Forgiveness, Grace

No More Grubby Sin-Clothes

Do you ever see sin like it’s a suit of filthy clothing and wonder whether you’ll ever wash clean?

My kids used to come home dirty after playing outside, but one day in particular was the worst. I eyed them from the door, every inch of them covered in head-to-toe grime.

“We found a mud pit, Mama!” they shrieked, little faces transformed with glee.

My heart tumbled—so much for all the cleaning I’d done that morning.

One by one, I scooped them up and deposited them in my shower. There was so much mud caked on that it took me three shampoos and a loofah scrub-down to get most of it out of their hair and out from under their fingernails, not to mention all the loads of laundry.

That night, as we snuggled up in my son’s room reading bedtime stories, I inhaled their scent, their freshly washed hair and laundered clothes a balm for my senses.

“We were dirty, Mama,” my daughter whispered, giggling. “But it was so much fun.”

My son looked worried. “Is my special shirt ruined forever?”

I kissed his brow. “All the stains came out. It’s as good as new, sweet pea. Just like you two.”

It took a lot of work to get the mud off my kids, not to mention a bunch of stain remover and laundry cycles. But it was true—every bit of filth had been washed away. No more walking swamp monsters.

Reading Zechariah in the Bible today, the prophet’s vision reminds me of my dirty kiddos all those years ago—and what it means for us all today.

In Zechariah’s vision, in Zechariah 3:1-7, an angel had come to him from the Lord, telling him how angry God had been with His people. But God promised He would return to Jerusalem with mercy, cleansing them of their sin if they would walk in His ways and follow His commands.

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?’

“Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.’

“Then I said, ‘Put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.

“The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here’” (Zechariah 3:1-7 NIV).

Joshua, the high priest of Jerusalem, had been adorned in filth—covered in sin and unworthiness. He and all God’s people wandered far astray, worshipping other gods and forgetting Who they belonged to. But God, in His great compassion, elected to remove that sin and give Joshua new clothes. Not only that, but He promised Joshua a place in His heavenly home if he would walk in obedience to God.

Just like my kids were covered in mud and grime and Joshua wore clothes of filth, we too are adorned in the muck and mire that is sin.

Just like my kids were covered in mud and grime and Joshua wore clothes of filth, we too are adorned in the muck and mire that is sin. Click To Tweet

Others might not be able to see the grubby sin-clothes we wear, but God can. In fact, to God and His holy beings, I imagine we look like my kids did that day after their visit to the mud pit, our sin stinking and caked on for all of heaven to see.

But, through God’s almighty mercy and Fatherly love, He gives us the chance to be washed clean, to put on brand-new clothes, the finest clothing we’ve ever imagined, and take up residence with Him—if only we choose to follow Jesus.

Through God’s almighty mercy and fatherly love, He gives us the chance to be washed clean, to put on brand-new clothes, the finest clothing we’ve ever imagined, and take up residence with Him—if only we choose to follow Jesus. Click To Tweet

God sent His Son to die for us and pay our sin-debt so that we can discover the path to heaven. He offers us His heavenly shower and laundry, effectively rescuing us from the fires of hell and granting us, in His mercy, new life.

Like “a burning stick rescued from the fire,” we are rescued from eternal death when we choose the path of Jesus.

Like 'a burning stick rescued from the fire,' we are rescued from eternal death when we choose the path of Jesus. Click To Tweet

As Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV). And as the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

Let’s get rid of those filthy, muddy, sin-caked clothes. Let’s put on new clothes of redemption—and choose life eternal.

Let’s put on new clothes of redemption—and choose life eternal. Click To Tweet

Your turn: Do you ever see your sin like it’s a suit of filthy clothing, or a layer of mud upon your skin? Did confessing and repenting of your sin make you feel like you were fresh and clean?

 

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Hardships and Trials, Intentional growth

God—the Ultimate Coach

girl jumping large

I like to watch American Ninja Warrior, a television show where competitors move through an obstacle course with agility and superhuman strength. Contenders refuse to quit, even when they face their last obstacle—a fourteen-foot wall that curves inward. As they prepare to climb, the crowd urges them from the sidelines like a beloved coach. I watch rapt from the edge of my couch, practically reaching with them. When they make it, the crowd cheers, and I cheer too.

The Ninja course isn’t designed to make competitors fail—it’s designed to make them better. Each athlete brings their own strategies, strengths, and weaknesses to the course. I’m not a Ninja Warrior, but I am a Christian, and my life overflows with obstacles. If I’m not careful, difficulties can leave me feeling like God doesn’t love me. After all, if God really loves me, why not make my life easy? Click To Tweet

Our answer is found in Hebrews 12:7-11. As the writer urges, we shouldn’t falter when the Lord disciplines us, for He’s treating us like a favored daughter. If He didn’t help us grow, He wouldn’t be a father who cared. Don’t we respect authority in our life when it teaches us wisdom? God disciplines us for a short time for our good. Yes, it can be painful in the moment, but if we’re willing to learn from it, our life will produce peace and goodness. When I face a seemingly insurmountable wall, God leads me over it like an expert coach. Click To Tweet

When we go through hard things, we get better. God Coach blog 2

I desire to be a mature Christian. Looking back at challenges I’ve experienced, I thank God for the changes they brought in me. When I face a seemingly insurmountable wall, God leads me over it like an expert coach. Through help from the Holy Spirit and the Bible, He encourages me to remain strong during every obstacle I face.

As God continues to delight in me, His beloved child, He’ll continue to allow circumstances to teach me. When I am willing to trade my comfort and ease for training in godliness, I become a strong woman of God. Like a father who cares for his daughter, God has a remedy for my childish ways.

Are you able to look back and see where God helped you through a tough time? If you’re in a difficult place now, do you have a favorite Bible verse or prayer that reminds you God is coaching you for the greater good?

 

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Faith, Hearing God, Resting in Christ, security

Stuck in the Middle of a Mess

Have you ever been stuck in the middle of a mess, then out of nowhere comes exactly the help you need?

Between academic overload and heavy work commitments, our lives are incredibly busy and structured, so our family tries to plan a couple of weeks of fun every summer. This year, coronavirus restrictions hindered travel, so we teamed up with my sister’s family and rented a huge lake house in our community, complete with canoes, kayaks, and a 10-person pontoon boat, plus a giant boat tube perfect for pulling five shrieking teens and preteens for hours in the summer sun.

Our vacations are as much for us parents as for the kids—sometimes we, too, need to get a bit wild (within reason!) given our intense workload. So, when my kids begged me to hop on the tube, too, I couldn’t resist.

“Sure!” I shrugged to their delight. My sister shot me are-you-crazy-you-could-get-killed daggers and my husband, who was driving the boat, got that gleam in his eye that meant he was going to ensure I got drenched.

The water felt glorious on my skin as I stepped gently off the boat onto the giant rubber tube, settled carefully next to my stepson, grabbed the tube’s handles, and gave the go-ahead nod.

And then we were off! While my head knew we weren’t going crazy-fast, it certainly felt like we were zipping along at a million miles per hour. “This is the best!” my stepson screeched in glee as we bumped along the surface, water spraying in my eyes and mouth. All I could do was hang on tight as we circled around and around, my family cheering us on from the boat and my legs smacking against the waves of their own free will.

Then whoosh! With a tremendous zing, a wave washed me clean off the tube. There I was, coughing up water, looking like a wet rat, and bobbing like a buoy in my red-white-and-blue lifejacket smack in the center of Lake Murray, South Carolina.

Surely they saw me fall, I told my worried inner self. And, indeed, they had. In moments, the pontoon circled back to pick up first my stepson, then me.

“How was it?” my daughter asked with a wicked grin.

I shook the water out of my ears and gave her a high-five. “Fantastic! Who’s riding with me next?”

Of course, it was fantastic—because everything ended well. I’d fallen off the tube into the center of a clean, safe lake, wearing a life jacket, knowing rescue in the form of my loving husband and family was minutes away.

But there’ve been times in my life when I’ve “fallen off the tube” in the center of the lake of life, with all sorts of unknown and possibly deadly terrors lurking beneath the surface and no rescue in sight. I’ve been in emotional peril and, once or twice, physical danger, too.

Those moments have been scary and almost paralyzing. Divorce. Poverty. Spiritual wilderness. Debilitating illness. I’ve sat at loved ones’ hospital beds and deathbeds, sat vigil long into the night not knowing what rescue, if any, would come.

Sometimes the outcomes have been fine. Sometimes my prayers have been answered. Sometimes not.

Yet, stuck in the middle of the proverbial water, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, remains with me. Even when I didn’t know He was there, He was with me. Even when He didn’t resolve the situation in the way I wanted, He was there, working all things for the ultimate good. By my side. No matter what.

Stuck in the middle of the proverbial water, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, remains with me. Even when I didn’t know He was there, He was with me. Click To Tweet

In Ephesians 2, the apostle Paul reminded the early church that they were once dead—stranded in the center of the dark and scary lake, drowning from the weight of their sins and the evils of this often-cruel world. But through faith in Christ and the good, saving mercy of our Father God, they’d received a “life jacket” and access to the Kingdom of Heaven for all eternity.

As Paul wrote, “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7 NIV).

We all get stuck in the middle of the lake sometimes. Often, there’s a happy resolution. Sometimes, there’s hardship. We might feel alone, and we might worry about the outcome.

But rest assured: in Jesus, we always have rescue, whether on this side of eternity or the next.

In Jesus, we always have rescue, whether on this side of eternity or the next. Click To Tweet

 

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And before you go … have you grabbed your free e-copy 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.

freedom, God's Will, Intentional growth, obedience, Resting in Christ

Learning to Live in the Now

Image of candles

Learning to depend on God’s plan, not my own, is a constant struggle, and these last few months with the pandemic have made that painfully obvious.

I’ve been both completely aggravated and wildly liberated this spring and summer by the inability to plan—well, pretty much anything. And it’s teaching me a lot about what it means to be dependent on God and live in the moment.

By nature, I’m a planner, which is where the frustrating part comes in. I keep multiple calendars, including six different categories of calendars on my iPhone, a hard copy calendar on my desk and another on my fridge. This doesn’t include the daily to-do list by my side. This all probably sounds completely obnoxious to some of you, I’m sure, but I’m a busy woman and a working mom. For me, it’s how I do life.

Yet as a Christian I’m well aware my craving for a plan is all too often an exercise in futility. We humans mistakenly believe we are “in control” and that planning can put the chaos of life into a tidy little box. That is an illusion, for only God is in control. I know this intellectually. Still, my mind often all-too-conveniently forgets this, especially in times of stress when I crave a plan, order, structure, and routine.

It’s as if the plan, not God, reigns supreme. Ouch.

At the beginning of the year, I had a grasp of how 2020 would probably go—a hot mess of travel between work and a host of family commitments, not to mention the day-to-day juggle of business meetings, church activities, school events, youth theater, and everything else that sucks up all our time. When the pandemic hit and all those things were forcibly paused, I’ll admit I was a bit relieved. For the first time in what felt like eons, I had unexpected free time.

It was both freeing and frighteningly chaotic.

As a planner, this was good for me—really good. I soon trained my brain and my heart to let go of the nonessentials, to let each day dictate what was to come courtesy of God, not Jessica.

When life started getting more normalized and our state began to reopen, that familiar go-go-go began to rise up again inside of me. I found myself impatient again, wondering “exactly when” we’d do this or that.

How quickly I started to forget the most important lesson the pandemic taught me: let go of the steering wheel and let God be the driver.

How quickly I started to forget the most important lesson the pandemic taught me: let go of the steering wheel and let God be the driver. Click To Tweet

God created us to lean on Him and be in a dependent relationship with Him. I struggle to remember this on a daily basis.

Yet Scripture assures me repeatedly that God is the one in control, not me.
God created us to lean on Him and be in a dependent relationship with Him. I struggle to remember this on a daily basis. Yet Scripture assures me repeatedly that God is the one in control, not me. Click To Tweet

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus reminds us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV).

Graphic quote: we're to let Christ live through us.

And, as He says in Luke 9:23-24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

Faith is about surrendering control, about understanding that control is an illusion. The only plan that matters is God’s plan.

Faith is about surrendering control, about understanding that control is an illusion. The only plan that matters is God’s plan. Click To Tweet

And God sees how this year, this decade, this century will play out with a perspective only God has. I cannot possibly understand all that God’s plan entails, or even why. All I can do is my part to bring myself into alignment with His plan and work to serve Him and spread His holy truth. All I can do is walk on the path God has laid out for me, and bring myself back on that pathway if ever I walk astray.

I think the Bible’s King David might have felt the same way I feel. For much of his life prior to his rule, David—while God’s anointed—lived on the fringe, his guard up constantly because King Saul resented, feared and envied him. For a time, he was forced to live in the wilderness, taking refuge in caves and other hiding places. Maybe he, too, fancied himself a planner, wanted to be able to say, “Next year, we will go here and do this,” or, “Next week, we will achieve that.” Instead, he lived on the run. Perhaps he felt forgotten or irrelevant. Perhaps he struggled with giving over his plans to God.

Yet the psalms, thought largely to be written by David, are filled with verses that acknowledge God’s reign and almighty power, a power we can trust and shelter beneath. Take a look at these three just as an example:

Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Psalm 28:7-8, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.”

And Psalm 62:6-8, “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Again and again, the message is clear: I can trust God. God is my refuge. God is in command.

Today is a good day, for today I remember the truth: When it comes to a choice between my petty human pride about all I plan and want to do, and heeding God’s plan, I choose the latter. God’s way is the better way—the only way for me.

When it comes to a choice between my petty human pride about all I plan and want to do, and heeding God’s plan, I choose the latter. God’s way is the better way—the only way for me. Click To Tweet

One day, maybe life will go back to the kind of existence I feel I can “manage” with multiple calendars, to-do lists, life goals and more. But right now, God is showing me a new challenge—what I call a “no plan” challenge.

And it’s good for my soul.

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 e-copy 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.

Wholly Loved Ministries is a non-profit organization that exists to help women live in Christ’s freedom. Donate now to support our mission or contact us to learn more.

Hardships and Trials, Resting in Christ, surrender

Peace in the Stress

By Jessica Brodie

I’m stressed—and I mean capital-S stressed. Do you feel me? Have you been there, too?

My to-do list overflows beyond anything I can comprehend. The days are blurring one into the next. I’m so frazzled. I can’t even remember what I need at the grocery store, let alone whether that event with my daughter is tonight or tomorrow (and I’ve checked my calendar four times today).

It’s enough to give anyone a nervous breakdown. (Oh, wait—maybe that’s what this is!) Kidding. Sort of.

I started out this year with one word in my heart: Peace. We’re not even halfway through February and I feel like a hypocrite. Who carries on about peace in one’s heart when they’re so stressed and busy they don’t even know what day of the week it is?

Is it even possible to have peace when we are stressed out?

Good news: we can have peace in the stress, in the crazy-busy, and even in the downright bad.

How? Because of Jesus.

We can have peace in the stress, in the crazy-busy, and even in the downright bad. How? Because of Jesus. Click To Tweet

This isn’t a platitude; it’s a perspective switch. I used to think I could weather storms by hanging on and “being strong.” Now I know there’s only one way I can make it through—by clinging to Jesus, who gives me true peace.

Every day we have a choice as to how we look at the world. Sometimes our view is near-sighted—all we can see are the details, the to-do list, the piddly (and not-so-piddly) concerns. Other times, we get a glimpse of the big picture, a “God’s eye” view. And that’s the key.

Even when we are caught up in the difficult daily details, such as a sick child or a looming deadline or a catastrophic phone call, Christians can trust there is a bigger plan at work—far bigger than what we are going through.

While my life might be out of control and stressful today, I choose to rest in an important truth: I am God’s daughter. I follow Jesus and have the Holy Spirit in my heart. That means His plan is my ultimate plan—even when I can’t see His plan.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Matthew, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV).

And in the Gospel of John, He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).

My daily life might be hard right now. But at the end of it all, it’s just a piece of God’s grand jigsaw puzzle. God’s master plan.

My daily life might be hard right now. But at the end of it all, it’s just a piece of God’s grand jigsaw puzzle. Click To Tweet

I can have peace even in the stress by reminding myself I am His. I serve a mighty, mighty God of heaven and earth and everything else in the universe. His way is the priority. When I can step outside myself and allow myself to know and trust this, I have true rest.

When I can step outside myself and trust I belong to Jesus, I have true rest. Click To Tweet

Do you have trouble coping with stress? How do you handle this?

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.