A Breath of Fresh Air
A Merry Heart
A Woman's World
A Word in Season
Acting Up
As I Imitate Christ
Cyber Walk
Faith Seekers
Golden Apples
Heaven Bound
Just Between Men
Take it to Heart
Teen Truth
The Joy of Family
The Parents'
Survival Guide

The Rhythm of Life
The Treehouse
Through Their Eyes
'Tis the Season
We Are the Church
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TeensLeaning On Godís Grace
By Toni Smothers

I was washing the floor behind the toilet bowl in my bathroom. Every time I turned to put my rag into the bucket of soapy water, I banged my head on the corner of a shelf that is just over the toilet area. The strange part was that I kept doing it, banging my head that is, while thinking to myself, "Donít bang your head again, dummy, just duck down a little!"

Minutes later, still berating myself for not being able to avoid bashing my brains in, you guessed it, Iíd done it again, and I had done it while I was still thinking about how dumb I was to do it in the first place. I was almost brain-dead by the time I had my chore done!

Sometimes our struggle with sin is that way. Youíre berating yourself for slipping up and repeating some sinful behavior you are deliberately trying to avoid but keep doing! Itís a wonder to me that God has infinite patience for this kind of idiocy! But He does. In Romans 2:4 it says, "Donít you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you?" (NLT). All I can say is, itís a lucky thing for me that He does have that much patience.

Iíll bet you can remember repeatedly doing what you swore you wouldnít do too. And you must have noticed how kind He was in giving you time to turn from your sin. Thatís because He is our loving Father and He doesnít expect instant change from us. God does want us to want badly to be able to change as we learn how to trust in His power in us, the Holy Spirit, to do it.

At the same time, Heís showing us how we need to react to others that mess up. We need to be willing to give them the same pardon as God so graciously gives us. Mercy is only received if it is also given. When your friends hurt you, you can choose to get mad and even seek revenge. But thatís what anyone can do. It takes the love of God in our hearts to be able to forgive and forget. Is it easy? No way. In fact, sometimes it feels next to impossible, and it would be, if we didnít have the Holy Spirit to heal our hurts and Godís grace to help us find a higher standard to live by.

Weíre talking about forgiving a friend, someone we love or at least care for. If itís hard to forgive them, how will we ever be able to forgive people who hurt us who arenít even close to us? Thatís even harder. When youíre late for class and a stranger pulls right in front of you to take the parking space youíd been waiting on, itís easy to think negatively about that person. You might even consider puncturing one of his tires, or nonchalantly scratching the side of his car with your keys as you pass by. Only kidding! But you sure do have a hard time simmering down thoughts like those when someone mistreats you. Thatís because we are so familiar with listening to our flesh, rather than seeking Godís way of peace and love. His word says,"Finally, all of you should be of one mind, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds. Donít repay evil for evil. Donít retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what G
od wants you to do, and he will bless you for it."
(1 Peter 3:8-9 NLT)

Listen, the good news is that you donít have to beat yourself up about being less than perfect. We are all works in progress. God is so good and His desire is to see us succeed and come to Him for our every need. He wants desperately to love us, make our lives more beautiful, and bring us unspeakable joy. As we learn to lean on Him for everything, He gives us more than we ever thought to ask for. There is an everlasting security in knowing that you are so forgiven!

God wants to help us with everything if we start each day listening for His direction and looking for ways to honor Him. We truly can choose to pray for those who hurt us, either on purpose or unwittingly and quickly forget about whatever it was. That is what they mean when people say, "Iíve got the joy of the Lord in my heart." We can capture this vision of glorious harmony with others that Jesus taught. He spoke with authority and courage about humility and compassion. He loved every single person, whether they spat at Him, beat Him, or taunted Him. He was tortured and bled while still praying for his tormenters, that God would forgive them.

Putting things into perspective, just be glad that you are on the right path. Smile at the rude and hurtful, even pray for the unlovable. Maybe one day they will, by the grace of God, find their way to His everlasting joy. 2 Peter 3:9 really says it all: "The Lord isnít really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent." (NLT)

No one will ever love you more than God does right now!
Toni Smothers is a child of God, wife, mom, grandmother, writer and lay-speaker. She has had serious exposure to the rougher side of life and from that experience has been left with a heart full of love for others who struggle with learning about our beautiful Savior. Through her writing, Toni delights in helping young people especially, who are seeking to find a true, intimate relationship with their Heavenly Father. You can write to Toni through the Your Letters page of this magazine.
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