old, happily playing in a creek near our campsite. When I came out, I noticed something horrible had attached itself to my leg. I couldn’t brush it off. I couldn’t pull it off. What was this terrible creature, and who could free me from it?

I may have been just a kid, but I knew what to do—I ran screaming to my father. He told me it was a leech, sucking blood out of my body—worse than I had imagined! Then my dad lit a match and touched the leech with it. The leech let go and I was delivered from its clutches.

When I couldn’t get myself free, I ran to my father. One touch, and I was delivered.

I was about eight years old when I learned I had a problem much more serious than a leech—I figured out I was a sinner. I knew I couldn’t fix this on my own. Who could free me from the consequences and bondage of sin and death?

I may have been just a kid, but I knew what to do. I ran to my heavenly Father. I knelt at an altar and poured my heart out to my Father. I found the forgiveness and deliverance I needed.

Running to God is always the right thing to do. Sometimes, as we grow up, we seem to get dumber instead of wiser. Sometimes, we run away from our Father.

Jonah ran away from God and ended up swallowed by a giant fish (Jonah 1:3). The prodigal son ran away from his father and ended up sleeping with the pigs (Luke 15:11-32).

We’re really no better than the prodigal son or Jonah. God says move. We want to stay where it’s comfortable. God says stay still. We want a change of scenery. We think our plans are better than God’s plans, and we find ourselves running away from God instead of running to him. Our sinful nature pushes us to want our own way and to turn away from the Father.

I knew what to do when I had a leech on my leg—I ran to my father. Do we know what to do about the sin in our lives? What do we do when we’re angry, unforgiving, selfish, or mean? Who can set us free from the bondage of sin? What in the world do we do? We must run to our Father!

Anytime you’re not sure what your next move should be, try running into the arms of your heavenly Father. Matthew 11:28 invites us to run to him: “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.”  Running to your Father is never a bad choice. He will ease your burden and refresh your soul. He will forgive your sins. He will be your oasis in a dry, barren land.

Dear Father, you have given me so much. May I run to you often. When I run to you, I find forgiveness for my sin, a strong hand to carry my burdens, and refreshment for my soul. I love you. Thank you for loving me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
prayer

The Ingredients of Prayer

“Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’” (Luke 11:1)

A few years ago, we started celebrating Fridays by making chocolate lava cakes every Friday night. We called them, “Friday Night Cakes,” and they were gooey and sweet and delicious. They were also surprisingly easy to make, only requiring five ingredients. We stirred up the ingredients, put it in the oven, and waited. Eventually, the oven turned those ingredients into a chocolate masterpiece.

We did our part by putting the ingredients together. The oven did its part by turning those ingredients into a cake.

In Luke 11, Jesus gave us the recipe for prayer. Like the Friday Night Cake, the recipe for prayer has five ingredients. When we pray, we put these ingredients together. Then we hand them over to God and we wait. God turns those ingredients into healing, deliverance, freedom, mended relationships, and so much more.

We do our part by putting the ingredients together in prayer. God does his part by turning those ingredients into transformation in our lives.

Interested in knowing the ingredients? They’re taken from the Lord’s Prayer found in Luke 11:1-4. Here they are:

  • Give God Praise and Adoration: “Your name is holy.” God is worthy of praise, regardless of our circumstances. When we exalt God even in the middle of our mess, we bring vision and order into our lives.
  • Seek God’s Will: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” For prayer to be effective, it has to line up with the will of God instead reflecting our own selfish desires. These two questions help us align our prayers with God’s will: “God, what do you want to do on earth? What do you want to do in my life?”
  • Put Your Needs in God’s Hands: “Give us day by day our daily bread.” God promises to meet all our needs. Whatever we’re facing, God has a promise for it. He cares about our needs and wants to carry our worries for us, but we have to put them in his hands.
  • Forgive: “For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Just like sugar sweetens a Friday Night Cake, forgiving others sweetens our lives. We may be super awesome, but we certainly aren’t perfect. We all need forgiveness, and we are all called to freely forgive others. There’s a sweet freedom to be found in forgiving.
  • Ask for Guidance: “Do not lead us into temptation.” Why depend on our own puny intellect when we have access to the infinite wisdom of an all-knowing God? Ask God for guidance, next steps, and direction. If we ask, he will give us the specific answer we need at the exact time we need it.

You have probably heard somebody say, “Prayer changes things,” and that’s true. But prayer doesn’t just change things; thankfully, prayer also changes people. Prayer changes us. Prayer connects us to God. As we continue in prayer, we grow to know God better and he continues to work in our lives. Through the power of prayer, we are gloriously transformed.

Father, I give you honor and praise. I long for your kingdom to come and your will to be done. What do you want to do in the world? What do you want to do in my life? Meet my needs and the needs of my family. Help me be forgiving and lead me in the way you want me to go. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
The Heart

Deal with It

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (James 1:23-24)

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and seen something appalling? Maybe you haven’t, but I definitely have. Broccoli in my teeth, schmutz on my cheek—the mirror reveals it all.

I’ve never looked in the mirror and said, “oh, no, broccoli in my teeth,” and then went on about my business without getting rid of the broccoli. No, when the mirror reveals the horror of the broccoli, I do something about it. I deal with it.

God doesn’t care about the schmutz on our cheek or the broccoli in our teeth. But he cares deeply about the junk that lodges in our hearts. The Scripture says hearing the Word of God is like looking in a mirror. The Bible has the power to reveal any destructive issues in our hearts. Instead of hearing the Word, seeing the problem, and choosing to ignore it, we must make up our minds to do something about it.

What are some heart problems we need to deal with instead of ignoring? Let’s talk about just two common heart problems.

  • Guilt can sometimes be a good thing. It’s healthy to feel bad if we do something wrong. What isn’t healthy is to let guilt dwell in our hearts year after year. Unresolved guilt is resolved by confession, accepting God’s forgiveness, and forgiving ourselves. It may require humbling ourselves and doing what we can to make things right with the person we wronged. When we take steps to deal with the guilt, we free ourselves from its hold on our heart. (See 1 John 1:19.)
  • Anger lodged in our hearts will spill over onto the people around us. Why continue to give people who hurt us in the past the power to affect our future? For our own good, and because Jesus requires it of us, we must forgive those who hurt us and let go of the anger. They may not deserve to be forgiven, but we deserve to live without anger. (See Ephesians 4:31-32.)

Guilt and anger are just two examples. Jealousy, bitterness, guilt, greed, lust, anxiety…the list goes on and on. So many destructive issues can make their homes in our hearts

A friend of mine developed atrial fibrilation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat. His cardiologist ordered a lot of tests and they all came back normal. There appeared to be nothing wrong with his heart—except AFib. The doctor said he could live a long time with AFib, but if left untreated, it would eventually cause deformities in his heart. So, to keep his heart from damage, he dealt with it.

In the same way, not dealing with spiritual issues eventually causes spiritual deformities. Maybe we can live with our anger, depression, or guilt, but God doesn’t want us to keep living with our heart issues.

God’s Word tells us to deal with our heart issues. “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:25). Do we want to be blessed in what we do? If so, we must look intently into God’s Word and let it be a mirror to show us what needs changed in our hearts.

What destructive issues are in our hearts right now? Instead of ignoring what we see in the mirror of the Word, let’s do something about it. Let’s deal with it.

Dear God, forgive me for the times I’ve heard your Word and realized I needed to change, but walked away without taking any action. For the sake of my heart and for the sake of my relationship with you, help me to not only hear your Word, but to do it. Give me the courage to acknowledge my heart issues and the resolve to deal with them. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
Making a Difference

Nothing I Do Makes a Difference

“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:9)

Life can mess with our heads. It can make us believe our actions make no difference, that what we do doesn’t matter.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, everything we do matters.

In John, chapter six, a child whose name we don’t even know offered up his lunch to feed thousands of people. Why would he do such a ridiculous thing? He must have known his little lunch wouldn’t make a difference. But he gave it anyway. His small action sparked a mind-boggling miracle. Everyone ate their fill, with food left over. Thousands of years later, his action still assures us of God’s supernatural provision.

What we do matters greatly. The plan of God is always his presence working through his people. Just as the boy’s lunch must have seemed small to him, our actions may seem small to us. But just as God worked through that boy, he will work through us and use our seemingly-small actions to make big changes.

What does God’s presence working through us look like? Here are some small actions that cause big-time changes in the world:

  • Be kind to people, even to those who disagree with us. There’s no reason to be ugly to anyone.
  • Be patient. Listen—not in order to respond, but to heal.
  • Show compassion. Reach out to someone who is hurting.
  • Forgive quickly. Because we have been forgiven of much, we should generously forgive.
  • Be willing to share Godly wisdom with others, when the time is right.
  • Smile! The joy of the Lord should show on our faces.

These six actions reflect God’s character. He is kind, patient, compassionate, and forgiving. God gives us wisdom. And he smiles on us with a joyful twinkle in his eye. We are to daily become more and more like God, and these six actions are a pretty good start.

In the book, “The Shack,” by William Paul Young, the character of the Holy Spirit says, “If anything matters, then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes. Every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes. With every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished, and nothing will be the same again.”

Everything we do matters. “Nothing I do makes a difference” is a lie designed to keep us from the destiny God designed for us. Before we were born, God planned our destiny and the good works he wanted us to do during our lives (Ephesians 2:10). Don’t fall for the lie. Take every opportunity possible to do good. That’s how we change the world.

Father God, open my eyes to the difference I can make in the world. I know my actions make a difference. What I do changes the world for better or for worse. Fill my heart with kindness, patience, compassion, forgiveness, Godly wisdom, and joy. Let my life impact the world in the best possible way. In Jesus’s name, amen.