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“Boise church of Christ. Where church is family … A place to start over!”

I ended nearly every commercial and radio program I aired on Boise, Idaho’s 50,000 watt, 670 KBOI News Talk Radio station with those words. I know thousands and thousands heard the spots. One day, Valerie responded.

Valerie told me on her first Sunday visiting church that she had been hearing me for a long time on the radio. One day she listened and heard me say, “… a place to start over …” and she thought, “I want to start over! I think I will check these guys out.” Valerie was more than a tire-kicker. She was and is a doer. I requested some help with a two-day event to reach out to children and families at the EXPO. She volunteered. A couple months later Valerie was at the church building helping to set up and aiding throughout the day with an outreach neighborhood Easter Egg event. She attended Bible studies and fellowship gatherings. She helped with our YOUTH RALLY – cooking, cleaning, serving, talking, laughing, serving…

I began to preach a series on forgiveness. That’s when God’s Spirit made His move.

“Hey, Kev! Can we meet together and talk?”

“Sure. Coffee this week?”

“OK. How about Starbucks Tuesday afternoon 3:30?”

“You’re on!”

That’s where I learned more of Valerie’s story. We shared some struggles we each faced in life. Her face lit up when we discussed how God literally will give a person, any person, a new beginning, a clean slate, a start over! The joy on her face, the tears in her eyes, the excitement in her voice I will never forget.

It wasn’t long after that conversation that Valerie died, I buried her, and she rose again to live a brand-new life – forgiven, fresh, a new baby in Christ, a child of God, filled with the Spirit of Jesus. The day she was immersed was a great day of celebration.

The good news for her and for everyone else who has been baptized into Christ does not end at the water. And it is a good thing it doesn’t, right? It doesn’t take long before Satan scores a victory. We sin. We feel miserable. We thought we had left it all behind and we had made a serious commitment. AND WE DID! However, we discovered that we are weak, fallible, stumbling, bumbling followers of Jesus who still miss the mark and fall short of His glory. Some go into a spiritual tailspin. They suffer what I call the “after baptism blues”. And sometimes the sin involves consequences that are difficult to bear, not to mention the feelings of guilt, shame, and despair. We think, “Will God forgive me? I failed so bad. I fell so hard and so far away. How can God ever use me again?”

I remember a time or two in my life where I seriously asked those very questions. Fortunately, God had strategically placed a very wise mentor in my life, a man I lovingly call my spiritual dad, Paul Eckstein. When I asked him these questions, he replied, “Of course God forgives. God heals. God restores. Of course, God uses failures. He has no choice. That’s all He has to work with!”

With a broken heart and a broken, wounded spirit, I confessed my sins to God. And He forgave me, restored me, renewed me, gave me a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning. How do I know? Because that’s what He says that He’ll do – 1 John 1. I am so glad to serve a God Who gives a second chance. In fact, I have had sooooooooo many second chances that if I could have a dollar for every second chance God has given me, I could easily retire and come visit you in my private jet!

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