Tag Archives: grace

Why My Actions Make Me Angry

 “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.* I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:15-20

Boy can I relate to Paul lately! He penned these words as someone desperately following Jesus at great personal cost and yet feeling inadequate all along the way. Why is it that the very things that are so bad for us are often the things that are so attractive? They draw us in and seem to be so much easier to do than all that is healthy and truly good for us.


And though I’ve even written about the benefit of a disciplined life, I still struggle to live one at times. I watch TV instead of working out. I choose cookies instead of carrots. I spend time on Facebook instead of studying Scripture. I stay up late when I should rest. I sleep in when I should wake up. And everything seems to take priority over spending time with my Savior. What comfort to know that I am not alone, that even the apostle Paul struggled with his undisciplined sinful side!

The truth is that making choices is a very difficult process. There are always two sides at work in each of us. These two sides have been battling from the moment of creation and will continue to contradict one another until Jesus returns. By God’s grace, through faith, I have been justified and forgiven. My sin has been wiped away. The old has truly gone, the new is truly here. And yet, my old, sinful self desperately sticks around and stubbornly refuses to completely die.


And so I need help. And God knew we would all need help. He gave us the Holy Spirit as an advocate and more importantly, as God Himself alive in us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, my sinful nature is put to death a little more each day and my heart looks a little more like Jesus. This process, called sanctification, is a lifelong journey. There are times it feels like I’m running in the right direction, there are times I feel I’m running in the wrong direction, and there are times it feels like I’m just standing still. And regardless of the pace of the progress, God promises to complete the good work that He started in each of us. The Holy Spirit is the source of the strength to keep journeying, even when the reality of sin discourages and slows us down.

Though the battle between my saved self and my sinful self wages on, the war has already been won. Jesus ensured victory through His shed blood on the cross and in leaving the Holy Spirit as our helper.  It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to become more like Jesus. If I rely on my own will power, I will certainly fail. Like a hamster on a wheel, I all be exhausted, but I won’t get anywhere. Relying on the Holy Spirit turns selfishness into self-control, anger into kindness, irritability into joy, anxiety into peace, busyness into patience, and loathing into love. We cannot become more like Jesus on our own. No one is talented enough, smart enough, or strong enough to fight the power of sin in our lives. Only God can make us more like God. We must rely on His strength, His wisdom, and His grace. That alone can defeat sin’s grip on us.

In what ways does your sinful nature frustrate you? What can you do today to allow the Holy Spirit to work through your life and make you more like Jesus?

romans 715

When we hurt those we love the most…

Ever wonder why we tend to hurt those closest to us? Why is it that so often we treat complete strangers with more care and respect than those we love the most? I know I’ve been on both ends of this odd phenomenon. I’ve been hurt and I’ve done the hurting.

Practically speaking, we spend more time around those we love and so they are more likely to be on the receiving end of our cranky moods and they are more likely to annoy us with their quirky habits. Plus, there is more safety found in a close, loving relationship than with a stranger. A family member is more likely to offer grace and forgiveness than a mere acquaintance. A close friend is more likely to remember all of our good traits and the fun experiences, which hopefully outweigh our less than stellar ones.

And yet… they actually deserve the best of us, not the worst!

I think it is safe to say that we would all be wise to take a deep breath, count to 10, and guard our tongues so that we don’t lash out at those dear to us. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” But what do we do when we are on the receiving end of the hurt?


Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Holding onto the hurt leads to bitterness, which ultimately imprisons us. Forgiveness is the key to freedom. No, forgiving does not excuse the behavior that caused the hurt in the first place. Forgiving another does not magically make you forget what happened nor does it instantly repair the relationship. However, forgiving those who hurt us is what Jesus asks us to do. He knows it is what is best for our heart. Plus he wants us to extend the same grace and kindness to others that he first extended to us. We tend to hurt because we’ve been hurt. Remembering this helps us extend kindness and compassion as well. Additionally, when I am secure in my identity as God’s beloved daughter, I can more easily extend grace, forgiveness, kindness, and compassion to those who have hurt me.


“You’re wrong but I still love you!” (Why respect matters more than being right.)

Recently Dan Haseltine, lead singer of Jars of Clay (one of my favorite bands, click here to find out why) made some thought provoking and controversial statements on Twitter in an effort to engage in a thoughtful dialog about a difficult topic. Within minutes, people were making accusatory and hurtful statements in response. Within hours, radio stations had pulled Jars of Clay from their regular rotation and online articles had been posted by many of the news outlets that pay attention to the relatively tiny subculture that is contemporary Christian music. But the vicious and mean comments from people hiding behind the anonymity of the computer are what shocked me most. (Read Dan’s explanation and apology here.)


I don’t understand why it seems that it is no longer acceptable to respectfully disagree with one another anymore. It seems that if I disagree with someone, I am supposed to hate them or discredit them as ignorant and close minded. What happened to the days when a healthy, vigorous debate could end with mutual respect and genuine care for one another? I have been a fan of Jars of Clay for twenty years, and I’m fairly certain I disagree with them on many things. However, I adore their music, marvel at their creativity and artistry, and respect and love them as fellow brothers in Christ. Many of my closest friends have opposite political views to mine, and we are bold (or crazy) enough to talk about such topics. I love debating with my friends! To my knowledge, no one has gotten the other to change their mind, but we’ve challenged each other to see a different perspective and to work harder to defend our own! When the debate is done, I still love them, care about them, and respect their intellect.

I have to admit that I am a recovering know-it-all and if I had access to Twitter or Facebook in high school or college, I probably would have posted quite a few things I’d later regret. One of the things I have had to learn is to tolerate views that differ than my own.  I used to base my identity on being right. This meant that I saw any opposing view as a direct threat to my worth and value as a person. But like lipstick on a pig, my vigorous and passionate defense of my opinions was really just dressed up insecurity. I had to learn that sometimes it is better to be righteous than to be right and to choose relationship over rhetoric.


Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not advocating for the kind of tolerance that leads to no voice or opinion at all. I have very strong personal beliefs and I make no apology for them. Every student in every class I teach has heard me say, “I believe what I believe because I think it is right. If I didn’t think my beliefs were right, I wouldn’t believe them!” Tolerance does not mean that no one is allowed to have any beliefs or opinions at all. NO! It means that varying, even opposite opinions are allowed to exist and be expressed. And I remind my students that they are allowed to disagree with me, even if I am the professor. I’m also not suggesting that our words don’t carry consequences, because they most certainly do! (Ask Donald Sterling, soon to be former owner of the LA Clippers.)

Scripture has a lot to say about the words we speak. A simple search of the word “tongue” yields 133 results and over 80 speak to the impact our words have both positive and negative. The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21) and the ability to speak the truth in a loving way is a sign of spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:15). And sometimes the wisest decision we can make is to say nothing at all (Proverbs 10:19, 11:12, and 17:28). But when we do choose to voice an opinion or take a stand for a belief, let’s do so with grace, humility, and without judgment (lest we be judged – Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37). Let’s be quick to listen and slow to speak. Let’s be quick to seek understanding and slow to make assumptions. Let’s be quick to forgive and slow to attack. Let’s all grow a little bit thicker skin. And let’s ensure that our identity stays rooted in being God’s beloved child, and not in being right.