6 Important Actions to Take When You Blow It

Let’s face it, we all blow it at times. We hardheadedly do our own thing instead of following instructions, we speak unkind words in anger, we make a foolish, costly decision, we break a trust, etc. As the saying goes, “to err is human.” Breaking and destroying things is easy; however, fixing and rebuilding them, well, that’s a whole other matter. The following are helpful steps to remember—and to put into practice—if you find yourself in a situation where you have blown it.

  1. Own Up to Your Mistakes. This sounds easy, but it is far more difficult than one realizes. Our first instinct is to blame others and make excuses. Too often people blame their parents, schools, environment, the system, the incompetence of others, etc. Blame shifting is easier than swallowing one’s pride and owning up to one’s own folly, poor decisions, and incompetence. Pointing fingers is what children do. Unfortunately, too often this childish tendency is carried into adulthood. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Pro. 28:13).
  2. Confess Any Sin(s) and Where Others Are Affected By Your Poor Decisions. This part requires honest, albeit sometimes painful, reflection. There are so many different ways one can blow it at school, at work, and in the home. There are so many ways one can add to a mess, making a bad situation worse. The inconvenience and added work are bad enough. But the wounds we inflict upon others by our words and actions can go very deep. Whether one wants to admit it, regardless of being unintentional, such folly, selfishness, and inflictions are sin. One must be honest before God and acknowledge the mess that has been made, the burdens placed upon others, and for all the wounds one has caused and inflicted. Such things are not trivial. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
  3. Be Willing to Say, “I’m Sorry”—and Mean It. Two small words, yet for many, saying them is the equivalent of trying to push a freight train. For others, the words are easily enough spoken but any significance evaporates like a vapor. Yet, if spoken appropriately and honestly, apart from being diluted by any excuses or blame shifting, these words can be powerful. These words can begin the process of healing and repairing, as well as opening the doors for needed communication. Mind you, there is nothing magical about these words. Sometimes the damage is so great and the words are so deep that these words will roll off like marbles on a beach ball. Even so, the ones affected and wounded by ones folly and poor choices deserve to hear the words spoken with sincerity. Furthermore, one is in no position to expect or demand forgiveness. This is to be the choice of those who’ve been affected. Regardless if they choose to forgive or not, they still deserve to be told, “I’m sorry,” spoken with sincerity.
  4. Repair Where You Can. We live in a time when self-centeredness is at an all time high. Many can break people’s hearts like glass, rob of possessions, destroy reputations, grind dignity into hamburger, and impale with words, then expect forgiveness to come easily and smoothly. Even in churches the principles of restitution and reconciliation are often times pooh-poohed. However, if one has offended and wounded others, he is to be active in cleaning up the mess and making restitution where he can. Exodus 22:1 reads, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” Some will argue, “That’s Old Testament! We’re under grace.” What? Does Jesus enable us to shrug our responsibilities? No, He tells us,  “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). There are times the messes cannot be cleaned up, the total cost cannot be paid, or another’s forgiveness will be received. However, one is to make any repairs he is able.
  5. Learn from the Experience. This sounds obvious but it is often neglected—to the point of being sickening. This is precisely where blame shifting hinders people from growing and maturing. Whenever a person blows it, they should step back and observe what they did wrong and learn from it. Instead, we have kids partying and goofing off, then telling their parents the teachers are out to fail them. Teens and adults continually committing crimes, then saying the cops are simply out to get them unjustly. Persons verbally tear down and nag, flirt with others, refuse to talk, withhold sex, then blame their spouse for all the problems in a marriage. A friend betrays a friend, then blames him for the broken friendship. As for you, don’t let these describe you. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t flunk out of the School of Hard Knocks. “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Pro. 17:10).
  6. Move On. This final step must not be separated from the former steps; however, sometimes the blow ups are beyond repair. For example, King David and his adulterous affair and having Uriah killed. David sinned greatly and owned up to his guilt. Still, there was no taking back the affair, and there was no bringing Uriah back from the grave. This is the reality for some of one’s foolishness. However, in Christ he can be forgiven and doesn’t have to be defined or kept down by his folly. He can learn from his mistakes and still have a fruitful life—if he yields himself unto Christ. The apostle Paul writes, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phi. 3:13-14).

Friend, if you have blown in, then learn and grow from the experience. Don’t make excuses or blame others. More often than not, people will forgive you, and even gain a measure of respect for you, when you man up and own up to your mistakes. Furthermore, you can move on and still live an amazing life founded upon humility and grace.

A Place for You

Good morning, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope this finds you well.

In my last post, I asked if God’s love is unconditional, and if He loves every individual equally. The reason being, many view God as loving, apart from all His other attributes, such as His holiness, righteousness, and justice. 

Still, someone might read my last post and wonder if God loves him or her, and question if He has a place in His love for them. Friend, if this describes you, I have wonderful news: Yes, there is a place for you! Jesus gives an open invitation to all who are willing to respond and come to Him, regardless what they might have done. None of us earns His affection or grace, for each of us has sinned and fall short of the glory of God (see Rom. 3:23). Many of us, by His grace and conviction, feel the weight of our guilt, shame, and dirtiness. Jesus gives this invitation:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. ~ John 6:37

The apostle Paul writes,

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8

Friend, God does not ignore our sins, but Jesus bore the penalty of our sins, bidding all to come find sanctuary and redemption in and through Him.

Yes, there is a place for you in God’s love, The real question is are you willing to come to Him in genuine faith? Yes, you might be a mess, just as the rest of us, and your temptations, struggles, and shame are real. However, for those who truly come to Christ in faith, believing that He paid the debt that none of us could pay for our sins (the shedding of His own blood), we have this promise:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:15-16

Friend, respond to Jesus’ invitation to you. You have His promise that if you come to Him sincerely, He will not cast you out. You have a place of acceptance, redemption, and security in His love. 

There are many who are burdened by shame and who dare not approach God, lest they be turned away. Friend, no matter your guilt, shame, or deeds, Jesus warmly invites all to come to Him for forgiveness, cleansing, and new life.  Do not let your fear of rejection keep you from Him. His love for you is genuine.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. ~ John 6:37

To Love Like Jesus Does

Jesus was not delusional about human nature. He did not view people as “basically good” but made bad by society. The Scriptures tell us,

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. ~ John 2:24-25

Elsewhere, Jesus states plainly,

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. ~ John 7:7

Nevertheless, Jesus has a profound love for people. Mind you, He does not love the sinfulness (the selfish, self-indulgent, God-defiant part of us). Yet, He loves and values the actual person of individuals. Consider just a few instances. 

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. ~ Matthew 9:36

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ~ John 8:10-11

After a night of betrayal, abandonment, mockery, torture, scourging, and then after being nailed to a cross for several more hours of excruciating pain and asphyxiation, only to lift the following prayer for his tormentors:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” ~ Luke 23:34

Humanity, being created in the image of God, is not completely void of compassion, kindness, or sacrifice. While the news continually blasts us with humanity’s depravity, we still hear stories of its reflections of the image of whom it bears: a youth helping a senior up some stairs; citizens surrounding a police officer to protect him during a riot; or a person rushing into a burning building to rescue another.

The love with which Jesus loves, however, is of such an unattainable caliber that we are unable to possess and distribute it apart from abiding in the very Source of such love. In fact, many of those who profess to belong to God do not have such love for others. Mind you, I do not profess that I possess this love, so rich and pure. 

Our world will continue to sing and write about love, but will always fall short of genuine love’s grandeur. The highest and purest form of love (Gk. agape) is defined in the Bible:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The only way to genuinely display this selfless and sacrificial love is to be connected to the Source of this love (Christ) and continually being filled with His Holy Spirit.

Indeed, to err is human, and we know this all too well. But to love like Jesus does is truly a work of the Divine within. I admit, I am not there yet. Perhaps you are not either. May we draw close and abide in Christ because of our own obvious deficiencies, but our world is in serious need of the purest love that He provides.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:1-5

“I Did Not Make It—No, It Is Making Me”

One of my favorite musicians is the late Rich Mullins. In his song, “Creed,” based on what is commonly called the “Apostle’s Creed,” [1] Mullins writes,

“I believe what I believe,
It’s what makes me what I am.
I did not make it, no, it is making me; It is the very truth of God, not the invention of any man.” [2]

Christianity is not about people having it all together, for if that was the case, why would we need a Savior? No, Christianity is about the living God and Redeemer who puts people back together, who are ravaged by sin, through the death and resurrection of His dear Son.

As Romans 3 tells us, we have all, like sheep, gone astray. All of us have searched for other pastures, seeking to satisfy our longings with anything but God. We have all become corrupt, each of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have resisted God, succumbed to our desires, and defiantly sang to God, Frank Sinatra’s, “I did it my way!” As a result, our lives are broken, splintered, and ridden with emptiness and shame.

But then comes God’s grace and truth. Understand, the two must be together. Too many people profess grace while their behaviors are left unchanged. On the other hand, you have those declaring truth, but their lives do not display the love and compassion of the God they claim to profess. The grace and truth of God, together, builds and repairs our lives.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~ John 1:14

But think about Mullins’ words. “I believe what I believe, it’s what makes me what I am.” He is not simply talking about a creed, but the very Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is this which is remaking and remodeling him, not man’s philosophies, pop psychology, or religions.

“I did not make it, no, it is making me.” This comes from something outside and other than him. He did not “pull himself up by the bootstraps,” nor did he apply mind over matter or positive thinking.

“It is the very truth of God, not the invention of any man.” What is making him, rebuilding him, and restoring him is the very truth of God and His Gospel. God, alone, gets the glory.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. ~ Romans 1:16

Is the Gospel making you? God extends His glorious Gospel to you, my friend, no matter what you have done. No, you nor I can make it, but it is what makes us.”

[1] I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,  the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

[2] Rich Mullins, “Creed,” from the album, A Liturgy, a Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band, Reunion Records, 1993.

Lessons In the Dark (Failure Does Not Have to Be Definitive)

There are times when a person must go through times of darkness. The reasons vary, but sometimes darkness comes as a result of immense failure. Such was the case for the man of God Samson.

Before he was even conceived Samson was ordained to be a deliverer for the people of Israel. By the Spirit of God he was granted incredible strength and valor. His life was to be holy and consecrated to the Lord. Yet, when we read the account of Samson in the book of Judges, we read of a man who squandered his privileges (even having sex with a prostitute [see Jud. 16:1]), and who took his abilities for granted. This squandering eventually cost him dearly.

Samson later falls in love with the woman Delilah. The lords of the Philistines convinced her to seduce Samson and find where his strength came from. After three failed attempts, Delilah pouted and reasoned, “How can you say you love me if you are not willing to tell me your secret?” Being beguiled by the woman, Samson shares his heart and what was not to be revealed. After he falls asleep, Delilah cut Samson’s hair and the Philistines rush in to subdue him. We then read the dreadful words,

And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. ~ Judges 16:20 (ESV)

For so long Samson took his privileges, anointing, and victories for granted he was oblivious to the fact the Lord departed from him. He was to experience such profoundly humiliating defeat. After rushing on him, the Philistines gouged out Samson’s eyes, put him in shackles, and imprisoned him at the grinding mill.

Samson was alone in the darkness of his blindness, yet it was here that he had time to reflect, grieve, confess, and listen. He was learning hard lessons of squandered privileges, of pride, of immorality, etc. Yet, among all these lessons he would also learn of God’s grace and faithfulness. God would yet hear Samson’s prayer and grant him a major victory. Centuries later he would be named among people of faith:

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. ~ Hebrews 11:32-33

Perhaps you have tasted the bitterness of failure and experiencing its painful consequences. May you take courage in the Lord and find some peace in His promises. Due to your folly, may you listen to the instructions of the Holy Spirit and gain some wisdom.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. ~ Proverbs 1:7

Your failures do not have to define your identity or your future. Consequences might be devastating, but they do not need to demolish hope if you will be still in your darkness. Turn to Christ, and listen to His Spirit. Confess your sin(s), admit your guilt, and own up to your failures. There can still be mighty victories won through Him.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

My enemies, don’t be glad because of my troubles! I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light. I have sinned against the Lord. And so I must endure his anger, until he comes to my defense. But I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. ~ Micah 7:8-9 (CEV)

It’s a Beautiful Morning

Followers of Jesus Christ are not to live in deliberate or habitual sin. We are asked, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1 -2, ESV). Furthermore, elsewhere the purposes of both grace and salvation are explained:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. ~ Titus 2:11-12

Even so, the Bible teaches us, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins, (Ecc. 7:10) and “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8).  And life teaches us experientially that we can sometimes blow it profoundly! How many of us have asked, “Will God forgive me of this? Again???” In fact, some give up altogether that God still loves them and can forgive them.

My friend, perhaps you have asked such questions. Maybe you are wrestling with such doubts now. Believe me, I have been there numerous times. But God’s grace truly is amazing, and the death Jesus died in our stead transcends our understanding. I hope you will be encouraged by the following passages:

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 3:22-23

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. ~ Psalm 103:13-14

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

Perhaps you have blown it big time and guilt haunts you. My friend, look to the cross and the glorious and merciful Savior who had been slain upon it and is now alive forevermore! Find refuge in His mercy and peace in His great love for you. His mercies are new every morning, and there is never a time when we are not in need of them.

Unchained, but Still Bound

People often view liberty as freedom from all restraints. For example, in the Scriptures we read,

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” ~ Psalm 2:2-3

However, in the New Testament we read of a poor fellow who dwelt among the tombs, driven by the demonic:

And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. ~ Mark 5:3-5

Many today boast of their “freedom” as they cast off all restraints, all the while bound tightly and oppressed by their vices, addictions, and shame. However, just as it was true for the man in the tombs, so Jesus can also heal people of such miseries today. You can know genuine freedom through Him if you will but cry out to Him in faith.

Every Spiritual Blessing

The Scriptures declare the true followers of Christ are blessed in Him “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). Notice, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing, not necessarily physical blessing. We are not promised earthly wealth, great health and longevity of life, popularity, or freedom from suffering. Yet, regardless of one’s position/condition here on earth, the person who is in Christ has every spiritual blessing. But what does this mean?

In the first chapter of Ephesians we are told that the true people of God are chosen in Him. We are made holy and blameless (that is, cleansed and made new). We are predestined for adoption as sons and daughters of God. We are redeemed, forgiven, and granted an (eternal) inheritance. And we have been sealed with His Holy Spirit.

In the second chapter of Ephesians we are told that we were once dead in our sins, followers of the devil, and children of wrath who lived in the passions of body and mind. But God, in His marvelous love and grace, made us alive in Christ. All of this is given to us by His grace. We do not—cannot—earn it. All of it is given to us as a gift.

We were once separated, alienated,  and at enmity with God. However, in and through Christ, we are brought near and reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus. Through His cross He killed the hostility.

I do not know what your circumstances are, but I do know that life is difficult. Look upwards to Christ, cling to God’s promises, and remember your identity and position in Christ. All of this is by His great mercy and grace, not by our doing. Regardless of how lowly our position is on earth, every spiritual blessing belongs to each person who is in Christ. Be encouraged, my friend!

The Emotionally Cancerous Choice and Its Path to Healing

Each of us have been hurt, betrayed, or abused by another at some point in time. This comes with being human, living among other humans, in a fallen world. Nevertheless, the manner in which we handle and respond to our hurts, betrayals, and abuses is vital.  Our immediate emotion is anger. This is a natural response—especially if the wrong done was neither provoked or justified. However, to hold onto anger and the unwillingness to forgive is injurious to one’s own wellbeing.

“Why should I forgive him? He does not deserve forgiveness! I will never forgive him!” How often such words are spoken with gritted teeth. Yet, such words reveal great misunderstanding. Forgiveness is not about letting a person off the hook and acting as though the offense had never happened; rather, it is the freeing one’s own self from a self-imposed prison, and finding healing from an emotional cancer that will grow. As for not deserving, none of us deserves forgiveness, but each of us need it.

The emotional cancer resulting from an unwillingness to forgive can affect a person’s relationship with others—especially if the bitterness towards the unforgiven one is constantly vomited onto others. The refusal to forgive will also strangle inner joy. However, the most detrimental aspect of stubbornly refusing to forgive another is the way it affects one’s ability to hear and relate to God. Here, the pretense of religion can be very deceiving, because a person can believe he is in good standing with God, but completely oblivious to the warnings of the Scriptures.

Jesus says,

But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. ~ Matthew 6:15 (ESV)

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” ~ Matthew 18:32-35

The apostle John writes:

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. ~ 1 John 3:15

So, as one can see, forgiveness has much to do with the wellbeing of the one who had been offended. But let’s be honest, many of us have permitted the emotional cancer of resentment to eat away at us. Some who are reading this probably still have not had it “treated.” If we would be healed, then we must be willing to forgive. This form of “chemo” is no easier than the physical kind.

So how does one begin to forgive?

  1. Be honest about the offense and the hurt, as well as the possibility of the perpetrator not being honest about the offense. Your healing is not for the perpetrator but for you. Be honest with God about your feelings, anger, hatred, disgust, shame, etc. Be honest with Him about the pain and turmoil you feel, and take the time to cry.
  2. Ask God for the courage, grace, and ability to extend forgiveness. This might need to be prayed several times. Yet, this process will help flush out some of the infection, so to speak. As you experience the anger, ill-will, etc., confess these. John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  3. Be open and willing to forgive, and leave any judgment in God’s hands. Allow yourself to heal and to move on.
  4. Try not to dwell on the offense. Living through it is quite enough; there is no need to keep reliving it in your mind.
  5. Repeat the steps as needed.

Forgiveness tends to feel counterintuitive, but it really is for the emotional and spiritual health of the forgiver. To refuse to forgive only permits the emotional cancer to grow and spread. Forgiveness and letting go is the only cure. It seems like a cruel irony: the refusal to forgive will not harm the person the grudge is held against, but will cripple and destroy the one holding the grudge. Your willingness to forgive is not for the benefit of the one who hurt you, the benefit is for you. Do yourself well—forgive. You are worth it!