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.

 

identity

God’s Plans Versus Mine

I sat in the dusty Zimbabwean earth, peering up at the nowhere-near-ready church, and fumed. Our construction mission trip had just turned on end.

We’d traveled thousands of miles, spent thousands of dollars more to come this far, and now we were forced to face the hard fact: None of the building materials had been purchased. We had nothing to do but wait.

Anger coursed through me, and frustration. I looked down at my just-purchased work boots and gloves, eyed our unused tool belts stacked in a heap. What a waste!

But our team huddled and prayed, determined to give our work to God anew. And in the waiting came fresh blessings.

Helping the women of the village cook, shop for groceries, draw water from the well, braid hair. Playing soccer and King of the Mountain with a horde of barefoot children. Learning the native language while getting to know the bored men hired on for labor. Shining God’s light in spite of setbacks.

Two days later, we were working again. The plan had changed, and we didn’t leave with the completed frame of the new church as we’d hoped. But we left with friends and a heart for the people and the nation of Zimbabwe we probably never would have formed otherwise.

God’s plan had prevailed, after all.

When we set ourselves to doing God’s work and our plans fall apart, it’s hard to see the big picture. Our pride makes us think our plans are His.

The Bible has so many examples of God using the difficult and even catastrophic for good, and then we realize—He was there all along. Click To Tweet

For example, in Genesis, a Hebrew teenager named Joseph is sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers, a terrible betrayal. Joseph was the son most beloved by his father Jacob, also called Israel, and his brothers hated him for it (Genesis 37:4). But God’s plan was always at work. Not only did Joseph cling to God and rise to Egyptian leadership in spite of his shackles, but he eventually saved both Egypt and his family during a time of severe famine.

When his brothers realized their transgression, they fell down before the brother they had once despised. Joseph wept and responded, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).

Sometimes, heeding God’s will means letting go of our own plans. Click To Tweet

I imagine Joseph, stripped of everything and cowering at the hands of his brothers, didn’t have any idea the God of the universe had a master plan to make all this good. But he trusted God anyway. Though all of Joseph’s hardships, the Bible tells us, “The Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:3). And after Joseph died, his bones were ultimately carried out of Egypt by Moses, the man God called to liberate His people when they, hundreds of years later, endured their own slavery, and buried in his people’s new home, Israel.

When I look back on my time in Zimbabwe, I don’t much remember the church we helped construct, but I do remember the people—their faces, their dreams, their songs, their laughter. I remember and celebrate our connection as Christian men, women and children united in a common goal.

I’m certain that was God’s plan all along.

Have you ever struggled to accept God’s plan over your own? How did it turn out?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

And before you go … have you grabbed your free ecopy of our Bible study yet? If not, you can do so HERE! (You can get a print copy for just $5 HERE.)

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE. 

identity

Owning the Label I Once Spurned

Picture of Jessica with text pulled from post

It took me a long time to own up to being a Christian. I believed in God and willingly accepted Jesus as my Savior—all that was fine.

I didn’t want to be lumped in with some of the other Christians I knew, and frankly didn’t like very much. The sanctimonious girl at school who invited me to church not because she wanted me there, but because she felt it was her job to expose me to her denomination. The cutthroat, super-ambitious guy at work who ogled me daily but wore his churchgoer status like it was his get-out-of-jail-free Monopoly card. The nosy neighbor who’d tell me all about her church bake sale and that Sunday’s sermon while simultaneously gossip-slaughtering everyone else on the block. No thanks.

So when my friend called and offhandedly teased me about having “turned into one of those Christians,” I was taken aback. While I knew what I believed, I certainly didn’t want to be relegated to the judgy, holier-than-thou classification she wanted to pin on me.

I’m not sure whether I laughed her off and changed the subject, or flat-out denied her tag to save face. But I do remember hanging up the phone and feeling just like the Apostle Peter after Jesus’s arrest.

Peter was extremely close with Jesus and part of his inner-circle, so fervent and loyal a Christ-follower that Jesus called him “the rock” upon which He would build His church (Matthew 16:18-19). When Jesus told him he’d fall away and, in fact, reject Christ three times before the rooster crowed that very night, you can almost see Peter’s “no way, never!” scoff (Matthew 26:34).

Yet, sadly, that’s exactly what happened. Trying to avoid capture himself, Peter insisted once, twice, and finally a third time that he “didn’t know the Man.” Just then, the rooster crowed, “And Peter remembered Jesus’ statement, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75 ESV).

That day on the phone with my friend, I denied my Lord. In my reluctance to get categorized as the “wrong kind of Christian,” in effect I’d taken myself out of the category altogether. What I’d done felt like a punch to the throat.

See, denying Jesus isn’t just rejecting our faith. It’s also being embarrassed about the label we carry. It’s being more concerned about the way others see us than the way God sees us. Click To TweetLooking back, I recognize I denied Him in other ways throughout my youth, like when I didn’t speak up when I witnessed injustice, or when I caved to sin instead of holding fast to what I knew to be right.

Today I’m proud to call myself a Christian. When I meet someone who gives me the side-eye, even better—I know it’s a chance to give someone a new perspective on the term, a chance to represent what it looks like to be a modern-day Jesus-follower. Click To Tweet

Owning my Christian label was a big step in embracing my faith and my identity in Jesus. As with Peter, it took understanding how I’d fallen short—and making a choice to step up from then on out—to experience freedom.

Have you ever felt hesitant to claim a label because you were afraid how you’d be perceived? How have you learned to overcome your discomfort?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

And before you go … have you grabbed your free ecopy of our Bible study yet? If not, you can do so HERE! (You can get a print copy for just $5 HERE.)

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE. 

Bible studies

Available Now! Becoming His Princess

Imagine what our days and confidence level would look like if we truly lived in God’s grace and the knowledge that we are loved. We are loved when we mess up, when we act ugly, when we move forward, and when we simply sit still.

We are loved. Period.

And in Christ, we are enough. He wants to take us to a place where our identity is placed not in our accomplishments, dress size, or bank account but in Him, His love, and the price He paid for us.

Starting January 15th, we’re going to be presenting Becoming His Princess live at Wildewood Church in Papillion. We’re also going to be shooting our video segments. Yay! We’d love for you to come and be a part of that! You can register HERE.

To give you a taste of what you’ll experience, you can catch the audio for week one, which will be presented live at Wildewood, HERE.

Grab a free ecopy HERE!

Grab a print copy HERE.