Monthly Archives: November 2013

No Regrets

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I was talking with a group of people at school the other day; and, following a comment I made, one of the girls said, “You just don’t regret anything, do you, Sabra?”  It took no more than a second for me to smile and reply that it’s true; I don’t have regrets.

You might be thinking, “That’s because you haven’t done anything worth regretting.”  In truth, I have grown up as a homeschooled missionary kid and a pastor’s daughter.  I have experienced more than most people could hope to in their lives yet have been able to do so in a relatively safe manner.  I have dear friends who did not have it as “easy” as I did; many grew up in broken homes and went through a great many struggles that I have never and likely will never face.  In both cases, however, God has done amazing things in our lives and brought us through by His grace and mercy.  You see, I have certainly done regrettable things.  We have, each and every one of us, “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  However, I do not have regret.  There is a marked difference.  Let me say that again: I have done regrettable things, but I do not have regret.  Regret is dangerous because it reeks of condemnation.  What does Scripture say about condemnation?

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

True story.  The question is, do we believe it?  And if we believe it, do we live like we believe it?  If we truly take these verses to heart, they should impact our lives dramatically.

I was talking with a good friend of mine, and we were discussing how different our testimonies are.  I actually brought it up, because after we had done street evangelism together — along with some other people who also have amazing testimonies — I realized just how much God had protected me from certain things.  (I never realized it until my friend pointed it out, but that is part of my testimony too.)  My friend, on the other hand, went through a lot before God got ahold of him and totally turned his life around.  When I hear stories like his, I tend to hear an undercurrent of regret, which, in some ways, is understandable.  I asked my friend though, as his tone laced with regret, if he regretted what God had done in his life, which of course wasn’t at all the case.  “Yeah, but sometimes I just wish I had found God sooner…” is the sentiment that I have heard from so many.  Yet that is not what God wants for us, His children.

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

He certainly wants us to feel sorrow over our sin, but He does not want us to bear guilt and regret for the remainder of our lives – that is not the point.  The point is that we recognize His overwhelming mercy and grace and accept them, for they are freely given.  After receiving the forgiveness bought with Christ’s blood, people will let God change their lives in the present, but sometimes they don’t let Him truly wipe away the past.  Let me weave a story for you….

A small child is holding a glass.  He was never supposed to have it in the first place; he was not capable of being responsible for something so fragile and precious, said his Father; yet here he was.  Rebellion was not necessarily his intent, but one thing led to another and it happened.  He clutches the glass as tightly as he can, yet it still manages to slip from his grasp.  It tumbles downward, perfect until the moment it strikes the floor.  A thousand tiny pieces lay at the boy’s feet, a shimmering jumble of hopeless shards.  “I broke it!” he cries in dismay.  As horror and shame vie for the upper hand, he quickly crouches down to clean up the mess.  Slivers of glass prick his tender palms; blood oozes between his fingers, trickling down his broken glassarms.  His Father sees him and comes close in spite of the brokenness.
“My son,” he says.  “What has happened?”  Shame-faced and sniffling, the boy does not meet his Father’s steady gaze.
“I broke it, Daddy; I’m sorry.”  The Father kneels down amid the broken glass and tilts his son’s face toward His own.
“I know.  You are forgiven.”  A look of relief crosses the vulnerable little boy’s face.
“I won’t do it again; I’ll obey next time.”  The child does not want to disappoint his Father further and is eager to please and make the right choice in the future.  He picks up the sharp pieces with renewed vigor, determined to make things right.
“I know.  Now, son, give the pieces to me.  Let me clean up the glass; you should not handle it anymore.”  The boy glances at his tightly fisted hands, curled around the collected shards and still dripping bright red blood, and winces.
“It hurts.”  His Father pulls him close, drawing his small fists into His own larger hands.
“I know it hurts; let me take the glass away.”
“But it hurts!”  The boy grows more agitated by the moment; he knows his Father has forgiven him but the pain of his sin lingers.  The pain is becoming unbearable, and he squeezes his injured fists tighter, not allowing his Father to look at his self-imposed wounds, the wounds of his rebellion.  “It hurts!”  He screams, tears leaking from his eyes as swiftly as the blood leaks from his hands.  The Father’s heart breaks as He watches His beloved child suffer needlessly…

Aren’t we all like the little boy, ashamed of what we’ve done and relieved that we’ve been forgiven but forgetful that we need our Father’s healing as well as His forgiveness? God wants to know, will you give Him your past, or will you cling to it?  Will you let your regrettable choices refine you or will you let them define you?  Why do we hold on to the old things when the Lord is ready and waiting to cast them as far as the east is from the west, when He is ready to wash us white as snow – both past and present?  When we hold on to the past, to those deep regrets, we are like the small boy, clutching the glass in his hand and crying out that it hurts.  We have been forgiven; will we now allow ourselves to be healed?  Not one of us deserves the Father’s great mercy; we have all broken his heart and, in the process, our own.  What will we do with our brokenness?  Godly sorrow should bring conviction and a desire to be made whole and new.  What is interesting about the word “new” is that it literally means “not old” – nothing old.  Our loving Father wants us to release those regrets and to offer those places of brokenness to Him and allow Him to make them whole and new.  Let us learn to live lives with no regrets, lives full of freedom and healing bought by the precious blood of Christ.  Let us no longer cling to the death-bearing sorrow of the world but rather embrace the sorrow of the Father’s heart, which brings us life everlasting.

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Outside the Comfort Zone

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Are you SURE you don't want a litchi?  (I promise I won't add a picture of goat brains!)

Are you SURE you don’t want a litchi? (I promise I won’t add a picture of goat brains!)

Comfort zones – we all have them.  Some people’s comfort zones may be larger than others, but they are still there.  Some people have comfort zones that are large in some areas and small in others.  (By using the term “comfort zones,” I am really talking about the way we live and the important decisions we make – our lifestyles.  Please note that I am not encouraging you to go do something like eat goat brains and litchis just because those are outside your comfort zone when it comes to food.)

The unfortunate cry of our flesh

The unfortunate cry of our flesh

In everything we do, we like to try to stay within our comfort zones.  Why?  Because the comfort zone is familiar and because it is familiar, we deem it “safe.”  We could just call them “safety zones.”  Often, we move outside our comfort zones, we feel out of control because, well, we are.  Our comfort zones generally consist of that which we feel we can control.  Granted, we never have as much control as we think we have; nevertheless, it is our reason for craving the familiar.  We love to feel in control because it gives us a feeling of power and significance.  After all, who really likes to feel bewildered and powerless?  Maybe it doesn’t apply to you, but everything I have just said is most certainly true of me.

The problem with this way of thinking is that it is a human way of thinking; it isn’t godly.  To think this way isn’t to think as God thinks.  God deeply desires each one of us to step out into the unknown with Him, trusting that He’s got our best interests at heart (check out one of my most recent blogs, “Sweet Surrender,” for more about this subject: http://www.journey247.com/2013/08/25/sweet-surrender/).  However, we are often so busy trying to remain where we are comfortable and “safe” that we miss the opportunity to walk in the true fullness of what God has for each one of us and to fall more in love with Him.

Moses is a great example of missing an opportunity.  In Exodus 4, he missed out on the opportunity to step into everything God had for him.  First, he worried about what would happen if he went and declared God’s words to his fellow Israelites and nobody believed him (v. 1).  God gave him three completely different, completely amazing miracles that would prove that He was the One behind Moses’ words (v. 2-9).  “O Lord, I have never been eloquent….I am slow of speech and tongue” (v. 10).  After giving Moses a brusque reminder of Who it was that gave man the power of speech, God told Moses, ‘”….Now go.  I will help you speak and teach you what to say”‘ (v.12).  But that wasn’t enough for Moses; he was still concerned with what he thought he would lack when he stepped into the unfamiliar, soexclamation_mark he didn’t want to do it: “O Lord, please send someone else to do it” (v.13).  The NIV translation ends that sentence with a period, but I always imagined it having an exclamation mark and being said with a tone of desperate pleading.  At least, that is how I would have said it: “Don’t make me do it, Lord!”  It goes on to say that the Lord was angry and that He gave Aaron the task of speaking His powerful words.  Moses still got to play a role in what God was doing, but his role was diminished – that is, not all that it could have been and not even all that God desired it to be.

Now, please understand that I am not saying God did not use Moses greatly; God gave Moses many more opportunities to do great things for Him, and Moses chose to do many of them.  However, I am saying that I think Moses missed out when he did not allow God to use him; he missed out on an opportunity to see God display His awesome power in his life.  I have always wondered how the story might have gone had Moses taken God up on His promise and risen fully to the task.

Just like Moses, we often miss opportunities to let God work through us fully when we choose to live within the safe boundaries of our comfort zones.  While missing out on that opportunity certainly breaks God’s heart, you may be wondering why exactly living solely in one’s comfort zones is, in a way, ungodly.  I will explain that now.  When we cling to our comfortable lifestyle, we are making the familiar – the safe, the comfortable – our idol, and that is wholly ungodly.  (Check out Exodus 20:3 and spend some time contemplating its true meaning – it will help you get your priorities straight, which can be very life-changing.)  Additionally, when we live in our self-created comfort zones, we are putting no real faith or trust in God, which is not at all what God wants for us.  Jesus Christ did not die on the cross so that we could live safe and comfortable lives; He came that we “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10), lives “free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).  And here’s some more good news: though we have missed opportunities in the past, even yesterday, we will be offered new opportunities.  God’s awesome power is there for the taking.  The question is, will you use it, allowing Him to work in you and through you, trusting that He’ll take you all the way?  Jesus didn’t come to allow us to remain as we were, hiding out in our comfort zones.  And actually, He didn’t even come to help us live outside our comfort zones; He came to radically change our heart and totally destroy our “comfort zones” so that we can live lives that are powerful, effective, and beautifully free.

in God we trust