Regret or Rejoice!

“Ninety percent of the regrets I’ve had in life have been a failure in a crisis of faith,” confessed my friend. These were times when, in his words, he “succumbed to fear over faith.” He went on to recall a time when the Spirit urged him to take a step of faith and speak to a stranger about Jesus—“It was as close to an audible voice as you can get,” he told me, but he remained silent in the moment and has carried regret ever since. We can all relate, can’t we? Yes, every single one of us can relate, for we’ve all floundered in similar circumstances and walked away in guilt, disappointment and sorrow.

So what do we do? Another friend of mine is fond of saying, “Give up all hope of a better past,” and perhaps we do well to start there. If we let yesterday’s failures distract us from today’s assignments, we will erect yet another milestone of regret at sundown. So let’s accept forgiveness for what lies behind us, learn what we can from experience, and fix our focus the here and now. We do well then to anticipate God’s call, which is to say we should not be caught flat-footed or surprised by the daily urging of the Holy Spirit. Obedient action is the overflow of identity; it’s the “what we do” that arises out of “who we are.” Paul writes, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”1 There will be calls to action, and these are not random; rather they are planned by the God we confess, and He has fashioned us for them.

Then in the splendor of who God has made us to be, and in His high calling, we surrender ourselves to Him. Wrote Paul to the church in Rome, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”2 To say no in the moment and regret it the rest of our years, this is truly a tragedy. We don’t need to repeat it. How much better to say yes to God, knowing He will work through our obedience and we will rejoice in His pleasure both now and forever. The choice is clear. Which do you desire today?

Father, you are so good! You turn our mistakes into learning, and You send us into a new day of tasks that await us. Fill us completely, that we would live today as living sacrifices, watchful and eager to join You as you direct us. You will accomplish Your purposes through us, Your people. What an honor. Thank You. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Ephesians 2:10
2 Romans 12:1


Holding Hands

“Hold my hand, we’re crossing the street,” we say, and a little palm reaches up to be engulfed in our fists grown larger over time. Is there a better feeling in life than a child’s hand clasping ours? Their hope, their security, their trust—these priceless treasures of the heart given over to us through vertically outstretched arms and tightly squeezing fingers. Mindful of the innocent confidence now resting in us, we firm our own grip and proceed carefully, for safety is not found in the hand of the child who trusts us, but in the strength of our own. Of course, children naturally outgrow this phase—“I can do it myself; I don’t need you to help me”—and in small matters like parking lots and city streets we want this for them.

Yet life itself, with all of its challenges, is too big for us. We were created to trust and rely on our adoring Creator, and we never outgrow our need for His outstretched hand. David understood this, celebrating through lyrics of song, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”1 Trusting in the love of God, the king clasped the grip that extended first to his: “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.”2 And no matter where we go in life, or no matter where life finds us, we can never venture beyond God’s reach: “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”3

Isn’t it amazing that God is not only willing to take our hand, but eagerly desiring to do so? Our need for Him is far greater than we realize, and His grace greater still. We never outgrow our need for Him, for safety is not found in the hand of the child who trusts God, but in the strength of His own. Reach up today; He is with you, and you can trust Him.

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”4—Jesus the Son, to God the Father.

1 Psalm 37:23-24
2 Psalm 63:7-8
3 Psalm 139:9-10
4 Luke 23:46


The Price We Pay To Forgive

Saturday evening is a powerful time on a Kairos Prison Ministry Weekend. Our focus that day is on forgiveness, and inmates and Kairos volunteers are encouraged to make a list of wrongdoers we need to release from our resentment, hatred, anger or pain. No one sees anyone else’s list; this is a private matter. Then in a “forgiveness ceremony” at day’s end, each person drops his own list of names into a bowl of water and watches as the dissolvable paper immediately and completely disappears before them. It is a powerful moment of liberation, understanding, peace and hope.

In his excellent book The Prodigal God, author Tim Keller wrote, “forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.”1 As I paused to ponder his statement, the steep cost of forgiving others became clearer. We forfeit our right against those who have wronged us, and we destroy the moral IOUs we’ve vindictively waved in their face or bitterly stored in our heart. This was a cost the unmerciful servant in Jesus’ parable was unwilling to pay, for though his master had forgiven him much, he was unwilling to extend the same mercy to a peer who owned him little. [Read Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:21-35.] In forgiving others, we relinquish any notion of moral superiority, remembering that we have offended God far more than any one person has ever offended us, and yet we are forgiven. And when we forgive our debtors, we surrender our pride and risk vulnerability before those who have exploited it in the past.

But aren’t these just costs of the flesh, where we would be king? Surrendering grudges, accusations, bitterness, pride, relational isolation—isn’t this really addition by subtraction? Aren’t we happier without them? Or conversely, isn’t it taxing, in a way, to lug around a burgeoning ledger of resentments? Wouldn’t we prefer the sins of others and our grudges against them to be “hurled . . . into the depths of the sea,”2 where they dissolve for good?

God the Father “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”3 Soak this in; it is true. Then as a people forgiven and brought into God’s kingdom, may we freely forgive others at the cost of our own.

“Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”—Ephesians 4:32 NASB

Father, Your Son bore the ultimate price for our sin. Humble us in Your love, that we would at any cost forgive those who have trespassed against us. Grace us to live in the freedom of forgiveness. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Tim Keller , The Prodigal God, (Dutton: New York), 83.
2 Micah 7:19
3 Colossians 1:13-14