The Sting of Regret

Moses hit the rock, so God kept him from seeing the promised land (Exodus 20:12). David slept with his soldier’s wife, so the child died (2 Samuel 12). Peter denied Christ, and was wrought with guilt (John 18:15-27).

Sin has many consequences, but I want to focus specifically on regret in this post. Your soul stings when you have caused yourself unnecessary suffering. Left unchecked, regret will take you by the hand and lead you spiraling into despair. It poisons our faith in God’s goodness.

Like everyone else, there are regrets I live with – needles of the conscience that nag and call for attention. I have learned one very important lesson as a result of dealing with the things I wish I could take back.

Avoiding regret requires self-discipline. Either I will experience the pain of disciplining myself, or the pain of God’s discipline as He corrects and redeems my faulty living. 

Holy living comes at a cost, but so does obstinate behavior. Faithfully obeying God is never as severe as the devastation of sin. So, for those of you wrestling between right and wrong, the choice is simple. Either you will experience the joy of obedience (for righteousness sake, 1 Peter 3:14) or you will pay for disobedience later (as a result of sin, James 1:15).

Since we all have regrets, here are two things we can rejoice in as Christians.

  1. God has promised to work all of actions and circumstances for the good of His children (Rom. 8:28). God can turn regrets into powerful life lessons. We learn deep truths about Him when He corrects us. As we experience His discipline, we come to know His character better and appreciate His awe-inspiring holiness much more. Since His discipline is rooted in love, we are drawn closer to Him, even through the pain we have caused ourselves (Hebrews 12:6).
  2. Regret can be turned into a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 34:18). Regret has a tendency to break us. Why is God close to the broken in spirit? Because His love is compassionate, and the broken in spirit are pliable. They’re tender to the voice of the Savior. They see the truth about themselves compared to the God of Scriptures. The need for intervention is magnified, and there is an increased longing for the Spirit of God. God loves when we learn to rely on Him for all we need. As a result, He draws near to us and we experience a greater intimacy with Him, even though we have messed up. That’s grace.

Regret can be a powerful toxin that discourages the soul. Ask God to reorient your focus when you fight with regret. I also recommend reading Psalm 34 when regrets arise.

3 Questions to Ask Our Rebellious Friends

We’ve all been close to friends who once walked with the Lord but have faded off into different lifestyles. I wouldn’t be wrong in assuming that many of us have done the same.

Sadly, I’ve noticed my own generation excusing ourselves during seasons of disobedience. It seems we have bought into a “Christian” version of finding ourselves, where we experiment with sin to see if it’s truly better than following the Lord.

I would attribute the lack of strong Christian relationships as a leading cause. In order to help us be there for those who are faltering to temptation, let me pose three questions to ask our friends (or ourselves!).

  1. Are you joyful? During seasons of disobedience it’s easy to feel weighed down. This happens because our identity in Christ is in direct conflict with our uncharacteristic actions. There can be no peace where we are stirring up tension between following Christ and following our own desires. Sin may produce fun results for a season, but it will never satisfy like joy in Christ.
  2. Are you fearful? Disobedience can often lead to unhealthy and unbiblical levels of fear. These fears could be of unfortunate circumstances or God’s discipline. They often spiral into wondering if God will “spite” me for the wrongs I’ve done or if my life will drastically fall apart because of my selfish actions. Pure, honest, and obedient living will always give you peace about what God will allow in your life because you know that You are not fighting against His will for you.
  3. Is there something bigger going on than just behavior? This will probably be a “yes” almost every time. Maybe your friends are going through a struggle and they are bitter towards God. Maybe they were never really saved and are starting to express their lack of conversion. Possibly, he or she is in need of a Christian friend who offers positive peer pressure. The reasons could be endless, but we are called to be a reflection of Christ’s love and friendship no matter what.

As always, pray for wayward friends, and we must be careful to remember that we are never too good to stumble in our walks with the Lord (1 Cor. 10:12, Gal. 6:1-2).

A Hidden Gem in the Christian Life

I hope you occasionally sit back and observe the ways of godly older people. I consider this somewhat of a pastime for myself. Imagine the wisdom you can obtain if you try to see life through their eyes. Their perspective is one of understanding.

If I could pick out one specific thing I’ve learned the most from this crowd, it’s this – balance.

Here are three specific aspects of balance I’ve learned from those older than I.

  1. Balance isn’t sexy. How many movies have you seen about a man who handles his finances well, lives modestly, balances work/home life, and lives with discernment? Not many, if any. It’s sad but true. The best way to live is the least glorified. Our culture values flashy displays of passion and excess much more than controlled living.
  2. Balance requires consistent discipline for years. Some of us are “fad” people (guilty!). We go in and out of seasons of spending, TV, books, exercise, and just about anything else that is fun at the start. But, there is a ton to be reaped when we sow for decades the same seed. It will certainly yield an abundant harvest.
  3. Balance trains us to be godly. Since balance takes discipline, it also incorporates many aspects of spiritual self-control. Learning self-discipline in all areas can have positive effects on our walk with Christ (example, consistently spending time with the Lord even with a busy schedule). Balance helps us to keep all things in their proper place in our Christian walks.

I pray that I will grow immensely in this area. I hope you join me in asking yourself how you might balance your life to show the whole character of Christ.

How Music Affects Emotions

I love music, and if you know me personally, you know this to be (probably annoyingly) true. I can spend countless hours on Spotify crafting the right playlist for the right mood. There is a powerful satisfaction in a song that resonates with your exact feelings or takes your emotions to a place you didn’t know you wanted to go.

I’ve often analyzed the concept of music’s power over our feelings in conversation and personal thought. Here are three observations about music and our emotions.

  1. Music helps our hearts emote (emoting is when we express what we feel). Like reading poetry, music puts into words those deep seeded stirrings that we struggle to properly express. It allows for honest realization of any particular emotion, and provides a safe and healthy outlet.
  2. Music helps us move beyond emotional handicap. Identifying feelings is important, but music’s purpose can come full circle when we pay close attention to our listening patterns. For example, sometimes I’ll find myself listening to a lot of melancholy music. I can then process through why I might be doing that and address any hindrances if I need to (there may not always be an unknown reason; i.e., sometimes sad music is just pleasant).
  3. Music soothes loneliness. It’s comforting to know that someone has experienced a similar heartbreak. On the other hand, you can be overjoyed when someone puts words to that “sunny Saturday afternoon windows down driving weather” kind of feeling. Either way, it’s a simple reminder that at our core, people are quite similar.

Music does so much more than those three things, but those are the first that came to mind as I sat down to write. I encourage you to ask yourself what music does for your emotions. I’ll bet you will be pleasantly surprised at your answer.

The Simplicity of Relationship with God

Sometimes we overthink our relationship with God. Have you ever heard of this routine?

Three chapters of Bible reading, ideally dispersed throughout Old and New Testaments, combined with a less-read portion of Bible. Follow that with two sermons from two different, favorite preachers (each 45 minutes or greater in length). Tier one of prayer (sedentary prayer, of course) – 30 minutes, tier two – 1 hour, expert – any amount greater than 2 hours. All of this must be followed by quality worship music in transit to obligatory location for the day, followed by superior moral living. Once this routine is complete (preferably before 8 am), then one has communed with God. 

That paragraph is laughable. Some of you might even be a little peeved. “That’s not how it works!” 

You’re right. It’s not, yet at times we still tell ourselves the ritual above is the true Christian walk. Although all of those things are wonderful routines (and I would highly recommend each one), they neglect the simple beauty of the way God has organized this whole relationship.

God has made the instructions simple enough for a child to walk with Him, yet rewarding enough for the deepest intellect.

Read and communion (with God through prayer and with His church). 

Are there complications along the way? Of course. Will our world push us to overcomplicate and search to no end for solutions? Indeed. Does suffering make life messy? Always. Is following Christ black and white? Nope.

But, God keeps the ground rules simple for us. He always meets us in the quiet place. Maybe you’re reading this and you have recently felt that your walk with the Lord has become unnaturally complicated – like you’re trying to accomplish it more than enjoy it. I wonder if the missing ingredient is the simplicity of fellowship with God…that we read his Word, and we talk to Him and his people (the church).

Don’t let over-active spirituality and box-checking take the place of personal investment in the Bible and prayer. Keep it simple. It’s refreshing.

3 Losses in the Absence of Prayer

I found myself doing a little reflection the other day while I was at work. “Is ____ a guy who probably prays a lot?” “I wonder how often ____ talks to God about his life?”

Then I asked the inventible question: “I wonder if people would say I am a man of prayer?” Sadly, I know how my time is dispersed throughout my daily routine, and I could certainly use more prayer.

Continuing on with my reflection, I considered what I lose by not being more committed to prayer. It’s important to remember that prayer is therapy for the Christian’s soul, not a boring obligation. Many of us suffer from numb and sterile prayer lives because we aren’t actually telling God what we are really thinking and feeling. The prideful pretense creates distance. We have to be honest with ourselves, and then with Him before we experience true conversation in prayer.

I want to throw out three quick thoughts on what we lose when we fail to pray.

  1. Peace. Peace doesn’t come from all our affairs being in order. It comes from knowing that the God of all creation is watching over us. What better protection is there than to experience the care of the One who has all the resources we will ever need at His fingertips? Maybe we ought to start asking for more help…
  2. Security. Failing to talk to the Lord opens us up to forgetting Who is watching over us. It will naturally lead to fear. We begin to worry about all sorts of things when we haven’t heard the calming voice of the Father reminding us He always cares, is still watching over us, and is constantly working in our daily circumstances to demonstrate His affection.
  3. Purity. If we pray less, we sin more. If we sin more, we worry, act selfishly, and spiral downward in our relationship with God and others. Not to worry, though! God gives grace. We can experience it in prayer, and avoid the pitfalls, altogether, if we’re proactive.

God is so good to us. He is always there for us when we fail, reminding us that His grace covers our wrongs. Let’s pray more often not because we “have” to, but because we want to share our lives with our Father.

Are You Spoiled?

Spoiled or blessed, which of the two are we? Maybe we are both. In our nation, our culture of abundance, we wrestle to define the line between the two. Are you okay if God doesn’t give you what you want? Most of us should be honest and admit that our culture has not trained us for this possibility.

In order to tackle this issue within our hearts, we first need to be comfortable enough to admit we have a hard time not getting what we want. We are wired to obtain our desires. It’s part of what makes the American culture so blissful.

But, as I prepared my last sermon in Psalm 62, it became clear to me that many struggles within the Christian walk are byproducts of our will, as it rages against what God designs for us.

This challenges our philosophy on gratitude. For what are we grateful? Regarding people in our lives, you may be grateful for a friend’s sense of humor or your mother’s emotional intelligence.

As it pertains to Christ, what are we grateful for? Gratitude is not saying “thank you” when my wishes are granted. Gratitude is realizing He knows me well enough to give me not just what I need, but also what I didn’t know I wanted. My heart may yearn to be closer to Christ, but if I fail to examine myself deeply enough to determine the core of my longings, I will fail to act accordingly. In order to do so, I must walk through a personally unknown trail in order to experience the manifestation of my desires – to be with Him. These are paths of the heart only Christ knows. He holds the map to our private longings. We need his guidance on how to satisfy the depths of our own souls. 

The posture of our hearts will change what we feel about not getting what we want. First, we must come to realize what we truly desire is an unparalleled outpouring of emotional, physical, and spiritually intimacy with Christ. When we align our mentality with that truth, we will move from spoiled to grateful, for Christ is giving us that which we forgot we wanted – to experience more of Him (Ps 37:4).