Category Archives: Repentance

I Love Thee

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I saw Dad’s restlessness when I arrived for my night’s stay in the hospital. He had a look of fear and bewilderment in his eyes.  The look that always broke my heart.

After the nurses finished their rounds and things began to quiet down, I changed the channel on the TV to one of those meditative stations the hospitals make available. As the beautiful photography and soft instrumentals drew him in, he began to relax. He watched for over an hour. I’d look at him from time to time and he’d catch my eye… giggle a little… then cry.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved before,” he said. “I keep praying the same words over and over, ‘Forgive me, Lord…forgive me, Lord…forgive me, Lord.'”

Some might wonder at his confession, but I think I understood his meaning…

When we are weary, bone-tired, dazed, and confused, wondering if the dark night of the soul will ever end; then, suddenly, we catch a glimpse of His beauty — the wonder of His creation, the soothing sounds of His music — the truth of knowing He is in control hits us.

We are awestruck.

We turn. We refocus. We repent.

He is greater than all our fears.  We know He loves us…more.

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Admit the Shadow Side

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Rereading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning:

It remains a startling story to those who never understand that the men and women who are truly filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their imperfect existence…

The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves.  The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception.  It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us.

As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful to those closest to me.  When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed.

God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am.  Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him.  I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness…

To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark.  In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.

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“God blesses those who realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them…

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  

~Jesus (Matt 5:2; 11:28-30 MSG)

Good Enough for God?

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Are we good enough for God?

No.
We are not.

No one is good, but God. ~Jesus

A man is not justified by the works of the Law but by faith in Jesus Christ, alone.

We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping
but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ.
How do we know?
We tried it–and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen!
Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement,
we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God 
by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.  ~Galatians 2:16 (MSG)

No one will ever get it right.

No one will ever be “good enough” for God.

It’s impossible to please God without faith, and trying to “be good” is not faith.
It is trusting in self.

Believe me, please.  For, you see, I tried it.
For years and years and years which turned into decades upon decades.

I was even given the name “Goody-goody” throughout my school years. Yes, I thought I could keep myself saved through good works. It doesn’t matter if you believe your good works will save you before, or after, you come to know Christ. Either way, you’re still only trusting in self.

It wasn’t until my late forties that I realized I can do nothing to save me.
I either have faith in Christ, alone, or it’s all a sham.

And guess what?

On the other side of self-abuse, wretched sinfulness, and family-shattering betrayal…

Finally, I understood the GRACE of God, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

He looked upon my sinfulness
And bestowed upon me His forgiveness.

I saw my sin,
And I knew He saw it.

Yet, I felt His grace.

His love.
His mercy.
His redemption.

I found it is only through Christ, my Lord, that I am able to stand before God, the Father.
Jesus took the punishment I well-deserved.  He endured the suffering for my sins — all of them — before I was even born. Yes, and even before the foundation of the earth, the Lamb of God was crucified for us all.

As a child I learned Jesus loved me.  But I was also taught I must keep myself “good” for Him. And if I didn’t, He would not accept me.  My standing before Him was based upon my good works, not His sacrifice, alone.

So…
Why all of the clarification now???

Because, I spent so many years teaching it wrong. And so many people heard me. Eventually, I did learn the right teaching, but without the experiential knowledge, it wasn’t completely understood within my soul. I kept being “good” for I knew it was wisdom to live well.

But, God…
He turned up the fire of trials in my life.
He tested my knowledge and let me go down a path that would solidify my faith.

It wasn’t pretty.
Seeing our own sinfulness is never pretty.
But, necessary.

And now I KNOW that I KNOW that I KNOW

I am the LORD’s and He is mine.
And nothing can separate me from His love.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dear LORD.

Please, hear me, it is still wise to live well, BUT, never ever believe your good works will save you, or keep you saved…

In Christ, alone, is our salvation.

For by GRACE you are saved
through FAITH,
and this is not from yourselves,
It is the gift of God.
~Ephesians 2:8

All That I Need

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Jesus, you know what’s inside of my heart,
When I am coming apart at the seams.
But that’s when my true colors come shining through,
I know that You are the One for me.

A song by Dan Marks, “All That I Need”

Oh, how I wish I had always known this in my innermost being!

I do get glimpses of it, knowing He has been, and will always be, the One who never leaves.

He is the One who will always love.
He accepts me. All of me.
Even the ugliest parts…He has them covered.

He forgives fully and without exception.
I am free with Him.
In Him, I can be me.
(He created me…He likes me!)

My struggle, and possibly yours, is my flesh wanting more.

Why do I keep running to the world?

Why, when deep inside of me I KNOW, He is all I need, do I still look for more…?

Another verse:
When the dark clouds come and bring down the rain,
I know that You will sustain me, Lord.

I surely haven’t always lived that truth.
I have had moments, even years, of living it:

I did get through the miscarriage with His sustaining power.
I did feel His strong hand supporting me through the trials of raising three children.
I was empowered through His strength when illness and homeschooling converged.

I guess that’s why I’m so befuddled with the whys of my most recent years…
…the last five, to be exact.

Why, when I knew Him in victory, did I not hold on to Him in tragedy?

Loneliness, revictimization, fatigue … these are all explanations of what happened within my self … Years of fighting with demons, stuffing the pain, and questioning my illness led to a yearning for relief, a way out of the despair.

That’s when I let go and I let my flesh reign.

I still grieve about it. And, I imagine I always will. He forgets all our sins, but He didn’t give us that ability. When we forget, much of the time it’s an act of denial because we do not want to see the truth of our actions.

Honestly, I don’t want to forget.
I’m okay with the grief.
I’m even okay with the recognition that I did not make a mistake.

I sinned against my husband, my children, and my family.
I sinned against a holy God who gave me the best gifts in life.

I spit in the face of His blessings.

The knowledge of that choice brings me to my knees again and again and again…
Not in self-loathing, or thinking I must continue to ask for forgiveness;
I know He has forgiven me.

I fall on my knees in overwhelming thanksgiving to a great God who loves unconditionally!

So, you see,
I don’t want to forget.
I don’t want to deny what I am capable of doing.

I want to remember the lesson for the remainder of my time on this earth.
And when I get to heaven, then He will wipe away all my tears…

Oh God, help me to remember what I’ve learned.

Your love is all that I need,
All that I need, all that I need.
Your love is all that I need…
All that I need is You.

Life Together

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I found the perfect spot in the library, away from all the bustle. I was thirty-one with two little boys at home and badly needing a day away to think.  I can’t quite remember if my second relapse had hit me yet, but I knew I was in much need of rest.  I found the perfect spot next to an enormous glass window overlooking the pond.  While sitting on a little couch tucked under the stairwell, I asked the Father to please guide me to do the right thing. “Cause, I desperately want to do the right thing.”  I took out my journal, my pencil, my Bible, and Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together.

The book had been on the shelf for years, but I hadn’t ever read it, thinking it was too “theological” for me to enjoy.  It’s not a very big book but, as I found, it is chock full of truth and wisdom for the church body to discern what living this life together “should” be like.  It’s a book that radically changed the way I understood I am to “be” in the body.  Practical spiritual wisdom for everyday life together.

God was faithful to guide me.  I understood the admonishment from scripture, “as much as it depends upon you, be at peace with one another.”  With tears streaming down my face, I wrote out the apology, understanding a heart-rending-deep-cleansing had been done.

God made it clear to me what the next step would be.  The apology was sent and now it was time to hope for reconciliation.  It was time to release the situation in order that Christ might deal…

“…spiritual love proves itself in that everything it says and does commends Christ. It will not seek to move others by all too personal, direct influence, by impure interference in the life of another. It will not take pleasure in pious, human fervor and excitement. It will rather meet the other person with the clear Word of God and be ready to leave him alone with this Word for a long time, willing to release him again in order that Christ may deal with him.”
~D. Bonhoeffer, Life Together

It might be time to read that little — powerful — book once again.

A New Heart — A Right Spirit

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“I’m learning the insidious ways of denial.
For myself, I’ve needed to believe I was ‘good’ and did not recognize my ability to fall.
To see my depravity, up close and personal…ugh.”

~Me…from an old comment thread

Maybe it’s a need we all have, to believe we’re better than we are.
To hide from the disappointment and shame of living on this side of Genesis 3.

Our ability to self-deceive is frightening.
Most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it.
We blame others for the sin in our own lives.
Or, we hide behind coverings of our own making.

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
~Jeremiah 17:9

To begin to see the motivations of the heart is to take a frightening journey into the inner workings of the soul.

Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
~Proverbs 4:23 (NASB)

The springs of our lives flow from the heart.
If the heart is deceived and desperately sick, how can the source of our lives be clean?
A spring does not pour out fresh water and bitter water from the same opening, does it? ~James 3:11

Above all else, guard your heart,
For it affects everything you do.
~Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

The world tells us to follow our hearts.
“If it feels good, do it.”
But our hearts are the problem!

We want what we want when we want it,
and we’ll stop at nothing to get it.

I speak from experience…
Unfortunately.

No one wants to feel pain day-in-and-day-out. We search for something to satisfy. Food. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Relationships. Success. Video games. Clothes. Busyness. Anything to make the pain go away for awhile…

We tell ourselves it’s nothing. It won’t hurt to indulge…just a bit.  And before we know it, we’re: obese, alcoholics, addicted to pornography, promiscuous, in an affair, climbing the corporate ladder, walking over anyone to get to the top, spending hours in front of a screen in a fantasy world, buying more and more things to look better, staying busy with anything to stave off the pain…instead of looking for Real Life.

This is the state of our being since the Fall.
We all live on the other side of Genesis 3.
Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Have you ever seen what happens to a leaf when it dries out? That shriveled-up crunchy thing can’t cover nothin’! So what do we do? We gather more and more leaves and sew together our “covering” every day —  maybe many times a day — so people can’t see how very naked we are.

Our “coverings” won’t work.
They are only shriveled-up leaves.

Then…they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

We are cowering behind leaves as we hide from…
What is it we are hiding from?

Our self…each other. The memories…the shame.
And…The Only One who can help us.

They heard the sound of the LORD God …
and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God …

Are you hiding?

Are you ashamed when thoughts come to mind?

Is your covering not really covering anything?

Our hearts are deceptively wicked.
We need new hearts.
We need a perfect covering.

“If you only knew the gift God has for you
and who I am,
you would ask Me, and I would give you living water.”
~Jesus
(John 4:10)

Do you want a new heart…one that has clean water pouring forth?
Do you desire The Living Water of God?
Do you want Jesus?

Here’s a prayer of repentance you can pray.
He is faithful and just and will forgive you of all your sins.

He will give you a new heart.

Have mercy on me, O God, because of Your loyal love!
Because of Your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts!
Wash away my wrongdoing!
Cleanse me of my sin!
For I am aware of my rebellious acts;
I am forever conscious of my sin.
Against You – You above all – I have sinned;
I have done what is evil in Your sight.
So You are just when You confront me;
You are right when You condemn me.
Look, I was guilty of sin from birth,
a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.
Look, You desire integrity in the inner man;
You want me to possess wisdom.
Sprinkle me with water and I will be pure;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven!
May the bones You crushed rejoice!
Hide Your face from my sins!
Wipe away all my guilt!
Create for me a pure heart, O God!
Renew a right spirit within me!
~Psalm 51:1-10

Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst;
but the water that I will give him will become in him
a well of water springing up to eternal life.
~Jesus
(John 4:14)