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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.

 

Prayer

Obstacles That Hinder Prayer

Woman sitting in a field

Have you ever been hurt so badly you thought your heart was ripping from your chest? I have. One day after such a wounding I thought I was doing the right thing by praying for those who’d hurt me. After all, isn’t that the best form of loving your enemy? As I was praying for those who hurt me, and feeling quite good about myself, I heard God say, “Notify sender, mail returned.” You might be saying God doesn’t return prayers. Well, He might not, but He got my attention. Praying is indeed powerful, but it can be thwarted. Click To Tweet

Six Obstacles

Open the Bible and we quickly learn obstacles abound even for the most fervent and honest prayer warrior. To help you and I boldly stand before the throne, confident our prayers are getting through, let’s examine six key obstacles that may hinder those prayers, prevent our communion with God, or block our path to growth in this vital area of the Christian life.

Misplaced Goals

There’s much wisdom in the popular phrase: Joy is found in the journey, not the destination. When we pray our goal may be to affect a certain change in someone, but God’s goal may be to affect a regime-change on the throne of your life and mine. God alone wants to sit in this place of honor in our hearts. Click To TweetAs we surrender to Him, this will be a goal achieved, not at the end of the road as we might envision, but in increments along the way. Be open Image of woman staring toward trees with text pulled from post.to the possibility that while you’re praying your goal may not be God’s goal. Ask Him to reveal if this is one of those regime-change moments.

Unforgiveness

Just as there are layers to the effects of our sins, there are layers to the forgiveness process. In my own life, there are those whom I’ve forgiven a long, long time ago. Then something happens and the flood of emotions comes pouring back as if the wounds were freshly inflicted. Tenderly the Lord shows me more areas in my spirit in need of healing. Should I refuse, and leave these wounds to fester, my unforgiveness will block God’s power in my life, preventing healing. Over time, if you or I continue in this state, our hardness of heart deflects the voice of God. We won’t hear Him clearly. The solution? Ask God if there’s someone you need to forgive again or on a deeper level–He’ll show you and help you take that next step.

Unforgiveness blocks God's power in my life, prevents healing, hardens my heart, and deflects the voice of God. Click To Tweet

Misinterpretation of Scripture

Misinterpretation of Scripture can prevent us from properly hearing God because we’ve prejudiced the communication. It’s as if God’s speaking a different language. If we want to hear God in His native tongue, we must begin by looking at the context of Scriptures and understand how our personal context influences, or even changes, our reading. Any good Bible teacher will acknowledge the only way to properly hear God is to learn the language He’s using, not the language we want to impose on Him. How? Read before and after the verse; read the whole chapter and ask God to help you hear what He is saying. And invest in a good study Bible that outlines historical context you otherwise would miss.

The only way to properly hear God is to learn the language He's using. Click To Tweet

Loss of Community

Christianity is not a solitary practice. If we want to have the fullness of God’s presence in our lives, we must go where God is and begin by looking within the body of Christ. Simply said, we need each other to hear all of what God is saying. If we only rely on our own ear, we may be missing key portions of the message God is sending. Often God speaks through others to confirm what we are hearing in our heart or challenge us towards truth. This is why having godly friends is so important to the Christian life.

Too Many Choices, Too Many Voices:)

Every day we are confronted with a million decisions. Along with all those choices come many voices. How is one to hear God in the midst of all this noise? First, we must divorce ourselves from the need to control the outcome of things by idolizing choice. This is not to say we don’t make choices or care about the consequences of our decisions. The issue is idolatry, putting something ahead of God. When we idolize our human ability to “control things,” the clutter of choices and voices drown out God’s voice. We need to desire God’s opinion rather than ours or the public’s. Getting away, turning off the t.v. or radio, or going for a walk and just listening for God to speak is the best prescription for a noisy world.

Unfamiliarity with God’s Ways

As a whole, we’ve become so unfamiliar with God’s ways that when God makes a move, we hardly recognize Him. As with any relationship, growing close to God and knowing His character requires time. When we squeeze God into one or two hours each week—when we speed-date God—we’re short-changing our most important relationship. This lack of intimacy hinders our growth in prayer and eventually leads to us turning deaf ears to God’s voice simply because we don’t recognize Him. Developing a prayer life takes time. Don’t wait until you’re desperate for an answer to get to know God. If you spend time every day in prayer, when you’re desperate, you’ll remember to enjoy the journey, stay tenderhearted, speak and listen in God’s native tongue, take brotherly (and sisterly) counsel, care less about control and more about His role, and take the time to court the Lover of your soul.

When we approach the gift of prayer in this way, we’ll overcome the obstacles that hold us back. And when we offer prayers, we’ll hear these words in our soul, “Message sent–message received.”

Which one of these six obstacles is the one you struggle with the most? Share your thoughts and struggles in the comments below, and make sure to join our closed Facebook community to go deeper! I also encourage you to re-read that section discussing an area you most need to grow in and determine to make a step this week toward overcoming this hinderance.

Want to learn how to better discern Scripture? Then grab a free copy of our Bible study! We’ve incorporated Bible study application tools, such as reading in context, understanding historical context, using commentaries and more, into our weekly lessons. You can grab a free copy HERE. 

And watch out for our 90-day devotional, releasing soon! In the meantime, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily encouragement.

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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.”

Colossians-1_14-

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.

AndreaQuoteLiveJoyfullyFB

Relationships

When No One Else Can Help — Guest Post

By Meredith Kendall

Rejection stings in every form. Friendships that crumble. Parents who disapprove. Children who leave and don’t return. And loves that betray. Labeled “unwanted” is never our plan.

One evening, I arrived home from putting on a successful Fall Festival, filled with laughter and hot dogs and sugared up kids, to hear my husband say, “I just don’t love you anymore. I’m going to be with her.”

He was having an affair.

I was devastated. I was married at 18, moved over six hundred miles away from family and friends and now at 31 years old, a stay at home mom was going to be divorced. Have you ever had your dreams shattered? Hope seemed lost.

Every day I woke up, turned on the local Christian radio station to sing at the top of my lungs and weep. My life was turned upside down. All alone, I had no clue how I would make it.

I received all kinds of advice from well-meaning friends and family, but none of it comforted me. How could they understand what I was going through? Truth was, no one’s words could ease my pain.

Walking in faith was new to me, so I wasn’t sure where Jesus was in this mess. I wish I could say I ran to the Bible to read passages that would give me comfort. Unfortunately, I felt I lacked the confidence and skills to navigate Scripture. The one thing that did bring me comfort was a song on the radio that seemed to be played over and over again. The artist talked about how to survive whether we are on the mountaintop or in the valley. The song went on to say that when we are on our knees we are before the Love that can change everything and that on our knees is where we need to find our power.

God used a song of truth to bring peace in a horrible situation. I literally got on my knees for the duration of this song, arms stretched high, tears streaming, making this my prayer. God, who I’d given my life to just a year earlier, met me there. I was a new Christian and had no clue how to navigate this pain, this new normal. But Jesus gave me His comfort through the lyrics of this song.

Now twenty-two years later, I share my story in hopes that you will experience peace knowing that God doesn’t abandon us during our time of Woman's profile against an inky sky with text pulled from the post.affliction, but is waiting for us to cry out to Him. I’m grateful that I allowed Him to be my Comforter during my hardest time because His wisdom helped me find my way.

Worldly wisdom would’ve let me down. It said, “Walk away. Forget your marriage. Just start over.” Some even said, “Let’s go out and get a drink. Let’s go out and party.” But I stayed on my knees for my marriage, and today, by God’s grace, we share our story.

Truth in Scripture says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

What’s your story? Have you fallen on your knees in need before your loving Father? If so, show others the way according to God’s words, it’s not for us to hide our affliction as if it has never happened, but to comfort others in their time of need and to be a light of God’s goodness. What story of comfort are you hiding that God wants to use?

Let’s talk about this! Rejection hurts and, if not dealt with correctly, in light of God’s love and grace, can leave lasting wounds that negatively impact our future relationships. How does knowing God loves us and will never leave us help you move forward? Has He helped you through a deep hurt and perhaps given you insight that could help others? Share your thoughts, stories, questions, and insights here in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another! And make sure to join our social media group–a safe place for women to share their struggles, celebrations, prayer requests, and questions. Join by clicking the “Join Group” button below.

And if you haven’t done so, make sure to snag our free Bible study (in ebook form) on growing in grace and a Christ-centered identity. You can do so HERE. (Print copies are available for $5 plus shipping and handling.)

Get to know Meredith!

Meredith Kendall is a change agent, driven by her God-given passion to equip struggling families to achieve their unique God-given potential.

As a nationally recognized sales leader, Meredith Kendall learned how to build bridges and make connections with the heart of what people need. God called her to co-found Advancing the Gospel which serves those who are often forgotten. Today she uses her gifting’s to help people understand the root causes of their struggles and find freedom through Christ.

Her upcoming book My GiGi’s House: Finding Hope will be released October 2019. Pre-release copies are available now.

www.the180program.org

www.meredithsagekendall.com

Check out her upcoming release!

Ralynn promised God that if He allowed her to see the light of day she would seek help. Pregnant and afraid for her life, Ralynn’s chance encounter with Ms. Shelly started her on a path of healing and finding a relationship with Jesus and her purpose in life.

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Faith, security

An Emergency Responder Who Will Never Leave

Have you ever witnessed a near-death experience? Watched someone deliver CPR to a lifeless body? Or administered the Heimlich maneuver on a choking victim? In our scariest moments, we need to know our God is also a very real and present Father.

Once a large, chalky pill got lodged in my throat. My lungs burned for air. It was terrifying. I was in the bedroom by myself, and I couldn’t scream for help, much less breathe. I began to knock on my stomach while bent over and, with everything in me, force out a cough, even just a tiny one.

Praise God, my meager efforts to dislodge the medication worked. By the time the pill hit the floor and I took a reviving breath, tears already flowed down my face. I was relieved yet shaken by the knowledge that I’d almost, very truly, died. I started thanking God at once because my paltry efforts while the pill obstructed my oxygen couldn’t have worked on their own. He saved me.

This experience had me contemplating salvation. Through Christ, God rescued us from death and brought us spiritual life. Wow! It’s almost unfathomable that the God of the universe took us from hopelessly lost in sin to eternally safe in Christ.

Girl with lit heart

Unlike an emergency responder, God doesn’t save us and return to the fire station. Click To Tweet

But what’s more, unlike an emergency responder, God doesn’t save us and return to the fire station. Instead, He welcomes us into His family and adopts us as His children, making us heirs to His royal and eternal Kingdom. Do you see how deeply God loves us? 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” I love that the translation adds the exclamation marks. It makes me want to shout to the hills! We are children of God!

On Father’s Day, we’ll honor dads for all they do for their children. Fatherhood can enable men, who were once immature and selfish, to lavish complete devotion, sacrifice, loyalty, and unconditional love on their children. But even their best efforts can fail.Fatherhood can enable men, who were once immature and selfish, to lavish complete devotion, sacrifice, loyalty, and unconditional love on their children. But even their best efforts can fail. Click To Tweet

If your earthly father has ever disappointed, hurt, or abandoned you, this can leave a deep and painful wound. But there’s One who will always cherish you. Our Father in Heaven goes above and beyond the call of duty. He isn’t simply an emergency responder who moves on after the saving is done. Nope. He never leaves us, nor will He ever fail, injure, or disappoint us. He is fully devoted to us in the good days or the bad.Our Father in Heaven goes above and beyond the call of duty. He isn’t simply an emergency responder who moves on after the saving is done. Click To Tweet

I hope this Father’s Day is a little sweeter as you reflect on your Heavenly Father’s perfect love for you. Take time to thank the One who rescued you and calls you His precious child.

Let’s talk about this! Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below, and join our discussion in our Facebook group!

Our online community is a safe place where women can share their struggles, insights, and celebrations. This is a “closed” group where only members can see posts shared and where confidentiality is practiced. We share prayer requests, hurts and insecurities, and ways God is meeting us in our struggles each day. And you’re invited to heal and grow and learn with us!

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