WHY YOUR PAST DOESN’T HAVE TO DISQUALIFY YOU

WHY YOUR PAST DOESN’T HAVE TO DISQUALIFY YOU

Past 1 God Chooses Losers

I love a good story, especially one where God chooses to use losers and idiots (like you and me).

A few years ago, I had coffee with a middle-aged man in our church. Mark was gifted and full of potential. However, I noticed that he’d stayed in the shadows and refused to get involved. When I asked him why, he replied, “Oh, I wish I could serve, but I’m divorced.”

I was flabbergasted. “Who told you divorced means disqualified?”

He took the next twenty or so minutes to tell me his story. He and his first wife married young. Neither one of them was a Christ-follower. They both came from broken and dysfunctional homes deeply bound by sexual sins. During the course of their ten-year marriage, both of them had multiple affairs. The fact that their marriage had survived as long as it did surprised everybody who knew them. Eventually, they “fell out of love” (I hate that phrase) and went their separate ways.

A few years later, after another failed marriage and two DUIs, Mark hit bottom and ended up in AA. His sponsor was the first person to ever tell Mark about Jesus. Eventually, he became a devout follower of Christ, and within another year or so he married a godly woman who loved Jesus with all her heart.

He was Lutheran. She was active in the Church of Christ. Neither one of them felt comfortable in the other’s denomination, so they decided to start fresh at a new church in their neighborhood. After just a few months, they were told, “You are welcome to attend our church, but you can’t serve here since you are living in sin.”

With tears in his eyes, Mark said to me, “We had no idea that God saw our new marriage as a mistake, but we couldn’t divorce each other. If that means we can’t serve God, so be it.”

I went from being flabbergasted to being pissed! How could anyone tell this man he was disqualified because of sin that had happened before he was even a Christ-follower? I grabbed my Bible and went pastoral on him. With a passion that surprised him, I assured this brother that he did not need to live as a second-class Christian.

Past 2 No 2nd Class Christians

Maybe you’ve read this verse: “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”[2] Or perhaps you’re familiar with Paul’s words to Titus, “God saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”[3]

I looked Mark in the eye and said, “Buddy, everything that happened BC (before Christ) is gone! New birth and new life mean a new start, and we are never disqualified by what we did before we surrendered our lives to Jesus! In fact, the blood of Jesus covers all our sin, including the ones we committed after becoming a Christian. If we’ve confessed it and repented of it, no past sin can rob us of our destiny or disqualify us from service in God’s kingdom!”

It was his turn to be dumbstruck. It was as if the heavens parted and he heard the voice of God saying, “You are my beloved son, and I am well pleased with you.”

Is divorce a sin? Often it is, but it’s not the unpardonable sin. Why do we so easily doubt the goodness of God? Why do we listen to the gloomy voices of the self-righteous or the dark voice of the accuser? Why are we so quick to disqualify ourselves because of failure?

Here’s a crazy idea: Let’s stop making excuses, walk in forgiveness, and not let our regrets become a reason to opt out of living an epic life in Christ.

There’s something I need you to embrace and remember: Our past shapes us, but it doesn’t have to control us. Our history influences our future, but it shouldn’t imprison us. In Christ, we are more than the sum of our past mistakes.

Bottom line—God is bigger than your past and greater than your sins.

Past 3 God is Bigger

 

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[1] A paraphrase of the biblical book of Jeremiah, chapter one.

[2] 2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT

[3] Titus 3:5, NLT

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9 Responses to WHY YOUR PAST DOESN’T HAVE TO DISQUALIFY YOU

  1. Really great word. Thank you.

    I truly wish I could get certain people in my life to actually believe this. It’s devastating to watch people live in the defeat of their past mistakes or things they’ve done.

    I have said the exact words you shared “your past does not have to define you.” It shapes you, but does not have to define you.

    I live by this because I am very aware of what Jesus did for me and who I am in Him. But to others, choosing to live in this freedom is seen as Christian rhetoric. And when trying to share this truth, it’s referred to as Christian-ese.

    I’ll just keep my faith. And keep praying.

  2. Kurt,
    Isn’t the church grafted into the vine? And hasn’t Israel been cut off of the vine? So if that standard that a divorced person cannot be used by God were true, then how can one explain the continued love and promise God has for His chosen people. “His first love”. One day Israel will be grafted back into the vine, only to be used mightily by God.
    Why is it that so many limit the reach of God’s forgiveness and grace to what seems to be a “reasonable expectation”. God hates sin, all of it, from rolling through a stop sign, to (place your worst sin here) and all sin makes us unusable by Him. But His love, grace and mercy for us is what makes us all equally justified in His eyes through the blood of his only son. God used David, and not only that called him a Man after His own heart. I’m sure your words to Mark reached out much further than one man.

    Saved by grace, not by gross.
    Cary

  3. A quote comes to mind, but I can’t remember where (Winston Churchill I think):”Those who choose to forget the past, are doomed to repeat it”. But, God does “forget the past” when He forgives us, and heals us; so remember, learn, and be healed. I was broken, but God put me back together, and is working to heal the scars. I am whole because of Him. I am so very glad you wrote this piece, Kurt, because so many people NEED to hear it. And HEED it!!! Love, Jim

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HOW TO USE THE POWER OF THE MUTE BUTTON (And Why It Matters!)

HOW TO USE THE POWER OF THE MUTE BUTTON (And Why It Matters!)

Mute Busy

Our world is filled with noise. It’s hard to find a place of quiet reflection anymore. Whether it’s some kid’s over-driven-bass-thumping music from his car, the laughter or racket of children, or jets overhead—we are frequently bombarded with sound. Some good. Some not so good.

Due to my bad back, bad knees, and bulbous belly, I haven’t backpacked in years. One of the things I miss about those great outdoor outings into the backcountry of the Cascades or Glacier National Park is the serenity. Except for the occasional call of a bull elk or the melodic chatter of birds, the silence was golden. Those quiet times refueled my soul.

Believe it or not, I’m an introvert. I love people. I can engage in a crowd with smiles and conversation. But I am refreshed in moments of solitude. There’s nothing I love more than a good book in one hand and a great cup of java in the other. Reading. Alone.

Mute Solace

I find solace in solitude.

Interestingly, many people are uncomfortable with silence. I know people who must have a radio, CD or TV playing in the background all the time. Perhaps quiet intimidates some or makes them feel alone. Maybe the hum of a TV in the background silences an inner voice they’d rather not hear. I’m not sure why, but too many humans fill their environment with white noise of a sort, and they avoid silence as if it were the cause of Ebola.

Some might argue, I just like to be informed, or music matters to me. I understand. But I wonder if we’ve filled our heads with so much information, news, and opinions of others on FOX that we’ve forgotten how to reflect, meditate, and think on our own. Is it possible that we’ve so filled our heads with the music of others that we’ve lost the ability to create music in our hearts?

I read. A lot. My book budget is ridiculous. I could be a professional reader if somebody would just pay me to do so! I subscribe to no fewer than twenty blogs. I appreciate the insights and wisdom of others. However, if I don’t take the time just to sit and think on a regular basis, then the swirl of data I’m jamming into my mind is of no value.

Mute Reflection

Reflection leads to realization. Meditation results in movement. Silence produces substance.

So here’s what I propose: hit the mute button—often. Find a place and time to quiet your heart, mind, and soul every day. If you’re like the old woman who lived in a shoe, get up early to invest at least the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee or tea alone before the craziness begins.

When we had children at home, my wife would have them take an hour a day to be quiet. Even after they were way past taking naps, they were told to find a spot to read. No playing. No talking. Quiet time for all (including momma!). By the way, all of my grown children are avid readers to this day because of that daily family ritual.

Mute Girl Alone

You can do this . . .

  • Turn off the electronics for at least thirty minutes a day. (Yes, that means your smart phone.)

  • Take a walk someplace other than Main Street or the mall.

  • Clear some space in your closet if you must, crawl in there and close the door for twenty minutes.

  • Turn the CD player off on the way home from work and think, What did I learn today? What am I thankful for in my life?

  • At the very least, turn off your car radio once in a while and savor the relative silence.

I am grateful for modern technology. I use it. I like it. But I will not let it rob me of what I need most—moments alone—quiet time to ponder, contemplate and ruminate.

How about you? Introvert or not, you too need daily downtime to maintain your sanity. Don’t wait for it to happen; make it happen.

Who knows what great idea or dream is waiting to sprout out of the soil of solitude and personal reflection?

Mute Meditate

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THREE THINGS TO DO WHEN WAITING IS TOUGH

THREE THINGS TO DO WHEN WAITING IS TOUGH

Most of us hate the word wait. It’s a four-letter word that stirs up all sorts of negative emotions. No kid likes to hear, “Wait your turn.” No adult likes to wait in long lines at the DMV. No husband enjoys waiting for his wife to do “just one more thing before we go”. No wife loves waiting for her husband to fix the kitchen faucet he promised to repair a month ago. And I’ve never met anyone who appreciates it when they feel God is saying, “Not yet. Wait.”

In our minds, waiting ranks right up there with a root canal. Necessary perhaps, but not at all fun.

Wait Hard when silent

The most difficult challenge for me, and maybe for you too, is waiting for God. We pray. We fast. We search the Scriptures for a promise. We vow to God to be better and to do better, believing somehow that we can twist His arm into action. We desperately look for something, anything to hang our hopes on. We cry out to Papa God for answers, and we curse the heavens when He seems silent.

A dear friend of mine has suffered with infertility for years. She’s tried everything, read every book she could get her hands on, talked to multiple doctors and attempted several expensive medical procedures. She and her husband have the medical bills to prove it. And yet nothing has changed. No pregnancy. No baby. No answers. And hope is waning.

A thirty-something woman I know is single and frustrated. She’s intelligent and gifted; she’s attractive and full of life. She’s tried online dating sites and a few blind dates that were set up by friends. She’s even met a couple of guys who her mom thought were perfect for her, yet they weren’t. (Seriously, Mom?) At this point, all she wants is to be a wife and a mom, but both of those dreams seem elusive. She sometimes cries herself to sleep at night wondering what’s wrong with her and why she can’t find the man of her dreams.

Waiting is hard. It hurts. We want to believe God has a plan. We pray for patience and perspective. But the passing of time is painful.

At the heart of this issue is more than just a struggle with patience. We find it hard to wait because sometimes we find it difficult to trust God.

pregare

We lie awake in the darkness wondering . . .

Has God forgotten me?

Have I brought this pain upon myself because I’m a failure?

Do I not deserve what I’m longing for, or am I being punished?

Does God have my best interest in mind?

Can He be counted on to make good on His promises?

Does God have any idea what I’m going through?

Is God even listening to me?

Regardless of the circumstances, we all face the same question: Will I trust God to create His masterpiece in and through me, or will I demand to be the master of my fate? In other words, will we trust Him or take matters into our own hands?

Wait Trust Trees

WHAT IT TAKES TO WAIT

Here are some extremely practical things I’ve learned along the way about waiting. Are these things easy? No. Are they worth it? Absolutely.

            First, you have to determine now what you will do during a delay. By that I mean, if you wait until you’ve waited to the point of frustration to decide how you will handle the delay, you’re going to be in trouble. It’s best to understand early in the process that God’s sense of timing is radically different from ours. Unlike us, God sees the end from the beginning. Unlike us, God is just as concerned about what happens along the way as He is the end result. In fact, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Why? Because during the delay our faith and character are forged.

            Second, to wait for Him means to actively engage in your present circumstances with joy. Rather than miss what’s happening right now because you’re so preoccupied with your future, God wants you to be fully present in the moment. Sadly, while waiting for God to do the one thing or the big thing I desperately desired, too often I missed a thousand “little” things that mattered to Him. Instead of resisting and resenting the process of waiting, choose to look for God every day and to find His purpose in the present.

Wait Present Sunset

            And finally, for you to wait with patience and faith, it’s always best to have someone in your corner encouraging you to hold on. My wife, Laura, consistently inspires me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. By her example and her words, she frequently reminds me that God is good, He is faithful, and He always has a plan. She challenges me not to let the known and the seen world discount what God is doing in the unseen realm. Frankly, you will wait more successfully when you find a partner who will stand with you in the darkness and confusion and whisper into your soul, “It’s okay; we’re not alone . . . He is here.”

It seems that victory and failure often go together in our spiritual journey. Sometimes we wait for God and we grow. Sometimes we act impulsively and rashly and we still grow, but it just takes longer. And sometimes, we fail miserably, but even then God is patient and good and able to redeem any situation and any broken life that is surrendered to Him.

There’s that word again, surrender. For a Christ-follower, surrender and trust are interwoven. You can’t succeed at one without the other, especially when it comes to waiting.

Wait Surrender

 “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”

Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

 

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10 Responses to THREE THINGS TO DO WHEN WAITING IS TOUGH

  1. I agree, Kurt. Waiting is tough, especially when we WANT something. So, I have a verse that inspires me: 1 Peter 3:15 [Full Chapter]

    But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

    Jesus tells us to “not worry” and live for each day. And, this tells us to have faith, and have that faith always in the forefront of all that we do. Waiting requires patience, and the manifestation of our faith is knowing that the Holy Spirit is within us, and the ultimate reward is dying to this world to be in His, consciously. Life is a gift, and we should treasure and enjoy it ALWAYS!!! I love to read what comes from your heart!!!

    • Life is indeed a gift…and one where waiting is almost always good for us in some way. Thanks for your thoughts, Jim, and thanks for the kind words too. You are loved.

  2. I did used to hate that word, but one day I realized God was saying wait with expectation. That changed my thinking. He’s really got a plan and will come through. My hardest thing to wait for is that my whole family follow Jesus with passion. He is working on that harder and better than I could and I trust he will bring it about.

    Love you friend!

  3. Great article! We so often focus on the waiting from our side of things. I wonder if God ever gets tired of waiting for us…to worship him properly, serve him humbly, to make a deliberate decision of moving toward spiritual maturity? I’m afraid He may have spent more time waiting on me than I have waiting on him. And yet still, he loves me. Grace…it really is amazing!

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HOW TO OVERCOME A SHATTERED PAST

HOW TO OVERCOME A SHATTERED PAST

Broken Eye GlassWe tend to see God through our shattered perspective, and that’s a big problem. With a severely damaged self-image, we generally have a broken God-image too. In fact, let’s be honest; some of us believe God is great and all-powerful, but we can’t imagine Him doing anything astonishing through our lives. We sing worship songs about His awesomeness, but we believe God is limited in what He can do with screw-ups like us.

A huge part of the dilemma is that we like to create gods in our own image. We make gods out of the rich and famous. We elevate leaders (including politicians and pastors) to god-like status. We put them on a pedestal somewhere prominent in our lives, but in the end it’s a puny little god we’ve made to worship rather than Almighty God. Here’s the problem: If our God is too tiny or too human (like us), then our faith and confidence in Him will be too small.

Success Leap HQ

Deep down we want to believe that God can do anything, but we’re pretty sure He has limits when it comes to us. Time or space might not constrain God, but a craftsman is only as good as the material he has to work with, right? And we know what we are.

            More mud than marble.

            More sandstone than diamond.

            More broken than whole.

I’m not a big fan of self-confidence. Despite what the positive thinking gurus have to say, I’m not okay (and neither are you). I can sit in a lotus position for hours chanting, “I am good. I am awesome. My life force in the universe matters.” But in my gut I know I’m not that good. In fact, I’m pretty messed up at times.

So what’s the alternative to emotional self-flogging? The substitute for self-confidence is God-confidence. (Stop and read that line again.) In other words, it’s not about me. So I put my confidence and hope in God and His ability to accomplish anything through a cracked pot like me.

Sin Dent

            The god I’ve created in my mind has limits.

            The God of the universe does not.

            I am broken.

            He is not.

In fact, working with people who typically are relegated to the scratch-and-dent pile of life is God’s specialty.

Many of us feel we’ve gone too far and failed too miserably to ever get back on track. Even if God once had a great plan for our lives, we believe it’s too late now. But avoiding epic failure is not a prerequisite to experiencing an epic life.

Sin Epic Failure

Moses was a murderer. David was an adulterer. Rahab was a prostitute. Peter was a betrayer. Saul (aka: Paul) persecuted and imprisoned Christians. Yet each of them lived amazingly epic lives when they followed God.

We’re all in trouble if the path to adventure in Christ requires perfection. We must learn to get past what we’ve done and get beyond our glaring inadequacies. God is bigger than our foolishness.

Perhaps you often drift in your mind to some horrendous past sin you’ve committed. Possibly you’re devoured by your failure and overwhelmed by your foolishness. Maybe the misery of yesterday and the emptiness of today have stolen from you any joy or hope for a better tomorrow.

Sin God Bigger

If that’s you, please listen to these words: God knows where you’ve been, where you are, and where He will take you. He knows your past, present and future better than you do, but He sees a sunrise of hope on your horizon.

How do you overcome a shattered and sinful past?

You simply confess your sin and rest in God’s goodness and grace. You truly can be free and forgiven because of Jesus. Let go of the things you can’t change about your past, and trust God with your present and your future. He is able to redeem, restore, and renew any life that is fully surrendered to Him.

There’s a reason why they call it amazing grace.

Sin Grace

 

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8 Responses to HOW TO OVERCOME A SHATTERED PAST

  1. Dear Kurt,
    I am sure, this is a message we all need to hear over and over again. We have trust issues with God and ourselves. Submission to God means we have to give Him control. We need to learn that is how we become totally free, as He created us to be. Keep preaching this great truth. We all need to know and experience this great Truth.
    Love,
    Aunt Dee

  2. Thanks…it’s a roller coaster of a ride with teenagers…& man it’s been bumpy for AWHILE….but I keep praying.. “TRYING” to do my best with my words…& it’s such a struggle.

  3. So, if “by His stripes we are healed”, and if we have the faith of the Centurion as Matthew describes which Jesus “has not seen in all of these”, and if God has answered Jesus prayer in John 17, and IF we have put our full faith and belief in Jesus as our Lord and King, then why should we be “broken”? He has healed us, and though we are human and still do things that we shouldn’t, we should have faith that He is more powerful than all of those things and we re-heal by His power. These facts should bolster our confidence, not in ourselves, but in Him, who has the power to make our lives more like His. We CANNOT put God in a box.

WHY YOUR PAST DOESN’T HAVE TO DISQUALIFY YOU
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