Grace

Moving From Guilt to Freedom

I was a mess during my teen and young adult years. I blamed everyone else for my self-destructing life: If my circumstances hadn’t been so chaotic, I never would’ve dropped out of high school. If certain interactions hadn’t been so painful and unstable, I never would’ve turned to alcohol. And if so-n-so hadn’t said such-n-such, I never would’ve reacted as I had.

This type of victim-mentality robbed me of the strength to change and distanced me from God’s mercy and grace. To experience the freedom of forgiveness, of being absolved completely, that Christ offered, I first needed to grasp my need for it. Click To Tweet

I had to honestly evaluate not just my life, not just my outward behavior, but my sinful heart as well.

Honest self-evaluation is hard. Admitting our sin truthfully, not only to ourselves, but to God, can feel even harder. It takes great humility to acknowledge what God already knows—that we’re worse than we’d imagined and are helpless, in our own power, to change. Often there’s an additional challenge that often holds us in fear when we could be living in the freedom of grace: we’re afraid of rejection. Scared of being cut off entirely. Because that’s often what we’ve experienced from others.

An acquaintance grew up in a controlling household where love was conditional and tied to behavior. When she acted a certain way and others were pleased with her, they welcomed her close. When she disappointed them, she was disregarded and pushed away.

Maybe that resonates with you. Many of us have experienced similar interactions, whether with family, friends, or with our significant others. As a result, we can unknowingly carry a similar expectation into our relationship with God, and we likely aren’t even aware we’ve done so.

Here’s where God’s different. Whereas others might say, “You messed up. You blew it,” and cuts us off, Christ said, in essence, “You messed up, and I’m going to draw you near.” Click To Tweet But He did even more than that. When He stretched out His arms wide and died on the cross for our sins, He said, in essence, “Sweet daughter, you really made a mess of things. Of your life, your relationship with others. Your relationship with Me. And so I’m drawing near.”

Whereas others might say, “You messed up. You blew it,” and cuts us off, Christ said, in essence, “You messed up, and I’m going to draw you near.”Our Savior’s love is different than any we’ve ever known. Click To Tweet

When our sin separated us from Him, Christ took the first step to bridge that gap. Click To Tweet He took the first step, then the next, and then the next after that, pursuing us with His last breath, quite literally, to welcome us in. This demonstrates, where sin abounds, as serious and destructive as it may be, God’s grace abounds all the more, for God’s steadfast, unshakable love never ceases, and His mercies truly are new each morning (Rom. 5:20, Lamentations 3:22-23).

Scholars believe Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, wrote that last phrase, shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. He’d spent a good chunk of his adult life warning the Israelites to turn from their idolatrous ways and back to God, but His children persisted in their sin. And after generations of rebellion and idolatry, they were finally experiencing the consequences.

Jeremiah, a prophet who loved God and had remained faithful, witnessed the destruction of his beloved homeland. The city and their beloved temple had been reduced to rubble, and the people became destitute.

Mourning all that had been lost, Jeremiah didn’t say, “Why me? This isn’t fair, God.” No, instead, he said, “See, O Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious.”

This from the man who could’ve prayed, “I, only I, have remained faithful.”

Scholars debate whether he was speaking of his own sins or of those made by the nation as a whole, but regardless, we know he sinned. According to Scripture, we all have. We’ve failed to live and love as we should, whether we’re harboring selfish thoughts or displaying selfish actions. I do both a thousand times each day, and when confronted with my wretchedness, it’s tempting to divert blame. To justify and make excuses, but though doing so might feel “safe” in the moment, it only leads to increased bondage.

To find freedom, I need to take an honest look at the sin-wrought rubble of my life, focus on the love and goodness of God, and like Jeremiah did in the next chapter over, cast myself upon the One whose mercies never fail.

Because “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the One who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly on the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. 3:25-26).

Let’s talk about this! Have you received the forgiveness Christ offers and the freedom that follows? If not, and you would like to learn more about finding ultimate and eternal absolution, please contact us HERE. If you’ve already experienced God’s cleansing grace, are you walking in that? Or are you interpreting spiritual distance that isn’t there, that Christ died to remove? How might remembering His reaction to our sin help you rest more deeply in His embrace, not just when you’re acting in a way that pleases Him, but when you mess up as well?

Join our online book club to learn to rest, daily, in God's grace! Click To Tweet

Book club inviteWe want to help you live in the freedom of God’s grace! Join us for a five week online book discussion club to discuss the Ragamuffin Gospel, a book that was truly transformative in Jennifer’s life. You can find the book HERE.

From the back cover:

A Furious Love Is Hot on Your Trail! 

Many believers feel stunted in their Christian growth. We beat ourselves up over our failures and, in the process, pull away from God because we subconsciously believe He tallies our defects and hangs His head in disappointment. In this newly repackaged edition—now with full appendix, study questions, and the author’s own epilogue, “Ragamuffin Fifteen Years Later,” Brennan Manning reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth. The Father beckons us to Himself with a “furious love” that burns brightly and constantly. Only when we truly embrace God’s grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the “ragamuffins.”

This club will be hosted on our Facebook Group and through Zoom video. Contact us HERE for information on how to participate.

Plus, we have fun news! Our 90-day devotional is now available!

Cover image for Bible study devotionalDrawing Near: 90-Day Devotional:

Each day, God beckons us to Himself, calling us to rest in His love and grace. As we do, He heals our hurts, overpowers our fears with love, and restores us to the women He created us to be. This 90-day devotional, written by women who are learning themselves to live anchored in God’s grace, will help you deepen your faith and grow your relationship with Christ.

Buy it HERE.

 

freedom, identity, security

Reclaiming Redemption

AndreaQuoteTrustJesus

Picture a woman in chains behind bars. Her orange jumpsuit is a beacon screaming, “Guilty!” She’s lost all hope of freedom from this ugly place until the warden swings open the cell door. “A stranger paid your debt. You can go.” As she hurries out in disbelief, crossing the threshold into the sunlight, she looks down. Where there was once prison garb, she now sees a white sundress and pearls. She’s been transformed by mercy.

And she’s an image of us when we grasp the power of redemption.  

It may have been real bars that kept you living in shame, or the memory of bad decisions. Perhaps it’s a harsh word you’d take back, an affair you can’t wish away, or a sinful pattern you can’t kick. According to Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.” Gulp. We’re right to feel the weight of our sin. The penalty is severe. But praise God that’s not where the verse ends. Listen to this: death doesn’t hold us because “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV).    

Over and over Scripture paints this picture of our freedom. Colossians 1:13-14 ESV reaffirms this truth saying, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

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Sometimes it’s hard to understand or accept this reality because redemption isn’t an everyday word in our vocabulary. What does it mean to be redeemed? Is our spiritual jail cell really unlocked?

Those were questions I struggled with until I did some digging into Scripture. “Apolutrosis”- it sounds like an odd sickness, but it’s the original Greek word for redemption in today’s verse. It means to be released because a ransom was paid.

What does that reveal about our identity?

It tells our story. We were prisoners to sin, held captive, and unable to gain our freedom. But in our darkest moment, God saw us and bought us back for a high price—Jesus’s perfect life sacrificed on the cross to atone for ours.

How does it make you feel to know you’ve been ransomed? That a payment was made on your behalf so that nothing hinders your relationship with God? That you now can approach Him with your head up in honor instead of down with shame? Maybe it’ll take a while to sink in.

It makes me super relieved. I’m beyond thankful Jesus paid my debt, that I don’t have to try to prove I’m worthy of God’s love because He makes me worthy. I lived in shame and struggle for so many unnecessary years when I could’ve traded my guilt for His freely offered peace. And I’m thankful I don’t have to live fearfully anymore.

Now I live in grace and I claim my redemption daily. Receiving this truth to my core, that I can’t undo the fact that I’ve been bought back, fuels me to live differently. I cling as closely as possible to my big brother, Jesus, because He’s proven His love and protection is something I can count on.

Perhaps you still feel more chained than freed. But once you trust in Jesus, He wants to bust you out of every jail cell you’ve crawled into. Trust that His sacrifice was enough for your past, present, and future mistakes. God not only paid your debt in full, but also credited you with Jesus’ brilliant righteousness. You can live joyfully knowing He traded your orange jumpsuit for His white robe.

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freedom, Hardships and Trials

Freedom From the Ink-Stained Life

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Picture a white sheet of paper, alive with the promise of a great story only to have a well of ink splatter and spread all over its page.  What starts as a small blob, seeps through fiber by fiber, expanding to whatever it touches. This was how my life, prior to Jesus, felt to me.  What started out as insecurities and naivety turned into unhealthy relationships, self loathing, and destructive living.

I’ve watched my kids draw countless pictures, make a mistake, then ball the page up and toss throw it away. This is where I felt my worth had landed. It resided deep inside, haunting me, telling me this ruined piece of paper would never amount to much.

Trying to live free from the shame on my own didn’t help. That was like trying to flatten a crumpled paper into its once flawless state.

What does work? Jesus. He took my mistakes, my failures, my regrets and paid for them with His death on the cross. When we choose to follow Jesus, God never holds our past against us nor keeps lists of our wrongs, because as far as He’s concerned we’re made new.God never holds our past against us nor keeps lists of our wrongs because as far as He’s concerned we’re made new. Click To Tweet

But like my kids with their drawings, I will still mess up. I’ll lose my temper with my family and friends. I won’t always use my time effectively, and I’ll act selfishly. It’s hard not to get down on myself daily, or have a recurring feeling of failure. However, I forget that being a follower of Jesus doesn’t exempt me from being human. I may still have sinful behavioral patterns, but my Father gives me an unending supply of His mercy that grants me the ability to start new every day.

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It seems too good to be true, but it isn’t. When we are in Christ, we are a fresh piece of white paper, pulled straight from the ream, ready for a new story, a new destiny, authored and empowered by the One who is calling you live fully in His grace.

What will your story be? Grab hold of His promise that, in Christ, you are made new every day, seen through the lens of who He designed you to be. Take out your pen and let Him lead the way.

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If you haven’t asked God for forgiveness of your sins yet and haven’t experienced the life changing power of being made new in Him, we would love to talk with you! Leave a comment or send us your info through our contact page.

 

freedom, Relationships

The Self-Sufficiency Façade

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“What do I need you for?”

I said those words.

To my husband.

It was the worst thing I’d ever said to him. And it haunts me to this day.

Our marriage was in trouble. Our daughter was a toddler. I was earning six figures working full time, and felt I largely parented alone. My marriage was absent of good communication and growing in resentment. I was a mess emotionally, and probably lacking many hours of sleep. So, I felt compelled to utter those hurtful words; I could juggle it all by myself. I was independent and strong. I didn’t need him.

Of course, that wasn’t true, because being independent also meant I was alone. And self-sufficiency—being able to provide for my needs on my own—is a façade that I’d naively fallen for. I needed my husband like I needed oxygen, and I also needed God.

But I wasn’t humble enough to see that.

I had to accept my desperate need for God’s intervention. Only He could teach me how to love well. He could fill me up so I could demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit to my spouse: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22).

By God’s grace, we’ve been married fifteen years now and that toddler is fourteen. I found my way through my independent and self-sustaining mindset. With a humble attitude, I accepted my need for my husband and strived for our marriage to get better.

But I also sought Jesus, and thankfully, my husband turned to Him too. This journey together hasn’t made our marriage perfect, full of only joy and peace without impatience or irritations, but it got us committed to the same things—God and each other.

I found out then that I will never not need Jesus.I will never not need Jesus. Click To Tweet My help comes from the Lord (Psalm 121:1). And even when times are good, as heirs with Christ and having the Holy Spirit, we find our joy in Him (Romans 14:17). When we seek Jesus, we flourish and can tackle the most difficult obstacles because our God is bigger than our trials. When we seek Jesus, we flourish and can tackle the most difficult obstacles because our God is bigger than our trials. Click To Tweet

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When we think we can do all on our own, we’re leaving out the biggest Helper of all. Turn to Him and surrender today so you can be free of the stressful drive to be self-sufficient.

Let’s talk about this! Do you need to humbly accept that you can’t go through life without the One who made you? Do you need to humbly accept that you can’t go through life without the One who made you? Click To Tweet

 

freedom

Are Your Habits Controlling You?

Image of woman hugging her torso with words from 1 Cor. 6:12By Kelli Thompson

I was a little chubby a good part of my life. Dressing room episodes usually began with hope and ended in a heap of clothes on the floor and a promise to eat better and exercise more.  In my mid-twenties, everything changed. An attempt to squeeze into the largest size of misses jeans resulted in an all-out competition between me and the denim. Barely buttoning at the waist, my reflection in the mirror rivaled the best Betty Crocker “muffin top.”

I committed that day to change my life. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:19, NLT) as the Bible says, and I wanted to treat it as such. I joined a fitness camp, kept a food journal, made better choices, and lost about 20 pounds. I’d never looked or felt better. But the new image I reflected didn’t match the issues raging inside. My troubled marriage I fought to save was ending. Filing for divorce was the one thing I said I would never do. Living that relationship status burned me with the mark of ultimate failure.

Before long, my habits—my food and exercise obsession—began to enslave me. I weighed every ounce of food. Logged every bite. I placed my gym visits above God, friends and family time. I packed and ate my own meals in place of family dinners and business lunches. I competed in fitness competitions, the ultimate cattle call of judging on everything temporary life has to offer.

“I can do anything it takes to stay perfectly healthy!” I thought. “I am free from being fat.”

I wanted to be free, but I was deeply controlled. Controlled by food. quote pulled from post with an image of a woman walkingBy a brainless box of springs that measured gravity. By a community who desired me to appear a certain way. Mastered by the extremes and not the beneficial values of God.

Consider this. Is our desire really to be free? To live as we want even if the actions aren’t beneficial? Deep down, I believe what we’re truly desiring is freedom from consequences.  However, when I’ve worshiped my “right to do what I want,” I’ve become mastered by my desires and left unsatisfied.

Our choices create ripple effects. Not many people think it’s fun to hang out with someone who is too obsessed with examining every calorie and ditching them for the gym. And consequences remain in a daily battle with body image. Because at any healthy weight today, compared to a near-anorexic state, my brain works to dispel the lie that my reflection in the mirror is fat.

As we encounter the natural consequences of our choices, we often strive to achieve our ideals until our situation is so painful, so isolating, we hit rock bottom. In that place, we find we’ve been mastered by our own doing and awaken to the fact that God does not leave us, He patiently waits for our return.

Though God gives us freedom to make our own choices, we’re not free of the consequences. How can we find and live in freedom? We can begin by letting God correct our faulty thinking with truth. Then, we can turn over even the smallest daily choices to God, leading to His perfect will.