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, 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.

 

Resting in Christ

When Grace Erases a Record of Wrongs

Feet & Hands with Eph. 2:10 listed to the left

Sometimes I stand in the shower and recount hard conversations, rearranging them until they tilt in my favor. Oh, to heal the hurt I feel! But I’ve learned the danger of this practice and how refocusing on grace helps me heal.

Many times, a thread of offense or unforgiveness can be detected in those rehashed exchanges. I deem it a form of self-protection, a way of secretly wagging a finger at the offending party and holding their actions against them. Seems innocent enough, but is it?

This record-keeping of wrongs fails to solve the problem. It leads me down a dangerous road toward sin through gossiping, bitterness, or withholding forgiveness. But the grace of Jesus adds salve to those wounds. It helps me heal the hurts I feel.

The Lord came to earth, offering grace to all. He keeps no record of wrongs. He refuses to rehash tilted conversations, too. The Savior of the world simply offers a generous dose of unmerited favor to all who will accept it–including perfectionists, those with dark or troubled pasts, people whose words pierce the hearts of others, and yes, even women who hold one-sided chats in the shower.

None of us stand innocent, yet Jesus forgives and showers grace on all. ~ @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

John 1:14 describes Jesus as the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, one full of grace and truth. Although I’m tempted to think I’m innocent concerning my rehashed conversations, none of us are free from sin. But Jesus forgave us and showers grace anyway.

These days, when hurt or offense singes and I’m tempted to rehash them, I focus on Jesus instead. I hold close the gift of grace my Savior offers, remembering how much I need it and that His grace is sufficient. The Lord loves and forgives undeserving people—even those like me.

Refocusing on Jesus’ free gift of grace, I’m lured from the temptation to gossip or grow bitter and am drawn to prayer, forgiveness, and love instead.Refocusing on Jesus’ free gift of grace, I’m lured from the temptation to gossip or grow bitter and am drawn to prayer, forgiveness, and love instead. Click To Tweet I’d much rather have a conversation with Him than myself!

The next time you’re hurt or offended, why not consider Jesus and the love and grace He offered you? Focusing there helps heal our wounds.