Finding Yourself Off Course: Final Step is Leaving the Results to God

blanketContinued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, I have many regrets about choices I have made throughout my life. However, I have been walking with God long enough to see Him take those very things I regret and work them for good. As an example, God used the very sin that caused me a year’s worth of agony to open a door He wanted me to walk through in a later season of life. I cannot put into words how awe-inspiring it is to see God take the very thing I regret and use it for good to accomplish His purposes later. With God, NOTHING is wasted.

As I look back over my life, I see how God has taken the very things I regret the most and woven them into the tapestry of my story to create something beautiful. While I continue to feel remorse on the rare occasions I think about those experiences, I feel no guilt because I know God has forgiven me. Many of those mistakes and poor choice are woven into my testimony, and God uses them today to reach other people who have either made similar poor choices or who are on the verge of doing so. What the enemy intended for harm, God now uses for good.

While you are in the midst of a difficult situation, it can be difficult to believe that God can work even this for good, but He can! He can take your most broken, vulnerable places and turn them into something that brings beauty. I believe that’s one reason the Bible urges us to tell our story. It actually overcomes the enemy!

If I always got it right, I wouldn’t be of much encouragement to anyone who doesn’t. And, let’s face it, none of us gets it all right. However, when I share with you my weaknesses and faults and you see the victory in my life, you are encouraged that this can be your story as well. We don’t have to walk perfectly to have a relationship with God. If we did, only Jesus would have a relationship with the Father. Instead, we need to walk in repentance followed by obedience, never allowing guilt to immobilize us. Instead, we need to encourage one another, trusting that God is in control and can work even this for good.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace wrapped in a blanket. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Finding Yourself Off Course: Step 3 is Letting Go of the Guilt

judgeContinued from here.

Once we have found ourselves off course, repented, and made the choice to obey God no matter the consequences, we need to move on in our walk with God, hopefully wiser and more determined to follow wherever He leads. Sadly, many Christians have trouble moving forward because they are mired in guilt for the choices they made. Once you have repented and have changed course to follow God, the matter is settled on God’s end. We, as His children, need to learn to have the same mindset. If we don’t, we’ll allow the enemy to immobilize us so that we are unlikely to bear fruit and cooperate with where God is leading us because we are too busy looking backward.

Jesus’ sacrifice was enough, even for whatever it is that you did. There’s no sin so great that Jesus’ blood doesn’t cover it. You are not the exception. Your situation is not the one that is bigger than God or has stumped Him. Remember that we serve a God who breathed life back into the corpse of His Son’s mutilated body. If God can raise the dead and restore a mutilated body, He can take the pieces of the mess you have made and turn it into something good. I know He can do it because He has done it for me more times than I can count!

As an example, I have many regrets in the way I parented my child. I was an emotionally-broken young mother who didn’t have enough oxygen in my own spiritual mask to take care of his. Eighteen years later, my son is a wonderful young man, but he doesn’t love God, and that breaks my heart. I look back and see so many opportunities that I squandered to teach him to love God. If I allow myself, I can remain in a place of looking backward, filled with guilt, and immobile myself from following where God is leading me today. Instead, I lean on God’s promise in Isaiah 49:25 to save my children, reminding God that I only have the one child, so he’s the one He will have to save to fulfill that promise. I trust that God is good and that I cannot muck things up so badly that He cannot redeem them.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting in a judge’s seat over the word, “Guilty.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Finding Yourself Off Course: Step 2 is Obedience

yes_sirContinued from here.

You realize that you have gone off course. You’ve asked for forgiveness and repented (told God that you will now do things His way). The next step is to obey God in how to get back on track. How do we do that?

James 1:5 tells us to ask God for wisdom whenever we lack it, and He will give it to us. Spend some time in prayer asking God what specific steps you need to take to get back on track. Whatever God tells you will always align with His Word. If you aren’t sure you are hearing clearly from God, seek the wise counsel of someone who is mature in his or her walk with God. This should be someone whose life bears much spiritual fruit and who clearly makes life decisions based upon pleasing God.

Let me forewarn you that obedience may be costly, such as by taking responsibility for something that was hidden and having to pay financially, with the loss of a relationship, or even with your reputation. Jesus said that if we love other people more than we love him, we are not worthy of him. We cannot compromise obedience to God to please other people and call ourselves a disciple of Christ. And, yes, as someone who has lost treasured relationships over obeying God, I do know how difficult that is to do.

Some courses of action are clearly spelled out in the Bible. For example, if you harmed someone through gossip, you need to take responsibility, apologize, and seek to reconcile with the person. Others are more complicated, such as engaging in intercourse with someone you are not married to and learning you are pregnant. In more complicated situations, you need God’s wisdom and discernment for how to proceed. Should you marry the father and raise the child together? Should you place the baby for adoption? Should you parent the child as a single mother? Only God has the wisdom to know what’s best in more complicated situations. Seek God’s instructions for how to proceed and do whatever He tells you to do (which will always align with the Bible), even if it makes no sense.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace saluting out of a military tank that says, “Yes, Sir.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Finding Yourself Off Course: Step 1 is Repentance

resignationContinued from here.

You wake up one day and realize that you have wandered away from God’s will. This might happen gradually through the Holy Spirit’s conviction, as if God is gradually turning up a dimmer switch, and you gradually grow to realize that you have gone off course. Or this can happen suddenly, with the force of a sledgehammer, as you are publicly humiliated by someone accusing you of your shortcomings, catching you completely off guard. Either way, the first step is always the same – repentance.

Repentance is not merely regretting having to experience the consequences of your actions. Many a person has no regrets for what he or she has done, only that he or she was caught doing it. That’s not repentance. Instead, repentance is taking responsibility for having gone off course and making the decision to turn around and return to God.

For example, in my last blog entry, I shared about a time in which I grew weary of waiting for God to meet a need in my life. The enemy held up a juicy red apple, and I went for it, telling God that I was going to do X and that I wanted Him to bless me. I chose to ignore the Holy Spirit’s warnings, and God grew silent. I still prayed, read my Bible, and even led a Bible study during this season, but I was disconnected from God.

As God allowed the consequences of my disobedience to catch up with me, I felt remorse for the consequences but not for the sin. That’s not the same thing as repentance, and God continued to allow the pain of my choices to plague me despite my pleas for forgiveness as I still walked in the wrong direction. God did not intervene until I severed a connection that never should have happened, metaphorically threw myself at His feet, and changed direction. Once I repented, despite a year of consequences, God ran to me and immediately began healing my physical and emotional wounds. He was eager to be reconciled to me, but I had to do it on His terms – in full repentance.

If you have realized that you are off course, regardless of why, ask for God’s forgiveness and for Him to show you what you need to change. Whatever He places on your heart, do it immediately, even if it makes no sense, trusting that He will work this situation for good.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace’s face appearing on a letter that says, “Please accept my resignation. Sincerely.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

I’ve Gotten Off Course with God – Now What?

what_the_heckWe’ve all had it happen. We’ve taken a path that God never intended for us to take, and we’ve deceived ourselves into believing it was OK … or that we could handle it … or even that it was God’s will for us to do it. And then we’ve gotten slammed – whether by the enemy’s accusations or the Holy Spirit’s conviction – and we’ve awakened to the realization that we have gotten WAY off course. Now what?

I’ve experienced this dynamic more times than I can count. I’ve wanted something so badly, gotten tired of waiting on God to provide it, and defiantly decided to take it for myself. Big mistake – I don’t recommend doing this. That was one of the most miserable years of my life as God allowed me to endure the consequences of my choices and remained silent, no matter how frequently I cried out to Him. In fairness to God, at no point during this year did I REPENT. I wanted Him to heal the pain without changing my behavior, and He loved me enough to say no and allow me to endure great physical and emotional pain until I said, “Uncle,” and made the life decision to do things God’s way no matter what hence forward.

I’ve done the opposite extreme and found myself unintentionally walking out of God’s will. I prayed whether to continue with another season of serving Him in a way He had blessed for several years and mistook his lack of a “No” for a “Yes” when it was really a “Wait.” By the time I realized the “Wait” turned into a “No,” I had already committed, and the new season was just about to start. In that situation, God made it clear that it wasn’t sin for me to proceed, but I would be proceeding without Him, and what had previously been energizing suddenly became draining, and I plodded through, eagerly awaiting the end of that season.

I’ve been in situations in which I believed the enemy’s lies that I could handle something that I really couldn’t. I’ve replaced God with an idol, which gradually took more and more from me while providing me with less and less comfort over time. And I’ve been in other situations where I have compromised my values so as to not hurt someone else’s feelings or to fit in. What all of these situations have in common is that I wandered away from God’s will. In this blog series, we’ll talk about how to get back on track when you find yourself in this situation.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Motivation for Discipleship is Always Love

love_youContinued from here.

Radical discipleship is not possible without love, which is why it’s so important to invest quality, one-on-one time with God every day. Humbling myself to apologize to the mother of my son’s bullies was not easy for me, and there’s nothing in my natural self that was inclined to do it. I chose to say, “Yes, Lord” because I loved God more than I hated the thought of having that conversation. I don’t know if God will use that conversation to change the mother’s life, but my obedience certainly changed mine.

Each time we say “Yes, Lord” to something we REALLY don’t want to do, we deepen our level of intimacy with God. We get the opportunity to experience Him in ways that most other people do not. God rewards those who earnestly seek Him, and the momentarily pain of obedience is more than compensated for in the long run. Joyce Meyer words it this way: obedience first causes pain to the flesh before it results in pleasure to the spirit.

Radical discipleship is what Jesus called us to. All of his disciples were radical in how they lived their lives and how they interacted with others. Their priorities were not the same as the World’s. They weren’t concerned about saving up for retirement and making sure their kids got into the right college. Their focus was on Kingdom purposes, doing the will of God and sharing their faith with anyone who would listen. They loved God more than their own lives, and they gave up their right to live as they pleased to become slaves of Christ. That’s the same level of radical discipleship that God calls us to as well.

Are you a disciple of Christ? Or are you just going through the motions to avoid going to hell when you die? Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Or is going to church simply an activity you do on Sundays that you check off your to-do list each week? God isn’t looking for pew warmers – he’s looking for people who will radically follow Him, loving Him more than they love their own lives. Is that you?

In March 2013, I became a radical disciple of Christ, and my life has been completely transformed. Anyone who knew me before then will testify that this is the case for me. I have made many sacrifices, but I have gained so much more in return. God IS the gift. Chase Him! Cling to Him! He is worth it!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up a sign that says, “Love You.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Radical Obedience of Christian Discipleship

truck1Continued from here.

Being a disciple of Christ requires radical obedience. Let me give you an example from my own life…

When my son was a freshman in high school, he was bullied by two brothers. Things got ugly, first with the boys and then with the parents and the school. While I did pray for God’s wisdom and discernment as well as for the bullies and their family, I did not handle the situation in a Christlike manner. I even threatened to sue the school if the situation was not resolved to my satisfaction, and I meant it. (I have a law degree and am married to a lawyer.)

God was faithful and brought about many blessings throughout this difficult and painful time. My son is a better person because of the bullying, and I learned much about God’s faithfulness and grace. Hindsight is 20/20 vision, and I now see how God used what was intended for harm to bring about much good.

Now for the “Yes, Lord” part of the story … The bullying was at its worse in December and January, and then someone vandalized my husband’s truck in July, the night before my son left for the hospital for major back surgery. To this day, my family is convinced these bullies are the ones responsible, but we are unable to prove it. So, you can imagine my reaction when God placed on my heart in September that I needed to apologize to the bullies’ mother for the way I handled the bullying situation.

Let that sink in for a minute. These bullies vandalized our house and vehicle, emotionally tormented my son for several weeks, and did not take much responsibility for any of this, with only a minor consequence applied to one of the bullies after my threat to sue the school if no action was taken. And God told ME to apologize to the mother of these bullies.

As a disciple of Christ, I knew only one answer was possible for me: “Yes, Lord.” I told God that if He would provide the opportunity, I would do so. Within a couple of weeks, I crossed paths with the mother at a soccer game, and I followed through with my promise. I apologized for how I handled the situation and said that while I still don’t know how I should have handled it better, I wish I would have spent more time on my knees before God in prayer before reacting. That was a difficult conversation for me to have (and was well-received by her), but I loved God more than I hated having to do this.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Photograph of Grace’s husband’s vandalized truck. Courtesy Grace Daniels.]

 

Why Doesn’t God make Obedience Easier?

whyA friend is going through a dynamic that probably sounds all too familiar. The Holy Spirit convicts you about something, such as to stop complaining and, instead, be intentional about expressing gratitude. This message is repeated wherever you go – in a sermon, in a book you are reading, in something a friend shares about his or her own spiritual journey, etc. You resolve to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, spend time in prayer before you interact with anyone, and step into your day, fully expecting God to bless your obedience as you walk into victory.

Instead, you walk into the kitchen and see that the dog has soiled the floor. You clean that up, which makes you late leaving for work. Traffic is backed up from a wreck, making you 10 minutes late for an important meeting. At that meeting, you learn that you are losing your biggest client … and the hits just keep coming … you get a call from the school that your child has detention … your spouse has to work late and needs you to pick up dinner. By the time you get home, not only did you fail to walk in victory, but your level of complaining and lack of gratitude is ten times worse than on a typical day. You ask, “Where was God? I was trying to obey Him, and everything that could possibly go wrong did. What did I do wrong? Does God not care?”

Christians who have been around the spiritual growth block are probably chuckling right now because we have all been there. I shudder whenever I hear someone tell me that he is praying for patience because I know he has just invited lots of waiting into his life. After all, how does one learn patience without having to wait? The same is true for the example I just shared. It’s easy not to complain and to express gratitude when everything goes your way. No effort is required for that. Spiritual growth comes from intentionally choosing to express gratitude rather than complain as life dumps all over you.

In this blog series, we will talk about this frustrating dynamic of spiritual growth and how to learn to walk in victory.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulder and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

What to do When under Heavy Spiritual Attack

Continued from here.

The situation I am writing about is still not resolved, and I don’t know how God is going to resolve it. In the meantime, I know what I need to do:

  1. Pray for wisdom and discernment. Now is not the time to start doing things on my own. I need to continue obeying God and following His leading for how to proceed in this difficult situation.
  2. Pray for the person the enemy is using. The person the enemy is using to persecute me is a Christian, which is another aspect of what has me reeling. I must repeatedly pray for him so God will intervene and so that I will not allow myself to grow bitter toward him.
  3. Pray scripture to combat spiritual attack. Beth Moore’s book, Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds, has a chapter devoted to how to address spiritual attack, which includes numerous passages of scripture that Moore has converted into prayers. I am praying many of those scripture prayers aloud daily to invite God into this situation as well as to help me remember that He is in control, no matter how the situation looks.
  4. Watch my words. It is tempting to complain about this situation to anyone who will listen, but that is not what God calls me to do. I need to ensure I allow no unwholesome talk to come out of my mouth about this situation. If I want to complain, I need to do it to God, followed by prayer and thanksgiving.
  5. Keep moving forward. I allowed this situation to paralyze me for a few days, but no longer! I am going to continue in obedience to what God called me to do despite this situation remaining unresolved. I will not allow the enemy’s tactics to distract me from obeying God.

I have not yet reached a place of considering this situation to be “pure joy,” but I can trust that God is in control. I cannot allow my feelings to drive my actions. I love God enough to keep moving forward, even when I would rather quit. I love Him enough to obey, even when it hurts.

[Graphic: Cover of Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Lesson #3: God is Responsible for the Outcome, Not Me

failContinued from here.

I learned another lesson through watching Christian Unconditional Love Documentary: Radical Stories. Real People that was particularly helpful for me. One of the stories was about a husband and wife who moved from the suburbs to a rough part of town in the inner city, along with their young children, in obedience to God. They went through a season in which they made many sacrifices without seeing any fruit for their efforts. The wife, who was reluctant to move there in the first place, was tempted several times to move away, but her husband had a different reaction to the same situation.

Rather than becoming disappointed by a lack of results, the husband considered whether their role was simply to plant seeds. Perhaps his family would never see any results at all for the Kingdom of God. He was prepared to be a sower of God’s seeds who might never see any of the fruit from those seeds. If his assignment was simply to plant seeds, he would do so and trust that God would grow fruit out of those seeds at some point, even if he never got to see the fruit himself. He refused to allow a lack of results to drive his obedience.

I am a task-oriented person by nature. I have the spiritual gift of administration and see all of the parts that need to work together to accomplish the desire result. I am not an “in process” person who is comfortable with releasing myself to the process. I need to see a beginning, middle, and end, and I am acutely aware of how the pieces are fitting together to accomplish the task. Having a mindset of investing lots of time, energy, and money without seeing any results is so far outside my comfort zone that I couldn’t see it with a telescope.

And yet, this man’s perspective is biblical. Jesus said that if we love him, we will obey him. He said nothing about the end result of that obedience. Am I willing to continue obeying God when I see absolutely no results or fruit from my efforts? I can feel the struggle within myself as I write that sentence! I must learn to redefine success. It’s not about results – it’s obedience.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crushed under the word, “Fail.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]