My Heavenly Coach

A standard practice among coaches is to view a film of the previous game with the players. During that viewing the staff points out each player’s mistakes and good plays. A dedicated player will accept the criticisms and resolve to improve. Such an athlete feels gratitude for the compliments and determines to repeat that behavior the next game.

Their won-lost record at the end of the season hinges largely on the success of such sessions.

If I am serious about playing well for my Heavenly Coach I will eagerly take part in the periodic reviews He makes of my life. At times I will sense Him saying “Bob, you missed an opportunity to be a witness there” or “Bob, that was cruel” or “Bob, that was a selfish attitude.”

Then my reaction should be “You’re right, Lord. I’m sorry. I see now that it was sinful. I confess each of these to you and I will try my best not to repeat them. Please help me. Thank you for forgiving me.”

At other times Coach will say “Bob, you controlled your temper pretty well back there” or “You were extra kind and thoughtful with your family today” or “Your attitude of gratitude was strong last week.”

And my reaction should be “Thank you, Lord. All that is the work of your Spirit. I’m going to work harder to make sure I keep developing the fruit of your Spirit.”

Repentance and Forgiveness

God offers to both forgive and forget our sins so we may be restored to a right relationship with Him. This offer comes as a free gift because He loves us, not because we have earned it.

Before we can take advantage of this gift we must have an attitude of repentance toward our sins. We play no role in the offer of forgiveness, but we must do our part in the application of it to our individual lives.

We cannot repent of our sins unless we are aware of them. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit creates such an awareness within us and shows us our need of repentance He is not trying to crush us under a load of guilt. He is trying to help us reach a position where we can receive the Father’s forgiveness.

The prodigal son (Luke 15) and the adulterous woman (John 8) were each aware of their sins and thus each received forgiveness through God’s grace. The prodigal’s older brother and the woman’s accusers remained unforgiven until they recognized and repented of their sins.

So when a passage of Scripture or a sermon causes us to feel guilty, we must refuse to be angry and resentful. We must not start the internal rationalizations that blame others for our shortcomings. Instead, we must praise God for his efforts to further sanctify us by allowing us to travel down a hallway called Grace through a door name Repentance into a room labeled Forgiveness.

With gratitude and humility we need to make this journey every day.

The Past Is Past

Every person has made mistakes that can never be corrected. This is true because there are certain things that can be done only at one specific time. Once that time limit has passed there is no second chance.

For example, if we want to be part of our daughter’s first day of school we cannot do so after she begins the second grade. Or if we want to have influence on our son’s decision to buy his first home, we cannot do so after he has signed the papers and moved in.

When we look back and see all our mistakes, we want to change them. This may be out of a desire to reduce the pain we caused others or it may be an effort to reduce our own anguish.

Often, because of the time factor, we have only a limited opportunity to help those we have harmed. We owe them an apology, along with a sincere offer to make some sort of restitution. But their acceptance or rejection of that apology is out of our control.

Only they know how much forgiveness they are ready to give. They may not be at all interested in helping us reduce our guilt. They may have long ago gone past the failure that plagues us and therefore have no desire to revisit the incident in order to help us repair our emotional damage.

We must learn to live with the fact that we have made mistakes. We must learn to live with the pain those mistakes have created in our lives and the lives of others. Then we have to learn how to prevent that damage and pain from handicapping us and stealing today’s joy. The Holy Spirit will do this within us if we just invite him to do so. God does not want our present and future joy to be reduced because of our past. He has forgiven each of our sins. Now we need to forgive ourselves.

BITS & PIECES, ODDS & ENDS – 11

We should worship God because of his majesty and power – Who He is. We should love God because of his mercy and grace – What He has done.

IMMANUEL – God with us. I have come to believe this is the greatest word of all. Not God above us or God creating us or God judging us. Just God with us.

In my efforts to advance toward Christlikeness, am I a “stroller” Christian or a “training wheels” Christian or a “ten speed” Christian?

When God shows me a sin in my life I usually try to deny it (I didn’t do it) or distort  it (It’s not my fault) or dismiss it (It’s no big deal.) Seems I will do almost anything but confess it and repent.

Prayer was never meant to be a monologue. God intends for our prayers to be as much listening as talking.

I tend to value God’s promises but ignore or resist his commands. Proverbs 2:1-5 tells me to “treasure  his commandments.”

When I meet others will I lift their burdens, ignore their burdens, or add to their burdens?

God is my Father! When people watch my life do they ever say about me “He’s  just a chip off the old block?”

Christian Repentance

Public repentance (which preachers often call for from the pulpit) may be more difficult for a Christian than for an unsaved person. This is especially true when that sin was something that directly damaged another person. Such behaviors include adultery, character assassination, robbery and fraud.

A Christian is usually aware an action is sinful before he does it, but he still chooses to do it. He ignores God’s teaching. He knowingly breaks God’s laws. On the other hand, the unsaved may not have been aware of God’s prohibition of a specific action. He had no moral compass to ignore. He can often truthfully say “I did not know it was wrong.”

When the Christian faces his sin He must say “Forgive me, Father. I knew I was sinning and I did it anyway.”  The unsaved can approach God with “Forgive me. At the time I really did not know I was sinning.”

A Christian is likely to face public embarrassment in his social circle when he confesses and repents. The unsaved person faces no such condemnation from his friends because to them he was only doing as expected.

Our prior knowledge of good and evil may make repentance after salvation more difficult than our original repentance at the time of our salvation. If we had assurance from fellow Christians that they would be as forgiving and accepting as our Father, repentance would be much easier.

Jesus accepts us each time we return to Him and acknowledge our sins. He instructs us to accept our brothers and sisters just as quickly and completely. He will give us the ability to do so as we lean on Him.

Musings #1

USED TO BE

Things I step over are higher than they used to be.

Things I duck under are lower than they used to be.

Stuff I wade through is deeper than it used to be.

Things I walk across are wider than they used to be.

Objects I carry are heaver than they used to be.

Errands I run are longer than they used to be.

Material I read is smaller than it used to be.

Reading lights I use are dimmer than they used to be.

Chairs I use are lower and harder to get out of than they used to be.

Stairs I climb are steeper than they used to be.

Floors I drop stuff onto are further down than they used to be.

But the God who made me and all that other stuff is the same as He has always been. And for this eighty-year old that is GOOD NEWS!

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SIMPLIFIED GOSPEL

Confession?. . . . .”I did it”

Repentance?. . . . . “I’m sorry”

Obedience? . . . . . “I will”

Service? . . . . . “Let me help”

Worship? . . . . . “You’re wonderful”

Devotion?. . . . . “I love you”

Gratitude?. . . . .”Thank you”

Humility?. . . . . “Help”

 

Have A Good Day ?

“Have a good day” is an almost universal greeting in our society. When we consider those words we always think about things that might happen to us. But as Christians maybe we should consider that phrase in terms of what we do, say or think that would cause us to have a “good day.”

When we go to our Father in prayer at the end of the day, the standard for a “good day” should be based on how often we prayed, how much we praised, who we served and how sincerely we loved.  If He should ask us “Did you have a good day” I could answer based on what I “did” rather than “what was done to me or for me.”

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Our progression from “baby Christians” (1 Corinthians 3:2) to mature children of God should be evident in our prayer life. We should be consistently moving from “Now I lay me down to sleep” toward “Nevertheless not my will but thine.” (Luke 22:42)

A change in our opening line from “Dear God, please_________” to “Dear Father, I thank you and praise you for _____________” would be an indicator of greater Christian maturity.

The same would be true in the areas of confession and repentance. Rather than a general “Please forgive me of all my sins,” a prayer of specific confession and repentance would be something like “Dear Father, I recognize that my attitude toward my boss and co-workers, my constant complaining and griping, are not pleasing to you. I’m sorry. Thank you for forgiving me. Please change me.”

The “who” of our maturing prayer life would also be affected. We all are familiar with requesting blessings for our friends and family. But when was the last time we offered a sincere prayer for our enemies?


 

The Rock Throwers’ Club

Some people are rock collectors. Some are rock polishers. Too many Christians, including myself, tend to be rock throwers. And we belong to a rock throwers club called a church.

In order to be a member in good standing of that club we have to look at people who are different than we are and label them so we can throw rocks at them. Our club membership gives us the right to instead ignore them if we choose, but such behavior can cause just as much pain as the rocks.

Some of the labels we use are lazy, weak-willed, selfish, stupid, liberal, conservative, sinful, weird and shallow. But label them we must because these labels justify our choosing them as targets.

There seems to be an unlimited supply of rocks. We can get them from pastors sermons,  Bible study clubs, television evangelists, Sunday School lesson booklets and evangelism tracts.

Christian rock throwing has two purposes. The first, and most obvious, is to punish those who do not agree with our concept of good vs evil, right vs wrong, sinful vs holy. The second is to increase our sense of self worth by helping God punish evil doers.

If we are going to be a light in this dark world, we are going to have to destroy our Rock Throwers’ membership cards. Then we will need to pay our dues into the Welcome Home club.

 

I Sinned

I sinned…again. I know it. My family knows it. My friends know it. My church knows it. God knows it. I know that God knows it.

It was a huge, ugly, stupid, selfish, no-excuse-for-it, hurtful, Satan-directed sin.

I went to God in my prayer closet and the sin was so large and fresh that it dwarfed all else in our relationship. It was just God and me and my sin.

I tried to pray, but all I could say was “I’m sorry.” After the first time it just rolled off my tongue in a continuous cry “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

I was almost ashamed to stay in His presence. I was too repentant to say anything else, but I was too hopeful and desperate to leave.

I started to say “I didn’t mean to do it,” but realized it would be a lie. I did mean to do it, but I went ahead anyway. I knew it was a sin and I knew what I was doing.

I added “Please forgive me.” Part of my mind understood that He had already done that, but part of me needed to ask again and again. (Is it a waste of time to ask for something you have already been given?)

I wasn’t sure there was any grace still available for me. Had He already dismissed me as a hopeless case? I tried to let myself believe He might someday want to commune with me like we did before the sin.

Finally, I slowly began to realize that God never gives up on me. The Holy Spirit made me aware that God had forgiven me and he would teach me to forgive myself. Only then could I leave my closet and take my place in His kingdom as a beloved child of the King.