The memories play on repeat. The shame weighs heavy. How can it be? There is this grace that pours down like sweet rain. Will I dance in it or will I run from it? Will I see that it’s running into grace that wipes shame away or will I let shame whisper it’s lies to me?
If anyone had reason to feel shame it was Paul. Here was a man who persecuted Christ’s church. His hands were covered with blood and righteously he justified his actions. But then Christ intervened. In order for Paul to see, he had to be made blind. And in his physical blindness, God set him free from his heart blindness.
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:12-14
But instead of letting shame stop his witness, he used his past to bring glory to God. Paul didn’t try to pretend it away by never making references to it. He knew exactly what he was before grace rained down on him.
He called himself vile names: persecutor, insolent opponent, and blasphemer.
Do you call yourself names? Do you call yourself cheater, abuser, failure, or not enough?
Stop trying to convince yourself you’re not those things. You are. But you’re also redeemed. Shame keeps you locked into your past, but Christ in his grace and mercy came to set you free from shame. Don’t pretend you didn’t need Christ. Use what you were to point others to Jesus.
You once loved nothing more than to share the latest juiciest bit of news? Christ set you free. Talk about him. Talk about how he changed your words and showed you how to build others up. Share your struggles.
There’s no shame in having struggles. It’s the hiding of them that causes shame.
You took a knife to your own skin because you couldn’t bear the internal pain anymore? Christ set you free. He gave you hope. Share that hope with others. Your soul’s enemy plays on your shame to keep you from sharing your hope.
It’s because you recognized that you sin that you realized you need Jesus. Jesus came to save the lost. It’s okay to own your lostness, and it’s okay to talk about what you once were. Let God redeem your past. You can say you were a slanderer and gossip, but that Christ set you free. It’s okay to say that you despaired so deeply that you cut yourself, but that Christ became your hope.
Your sin and Christ’s grace collide to create this most beautiful expression of life. But it doesn’t stop there. It becomes this dance of remembering your past while embracing your present identity in Jesus.
That’s what makes your testimony powerful.
Jesus road into Jerusalem ready to conquer your sin and shame. Take a few moments to ponder what you would be without Christ.
Listen to this song and let the words become your own heart’s cry.
Then stretch your arms wide (for real, stretch them, it’s okay) and say, “Holy God, here I am. Vile. Wretched. Selfish. Take my sin and shame. Pour your grace on me.”
Dance in grace’s rain. Let it wash your shame away.
I’m a both and kind of girl. It’s both coffee and chocolate. It’s both chocolate cake and chocolate frosting. I can’t separate the two. I mean, I can, if I have to, but I’d prefer not. But those are the easy both/ands. Those are the ones that I can take and run with that don’t make me squirm or feel twitchy inside.
It’s the ones that challenge our pet preferences, especially when it comes the Bible, that make us twitchy. Everybody has them, so when one of the both/ands rub up against those preferences, which we often disguise as biblical truth, we get. . . twitchy. You know, that squirmy feeling we quickly ignore, but keeps coming back and so we drown it out with busy? Yeah, meet twitchy.
Grace and Truth
Grace and truth is a both/and kind of deal, and it’s easy to get twitchy about them. Our human tendency is to lean slightly one way or the other. We extend so far to the grace side that we forget to bring truth right along. Or we run so fast with truth as a weapon that we leave grace back there at mile marker 3 while we’re at mile marker 20 brandishing our sword.
The two can’t be separated, it’s when we try to separate the two that we create legalism and liberalism. Both prevent the Holy Spirit from truly accomplishing his work in our lives. So what do we do? How do we stop this separation of grace and truth?
John 1:16-17 “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
For starters, we focus on the personhood of Jesus Christ. Who was he? Why did he come? Why should I follow him? We can answer these questions by starting at the beginning. Jesus is God in the flesh. He came to show us the way to Father God and following him is the absolute best, most remarkable decision you can make. Not so that you have a “genie in the bottle,” but so that you have the hope of heaven in your heart, which makes every trial or burden in this life a mere stepping stone into the presence of God.
So. First things first. Consider your own heart. There’s a funny little saying that when you point at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you. Technically, they’re pointing at your hand, but I think we get the picture. Be careful how you point an accusing finger at someone. Often the lack we witness in other’s lives is prevalent in our own.
Jesus brought both grace and truth. He fulfilled the law, streamlined the law and in essence made it much more difficult to follow since it’s now dealing with the heart rather than behavior as the Mosaic law did. But his grace is what gives us the power for our hearts to be changed. Grace is the power we need for transformative living and when we reject grace in our own hearts, we turn back to the Mosaic law and focus on behaviors.
Grace considers how much God loves you. Think on how Christ set that kind of love before him in order to endure suffering on the cross. If God’s love can be Jesus’ motivating joy, and through Jesus you get to know that kind of love, embrace it. Embrace the grace that God pours out into your heart.
The truth? God loves you. He has set you apart. He has called you to be righteous. What steps can you take, with God’s strength, to step into that righteousness? What habits or attitudes are preventing you from “right-living” according to God’s standards?
It’s both grace and truth simultaneously growing in your heart. As you experience God’s grace and truth working in your heart, you will be so enamored with loving God and serving others that another person’s failure won’t bring out the pointing finger. But instead it will bring out a story of how God showed you grace and truth to change your life.
I use to be afraid of people and their rejection. But God showered me with grace. He reminded me over and over again that his approval could satisfy me. But he also showed me truth. He showed me how people’s approval had his spot in my heart. I turned seeking people’s approval into an idol. I can’t serve two masters. God helped me kick that people-pleasing, fear of rejection, dead idol right out of my heart.
Grace and truth. They work together to bring lasting change. They work together to bring victory. Keep them together as one unit and watch how your life is transformed.
Our world is in distress. It’s like I can hear it gasping for breath and flatlining as disaster after disaster overtakes. Yet within the disaster is a unifying, rallying cry of the human spirit. Collectively, we turn to the One who holds our hearts in his hand.
God is my refuge. He is my safe place, my rock and my salvation. He lifts my head when I cannot hold it up. I run to him and he hears my cry. He is my God and my Savior. Is he yours?
Do you turn to him when the world collapses? Or do you turn to your strength? When I face insurmountable odds, I’m reminded anew how weak I am and how strong he is. Fire. Flood. Health. Disappointment. Heartache. Failed relationships.
Life doesn’t make sense, and sometimes God doesn’t make sense. However, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see and a heart that runs to him, he reveals himself. The mystery unravels and new depths of God’s truth is deposited in our hearts.
He is our rock and our refuge, but we have to run to him. When literal storms come we head for shelter, and when emotional storms come, God is our best shelter. Sometimes his rescue doesn’t come in the form of removing us from the situation, but comes in the form of refuge.
He is our shield and our defense. We align our lives with his and find comfort and rescue even when our lives fall apart. I don’t understand why we’re facing so much natural devastation. It could be that the earth is crying out, the rocks are praising him, and the seas are roaring because we’ve failed to praise him. But I refuse to explain the reason for the multitude of disasters this world is experiencing, because God’s ways and thoughts are not mine.
But what I am willing to explain is this: God is for us not against. He is just and kind. His heart beats passionately for us and he is the safest place for us.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a prayer for all of us facing life changing circumstances. Today I wanted to give you the prayer in a printable form so that you can see the reminders of God’s love before you. I know what it’s like to need those visual reminders of God’s goodness because sometimes the circumstances seem so large.
Please click the link for access to a printable pdf:
God is so good. He meets me where I am and he’s my safe place to pour out my heart when I’m feeling rejected. I know this sounds silly, but sometimes I wake up and feel like all my friends don’t like me anymore. By the end of the day I have myself convinced that I am friendless and un-likeable and rejection lurks.
I run to God, and I pour out my heart to him and tell him my fears and within his refuge he reminds me of myself. He reminds me that I am a child of God, that I’m redeemed, and that I’m secure in Him.
He reminds me that in him I am loved. He reminds me that my thoughts need to be brought captive and by thinking that all my friends hate me because of some imaginary thing I did is pretty inward focused. He gently redirects my heart to what is true: I have friends. They like me. I like them. I’m going to disappoint them. They will disappoint me. But that’s what forgiveness is for. I can forgive myself when I fail my personal friendship standards. And I can ask forgiveness when I fail theirs. God also reminds me that my battles with insecurity don’t make me weak, they make me strong because I run to him for strength and help.
Do you ever feel like your heart is about to vomit all over the place? That there’s so much inside and some of it’s great, but some of it’s really ugly and like mold it spreads and takes over the good stuff?
There’s some word vomiting happening around us. Too often someone speaks before they think and in the process spews dissension and hate all over the place. Too often we hid behind screens and keyboards failing to consider the consequences of our words. Social media is not our personal journal. Not everything we feel or every opinion we have needs to be aired in public.
Yet, we need a place for these ugly feelings and thoughts to go. Some of us have trusted friends that we can share the “uglies” and they will point us to Christ and his word for direction. Sometimes, though, we choose someone else to spew our uglies at and it becomes even messier than before because we’ve created a super-cell super-destructive storm of emotions.
Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the relatability of God. In the midst of our awareness of his awesomeness and majesty, we forget that he is also supremely interested in us. In all of us–the good stuff and the bad.
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8
Our trust in God is related to how open open our hearts are to him. I don’t think God wants our sanitized hearts. Our sanitized hearts look a lot like the produce drawers in my fridge: clean on one side and nasty on the other.
In our world divisiveness rages. People hate on one another, turn their backs on their fellow man, use words to kill and destroy, declare tolerance in the name of hate. Our hearts fill with rage or disgust and so we speak. And sometimes in the speaking, we wound.
We wound because we haven’t taken the pain in our hearts to God and let him sanitize our pain so our words become life-giving instead of life-taking.
At times, our hearts have a difficult time separating righteous anger from regular anger, gossip from a prayer request, or conditional love from unconditional love. We need God to sift through the feelings and purify the things that don’t please him so that our hearts honor him with everything we say and do.
Pouring out our hearts to God can become the single most important thing we can do in our personal walk with him. He is the first to receive our confusion, our frustration, our questions, fears and anger. Only then, once our hearts are empty can he fill us up.
He fills us up with his peace, wisdom, guidance, joy and love. He becomes our refuge–where we’re kept safe and held close to his heart–so that we can know his heart. And when our hearts are filled with his heart, we can share words that give life and pour love onto the weary hearts around us.
Run to him first with all your care and concerns. Find solace in his word. Find power in the Holy Spirit. Live in his wisdom not your own and remember that your poured out empty heart has room for him to fill you.
I seem to forget the things I need to remember. It’s like I put them in a “safe” place in my mind, only I lose them, forgetting where I put them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned my house upside down looking for something I put in a “safe” place. So I’m a stacker instead of a filer and I have numerous junk drawers in the house that hold innumerable items of importance, like padlocks, pliers, and papers. If I see it, I remember, and I can find it when I need it.
God tells us to remember him and so we need to keep his promises and abilities close to our hearts and in our minds. We need to think on him and remember:
He holds the stars and calls them each by name.
He knows the number of hairs on my head, including the ones I daily lose.
His thoughts towards us are innumerable and good.
Why, then, do we doubt his goodness towards us? Why do we wonder where he is when he is silent?
Today, can you take courage? Can you take hold and hold onto your hope?
God is in the waiting. He is never failing. His love is unending and everlasting.
If you hold onto your hope, your triumph will unfold. Take courage. Stay steadfast. He’s there, in the waiting. He will turn your darkness to light because he is light.
Take courage and let your soul stay steadfast. Your doubts will fade, your questions dissipate as you focus on the King of Kings. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Hope of the world. Our miracles happen when our eyes are fixed on him, despite what we see, feel, or experience.
It’s in the steadfastness of our soul that we know the steadfastness of God’s heart. It’s in our faithfulness that we know God’s faithfulness. He is strong and mighty. He saves. He redeems. He triumphs.
When we’re at the end of ourselves, we see the power of God displayed in our lives. You see, God has promised that we will rise in His victory. Our triumph will unfold, but it won’t be because of us and our efforts. Our triumph will unfold because we’ve held onto hope when hope seems lost. We will experience victory when our hearts don’t waver in our belief in God’s mighty goodness and faithfulness.
We may not be able to see around the next bend, but God is there. He is with you in the thorny path and he is ahead of you around the curve that you cannot see. He is behind you protecting your back from the darts of the enemy of our souls. And he is beside you whispering direction and encouragement.
You will rise in victory. You will rise in His victory because he holds the stars and knows them by name and he will surely keep his promises of finishing the work he has begun in you. Take courage. Hold on. He is loving and good and steadfast. He is faithful. He is power. And as you hold onto your Hope, he holds onto you.
The Red Sea parted and the Israelites walked away from bondage to freedom on dry ground with walls of water towering above them. Their freedom had come in shifts. First the freedom from experiencing the plagues that attacked Egypt, then the freedom from their physical bondage when they walked away, and then miraculously as they crossed the sea on dry ground.
They were truly free! Egypt was destroyed, the army drowned, no one could enslave them again. The elation! The jubilee! Their eyes were eager as they set out. They watched in awe as the cloud covered them by day and the fire warmed them by night. “Let’s get to the mountain to worship God! Step lively! Don’t dawdle! We’re free!” The chorus of voices rang out.
The Privilege of Freedom
I’m free twice. I was born free in the land of the brave and then I was born free again when Jesus became my Lord and Savior. One was a right by birth and the other was a gift. With both comes responsibility to serve.
My freedom right means I have the beautiful privilege of serving my fellow man, woman, and child. It means I get to serve democracy and not my own interests. It means that I have a duty to the country of my birth–a duty to uphold the values that men, women, and children have given their lives for.
My freedom gift means I carry the weight of Jesus in my life and it means that my life is no longer my own to serve myself, but to serve him. This gift is an exchange for my life for the very presence of a holy, almighty God in my heart.
I wish I could say it were easy being free, but sometimes I look at the selfishness in my life and truly wonder if I understand freedom. I want to use freedom to do what I want to do. I want freedom so I can have a life of ease and comfort. I don’t really think of freedom and fear in the same sentence, but I’m beginning to.
When We Reject Freedom
Our Israelite friends? The ones who experienced a miraculous freeing? They gave up a personal relationship with God because they didn’t understand what their freedom was really for. Their freedom was a vehicle for them to know the heart of God towards them and they rejected it for a man to be the mediator between them and God. (Exodus 20:18-21)
The weight of freedom is the fear of the Lord. It’s a healthy fear than enables us to not sin, which explains why the Israelites had a problem with sinning. I can see why they rejected God’s extension of a personal relationship with him. I mean, the mountain was shaking and smoking and it was thundering and lightening and somewhere, somehow there was the sound of trumpets. It was a cacophony of sound. Overwhelmed and as frightened as they’d been while slaves in Egypt, this had to have brought their fear to a whole new level.
We like to pigeon-hole people. Someone behaves a certain way and all of a sudden they’re the “organized” one or a “perfectionist” or a “cleany” or a “messy.” Humans love categories and classification. But God doesn’t fit into a category or classification. He is both kind and just. He is both gentle and destructive. And the God who they thought they knew as their freedom maker just became someone they were all together unsure of.
When Freedom Surprises Us
I know I’ve been surprised by God. I think I’ve got him all figured out and then out of the blue he pulls a fast one on me and before I know it I’m tossed on the waves of questioning and wondering who is this God I serve.
When this happens we don’t have to be like the Israelites and back away from him. We can be like Moses who drew nearer to the shaking, smoking, clanging, and lit up mountain. Do you know his character? Do you trust his heart for you? He is good. He is also just. He is light and life. He is breath. He is trustworthy. He knows best. He wants to make us into a beautiful reflection of him. And sometimes that involves stepping closer to a mountain that seems like it’s going to explode.
Imagine if it did. Imagine confetti exploding and covering us with all the goodness his heart has inside. Even if we feel our world is about to collapse, he is still good and he wants us to know him.
Don’t be like the Israelites and shirk away from your duty that being free in Christ brings to you. The duty to be enveloped in his presence and to know his very heart. It might seem frightening, but let him show you his heart and who he really is.
Your freedom gift is a privilege. Embrace it. Esteem it and never let it go.
I write to encourage you that you can experience a vibrant, transformative relationship with God even if your past or your shame tells you otherwise. God invites you upward and onward, will you join me? You'll receive weekly devotionals straight to your inbox. By subscribing you'll receive my 7-Day Devotional, Kicking Perfect, as a thank-you gift from me!
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