Stop Saying You Are Sorry.

Not too long ago I was given the chance to visit Colorado for a week for a ministry called “Operation Restored Warrior.”  It was an incredible and life-changing journey and I learned a lot.  But, one thing that stuck with me was what one of the directors said to me.  His name is Chris Fields and he is an incredible man, a combat veteran; a guy who held me in his arms while I sobbed…What?!

That week was emotional, don’t judge.

Anyways, Chris taught me something so simple that it didn’t even make sense at first.

“Scott, stop saying you are sorry.  Start asking for forgiveness.”

Wait, what? Isn’t that the same thing?

Wrong. You see, saying that you are sorry is a lot like asking people at church how they are doing.  It’s just a formality.  We don’t often mean it.

Be honest.  The last time that you said you were sorry I bet that what you really meant was, “This is standard protocol for me screwing up” or “I am really just sorry that I was caught” (that one is my go-to).

Most of the time, when we say “I’m sorry” we are really just doing it for ourselves.  We are doing it to make ourselves feel better and to hear that person say, “I forgive you.”

It’s not because we long for reconciliation; we just want to sleep better at night.

On the other hand, when we ask for forgiveness, we are taking the power and giving it to those we have wronged.  We are humbling ourselves and saying, “I wronged you and I hurt you.  Will you forgive me?”

It’s not just about saying the words, though.  If it were, “I am sorry” would be perfect.  But, it’s about the placement of our heart and it’s about putting others above your own ego and pride…Period.

You give them the choice, and, better than that, you show them that how they feel and what they say matters.

Recently, I sat down with an old friend for coffee…someone whom I had hurt time and time again.  She was one of my best friends and had tried to help me through a dark and sinful time in my life, but I wouldn’t listen (well I pretended to).  I would lie and continue to screw up, over and over again, pushing her away and breaking her trust.

I sat across from her at a Starbucks and asked her to forgive me and she said “of course.”

Do not misunderstand me.  It will not always be that easy.  And many days and nights passed before I mustered up the courage to even text Monica.  So, maybe that’s where you are at right now.  Maybe there is someone you need to look in the eyes and admit to that you screwed up.  You need to ask them how that made them feel.  You need to ask them for their forgiveness and be prepared for them to say no.  That is okay.  It will sting and it will hurt.  But it is okay.  

Sometimes, they’ll refuse to even meet with you.  There are people in my life with whom I have tried to meet with and they just don’t seem ready or into it.  That is okay; they have that right.  Give it time, pray, and do not give up.

There are some people with whom I have not yet found the strength to talk to.  People whom I know that I will one day need to look in the eyes and beg for forgiveness.  And I bet some of you are there too.  Stay strong and pray that God would give you that lion’s heart.  Give that person or people the honor of having a say in your forgiveness.

Ultimately, your eternal destiny was decided by God; but, here on earth, we are called to repent, seek forgiveness, and ask for reconciliation.  So, call them, text them, email them.  Whatever it takes, do not let another day go by without trying.

You could literally be one conversation away from rebuilding a friendship that would have otherwise died.

So, don’t give up.  Humble yourself and ask for forgiveness.  And, stop saying you’re sorry.

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Silence.

I am writing this on Sunday evening, Father’s Day.

Today is mostly a bitter day for me.  For 22 years, I have watched people around me celebrate Father’s Day while I do not. Year after year it is just as awkward, uncomfortable, and painful, and that is okay.  I do not think it has to ever not be okay.

But that’s not what I am writing about today.  What I want to discuss is far more important than that.

I think that there are plenty of times to keep your mouth shut.  And I think that there are plenty of times to sit back and understand that silence is the best route. It’s okay to be silent about my dad, but this is one of those times  when we need to speak up.

You see, I think that we have lost sight of something, or worse, turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to a continuous problem in our country.  Today, at the three services at my church, we mourned for the loss of lives.  We honored the victims and we prayed for the families that have to endure the pain because Dylann Roof entered a church and killed 9 people due to the color of their skin.

Because of the color of their skin.  Let that sink in.  Do not turn away.  Do not roll your eyes.  The color of their skin…

We need to face the racist elephant in the room.  Our country is one of the most hated countries in the entire world. There are people who want you and me dead.  Killed on live television, dead.  And, yet, we aren’t even safe from each other.

I see the news feed posts from both sides of this.  And I see ignorance from both sides.

But, what I see that haunts me the most is denial.  White people who deny that racism today is an issue.  White people who think that every black man or woman who speaks up is too concerned with the past or just looking to cause division.

WAKE UP.  The division is there.  You living in fantasy-land is not going to solve the problem.

You living in denial is not going to get us anywhere.

We must do something now.  We must stand side-by-side with our brothers and sisters of every race to see this injustice end.  How many times are you going to watch this happen before it clicks? How many times are you going to feel comfortable saying, “He should have just obeyed the cop”?

How many more times?

We do not get it.  And how can we?  How can we even begin to fathom the pain and anger that these men and women hold when we act as though it is not there.  The last time I checked, a disease does not go away just because you pretend it does not exist.

We need to actively seek this sickness out.  We need to actively speak out against racism.  We need to work for unity…for progress.

We need to speak when it’s time to speak, and listen when it’s time to listen.

Satan has us fighting a proxy war…and it’s black and white.

#BlackLivesMatter is not just a trendy hash-tag to jump onboard.  These are real people.  Black men whom I respect dearly are hurting and angry and I have NO IDEA how to even begin to relate.  But I can hurt with them.  We can hurt with them, pray with them, and begin a conversation together on how it ends.

The first step is to admit that there is a problem.

I am not willing to watch another 9 people lose their lives in order for us to wake up.

I am not willing to be a part of a community that worships a loving God and yet does and says nothing.

This is not just a church problem, but we, who seek to bring God’s kingdom to earth, must understand that racism has no place in holiness.

We are all descendants of the first parents.  We are all family.  And we must all work together.  Because if we continue to act as though this is not real life, we will destroy each other.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1 Peter 3:8)

The Unforgiving Christians

I suck at being a gossip sometimes and, my hunch is, so do you.

We live in a social-media-induced coma where we think that we can say whatever the crap we want and expect things to be fireworks and butterflies, but the reality is, that is not true. Have you ever watched “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets”? Yeah, no one is immune from this world of gossip. Not even the Hollywood elite.

So, what about the Church? We are totally a light in this gossip darkness, right? Someone?!

Wrong. In fact, I would say we are just as bad, if not worse. Why? Because we know better.

Recently, I found out that a leader at one of my old churches, a man who I thought was my friend, had said that my life was a train wreck waiting to happen…What?! I am not sure if this is true, but if it is the implications are huge! This kind of stuff is coming from the very leaders who are supposed to set the example for the rest of us. But listen, we are ALL guilty of this.

Walk into any church, prayer meeting, small group, or coffee chat and I can guarantee someone is talking smack about their pastor, their pastor’s wife, the director of this, that volunteer, this girl or that guy…and their pets. I guarantee that the last time you raised your hands in worship during your church’s rendition of Forever by Bethel you were probably thinking about how much so and so is pissing you off. It is an epidemic.

I suck at this. I find myself getting angry at other people, or hurt, and I go to a single confidant…or five. It is a miserable and spiraling mess.

And what happens when the other person finds out that you have been running your yaps? Do they feel compelled to thank you for calling them on their crap via everyone but them? No. It crushes them. They might not admit it, but it crushes them. I had people from an old church of mine talk about me all the time. And I wanted to run away from church for good! It crushed me.

Now, here is where I will give credit when credit is due…I was living like a moron and I needed a wake up call. Big time! But there is a difference between talking TO someone and talking ABOUT someone. Being a coward is not any better than the guy or gal you are talking about. Read Matthew 18 if you do not believe me.

Christians today will use Facebook, text messaging, and even blogs like this as their evidence against someone. Mark Driscoll, the former Lead Pastor at Mars Hill Church, was destroyed all over the internet. Whenever I heard someone talk about it, their evidence was always “Well I read this or that on Facebook,” “His church did this…he did that….according to this Christian version of Esquire Magazine.” No one I know was at that church or spoke directly to anyone involved. No. One.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

What in the world are we doing here?

Imagine that I brought you into court and began charging you with a crime and you found out that I got all of my evidence from Betsy in the church lobby on Sunday. You would lose your mind. But this is exactly the criteria it takes to outcast any Christian today. If you heard it during a prayer request, it must be true.

Here is a word of advice, my friends. If you are not willing to go to that person directly, then SHUT UP.

No one is going to feel the need to repent because you were so loving and so kind that you had to tell everyone about their screw ups. No one is going to say “Well, I mean, everything you are spreading about me is true, so yeah, thanks!” I know this personally from both sides. And, look, I am not using that cliche line “who am I to judge” or “It’s God’s job to judge, not mine.”

That is not what I am saying, people. We are 100% meant to keep each other accountable and on track.

Not by talking to everyone, but to the person involved. Talk to them. It sucks and it is awkward, but Jesus commands us to do it this way. Matthew 18, my friends; it might save your relationships.

We need to realize that condemning each other over hearsay is going to continue to create cliques and issues within the church and one of the biggest comments I hear about any church is always about the cliques. And it is no wonder. Everyone is talking about each other. Everyone is mad at each other for things that happened days, months, years ago. We go into our worship services and thank God for forgiveness all while withholding it from all the people who have pissed us off.

I cannot help but be reminded of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

This man owed his king a lot of money, ten thousand talents to be exact. The king was about to sell the servant with his wife, kid, and all that they owned. The servant begged for pity and the king did not just give him extra time, but he completely forgave him of his debt.

Now this story can give you all of the warm fuzzies, but it does not end there. The now forgiven and debt-free servant goes out and sees another servant who owes him 100 danarii and he begins to choke this guy. The guy being choked says “have patience with me, and I will pay you” but the servant refuses and throws him into jail until he can repay the debt.

Do you see what is wrong with us today? We are Christians, saved by the grace of God..the Holy and perfect God who has every right to destroy us where we stand or to banish us to an eternal torment. But He chose to die for us so that we can live with Him for eternity. The undeserving and wretched sinners that we are. And yet a few months later, a few Bible chapters read, and some time volunteering under our belt, and we forget what it was like to ask God to have mercy on us. Sinners.

We are debt-free servants choking the life out of our fellow servants, one foot-in-mouth at a time.

Imagine what it would be like if everyone acted as if we are all worthless sinners who are saved by the grace of God alone.

It is almost like that is exactly what we are.

It is time we mustered up the courage to face people directly and call them to repentance. Stop hiding. Face them directly. Grab coffee. Grab food. Whatever you need to do. Just do it.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12-13)

The New Kind of Heresy

I have been a Christian since breakfast.

For those of you who don’t know, that is a different way of saying “not very long.”

Since becoming a Christian, I have always felt the desire to know as much about my faith as possible.  Growing up, I had the kind of family that either acknowledged God but refused to talk about Him unless they were praying when things went south or did not acknowledge Him at all.  So, I wanted to know what I was getting myself into and what I needed to know to convince others.

What I have found is that there are a lot of things that I truly do not understand about Christianity, which made me want to know more, and more, and even more.  Since then, I seem to have found two main groups of Christians.  One group is filled with those who have clearly defined black and white beliefs.  Anything different from what they believe is viewed as an attack on the Gospel.  There are also those who are so unwilling to define what is true and what is false that I am not even sure that they know what they fully believe.

This is just weird to me.

You see, I believe that there are some truths and some lies when it comes to our faith.  I think it is important to try and understand all that we can and know God as best as we can.

After all, theology is the study of God, not Calvinism versus Arminianism.  Theology is getting to know God more so that you can worship Him the way that we were meant to.  It’s not about proving other Christians wrong.  I think it is weird that we have two giant extremes: the Christians who won’t allow any questions and the Christians who won’t answer any.  So much of Christianity today is fighting amongst ourselves and we think we are going to convince society that someone joining this family feud is a good idea…

Are you nuts?  We have made our faith into a battle of denominations.  The Lutherans versus the Baptists.  The Presbyterians versus the Methodists.  The Reformed Baptists versus the Westboro Baptist Church…just kidding, no one likes the Westboro Baptist folk.  Sorry not sorry.

So what am I saying?  I am saying what the heck are we so afraid of? Seriously?! You honestly think that God is going to fail because some people are in the wrong denomination?  You honestly think that God will fail because some speak in tongues while others do not? That some baptize babies while others do not?

I have a word of advice for you.  Get over yourself.

God is bigger than your right answers and He is powerful enough to not sweat your wrong ones.  We have a responsibility to maintain glory to God and the faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ because, ultimately, it comes down to worshiping Jesus the way that we were meant to.

Stop viewing this as a competition.  Stop trying to break down one another.  We are a family and we will more than likely be spending an eternity with most of these folks, so we better play nice now.

I am not saying we should not hold teachers accountable to God’s word.  I am not saying we shouldn’t rebuke false doctrine.  Jesus, Paul, and Peter all warn us of false teachings and Christians.

What I am saying is that we should be okay with not having an answer to everything. We should be willing to discuss these things with folks outside of our camp and try to figure out the truth.

We should also stop being cowards and running from our own beliefs. Too many Christians today struggle with just being honest about what they believe because of what society says. I am not saying you should get a megaphone and broadcast it from every major street in your nearest major city. I am saying commit. It’s this wonderful idea my generation seems to be forgetting. If you love Jesus and believe in the Bible then say and do something about it!

With all of that said….

We need to accept that there are some things we just will not ever know.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12.

Until Jesus returns again we can only do our best to work together through the power of the Holy Spirit to figure out this truth thing, but things aren’t going to get better and people won’t just listen to the truth if we walk around calling everyone a heretic.

Truth is huge, we believe in an objective truth, and that is the word of God. We just need to approach it better. We can do it. We have the power of the living God inside of us. Stop getting so insecure about your theology and trust that God is perfect, and He will not fail. So live with that kind of trust. Live your life seeking that truth, with humility and grace.

And love people like crazy. Because ultimately that is something I think we can all agree is important.

There Is One Common Thing In Your Whole Life

I have been a screw up my whole life.

No, seriously.  I am not trying to have a pity party…I really have screwed up my whole life.

Okay, okay, we all have, but I have been particularly good at it.  Let me explain.

In high school, I did so bad my last 2-3 years that I almost did not graduate.  Then, after actually graduating, there was the reality that I did not have the grades to get into college…anywhere.  So I joined the Navy.

I joined the Navy as a CTI, which is a really “cool” job where you learn a language and other “cool” stuff and I hated it.  So, of course, I failed out and then got sent to a ship in Norfolk, Virginia, which, in case you were wondering, is NOTHING like California.

After a couple of years in Virginia, I became a Christian and that is when life really got tough…weird right?  I started to learn how to follow Jesus and do certain things and pray certain ways.  I even learned another language.

Yes, Christian-ese.  Trust me, it is real.

So I began to try to live my life for Jesus, but I sucked at it.  I mean seriously.  I had to stop cussing and drinking as much among other things.

So, wait, I can’t just say that I love Jesus and do whatever I want?  Crud.

So I started making mistakes…BIG ones.  It all started after my first Christian relationship ended.

I jumped right off of the high-dive into a pool of sin and what is worse?  I enjoyed it.

After getting caught and called out I began to get angry.  I was blaming everyone and everything but myself.

You see, I was forgetting that I am the common thing in my life…What I mean is that all of my problems and bad situations had one thing in common: Me.

When you take ownership of the crud in your life, it forces you to do something about it, but we do not always want to do that.  In fact, I am willing to bet that the last time you were in a crappy situation you blamed everyone and everything but yourself.  You were not willing to ask, “What did I do wrong?”

Pause.  Just for the record, I know that some of you reading this might have had something horrible done to you..something that was not in your control.  I am not talking about you.  You did not deserve that and it was not your fault.  You were a victim.

I am talking about the stuff that we can avoid.

Looking at porn on your computer.  Letting that girl or guy sit on your bed late at night…Alone.  I am talking about the way that you act in relationships that cause them to plummet like a meteor into the surface of the earth.

I was an EXPERT at this, until I asked for help.

What would your life look like if you owned up to the fact that you are in a bad situation because of your own bad choices and not because of anyone else?  Or, if there is someone else, admitting that it takes TWO to tango?

In order to stop repeating the same mistakes, you have to admit that there is something wrong and that you might possibly be the sole reason that it continues to happen.

Get a mentor.  Ask for help.  Reflect on what you have been doing.

For me, it took finding 1-2 people and being brutally honest with them about my struggles, identifying what my goal was to change, and then setting up a plan to make that goal a reality.

Has it been easy? No!

Have I screwed up? Yes!

But there has been real progress and people loving me through it all.

All it takes is one conversation…one moment of sitting back and reflecting on what mistakes you keep repeating.

You are only one decision away from improving your life.  Or destroying it.

The choice is yours.