Hypocrites and Holy People (or Sinners Saved By Grace)

“…He [Christ] gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:25b-26 NLT

How’s your sin life? Yes you read that correctly and no, there is no auto correct typo in that question. How is your sin life? Many devotionals focus on a person’s prayer life or their walk with Jesus but how often do we focus on the path we take in our daily sins or with ongoing strongholds that continue to set us back spiritually? God doesn’t want us to dwell on our past or worship our sin but I believe He definitely wants us to examine our hearts and allow Him to cleanse us from all that keeps us stagnant in our relationship with Him.

I’ve been called many hurtful things in my lifetime and a “hypocrite” is one of them. Truth be told, I’ve even referred to myself as a hypocrite thinking this description made me more real than sanctimonious. In fact, I had planned on titling this post “I am a Hypocrite” and writing more of a confessional than a devotional. Looking up the definition of a hypocrite and seeing what God’s word says about this word changed my mind.

The dictionary defines a hypocrite as; ” a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion…” (Merriam-Webster) God’s word describes a hypocrite as someone who puts on a show in their faith for attention and public praise (Matthew 6:2, 5 and 12.) The Bible also tells us hypocrites honor the Lord with their mouths but their hearts are far from Him (Mark 7:6.) One common word to define hypocrite found in both the dictionary and the Bible is “LIAR.” There are times I am an attention seeker but one thing I am not is a liar.

Lying is the top character trait I have zero tolerance or grace for. The lack of grace is obviously a flaw in my own character and one I continue to have to surrender to the Lord allowing Him to soften my heart toward. After all, if Christ died for my lifetime of sins, I definitely need to be able to forgive someone who has lied to me or lied about me, right? I guess this post is a bit of a confessional after all and my lack of grace for liars is confession number one.

So here’s confession number two-I fail in my Christian walk every. single. day. Some ongoing strongholds I have are unforgiveness and holding on to past hurts, keeping my heart closed off to protect myself from getting hurt again, cussing, worrying, grumbling and gossiping. In one confession I have managed to admit that I do not always practice what I preach. But my posts aren’t written in a self-righteous or “holier than thou” manner where I’m esteeming my walk and pointing out the flaws in yours. In my childhood, I attended a church where the pastor preached from a pulpit of self-righteousness and his flock were the ones who were “wretches”. I prayed the prayer of salvation every Sunday in that church and never felt good enough t be redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. I loved my childhood in a state of constant shame and fear of a wrathful God.

My posts are written from the depths of the muddied waters I travel through daily in hopes that my fellow mud puddle dwellers can be inspired to draw closer to Jesus and to seek His cleansing. I use my own personal experiences to show that I also strive to pursue His cleansing for my own journey. I am far from perfect. In fact, here’s a few more strongholds I struggle with:

  • I get angry and in my anger, I sin. One thing my momma used to say was “Her mouth is going to get her in trouble.” She’s been right about that far too many times.
  • I over spend and am a slave to debt. It’s why I work two jobs and don’t regularly tithe. I struggle with many sleepless nights worrying about how a bill is going to get paid or how I’m going to meet all the financial obligations I have.
  • I haven’t attended church regularly in two years. I’ve been church shopping and in a season of busyness where I choose to skip church just because I’m tired and want one full day to be home and be still. I also use the excuse that I haven’t found a church I’m drawn to as much as I was drawn to my old church.
  • I’m not always faithful in my devotionals and prayer time. Most days my prayers are more like “oh yeah hey God-I made you last again today but yeah you know I still love ya.” At night, lying in bed my prayers can become obsessive over my own needs and wants, lifetime longings and dwelling on my mistakes that I forget to pray for anyone else.
  • I struggle with lust. I’m single, never married and have two biological children. I’ve lived with more than one man in my lifetime. I’m definitely a modern day version of the woman at the well. …The list could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

For 2018, I am working on allowing God to define me and my character. I have spent far too many years defining my character based on how my critics describe me. One thing God is showing me that I am and am not is this-I am holy and I am not a hypocrite. You see when we give our hearts to Jesus, He covers us in His blood and makes us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18.) We are no longer a slave to sin but we become slaves to righteous living (Romans 6:18.) We are adopted as sons and daughters of the One True King (Romans 8:15.) God makes us holy (Hebrews 2:11).

Guess what the definition of Holy is: “specially recognized as or declared sacred…consecrated…dedicated or devoted to the service of God.” (Dictionary.com) The word consecrated means “set apart” which God shows us is exactly who we are in Psalm 4:3 when David acknowledges that the Lord set apart the godly for Himself. He shows us again in many examples in the New Testament where references are made about being a new creation, made holy and set apart for His glory. Believers whose hearts belong to Jesus cannot be hypocrites. Yes we sin. Yes we have strongholds that interfere with our relationship with Jesus. Yes we don’t always practice what we preach. Paul wrote it best when in Romans he confesses this: “…The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans‬ ‭7:14-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

But we are also redeemed by Jesus and saved by Grace.

I urge you to examine your sin life and confess every stronghold you’re still a slave to. Look up and meditate on scripture that may help you overcome those strongholds that make you feel like a failure. Strive for holiness in your daily walk but give yourself grace when you stumble and fall. Don’t lie and especially don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Lastly, no matter how many times you sin today, lay it down before the Lord and see yourself as holy, but never. ever. call yourself a hypocrite.

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The Voice of Truth

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””

‭‭John‬ ‭8:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As we go about our daily lives we engage with many voices throughout the day. Some of those voices are encouraging, some are critical. Some voices are loud and direct while others are barely audible and more passive. Nonetheless, these voices tend to skew the way we see and carry ourselves. We give a lot of power to these voices but the only one that truly matters-the one that can truly define us, is the voice of God.

But first-let’s look at the different voices. There are voices of encouragement. These are messages that build you up, strengthen you and motivated you. These can come from your family and friends who love and support you. Heck, maybe they come from Tony Robbins, Joyce Meyers, Bishop T.D. Jakes or Steven Furtick by means of a self-help book, devotional or YouTube video. Whatever the form, these voices help you walk taller, see yourself in a positive matter and display a “can do” kind of attitude.

Then we have the critical voices. These voices see your flaws and define you only by your worst moments or mistakes you’ve made. These voices condemn you, berate you and can cut deep and severe emotional wounds. They leave you seeing yourself in a very lowly manner. If you listen to them long enough these voices can lead to you feeling depressed, anxious and believing you are what these voices tell you. Ironically-these voices always seem louder and more direct than any voice of encouragement. Truth be told-these voices are liars.

The voice of truth is God’s voice. Since we are His creation, his voice is the only one that can truly define us. It’s also the only one we should be listening too. However, God’s voice isn’t always easy to hear or recognize. David describes the voice of the Lord as a thunderous roar that echoed above seas (Psalms 29:3), is powerful and majestic (Psalms 29:4), strikes with bolts of lightning (Psalms 29:7), and can split might cedars (Psalms 29:5.) In 2 Samuel 22:14, the voice of God “thundered from Heaven”, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we read that the voice of the Lord is a commanding shout. Thunder, echoes, shouting-these words all describe LOUD! Yet far too often, the liars are louder than the voice of truth. How can they be, what can we do about it and who are we really according to the voice of Truth?

In biblical times, we read multiple examples of God speaking directly to His people. I firmly believe He still speaks to us directly through His word and the Holy Spirit but in today’s day an age we have to remove all distractions and get quiet before Him to really hear His voice. I believe this because of the passage in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah is at his lowest point, asking God to End his life and God speaks to him. “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (Verses 11-13.) God’s voice was a soft whisper. Can you hear whispers in the middle of noise and chaos or are whispers best heard in stillness and silence? Why else would God tell us is Psalms 46:10 to “be still and know that [He] is God.” And again in Exodus 14:14 when promising to fight for us He says, “you need only to be still.” We can’t hear God because we’re too busy, too distracted and most likely to stuck on the critical voices that tell us we are the opposite of who God creates us to be.

What can we do about it? This is going to sound simple and cliché but we can stop, drop (to our knees) and pray. We have to carve out moments of silence daily to get into God’s word, the only source of really truth, and be still before Him. We have to pray for open hearts and open ears with the God-given ability to hear His voice and then allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and speak to us. We have to be patient when we spend a day or weeks in these moments hearing nothing at all. We have to persevere and choose to stand on His truth every day. Most importantly, we have to recognize the voice of God over the voice of the creator of lies. God’s voice will always coincide with His word. God’s voice will always be pure, peace loving, gentle, full of mercy and sincere. (James 3:17). It is never condemning and will not remind you of your mistakes. (Romans 8:1, 2 Corinthians 2:5)

So who does God say we are? First and foremost we are HIS! James 1:18 confirms that with this: “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” A prized possession is a priceless treasure that is safe guarded, protected and preciously cared for just as God Himself, treasures, protects and delicately cares for us. We are also FORGIVEN! 1 John 2:12 states it very matter-of-fact like: “I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.” Luke 7:47 reinforces that with, “““I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love…” and 1 John 1:9 promises that “if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

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God also say we are LOVED. He confirms this in 1 John 4:19 “we love because she first loved us.” For those who have never been unconditionally loved, this one is probably the hardest to understand. How can someone love you in spite of your failures? How can someone love before you were even born? For God it’s quite simple-God is love and He creates our inmost beings. He loves us because He created us and He knows us more intricately than we or anyone else can ever know us. One of the best ways to combat our critics to let go of their harsh words and cling to God’s love for us. It’s the only way we can rise above hate and truly walk in love.

There are many more things God says about us and you can find them all in His word. We have a choice to listen to the voice of critics or the voice of truth. When the enemy strikes you with harsh words, when liars try to remind you of your past or haters criticize you out of jealousy or selfish ambition, stand on God’s truth and if you can’t cling to His love just yet, cling to this one simple verse: “But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” Acts 11:9 If you’re a child of God, He has made you clean no matter what dirty mistakes you’ve made. You are not who your critics say you are. You are exactly who God says you are. Walk as the hold of God He made you to be.

Love me Tender, Love me True…

Another Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and the pressures of romance and society’s view of love can be seen in any local retail shop you walk into.  As soon as you step foot inside even the grocery store you’re surrounded by red heart-shaped cardboard chocolate filled boxes, fuzzy heart holding stuffed animals, flowers and even bottles of fancy wines.  Okay realistically, after you pass the Super Bowl displays of beer, Doritos and guacamole, then you pass the love stuff.  But no matter your relationship status, there’s a real pressure there (or at least a nagging reminder) that this day is approaching where, if you’re in a relationship there’s an expectation to show your love and if you’re single it’s a cruel reminder that you’re not loved (at least to those who believe you have to be in a relationship to “be loved.”)

Can I confess something?  I was one of those people who believed I was only loved when I was in a relationship.  Throughout my life I let my relationship status define who I was.  In fact, I even went so far as to let my partner define who I was.  When I was in a serious relationship, if he loved me-then I defined myself as “loved, loveable and worthy of love.”  But when he stopped loving me-well I defined myself as “unlovable.”  I even convinced myself that because I’ve never been married I must simply not be marriage material.  I believed most women were born with a trait that made men commit to them but clearly I was lacking that trait.

The bulk of my past relationships were conditional.  If I behaved a certain way, I was given “love” but if I “misbehaved” according to my partner’s standards I was withheld their version of love.  This was a cyclical pattern in two very serious relationships.  (My first serious relationship was a matter of both of us being too young to know how to make a relationship work let alone be successful in marriage.)  Although I’ve only been in three serious relationships my whole life and a handful of casual relationships there was clearly a pattern in allowing someone else to define me and defining myself in who they said I was, not who God made me to be.  I’ve been single now for seven years and God has done a major overhaul on my heart and my thought process regarding the lies I’ve believed for so long.

The first thing God did was show me what unconditional love looked like.  Using 1Corinthians 13 (also known as the love chapter) and scripture from Songs of Solomon, God showed me what real love is.  He also showed me that conditional love is not real love and that in those past relationships where I just couldn’t measure up to my partner’s standards, I wasn’t truly loved by them.  If love keeps no record of wrong, how can someone tell you they love you but list everything they find wrong with you right after it?  In their heart I am sure they thought they loved me, maybe even felt very strongly for me at one point but it wasn’t real love.  And I honestly didn’t truly love them-at least not according to 1 Corinthians 13.  I wasn’t always patient or kind to them (especially when they were listing everything that was wrong with me-I kept record of their wrongs too and would fire right back with my own list for them.)

God showed his unconditional love for me best by blessing me when I least expected it and felt the most undeserving.  He even used some of the most unlikely people (people who were at one point someone I had considered an enemy) as tools to bless me.  Every time He did this, He proved his words in Lamentations 3:22, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.” (NLT) I can’t tell you the number of times I was reduced to tears after behaving so horribly or doing something careless but receiving kindness, compassion and blessing in return.  That’s not how our society tends to treat each other and that’s definitely not what I was used to receiving in past relationships.  After all-misbehavior brings punishment right?  Not with God.  Misbehavior may bring correction and discipline but every action we do, good and bad, brings God’s love, mercy and grace poured out over us. In fact, I’m a firm believer that we receive a drowning of His mercy and grace when we are really at our worst.  Why?  Because it’s only then that we can truly understand His unconditional love for us.  It’s those moments of grace that we realize nothing can or will ever separate us from God’s love.

Once I was able to understand His unconditional love for me, God was able to open my heart and eyes to see myself as He sees me-imperfectly perfect.  He did this using friends and family to speak His truth into my and over me repeatedly.  This process has taken the whole seven years of singlehood and to be honest, I’m still going through the process. I am definitely my own worst critic and the cruel words spoken to me from lost loves can still play in my mind from time to time.  Each time I have cut myself down or spoken lies about myself, even to this day, God placed someone in my life to speak His truth over me.  He also used His own words reminding me in Psalms 139 (repeatedly because seriously I am the poster child for stubborn and God has to speak the same message to me over and over again before it finally sinks in.)  My favorite part of this chapter includes these verses:

O Lord, you have examined my heart

and know everything about me.

You know when I sit down or stand up.

You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

You see me when I travel

and when I rest at home.

You know everything I do.

You know what I am going to say

even before I say it, Lord.

You go before me and follow me.

You place your hand of blessing on my head…

You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.

They cannot be numbered!

I can’t even count them;

they outnumber the grains of sand!

And when I wake up,

you are still with me! (Verses 1-5, 16-18 NLT)

The NIV version of Psalm 139:14 says this, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  The words “fearfully and wonderfully made” have played over in my mind like a skipping record.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Fearfully doesn’t mean we were made to live in fear, it means we are to live in reverent fear of God and that we were made to be feared by our true enemy.  Instead of fearing the enemy and believing his lies, we have the power to combat those lies with God’s truth and ward off the devil every time he tries to defeat us.  In fact, no matter what our circumstances are, we are not defeated.  Please read that again.  We. Are. NOT. Defeated!  That is a huge thing for me to even type let alone confess because I have lived in a defeated state of mind for far too long.

The last thing God has shown me is two-fold.  1.) Marriage and singlehood are both gifts from God to be used for His purpose and glory.  Neither is a defining factor for anyone.  Neither determines our worth in this life.  2.) My past broken relationships were trials to show me what I don’t want or need in a relationship and especially not in a marriage.  And what is it that I don’t want?  Well, I don’t want to feel alone even when my partner is present because I’m last on his priority list.  I don’t want to be compared to ex-lovers and I don’t want to compare my partner to my past relationships either.  I don’t want a partner who just believes in God’s existence.  I don’t want to be cheated on, lied to or verbally abused again. And I don’t want a man who simply shuts down.  I also don’t want to be someone’s “friend with benefits” or “long term girlfriend.”  Make me your forever or leave me alone.

I don’t want to date around either.  In today’s day and age dating is like jumping into a three ring circus as the ring leader feeling underqualified and being assigned to the clown section.  I am confident any single woman reading this right now will seriously get the euphemism there.  It’s a mind-boggling guessing game that’s like a real life version of “What Not to Wear” and “He’s Just Not That into You” combined with putting on something red hoping to get chased by the bull.  And in my season of life right now, I have zero time for it anyway.  Because I have no desire date, I have earned a reputation of being “closed off” which I have come to terms with.  Not that I agree but it doesn’t bother me because it’s someone else’s perception but again, not who God sees me or defines me as.  When it’s God’s time for me to meet my future spouse, He’ll send him to me and orchestrate the whole journey.  If it includes dating, God will open my heart up to it then.

But what do I want?  Well my dream man is the Rock (or his clone) HA! HA! But realistically speaking I want a man of God who’s a fierce warrior and gentle giant combined.  I want my man to lead me and my children with assurance and confidence the way God tells him to lead us.  I want him to be faithful, kind, generous but also disciplined.  He has to love my children as his own.  No matter how old they are when he comes into our lives, that one is not a deal breaker.  I want him to be athletic and health conscious but still enjoy sweet treats and sugary desserts too.  I want him to pray with me and for me every day.  I want him to encourage me and believe in me and elevate me as I do the same for him too.   I want him to lead but still treat me as his partner and include me in all decisions.  And as unrealistic as some readers may think I want my man to be transparent with me.  Even Dr. Phil will tell you, you can’t have a healthy relationship without open communication.  In a nut shell, as Elvis would say, I want him to, “love me tender, love me true…” I’m also settled in my heart to know that if the presenter can’t offer me what I’m looking for, then he’s not the right partner for me.  And if I don’t get what I want, well I’m secure enough to remain single for the rest of my life then.

For those struggling to face Valentine’s Day this year I hope this post blesses you with the realization that you are loved, you are lovable and you are so worthy to be loved, regardless of your relationship status.  I want to encourage you to seek out God’s unconditional love for you but also to look at yourself the way He sees you.  You my friend are imperfectly perfect too.  God bless!

A Modern Day Hester

If you’ve ever read the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, you are familiar with the main character, Hester Prynne, who was publicly punished for having an affair.  Her punishment included imprisonment and standing in the town square for hours wearing a red A on her clothing (the A stood for adulteress.)  Hester had a child by her lover but chose to never disclose who the lover was despite the threatening pressure she endured.  In fact, the only time she fought back was when select townspeople threatened to take her child away when the child started acting out.  The story is full of deception, secret lives and guilt stricken consciences.  In the end, Hester carries on, wearing her scarlet A with no healing from the mistake she made.

I am a modern day Hester.  Now before I go any further let me clarify-this is NOT a confession of having an affair nor am I pregnant with a love child.  But-I have made some pretty sinful mistakes in my life and if I had lived in the puritan era like Hester, I would’ve been her cell mate. My scarlet letter probably would have covered my entire body.  Like I said, this is not a confession. In fact, guilt rarely even has control over me anymore.  This is transparency for my readers in hopes to raise awareness of forgiveness, mercy, grace and healing.

I was called a “loser” recently.  Being call that not only shocked me but it greatly stung.  In fact, in nearly knocked me down.  I was called a loser because of a mistake I made.  It was a mistake made from a broken heart and out of mass confusion. I confessed it not only to God but to the person who called me this name trusting that person would be understanding and forgiving. They weren’t.  They were angry and instead of mercy and grace, they verbally pinned me with a big old scarlet L (for loser.)  This is not the first time I’ve been called names for making a mistake.  My “favorites” are being called “a head case” when I had post-partum depression, and “a financial disaster” because I struggle with money management.

We are all human.  We ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23.) David was an adulterer and a murderer.  Do you know what God did to him?  Made him king of Judah.  Moses was also a murderer and a coward.  God chose him to take on Pharaoh and lead God’s chosen people out of slavery.  Rahab was a prostitute and God used her to hide His spies who came later to conquer the city she lived in.  God did punish them-David and Bathsheba lost the child that was conceived by their affair.  Moses was exiled for 40 years after committing murder and I’m sure Rahab lived a fairly miserable life as a prostitute.  But God also redeemed them.  And once redeemed, He then promoted them!  That’s just how God works.

God doesn’t call us names.  If He is tearing us down it’s only to remove the bad.  Any tear down from God is guaranteed to have a major build up and fill up with His forgiveness, grace and mercy. God calls us to the do same with each other.  His word is full of scriptures like; “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith… (Jude 1:21), “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25) and “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8.)  The Bible does call us to admonish one another but He does not call us to shame or condemn one another.  In fact, He says the opposite in Romans 8:1; “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”  That verse is pretty straight forward and if your Christian walk is anything like mine then we both need straight forward, aye?

Driving to work today, God reminded me of Hawthorne’s novel.  He played a Casting Crowns song for me on the radio with these lyrics,

“Not because of who I am

But because of what You’ve done.

Not because of what I’ve done

But because of who You are…

Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.

And You’ve told me who I am.

I am Yours, I am Yours…

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin

Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?” ~Who am I

He then spoke to me with these words, “You don’t wear a scarlet A or L, Beloved.  The blood I shed on the cross for you removed every transgression I knew you would commit in your lifetime.  Beloved, the cross took that A and L away.  I have emblazoned you with a new letter-a V, washed white as snow.  It stands for the victory you have in Me.”

Ironically, when googling those above song lyrics, I stumbled upon the lyrics to one of my favorite songs by Jessica Andrews.  It’s called, Who I am.  The second verse in this song is my anthem;

“So when I make big mistake

When I fall flat on my face

I know I’ll be alright

Should my tender heart be broken

I will cry those teardrops knowin’

I will be just fine

‘Cause nothin’ changes who I am..”

I know who I am.  I am not a loser, a head case or a financial disaster.  Who am I?  A modern day Hester redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  I AM the DAUGHTER of the ONE TRUE KING, His Princess and His only.  No cruel word will ever change that.

For those living in a pit of guilt and shame-get out!  Shake it off and straighten your crown.  For you too are redeemed, washed white as snow and wear a V for victory on your heart.  Live victoriously as the son or daughter of Christ that you were made to be.  For those casting stones, stop it!  Stop forming a firing squad.  If your heart is hurting and your angry then pause and pray.  Ask God to fill you with the grace and mercy for those whose mistakes hurt you.  But remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees who wanted to condemn a woman caught in adultery in John 8:7, “They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” God called us to be bridge builders-not stone throwers.

Can I take a Mulligan, please?

“…His mercies never end.  They are new each morning.  Great is His faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22b&23 ESV

This week was a week of mulligans.  It started on Tuesday getting a major attack at the office and not responding to it in a godly way.  It continued at home and has just been a week of conflict and road blocks all around.  Each day I wake up thinking it’s a new day with new adventures but it seems to end the same way as the day before.  I’m emotionally raw and quite exhausted and there’s still three days left of this week.  By Saturday I’ll probably just be operating on auto-pilot.

Some of you may be reading this wondering “What the heck is a mulligan?”  In the game of golf there’s a concept called the mulligan.  When you are teeing off, if you have a bad swing and end up hooking the ball, landing in a sand trap or who knows where you can choose to take a mulligan. Essentially, a mulligan is a do-over.  Taking a mulligan erases the bad swing-it’s as if the hook shot never existed.  Granted, mulligans are not part of the formal rules of golf but in a casual game mulligans can speed up the process by allowing you to avoid searching for a lost ball or chip repeatedly from a sand trap.

God’s word is filled with stories of mulligans.  Abraham thought he had to manufacture his own miracle and created Ishmael with Hagar.  But Ishmael was not the promised heir God had for Abraham.  God could have told Abraham “Too bad so sad, you got in my way, now you’ll never get what I promised you.”  But instead He corrected Abraham, protected Hagar and blessed Abraham with Isaac anyway.  I know I talk a lot about Abraham but that’s because God uses his story a lot in my life.  In a way, you could say I’m a cross between a modern day Abraham and a modern day Job.

My favorite example of a mulligan is Peter.  Peter was one of Jesus’ beloved disciples.  He walked with Christ faithfully throughout Jesus’ ministry.  But when his life was threatened for believing in Christ, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.  THREE TIMES!  Every time I read this story I am mesmerized that someone who walked with Jesus, and saw His miracles first hand still doubted Him to the point that he denied knowing Christ.  In all honestly, it makes me think I shouldn’t beat myself up so much when my faith is lacking.  Our faith today is a lot more challenging considering the distractions and deceit this world is filled with.

Jesus knew Peter would deny Him.  In fact, Jesus told Peter he would deny Christ three times.  But Peter didn’t listen.  He was so confident in his faith and devotion to Jesus that he couldn’t fathom ever denying Him.  He also underestimated the power of satan to use our greatest weaknesses to fall from grace.  The devil got Peter to fall through fear.  Fear is probably the craftiest and one of the most compelling weapons satan uses to pull us away from God.  When we fear-we doubt God.  Doubting God turns our eyes away from Him and onto the object of our fear.  For Peter, he feared death.  Thus, after Jesus was arrested, he denied knowing Jesus in order to avoid death.  He didn’t just deny Christ-he lied.  One of Jesus’ right hand men, the one who literally walked on water with Jesus, lied about even knowing Jesus and being affiliated with Him.

Most people then and today reading about Peter might think he deserved to be shunned by Christ and dejected from the Kingdom of Heaven.  And I would agree.  Denying Christ was an awful choice Peter made.  In fact (to quote a US presidential candidate) it was deplorable!  In today’s day and age the media would have slammed Peter and verbally crucified him through ridicule, mockery and horrific judgement.  He would have been condemned for lying and removed from ministry.  He would have suffered great humiliation publicly.

What did Jesus do?  After His death and resurrection, Jesus approached Peter and asked him if he loved Jesus.  Peter said “yes.”  Jesus asked him again.  Peter again said, “yes.”  Jesus asked Peter a third time allowing Peter to say, “Lord, you know that I do.”  Why did Jesus ask him that and why did he ask him three times?  It was the ultimate mulligan.  In fact-it was three mulligans in one.  Peter denied Jesus three times-Jesus showed Peter He knew Peter’s heart by allowing Peter to express his true love for Christ the same three times.  Peter was redeemed and it was if his denial never existed.

Christ does the same for us today.  There are choices we make that will bring a lifetime of consequences.  But no matter what, we never get what we truly deserve.  God’s promises of forgiveness, grace and mercy are His mulligans for every mistake we make.  And He calls us to give mulligans too.  When others offend us, He calls us to forgive them and offer the same grace He gives us instead of harboring a grudge and choosing to not forgive.   He forgives every sin we ever commit.  Like the Lord’s Prayer says, He forgives us as we forgive those who trespass against us also.

Forgiveness is not an easy thing to do but becomes easier if we remember that God forgives us.  I can hold a long grudge. I’m not bragging by any means.  It’s something I’m actually ashamed of.  But when God gets a hold of me and reminds me of His grace and forgiveness for me, I am able to offer the same forgiveness to the one who hurt me.  After, of course, I have a HUGE helping of humble pie.

I’m thankful for mulligans.  I’m thankful for God’s promise of new mercies each morning.  If you had a bad day today remember this-tomorrow is brand new.  Tomorrow is God’s mulligan.  Learn from your mistakes and don’t take each new day for granted.  The best we can do is strive to be better tomorrow than we were today.  Also, don’t live defeated.  Feeling defeated and living defeated are two different things.  Don’t confuse the two.  A golfer who takes a mulligan doesn’t do so in a spirit of defeat.  When he or she tees up again they do so with the determination to not make the same mistake twice and to swing better the second time around.  In life we can do the same.  If you screw up in life (and at some point, we all screw up), take a step back and examine what you did.  Figure out what you can change and then take a mulligan.  In your mulligan swing, don’t make the same mistake again.  But know this-even if you do make the same mistake again, God’s grace is generous enough that His mulligans only stop when He calls us home to His kingdom.