freedom, identity, security

Reclaiming Redemption

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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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Living loved, Relationships, surrender

The Forgiven Forgive

There was no peace. What started as friendship ended in full out anger. We seemed to disagree about everything. There were dirty looks and silence. Those were far from our finest moments. We couldn’t let go of the small things, so they became big problems. Weary from conflict, I read a Scripture passage that pierced my soul and helped me forgive.  

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)Operating as if I hadn't needed God's forgiveness kept me from pardoning my friend. Have you been there? Click To Tweet

I realized I was withholding mercy because I forgot the full weight of grace God has afforded me every time I’ve messed up. Operating as if I hadn’t needed God’s forgiveness kept me from pardoning her. Have you been there?andreaquote1-apr29-fb

It’s much easier for me to offend with a quick retort when someone hurts me. Or self-protect when I don’t feel appreciated or others are unkind. But it’s not what God calls us to do. We are to respond like Jesus, and He doesn’t shun them with the silent treatment or cut with snide remarks. Instead, He sees their behavior as an outpouring of hurt and sin and offers love and grace to soothe their souls.

This doesn’t mean we let others abuse us. Sometimes setting healthy boundaries is the best way to love someone. But we do allow God to reign over our relationships so that we can see the way to peace.

andreaquote2-apr29-fbTo follow His lead, we must first take inventory of all the ways God has shown us mercy. What harsh words have we spoken that He’s forgiven? What poor choices has He redeemed once we confessed? Who would we be without God’s favor? As I answer those questions honestly, I realize I have no business withholding forgiveness of others because my God has taken away my sin, free of charge.

Here’s what I’ve learned, the offended offend, and the forgiven forgive. Which we choose is important because one has power to crush, and the other to redeem. Here’s what I’ve learned, the offended offend, and the forgiven forgive. Which we choose is important because one has power to crush, and the other to redeem. Click To Tweet

Paul, and early evangelist who wrote much of the New Testament, encourages us to pick wisely, saying, “so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:7-8, ESV).

You hold the power to soothe your soul and others every time you choose love over hate and forgiveness over bitterness. Take a moment to thank God for the grace He’s shown you today and extend that line of mercy to those in your path.

 

I want to hear your thoughts about forgiveness and conflict on our FACEBOOK page. What has helped you resolve problems peacefully? What Scripture do your rely on when faced with relational conflict?

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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him.Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers. Read more from Andrea online! 

Faith, Resting in Christ, surrender

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

 

I was worn out from the chase. For as long as I’d practiced Christianity, I’d felt like I was running after God and perfection and both were slipping through my grasp. I thought His love for me ebbed and flowed based on my merits. But I found a power working in me that’s separate from my striving and never tires. He’s the Holy Spirit.

He’s a member of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—whom we may avoid because He seems elusive. Early in my faith, I wasn’t sure how to rely on an unseen Being with immeasurable and invisible power. I felt like a failure most of the time. Seemed like everyone around me was crushing it while I was smothered by the stress of life.

Could the Holy Spirit provide power and guidance to transform me into the wife, mother, friend, and servant I desired to be?Could the Holy Spirit provide power and guidance to transform me into the wife, mother, friend, and servant I desired to be? Click To Tweet I needed Him to be real because I was tired of trying to change for the better on my own. So I opened my Bible and read everything about the Holy Spirit I could find. The most important truth I found is that He is with us.

Scripture asserts that God was Emmanuel (God with us) when Jesus walked the earth, and now is present through His Spirit poured out after Christ rose from the dead. In order to rely on His strength, we must believe that God resides in our being. And that with His Spirit, God will build us into who we were made to be.  

As we tuck daily into the Holy Spirit’s presence and yield to His leadership, we’ll experience abounding love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). These were all the qualities I wanted to embody and everything I couldn’t become on my own. So I trusted God to work them out in me as I came near to Him.  

Here’s what walking in God’s leadership has looked like for me. As I spent each day intentionally reading my Bible, praying for every need, growing friendships with other faithful women, and building a relationship with God, I began to hear the His voice. It was never audible, but a gentle nudge guiding me from my old sinful ways to His loving ones. He’d replay truth from Scripture in my mind when I needed help. In moments of anger, I heard to be quiet. While grieving my Grandma’s death, He assured me people are never lost and that Jesus has overcome the grave. When I felt alone, He proved God’s love for me affirming that I’m chosen and adopted into God’s family.

We can’t trap the Holy Spirit’s power by our limited knowledge.We can’t trap the Holy Spirit’s power by our limited knowledge. Click To Tweet We’ll never fully understand the vastness of His reach in this life because we are human and He is God. But we can choose to believe He’s active in our need. Knowing God’s Spirit is with us in every situation empowers us to keep going and fixes us on the right path.  

I’ve found the closer I stick to God through His Spirit within me, the more peace I feel in this chaotic and messy life. Problems still arise, people still disappoint, my sin still tries to drag me away, but now I live with God’s power fighting for me. I simply step in His footprints and keep my gaze on Him. Find comfort this week knowing perfection is not required of you, but that the perfect Spirit of God will transform your life into something better than you can fathom.

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Let’s chat about this! How do you come near to God in your everyday life? How would it change things to know that you are not alone in the battle? Visit us on Facebook to share your thoughts. Or connect more with Andrea at her personal blog.

Faith, Revealing Jesus

Setting an Example

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Sometimes my greatest impact, positive or negative, comes when I think no one is watching. One hand was on the wheel, the other in the air. It was just another drive to the grocery store blasting my favorite gospel music. It didn’t seem like an important moment until I looked back and saw my daughter. Her little hand was stretched high as she sang along with me. Sometimes I forget how powerful our actions of faith can be.

Don’t let my example fool you. I blow it about twenty times a day in parenthood and in life. Who knows what my three-year-old tells his preschool teacher. Maybe something about his mom yelling at the dog who peed on the carpet again. Or perhaps how I gasp fearfully at any sudden movement.

Truth is, I’ve modeled frustration, impatience, doubt, and fear more than I’ve wanted to.

But that day in the car made me more aware that my actions and words are important in God’s kingdom. I claim to be a Christian, but is my faith evident to others by what I do? Do we as God’s people show God’s love instead of just telling about it?I claim to be a Christian, but is my faith evident to others by what I do? Do we as God’s people show God’s love instead of just telling about it? Click To Tweet

I need God to help me live out my faith. I want to live life outwardly trusting Him so that my kids, neighbors, friends, and family can know the Jesus I do–Jesus who loves fiercely, forgives genuinely, and is completely pure and faithful. He is who I want to be like.

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This is a something we should desire as Christians.

Peter, one of the disciples, urged, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3 ESV).

So we have to ask ourselves who’s in our flock? Who are the people God put in our lives who look up to us? And how can we show God’s goodness and love to them? Most importantly, are we willing to be an example?

For me, this starts with my family. I desire so much for my children. I want them to grow into joyful, kind, helpful, and patient people. First, I must model those qualities to them.

Scripture says, “But the fruit of the Spirit”– what God produces in us– “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, ESV).

A few years ago, I didn’t feel like I had any of these qualities. I wanted these traits to be true of my family, but they weren’t true of me. I had little joy, peace, or patience and couldn’t be the model God had called me to be. I had to start desiring the fruit of the Spirit in my own life before I could give it away to others. I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace.

I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace.I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace. Click To Tweet

I love that the Bible says there’s no law against God’s love. It’s good for us to want all of His traits–His good fruit–to fill our hearts so we can pass unconditional love along to everyone we meet. But how?

I’ve found, the more time I spend with God, reading Bible passages of His love for me, the more I am prompted to show extravagant grace and love to others. Likewise, the more I pray asking for Him to fill me up with His goodness, the more my default is to extend patience in chaos and forgiveness in hard times. When we let God be our leader through His Holy Spirit, we naturally model His love to others.

We’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, but as I seek to live out my faith, I keep my lifeline to God active so I can reflect His love when mine wears thin. Thank you Jesus for teaching us how to walk in Your ways through your Spirit!

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Let’s talk about this! When have you realized you were or needed to model faith in action to those around you? Share your thoughts in the comments below, so we can learn from and encourage each other. And make sure to engage with us on Facebook and Instagram where we post daily snippets of encouragement.

Hardships and Trials, wisdom

Wisdom to Survive Trials Well

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His sons, dead. His land, devoured by fire and thieves. His body, covered in painful sores. Most people who hear the name Job assume his story is about overcoming intense suffering. We use it as a beacon of hope in our times of trial. But I see a more important idea emerging from the pages. A story of humble pie.

Job certainly had reason to be upset, but he aimed his mistrust in the wrong direction. Like we tend to do during hard times, he started to wonder if God was good, if He cared, or if He was just plain cruel. Basically, Job wondered if God knew what He was doing.

And now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me… God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry to You for help and You do not answer me; I stand, and You only look at me. You have turned cruel to me; with the might of Your hand You persecute me. You lift me up on the wind; you make me ride on it, and You toss me about in the roar of the storm” (Job 30:16,19-22 ESV).

Job let his suffering shape his view of God instead of trusting God in his suffering. I’ve been guilty of this too. When lost in grief following miscarriages, I wondered if I could really trust God anymore. Didn’t He see my pain? Worse, if He saw my pain, why did He continue to let me suffer? I started to think I knew better than God, which made me bitter and left me grasping for control.

But somewhere in the middle of the trial, I surrendered my pain to Jesus. I decided to trust His will for my life and accept that He really did want what was best for me, even if that involved a season of hurt.

I think that’s why Job’s story is important to reflect upon. Not because everything turns out great for him in the end, but because difficulties will come, but we can choose now to trust in God’s wisdom instead of our own limited view.

I look back on my season of loss, as backwards as it sounds, I am grateful for it. Without AndreaQuote3Ins9-3that hard time, I would not have sought a relationship with God. I would’ve missed out on Jesus and all the love and joy that came through a life spent with Him.

God knew wholeness would come when all I could see was brokenness. He could see the end when I could only see the next minute.

Job put it this way once he regained a little faith: “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air…God understands the way to it, and He knows its place. For He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens…then He saw it and declared it; He established it, and searched it out. And He said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding’” (28:20-28 ESV).

Coming near to Jesus is the key to wisdom. Meanwhile relying on ourselves will cause more problems than good. Job couldn’t lead himself out of suffering, nor could I, nor can you. We need our God for that.

In our hardest moments when we wonder where God is and if He’s still in control, let’s remind our doubting hearts that His way is best. Our God sees everything under the heavens including our need, so we needn’t worry. Instead, hold onto him with all we’ve got. And then hold on a little more.