It Really Is About Balance


Forget itOne of my favorite words is balance. It reminds me that staying in balance is a key goal for my life. Life can seem like tightrope walk of trying to keep from straying too far in one direction or the other. When I get out of balance, it impacts every area of my life. Extremes in any area of your life can cause you to lose focus on what’s really important.

This is why I love this picture. It’s all about balance. We all go through difficulties in our lives. People hurt us and let us down. We make mistakes, some with lasting consequences. We make choices that prove to be wrong.

And when those times occur, we have to remain in balance. Life’s hurts and challenges have a way of pulling us to extremes. Sometimes we are so wounded that we carry the pain or unforgiveness for far too long and it holds us back from moving forward with our lives. It can take over our thoughts and cause us to lose our joy and lose our focus on God and His goodness in our lives.

The other extreme is when we fail to learn from our mistakes. For some of us, we continue a pattern of poor choices that keeps us bound in a cycle that never allows for progress and change. Many times we blame others when in fact it’s us that keeps the cycle going.

The key truly is balance. Bad things will happen. You will experience hurt and disappointment. You will make mistakes. But let those times be a lesson. Ask God what He wants you to learn from those times. He will show you. And forgive others and yourself during the difficult times in life so you can move on. Don’t stay stuck because you can’t let go. Stay in balance.

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I Was Wrong


thYBQHQ7S5Have you ever noticed that there are not many people these days admitting when they are wrong? I see lots of  people in the news media pointing fingers and placing blame but rarely do I hear someone utter the words “I was wrong”.  Take for instance our government – have you ever seen so much name calling and accusations as we see between the political parties that are responsible for running our country?

And what about celebrities caught in scandals? They are masters at spinning their story to make it appear as if they are just an innocent victim of someone else’s wrong doing. Even when they do get caught completely red handed, their apologies are often half-hearted and insincere. Think Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton and Paula Deen.

th27YG3WKMThe problem with never accepting responsibility for your mistakes is that you can never receive forgiveness for something until you are first willing to admit that you were wrong. So you spend your life carrying around the guilt and shame of your wrongdoing because you are unwilling to take the blame for it. Placing the blame on someone else is the enemy’s way to keep us from the freedom of being forgiven.

God never intended for us to carry the burden of our sins and believe me, it is a burden! The weight of guilt can be overwhelming. That’s why God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we may be forgiven and set free from the burden of sin. But to receive that forgiveness and freedom we must first admit that we were wrong. If you’re blaming others, then it places the responsibility on them to seek forgiveness for something you’ve done. You can’t receive forgiveness if someone else is seeking it in your place so you continue to drag along the ball and chain of guilt.

thL00ECGNONobody causes us to sin. It’s our choice. So why is it so hard to say “I was wrong”? There are many reasons why we find it difficult – pride, shame, embarrassment, and selfishness to name a few. Sometimes we think it’s understood by the person we’ve hurt and that we shouldn’t have to admit our wrongdoing. Other times we think too much time has passed and it’s pointless. The reality is that until we humble ourselves, go to God to admit our sin, and seek His forgiveness, we will be trapped in the enemy’s snare of unforgiveness. The longer we wait, the heavier the weight we carry and the harder our hearts become.

So what’s keeping you from admitting you were wrong? Is it worth hanging onto? Is the burden of your unwillingness to admit your mistake weighing you down? Today is the day to be set free by taking responsibility of your choices, going to God and saying these words….I was wrong, please forgive me. It’s truly that easy to experience the freedom of forgiveness. 

 

The Cost of Forgiveness


Have you ever done something and people just look at you like you’re crazy as they shake their head in disbelief? They just cannot seem to comprehend your action or response to a situation because it’s so backwards from what most people would do. This happened to a friend of mine and I wanted to share her inspirational story. My friend, Andrea, experienced just how offensive the gospel can be to an unbeliever when her family went through a terrible tragedy.

Her family lived in Guam where her husband, John, was stationed. By her accounts the military families stationed on the small, Pacific island are a closeknit community. Everybody knows everybody. Early in 2011 John took their two children, along with their daughter’s best friend and next door neighbor Erynn, on a hike to nearby beautiful, rocky cliffs. Andrea was in the United States for some medical tests and to visit family and friends.

It was an early Sunday morning at 1:15 am, while still in the US, that Andrea received the call no one is ever prepared for. While her family and their neighbor were hiking, there was a rockslide. Heroically, her husband attempted to save his daughter’s best friend. But tragically the majority of the rocks fell onto Erynn. Her injuries were too severe. She did not survive. The unbelievable grief of the family and friends of this remarkable young girl was overwhelming. The small, closeknit community had lost one of their own – one who died much too young. One who had so many unfulfilled dreams and ambitions ahead of her. One who was a precious child of God. One whose parents had lost their daughter and were experiencing unspeakable grief. One whose family turned to their Heavenly Father for comfort and peace during this tragic time.

Although it was a horrible accident, Andrea’s husband was questioning if he could have done something differently that could have saved her life, something that would have prevented this whole nightmare. He fully expected Erynn’s parents, Gary and Kathy, to be angry, hurt, and to question him as to how he could have let this happen. He prepared to apologize and take full responsibility as he and his children sat in their home, right next door to the home of their dear friends who had just experienced the unthinkable.

While John tried to make sense of what had just happened, Erynn’s parents had gone to hospital where their precious child had been taken and where they were met with the confirming news that their daughter had died. Their next step was to go home to tell their other children. Friends and neighbors had begun to gather at their home. Two families. Two homes side by side. Both families trying to make sense of what had just happened.

After awhile Gary, Erynn’s father, got up and walked out of his home without saying a word to anyone gathered there. He headed next door to John and Andrea’s home. As neighbors and friends watched, they assumed Gary was going to confront John. After all, one father sat in his home with his daughter alive and safe while he had just lost his daughter.

John didn’t know what to expect when Gary approached him in his home. But to his disbelief, Gary hugged him and told him it was ok. He offered John forgiveness. Erynn’s father offered him an apology for the pain he was going through. There stood John still wearing the bloodstained shirt he had on as he carried Erynn from the accident scene. And her father hugged him and offered gratitude for John’s efforts to save Erynn’s life. Gary prayed for him to find peace in God’s comforting presence. The family who had just found out their daughter had died was offering comfort and forgiveness to the one who felt responsible for her death. John was awed by the love of Christ Gary modeled that night in response to a tragic event that will forever mark all their lives.

But what ensued in the days and weeks following the accident was far more shocking than the selfless actions of this Godly family during their darkest hours. As Andrea’s family continued to grieve with their neighbors, the rest of the community began to murmur. “How can the Haywards continue to spend time with the Mayers after what the Mayers have done to their family?” “Why did John save his own daughter and not theirs?” Why are the Mayers grieving? They didn’t lose a child.” John was hurting because he had been entrusted with something very precious that he was unable to protect when tragedy struck. John and Andrea needed the support and comfort of their community. But what they received was negative comments, rumors, people avoiding them in stores or staring. Both families were hurting but only one received acknowledgement of their pain.

Through the whole situation they learned that people want to be front and center when the drama first happens but once the dust settles and it’s time to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding, they disappear. The relationships John and Andrea had been most intentional about building during their time in Guam were the first ones to let them down. There were families who selflessly stood by them the entire time. They were there to give to the Mayer family, not receive for themselves. But unfortunately, many turned their backs on them.

The second thing John and Andrea learned was that God must be first in your lives both individually and as a family. When your priority is to pour yourself into other people, serving, or involvment in the community, you’re priorities are out of order. With so many opportunities and so many needs, it is easy for God to come behind things we deem more important in the moment, even good things. God must be first, period.

And finally they learned how Sovereign our God is. God knew long before the accident that it would occur. And He set Christian leadership in place at the highest positions on the base who would have the wisdom and discernment to handle the aftermath and assist John in getting orders back to the United States to be near family and close friends. They learned that God’s grace is sufficient and His consuming love for us is abounding. They learned His love alone can comfort and heal our deepest hurts if we will allow it. They learned that a family who models the love of their Lord and Savior will offend those in darkness but will bring hope to those who believe all hope is gone. They learned what true forgiveness is and how to freely give and receive it. They learned that there is no one like our God and even in the midst of tragedy, He is good.

Forgiveness is rarely easy to give and many times there is a cost attached to it. Jesus was willing to pay the ultimate price to give forgiveness to us for our sins. What price are you willing to pay to give forgiveness to others – humility, embarrassment, loss of relationships of those who think you’re wrong for doing so?

The more important question you need to consider is this – what price are you willing to pay to hold on to unforgiveness? It will cost you more than you think.

In a Fog


I’m not really sure what causes fog. I know there are certain conditions that must occur in the atmosphere for fog to be present, but what they are doesn’t really matter. Some days it’s just there and today was one of those days. What I do know tabout fog is that there are some times that it’s thicker than at other times. I also know it makes it difficult to see both the things that I know are there even though I can’t see them and the unknown things that I will only be able to see once I get through the fog. This morning when we turned the corner and headed straight toward my son’s school it looked at though the school was gone. We joked that we might as well go back home because he couldn’t go to school if the building had disappeared. Even though we knew it was there, we could no longer see it through the thick fog.

After I dropped him off and headed home I noticed the sun shining through the fog. The heavy fog had completely hidden the school building but the brightness of the sun could not be masked. It was not completely clear but there was no doubt that it was there. I thought about the years I lived my life in a fog. I spent many years unable to see that God was right there with me because I was living in sin that obscured Him from my view. I was unable to see what was right in front of me because I chose to focus my sight on my circumstances and not on Him.

This morning’s dense fog made me curious so I looked it up to find out more. Because of its characteristics, the term “in a fog” came to be used as a term for something that obscures and confuses a situation or someone’s thought processes. Looking back on my life I can definitely see that the way I chose to live my life obscured the way I saw things. And when you aren’t seeing things clearly you can easily become confused and misguided. Because of my immoral behavior and poor choices my view of what was true and what was real had become distorted. Somewhere along the way I had lost site of the truth of the gospel. I had forgotten about the redemptive power of my faith in Jesus Christ. I lived as though I was powerless to overcome the temptation of sin. I failed to see the way out that God had provided for me. (1Cor. 10:13). My life had spiraled so far down that the fog of my sins had completely blinded me to the love and forgiveness of my Savior. Not only was I blinded to what was right in front of me, but I had no hope for what the future held. The road ahead was hidden and I couldn’t see where I was headed. I just knew I was going in the wrong direction.

But God is faithful and He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Deut. 31:6, Heb. 13:5, Matt. 28:20). He had never left me. I had turned away from Him. When I was in 7th grade I believed that Jesus died for my sins and that He forgave me. But over time I believed the lies of the enemy that said God wasn’t pleased with me because I had failed to live up to a false standard I had placed on myself. I wrongly believed that if I wasn’t perfect then God wouldn’t love me any more. I never understood that I would continue to miss the mark throughout my life because I was and still am a sinner. So when I did fail, the guilt and shame of my sin caused separation and distance between me and God. But God’s grace allowed me to see that His forgiveness is still available to me today just as it was when I first received it in 7th grade. His forgiveness by no means gives me a license to sin. However, I know if I do sin and I’m truly repentant in my heart, He will forgive me now just as He did then. Now my obedience to God’s commands is not SO He will love me but it’s BECAUSE He loves me that I want to obey His word. There is no longer a pattern of blatant sin in my life because I have been set free from the control that sin had over me through Jesus. Now sin doesn’t have any power over me – through the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I can now overcome the temptation to sin. And I no longer carry the false burden of having to earn God’s love – I’ve come to understand that He gives it freely and all I have to do is receive it.

Just like the sun is what burns off the fog that covers everything on a foggy morning like today, it was the Son that made the fog in my life completely disappear. And like the sun today, God’s light cannot be covered up no matter how thick the sin is in your life. He’s always there shining through the darkness if we’ll just look up to see. As I look out the window now the fog has lifted and there are clear skies ahead. Where I couldn’t see my future before because the fog of my sin obscured what lie ahead, now my future is filled with hope. I’m no longer confused by what I see around me. I now clearly see God’s direction in my life because I spend time with Him in prayer and reading His word. The veil that kept me from seeing the truth has been lifted and I see the direction I want to be going in. I still make wrong turns sometimes but I never allow the fog to become so dense I can’t see my way back to the Son.

If you’re living in the fog of sin, first of all know that fog was never intended to be lasting and permanent and neither was the sin in your life. God never meant for you to remain in the bondage of sin. That’s why Jesus died on the cross – so you can be set free from the prison that sin holds you in. Secondly, you must look up to the Son. Look to the forgiveness that Jesus offers when we believe. The light of His love is right there shining through the fog in your life. Look to Him and believe – when you do the fog will disappear and you can begin to see clearly the love and peace of the One who has been right there waiting for you all along. Isn’t it time for you to stop living in a fog?

It’s Complicated


There is a relationship status option on Facebook that says “It’s Complicated”. Whenever someone changes their relationship from “married”, “engaged” or “in a relationship” to the dreaded “it’s complicated” it tells me, in most cases, one thing – that a fight has occured and neither wants to be the first to apologize. There’s even a song from the 1980’s called “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”. Why is it that those two little words can sometimes be the most difficult to utter? Often our apologies come in the form of a written note or card because for some reason we just can’t seem to bring ourselves to look the person in the eye and say “I’m sorry.” Why is that?

There have been many sermons, studies and books all exalting the freeing power behind forgiveness. We are told that unforgiveness will hold us in bondage – that it’s like drinking poison but expecting the other person to die. It’s a ball and chain that we drag around and will never be free from until we forgive those who cause us pain. It’s like a deadly virus that consumes us from the inside. There is no doubt about it – unforgiveness is toxic and it is vital for us to forgive others so healing can begin to take place and the bitterness and resentment we harbor can be removed from our lives. Sometimes the person you need to forgive may never apologize or the situation may not be one in which an apology is an option. However, that is not an excuse to not forgive the person.

But today I want to focus on the other side of the situation. What about when you are the one who needs to seek forgiveness instead of being the one to give forgiveness? When the circumstance allows for it and you are the one who needs to be forgiven then it is up to you to initiate the process. Because in many situations, long before the forgiveness can take place, there is a need for an apology.

Did you know that the recent devastating fires in Colorado were most likely started by one small spark caused by a single lightening strike? One spark that caused 2 deaths, the destruction of 300 homes, and the evacuation of 35,000 residents and fueled the worst wildfires in the state’s history.

On Sunday, June 18, 1972 an obscure headline at the bottom of page 1 of The Washington Post would most likely have become irrelevant history had it not caught the eye of two young reporters who decided to dig deeper. Their curiosity and subsequent findings launched the investigation that would later be dubbed Watergate. One small story that ultimately changed American politics forever and resulted in the first resignation of a US President.

The social network Facebook was created in a dorm room on the campus of Harvard by four young college students who created a website to compare two people’s pictures side by side to determine “who’s hot and who’s not.” This seemingly useless game created for Harvard students has now become the world’s largest social network site with over 600 million users worldwide. One small, creative idea that led to the creation of a media giant that has influenced an entire generation.

And just like these examples, two small words, I’m sorry, can be the spark that ignites the process in which forgiveness and healing begins to take place. While it is true that there is power in forgiveness, I believe there is also power in apologizing. I am constantly dumbfounded by the number of people unwilling to take responsibility for their actions and to admit when they are wrong by apologizing. There are numerous reasons for this which I shared in a recent blog called “He Did It!……No, He Did It!” But my point is that when you are willing to humbly say the words “I’m sorry” you have the ability to set in motion a chain of events that can have the power to bring healing, restore relationships and bring closure to unresolved conflict.

Often I hear the question “who do you need to forgive in order to break free from the bondage of unforgiveness?” Today my question to you is “who in your life needs to receive an apology from you?” Don’t let two little words stand between you and a relationship that needs restoring. And don’t let your pride keep you from being the one to take the first step forward and say “I’m sorry”. Today is the day to uncomplicate things and let the healing begin. It’s just two little words – how complicated can it be?

All You’re Ever Gonna Be Is Mean


When I think of mean, I think of the Grinch (among others).  And I’m sure if I were to take a poll most people would say there is someone in their life, whether it be a family member, a boss, a co-worker or a neighbor who they think will never change and will always be a mean person no matter what. Taylor Swift even wrote a song describing her mean person as “You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me. You have knocked me off my feet again, got me feeling like I’m nothing. All you’re ever gonna be is mean. Why you gotta be so mean?” Unfortunately there are those who may be in your life who will never change. You may pray for them and try everything you can think of to win them over with kindness but they are unwilling or unable to change. As a Christian, does there ever come a time when you should walk away from a key relationship in your life or are we expected to just keep forgiving and praying no matter how bad it gets?

This is undoubtedly a difficult situation with no real easy answer. But I do believe there are certain circumstances that calls for us to step away from unhealthy relationships and before restoration of that relationship can take place, there must be defined boundaries in place. I have experienced this in my own family where a particular situation became so unhealthy and the person’s behavior so over the line, that the only solution was to completely cut off any and all contact with the individual. This was an extremely difficult decision because as Christians we are called to forgive and to walk in grace. But we are not called to be emotionally abused, controlled or manipulated by others. There are times when enough is enough.

Sometimes no matter how much you forgive, how much you pray, how much you encourage, how much you share your faith and God’s power to transform lives – some people just aren’t going to change and that’s hard to accept, especially when you believe in the God of miracles who can change anything or anybody. But the person has to be a willing participant for God to change them and that is not always the case. And when this happens, we need to guard our own hearts and protect our own emotions and remove, at least for a time, toxic relationships from our lives. In most cases it doesn’t have to be forever because it may be the very thing that makes the person realize they cannot continue their behavior without consequences so they may be motivated to change.

But unfortunately, I can’t promise you that the person you have to walk away from will ever change. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. And I can’t give you scripture that specifically says it’s ok to walk away instead of continuing to forgive no matter how mean they are. I can show you scripture where one of the disciples asked Jesus how many times they were to forgive others who continued to sin against them and Jesus answered seventy times seven, basically meaning as many as it takes. (Matt. 18:21-22). I can show you scripture where Jesus told his disciples that if they did not forgive those who sinned against them then their Father in heaven would not forgive them (Matt. 6:15). Jesus even told them “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also” (Luke 6:29). So, is there ever justification to remove friends or family from your life when they treat you badly? There is an instance where Jesus was sending His disciples out to share the gospel and He told them “if anyone does not welcome you, shake the dust from your feet (Matt. 10:14). There are those people who are determined to not follow Christ, but instead they choose to continue in a perpetual cycle of sin. I believe when we encounter these people in our lives, God is saying to us that it may be necessary to move on when they are unwilling to listen because they are imprisoned to their sin.

When people are held hostage by sin, many times they take it out on others. It doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong to deserve to be the target of their harsh words and actions. It simply means that they will lash out at anyone whose life reveals the darkness that is present in their own life. I don’t believe that God intends for us to be a target of people’s anger and outbursts simply because they are miserable in their own lives. I don’t believe He expects us to continue in familial relationships that are poisonous to our lives and our children’s lives. I do believe we are expected to forgive but I don’t believe that forgiving always means allowing others to mistreat you. There are examples in the bible where Jesus did have a righteous and justified anger toward the behavior of others (Matt. 21:12, Matt. 23). But in His anger He never sinned. If you are in a situation where you have a family member or close friend who continually crosses the line of respectful and acceptable behavior toward you and you have forgiven or overlooked the behavior to the point that you have decided the relationship has crossed over into an unhealthly situation, it may be time to disengage from regular contact with them. In my particular situation, after much prayer it was decided that we could not continue having contact with someone that was clearly in need of help. Years of unresolved anger, rejection, bitterness and unforgiveness had left her depressed and feeling out of control. Her response was to attempt to control and manipulate those closest to her. The ensuing result took its toll on our family and brought strife into our home. After forgiving and attempting everything we could think of to bring about a change in the relational dynamic, the line was crossed and the relationship had to be severed.

We had no set time period in mind for how long this would last but we entered into that decision knowing our intention was a temporary severance of contact. We began to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance to show us when the door could be opened to begin restoration. That time was a week ago and we reached out to make the first step toward reconciliation. But before the door was opened we sat down and discussed boundaries. We knew we could never go back to the way things were. If there was going to be reconciliation it was going to have to occur within healthy, well-defined boundaries. After years of dealing with this relationship we knew what the problem was. After years of following Jesus and studying His words we could recognize the symptoms that caused our family member to act the way she did. But just because we had identified the problem and the reason behind it didn’t mean the problem was fixed. We now have to begin the process of healing years of verbal attacks, manipulation of emotions and attempts at controlling that created mistrust and distance. I can’t promise the outcome will be favorable, that is up to her. I do know Jesus loves her and desires desperately for her to relinquish control of her life into His healing and comforting arms. He is the peace she so desperately seeks and our hope is that this time around our lives may reveal Him in a way she’s never seen before. Time will tell but for now we have hope that all she’s ever gonna be in the future is redeemed, forgiven, loved and restored into right standing with God.

He Did It! ……No, He Did It!


If you’ve spent any time around children you’ve heard this line. It starts with a broken lamp, a crayon-inspired work of art on the bedroom wall or a knock on the door from the neighbor who has come to report someone ran through her flowers and trampled every one of her precious tulips. The “event” is usually followed by that look from mom that strikes fear in any and all children within it’s range and almost simultaneously the arms go up, the fingers point and the first terrified little voice shouts the accusation, “he did it!” followed by “nuh uhn! he did it.” What is it that is in us from a very young age that causes us to want to place blame elsewhere?

There is no doubt that we are all born with an unwillingness, or at very least, a reluctance to take responsibility when we are at fault. Even in the garden of Eden Eve blamed the serpant and Adam blamed Eve. For most of us our knee jerk reaction when faced with accusation is to point the finger at someone or something that made us choose to do wrong. Who hasn’t uttered the words “the devil made me do it”? Recent news stories filled with finger pointing, transferring the blame and complete unwillingness of people to accept responsibility for their actions has me thinking – why are we so unwilling to humbly say “I messed up. I made a mistake. I was wrong and I’m sorry”?

Due to ridiculously large sums of money awarded in court cases and a culture that glorifies and sensationalizes bad behavior, we live in a time when even those caught red-handed claim innocence by some reason or another or they label themselves a victim of a grand scheme by others to bring them down. We celebrate those who continue to break the law and offend and disrespect everyone on the planet yet never utter the words “I’m sorry.” (think Linsay Lohan, Kanye West, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, need I go on?) No matter how obvious it is where the blame lies, everyone seems to make choices with no thought toward consequences because they’ve learned to defer responsibility onto someone or something else. Most mornings I hear a news story on TV that begins with “Who’s to blame for _______?” (fill in the blank….high gas prices, growing unemployment rates, high levels of obesity in America, increases in government spending, etc.). I think one of the most unbelievable examples I’ve seen recently is a group of college students who sued their college because they couldn’t find a job upon graduation. Nine graduates of a New York law school filed a $225 million dollar lawsuit on the basis that the school they attended should have anticipated the current recession. No seriously, they did. Fortunately a judge dismissed the case stating that “although we all sympathize with those who are having difficulty finding work, their anger and angst are misdirected.” Other lawyers unsympathetic to the new graduates said “The people who are applying to law schools are highly educated, they know how to read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.” And the fear of litigation has caused many doctors, hospitals, school systems and companies to put in place preposterous policies to protect themselves. Extreme insurance costs have driven many small companies out of business and as consumers we pay the price through sky high insurance rates resulting from frivolous lawsuits. But all of that doesn’t seem to stop the mentality of “deny all, admit nothing and blame somebody else” which is prevalent in today’s society.

So again, why such an unwillingness to admit fault? I think the answer is really not  as difficult as it may at first seem. We are sinners, sinners who are filled with pride.  Pride is one of the most common things the devil uses to entice us into sin because pride is the opposite of the humility that, when present in our lives, points others to Jesus. Pride wants to take credit for favorable outcomes and place blame on others for the unfavorable ones. Pride blinds us to the reality of our situation by obscuring the truth. It causes us to overestimate our own righteousness and self worth which prevents us from repenting. Pride causes us to rationalize and justify our own wrong behavior. Pride masks our selfish attitudes which causes us to come to the conclusion “I don’t deserve punishment because I didn’t do anything wrong.” Pride has kept many from accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior because to admit our sins and acknowledge that in our own strength we can do nothing to receive eternal life requires humility and a reliance on someone other than ourselves. In his book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis said, There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine they are guilty themselves.” We are all guilty of the sin of pride yet our pride keeps us from wanting to admit it.

I’ve thought too as to why the blame game bothers me so much beyond the obvious frustration we all experience when we see people pointing fingers when they have absolutely no basis for doing so. One reason is that I’m guilty of it and even though I repent I still sometimes find myself falling into the trap of blaming others instead of taking responsibility myself. But the reason that stirs a righteous anger within me is that there was never a more appropriate and justified moment in the history of our world for someone to point the finger and to say “they did it” as when God sent Jesus to die for our sins. He had every right to say “But I didn’t do anything wrong, why do I have to take the punishment?” Instead he chose to receive the punishment that we deserve for our sins. He took the blame for every wrong that we’ve ever done. He endured the beating and excruciating pain of being nailed to a cross when it should have been us. He took our place when He said “I am he” as the guards approached him while searching for the one they had already presumed guilty. He willingly gave His life for ours so that we don’t have to die an eternal death as penalty for our sins. He traded His perfect life for our imperfect one. My prayer for myself is that the next time I’m tempted to join in the blame game I will remember the humility of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when He selflessly took the blame on my behalf and I will say, with a humble spirit, “I messed up. I made a mistake. I was wrong and I’m sorry”.

Sky Diving and Rocky Mountain Climbing


Several years ago Tim McGraw released a song called “Live Like You Were Dying” from his album by the same name. The song reached number one on the charts and earned McGraw a Grammy.  The message of the song was simple – live each day as if it were your last. Do the things that you always wanted to do, make amends with anyone you still hold a grudge against, show love to those who you hold most dear, and spend more time with God. Each of these suggestions are definitely things we all should be doing whether we are dying or not. But what if, instead of living like we’re dying, we chose to simply live like we really believed that when Jesus died on the cross He didn’t just die for our sins, He overcame the power of sin in our life?

Many people today say they believe in God and they believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins. But the worry, fear, doubt and perpetual cycle of  sin in their life says they believe something very different. Still others are filled with guilt and condemnation because they don’t believe they are good enough for God to love them even though they have received the gift of salvation. The problem for both is that they haven’t reached a point of understanding the full extent of what Jesus did the day He died on the cross. They believe He died for their sins, which is vital for salvation. They also believe that all their past sins have been forgiven. But what they fail to understand is that when Jesus died on the cross, He not only died for all of their sins, He overcame sin.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we know it is not up to us pay the price for our sins. The price has already been paid and it only needed to be paid once. There is no need for anyone to keep paying the price. It is finished. When we accept God’s forgiveness of sin, it is erased from our life along with the power it has over us. We are set free from the bondage of sin and the power it weilds over us. But for many, they live their life as if sin still reigns over them. They walk down the aisle of the church to the altar, respond to the gospel and receive the forgiveness for their past sins. Then they attempt in their own strength to make changes in how they act so they won’t sin anymore. At that point they are simply practicing behavior modification when they should instead be surrendering their lives to Christ and trusting in His power to overcome sin in their life. Once we are saved, we are never separated from God. But those still trapped by the guilt and condemnation of past sin feel the separation that sin causes and for this reason many end up turning away from the church. They believe that as long as they behave a certain way they will be close to God but when they don’t behave “right” they feel as if they are separated from God, even though that’s not true. They believe God and other believers will no longer accept them because they have failed. They wrongly believe that they are the only ones who have done anything wrong and that everybody else has it all together so they choose to isolate themselves. And it’s in their isolation they become an easy target for the enemy. The message of the gospel is not about doing all the right things and being a good person so God will accept us. It is accepting God’s promise that we are forgiven once and for all and trusting in Him and the power of the Holy Spirit to change our sinful nature and transform us into His image.

However, knowing our sins are forgiven – past, present and future – does not give us free reign to go sin because we won’t have to pay the price for that sin. What it does do is give us confidence in knowing that no sin – past, present or future – has any power over us. We are free from the control that sin once had in our life and from the guilt and condemnation it made us feel. We do not have to live in fear that we will disappoint God. In His eyes, we are white as snow because our sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus. We do not have to isolate ourselves when we do fall short because there is nothing that can separate us from God once we are born again. We do not have to feel the pressure to be a “perfect” Christian because we accept that we are sinful by nature and know we will be forgiven when we repent and turn from our sins – past, present and future. We don’t have to perform for God to love us, but out of our love for Him we choose a life of obedience to His commands. We do not have to fear death and eternal separation from our Father because the Word promises that through our salvation we will spend eternity with Him in heaven. We don’t have to live like a prisoner bound by the power of sin because we are free through the power of God. Tim McGraw sang we should live like we’re dying but I say it’s much better to live like Jesus lived, glorifying the Father by living victoriously over sin. How much better would our lives be if we all lived like we really believed that Jesus not only died for our sin, He overcame it!

Make ‘Em Pay


Forgiving someone means accepting their apology, right? Well, yes. But there’s a second part to forgiveness that many of us leave out, especially us ladies. We tend to forgive but we also tend to make sure that the one we’ve forgiven doesn’t soon forget their wrong against us. We are quick to forgive because we don’t want to carry the guilt of withholding forgiveness from them. But we want to ensure that there is still a price to pay – that they have to earn that forgiveness in some way.

The problem with that way of thinking is that it doesn’t fit the definition of forgiveness, true forgiveness – the kind of forgiveness that Jesus died on the cross for. Forgiveness means to release a person from punishment, to exempt them from penalty. When you truly forgive someone then you do not expect anything in return. It’s over. It is finished.

You see, we are often too quick to forget what Jesus did for us on the cross. Oh, we remember the part about how He forgave our sins and so we in return are willing to forgive others. But we leave out the part of what He did before He died on that cross, the part where He paid the penalty for our sins. He received the brutal beating and punishment that our sin deserved. He never said “I’ll forgive you, but it’s gonna cost you”. Not only does He forgive us but He also paid the cost for us. (Isaiah 53:5)

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to forget the wrong that was done to you. But it does mean that you do not expect them to earn your forgiveness. If you forgive someone you forfeit your right to impose a penalty on them. When you forgive them you relinquish the need to make them pay for what they did to you by withholding affection or constantly reminding them of just how bad they hurt you. Many times as women when we forgive someone we falsely believe that we have the “right” to do what we want, spend what we want or act like we want without consequence because after all, we earned it because of what they did to us. In true forgiveness there is no penalty phase. There is no set time period that we get to treat the one who hurt us with an attitude of revenge while we practically dare them to react negatively because we’ve decided they deserve the harsh treatment as payment for their wrong.

What we all deserve is everything that Jesus endured on the cross on our behalf. But when we seek His forgiveness we receive it – no strings attached. We can’t earn it, we can’t buy it with flowers or gifts and there’s no certain time period that He gives us the cold shoulder until He decides we’ve finally earned full forgiveness. He forgives our sins the moment we repent. The moment we seek His forgiveness with an attitude of Godly sorrow, it’s done. There’s no penalty phase because the penalty was paid in full for our sins.

In response to the cross, the very least we can do is to fully forgive others who sincerely seek our forgiveness with Godly sorrow. We owe them forgiveness with no expectations of them earning that forgiveness. Those who ask for our forgiveness deserve the same forgiveness we receive from God when they do so not because they were caught doing wrong, but because they know they caused us to hurt and they never want to do it again.  Is there anyone in your life you need to forgive? Is there anyone you need to completely forgive?