The Sins of the Past…
There are those times when I sit in front of this laptop and know exactly what I’m going to say. The words and thoughts come quite easily, and my fingers move as quickly as my “hunt and peck” method of typing will allow me to go. I’ll attack the topic of the day with fervor, wanting to share everything that’s racing through my mind with you.
Then there are those rare occasions when I feel compelled to write about a subject that makes me a bit uncomfortable. I’m having one of those moments right now. I don’t know if the discomfort comes from the topic itself, or the fact that I’m writing about something that I’m not really sure of. Either way, I feel that God put this on my heart for a reason. Perhaps, as is so often the case, there is something for me to learn, something for me to “discover”, as this particular post unfolds…
As the title of this post suggests, today I want to talk about our sins of the past. Yeah, I said our sins. No offense intended, but we’ve all broken at least one of God’s Ten Commandments, haven’t we? Tell you what…for now, I’ll just focus on my sins of the past.
Atone & Atonement
The word “atone” carries a lot of weight. It’s a verb meaning to reconcile, or to make amends for an action. “Atonement”, the noun, means reconciliation, or reparation for an offense or an injury.
The greatest example of atonement is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. His crucifixion served as reparation for the sins of Adam and Eve against God. He paid an unbelievable price so that we may live in God’s grace.
I’m, sorry, but this is not going where I want it to go.
A good friend of mind accused me of be “outrageously, fearlessly, bold” in my faith. Perhaps that’s what I need to be right now…
You see, what I want to talk about is not just the sins of the past, but the price that we may pay for those sins. And I’ll be honest with you; I’m not really comfortable sitting here typing about even the notion that we may have to pay a price for our sins; it goes against the grain of what I believe and feel about God.
It’s just that several people have reached out to me in the past few weeks, wondering why God is allowing things to happen in their lives, wondering if they’re doing something wrong, or if they’ve done something wrong in the past. And I’ll tell you; their questions, coupled with my inability to answer those questions, prompted me to look back at the first fifty-three years of my life, and wonder the same thing. Was my first marriage, which was a really difficult period in my life, the result of what I had done in the past? Were the next sixteen years of misery that I spent in a business that I couldn’t stand a “punishment” for divorcing my first wife? Were the feelings of insecurity, unworthiness, and failure that plagued me for so many years God’s way of slapping me on the wrist?
Look, I can run down the list of the Ten Commandments, God’s guidelines for us, and know that I’ve broken a lot of them in my lifetime. No, I’m not gonna go into details about them with you. I’m just telling you that I’m no saint, and that I never have been. I’ve sinned against God. And each time I’ve asked Him for forgiveness.
But is it that enough?
Is it enough just to say “I’m sorry.”? I believe that God is all-forgiving; if I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t say it to you all the time. But is being sorry enough?
I remember when my sons Brian and Christian were kids. Most times I sensed that they were truly sorry for what they’d done. And every time, I still loved them, regardless of what they’d done. Still there were those times when they did something wrong, something really wrong, and they’d get a spanking, or have to stand with their noses in a corner of a room, or get their mouths washed out with soap. It didn’t mean that I loved them any less. I just wanted them to be accountable for their actions. And I wanted them to remember the lesson that I was trying to teach them.
To hear either of them say “Dad, I’m so sorry. I promise that I won’t do it again.” was good, but sometimes it wasn’t enough. They had to learn a lesson; they had to pay for what they’d done, because I couldn’t be sure if they were really remorseful.
Okay, this is yet another instance of not knowing exactly where I’m going with this; bear with me…
Some of us are afraid to stand before God…to admit that we’ve done wrong (like He doesn’t know it!), to even acknowledge that we’ve done something wrong. This defiance, or perhaps in some cases it is fear, stands between us and most any kind of relationship with God.
Others of us will lay claim to our transgressions against Him out fear of what He will do to us if we don’t say that we’re sorry. While this is better than the first group, it still serves as a hindrance to a true relationship with God.
It’s when we can stand before God, being completely open, accountable, and filled with remorse for what we’ve done, that we can ask for and receive His forgiveness…that we may receive His grace.
When I’ve done something to offend God, I’m filled with remorse. And shame. And hurt. I hurt because I’ve hurt Him.
And unlike the times when I was unsure if my son’s were truly sorry for what they’d done, God always knows when my pleas for forgiveness are sincere. And He forgives me; with no strings attached.
So if we’re not paying for our sins of the past, why do we have to deal with the “bad stuff” in our lives?
God never gives us anything that is bad. He may give us tests in life, challenges in life, which may be perceived by us as being bad, especially when we’re going through them. But He gives each one of these tests to us for a reason…
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-5
Here’s the thing: we don’t know why God gives us what He does in life, and we will never know. He has a plan for us, for each one of us, and those plans are more intricate and detailed than any we could ever make for ourselves.
Every day, we are molded and shaped by Him as we follow the path that He’s laid out for us. When we realize this; when we accept His will, His guidance, and His tests, life becomes so much easier for us. Notice that I didn’t say “easy.” Quite often following God and being a Christian is anything but easy.
You want an example of this? When you have a few moments, I invite you to read the book of Job. Job had everything… wife, family, wealth. It seemed that Job had certainly found God’s favor.
In the blink of an eye, Job lost everything. Everything. Satan took everything that Job had, and God was watching! Yet Job never took his eyes off of God. He never wavered in his faith. He never doubted God’s plan for him.
In the blink of an eye, Job gained everything.
Oh, that we all may be blessed with the patience of Job…
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 03/08/2010 at 6:58 AM | Categories:
The Joy of Jumping
This is the third and final installment of “That Holy Jumping-Off Place.” Promise!
Before I move to today’s subject, I want to take a moment to share a couple of thoughts with you…
· I’ve been amazed at the response that I’ve gotten from you guys concerning the last two posts. I told you how much trouble I had with Satan and with life in trying to complete the first one. What I didn’t tell you was that I was so unhappy with it that I was going to issue an apology to you the very next day. A good friend chastised me, telling me that I should stop trying to judge the “quality” of my offerings each week. “What may not seem good enough to you may be exactly what someone needs to read that day. Don’t apologize for what God puts in your mind and on your heart, Sam.”
Well, as per her suggestion, I didn’t apologize (even though I wanted to!). Turns out that Sharon was right; many of you told me that “That Holy Jumping-Off Place” was your favorite of all. Go figure.
Which leads me right into my second thought…
· I’m very flattered and humbled by many of your comments and e-mails, but again, it’s always about the message, and not the messenger. Look, every week I just open my mind and my heart to God, and ask Him for the words; He does the rest.
Now, let’s move on to the topic of the day, The Joy of Jumping.
For the past two weeks I’ve been telling you about the challenges of “making the jump”, as in completely putting your life in God’s hands. I’ll say it again: it won’t be easy! The mere notion of giving up control of your life, even to God, is a scary one. It doesn’t come easily; you will probably have to make that jump more than once.
And, it extends an invitation to Satan to try to wreak havoc in your life; he doesn’t like it at all when another recruit joins the ranks of Christ’s Army! Pastor Chris Hodges once told me, after I had confided that I’d had a particularly challenging day, that “You should be flattered when Satan comes after you. It means that you’re doing good things for God.”
Well, I’m gonna tell you; I love doing good things for God, but I’d just as soon not be flattered by Satan’s attacks one more day! It’s tough sometimes, but all things considered, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Today I want to tell you a story about what can happen when you do make that jump.
This story began five weeks ago, in the month of January. It also happened to be right in the middle of Twenty-One Days of Prayer and Fasting, which was being held at Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham.
Our hair salon had experienced yet another year of growth in 2009, and we were looking towards 2010 with great anticipation…
Greg, one of our top stylists who had been with us for twenty years, had made the decision to open his own salon. He told us that he expected to be in his new location by the middle of January.
Two days before Greg’s last day with us, we were informed that another of our top stylists, who had been with us for eight years, needed to take a one-year leave of absence for personal reasons.
Two days after Greg’s last day, we learned that yet another member of our team was moving to Pittsburg with her husband. February 4th was going to be her last day in the salon!
Yet another of our stylists, Carla, was taking maternity leave on January 23rd, and still another, Erika, is scheduled to begin her maternity leave on March 6th!
The net result of all of the above meant that we were permanently losing one fourth of our hair stylists, with almost another fourth being reduced to “part-time” due to pregnancy. This translated into roughly a 25% loss in salon revenue!
Oh, and did I mention that we had agreed in principle to add an additional four styling stations, including 600 square feet of leased space, just prior to learning of our “outbound migration” of stylists? I believe that conventional wisdom dictates expansion and growth when a business’ income is on the upswing. In the blink of an eye, our salon was losing a very healthy percentage of its monthly income.
Time to panic, right?
The “old Sam”, the one that didn’t know God, the one that had never “jumped”, would have been absolutely terrified. Loss of appetite, irritability, sleeplessness, skyrocketing blood pressure, and indigestion would have been his constant companions!
I have to interject something at this point…
For the last four years, and especially since I launched The Seed of Hope, my life has been really good. Oh, there have been a lot of challenges and rough spots, but God has blessed me so very, very much. So much so, that I feel that many of you may have wondered what I would do if God tested me. Would I be as “awesome”, and optimistic, and always wearing a smile?
That’s a good question. And I’ll let you in on a secret; it’s one that I’ve asked myself. What would I do…how would I react, if God threw me a curveball? Would my faith be as strong?
For the past month, several people in our salon have questioned, “So, are you doing okay?” And my response has been “I’m awesome! Why?” Or, “Are you alright?” And again, I replied “I’m awesome! Why do you ask??” “Because you’re so calm, even with everything that’s going on in the salon. Are you really that calm, or are you just acting?”
Here’s the thing: I wasn’t acting! The calm was real. The smile was real. The awesome was real. I truly was at peace, even in the eye of the storm.
You see, I never took my eyes off of God. And I never forgot something that I tell you all the time: God is faithful. While He may not give us everything that we want, He will always provide us with what we need…
In the past three weeks we’ve made two additions to our styling team, and have hired a third stylist that will be joining us in a couple of weeks. All three have been in the salon industry for some time, which is a bonus. Better still is that each one of them will fit in nicely with our team.
The best part of all of this, that which means most to me, has nothing to do with money. You see, each of these women is a very strong Christian, and that isn’t by coincidence. I believe that God has set the table for success in our salon, and that He is sending talented individuals to us so that our remarkable story will continue to grow. He also knows that I will always give the credit to Him for that success; without Him, I am nothing.
The bottom line is that despite having lost the personnel that I mentioned, along with the income that they generated last year, our salon had a bigger month this February than last.
I believe with all that is in me is that God knew that when people were walking out the door…when our revenues were shrinking…when we had made a commitment to extend ourselves financially at questionably a terrible time to do so…
When all of this was going on, I never took my eyes off of him. I never doubted His plan for Jackie, myself, and our team. I never doubted Him. My faith never wavered.
God knew it. And God is faithful.
Make the jump. Give control of your life to Him. Life, as you know it, will never be the same.
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 03/01/2010 at 7:00 AM | Categories: