Living Out Forgiveness

Living Out Forgiveness

We live in a world where racial reconciliation and bridge building should be at the forefront of what we do. In this story, we see how it’s often the victim that serves to enlighten (and hopefully change) the aggressor. We also see how modeling Christ and extending forgiveness can lead to being cast out and dismissed by your peers.

At the time Mr. Jones found himself being physically assaulted, he probably didn’t think that experience could be used for something positive. Yet God always takes our pains, burdens, and hardships, and uses them for His glory in a beautiful way. Mr. Jones glorified God by living out forgiveness, and we’re all made better by hoping to follow in his example.


jones

CTRL+Z

CTRL+Z

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

If you could redo one moment in your life, what would it be and why?
How would it change who you are now?


I’m a technology geek. It’s partly a result of working in IT for the last twenty-two years. If you’re not familiar with the keyboard command that is the title of this post, CTRL+Z is how you ‘undo’ a command on most computer applications.

Copied and pasted text into the wrong section of your term paper? CTRL+Z. Deleted the wrong graphic from the presentation that’s due in ninety minutes? CTRL+Z. Realized you applied the wrong formula to your financial spreadsheet? Well, CTRL+Z won’t help you there, but whiskey will.

ctrlz

But in all seriousness, today’s prompt is asking what moment in my life I’d most like to CTRL+Z. I wrote last week that I do not believe in the concept of no regrets. Regrets are healthful experiences that, when you step back and look at the fabric of life, allow us to progress as a civilization. I know that’s a weighty statement, but it’s one I find to be true.

There is nothing wrong with making a mistake so long as we learn from it, and in my life I have made many mistakes and I have lots of regrets. Not every mistake has lead to a Disney-esque lesson learned, and not every regret has been life-altering in the direction of betterment. Still, when I look at the road map of decisions that have brought me to where I am today, I see some glaring moments at which I could’ve been better, as well as some ‘what if’ bubbles that rob me of sleep from time to time.

To deliberately sound cliché, I wouldn’t change any of it.

I am experiencing my current life because of God’s divine grace, and because of the decisions, both good and bad, I made over the years. The pattern being; when I was prayerful and surrendered my burdens to Christ, I was blessed with good decision making. In those times I stepped away from God and tried to do life on my own terms, the bonehead moments were plentiful.

Yet our human nature, one that is sinful and proud, which by extension makes us innately greedy for comfort and ease, enjoys harping on those times in our past that slowly eat away at us. It’s the enemy whispering in our ear, “if only” or “what if.” We can’t undo the past, but God can undo our sins. In fact, He already has through His son Jesus Christ. All we have to do is ask Him to forgive us.

So as easy as it would be to say I wish I could undo that time in my life when I had an affair that cost me my first marriage, I use that experience in order to be a better husband in my current marriage. When I think about how I wish I would have been less hard on my kids, I allow myself to feel pride at how wonderful and respectful my children, now young adults, are. That homeless person I ignored on the street out of some meritless sense of fear? I let it serve as a reminder that fear is not from God and that I should be a badass like Jesus was.

If we could undo those moments that make us feel pain and regret, how could we possibly grow as human beings? And if we had no pain and regret, how could we appreciate the beauty that is the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We put too much focus on the CTRL+Z when we should be putting all our effort into the CTRL+S.


nablopomo

Frankly, My Dear …..

Frankly, My Dear …..

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

If you could be completely honest with no regrets, what would you say and to whom?


As a Christ follower, I do not believe in the concept of no regrets. Regrets are essential to keep us grounded and connected to all human beings with whom we interact. In the same way our nervous system protects our bodies (the feeling of heat helps keep us from being burned), I believe the ability to feel regret mirrors that function for our souls. Regret requires us to be critical and thoughtful with our actions and decision making so as to not hurt others or even ourselves.

All that being said, I am torn at the question in today’s prompt. I immediately think about the darkest time in my life, and how I would react then versus how I would react now if given the opportunity to confront face the person whom I hold held responsible.

Bobby Cox
Thinking of you *used* to make me want to go full-on Bobby Cox.

Being eleven years removed from my personal rock-bottom, and having lived a wonderful, God-restored life since then, I’ve been able to both grant and receive forgiveness and, for the most part, not look back. Still, there is something healthy – in a cathartic kinda’ way – to go through the motions in my mind of lashing out at those who’ve hurt me.

Still, in the end, His instructions as dictated by His word always ring true. As a result, I think my exercise for this prompt goes something like this.


“I’ve been waiting a long time to tell you this to your face. I haven’t seen you since you hurt me, and now it’s my turn to do the same!”

Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. – Luke 6:28

“You looked me in the eyes and told me time and time again that you would be there for me. And when push came to shove, you weren’t.”

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. – Colossians 3:13

“I gave up everything for you. I changed my whole life for you. I made you my priority above everything else.”

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. – Matthew 6:33

“We were perfect together and you ruined everything!”

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:6

“You left me there, all alone and by myself. You left me there shattered, and you didn’t even look back.”

Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. – Psalms 30:2


The moral of the story is clear. For every angry, hate-filled, vitriolic, driven-by-revenge tongue lashing the devil urges us to deliver, God has already provided His response to us via Scripture.

We pick and choose what we say and what we reveal to whom according to our human sensibilities, but because God sees all and God knows all, we have no choice but to be completely honest with Him. When we surrender our pain to God and allow ourselves to operate in forgiveness of others, we can rest assured we’re on the path of truly living a life with no regrets.

revenge


nablopomo

Raise the Bar

No, this is not a blog about tearing down the local watering hole. (think about it)…..

Rather, this is a spur-of-the-moment, “the Holy Spirit nudged me and told me to write” kinda post.

I just wrapped up my last class of my first semester at Trinity College in Florida. The class was Biblical Ethics, and to conclude the course, we were tasked to write a term paper and make a presentation of the Executive Summary of the paper.

I think most of my classmates did not read the proverbial fine print in the syllabus because what they ended up doing was presenting their paper to the class. As you can imagine, it was quite the mind-numbing experience. Presenter after presenter talking about such ethics class standards as abortion, same sex marriage, and divorce.

Yawn!

To be fair, there were a couple of individuals who were captivating in their presentations, and held my attention from start to finish. Their presentations were authentic and heartfelt. But for most of the three hour session, it was an exercise in, “please, God, please let them wrap up soon” praying.

Kill Me Know

Now, I know this may come across as a humble-brag type of post, but I am really proud of what I presented and the manner in which I presented. As God would have it, my turn to present – as determined randomly by my professor – came towards the end of class.

I launched my PowerPoint presentation, followed the points laid out in my Executive Summary, and added additional comments as they came to me during my presentation. It was succinct. It was informative. I like to think it was engaging. Based on the louder than average applause from my classmates, I think it was well received.

To be fair to everyone else in my class, I’ve worked in IT pretty much since I graduated from college in 1994. I’ve been with my current employer going on nineteen years now. I am well versed in putting together presentations. Speaking in front of others is easy for me. Tonight’s assignment was very much in my wheelhouse (although I can’t tell you what a wheelhouse is).

My hope is not that others were impressed by me or my presentation. My hope is that they are motivated or challenged to apply the techniques I used in their next presentation. My prayer is they seek a sense of betterment as a student going forward because the were presented with an example of a what clear, concise, and effective presentation looks like. (see aforementioned humble brag)

I would say approximately 80%-90% of what I’ve learned in life I’ve learned by watching others. Observation is our greatest teacher (other than Jesus, of course), and it is in observing others that we learn what to do … and not to do … in certain situations. We see others reset what ‘possible’ means, and we are driven to do better or be better as a result.

Bar

The greatest imperative we have as Christ followers is to continuously raise the bar in terms of what it means to be generous, forgiving, understanding, and loving. Being a Christian does not necessarily mean we have the Bible memorized, nor does it mean the Bible always makes sense to us. I think being a Christian means looking at the life Jesus lived, recognizing His is the ultimate example to follow, and understanding no matter how hard we try we’ll never reach that standard.

Still ….. despite our flaws, despite our sinful nature, and despite our inability to be perfect the way Jesus was, we try anyway. We strive towards the standard He set because in doing so, we exercise love, we foster fellowship with others, and we create betterment in our lives.

And I firmly believe it is the pursuit of this betterment, inching closer to God today than we were yesterday, that makes us good and faithful servants in the eyes of the Lord.

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!'” Matthew 25:21

Why ‘Christians’ Need to Shut the Hell Up

In the midst of the Kim Davis saga, there has been a plethora of divisive commentary on both sides of the argument. Do a search in Twitter on the hashtag #KimDavis, and you’ll find yourself drowning in sea righteousness, rhetoric, and ridiculousness. I will admit I’ve been enthralled by the issue, and much to my own chagrin, fervently active, as well as a bit snarky, about it on Twitter.

#KimDavis meme

This post is not meant to add fuel to the divisive commentary, although I will admit the choice for the title was deliberately bold. I imagine some people will quit reading this post right about here (and go block me on social media), and that’s fine. But if you do continue to press forward, let me explain why I felt compelled to write this post.

I need to also state I don’t claim to have all the answers. As binary as people claim this issue to be, there really is a lot of nuance that is overlooked as the vitriol and mimes are hurled in this Internet brawl. I was deliberately avoiding blogging about this matter, mainly because I’ve been know to put my foot in my mouth and, at times, rock an already sinking ship. But what drove me to write was the commentary I found in the wake of turbulence.

I am a Christian. More specifically, I consider myself a Christ follower. To be even more granular, I believe Jesus Christ is God, came to earth in human form, sacrificed himself so that all of humanity could be redeemed from sin, and conquered death through His resurrection. I also believe we are all sinners, incapable of perfection, and that we’re each striving for betterment in our lives.

As a Christian, I believe I am called to reach out to those who are not believers. I am called to reach out to those who are away from God, to be a light for those in darkness. I like to think I do that through my words and through my actions. As I’ve written before, we are called to evangelize God’s word. The actual soul saving part, however, is done by God.

And there’s the rub that’s at the heart of the Kim Davis controversy. I am sure Mrs. Davis feels she’s evangelizing. There’s no doubt in my mind she feels in her heart her convictions are true. To a certain extent, I commend her for standing up for those convictions. Where I disagree with her, however, is in what I feel is the imposition of those beliefs on others.

I don’t want this post to go down the tangential conversation of First Amendment rights, separation of church and state, and what contempt of court means. Instead, what drove me to write this post is what I perceive as the non-Christian approach many of the vocal supporters of Kim Davis are using to further their argument. With defiant hands in the air and signs lathered in fire and brimstone, the message I see them convey is, “Obey our God …. or else!” It’s a message not of compassion but of condemnation. It is not a message inviting others to share in the celebration of God’s love, but rather one cloaked in spite and bathed in fear mongering. It’s a message that makes me wonder if they’re talking about the same Jesus I love and worship and praise.

Perhaps this is simply a matter of style. I am not an ‘in your face’ kind of person. I don’t have the ‘come at me bro’ bravado the seems to work well for others. I subscribe to the school of thought my friend Rick employs in his approach to ministry, one that calls for us to be gentle witnesses to God’s amazing grace.

Rex

 

But what I find sad are the casualties this conversation – if you want to call the circus that is the Kim Davis issue a conversation – is producing. At the end of the day, are we, as Christians, presenting God as a loving and forgiving God? Are our words and actions working to bring others closer to Him? As Christians, regardless of what side of the argument we may find ourselves, is what we’re doing glorifying His name? The following tweets seem to indicate that for some, at least, the answer to those questions is no. And that’s the really heart-breaking part of all of this.

“We were not created to settle for mere religion. Jesus did not die so that we could have a religious belief system, but rather a life-giving relationship with our Father.” – Christine Caine

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

I don’t particularly enjoy working out alone. My wife and I have shared the experience of going to the gym together, and although we may do different exercises or use different machines, knowing we’re both there together makes the experience more fulfilling for me.

The same goes for my spiritual workouts.

At the end of last year, our dear friend Lindsey invited Lee and me to undertake a new challenge.

“Will you join me in reading the entire Bible in one year?”

“Ummm…..what?”

“The Bible. I am going to read it all in one year, and I want you to join me.”

<uneasy silence> “Ummmmm …… yes?”

It was very much a daunting task at the time it was presented to us. Yet another thing I needed to make time for in my day to day. It’s not like I wasn’t already falling behind on everything else, so sure, why not add something else to the To Do list (which in my case usually ends up being a Good Intentions list)?

But undertake it I did, with the help of the YouVersion Bible app. Every morning in the car I would start the readings for the day of the reading plan. The great thing about YouVersion is, depending on the translation, you can have the app read it to you. This is especially helpful because I find it easier to follow along as I hear someone else read, and I don’t have to stumble over the pronunciation of names and places (especially in the Old Testament). Also, I can take advantage of my commute time to take in His word.

So here we are three months removed from that awkward conversation with my friend and I’m 25% done with reading the Bible. Think about that. I’ve read a quarter of the Good Book, and I’ve done it a few chapters at a time. Not only has this plan made it manageable by spreading out the reading between Old and New Testaments, it has also opened my eyes to the amazing stories in the Bible.

I’ve been introduced to the talking donkeys, how the sons of Jacob plotted to avenge the rape of their sister, and passages that have made me blush. More importantly, I’ve made the time in my day to nourish my spirit and grow in my relationship with God. And I am finding that as situations and challenges present themselves in my life, I am able to lean on what I’ve read and learned in order to better deal with them. I’m able to reference a particular story in the Bible that provides me with a better perspective as to how I should act or not act. Like going to the gym, I am stronger now than when I started.

And I am so blessed to be doing this with my wife and friends. We turn to each other to discuss His word and better understand what we’ve read. We push and encourage each other to stay on plan and not fall behind, which is what fellowship is all about.

So if you’re feeling you can use some new perspective, insight, and encouragement in your life, I invite you to turn to a resource that’s been there for you from the beginning. Download the YouVersion app and check out The Bible in a Year plan. Or if you’re old school, open up your Bible and read a chapter a day. As the plan overview says, “The Bible is God’s love letter to each one of us. Why should you miss out on any of the things God wants to say to you?”

Daily Bread

Haters Gonna Hate

Haters Gonna Hate

It’s with disgruntled reluctance that I say congratulations to Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots for their victory in Super Bowl XLIX. As a Miami Dolphins fan, it really irks me to see Brady hoist the Lombardi trophy for the fourth time; him standing there with his smug grin, super model wife, and UGG shoes.

I don’t think I’m alone in those feelings. I think outside the New England area, people are tired of seeing the Patriots succeed. I think many people were not so much pulling for Seattle as they were rooting against the Pats. It’s not unlike the Miami Heat with LeBron James. Even though they won only two championships, it seems fans nationally wanted them to lose all the time, and all other teams raised their game when going up against Miami.

That’s what happens when you elevate yourself to a level of greatness.

This dynamic is especially true in our spiritual lives. It’s been my experience there’s no greater hater than Satan himself. And when you start elevating your relationship with Jesus, the enemy works overtime to try and bring you down.

Hater

I am so fortunate to have a perspective of how far I’ve come in my faith journey, and I can’t fathom gong back to the life I was living just six short years ago. Although I had belief in God, I was not living in Him. I was not fostering a relationship with my Lord, surrendering my troubles to Him and acting out of faith. Instead, I was living like a blind man, unable to see what God was showing me and unwilling to listen to His calling. I was distracted by the worldly things Satan put in my life on a daily basis. I was the proverbial seed that fell on rocky ground.

But I was able to get right with God and turn my life around. And since that moment, I’ve grown in my faith, made more time for His Word, and have seen great things happen in my life. Through my church, I’ve been baptized as an adult, given back to our community, traveled on a mission trip, and even preached in front of our congregation. I’ve definitely elevated my faith and my life to heights I’d never previously experienced.

…and then the hater of all haters showed up.

I recently had an experienced that shook me to my core. It rattled me, enraged me, and made me want to lash out at the world. It was the result of the enemy’s tactics, manipulating someone to cause others great pain. Six years ago I would have lashed out. I would have overreacted, most likely with rage and violence. But this journey I am on, a walk I share with Jesus Christ, has been a training of sorts. Every sermon I’ve listened to, both at church and via podcast, prepared me for that moment. Every reading plan in my Bible app prepared me for that moment. Every moment of prayer, both alone and with others, prepared me for that moment. In that moment, grace and wisdom prevailed.

Satan hates its when I focus on God and surrender myself to Him. Satan hates it when I work to be a reflection of God’s love to others. Satan can’t stand the fact that I have what he used to have; God’s love and a place in Heaven. So he does whatever he can whenever he can and through whomever he can to get to me and pull me down. And the stronger I grow in God, the harder Satan works to hinder me. As a Christ follower, I am called to invite others through my words and actions into God’s light, and that’s bad for business for the supreme of all haters.

Fact

I never would have guessed it’s such a blessing to be hated.

“See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me!” – Psalm 25:19