Self-Forgiveness, God using us, etc, etc.

18“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

–Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

It’s funny to me that the one person who is hardest to forgive is me. I think it’s universally true, too–we don’t mind forgiving others, but sheesh, if we screw up, then watch out, because there’s no hope for us, right? (that was rhetorical, but the answer is “wrong!“)

It’s so weird to me. People I know who got pregnant before they got married, and now they are serving and plugged into the body of Christ, I have no trouble seeing how God loves them and uses them and overlooks what they’ve done, and I have no trouble overlooking it. But if I did that, or even when I do struggle with sexual sins, it is like the end of the world for me. I wonder why that is? Let me be very honest and go through the thought process I go through when that happens.

“Hmm, I know I shouldn’t do it. It would feel really good, but I know I shouldn’t do it. It’s wrong. It’s dishonoring to myself, God, and women. but how else will I get rid of the urge? I’m not married. I think God understands. Is it wrong to act on the sex drive God gave me if it’s not hurting anyone else? God gave it to me, so I think it’s okay to act on it, because He knows how tough it is. Okay. I’ve made up my mind. I’m going through with it.”

 

….

 

“I really shouldn’t have done that. That was stupid. What was I thinking? I don’t feel any better. It’s so repetitive. That’s not who I am. Jesus, thank You for forgiving me. I’m sorry.”

Then enters another voice, sounding very similar to my own.

You can’t thank Jesus. You just willingly messed up. You knew what you were doing.”

“I know. But I couldn’t help it! I’m just so glad Jesus will forgive me…”

“How can you talk to Jesus right now? How can you even SAY the name of Jesus right now?”

“You’re right…I need to go take a run or something to work off this frustration.”

And so it is with me. And yes, I run or play football to work off frustration and try to shake those thoughts, although not every run is for that purpose.

But I think writing that out helps, do you see how I succumbed to a lie? And it’s paralyzing, the thought that I have to wait to turn to Jesus. Yes, I screwed up, and yes, I knew it. But does that mean it’s over for me?

The Lord says,

“though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.”

Maybe that means, “even though your sin is bad, I will redeem you. I will save you, and I will continue to save you. I don’t want you to mess up, but that doesn’t mean that I am disappointed in you, and I am far more powerful than sin is, and I can still use you.”

I think that’s what it ultimately comes down to: the power of sin, or the power of the cross? Which do we believe is stronger?

It is my belief that we learn something every time we mess up. Lots of coaches and players in sports say you learn more from a loss than you do a win.

So let me reason it like this:

If God is not mad at us when we mess up, whether we know it or not, and He is more powerful than sin is, then why can’t we forgive ourselves OR others when sin happens?

 

I will end with this, because it’s always my heart when discussing sin:

Romans 6:1-2

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!

Committing.

Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. -Proverbs 16:3

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.-Proverbs 3:5-6

 

I have a lot of what I call “high school verses,” and these are a couple of them. Sometimes my perception is that people quote Proverbs when they want to sound spiritual and wise, which I guess has kind of made them lose their depth to me. Anyway, I call these high school verses because these are things I heard over and over in high school, along with others like, “the violent will take it [the kingdom of heaven] by force” and “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD.” Verses that I have a hard time seeing the real meaning because they were so automatic.

But I feel like slowly but surely, God is showing me the power of His word, and that none of it is shallow, despite my perception.

This morning I woke up energized, even though I had only gotten seven hours of sleep and it was 5:25 A.M when I got up. I sat there for a second, because I didn’t really want to go back to sleep, which is a very strange sensation for me (although I can’t sleep past 7, but anyway.) I sat there and tried to evaluate what was running through my head. Nothing was. I had simply woken up, and I wasn’t grumpy or agitated or stressed, for a second I wondered why. Then I remembered last night when three of my friends and I prayed together, for each other. I asked that they pray for my new job situation and the rest of the school semester.

For those who don’t know, I recently got a job at Starbucks, and I begin next Wednesday. I will be working until almost midnight that night, and then I have to be at class at 8 AM on Thursday. Now, until now, I have flipped about that. I laugh about it. It’s the psycho, I-know-I-can-do-it-but-it’s-not-going-to-feel-good-and-I-am-probably-going-to-lose-it kind of laugh. But this morning I don’t feel that way. Why? I believe simply because prayer worked. My friends prayed that God would give me His peace. And I feel like I have it right now. And it’s a fight to keep it, which finally leads me to the core of what I am wanting to say.

Lately I have realized (rather, been shown) that we have a lot of responsibility as God’s people, as His church. Now that’s an ugly word, but it’s a true statement. The example that sticks out to me is the reading of God’s word. Now, it’s not hard to read it without getting your mind active and tuned in to what God is saying in His word. That’s exactly the struggle. Anyone can make a little time to get in God’s word. But it takes a little more, dare I say effort to hear what God is trying to say to us. But that’s exactly what God wants us to do, I believe. His word transforms and changes us, and it can only do that by penetrating our hearts. The Bible is at it’s most powerful when we allow the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and ears to see and hear what it’s saying. Otherwise (and I’m going to be blunt and probably sound like a heathen here,) the reading of God’s word is boring, dull, and honestly a bit discouraging.

I was talking to a good friend recently, and stated my frustration that I am so inconsistent with being Jesus to people. And the advice she gave me is something that I aim to never forget:

Well, while we do not focus on the things we need to “do” to be loved (He already loves us more than we will ever know) we do need to focus on some things to “do” if we want to have that abundance to spill over to others (i.e. reading the Word and praying, seeking the Spirit)

I can’t even say that I am 100% consistent though so don’t worry- just strive to keep going.

And my friend, you worded that perfectly. I don’t know if I will ever hear such good advice again.

Something that has ALWAYS been a struggle for me is finding that reeeeeeeally happy medium between religion and grace, where I don’t read the Word or pray because I HAVE to, or don’t completely neglect them (which is what I tend to do more often) because I DON’T have to do them to be loved. I want to be in that perfect place I call responsive: doing it because I see what it does in my own life as well as the lives of those around me. When I begin to see the Word transform my own heart, and I see God’s love pouring out from me onto others, and I see the way prayer changes situations, then I am likely to continue them.

 

Father, show me and show Your Church the power of Your Word in the light of the power of Your love. Show us that while we don’t have to read Your word or pray in order to be loved, it is actually for our own good, and because You love us, You give us those tools. Help us not to ‘do to be,’ but show us who we are in Christ that inspires and motivates us to do the work of Your Kingdom. Thank You for Your grace and patience! In Jesus’ name, amen.

Growing Up.

I remember it quite well. It was a Thursday night, and I had run into some of my friends in Hastings. Suddenly, I felt my phone buzz.

It was my friend Crecey.

I can’t remember the dialogue, but she had invited me over to watch the second season of Chuck, because I was behind and the third season was on and we were going to catch up in time to watch season four as it aired.

So as soon as she asked me if I wanted to come over, I jumped on the idea. I apologized to my friends but told them I had been waiting for this, so I hopped in the car and headed to Berea. Little did I know that that night, I would finally hang out with someone I would end up fond of. (it’s not Crecey, she’s married, although I am fond of her in that friend kind of way.)

So this gal I met was pretty fabulous, and we got along well. her brother has been my best friend for years, but I never really got to know her, but at last we were hanging out.

I had no idea I would end up liking this girl. In fact, I always doubted I ever would, although I’m not sure why. To make a long story short, we hit it off and began hanging out in social settings very often, and once I got her number, the text-a-thons began. We texted almost literally all day every day, about everything. Stupid stuff, serious stuff, everything.

I liked this girl.

However, my problem was that I let everyone know that except for her.

I will skip the details and move on to the end for times sake. I had been trying to read between the lines and figure out all of the signals and stuff. People told me that they thought she liked me. The whole world knew I liked her. It was finally time to do something about it.

We hadn’t done anything together for a while (and keep in mind that we never did anything one-on-one, everything was social) and so I tried to be casual and ask her why we didn’t hang out anymore. again I will skip the details and simply reveal that she only wanted to be friends, and apologized if she gave the wrong signals or impression.

Now, every time that happens (which for me, that was the first) there’s always a choice to be made. We can move on and get over it, or dwell on it and let bitterness and unhappiness and all of that crap fester and stink. Fortunately (and I think it’s safe to say) God has instilled a bit more character in me than that. See, I’ve never dated a girl, and I don’t intend to put that on my Girl Resume. And it truly wasn’t the end of the world–I was just glad to find out the truth and that we are still good friends. We had a nice chat on the way home from a concert that a group from the church went to.

 

A couple weeks ago, I had a nice heart-to-heart talk with my pastors. I felt like it was time to say that I feel called to ministry (because I had had a bit of a chaotic week or two trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, what I want to major in, etc.)

In essence, I don’t feel a pull to anything else. I’m majoring in psychology, but I don’t really see myself doing anything with it. I will go ahead and say that my main intention for getting a college degree is to put it on a resume, because there is little doubt in my mind that some sort of pastoral ministry (be it worship pastoring, discipleship pastor or senior pastor) is in my future, and it’s what I WANT to do. What more rewarding career (and more challenging career) could there be than to see peoples lives be changed by the preaching of the Gospel and the advancement of the Kingdom of God? That said, I talked to my pastors and they said that there is with little doubt something available to do in the Foursquare movement (they also mentioned writing, putting Foursquare doctrine to books because it is scarcely done, at least that’s how I think they said it.) And they invited me to the district conference in November. I will get to hear from and spend time with Tammy Donahoo, Bill Mouer, and Glen Burris–the General Supervisor, our district supervisor, and the president of the Foursquare movement, respectively and it has really impacted me lately the seriousness of all of this. I mean, it’s amazing, but it’s a lot of responsibility. I sit and think about the fact that God is letting me be a part of what He’s doing in His church…and it amazes me. Because the Foursquare movement is doing great and exciting things–at least from what I can tell. Our church is getting ready to license some new people, college students are stepping up and becoming a part of the ministry in our church, and KWAM came to our church over the summer, resulting in several people hearing God’s call to plant a church, which will be happening soon. It’s so exciting.

 

Because here’s the thing.

Christianity is about moving forward. It’s dull and repetitive if we’re not serving, and doing something. That’s why I don’t mind being on worship team for six weeks in a row. Give me a break every now and then, but largely, I want to use what gifts the Lord has given to me to serve His church, and honestly, I enjoy doing what I know how to do.

So the whole growing up title of this blog can be summed up in this: I am a son. God has adopted me into His amazing family, and I love it. And I feel like it’s time for me to grow up and be more responsible, more professional, and more serious. And that’s honestly not something that I’m trying to make myself do. it’s something I’m getting the Lord’s help with. It’s a response: as I see the greatness of God and see what He’s doing in His church, I want to do everything I do better.