BY ELLEN MARTIN
Sometimes it is easy for us to think that we are past God’s grace. Sometimes we think that we have sinned too many times. Can God really forgive me even though I have sinned so much? How can God forgive me when I have wronged Him so badly?
1 John 1:5-7 says this:
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Jesus cleanses us of all sin. Not just some, but all. All of us have pasts. We all have experiences that we rather not reflect upon. There is hope for us in that Jesus can cleanse us from sin. All sin.
BY KEVIN WELBORN
I have now officially been without my full voice for two weeks. At this point I can communicate clearly, but depending on the time I either sound like Whoopi Goldberg or a pubescent Peter Brady. It is irritating, infuriating, and irksome. With the heat of the Saharan sun do I scorn my current deficient vocal aptitude!!!
Being able to speak as a pastor is fairly, you know, important.
As a general rule, I do not think that I talk that much. When a subject in which I am interested is broached, I will surely jump into that conversation. Or, there are times when it is nice just to say your piece to a willing listener and let go of some thoughts be they consequential or not.
Whether you are reserved or a chatterbox, let me encourage you to remember there is a large difference in having something to say, and in having to say something.
I can think of two specific examples of men that I know or have known that rarely spoke a word.
Greg Stokley | @gregstokley
There’s a certain buzzword that we hear a lot in the church world.
Now, this word brings several things to mind. Most of the time, Christians associate favor with blessing. That’s not necessarily wrong. Some people go so far as to say that if you are well-off, have nice things, and a pretty good life with not a lot of drama then surely God’s favor must be upon you.
But what if we’re viewing the idea of God’s favor in an incomplete way? Do the coming of trial and troubles single the end or lack of God’s favor on our lives? No, of course not. And there’s one man I will use to prove it.
Most Christians are familiar with a guy named Joseph. This guy is a very essential part of Scripture, so much so that a very large portion of Genesis is about him. Most people know of his trials and successes. Yet some would assume that God's favor came and went with Joseph.
He was sold into slavery by his brothers. From there, he became the head of a wealthy man’s house. After this man’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, she accused Joseph of trying to do the same to her. He was put in prison, where eventually he would interpret some key dreams that would lead him all the way to second-in-command of Egypt. Sounds like quite a ride, huh?
Matt Coker | @BackRowOnline
I wasn’t even there when it happened, but it’s still one of the worst things that I can remember.
The night I was arrested, my wife of 16 months was in the car with her parents when they had to pull over. In a parking lot, in the darkness, my wife was so worried, so heartbroken, and in so much pain that she violently threw up.
Over the next couple years, while waiting on a court date and then spending 6 months in prison, my wife would be the strongest person in my life. She had to be, because I was a wreck.
I’ll never know how arms as small as hers were strong enough to keep a man my size from falling to pieces.
For the first several years of our marriage, I was a mess. Everything was focused around me and my problems, and my wife bottled her issues up, to be strong for me.
But the damage being done inside of her and to our marriage because of me was growing. Time and time again I failed, slipped, relapsed, lied or got caught. Time and time again, I told her that this was “the last time.” I told her that I would be honest with her. And when things went wrong again, I told her everything was fine.
I told her she was the most important person in my life, but I was lying. If that were true, I would have put her needs above my own, but instead, I selfishly focused on myself without a second thought.
My actions forced my wife to sleep alone for 6 months. No one to hold her, to cuddle with her, to talk to her as she drifted to sleep. No, my interactions with my wife were cut down to ten minutes a day on a smelly telephone and a handful of letters.
My wife bottled up her emotions for so long that, for a while, she had a hard time feeling anything. She had to learn how to feel again, learn how to soften again, learn how to stop bottling things up.
Even to this day, our marriage feels the ripples of the stone I dropped in the water when I was 11-years-old. And while there hasn’t been a time when either of us wanted to separate, there have been times when neither of us were happy in our marriage.
We’ve been married nearly 11 years, and every one of them has been hard. There have been times when I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. And while my wife would chastise me for trying to take all the blame, I’m sure that if I had gotten my life straight before marriage, or, at the very least, had the courage to be honest with her, we would be a lot better off now.
Matt Coker | @BackRowOnline
Growing up, I never expected to be the guy that had federal agents tearing through my apartment.
I never expected to weep into my wife's shoulder as I confessed my sinful behavior.
I never expected to wake up in a concrete cell day-in and day-out.
I never expected to sit through a 12-step recovery meeting.
And most of all, I never expected, that if something like this were to happen in my life, that a few years later, I'd be extremely grateful for all of it.
Joseph Brazil | @BlackDog575
Have you ever been cheated, lied to, or spoken of falsely? Chances are you’ve been wronged. Many times over. What was your reaction? Did you choose to confront the wrongdoer in righteous anger or did you sit and stew over the offense and hold a grudge?
There are countless ways we as humans can think up in order to find justification. But where does that leave us in the end, once we’ve taken matters in our own hands.
We can look at literature to find a clear example of what grace and forgiveness means. One of my favorite works was written in 1862 by the French novelist Victor Hugo called Les Miserables. It tells the story of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict who emerges from his past and seeks redemption through material wealth and the love of his adopted daughter.
One event in the book stands out when Valjean is released from prison and is forced to wander on foot, living and sleeping in the streets. He is taken in by the town’s priest and given a place to rest and food to eat. In return, Valjean steals the silver candlesticks from the church and flees into the night. He is later caught by the police and returned along with the stolen goods to the priest.
But what happens next is hardly what you might expect.
Megan Oaks | @MeganCOaks
“God never gives you more than you can handle”… Or does He?
I’m sure we’ve all heard this all too common quote more times than we can probably count. We’ve probably even offered it in hopes of comforting a loved one during a difficult time. But have we ever stopped and really considered these 9 words?
He never gives us more than WE can handle? I don’t know about you, but I fail daily. Sometimes, many times… ok, a lot of times I fail miserably. I’m talking, just throw in the towel, put a fork in it, call it quits cause I’m done FAIL! I am but human, after all. Imperfect and weak, but He, He is God. The God who just spoke and the oceans separated. I’d far rather him handle all my trials, then them be left in my care.
So then, why does God give us these trials? Why are we faced with such hard times? That is a question I’ve pondered many times. A question that non-believers tend to throw around to question our belief in Him. How could a God who loves us and wants good for us allow “bad” things to happen to us? I believe it is to allow us the opportunity to rely fully on him. To remind us how little control we truly have on this life we lead. That may not seem at all encouraging to you, but I hope maybe with some refocus you can understand better my point of view.