Archive | October, 2013

How Many Chances?

25 Oct

Do you ever get tired of yourself? A friend recently said, “I get so tired of me.” This person had misplaced something—yet again. Sometimes our bodies disappoint us by not performing as they once did. Maybe we’re sick of an endless cycle of busyness that prevents us from intimacy with God. We may feel defeated by a disagreeable habit. Perhaps we exercised or ate healthy for a time but gradually fell back into our old identity as a snacking-couch-potato. We intend to spend more quality time with family and friends, but good intentions dissolve into procrastination.

At such times, we’re tempted to give up and convince ourselves it doesn’t matter. Jumping off the merry-go-round seems to take more effort or self-discipline than we possess. That’s where I was not long ago.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21–23 NRSV). Every day is a new day with God—for us and for others.

Peter came to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive a believer who wrongs me? Seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21–22 GW). That’s the standard for second chances for others as well as for us.

Rabbis traditionally taught an offended person should forgive three times. Peter, no doubt thought he was generous in proposing seven chances. Not even close. Jesus declares 490+ do-overs. We’re to offer the same limitless forgiveness God offers us. The situation isn’t hopeless even when we offend God by not loving and serving His people, not taking care of His temple (our bodies), or wasting the time He gives. It’s never too late too late for a fresh start.

Receiving another chance doesn’t mean we won’t experiences consequences of past behavior. We lose things, forfeit precious time with God, put on weight, and damage relationships. We may need to ask for help or seek an accountability partner, but a new start is possible.

The solution remains the same—renew our minds and be transformed. Believe the truth. Without realizing it, when we feel hopeless, we believe a lie about who God is and how much He loves us (John 3:16). We also believe a lie about ourselves. We forget Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (NKJV). I can’t claim this verse and begin performing brain surgery. However, I can accomplish all God uniquely planned for me (Ephesians 2:10).

I find both peace and excitement living in the center of God’s will. I experience anxiety, stress, and frustration doing life on my own. I need the Spirit of Christ to forgive and empower me. I’m so grateful for second chances.

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (Psalm 86:5 NLT).

Sharing Our Lives

24 Oct

I’ve recognized a common denominator between two retreats I’ve recently attended—WTAMU Wesley women Encounter and Women of Worship. I spoke at the first and attended the second. Both were highly successful because the women involved were able to share their lives with honesty and love. It reminds me of the letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonians.

“So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 NKJV).

When we genuinely care about people, we’re willing to risk ourselves for their sake. The level of care and vulnerability in leadership made it possible for attendees to open themselves up for healing and spiritual transformation.

As Christians, we often put on masks. We think if people see our weaknesses, they will not only reject us, but will also reject the God whom we love. The opposite is actually true. When we pretend to have all the answers and to live perfect lives, God calls us liars (1 John 1:10) and others label us hypocrites.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:15–16 NLT).

I heard women of all ages and stations in life tell how God redeemed them from sin, suicide, self-righteousness, abuse, and much more. In turn, others were willing to admit their needs and seek help. More importantly, they recognized God as merciful, eager to love and redeem. God lifts us from the ruble of pain and rejection until we recognize ourselves as new creations in Christ—each one His masterpiece. (See Miraculous New Creations.) Some of the women had to move beyond the pain they caused their families and begin to live joyfully forgiven. (See Forgiving Myself.) God prepares us to encourage others by first helping us in our time of trouble.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NLT).

The entire Bible narrates a story of love and redemption. It doesn’t cover-up sin or portray God’s people as perfect—rather as forgiven and transformed. We can identify with the characters of the Bible because they’re real. We too need to be authentic and share the reality of God’s redemptive work in our lives. The resulting joy and power is overwhelming. I’m still praising God for the WT Wesley women and Women of Worship. Thank you for sharing your love, your lives, and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Retreat

11 Oct

I’m off to a weekend retreat with Women of Worship. I spoke to this great group of gals about three years ago and my daughter Regina and I have been attending since then. I’m looking forward to spending time with Regina, renewing friendships, and hearing from the Lord. I will be back to my regular blog posts next week.

I hope you are in a position to spend quality time with God and with loved ones.

Blessings,

Nancy

Miraculous New Creations

5 Oct

Last post I shared a link to the story about how God “miraculously healed” my camera. This past Saturday I witnessed how God continues to heal minds and spirits. I had the privilege of speaking to group of over 90 amazing young women at the West Texas A&M University Wesley Foundation retreat. The retreat theme was You Are God’s Masterpiece.

So many young women and men feel inadequate—never quite able to measure up to the expectations of their parents, teachers, coaches, or peers. Many experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Anxiety, depression, cutting, and eating disorders often result from such experiences.

God’s word has good news. We don’t have to accept the world’s performance based expectations and evaluations.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2 NKJV).

We renew our minds by changing the Source of our value. Consider the first Bible verse. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” After each day’s creation, “God saw that it was good.” The earth’s grandeur set a tremendous standard of beauty and functionality. But God topped that when He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over [the earth and its creatures]” (Genesis 1:26 NASB95). After God created man and woman, He “saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31a NASB95). Six goods and one “very good!” God regards people as His best work, His masterpiece.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

Sometimes trauma keeps us from seeing ourselves as God’s masterpiece, but there are many other ways we receive the message we’re inadequate. It can be a series of circumstances across the years. I remember the skinny 4th grade girl who asked my chubby self, “Why do you always wear the same dress?” I didn’t tell her about riding the bus downtown with a friend and choosing the fabric and pattern. I felt so “mature” as I shopped and so beautiful when Mom finished it. With one sentence and a roll of her eyes, I allowed her to make me feel poor and unattractive.

Everyone wants to feel accepted and valued which sometimes leads to destructive choices and the inability to stand up for our beliefs and our personal value. No matter what our past, no matter the false narratives we’ve believed about ourselves, God provides a fresh start. We can be pure and beautiful, strong and powerful, and greatly loved when we trust Jesus Christ to change us.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).

Would you encourage others by sharing how you’ve made a new start? We’d love to hear from you.