Except They Accept

Since Friday’s historic ruling, my social media feeds have been splashed with rainbows and rants. Everyone has an opinion on the issues, and no one is shy to express it.

But buried beneath the paint swatches and debates is a question we Christians began asking but have yet to answer. When the confetti has settled and we are left to live with the mess we are not permitted to clean, how are we supposed to interact with our society? Do we accept or reject those who oppose ourselves and the teachings of the Bible?

On one end of the spectrum are those who want to bar anyone who disagrees with them from entering their doors. They mistake hatred for holiness and cannot discern sin from sincerity.

On the other end are those who, in the name of love, welcome every religion, lifestyle, and opinion into their church family with open arms, refusing to condemn anything as wrong or sinful or to ask anyone to change. They market to the masses and wrap truth beneath layers of political correctness and popular culture, because after all, we don’t want to offend anyone.

In the middle stand the majority of us, being tugged in every direction by the other two. Those who believe sin is sin, but who also believe in the forgiving grace of God. We want to share the truth with others. But we are caught in the middle of a culture war and simply do not know what to do.

So how should we Christians approach those who oppose ourselves? Should we accept or reject those who disagree with God’s Word?

The answer is simple, yet shocking.

We do neither.

It is not the Christian’s job to accept or reject anyone. It is the Christian’s responsibility to present the Gospel to everyone and allow each person to decide to accept or reject Christ.

The decision is not ours. It is theirs.

Contemporary Christianity has it backwards. We have been a Christian society that has decided that it is our responsibility to accept or reject individuals into our churches, our social circles, and even into the family of God. But that is not what God ever intended.

God does accept and reject individuals–but on one condition–their acceptance of Christ. God accepts all who believe in His Son Jesus as the Savior, and He rejects all who reject Jesus. After all, Jesus is the one and only way to the Father–no man comes to the Father but by Him.

Christians are in conflict today because instead of preaching the Gospel and allowing everyone who hears to make their own decision, we have tried to coax unbelieving hearts into joining our cause. We have been so desperate to keep anyone from rejecting Christ that we have taken away their choice, their free will to take or not take salvation, and have instead accepted them–without God’s one condition of accepting Christ.

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Except they accept, they cannot be accepted into the family of God.

The truth is it is Christ who is accepted or rejected. He came into the world, which was made by Him, but the world did not know or accept Him. He came unto His own, but His own did not receive Him. But those who did receive Him were made sons of God (John 1:10-12). He came to be accepted or rejected by men.

Jesus is the only factor. He is the One who has been discriminated against. He is the One whose rights were stripped away. He is the One who was denied by many. He is the One who was tried wrongfully, beaten, mangled, spit on, mocked, and hung like a criminal on a tree for everyone to see. He is the One who poured His blood for the very people who killed Him. And He is the only One who needs to be accepted, for He provides forgiveness and life to everyone who believes on Him.

No, Christian, it is not our job to accept or reject the sinner. It is our job to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every Creature–so that every person on this earth has the opportunity to hear about our Savior and accept Him.

It is not our job to hide our Christian paraphernalia to make unbelievers feel comfortable in our church home. It is our job to offend them with God’s free offer of grace.

It is not our job to turn away everyone who thinks, dresses, or lives differently than us. It is our job to tell them how they can be transformed by faith in Jesus Christ.

And it is not our job to accept or reject the homosexual. It is our job to tell them that all have sinned and all deserve eternal death. But God loved all of us so much that He sent His Son to die for all. And all we have to do is accept Him and His salvation.

The Great Commission is not to accept everyone. It is not to reject anyone. It is to go into the world and preach the Gospel to everyone. The fabric of our society has been stained a multicolored blotch, but Jesus commands us to seek the unbelieving, find the sinful heart, feel compassion for the lost, and do everything within our power to reach down and pull them out of the pit they are dangling over. Extend the love, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to all–and let them choose their own fate.

Except they accept, they will not be accepted. Accept that.

Like I Need My Coffee


I am addicted to coffee.

I cannot wake up without it. I cannot speak without it. I cannot be nice without it. Deprive me of my caffeine and my sweetness turns bitter. I develop a headache, a bad mood, and a short fuse.

I only drink a couple of cups a day–but I live for those few cups. The earthy aroma alone sets my tastebuds tingling. On occasional evenings, I find myself craving the cup I will enjoy the following morning.

Like I said, I’m addicted.

My love for coffee is not a bad thing. As much as I love it, I drink it in moderation and do not consume enough to make me jittery. I am not a morning person, so my morning cup sipped in quiet solitude helps me wake up and prepare for the chaos of my day.

But it disappoints me to think that I rely more heavily on my coffee each day than I do on my Lord.

I do not have to make time for my coffee. I do not have to remember my coffee. I do not put anything else in the early morning before my coffee. It is the first thing I seek every day, without fail, sick or well, rain or shine, late or on time. I do not miss my cup of coffee.

I wish I was that addicted to my time with God.

My prayer life and Bible study ought to be that second nature. I should be so reliant on the power of God that I cannot think or move or breathe without spending a moment with Him. He ought to be my first thought, my first craving, my first sip at the beginning of each day. But the sad truth is I depend on my coffee to set my mood rather than on the One who can give me the power to overcome any mood.

My day suffers more from my lack of God than it would from my lack of coffee. I experience worse withdrawals when I miss my time with God than when I miss my caffeine. My irritability, anger, bitterness, envy, weakness, frustration, unkind behavior, gossipping are all symptoms of my withdrawal from God. But instead of turning to Him the moment I begin to feel that spiritual headache, I instead turn to physical things to relieve or mask my symptoms.

I need God. I need communion with Him in prayer. I need guidance from Him in His word. I need strength from Him through His Holy Spirit. I need Him more than I need my coffee. And so do you.

I want to challenge you and me to focus this week on making God more important than our coffee (or whatever it is you rely on for strength, fulfillment, or pleasure each day). I am not asking you to stop drinking your coffee. I am asking you to pray a word of thanks before you take a sip. Dwell on the Scriptures as you are waking up. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s power to give you strength as you wait for your caffeine to kick in. Make time with the Lord the daily habit you cannot live without, every day, without fail, sick or well, rain or shine, late or on time.

I want to crave the Lord when I wake up and look forward to my morning time with Him when I go to bed. And I want to be able to say that I do not have to make time for God. I do not have to remember my God. I do not put anything else in the morning before my God. I simply cannot function without Him.

I need Him like I need my coffee.

Getting Lost


Recently I drove to my friend’s house in the country. The drive winds through fields of cows and dips along lines of pine trees. It’s beautiful, but it’s unfamiliar to a suburban girl like me. So I plugged my friend’s address into my GPS app and followed Siri’s directions. I had been there once before, so I thought between my memory and my GPS, I would have no trouble.

Oh, I was wrong.

After twisting and turning down bumpy roads I did not recognize and taking longer to reach her house than I remembered, I figured I had taken a wrong turn. But I trusted Siri to redirect me and kept following his directions. Finally, I turned down a gravel road and heard Siri announce that I had arrived at my destination. I was in the middle of a field.

I was lost.

I looked at the sun setting over the isolated fields and tried not to panic. I had no idea where I was or where my friend’s house was. I was alone and had lost my internet connection. I walked about until I could find a signal and called my friend.

She did not recognize the name of the road I was on, so I retraced my drive as far as I could (which was not far) until I came to a crossroad where, to my relief, a tall, white steeple caught my eye. I pulled into the empty, but lit church parking lot and waited for my friend to find the intersection on her map. She spotted it then drove to find me. I was still lost, but my friend knew exactly where I was. Forty-five minutes later, I was sitting at her house, laughing my fear away with friends.

My experience led me to thinking about the many times I have felt lost in my Christian life. Times when I followed someone’s wrong directions, when I felt alone and isolated, when I had no idea where my next destination was or how I was supposed to get there.

We get lost often in life. Our immediate response is panic, but it does not have to be. The way back is simple. All I had to do was turn around and call my friend. All we have to do when we are lost is turn around and call on God.

One of my favorite chapters of the Bible is Psalm 139. In verses 9 and 10, the psalmist writes:

“If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

We are never lost to God. He is always with us, leading us, holding us–whether we are at home or in the slums, in heaven or in hell, in the city or in the middle of the sea. He knows every road, even the gravel side roads, and has an aerial view of our lives.

My friend knew exactly where I was—but I did not. I had to find a safe place to park and wait for her to lead me. I looked up from the crossroads and saw that tall, white steeple to park beneath. Sometimes we have to wait for God to lead us back. He has provided us with a safe place to wait for Him—His church. We have a refuge in the body of Christ. When we are lost, hurt, or stuck between two closed doors, we can find rest beneath a steeple for a season.

When God does lead,  we have to follow in faith. As I followed my friend to her house, I still did not know where I was, which unnerved me. But I had no reason to fear because I was following someone who did know. We may have no idea where our destination is or where we will turn next—but God knows. We simply have to trust Him.

We may lose our perspective, but God never loses His.

This is the Will of God

This is the Will of God

We Christians like to talk about God’s will. We know God has a will for our lives and most of us want to find and fulfill it. But it is a mystery to us–an invisible path we seek to follow but fear we will miss. God does not audibly tell us all of His plans for our lives, but requires us to walk by faith, to heed the Holy Spirit’s leading, to trust Him rather than trusting in ourselves.

There is a part of God’s will we can know without doubt. It isn’t a mystery we hope to uncover, but a commandment to obey. It is His will for each one of us to do every day of our lives–to give thanks in everything.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
1 Thessalonions 5:18

God wants us to be thankful in everything. When the sun shines, when ice storms knock out our electricity, when we can sit down to sumptuous meals, and when we can’t afford our weekly groceries, we should give thanks. No matter what our circumstances or how desperate our situation may be, God wants us to be grateful.

This is a difficult lesson for us to learn. No matter how hard I try, I know that a complaint slips my mouth every day. Things go wrong. People disappoint. I make mistakes. Work gets weary. I get tired. And I forget to be thankful.

But God wants me to give thanks in everything—absolutely everything.

The children of Israel struggled with this same lesson. God delivered them from Egypt, destroyed their enemies, fed them with manna, performed miracles, and led them through the desert with a cloud and pillar of fire. Yet over and over, they had to be chastised—even killed—because of their murmuring and complaining. Their awe of God’s goodness had worn off and they lost their thankfulness.

We are no better. I have seen God perform miracles on my behalf. He has met my needs, led me through impossible circumstances, protected me from mistakes and dangers, and blessed me beyond my imagination. But when the dust settles and I slip into the groove of everyday life, my awe wears off and I find myself not only ungrateful, but complaining about my circumstances. While I am seeking God’s overarching will for my life, I am missing His daily will.

We ought to give thanks—every day for every thing.

Giving thanks is more than feeling thankful. Giving thanks is expressing our thankfulness to God. We need to praise God. We need to tell others about Him.

If we don’t give thanks, we will struggle like the children of Israel struggled. We will be given bitter water to drink, extra years of wandering through the desert, and plagues. We may even miss out on God’s promises and blessings entirely. Don’t let your awe of God wear thin. If you want to do God’s will, then remember to thank Him in everything.

Giving Love

"Giving Love"

Valentine’s Day was exciting in elementary school—we made paper hearts, ate candy, and giggled over the little Valentine cards we exchanged. There were awkward moments too. In my classes, my teachers required us to give a note to every classmate, not just our friends. But there were some boys the girls did not want to give “love” notes to (and vice versa). So we would spend the night before sifting through all of the pre-packaged notes in search of the most generic cards we could find. We did not like those boys, and we did not want anyone to think we did.

As I grew up, I realized how childish that behavior was—and how much it could hurt someone’s feelings. But as an adult I have also realized that most of us still act the same.

As Christians we are commanded to love—not just other Christians, but everyone, as Christ loves us. This seems so simple, so easy. But the truth is, most of us are really like children exchanging Valentine’s cards—we don’t want to give our love to everyone, but to the people we like and to the people we think deserve our love.

But I share the gospel with everyone, you may say. That is not enough. Giving the gospel is telling others about God’s love, not necessarily giving others our love. Love does more than witness. It spends time, pays attention, and displays affection. It gives up possessions, says kind words, lets others go first. It sacrifices our wants, forgives our enemies, embraces our outcasts.

Most of us don’t want to give that kind of love to everyone. We want to reserve it for that handful of friends we like. But God, like our elementary teachers, has commanded us to give that love to everyone, no matter how attractive, successful, popular, wealthy, or “holy.”

Don’t reserve your love today. Give it freely to everyone in your acquaintance and in your path. Perhaps there is someone you need to forgive. Perhaps there is someone near you who has a need you can meet. Whatever it is, give it unreservedly and without conditions. God didn’t reserve His love for His favorites. He gave the same unreserved love to all men, equally—His Son. He gave all of His love to you. He wants you to do the same.

When Work Conflicts with Your Faith

"When Work Conflicts with Your Faith"

Do you ever feel like quitting your job because your work conflicts with your faith?

Maybe a coworker is hostile toward your beliefs, your hours keep you from services you would like to attend, or your responsibilities entail bending your convictions. Whatever the situation, you face spiritual resistance and are growing weary—and are wondering whether to remain where you are or look for a job that is friendly to your faith.

Daniel found himself in the same situation several thousand years ago. He was a faithful Jew who purposed to obey all of God’s commandments. But he lived in a pagan nation, where he studied and worked in the king’s palace. His faith was challenged repeatedly and he often had to choose between his God and his job—even his life. His experiences exemplify several principles that can help us know how to work in an environment that challenges our faith.

Resist the sin, not the situation.

Daniel’s first recorded conflict happened when Daniel and his friends were new to the palace. They were commanded to eat the king’s meat, which violated the diet of the Judaic law. Daniel went to Melzar (a.k.a. his supervisor) and requested to be excused from this diet. Melzar hesitated, fearing his own punishment for not enforcing the rules, so Daniel offered an alternative, a 10-day test of water and vegetables—and God worked out the rest.

Daniel did not resist his circumstances or try to escape testing. He did not run from the palace when he had to choose between obeying God and obeying His boss. He simply resisted breaking God’s law and asked to be excused from the new rule.

Many Christians resist testing. We resist situations that may challenge our faith and our commitment. We rarely have the chance to resist sin like Daniel did, because we hide ourselves away in temptation-free zones.

That is not what God has called us to do.

The Christian life is not supposed to be lived in a safe bubble, away from challenges or unbelievers. We are commanded to go into the world, to be a light among men. We should expect persecution, temptation, and trials, not avoid them. Christianity is not comfortable. If it is, then maybe you need to evaluate your walk with God.

God allows testing. He placed Daniel in the king’s palace and was not surprised when Daniel was tested. He allowed those challenges so that Daniel could be refined and so that God could demonstrate His power to that nation.

God may be allowing you to be tempted so that He may demonstrate His power through you. If you run away, those unbelieving coworkers may never be able to witness the power of God. You may be the only Christian they will ever encounter. Allow God to use your situation and allow Him to work on you.

Resign your fate, not your position.

When Daniel was tempted—when he was supposed to eat the king’s meat and sin—he did not resign his position in the court. He did not ask to be dismissed from his place, his title, his job. He resigned his fate to God.

In today’s culture, most of us would resign our position. Christians are the best boy-cotters. When a company takes a stand that opposes our beliefs, we boycott that company. We refuse to go near anything that opposes ourselves. So when our employers or other authority demand us to do something that defies our faith, we don’t simply refuse, we leave. We quit. We think we should not work for anyone who asks us to compromise our faith.

But Daniel did not quit. Daniel was a prince, who was continually promoted to the highest positions of leadership in the nation. When laws were passed that opposed the Mosaic law, he kept working and kept obeying God. He didn’t quit because he knew that God had placed him in that position–God gave him favor and promoted him. If he had quit, he would have been forsaking God’s will, God’s favor, God’s best.

We Christians love to talk about taking a stand. But our definition of taking a stand often contradicts God’s definition. Quitting is not standing. It’s quitting. Obeying God at the risk of losing one’s life is taking a stand. So is obeying at the risk of losing one’s job. Don’t quit your job just because you are facing spiritual opposition. Quit your job if God is leading you to another position, but do not simply run away.

If the prince of the eunuchs had not allowed Daniel to try a different diet, Daniel still would have refused and would have faced the consequences. But he asked for an exception first. If you find yourself in a position where you have to disobey God or be fired, don’t quit immediately. Pray, then ask for an exception. God may grant you favor and work a miracle. Or He may allow you to lose your job so He can lead you to something better. But let God do the work.

Rely on prayer, not petitions.

If we were living in Daniel’s day, we would not have simply refused to eat the king’s meat—we would have drawn up a petition, publicized the violation of our rights, and fought to have the rules changed to be fair for everyone. But Daniel prayed, then went quietly, humbly, and personally to his boss.

There are times to fight and there are times to hold our peace.

Daniel did not try to change his society. He was a captive in a foreign land. He was not in a position to change the society on his own. If he had made a fuss, if he had held conferences, written letters, or used his influence to try to change the laws, he would have lost his head without changing a single thing. It was not his place to change society. It was his place to change himself and let God change his society.

We live in a country with Christianity in its roots. We also live in a country where a single voice can often change public opinion and, through a rippling affect, change laws. But there are times when speaking up and fighting for our rights hurts our situation, rather than helping it. There are times when we, like Daniel, should go peacefully and quietly to our authority and humbly ask for help. There are times when we must silently refuse instead of raising our voices in protest. There are times when we must simply pray.

Our first response to every challenge should be prayer. Before confronting a coworker who has been troubling you, pray. Before talking to your supervisor about a conflict, pray. Before making any decision, pray. Prayer is powerful. Prayer equips us with God’s resources, army, and strength.

Daniel always prayed when temptations came. He asked his friends to pray for him (Daniel 2:17-18). Daniel relied on the power of prayer—and was thrown in the lion’s den for refusing to stop praying. Prayer was a major part of his life and was the source of his wisdom and favor. God blessed Daniel because Daniel sought Him first.

When temptations come at work, rely on prayer. God may lead you to start a “revolution” in your office, but He may lead you to hold your peace. Either way, you need the power of God on your side, which can only be accessed through prayer.

Sometimes our work conflicts with our faith. But that does not mean we are not where God wants us to be. Daniel did not purpose to live in righteous circumstances. He purposed to live righteously—in any circumstance. Whatever your circumstances may be, resist the sin, resign your fate to God, and rely on prayer. God will take care of the rest.

Embrace It

"Embrace It"

Years ago, my mom, sister, and I were watching a home design show on one of our favorite channels. On this particular episode, a family hired a professional designer to redo their living room. The couple had tried again and again to decorate the room to their liking, but there was one feature of the room that continually ruined their plans. When the designer came into the room for the first time, he immediately recognized the problem—an awkwardly positioned wall stood in the middle of the room.

The wall was not large enough to divide the room into natural sections. It was not centered to create symmetry. It broke the flow, blocked the view, and ruined every conventional design the couple had tried to set up. It was simply an eyesore.

The designer’s first plan of action was to tear the wall down. Then they could design the room exactly as they liked. But when the designer brought in his contractor to start the demolition, the contractor told him it could not be done—the wall was load-bearing. If they removed the wall, the roof would come crashing down. The designer left the couple, frustrated, to take a few days to work on a new design.

When the designer returned days later with his new design, he greeted them with renewed enthusiasm and presented his plan. It was perfect. It was exciting. It was simple.  “We’re going to embrace the wall.” They could not remove the wall, nor could they hide it. So instead of fighting it, they were going to “embrace it” and make it the feature of the room.

When the renovation was complete, the room was beautiful. And the best, most dramatic feature of the room was that wall, which the designer had painted a dark accent color, decorated with some of the couples most treasured photos and pieces, and designed to be the focal point around which the rest of the room revolved. Because they had embraced the wall, their biggest eyesore was now their greatest asset.

After watching that show, my mom made “embracing the wall” a common phrase in our household. Anytime we were fighting against something we could not fix, she would laugh and say, “We’re going to embrace it.” Whether it was as simple as embracing our curly hair on a humid summer day or embracing a month of illness as a time to rest and grow closer to the Lord, we would find that when we stopped fighting the problem and started working with what we had, the problem would cease to be a problem and would become an asset.

We all have walls in our lives that are awkward eyesores. They block our view, break our flow, and ruin our designs. No matter how hard we try, we can’t hide them, change them, or remove them. How do we deal with them? Embrace them.

Sometimes the way to fix the problems in our lives is not to fight them, but to build around them. We exert so much energy fighting things that are out of our control, when what we ought to do is accept them and make the best of them.

That circumstance that God has placed in your life that you hate but cannot change is there for a reason. You see, that wall was load-bearing. It had to be there. Without it, the entire house would have come crashing down. The architect knew that when he built the house, which is why he put it there. So does God when He builds walls in our lives. He has designed the entire structure of our lives according to His plan and He knows what we need in order for our lives to stand.

It may be that the circumstance you are fighting and trying to tear down is a load-bearing wall. It holds the roof above your head and, without it, your entire life would come tumbling down. It frustrates your plans and looks like a giant eyesore, but God put it there for a reason. It’s time to stop fighting, complaining, and trying to change what God has designed, and time to start embracing what God has given you.

How do I embrace the walls? First, accept them. Accept that they are there and that you can’t move them. Accept that God put them there for a reason and that you don’t have to know why. Accept that God is using them for something good, not evil.

Then, determine to make the best of them. Use them as an opportunity to learn and grow closer to the Lord. Ask God to show you how to use those circumstances to improve yourself, to build something better, to help another person. Give them a purpose.

That couple’s living room was transformed when they decided to embrace their problem. Embrace your walls, and God will transform you.

Overcoming Regret

"Overcoming Regret"

I wish I could go back and change it.

How many times has that thought crossed your mind? If you are like most people, then you probably cannot begin to count how often you have wished you could undo the past. Regret haunts us all, sometimes daily, and keeps us from enjoying our lives as fully as we ought.

I hate regret. But as carefully and wisely as I try to live, I find that life is filled with mistakes and choices I wish I could change, however big or small. A few weeks ago I was driving home from work and found myself thinking about a decision I had recently made that I regretted. As I did, I found myself thinking about what regret is and what role it should play in the Christian’s life. I do not want to live a life of regret, but when I do make mistakes, how do I overcome the regret that follows as I move on with my life? This led me into a study of regret and God’s view of it.

Regret is sorrow—sorrow over something you cannot change. Webster’s dictionary defines it as “sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control or power to repair.” I regret the past because I do not have the power or control to repair it. I cannot go back and undo it. I cannot change or fix it.

Regret is different from remorse. Remorse is sorrow over the mistake itself. Regret is sorrow over the inability to go back and fix that mistake.

Regret often lingers after remorse has passed. As a Christian, when I sin or make a mistake, I know that when I confess it to God, He forgives it. I do not have to live in remorse but can live in forgiveness. Yet I still find myself living with regret. Yes, I sinned and God forgave my sins, but I still sorrow that I cannot go back and undo that sin. I sorrow that I cannot repair or change the past and the consequences that have followed.

But regret does not belong in the Christian life.

Regret is a human emotion, produced by sin. There was no regret in the Garden of Eden. Can you imagine living in paradise, never second-guessing your choices, never wishing you could do it all over again, never sighing over the past? That is how Adam and Eve lived. They had nothing to regret, until they disobeyed God. I cannot begin to imagine the regret Adam and Eve struggled with after the fall—if only I had not listened to the serpent, if only I had obeyed God’s commandment, if only I had said no. They brought sin and death not only upon themselves, but upon all of humanity and creation. And there was nothing they could do to repair it.

But God could. When Adam and Eve sinned, God did not wallow in regret. He did not sorrow over His lack of control to repair what had happened. No, He offered them His solution, His plan of redemption.

There is no regret with God.

God does not regret—He does not look on any circumstance with sorrow aroused by His lack of power to repair it. God has control over all things, even your mistakes. There is nothing He cannot change. There is nothing He cannot repair. We do not have the power or control to change our mistakes, so we sorrow over them. But we fail to realize that God has all power and control and can repair every mistake we have made—if we will let Him.

The problem is we have the wrong idea of what it means to repair, to change, our mistakes. We look back on our mistakes with sorrow that we cannot undo them. But God does not. He looks forward and sees how He can use them to change our futures.

God can repair every mistake you have made. But He does not do it by turning back the clock and changing your past. He does not allow you to go back and make a different choice. No, He repairs your past by repairing your future.

Adam and Eve had every human reason to live with the deepest regret for the rest of their lives. God offered them a way to set their regrets aside. Adam and Eve could not repair their mistake—but God promised that He would. He did not do it by letting them go back and change the past. He did it by using their past to change their futures. The serpent had deceived Eve—her seed would crush the serpent. Adam brought death into the world—the second Adam would bring eternal life. Sin separated man from God—faith would reunite them. They caused damnation—He promised salvation. He took their mistake and offered to repair it by redeeming it. All they had to do was believe.

Over and over through Scripture, we see God redeem regrets. One of my favorites is the story of David and Bathsheba. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered her husband, and tried to hide his mistake. When he was confronted with his sin, he could not go back and change what he had done. When God took his baby boy away from him, David could not bring him back—nor did he try. David did not have the power or control to repair his past—but God did. God took David’s mistake and used it to change his future and redeem his past. He gave David a son—through Bathsheba—named Solomon and, through his line, Jesus, Who would redeem all sin. Had David not made that mistake, Solomon would never have been born, and Christ would have had to come through another line. But God chose to use David and Bathsheba. He used David’s sin to redeem it.

God does not regret your past. He does not sorrow that you cannot go back and change it. He does not wake up every morning wishing you could live it all over again. No, He looks at your past and sees how He can redeem it, how He can piece it all together for your future. He looks at your mistakes and sees how He can take them and shape them into a beautiful testimony of His grace. He looks at what you cannot change and sees how He can use it to change you. You may not have the power to repair your mistakes, but He does. You just have to let Him.

There’s the key—we have to let Him. We have to allow God to repair our mistakes. We have to give God control. Remember, regret is sorrow over our lack of control. Why do we sorrow over our lack of control? Pride. We do not want to give up our power, our control over our lives and circumstances—so we sorrow when we lose that control. Even when we know that we cannot possibly gain that control, we continue to hold on to it through regret. We keep grasping, keep reaching for the power to fix what we have broken. But we will never attain it.

So how do we overcome regret? We overcome our sorrow over our lack of control by giving God the control. It’s time to give it all to God. It’s time to surrender your past, present, and future to the only person who has control over it all. It’s time to stop relying on ourselves and start trusting God to work all things together for good. He has the power to repair your past, if you have the faith to let it go.

You don’t have to live with regret. Whatever you have done in the past, God can repair it. Whatever mistakes you have made, God can fix them. Whatever choices you have made, God can redeem them. Your mind can rest knowing that even though you do not have the power to change your past, God has the power to change your future.

I wish I could go back and change it. May you never let that phrase haunt you again. The next time a past mistake crosses your mind, do not sorrow that you cannot change it. Commit it to God. I do not wish I could go back and change it—I know God will go forward and redeem it.

Wash Your Heart

"Wash Your Heart"

Washing our hands is a ritual in most of our lives. We are taught from early childhood to wash our hands before we eat, after we use the restroom, after we shake hands with people, and countless other times throughout the day. Between our fear of germs and our dislike of the feeling of the daily grime between our fingers, we make many trips to the sink and hand-sanitizer bottle. Why? Because we want to be clean.

After rubbing in some hand sanitizer at work this afternoon, I began to think about how many times a day I wash my hands, and I began to realize that I am more mindful to wash my hands than I am to wash my heart. How different might my life be if I were as diligent to keep my heart and mind as clean as I keep my hands?

Jesus had this discussion with the Pharisees. One day, as the disciples were eating bread, the Pharisees questioned Jesus because the disciples had not washed their hands. The Jews had laws—hand-washing rituals—to keep them clean and holy before God. They even had rules about how to wash their dishes and tables. So the Pharisees were disgusted and dismayed to see these men eating with dirty hands. How could Jesus let them defile themselves in such a way?

Jesus’ response was a stern reprimand. Jesus did not care about dirty hands—He cared about dirty hearts. The Pharisees were following these washing rules and rituals that they had added to God’s law, while neglecting to follow the law itself. As Jesus pointed out, they obsessed over how to wash a pot while making exceptions to one of the Ten Commandments to honor father and mother. Outwardly, these men were clean and holy, but inwardly, they were filthy.

How often we do the same. We have our outer “rituals” as Christians that we think keep us clean and holy. We follow our man-made rules, abstain from what we deem to be unclean, and stare in dismay and disgust at any Christian who does not look as “clean” as we do. We follow our additions to God’s commandments while neglecting the commandments themselves. We obsess over the cleanliness of our hands and make exceptions for the cleanliness of our hearts.

We are missing the truth. As Jesus said, it is not what goes into the body that defiles, but what comes out of the heart.

“That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:20-23)

My hands are clean, but my heart is dirty. My heart defiles me. My heart makes me sinful. My heart produces filth. It does not matter how many good deeds I do or how many “unclean” things I abstain from. It is my heart that defiles me before God.

We feel disgust when we see someone leave a restroom without washing their hands. But when we think about it, their hands are probably cleaner than our hearts. We, who are so concerned about our outward cleanliness, are neglecting the cleanliness of the most important part of our being. It’s time to shift our focus. Our hearts, minds, and attitudes need daily cleansing—more than our hands do.

How do I clean my heart? Through the word. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, then you have already been washed in His blood. But because you still live in your sinful flesh in this world, you need daily cleansing through God’s word. Read it, think on it, apply it—and see God begin to clean your heart and attitude. Examine yourself each day and ask God to clean your heart and transform your mind.

Heart cleansing takes time and commitment. We let bad attitudes, resentment, anger, jealousy, selfishness, and pride build up the longer we neglect them—and it takes time to wash those layers away. Sometimes the process is painful and we feel like a child at bath time, who throws a tantrum and resists with all his might. But if you want to be clean, you have to let God clean you. As you keep going to God for cleansing, you will feel Him washing the filth away and you will feel fresh and renewed.

It’s time to form new daily habits—to examine our hearts as often as we examine our hands. It’s also time to realize that no matter how clean you are on the outside—no matter how many rules and rituals you follow—as long as your heart is dirty, your whole body is dirty. Keep washing your hands, but don’t neglect to wash your heart.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit with me.” Psalm 51:10

He Touched the Leper

"He Touched the Leper"

“And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” Mark 1:40-41

There are two specific occasions where Jesus healed lepers in the Gospels. In Mark 1:40-41, we see a leper come to Jesus, beseeching him and kneeling at His feet. Jesus, moved with compassion, reaches down, touches him, and heals him. In Luke 17:12-14, as Jesus enters a village, ten lepers call to Him from far off, asking for healing. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priest and, as they walk, they discover they are cleansed. Both stories are miraculous. In both stories, the lepers have faith in Jesus’ healing. In both stories, the lepers are completely cleansed of their leprosy. But the stories differ on one point, one act—touch. Jesus touched the leper in Mark 1, but not the ten lepers in Luke 17. As I compare these stories, I cannot help but wonder, why did Jesus touch him? Why did Jesus, who could heal with the word of His mouth, touch the leper at His feet?

In the Old Testament, when a priest examined a leper to determine whether he was clean or unclean, he would not touch that leper. He could not touch the unclean. Even when the priest determined the leper was indeed clean, the priest would pronounce him clean. He would not touch him.

So why did Jesus touch him? He did not have to—all He had to do was speak and pronounce Him clean. In fact, it was not Jesus’ touch that healed the leper, but His word. Verse 42 says, “And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.” The leprosy was cleansed when He spoke. He didn’t have to touch him.

So why did He touch him? Why, when He was moved with compassion, did He put forth His hand and touch him?

I believe He touched him because the leper needed to be touched. No one else would touch him. Leprosy was a terribly contagious disease transmitted by touch. Even the objects lepers handled were considered unclean and had to be cleansed—or destroyed. No one could touch him. We do not know how many years this man had been afflicted by his leprosy—and had to abstain from all physical contact with others. It may have been decades since this man had felt the warmth and love of another person’s hand. While he suffered in his pain, he could not find relief in the embrace of family. He could not shake the hand of a friend. Everyone fled from his presence. He was unclean. He was untouchable.

It may be that the lack of touch afflicted him more than the pain of his leprosy. How many times a day do you touch another person? How often do you get to embrace someone you love? Imagine never being able to touch any of your friends and loved ones again. Humanity aches for affection—this man was forbidden it.

Then came Jesus. Suddenly there was hope for healing, hope for affection, hope for relationships, hope for touch. And the leper could not contain himself anymore. He didn’t bother to avoid the crowds or shout, “unclean” as he ran through the streets. He ran to Jesus, fell at his feet, and beseeched him, “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be thou clean.”

He touched the leper. He touched the untouchable. He reached down and fulfilled his need.

He will touch you. There is no person Jesus will not touch. There is no disease He will avoid, no sin He will hold away from Himself. He touches the untouchable.

Now back to the other ten. Why didn’t Jesus touch the ten lepers? It seems rather obvious when we read the story—because they called to Him from afar off. They didn’t come to Jesus. They didn’t fall at His feet. They believed in Jesus for healing, but they did not come to Him for touch. Why? It could be that they thought they would defile Him—not realizing that nothing could defile Him. It could be that they thought themselves unworthy, because they were unclean. It could be that they wanted a cure, not a relationship. Whatever the reason, they did not come. He would have touched them, but they stood afar off.

How many of us stand afar from Jesus? How many of us call to Him for healing rather than kneel at His feet? How many need the touch of His hand but miss it, because they do not draw near? Jesus is not a God who stands afar off. He is a God who is moved with compassion and reaches out and touches. But we must come.

Jesus does more than heal our afflictions. He touches us with His compassion, fulfilling our need for love, for affection, for the touch of our God. He reaches. He touches. He embraces.

That ache, that emptiness in your heart—Jesus can fill it. That longing for affection and love—He can meet it. That need for compassion, as well as healing—He offers it. All you have to do is come.

Perhaps you have been living as an outcast. Like that leper, you are “unclean” to your friends, your family, your church. You have been living separated from the touch of human love, unable to draw near to others who fear you will defile them. You cannot defile Christ. If He could touch the leper, He can touch anything. We don’t have to call from afar. Come to Him, beseech Him, kneel at His feet. And feel His compassion reach down and touch you as He speaks and makes you whole.

He touched the leper. He will touch you.