Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Missed the Boat? There's Still Hope...

During a meeting yesterday, we were presented with the opportunity to Praise God.  Kinda a cool way to start off a meeting, huh?  And the praises shared were touching.  I knew immediately what I needed to share... but it wasn't a touchy, feely response.  In fact, it came from a place of pain after feeling like I missed the boat.  And here's what I shared:  "I praise God for being a God of second chances.  I'm thankful that when I miss the boat, it doesn't mean that He won't send it back for me again." And that is God's grace in action.  Let me explain.
I was working on an event for about a month and had some random thoughts about inviting some people to attend that maybe hadn't heard about it.  Some friends even shared ideas about who to invite.  I made a mental note and thought "I should make this happen."  The week of the event arrived and my time was filled with urgent things that needed to get done.  Needless to say, the invitations didn't happen.  And during the event, a story was shared that took my breath away... but not in a "that's amazing" way.  Instead, it felt like I was punched in the stomach because the story applied specifically to a group that I planned to invite.  I was humbled, mortified, and really just wanted to find a room and cry my eyes out because I missed the boat.  I felt like I totally let God down.  I wonder... have you ever felt this way? 
I was boarding the self-condemnation train right then and there.  It was ready to leave the station for a long ride down a fast hill into the pit that Satan had waiting for me.  But God had a different plan.  And I'm incredibly thankful that He knows me so well that He stopped the train from leaving the station by having someone ask me to pray for them.  Nothing like praying for someone else to take the focus off yourself, right?  Then, God protected me yet again from the condemnation train by reminding me to be social.  So I obeyed and thankfully, I avoided the condemnation train this time.  (Need more information on the difference between conviction and condemnation?  Check out this blog post:
After the event ended, I was feeling convicted about missing the boat.  And as I journaled my confession and asked for forgiveness, God reminded me that just because I didn't invite them, it didn't mean that He would stop pursuing them.  He reminded me that it's not just about me and He let me know that I was completely forgiven.  I can't tell you how thankful I am for God's grace... for God's UNCONDITIONAL love... that He loves me when I obey and when I don't... that His love for me is constant and unchanging and NOT based on my performance.  He just loves me... He just loves you... all the time.   
Believe it or not, this is not the end of the story.  Over the course of the next day, God brought the boat I missed right back to the dock and invited me to get the message to those same people, just in a different format.  I was in awe... God would still use me?  After I missed the boat the first time?  He was giving me a second chance, and this time, I was going to obey.  I made the connection and as of today, there is a plan in motion for this group to receive the message God has for them.  How incredible is that?  God doesn't give up on us when we mess up!  And He may even bring the boat right back to the dock so we can obey.  It just blows my mind!
Know who this reminds me of?  Jonah.  Yep, Jonah was God's prophet and he missed the boat too.  Except he didn't just get distracted by urgent tasks like I did.  He actually ran the opposite direction (Jonah 1:3) because he didn't like what God was inviting him to do.  And that, my friends, landed Jonah in the belly of a large fish for three days, where Jonah had plenty of time to do some reflecting.  Check out Jonah's prayer:

Jonah 2 New Living Translation (NLT) 

[a]Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said,
“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
    and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,[b]
    and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
    and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
    I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
    Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’
“I sank beneath the waves,
    and the waters closed over me.
    Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
    I was imprisoned in the earth,
    whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
    snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
    I remembered the Lord.
And my earnest prayer went out to you
    in your holy Temple.
Those who worship false gods
    turn their backs on all God’s mercies.
But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise,
    and I will fulfill all my vows.
    For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”
10 Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.
 Don't you love verse 2?  "I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and Lord, you heard me!"  Jonah had caused his own great trouble by running from God and God not only heard Jonah's prayer, but He also rescued him and gave Jonah a second chance.  God gave me a second chance too.  And guess what?  God has a second chance waiting for you... waiting for everyone.  Why?  Because God is the God of shocking, scandalous grace (Yancey, What's So Amazing About Grace?, 1997)
Have you missed the boat?  Are you on the self-condemnation train, deep in the pit of guilt and shame?  Know that God loves you... wherever you are.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, instead of your mess.  Why?  Because Jesus died on the cross to save us from ALL our sin, ALL our mistakes, ALL the times we miss the boat.  All we have to do is invite Jesus into our hearts to become our Lord and Savior and we are rescued for all of eternity.  (If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9).
If you're feeling overcome with shame, guilt and regret, then take a moment and pray these verses to God.  Do this daily or even moment by moment if you need to. 

Psalm 40:1-3 New Living Translation (NLT)

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.
God wants to rescue you.  Will you surrender and let Him?  He's waiting. 

Need some more encouragement?  Then listen to Hurricane by Natalie Grant.  And know that when you call His name, He'll find you in the hurricane.

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