Dance Anyway

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David danced before the Lord with all his might.” 2 Samuel 6:14

Deep within the soul of a little girl beats the heart of a dancer. When she was very small she would twirl around the room making her skirt billow out wide, curls bouncing as her feet leapt with the joy in her heart. But sometimes life can just knock the breath—and the joy—right out of us. We start out well, full of dreams and enthusiasm, but real-life struggles and heartaches come along and we find those dreams fading and our excitement waning.

Perhaps you are not a dancer at heart, but you have a God-given desire to step into something that would bring Him great glory, yet you also have a past that has weighed you down with shame and regret. You think, “I can’t dance (or sing or write, or whatever that desire is), people know my past and they will not approve.” My friend that is the very reason you need to tie on your ballet slippers.

King David tried to return the Ark of God to Jerusalem after it had been captured in battle. But his first attempt was a humiliating failure. At his second attempt David celebrated, “dancing and leaping before the Lord,” and his wife chastised him saying, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would” (v. 20). Sound like some voices you’ve heard lately? David replied: “It was before the Lord [that I danced]” (v. 21). He didn’t care what she thought because God was glorified in David’s dance.

Why do we think we can’t live for the glory of God when we have made mistakes – that we have to sit down when we’ve stumbled in life? Everyone out there has made mistakes. If we all sat out the dance because of the mistakes we’ve made, no one would ever dance again. And that is all the more reason why we should– to show the world that Jesus forgives and restores and makes life worth living again.

Beloved, someone else has stumbled over the same rock that brought you down; let them know they can get back up again. Celebrate before the Lord with all your might. The world doesn’t need to see you dancing out of perfection, they need to see you dancing out of redemption.

The Ministry of Experience

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Ever done anything foolish in your life? Yeah, me too. What do we do with the failures of our past? We put them in God’s hands so that others can benefit from our hard-earned wisdom. I believe that’s what Paul meant when he said, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). As survivors redeemed by Christ we reach back and help someone else who is fighting the same battle. Why is AA so powerful? Because it is built on experience and a shared struggle. It is one person who has found freedom from addiction walking alongside someone who is trying to break free.

I can minister to a child who is bullied by her peers, to a teenager suffering sexual abuse, to a woman abandoned by her husband, to a person who struggles with depression, to someone battling anxiety and fear, to a mom with a wayward child, to a couple who has lost everything, but most of all, I can reach out to someone suffering the consequences of their own foolish actions because I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt to prove it. And because I have the grace of God to show how He ministered to me in the midst of it all.

It is the deepest belief of my heart that God will take what the enemy meant to harm me and turn it into a means of blessings for others. When I allow God to turn my misery into ministry, Satan loses.  Then I can say with Joseph, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

This is how we redeem our foolish past—we take our experiences, our failures, and our sins to the table and say to another struggling soul, “I know where you are, I understand what you’re feeling and I will walk with you until you are free in Christ.” Beloved, don’t let the enemy bury you in shame. Let God use you and your scars to turn mistakes into ministry and heartbreak into hope.

Bootstrap Faith

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Do you have bootstrap faith? You know, when you are down and out and others say, “You’ve just got to pick yourself up by your bootstraps!” It was the psychology of my younger years – when life is tough you get tougher. (Modern psychology says your problems are someone else’s fault and you are entitled to compensation while you roll around in self-pity. But I digress.) You have to reach deep down inside yourself and grab on to your fortitude and strength and get on up out of that pit. After all, don’t we admire those who make something out of themselves from nothing but sheer grit and determination?  If you will it hard enough, you can do it!

So what happens when you realize you don’t have any bootstraps and you are all out of strength and fortitude and grit and determination? What do you do when you can’t carry the burdens another step? When your will just won’t anymore?

The Lord declared to His people, “I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4). In all my years of reading the Bible from cover to cover, I never once found Him scolding His people for depending on Him too much. But He sure chastised them for pushing Him away and trying to handle life on their own. He doesn’t expect you and me to carry our burdens alone. Those weights become very heavy. Health burdens. Financial burdens. Relational burdens. Burdens of loneliness, depression, fear, failure, responsibility, and we could go on and on. I have mine and you have yours. And God promises to carry us through them all.

The reason you can’t find your bootstraps is because it is God who will lift you up. It is God who will reach down to pull you up out of the pit. It is God’s strength and fortitude that will carry you – and your burdens. It’s time to stop trying to do it all on your own, and let God be your Rescuer and your Strength. He is not only able to carry you, Beloved, it is His delight and Joy.

Wise Up!

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I am a few weeks from my 60th birthday. I know, many of you reading this are well ahead of me, but this number has really caught my attention. What have I done with those 60 years? Did I do anything I set out to do with my life?  The truth is, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a very long time. I thought life would just unfold before me and the choices would make themselves. I never knew that my life had a purpose. I often wish someone would have told me that when I was younger.  It might have changed everything for me. What I studied in school, the people I hung out with, the choices I made.

I came across Moses’ Psalm and one verse, in particular, that is highlighted in my Bible. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). I’ve been told that I am wise (that’s a shock to me!). I wish I could say it was because I numbered my days and carefully evaluated my life with every decision. The truth is, any wisdom I’ve gained has come through blood, sweat, and tears (No not, the 60’s rock group). It has come with scars and pain.  I’ve often quoted my mom who said: “Bought lessons stay with you longer than taught lessons.” I have paid dearly for any small measure of wisdom I have. But I’ve learned some valuable life lessons this way. I’ve learned there are some things that I don’t want to ever do again because the cost was way too high. If that’s wisdom then, I guess I am wise. Maybe you, like me, look back over years of mistakes and failures and self-destructive behavior. We did more wrong than we did right. If we wallow in our misery then we learned nothing from it.  But if those hard lessons brought about good changes and especially brought us to the cross of Christ, then we’ve invested well. Here’s where I hang my hope: God can take every mistake I’ve made, every failure, every sin and teach me more than I could learn in scholarly books and classrooms. And they become common ground to reach out to other mistake-prone souls. Will put your mistakes and scars in the hands of your good and loving Father? They tell a powerful story the world needs to hear. It’s time to wise up, Beloved.

Life Lessons in the School of Hard Knocks

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”  Psalm 119:71

 I am somewhat hard-headed and tend to learn life lessons in the “School of Hard Knocks.”  I’ve found that the most effective teacher in life is consequence. Or as my Mom used to say “Bought lessons stay with you longer than taught lessons,” and I have paid dearly for some lessons.   I learned to choose more carefully who I hung around when I sat through a police interrogation on prom night.  I learned the value of money when I found myself deep in debt.  I learned to pay attention to my driving when I ran a red light and t-boned a car.   But the most important life lesson I learned wasn’t from my own failure – it came from the life of Peter.

In the Lord’s most vulnerable moments, Peter denied knowing Jesus.  As his Friend stood trial before the High Priest, his boldest disciple was arguing about his association with the one he had previously declared as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:13).  Peter repeatedly rebuffed accusations that he was one of Jesus’ followers.  And when, as his Friend prophesied, the rooster crowed, Peter realized what he has done and “he went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).  He was brokenhearted over his betrayal.

Thankfully the police didn’t lock me up, I paid off my bills, and the DMV allowed me to drive again. And blessedly, Jesus gave Peter another chance.  After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and the boys went back to fishing, and Jesus showed up on the beach with breakfast and forgiveness.  Three times Peter had denied Jesus.  Three times Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to profess love for his Lord and friend.  Jesus healed Peter’s broken heart with overflowing grace.  He reaffirmed His call on Peter’s life and this formerly unfaithful disciple preached the first evangelistic sermon, and three thousand souls were nourished and saved by the Gospel.

The lesson: God’s not done with me just because I messed up.

Peter’s life shows us that the mistakes we make, our failures and missteps are not the end. God doesn’t write us off, wash His hands of us or give up on us because we are hard-headed. If that were so, mankind would have never made it past Adam and Eve, much less to you and me. All through the Bible God tells us that He is patient, forgiving, compassionate, merciful and full of grace. He loves you, even when your knees are bloody because you fell. He loves me, even when I am covered in the stench of my own choices. Jesus died so you and I can be forgiven; So that we could have a second chance at life. Or a third or a seventeenth.

Have you made a mistake somewhere along the way? Have you run in the wrong direction, played with the wrong people, kept going when you should have stopped? Have you professed Jesus as your Lord then denied Him by your words and actions?  Take heart Beloved, God has not given up on you. Take your mistakes, your failures, your denials, and your sins and place them before your loving Heavenly Father. Then take the nail-scarred hand of Jesus and start walking, a little wiser, in the right direction. 

Amazing Grace

fail_math“We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom” 2 Corinthians 1:12.
Grace – unmerited favor, a gift undeserved but desperately needed.
I failed my algebra test this week – made a 46. Since returning to work a couple of months ago, I’ve been struggling to keep up with my schoolwork. Mind you, I’m no different than any other working student, but the strain is showing up most in my Algebra class, my absolute worst subject. I was a day late , which means an automatic deduction in points. I panicked out of exhaustion and couldn’t process what I had worked so hard to learn and ran out of time, thus the 46. But when I checked my email, my instructor had noticed the test was late and without me asking, granted me 2 extra days. I thanked her and explained about the struggle I’m having juggling work and school, especially this course, and I told her that I had failed the test. She wrote me back to say I had a second chance to take the test and she was confident I would do better. Grace.
If you are a Christian, you know about God’s grace to you through the cross of Christ. You know that you are saved by faith through grace, not anything you have done or earned. At least I hope you do. But so many of us live like grace ends at salvation and our lives are one big God-test that we are failing. We wear ourselves out trying to accomplish all we believe God requires of us and come skidding into church out of breath from trying to keep up with it all. And we fail. And in doing so, we pile more condemnation and guilt on ourselves. But God’s grace extends beyond salvation; His grace is a daily, undeserved gift as He says, “Come on child, you’ve got a second chance, a fresh start. I am confident you will do better today.” My friend, God’s grace is sufficient for salvation and for every day of your life, for every failure and misstep, and for a lifetime of do-overs, given freely and lavishly. Do you need a second chance today? Beloved, you’re covered in grace.

Paying for Wisdom with Pain

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”  Psalm 119:71

I am somewhat hard-headed and tend to believe that my way is the best way. I don’t always think things all the way through and then I wind up scratching my head, wondering what went wrong. I tend to learn life lessons the hard way. Know anybody else like that? Could it be that you and I are classmates in the “School of Hard Knocks?” As I read the Bible, I see that we are in a pretty large class, because God has had to deal with a lot of hard-headed people, from Adam and Eve to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the entire nation of Israel, King David, Jesus’ disciple Peter, Saul…and the list goes on and on.

Often, the most effective teacher in life is consequence. When he was little, I told my son many times, “don’t touch the stove, it’s hot, it will burn you,” but it wasn’t my words that convinced him – it was his own little red and painful hand that made him understand. Needless to say, he didn’t go near that stove again. Of course we then moved on to other hard lessons like not playing in an ant hill, not leaving your bike in the driveway, not driving over the speed limit – I think you get the idea. He is still learning difficult lessons, and truthfully, so am I.

My Mom used to say “Bought lessons stay with you longer than taught lessons,” and I have paid dearly for some lessons. I learned to choose my friends more carefully by sitting in a police station on prom night. I learned the value of money when I found myself deep in debt. I learned to pay attention to my driving when I ran a red light and t-boned a car. But the most important lessons I have learned came from the Word of God as we read in our key verse, and in verse 67: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word.”

Lesson #1: When I disregard the Word of God I will wind up in trouble. God’s Word is chock-full of wisdom for life. It is written by our Creator, who knows best how life should work, and we are wise to read and study it and put its principles and teachings into action. Jesus told the parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7:24-27. He said the wise man built his house on the rock and the foolish man built on the sand. The wise builder illustrated a person who built his life on obedience to Jesus’ words. No storm could destroy the house built on the rock, and no storm can destroy the person who builds their life on – not just reading the Bible – but putting its teachings and principles into practice. The Psalmist said, “Oh that my way were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame” (Psalm119:5-6a). Knowing and obeying the Bible can save us so much trouble and heartache in life.

Lesson #2: It’s not over just because I messed up.

I didn’t banish my son from the kitchen, the police didn’t lock me up for good (however, now that I think about it, my Dad did say I was grounded for the rest of my life), I paid off my bills and got my finances under control, and the DMV allowed me to drive again. How much greater is our merciful and gracious God to give us second and third and tenth changes? Look back at verse 67 and see my favorite words: “but now.” But now – after I have suffered the consequences of my actions and am a little wiser for it, God forgives me and says, “Try again child, I know you can get it right.” The mistakes we make, our failures and missteps are not the end. God doesn’t write us off, wash His hands of us or give up on us because we are hard-headed. If that were so, mankind would have never made it past Adam and Eve, much less to you and me. All through the Bible God tells us that He is patient, forgiving, compassionate, merciful and full of grace. He loves you, even when your knees are bloody because you fell. He loves me, even when I am covered in the mud of my own choosing. Jesus died so you can be forgiven; He died so I could have a second chance at life. Do you really believe that He would give up on you so quickly?

Have you made a mistake somewhere along the way? Have you run in the wrong direction, played with the wrong people, touched something that left you in pain? Take heart friend, God has not given up on you. Take this affliction, this difficulty and place it before your loving Heavenly Father. Put your blistered hand in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus and start walking, a little wiser, in the right direction.

Holy Father, God of second chances, I have made some mistakes and the consequences are painful. Please take this mess I have made and teach me to walk in the wisdom of Your ways. Amen.