Friday, February 26, 2010


One does not have to be in active ministry to be aware of just how frequently you hear someone say, "If only I had made a different choice." One does not have to be a Catholic priest to feel you are sitting in the Confessional listening to, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned." Across a lunch table at work, over coffee, in desperate midnight phone calls come those words of opportunity lost, "If only..."

How many times have I said it to myself with regret and clung to the comfort of Christ's words from the Cross, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

But the fact is I usually did know and made a choice to ignore the flashing lights that said the bridge was out, or failed to weigh all the options before making a life changing decision or ignored the wisdom of God's Word, or took the feelings of a friend or loved one for granted. The result is always grief and loss.

The jails are full of "If only" stories. So are the scriptures. So are we all but there is small comfort in thinking that everyone has made the same mistakes you have. That is the logic the devil often applies to keep you writing another chapter in your "If only..." story and to make sure it does not have a happy ending.

The merciful love of God is confrontational and at the same time relational. This is no impersonal judge handing out mandatory sentences. This is someone who has made an investment in us.

When I was a student nurse I was on a hospital floor and the chief of the surgical services happened to be in the nurses station. He looked at my name tag and said, "Cavanaugh. I know you. I made an investment in your family."

It turns out that 15 years earlier when he was a resident and my mother lay dying on an operating table, having gone through all of the blood with her type that was available, that same doctor gave her a pint of his own as a direct transfusion. It helped to saved her life.

The Son of God gave us all He had to give on Calvary so that we could one day know all He had to share with us in Eternity. Eternity starts here and it is vast enough to out weigh all the "What if , if only, coulda, woulda, shouldas that could ever be spoken.

Consider this verse:

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

As I looked at that scripture in a devotional on Psalms John has been reading, what stood out to me was the part that says, "His favor lasts a lifetime." The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin. No exception for stupid, thoughtless sin. All sin. All our sin goes into the sea that God forgot. All the "What ifs" belong there as well.

That sea has a "NO FISHING" sign posted so we should quit trying to bait the hook. Can we just "Take God at His naked word," as Spurgeon calls it and soak up the truth of that scripture?

His favor lasts a lifetime. His favor lasts a lifetime. His favor lasts your lifetime, my lifetime. God's favor. We live and move inside His grace and good will all the days of our lives. His favor out lives our sins and errors and it certainly out lasts our "What ifs."

Need proof. Look at David. He always comes to mind when I think of a soul-jarring example of "How could you?" We know he looked where he was not supposed to look and took what he dared then murdered an innocent husband in a shameful cover up that enlisted the help of subordinates to pull it off.

If you look further you read that 19 soldiers in all died in the pull back that killed the husband. 19 mothers in Israel lost sons to the passion and cowardice of its King. Yet Christ was not ashamed to be the Son of David. David's confession, repentance and renewal points the way to a joyful morning with its sure mercies.

Titus 3:4-6 (The Message):

"But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God's gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there's more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this."

The favor of God trumps it all for us and makes today brim over with new opportunities, new adventures, new possibilities, new broken-bone dance steps to learn.

He has made an investment in us.

His favor lasts a lifetime!

"What if" we believed it?

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