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Are You Stuck?

Are you stuck?-2
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Help! I’m Stuck!

I did one of my bucket list items when I was 19 years old. I jumped out of a plane with a parachute. After a week of training in Oakland, California, I was ready for my jump. I had no idea that I was going to get stuck in the mud!

Without thinking, I walked through the mud before boarding the little Cessna. I kneeled at the open door during the short flight. Then came the signal to go perch on the wing. I got in position but slipped a little as my boots were muddy. (Do you feel a little fear as you read this?)

Then came the final signal. I pushed off and jumped! My ripcord was connected to the plane with a long cord. My parachute was pulled open when I reached a certain distance from the aircraft. What a scary thrill! The few seconds of free fall were…. Well, you have to add this to your bucket list.

I landed in a field without breaking any bones. And I missed the electric wires I noticed on my descent.

But help! I was stuck in the mud! I couldn’t move my feet out of the mud. Fortunately, someone came to my rescue and had to pick me up out of the mud!

I had taken a significant risk and then got stuck in the mud!

Are You Stuck?

You may have been living an adventurous, joy-filled life and then something happened. And now you’re stuck. You can’t seem to move forward.

Do you feel like you’re not living but just going through the motions? Life has lost its wonder, and you’ve lost your passion? Are you living on autopilot?

You ask, “Where is the abundant life Jesus promised?”

Maybe early on in your life, things happened. You were deeply wounded. You have never felt that you were worth living a life of passion and meaning. Even though you are a Christian, you don’t feel like you have come alive with the joy of the Lord.

A shattered dream, a broken relationship, the death of a child or a spouse, a lost job—these are losses and disappointments that can cripple you. You are alive but not living with purpose and intention.

Many possible scenarios exist that lead to a STUCK LIFE. Bottom-line, you’re not moving forward into the life that Jesus died to give you.

What is holding you back?

Jesus died to give you a life of love, purpose and meaning in Him. He gave you His life! You now have His life in you. “Christ in you,” (Colossians 1:27) empowers you to live the abundant life Jesus promised.

If the life Jesus has given us is such a glorious gift, then why aren’t we experiencing it?

I pondered and wrestled with this question for decades. Why don’t I experience what God gave me? How do I experience it? Why doesn’t my Christian life look more like the way Christ lived?

What kept me stuck in the mud of ineffective Christian living?

Ouch! I do hate to use that word “ineffective.” But Peter did along with “unfruitful” (2 Peter 1:8). My Christian life was not bearing the fruit that I was destined to produce. I was easily hurt and offended. I did not love as Jesus loved me. (In faith I’m using past tense, but honestly, I know the Lord is still working in me.)

Jesus died to give me a life that was so much more than what I was living.

I came up with a list of reasons why I was stuck. Do you relate to any of them?

  • Forgetting who I am and what Jesus has done for me

  • Limiting beliefs or just plain unbelief

  • Shame and guilt

  • Disappointment

  • Not following through

  • Living on autopilot instead of living responsibly

  • Fear

  • Being a spectator instead of a participant in life

  • Making excuses

  • Self-protection

  • Lack of diligent effort

  • Misunderstanding the part action plays in faith

Though these are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed, they miss the most crucial issue.

Before I get to that, I want to tell you something about God that has intrigued me for years and left me with a profound sense of awe and wonder.

In just a few minutes you’ll see how understanding this characteristic of God can help us get unstuck and live an effective and fruitful Christian life.

A Powerful Yet Vulnerable God

In creating and loving us, Abba Father opened up His heart to painful wounding and rejection beyond our comprehension.

Our Father made Himself vulnerable to the pain of rejection by His wayward children.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41).
Jesus was rejected by His own people and put to death by the agony of crucifixion.

We can grieve the Holy Spirit. Paul in Ephesians 4:30 says: “Do not grieve the Spirit of God.”

Our Father even suffers with those who suffer. “In all their affliction he was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9).

Then the ultimate pain of the Father: Jesus became sin for us, and the wrath of the Father fell on Jesus. The astonishing truth is that our sin separated the Father and Son during that dark time.

Our Father longs for relationship with us so much. He made Himself vulnerable to hurt from you and me.

Being stuck is missing the intimate relationship with Abba Father and hurting His heart.

Unstuck and on a Mission

The eleven disciples all ran away when Jesus was arrested. Peter himself denied that he even knew Jesus.

They were downcast, fearful, and confused after the crucifixion. All were stuck in their grief and shock in the Upper Room.

Then they met the Risen Lord! And then the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost. Those encounters changed everything!

The all-powerful God of heaven and earth made Himself vulnerable and risked everything on a small band of ordinary men and women.

Stuck in their own grief and disappointment

in the Upper Room

And then…

Transformed and empowered by the presence of the Risen Lord and by the power of the Holy Spirit!

You and I Unstuck and on a Mission!

Unstuck and Free!
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Dear friend, grasp the truth that the powerful God of the universe made Himself vulnerable to us. He knows what we are going through and feels the pain. He does not turn away from us but pursues us with a loving heart. Abba Father desires an intimate love relationship with us.

When I am stuck, I forget what I need and want and what my Father wants. I need a fresh encounter with my Lord to lift me out of my stuck-in-the-mud mindset. I picture Him lifting me out of the mud of ineffective and unfruitful living to an adventurous life on a mission with Him. This intimacy with my Lord is what I want and what He longs for, too.

God in His grace will come to you and lift you out of your stuck mindset. He sets you free to enjoy intimacy with Him. Then He gives you the honor of working with Him.

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

Beloved friend, we can live the life that Jesus died to give us! More to come. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for my blog post emails and receive a 7-Day Email Devotional Study.

Scammed! Love Lessons Learned

Scammed!
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An Interrupted Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! Well, at least, I am writing this on Valentine’s Day (and the next day!). My plan was to write this on Saturday, the 13th, and have it ready for Valentine’s Day.

Life happened! I fell for an online scam. You know the kind. A pop-up says that you have malware or spyware and to call a number. I did and gave them access to my laptop. I even filled out the form to get their services. My credit card company declined my card as the transaction was for a possible fraudulent tech company. I called my credit card company, and they canceled my card and issued a new one.

That was yesterday. Today I got worried. Concentrating in church was difficult. They had access to my laptop yesterday and may have stolen personal information. I changed passwords and called my bank. Now I have to monitor everything.

I thought I was careful online. Well, quite honestly I made a foolish choice. I let them in. I gave them access. They were not Mac Support as they said they were. They lied, and I fell for it. They stole my time. I hope that’s all they stole.

An Interrupted Love Relationship

Now, these verses from 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 really spoke to me:

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

How our enemy loves to deceive us and to lead our thinking away from pure love and devotion to Christ. And I hate to admit it, but I have given access to anxious, fearful, complaining, negative, critical, and judging thoughts. And that’s a partial list! I’ve allowed those thoughts to lodge in my mind and dwell there. Sometimes for a long time.

Interesting that our thoughts are led astray from devotion to Christ. My scam experience made me think more of how I give access to what I don’t want in my life. I make the choice. I need to admit that I choose what I ponder in my mind. You can’t stop wrong thoughts from coming in, but you sure can choose to think about something else.

I have made foolish and sinful choices based on those thoughts. I have spoken negative and complaining words, instead of words springing from a heart at rest in the Lord’s love.

Thankfully, the Lord’s kindness leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). He gives an awareness of those thoughts and how they are leading me away from what my heart longs for most—the intimate love relationship with Him. I choose to change my thinking and rejoice in the love I have in Christ.

A Renewed Focus on the Love Relationship

So now how about focusing our thoughts on Christ’s love for us and our love for Him? Why not turn your attention to this glorious and beautiful love relationship we have with Him? I turn away from worry and anxiety about the scam, and trust my loving Lord.

Imagine that you and I are sitting in Starbucks, sipping our lattes and enjoying time together. I ask you,

“What made you fall in love with Jesus? Why do you love Him so much? Tell me your love story.”

Your face lights up and glows as you share how Jesus captivates your heart, how you met Him, how He won your heart, and how His love delights you.

When you remember the times of darkness, pain, and loneliness, your doubts and questions and your Beloved’s faithfulness, tears of quiet joy flow. Isn’t it in those dark times that His love shines the brightest?

My eyes tear up as you tell your story. There is no greater story than the love story of our relationship with God.

My Heart’s Passion

Beloved friend, this is all about bringing our focus back to our love relationship with God.

I refuse to give my attention to any lies or thoughts that would lead me astray from my pure love for the Lord.

By the grace of God, I will not give the enemy access to steal my joy or bring any destruction into my life.

I will trust the Lord in all of life’s circumstances. He will always work everything together for good.

Nothing, nothing, nothing matters more than a passionate love relationship with the Lord.

His extravagant love will meet your heart’s deepest needs, and capture your heart.

Your heart will be ignited with the fire of His love for you.

As you can see, getting scammed has become a catalyst to making sure nothing leads me away from devotion to God. The scam has become a gift! Who would think that a scam could teach a love lesson? God can use anything!

I must add that the day of the scam was the last day of a 7-day fast. Interesting timing, isn’t it? I had never done an extended fast before. I highly recommend praying and fasting and seeking the Lord. He is so worthy of our love and devotion.

Your Love Story

God's Heart
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I encourage you to write or tell someone your love story. Write out a love letter to the Lord. Do whatever you can do to focus your thoughts on your beloved God. He loves you so much! Don’t let your thinking lead you away from pure devotion to God.

Dig deeply into God’s Word to be renewed in His love for you. Look for His heart.

Focus your thoughts on the Person and Work of Christ. My friends, Arabah Joy and Amanda Criss, have created an excellent tool, “Praying the Promises of the Cross, a 40-day prayer journal.” I am going through it right now and love it.

Here is the link below: I am not an affiliate. I just want you to get this fantastic tool.

Praying the Promises of the Cross, a 40-day prayer journal

Bloggers, writers, and anyone who wants to share their love story with God, I would enjoy publishing your experience of God’s love on my website. For information and guidelines, please email me at

christine email image

Pray with me for my scammer, Steve Williams. (His accent did not sound like his name.) He needs to know Jesus, too. Pray blessing on his life that he would turn away from the path he’s on to the Lord. God can do miracles. We already know that! You and I both experienced one when we became the Beloved of God.

When You’re Sad at Christmas Time

Feeling Sad at Christmas Time

 

When You’re Sad at Christmas Time 

Merry Christmas, dear friend! How are you? How are you really? I want to know. So often we greet each other, and the answer is supposed to be: “I’m fine,” or “Great!” We don’t want to share more, and the other person most likely does not wish to hear how we truly are. We’re all busy and in a hurry.

Well, I’m going to break the ice, and share what I’ve been feeling and how I’m learning to cope with those feelings.

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling sad and a little downhearted. When you are single, no husband or children, Christmas can be a time of reflection and questioning. Was I wrong to focus on ministry instead of marriage? I think about this, but I come back to the truth: I have had a very adventurous and fulfilling life as a single missionary in Japan and then as a single woman living here in the States. I am content in the Lord, but sometimes when I’m feeling lonely, I wonder what if…

Also, my parents are gone as well as an aunt and uncle and both of their sons, my two cousins. Our families enjoyed celebrating the holidays together. Christmas is just not the same with these loved ones not here anymore.

Maybe you can relate to what I’m saying, or you might have other reasons for feeling melancholy this Christmas season.

If you have small children, you may be very excited about Christmas and all the activities. What is more fun than to see your child play an angel or Mary or Joseph in the church Christmas program! Maybe this doesn’t apply to you personally. You may have a friend who is feeling sad, though.

One short sentence with three different meanings has helped me cope with my feelings:

1. You’re not alone. Others are feeling the same way. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and share how you’re feeling.

A co-worker and I were talking. How we both were feeling came up in the conversation. She was also feeling sad. Then I heard others were feeling the same way. I knew in my head that other people would be sad during the holidays, but I was still feeling alone. Then talking with others helped. I had to come out of isolation and speak my feelings. I’m not alone. You’re not alone either. Share with someone how you’re feeling.

2. You’re not alone. Though many loved ones aren’t here, look at the ones who are with you. Love on them. Invest time and energy in their lives.

I’m concentrating now on the family and friends that are here. I have a sister and cousin nearby and two nieces that I love dearly. And friends. And I am a CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) for a foster child. I am blessed to know her and support her.

3. You’re not alone. Jesus, our “Immanuel” (“God with us”), is here. Seek comfort in Him and not in the trappings of Christmas—spending money, gift giving, and all the food. Not saying, don’t enjoy the gifts and food. What I’m saying is, don’t let them distract you from Jesus and don’t use them as distractions from your pain.

As I focus on Jesus, worshipping Him, adoring and loving Him, I sense His comforting presence. Tears may not be far away and easily spill over at a memory or at a scene on TV that touches my heart. I am thankful for being able to grieve and to have the comfort of the Lord.

Dear friend, we are not alone! May the glory of Jesus’ birth fill your heart with joy and wonder. I love and appreciate you! Thank you for joining this Grace Breakthroughs Journey. 2016 is going to be an adventure!

 

Please leave a comment about how you are feeling and how you cope at Christmas. Your words may be the encouragement someone else needs.

 

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The Life Jesus Died to Give You

The work is finished.-2

The Life Jesus Died to Give You

Ever wonder why your life is not working out how you thought it would? Are you struggling and wondering where the abundant life is that Jesus promised to give you?

Do you have needs that aren’t being met? Financial or physical needs? Unhappy marriage? Maybe you’re single and struggle with loneliness. Or you want to have children but can’t. Do you need physical healing or emotional healing?

Where is the abundant life, the life of joy, peace and love? You may have wondered about this like I have. I had a plan for my life. I believed this was also God’s plan for my life.

Have you heard the following expression? “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

Our plans are what we believe will be the path to a life of significance, meaning, purpose and fulfillment. What we envision for our lives may be God’s plan or maybe not.

Our plans might also be a temporary part of God’s plan like my missionary career of 17 years. I thought I would be serving in Japan for the rest of my working life. God had other plans. Losing that missionary role and identity was very difficult for me. Now I see how God’s plan was the best. Amazing, isn’t it?! Father does know best!

Today I want to get you thinking about this topic:

What is the life Jesus died to give you?

Jesus said He came to give you life, abundant life (John 10:10). What does that mean? What is this life? The very next verse says that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11).  He laid down His life so we could have life. What is this life?

Before we answer that question, I have a gold nugget of truth for you. I dug this gem out of the ground of painful life experiences that didn’t make sense at the time. (Not that they make total sense even now!)

Here it is:

The life experiences that wounded our hearts set us on the path to true Life. The losses, disappointments and sorrow are the strong hands that guide us to abundant life.

When we experience the abundant life, we look back over those tough times. We are grateful for those “grace gifts” of pain that opened our hearts to seek Life and not settle for anything less.

After years and years of struggling with those “grace gifts,” I can honestly say that I am grateful that my Lord used them to bring me to Life.

The abundant life is for now, not life after we get to heaven. Oh, the joy and love that can be ours in the present!

The life Jesus died to give you is far greater than any other life you could plan for yourself.

I invite you to think about 2 things.

  1. What are the “grace gifts” in your life that the Lord is using to lead you to the abundant life that He promised to give you?

The Lord used shattered dreams to lead me to Life.

  1. What is this abundant life? 

Listen to Jesus’ prayer to His Father in John 17:3:

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

The abundant life is knowing God the Father and Jesus the Son through the Holy Spirit. The life Jesus died to give you is an intimate love relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Meditate on these verses that tell us what Life is:

Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21, ESV)

 

“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4, ESV).

 

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV).

Come alive in the Lord who gave Himself for you! He is your Life! May you be transformed as your mind is renewed by the truth of your identity in Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Have Been Given Glory!

You have been given glory.Look for the glory in the people you meet today

You Have Been Given Glory!

 

You have been given the same glory that the Father gave the Son! (see John 17:22)

What is this glory? What glory did the Father give the Son? And now what glory have you been given?

Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

Jesus then stated some amazing truths:

The Father who dwells in me does his works.”

“Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”

The Father gave Himself to the Son. He lived in the Son. The glory is the very essence of the Father living in the Son, the presence of the Father in the Son.

Then Jesus gave the ultimate in jaw-dropping truth:

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

“In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

(See John 14 for the above verses.)

Jesus gave Himself to us. He is the Glory!

Look at John 17:21-23:

The Father in me and I in them. (verse 21)

The glory that you have given me I have given to them. (verse 22)

I in them and you in me. (verse 23)

Twice Jesus stated the truth that the Father indwells him and that Jesus is in the believer. And in the middle of these amazing truths Jesus says that He gave us the glory that the Father gave Him.

The glory that Jesus has given us is His very life in us.

What glory do you see in Jesus?

He is loving, full of grace and truth, compassionate, humble, kind, merciful and He loved His own to the extent of dying for them on a cross.

What glory do you see in your brothers and sisters?

My default has been to see the sin and the weakness. What is your default when looking at people?

On a missions trip to Nicaragua some years ago, the Lord so clearly pointed out the glory in my team members. I saw a servant’s heart in one brother. A sister expressed the love of Christ to the children and adults we met. The joy and the humility of the Lord were made visible through my brothers and sisters serving one another and the people we met in Nicaragua.

If I intentionally looked for the glory, I saw it.

That was an eye-opening experience. Seeing God’s glory in others caused me to love and appreciate them more. God’s glory creates oneness with others and a desire to worship the Lord. That joyful experience of seeing Jesus in others still amazes and thrills me.

Sometimes the glory seems to be hidden from sight. But when we are suffering and in pain, feeling broken, the light of His presence shines even brighter.

I encourage you to look for the glory. Then share what you see. Draw out the glory by using your words to build up and give grace (Ephesian 4:29).

Others will see the glory of the Lord in you!

Describe the glory that you see in your brothers and sisters in the Lord.

 

3 Ways God Expresses His Love

Father and Daughter Hugs

 

3 Ways God Expresses His Love

Do you want to experience God’s love and grace everyday? Once you’ve tasted that love, you become thirsty for more. That love fills your heart, covers your sin and shame, and empowers you to love others.

Who could push that love away? Who would turn away from Abba Father’s love?

I did.  Many times. Still do sometimes.

In my “Prodigal Daughter” years

When overwhelmed by the pain in my heart

When circumstances seemed to deny God’s love

While enjoying the temporary pleasures of sin

When looking at the Word through the eyes of law

When discouraged or depressed

When I didn’t understand Christ’s finished work on the Cross

Recently I saw Meagan White’s cartoon on Facebook:

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My first response was “Yeah, be nice to hug my dad and stepdad again.” I’d like to hug my mom again, too.  Even one more time. I miss them. All three of them.

However, I began to think and feel more deeply about the picture. Sadly, I did not have affectionate, loving relationships with any of my parents. I didn’t receive the nurture, protection and loving discipline of a father or the emotional nurture and loving counsel of a mother.  I miss more what I didn’t receive.

I am grateful for what they did give me—an introduction to my Savior, to church and moral living, food, clothing, shelter, birthday and Christmas celebrations.

I still love them. I expressed my love to them while they were still living. I forgave them. I believe my mom and stepdad forgave me for my anger and unkind words. I know I’ll see all three of them again in heaven.

The heart-brokenness from the neglect and abuse from my early years causes me to hunger more for the love of my Abba Father. The pain dug out a hole in my heart that only He can heal and fill with His love.

So how does God reveal His love to us? This expression must touch our hearts in life-giving and life-changing ways. This love must penetrate our numbed emotions. This love just might open up a flood of deeply buried pain and memories. Oh, but this love of Abba Father will be healing and empowering. The love of God is not mere words.

Here are 3 ways God expresses His love:

1. The Word – devotional times with the Lord, personal Bible study, sermon messages from pastors and missionaries

Some years ago I did a personal Bible study on the heart of God in the Old and New Testaments. I was especially captivated by God’s Heart revealed in the Book of Hosea.

God told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute and then to buy her back from that slavery.

God used this parable to show me how broken-hearted He is over the waywardness and spiritual adultery of His people. The Blessed God and Creator of the universe opens up His heart to feel the pain of our disobedience. He cries out through the prophets, “Return to Me.” He longs for loving, heart-to-heart relationship with us.

Hang out in the Word. Dig deeply into the Word to know His love for you.

2. The Cross – Jesus died for you on the Cross. Words. We mentally agree with them. We believe them. Has the Cross touched you deeply? This is the greatest expression of the love of God.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9, ESV)

We know life came to us through His death.

I was applying for a teaching position at a Christian school. The interviewer wanted to make sure that I was a Christian. He asked the standard question:

“ If you died tonight, and stood before Jesus at the door to heaven, how would you answer His question, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’” (Honestly, I can’t imagine Jesus asking this question. When we see each other, we are going to have the biggest bear hug ever! Or I’ll just fall at His feet. No tears in heaven or I’d be doing that, too. Anyway back to the question…)

Right now I’m sitting in Starbucks and my eyes are getting watery as I think of my answer.

At the interview I got emotionally choked up as I answered, “I would point to the wounds in His hands, feet and side.” The only time I cried at an interview! The Cross and what Jesus had done for me had penetrated my heart. (Yes, I did get the job!)

Study the Cross. Ask the Lord to deeply, deeply teach you the meaning of the Cross. You will be humbled and forever grateful. You may already know how much you are loved as shown by the cross. Let’s worship Him together!

3. Circumstances – Allow your daily circumstances to reveal His love to you.

Looking back after long years of dealing with painful circumstances from childhood and facing the pain that is inevitable in daily living in this world, I see that my loving Abba Father has worked everything together for good—my good, others’ good and the good of the kingdom of God.

God does not have to prove His love to me. I know and believe His love. The Word and Cross have revealed that love to me in a deeply heart-capturing way.

Driving to work one day, I asked my Father to reveal His love to me. Though I know by experience that God loves me, I want His “heart hugs” that are daily expressions of His affection for me.

Not long after that, I parked my car, paid for parking, and unknowingly dropped my wallet. I had just parked my car in Richmond, infamous for its high crime rate.

About 5 minutes later I realized my wallet was gone. I hurriedly walked back to my car. I hoped I had just dropped my wallet in my car.

But no wallet in my car! I walked over to where I paid for the parking. No wallet!

Just then I saw a woman walking across the parking lot towards me.  “Did you lose your wallet?” she asked. She had found my wallet and had turned it in to security at her company. Just at the moment when I started to get desperate, she came looking for me!

Wow! I considered that a heart hug from my Father.

Yes! I’d love to be able to give my dad, my stepdad and mom another hug, an expression of my love for them. One more hug!

Now more than anything I want those heart hugs from my Abba Father. And I want to give heart hugs to Him by how I live and love the people in my life.

Abba Father, reveal Your love to this dear brother or sister through your Word, the Cross and daily circumstances. We praise and worship You! 

How has God revealed His love to you?

 

5 Reasons to Focus on Grace Everyday

Reasons

5 Reasons to Focus on Grace Everyday

I was studying the Bible at Prairie Bible Institute in Canada, and I was miserable! How could I be so unhappy? I was finally preparing for missionary service. I was following the dream God put in my heart. Why the depression and discouragement then?

I Did Not Understand Grace!

I did not understand grace. That’s the answer. Plain and simple. Not understanding grace and studying God’s Word put tremendous pressure on me to be and act like a saint, a very loving and kind Mother Teresa-type saint. Yet I felt like a horrible sinner. How can you live up to what the Bible says you should be?

The Bible condemned me. That’s how I felt. That was a lie from the pit of hell.

Romans 8:1 is the truth: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I didn’t get it.  Not yet anyway.

I looked at the Bible through the lens of law. I focused on me and not on Christ and what He had already done for me on the cross.

Of course, I believed that Jesus had died for me. I just could not stop feeling condemned for who I was and the sins I still committed. Sins like being unforgiving and bitter and acting in unloving ways with my attitude, behavior and words.

I did not need to try harder. I didn’t need to rededicate myself to God. I needed to understand and receive grace.

“Either we live under pressure to grow, or we celebrate grace.”

(Dr. Larry Crabb, Finding God, Page 132)

 For many years as a Christian I lived under pressure to grow and to change. That was miserable bondage. Thank God! He set me free!

Can you relate to what I’m talking about? If you can, let me tell you, there is freedom!

The process to understanding grace for me was a long one. The Holy Spirit, the Word, books about grace, and loving relationships with people taught me grace. In fact, they still teach me grace.

Can you imagine the change that would take place if you and I focused on grace everyday? Wow! What a daily celebration that would be!

Five Reasons to Focus on Grace Everyday

These reasons will motivate us to seek to understand and receive grace everyday. Here are 5 of many reasons to focus on grace everyday:

1. To develop a trust relationship with God instead of trying to live a Christian life on your own.

2. To enjoy an intimate relationship with God instead of running from Him.

3. To live a life of freedom instead of living in legalism (under law) or license (taking sin too lightly).

4. To understand our worth in God’s eyes instead of living in shame and self-hatred.

5. To pursue God Himself who is grace instead of seeking to fix ourselves.

How does this work out in real life? Let me explain further.

When I didn’t understand grace, the focus was on me fixing myself. I was driven to work on myself so that I would be acceptable to God, others and myself. I had to feel good about myself.

And how did that work for me? Of course, it didn’t. I couldn’t make me into who I thought God wanted me to be. Shame and self-hatred controlled me.

A focus on grace frees me from the compulsion to make myself acceptable. I already am! The truth set me free! Free to pursue the relationship with God that my heart longs for. In that relationship, God changes me.

Can I forget and start working on myself again? Sure! I can forget who I am and feel pressure to change. But when I remember grace, I celebrate all that God has done. He changes me as I trust in Him.

What are other reasons to focus on grace everyday?

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Where Are You on the Grace Journey?

Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt via Wikimedia Commons
            Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt via Wikimedia Commons

Where Are You on the Grace Journey?

No matter what’s going on in your life right now, you are on a journey of the heart to your Abba Father. Those very circumstances that cause you pain or joy are being used by our loving Father to bring you closer to Him.

Are you turning to Him? Or are you turning away from your Father to an addiction or other distraction? Are you experiencing His grace and love and sharing it with others? Or is your heart broken and closed off? Are you daily enjoying the Lord’s presence or do you hide from Him in shame and guilt?

Take a few minutes and quietly in your heart, ask the Lord to show you where your heart is on this journey. Are you hurting, angry, fearful, anxious or joyful and resting in the Father’s heart. Be honest. You can journal. You might like to share with a close friend. You can also email me at christine@gracebreakthroughs.com. I’m happy to be a listening ear.

The Heart of Abba Father

One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen, wrote a book called, The Return of the Prodigal Son. The book is an in-depth study of Rembrandt’s painting and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Look at the image above. You can easily pick out the Father and the Prodigal Son.

Rembrandt pictured the elder son at the right in the same scene. Both sons needed to come home to the Father. Jesus told this parable in answer to the grumbling of the religious leaders of that day, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

This parable is really about the heart of the Father. He is always waiting and longing to lavish His love on both sons.

The younger son sinned so openly and was surprised by His Father’s love and acceptance.

The elder tried to earn His Father’s love by doing everything right. Look at the older son’s stance in the painting. He rigidly judged his brother. He did not understand the Father’s heart nor did he experience and enjoy His love.

The amazing conclusion of Nouwen’s book is that the goal is for us to have the heart of the Father toward others. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Experience the depths of His love for you and that love can’t help but overflow from you to others.

Where are you on the journey to the heart of your Abba Father?

In one sense you are already there. Jesus brought you to the Father by His death on the Cross (1 Peter 3:18). When you believe and receive Jesus, you become His child (John 1:12).

You are His beloved child and He is your Abba Father. The Father loves you as much as He loves Jesus, the Son.

In another sense, you are not yet there. Here’s what I mean:

You are on a journey to understand and experience Abba Father’s love and grace.

At times of confusion and deep pain, I needed to see that events in my life were not just random and without purpose. When my dreams were shattered, my hope was that I am on a journey to know God. The point was not my comfort or happiness, but the ultimate purpose of knowing His grace and love and sharing His glory with others.

When the pain of shame and fear nearly overwhelmed me, I had to “see” the compassion on His face, the tender love in His eyes. Without a growing understanding of His love and grace, I would not have survived. That may sound a bit dramatic, but that’s the truth.

Knowing my Abba Father and His Son Jesus Christ in an intimate love relationship is life (John 17:3). He is my Life!

Dear friend, the Father is drawing your heart to Himself. Open your heart to Him. Tell Him where you’re at. Ask Him to reveal His love and grace to your heart. Turn to Him. He knows what you need. You can trust Him.

Let me know if I can pray for you. I would love to hear your story and how you are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18).

In God’s amazing grace and love,

Chris

christine@gracebreakthroughs.com

P. S. Check out the “Recommendations” tab for books to read for your encouragement. You can order Henri Nouwen’s book through my affiliate link here, The Return of the Prodigal Son.

 

3. Powerful Grace Lesson from Japan

Grace Breakthrough Connection Blog

Journey Together to the Father’s Heart

 

Called and chosen to be in an intimate love relationship with the living God! He longs to lavish His grace upon you. He has been leading you on a journey to His Heart of Love.

At times the way is through dark valleys of betrayal, loss and confusion. The road seems to lead away from His love. Your heart is in such pain that you cry out, “Where are you, my Abba Father?”

Other times the way opens up into the bright sunlight of His loving face. You have some moments of rest in His love. Inexpressible joy flows. You are refreshed and ready to continue on this inner journey of the heart.

Suddenly you look around and see you are not the only one on this journey. Your Abba Father is leading countless others to His heart, too. They are your brothers and sisters.

You long for connection, to belong, to feel safe with your fellow travelers. You were created for relationship with them, too.

But a long-buried terror rises in your heart. You tremble in fear.

You remember how certain ones nearly destroyed you. They stole precious jewels from your heart. They trampled your worth under their feet. You still bear the wounds and pain as you continue on your journey to the heart of the Father.

Isolation seems the better option. No pain. Really? Or how about control so no one hurts you like that again. Protect yourself at all costs. Keep your heart closed.

Then your Lord Jesus comes to your side. (You know, He is the way to the Father.) He hands you a beautiful white orchid. “This is who you are and who you are becoming,” He says to you with a compassionate smile.

“What do you mean?” you ask.

“Your new heart is beautiful like all the shining jewels of the world. You are righteous and pure by my gift to you. I became sin for you. Your shame and guilt are taken away by my death on the Cross.”

He continues, “Now look at the face of the orchid. How would you describe it?”

“Exquisitely fragile and open. So delicate and yet so open. Yes, open.”

Tears begin to slide down your cheeks. You sense His deep love for you. At the same time with a sudden burst of insight you know what He is asking of you.

As you walk this healing journey with Jesus, you open your heart to receive the restoring love of your Abba Father. And by the power of grace you love your brothers and sisters.

White Orchids

Lesson 3 — Loving One Another Is Experiencing the Love of God

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23, ESV).

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:9-12, ESV).

Beloved one, meditate on these verses (and all of John 14-17). Your Abba Father loves you as much as He loves the Son. Jesus loves you as much as the Father loves Him. You are in union with the Father and the Son and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. To love one another is to experience the love of God.

Yes, I had precious experiences of the love of God in Japan. I continue to learn and experience more of His love. Everyday I need His love and grace.

Another amazing joy is to experience God’s love by loving one another. Grace breaks through our hearts. We open our hearts to love our brothers and sisters. We are empowered by grace through faith to love. We love one another and experience even more of Abba Father’s love. Amazing grace!

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 ESV).

May you be filled up with all the fullness of His love.

With much love in Abba Father,

Chris

 

2. Powerful Grace Lesson from Japan


Journey to Heart of the Father

Journey to the Heart of the Father

You’re here and excited about the journey ahead. You know where you’re going. You know what you’re going to do. And you know why you’re going. This is the greatest day of your life. You’ve planned and prepared for this moment, and now it’s going to happen!

For you this might be your wedding day, the birth of your first child, or graduation from college. Maybe you’re starting your first job or your dream job or retiring and finally getting to do what you always wanted to do. Whatever it is, you know the excitement and the anticipation.

For me this journey was going to Japan as a missionary. This was my calling and dream since junior high school. From an abusive childhood background to a self-destructive lifestyle…out of that mess the Lord saved and called me.

I was certainly not a very likely candidate for mission work and especially not for the difficult work environment of Japan (see my previous blog posts). As a single missionary I left my family behind and stepped foot into my exciting new life of service to the Japanese. Sounds great, huh?

The Journey of the Heart

My loving Lord had called me to Japan to share the good news of grace to the Japanese. That was the outward journey. He was also taking me on an inner journey of the heart. The Lord would use the outward circumstances to woo me, to cause me to hunger for Him, to bring me great satisfaction and joy in His presence.

In fact, what was happening on the missionary road whether joyful or painful was being used to help me along the inner journey of the heart. The love of my missionary family and Japanese friends, the struggles of language study and cultural adjustment, the rejection of some and conflicts with others–all the joys, the stress, the discouragement and loneliness were leading me on the deeper Journey to the Heart of the Father.

Ever wonder what God is up to in your life? Here’s one possibility:

Our Lord is guiding you to the Father’s heart where you will experience the depths of His love for you.

Nothing on this earth compares to this love. There is no greater joy than to know Him by experience. This is far greater than a mental assent to the facts of the Bible.

I’m talking here about encounter with the living God that turns your life right side up. Knowing Him will “ruin” you in a good way. You won’t be satisfied with those sinful pleasures that once captured your heart. You won’t be able to run with the same friends if they are leading you down a road away from the Father.

Lesson 2 — God Chose Me to Bring Me to His Heart of Love

So this is the second powerful grace lesson I learned in Japan and continue to experience and learn. The Trinity is about relationship with us. The Father sent the Son to die for us to give us life with Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to live in a love relationship with the Father and Son. The Holy Spirit pours this love into our hearts (Romans 5:5).

Why does it take so long to get it? To understand and experience this love? You may have understood God’s love when you first believed or even later down the road. But for those of us who have been wounded and deeply hurt–well, to believe and receive this life-changing love may seem impossible. Here’s why:

  • “Father” is not a heartwarming word to many of us due to past painful experience.
  • Trust in someone’s word, especially someone you can’t see with your eyes isn’t easy. Trust itself is near impossible for some of us.
  • Woundedness causes us to isolate and close our hearts off from the love we so desperately want and need.
  • We might be angry with God because He didn’t prevent or stop the pain and wounds.
  • Control is the only way we know how to survive. We will get what we want on our terms.
  • God is unpredictable and wild in His love toward us. That scares us. We can’t control Him.
  • Surrender to anyone feels like death. We are afraid to lose ourselves. We fear being hurt again.
  • We haven’t forgiven those who have hurt us so bitterness is choking out the love that could be ours.
  • What would you add to this list?

How to Experience This Love

If you have read this far, I know you want to experience this love. You know this is what you are seeking. Your pain is driving you to the comfort of His loving embrace. You know nothing else but His love will calm your anxiety and fear.

You may be asking, “What should I do then to experience the heart of God, His love for me?”

Let me ask you, “If you’re a parent, what does your child have to do to experience your love? Do they have to do anything?”

The Father says to you, “Come. Sit and rest. Enjoy my presence. I delight in you. I want to hear your voice. Just be with Me. Let Me love you. Open your heart to Me. Be aware of what I’m doing in your life to capture your heart and bring you to My heart of love. My grace will breakthrough your wounded heart. My love will overwhelm you and heal you. As you travel on this journey, look for My love. I will reveal Myself to you.”

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God” (2 Thessalonians 3:5a).

How would you answer this question: How can I experience the love of God?