One wrong step doesn’t mean you have to fall

The internet and media outlets are overflowing with examples of how people have made really bad choices, and it seems to be getting worse every day. I swear, every day there’s a new tragedy to report on. Every day, someone makes the headlines for a horrible decision he or she made–sometimes recently, sometimes in the past.

And what I find interesting (maybe sad is more like it) is that the majority is quick to condemn. If the person in question screwed up royally and hurt other people or betrayed someone or did something that popular culture says is wrong, just about everybody is ready to jump on the bandwagon and talk about how evil that person is. And it doesn’t matter who they are or where they came from or even what they did. There’s comfort in following the crowd. There’s security in saying the same things everybody around you says, whether you have all the facts or not.

The truth is much more challenging–much less comfortable. Because maybe we haven’t done “what they did” but we’ve done something similar, and if we were to put ourselves in that person’s shoes, how would we want to be treated? Kind of tough when you think about it like that. Gives new meaning to “but for the grace of God” right? Because I’m not special, and neither are you. We all have things in our lives that we wish weren’t there, but that doesn’t change the way God feels about us.

TightropeToday’s verses are Psalm 66:16-20.

Come and listen, all you who fear God,
and I will tell you what he did for me.
For I cried out to him for help,
praising him as I spoke.
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
But God did listen!
He paid attention to my prayer.
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer
or withdraw his unfailing love from me.

Everybody screws up. Nobody escapes it. And that’s not an excuse for sin. If you sin against God and choose to go against what He says is right, you are responsible for your choices. But God doesn’t favor one person over another. He doesn’t love one race more than another. And there’s nothing of us can do to make Him love us more or less than He already does.

I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that because I know what I’ve done. I know what I think, what I feel in my heart of hearts. I know the kind of person I am, and it’s really difficult to accept that someone like God would love me in spite of me. But He does. And I know He does. The Bible says so, and I tend to agree with the Bible when it says stuff.

But the Bible does make it clear that while sin doesn’t stop God from loving us, our attitude toward it will keep Him from hearing us. And our attitude is up to us.

You can call your sin what it is–evil and contrary to who God is. Or you can make excuses for it. You can turn away from it and despise it and seek to never go back to it. Or you can keep dipping your toes in it because it’s fun. What attitude do you think God is going to pay attention to?

It’s not about what you’ve done. It’s about your attitude about what you’ve done. It’s the disposition of your heart toward the wrong you’ve done in your life. Are you sorry for it? Do you want to change? Do you want God to bless you? Do you want God to hear your prayers? Call your sin what it is, and don’t be so quick to jump on other people who’ve fallen off that same proverbial wagon.

We’re all in the same boat down here, people. Nobody lives on a pedestal–not really. We’re all beggars just looking for bread to eat. And God’s within reach, offering a feast to us free of charge, if only we’ll reach out and take it.

Happy sunflower on Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

How to deal with a heart problem

I don’t like being wrong. And I don’t like being corrected. Is there anyone out there who feels the same way? I get stiff and irritated when someone tells me that I’m wrong. It’s 100% pride, and I recognize it. It’s been a constant battle my whole life to be humble when it comes to facing my own flaws. But it’s one thing to point out your own flaws. It’s something else for someone else to see them and mention them.

I think it’s ten times harder to face your own flaws when someone points them out to you. That’s probably my pride speaking. So consider today’s verses from the Psalms, where the writer isn’t just willing to face his flaws … he’s inviting God to point them out!

Happy sunflower on Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Happy sunflower on Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 139:23-24.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

I’m not sure if I can pray this honestly. I need to be able to do it, but it’s a tall order. Like I said above: I don’t like being wrong. And the only thing I dislike worse than being wrong is being wrong and everyone knowing about it.

Pride is so dangerous. We think we know so much, and even those of us who are humble about our lives, pride still likes to sneak in when we aren’t paying attention. Of course, we know what we’re doing. Of course, we know where we’re going and what our majors will be in college and what our jobs will be once we graduate.

Sometimes I think we believers take things for granted. I think we get this idea that our lives are going to be easier because we are Christ-followers, that doors will just open, that opportunities will lay down at our feet waiting for us to scoop them up. Now, I’m not saying that doesn’t happen. It does. It’s happened to me too many times not to notice. But that hasn’t been the constant. I’ve had to work very hard. I had to struggle through school. I had to work through college. And when I was done with college, I didn’t have a job waiting for me, and I had to do odd jobs that had nothing to do with my degree.

And all that time, I never stopped serving God. I never stopped tithing. I never stopped serving in some kind of ministry. And I’ll be honest, there were times I wondered what on earth any of it was for. Because if I was going to work myself to death for God, why wasn’t He answering me when I asked Him a specific question? Why wasn’t He responding to me when I needed Him to?

It’s times like those I would turn to this verse. I know I don’t do a good enough job asking God to search my heart. Honestly, I’m afraid. I know some of the things that lurk in there, and I’m afraid to let Him see them. Which is silly if you think about it. He’s already seen them. He already knows what’s in there. The point of us asking Him to look is to come to terms with His absolute holiness, realizing our own smallness and our own insignificance in the face of His perfection. When we are open with the darkness of our lives before God, it makes us understand just how unworthy of His love we are. And it’s even more amazing that He would give His only Son for us.

So that’s what I need this morning. Instead of hiding my heart away, instead of trying to conceal my doubts and my fear and my insecurities and all the dark things in my heart that I don’t want anyone to see, I need to ask God to look at them. I need to ask Him to search my heart and reveal those parts of my life that displease Him, those parts that have no place in my life. Because when He brings those things to light, He also shows us the way to leave them behind.

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to know the way to leave my insecurity on the curb. I’d love to know the way to kick my anxiety out the door. But I have to admit it’s there to begin with, and then I have to be willing to let God take it away.

Open your heart to God today. Let Him see what’s inside. He loves you, and He won’t change His mind. On the contrary, He’ll change yours.