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Posts tagged ‘God’s grace’

What Do I Do With My Regrets?

SOURCE:  Jon Gauger/Family Life Today

Rather than letting go of our regrets, we often escalate the trauma by further indulging them.

I should be dead by now. Really.

Thankfully, as a boy of 15, I underwent surgery for scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Had my parents not opted for such a treatment, statistics say I wouldn’t be alive today because of the crushing my internal organs would have received from the twisting of my own spine. If not dead, my torso would resemble something like the fictional Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The surgery was no minor deal. First, an incision was made from my waist to the top of my shoulders (about two feet long). After straightening the spine and fastening two metal rods (each rod about a foot long) into the vertebrae, the surgeon chipped tiny fragments off my hip and then carefully placed them along the vertebrae to create a bone fusion.

Recovery was slow. Every four hours I was rotated from my back to my stomach on a circular bed frame resembling equipment from a circus acrobatic act. After nearly two weeks of rotating bed confinement, I was informed that the next day would be “casting day,” when I would get a plaster cast covering most of my upper body, allowing for near normal mobility. I distinctly recall the nurse warning me the night before. “Your incision is healing, and you’ll likely feel an itching sensation tonight. Whatever you do, don’t scratch your scar.”

But what I felt that night was more than an itching sensation. It was an itching assault. An itching warfare. I scratched (bad decision). And the scars itched more. I scratched more. And the scars itched still more. At the height of this agony (I do not overstate the moment), it was all I could do to force myself to clench the tubular steel of the circular frame bed and quote every Bible verse I’d ever learned over and over. It remains the most awful night of my life.

Who knew a scar could cause so much pain?

Regrets are scars of the soul.

We carry them around with us, and every now and then they itch. So we scratch them. We replay that thoughtless deed, that hurtful conversation. But instead of relief, we sense only a greater discomfort. Rather than let these memories go, we often escalate the trauma by further indulging our regrets.

What should we do with our scars when they assault us at night or in moments of tired reflection?

Scars, medical experts tell us, require regular and proper care (mine still itch or get occasional scabs). But what kind of care is there for scars of the soul? It’s a question we put to our contributors. Just what should we do with our regrets?

Walter Wangerin

This is simple: Pray for forgiveness. Ask the Christ who fought the devil to come and speak to our regret. Invariably, the word the Lord brings us is, “Go and sin no more. I have forgiven you. Now go on. Get up. Go back to your life and be better than you were.”

George Verwer

I read a long time ago that regret is the most subtle form of self-love. The temptation to regret comes the same way as any other temptation. What we need to do is readily embrace the gift of God’s grace. A lot of people have had their lives filled with failure, yet they do really well at the end. We need to encourage one another with that. Regarding our specific regrets, God has forgiven us. He knows how to work things out for good, so we can’t dwell on regret. We have to somehow move forward because it’s a form of anxiety to dwell on our regrets, paying too much attention to ourselves. We need to claim God’s forgiveness and grace and press on.

Kay Arthur

What do we do with our regrets? Now that’s a question I can answer readily for two reasons. One, I messed up so much before I came to know genuine salvation at the age of 29, and it had great ramifications. Second, I am a perfectionist. I battle with, “I could have done it better, I should have, I wish I had, why didn’t I?” This is where I must run to the open arms of my Sovereign God and all His promises and bring them to bear on my regrets. Also, I would add that we need to remember Satan is the accuser of the children of God (Revelation 12:10-11), so I have to stay dressed in His armor, rejoicing that He will make me “stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

The first thing we have to do is thank God for grace. Go back to the cross. Preach the gospel to ourselves and realize, “I am not the Christ. I am a sinner who needs a Savior—and thank God I have a Savior.” I thank God He has not dealt with me according to my sins or as I deserve. The sum total of my life will not be about how well I performed, how well I lived up to my goals, or how successfully I overcame my bad habits or sinful patterns. When it’s said and done, the sum total will be Christ my righteousness. He took my sin—He who had no sin—on Himself. He clothed me in His righteousness, and that is the only basis on which I will ever be able to stand before God and not be ashamed. Every day I have to preach that gospel back to myself and live in the constant conscious awareness that Christ is my life. He is my righteousness. He is my only hope in life and in death.

James MacDonald

Romans 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I believe all of our sins—past, present, and future—are under the blood of Christ, that we’re forgiven. I think we need to live as forgiven people. Second Corinthians 7:10 says, “The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Genuine repentance is not thinking about what I should have done or what I could have done. It’s thinking about what Christ has done, and living in that. When your kids were little and they would act up, what you wanted was for them to forsake the bad behavior and go forward. That’s what I believe the Lord wants for us. Not to wallow in our failures, but to revel in His grace and to give it to others.

Joni Eareckson Tada

I love to read passages in Scripture that remind me that God has a poor memory when it comes to my sin. He remembers my sin no more (Isaiah 43:25). He separates me from my sin as far as the east is from the west, as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11-12). That is what makes the Good News so great! God will not remember our sins. You know what? We shouldn’t either.

Michael W. Smith

You use regrets for good. That’s one reason I started Rocketown, a club for kids in Nashville. I love speaking to youth. I’m able to say, “Hey, guys, let me tell you my story.” Based on my own experiences, I have a little bit of credibility talking to some kid who is smoking dope every day and getting high, struggling with drugs. I say, “I’ve been there.” He might respond, “Yeah, whatever.” Then I tell him my story, and all of a sudden he’s listening because I have been there. I get to say, “Guys, it’s a dead-end street. It’ll take you down. This is not what your destiny is.” Regret gives me an opportunity to speak into kids’ lives because of the fact that I’ve been there.

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I’ll Never Live Up To What God Expects Of Me

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

The Danger of Dread

A twenty-five-year-old man is filled with dread. He believes he can never truly walk in the Spirit with his thoughts thoroughly controlled by Christ. He can never fully avoid the contamination of the world around him. Even more, the evidence, he thinks, is clear—he is not one of the elect. He is persuaded that God has abandoned him, and being out of favor with the angry God is a dreadful thing. As you might guess, he has objections to any Scripture you might offer.

How might you respond?

I tried to assemble his version of God.

He is saying, I think, that God is supra-sovereign—a despot, displeased with his people, and expecting something from them that is impossible to give. We are prisoners to his unyielding demands.

This understanding of God doesn’t form overnight. It probably started with his good intentions to obey, it moved to a focus on his inability, it morphed into perfectionism or works-righteousness. From there it seemed to languish in fear and dread. That would seem to be the end of the line—after all, where else is there to go?—but the dread of God can have a partner. In his case, that partner is loathing. He loathes God and is angry with him because God demands obedience that the young man cannot give. “It shouldn’t be this way!” he says hatefully.

This young man, of course, is beholden to a myth of his own making rather than to the “compassionate and gracious God” (Ex. 34:6).

Though the path of righteousness-by-obedience was closed long ago, he lives as though righteousness can still be achieved rather than ascribed. The Apostle Paul suggests that the problem is not so much with God but with his own desire in that he wants to live under the law (Gal. 4:21). The cover story is that God is irrationally demanding and implacable. But the real story is that he does not like God, and prefers a religion that is more under his control.

As he teeters on psychosis, I am reminded of the complexities of the human heart and my own inability to help. All entries into his life seem closed. So I remember the truth: the self-sacrificial God has taken the initiative of love toward his enemies and has revealed a righteousness that comes from trusting in him rather than in ourselves. And he delights in opening blind eyes. So I aim for joy and thankfulness in my own life and consider succinct ways to approach him, when he is willing to engage.

God says to us “in repentance and rest is your salvation” (Is. 30:15), but like so many things in the Christian life, it seems so unnatural, so counterintuitive, and we are unwilling. So we gloss over it and rest in a system that makes sense to us—like works-righteousness —but it is a mere human invention.

Lord, Forgive all, All, A-L-L My Sins

SOURCE:   tollelege

The Valley of Vision — “Pardon all my sins”

Merciful Lord,

Pardon all my sins of this day, week, year,
all the sins of my life,
sins of early, middle, and advanced years,
of omission and commission,
of morose, peevish and angry tempers,
of lip, life and walk,
of hard-heartedness, unbelief, presumption, pride,
of unfaithfulness to the souls of men,
of want of bold decision in the cause of Christ,
of deficiency in outspoken zeal for His glory,
of bringing dishonour upon Thy great name,
of deception, injustice, untruthfulness in my dealings with others,
of impurity in thought, word and deed,
of covetousness, which is idolatry,
of substance unduly hoarded, improvidently squandered,
not consecrated to the glory of Thee, the great Giver;
sins in private and in the family,
in study and recreation,
in the busy haunts of men,
in the study of thy Word and in the neglect of it,
in prayer irreverently offered and coldly withheld,
in time misspent,
in yielding to Satan’s wiles,
in opening my heart to his temptations,
in being unwatchful when I know him nigh,
in quenching the Holy Spirit;
sins against light and knowledge,
sins against conscience and the restraints of thy Spirit,
sins against the law of eternal love.

Pardon all my sins, known and unknown,
felt and unfelt,
confessed and not confessed,
remembered or forgotten.
Good Lord, hear; and hearing, forgive.

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–Arthur Bennett, ed., “Sins,” in The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 1975), 87

 

Lord, Thank Heavens, “You’re Not”

SOURCE:  Paul Tripp Ministries

 

You’re Not

When I’m
Weary and exhausted
You’re not.

When I’m
Confused and discouraged
You’re not.

When I’m
Fickle and unfaithful
You’re not.

When I’m
Doubtful and disheartened
You’re not.

When I’m
Fearful and anxious
You’re not.

When I’m
Short-sighted and fearful
You’re not.

When I’m
Tired and about to quit
You’re not.

When I’m
Lacking in hope and love
You’re not.

When I’m
Shocked and surprised
You’re not.

When I’m
Angrily withholding grace
You’re not.

When I’m
Unfaithful to what I’ve promised
You’re not.

When I’m
Selfish and disloyal
You’re not.

Oh, Lord of
Faithfulness and grace
I am so thankful
That
In those moments
When I’m
Losing my way
You’re not.

The Myth of Happy Parenting

SOURCE:  Rachel Marie Stone

How did we come to expect pain-free child rearing?

The way of the parent is often the way of the Cross: the glory and grace and joy in it come at significant cost.

With my first pregnancy, it seemed everyone was more excited than me.

My mother squealed when I told her the news. People at church kept hugging me and grinning in my general direction. Even my OB-GYN’s secretary shrieked, “Congratulations!” when I asked for a prenatal appointment.

None of them were spending hours curled in bed, barely moving due to nausea. They did not endure 12 hours of labor, during which I cried, “Why, God? Why do you want me to suffer so much?” To which my nurse replied, “This is what it takes to have a baby, sweetheart.”

Then I’m not sure I want to have a baby, I thought.

As a friend recently put it, raising children requires holding joy and sorrow in the same hand at once.

When my son finally arrived, I was in love. But soon it became clear that he was not one of those coveted “easy” babies. He cried incessantly and slept little. Frankly, there was a lot I didn’t like about him. I carried a crushing burden of guilt. Weren’t children a blessing from God, as the Bible and church people told me? Shouldn’t I like him more? Shouldn’t I be happier?

As he grew, he became a delightful child. Still, my guilt continued. I felt bad that endless peekaboo, reading the same board book for the 100th time, and changing dozens of diapers left me bored and restless. It left me wishing for a small injury to land me in the hospital, where someone would take care of me for a change.

Of course, my secret resentment of the difficulties of raising children has deep roots. In her satiric novel of 1927, Twilight Sleep, novelist Edith Wharton uses the title concept (“twilight sleep” being an anesthetic regimen that let wealthy women sleep through labor and delivery) to sum up the privileged 20th-century attitude toward pain, including the pain of childbearing:

“Of course there ought to be no Pain . . . nothing but Beauty. . . . It ought to be one of the loveliest, most poetic things in the world to have a baby,” Mrs. Manford declared, in that bright efficient voice which made loveliness and poetry sound like the attributes of an advanced industrialism, and babies something to be turned out in series like Fords.

The idea that there ought to be “nothing but Beauty” is, I think, part of the modern myth of parenting. Our expectations for our kids and for ourselves get higher and higher. (Writer Micha Boyett recently said that if she hears about another toddler taking Mandarin lessons, she’ll heave.)

We want our children to be perfect, and we want to be perfect parents. Yet we don’t even know what that means. In her recent book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting, Jennifer Senior notes that “happiness” is a vague concept, and perhaps the wrong goal for parenting.

The truth is that parenthood is not always fun. In the church, where we rightly acknowledge that children are gifts from God, perhaps we are especially afraid to say this. There’s so much pain and heartache. The way of the parent is often the way of the Cross: the glory and grace and joy in it come at significant cost. We relinquish our time, energy, money, and personal desires for our children.

English novelist John Lancaster recently called for “a revival of the concept of duty.” It’s the moral obligation to fulfill a responsibility to another, regardless of whether it makes us happy. By God’s grace, duty often yields not to happiness but to something better: joy. As the early church in Acts teaches us, joy can coincide with suffering and struggle.

“Gift love longs to serve or even to suffer” for the beloved, wrote C. S. Lewis. Perhaps it is advanced industrialism and the advertising age that have beguiled us into thinking that parenthood should always be fun, satisfying, and merrymaking. It’s the same cultural trap that convinces us marriage should last “as long as we both shall remain happy with each other.”

Lightening the burden of raising our children begins with recognizing that as imperfect beings, neither we nor they will always be our best or happiest. Instead, gift love—the kind of love God bestows on us, his children—calls us to fulfill our obligations to one another, personal happiness aside.

The way of gift love necessarily entails cost, sacrifice, and pain. But God’s grace is such that even a semi-sleepless night curled next to a small, feverish boy has a certain beauty in it. It’s the small hands reaching for me, seeking and finding a measure of comfort, even joy.

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Rachel Marie Stone is the author of Eat With Joy, a regular contributor to Her.meneutics, and a blogger forReligion News Service.

Forgiveness For Even The Most Painful Offenses

SOURCE:  Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 217-218.

 A Faith That Forgiveness Requires

Above all else, remember that true forgiveness depends on God’s grace.

If you try to forgive others on your own, you are in for a long and frustrating battle.

But if you ask God to change your heart and you continually rely on his grace, you can forgive even the most painful offenses.

God’s grace was powerfully displayed in the life of Corrie ten Boom, who had been imprisoned with her family by the Nazis for giving aid to Jews early in World War II. Her elderly father and beloved sister, Betsie, died as a result of the brutal treatment they received in prison. God sustained Corrie through her time in a concentration camp, and after the war she traveled throughout the world, testifying to God’s love. Here is what she wrote about a remarkable encounter in Germany:

It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there–the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, he has washed my sins away!”

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendall about the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? “Lord Jesus,” I prayed, “forgive me and help me to forgive him.”

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.”

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

So I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on him. When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives, along with the command, the love itself.

Why do we agonize over whether we ourselves will be able to forgive those who have sinned against us? Our forgiveness is a pale substitute of what is needed. Instead, what is necessary is just this: that we allow Christ’s forgiveness of us–the forgiveness that flows through us and brings life to us–to flow outward from us to reach the others in our lives who, like us, are equally undeserving of his mercy. For “[i]t does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Rom. 9:16).

A Prayer for Raising Our Kids by Grace

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Ps. 127:1-3

Dear heavenly Father… how healing and FREEING this Scripture is! Indeed, it’s a liberating joy to address you today as the architect and builder of your own house—including the household of faith and our children’s place in your family.

As I look back over the years of my pragmatic parenting, I’m saddened, but I am also gladdened, for you’ve always been faithful to your covenant love, even when I was overbearing and under-believing. The move from parenting by grit to parenting by grace was a slow, contested but freeing journey. Take me further us and farther in, even now as a grandparent.

You’ve rescued me from parental “laboring in vain”—assuming a burden you never intended parents to bear. Father, only you can reveal the glory and grace of Jesus to our children. Only you can give anyone a new heart—including me. You’ve called us to parent as an act of worship—to parent “as unto you,” not as a way of saving face or fixing our kids; making a name for ourselves or proving our worthiness of your love.

Oh, the arrogant pride of thinking that by our “good parenting” we can take credit for what you alone have graciously done in the lives of our children. Oh, the arrogant unbelief of assuming that by our “bad parenting” we’ve forever limited what you will be able to accomplish in the future. Oh, the undue pressure our children must feel when we parent more out of our fear and pride, than by your love and grace; more from a Christian sub-culture agenda, than from the gospel of your kingdom.

Since our children and grandchildren are your inheritance, Father, teach us—teach me, how to care for them as humble stewards, not as anxious owners; as loving servants, not rigid overlords; as co-broken-sinners, not as co-dependent parents. More than anything else, show us how to parent and grandparent in a way that best reveals the unsearchable riches of Jesus in the gospel.

Give us quick repentances and observable kindnesses—before our children. Convict me, quickly and surely, when we don’t relate to our kids—or anyone else, “in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14).

So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name. 

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