The past can’t be my home anymore

It’s not often I  zip  around town in my minivan alone.

I’m usually toting a passenger (or two or four or more).

But that night, the stars had aligned and the schedule had been arranged and all of those things so that I hopped into my minivan after some errands in town and headed home.

I drove.

And thought.

Thought.

And drove.

Prayed and thought and drove.

I was just enjoying the sweet quiet as only  a mom of four kids can do  when she’s out by her lonesome self.

It should only take me about 5 minutes to  get home from  anywhere in town now that we’ve  moved to  the new house, but I drove for about 12 minutes before I turned onto a familiar road.

It wasn’t the road to my brand new home, though.  I had managed to  drive far past that, all the way to my old house.

I  sheepishly turned around in my former neighbor’s driveway and backtracked down the road to  what was supposed to  be my destination all along.

HOME.

If I don’t stay alert  even now when I’m making this drive,  I’ll pass right by the road to  my new house and I’ll  trek all the way back to  where I used to  live.

This is me in default mode.  This is what I  fall  back to.

This is where I end up when I’m not paying attention.

We all have these  “old ways,” the habits of the past, the “who we used to be.”   And when we’re distracted, or weary or plain old apathetic, maybe this is where we end up all  over again.

Maybe we default to worry and stress.

We default to overbooked and overwhelmed.

We default to bitter and unforgiving.

We default to resentful.

We default to people-pleasing.

We default to sharp words.

Maybe we don’t even realize it until we look up in a daze and wonder how we ended up back here all over again?

It’s when I start feeling complacent about controlling my tongue,  that I start losing  my temper and lashing out.

It’s when I start feeling like I know how to  keep myself from getting overwhelmed by stress that I just about break down because I’ve let the to-do list nigh on destroy me.

We’re not alone, of course.  This is all just being human.  We’re not perfect and those old sin habits can drag us right along.

That’s why I feel  for the disciples who  kept defaulting to old habits and old ways of thinking.  No matter how many times Jesus explained how He’d be persecuted and killed and then raised again, they didn’t get it.

They didn’t see with spiritual eyes.

There was a day when they set out on their travels with Jesus and forgot to pack the bread for lunch.  Jesus told them to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and they completely missed his message…again.

They thought Jesus was picking on them for leaving the bread at home by mistake.

As i f Jesus needed them to pack bread.

They’d watched Him feed the five thousand and the four thousand, but one day without a full lunchbox sent them right back to that old place of fretting over provision.

Jesus asked them “Do you not yet perceive?”  (Matthew 16:9 ESV).

The Message paraphrase says,  “Haven’t you caught on yet?”

And that’s me at times, defaulting back to my old ways of thinking and doing, not quite catching on yet to what Jesus has done in me and wants to do in me.

What we do then, though, is what matters most.

Because what I want to do is just give up right there.

I’ll never get this right, Jesus. 

I’m such a failure, Lord.  I’m failing at everything.  I want to be used by you and I just….keep….messing….up.

But we can’t give up right there because that past isn’t meant to be our home anymore.

Slowly.  Slowly.  We keep turning the old over to Jesus and letting Him make us new.

Slowly.  Slowly.  He changes us within so our default itself is different.

We default to peace.

We default to joy.

We default to gentleness.

We default to trust.

It’s okay to be in progress.  It’s okay to trip up and mess up sometimes.

It’s not okay to stay there in that old place where we don’t belong anymore.

We have to move back to Jesus, always back to  Jesus.

Jesus, bring us back to you.

 

So you want to hide away?

psalm-139-1

My daughter tried a stealth move.

I set my cup down on the floor next to the sofa where I was sitting.

She crawled over and paused.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her glance my way without fully turning her head, just flitting her eyes up to see if I was watching.

The she made her move.  She swooped down, sucked on the straw and gulped down my drink.

And….

She grimaced.  Her whole body bounced back as she crawled to the other side of the room with a combination look of utter confusion and a little disgust.

She didn’t know I’ve been drinking green tea instead of Cherry Coke recently.

“Didn’t expect that, did ya?” I teased her and she laughs because she knows she deserved that little shock to her palate.

Since then, she’s been asking me, “Mom is that water in your cup or is it the other stuff?

She was surprised by what she found in my tumbler that day, and she doesn’t want it to happen again.

Her little encounter with my green tea has me thinking:

Others might be surprised by what’s within us sometimes.

We might be surprised by what’s within us sometimes, too.

We think we’ll find fresh water, and it’s something gross instead.

We think it’ll be a delight, and instead it’s disgust.

Not God, though.  God is never surprised by what He finds within our hearts and lives.

He knows.

Psalm 139:1 says:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  (ESV).

Some part of me wants to hide from that.

God, please don’t see the worst in me. 

I don’t want Him to see the mixed motives or the idolatry, the way I fight with perfectionism and feeling not-enough.

I don’t want Him to see me lose my temper or get annoyed or feel like giving up.

I want to bury that jealousy or coveting and hope he doesn’t notice the bump in my backyard.

I want to cover over the mistakes and mess-ups or fatigue or worry, the bad moments and the bad days.

If God sees my worst, surely He’ll give up on me.  He’ll use someone better, call someone purer, bless someone holier, because I’m such a broken vessel.

Then I think of Nathanael.

When Jesus called out to Peter, James, John and Andrew, they were hauling nets along the sea, just another day of work.  He said, “Follow me,” and they dropped the fishing gear and stepped into discipleship.

Jesus called Matthew and immediately the tax collector hopped up from his papers and pencils and followed.

It’s such a beautiful calling.  It’s the calling of the willing and the obedient, the receptive and ready.

Then there’s Nathanael.

When Philip saw Nathanael that day, he told his friend all about how they had found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

Nathaniel mocked the thought.  It was a joke, surely.  He asked:

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46 ESV

It wasn’t a beautiful moment of faith or instant belief.  He didn’t seem receptive or ready.  He was doubtful and disdainful.

Then Jesus came along, saw Nathanael and said:

“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:47-49 ESV).

How do you know me?

That’s what Nathanael asked.

Then, realizing that Jesus did in fact see into his very heart, Nathanael confessed faith.  He worshiped.

He followed Christ and became one of the 12 disciples of Jesus.

Even now, the Armenian church claims Nathanael as their founder.  Church tradition says he preached as far as India and was martyred there.

He became sold out for Jesus.

But here’s what I love.

Jesus knew everything about him right from the beginning, the skeptical side, his mocking jest with Philip, and still called him and commissioned him.

There are days when I’m surprised myself at the sin still clogging up my heart.

But not Jesus.

And then that shame ensnares me.  I think I need to clean myself up and fix myself and get to work on my sin problem before God could bless any offering I bring.

But that’s not what God says.

That’s not what Jesus does.

JESUS BIDS US COME AND FOLLOW HERE AND NOW, JUST AS WE ARE, NOT AS WE OUGHT TO BE.

He loves me now, the imperfect me, the me that wants to be like Jesus but isn’t there yet.

Jesus doesn’t know you and reject you or set you aside.

HE KNOWS YOU.

AND HE LOVES YOU.

HE KNOWS YOU.

AND HE CALLS YOU.

Originally posted February 24, 2016

Bible Verses on how God forgives us

verses-on-forgiveness

  • Psalm 32:5 ESV
    I acknowledged my sin to you,
        and I did not cover my iniquity;
    I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
        and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
  • Psalm 51:1-2 ESV
    Have mercy on me,O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
    according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
    Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
  • Psalm 103:11-12 ESV
    For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
        so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
     as far as the east is from the west,
        so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
  • Proverbs 28:13
    Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
    but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
  • Isaiah 1:18 HCSB
    “Come, let us discuss this,”
    says the Lord.
    “Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they will be as white as snow;though they are as red as crimson,
    they will be like wool.
  • Isaiah 43:25
    “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
  • Daniel 9:9 NIV
    The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him
  • Micah 7:18 HCSB
    Who is a God like You,
    removing iniquity and passing over rebellion
    for the remnant of His inheritance?
    He does not hold on to His anger forever,
    because He delights in faithful love.
  • Matthew 26:28 HCSB
     For this is My blood that establishes the covenant;it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.
  • Acts 2:38 ESV
    And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receivethe gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • Acts 3:19 HCSB
    Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord
  • Acts 10:43 HCSB
    All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.
  • Ephesians 1:7 ESV
    In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace
  • Colossians 1:13-14 NIV
     For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
  • Hebrews 10:17 ESV
    then he adds,“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
  • 1 John 1:7-9 HCSB
    But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • 1 John 2:2 HCSB
     He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.

prayerforgiveness

 

Accepting Christ’s forgiveness can be a struggle at times.  Maybe we try to hold ourselves to a perfect standard, trying ever so hard to be good enough and erase our sin on our own merit. Maybe shame makes us feel like God can’t use us because of our past and because of what we’ve done. anywhere-faith

But God’s grace and His forgiveness are perfect.  He doesn’t need our striving and all our effort to make grace happen.

And sometimes God doesn’t use us despite of our past; He uses us because of it.  The transformation work He does in us shows others what Christ can do when we give ourselves to Him.

Want to learn more about how to overcome excuses, insecurity, and feelings of insufficiency and say “yes” to God?  My new book, Anywhere Faith, releases October 3, 2016.

21 Bible Verses about Putting the Past Behind You

verses-about-the-past

  • Genesis 41:51 ESV
    Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.”
  • Psalm 25:7 ESV
    Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
        according to your steadfast love remember me,
        for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
  • Psalm 51:10 ESV
    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
        and renew a right spirit within me.
  • Isaiah 40:1 ESV
    Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
    Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
        and cry to her
    that her warfare is ended,
        that her iniquity is pardoned,
    that she has received from the Lord‘s hand
        double for all her sins.
  • Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV
    “Remember not the former things,
        nor consider the things of old.
    19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
        now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
    I will make a way in the wilderness
        and rivers in the desert.
  • Isaiah 43:25 ESV
    “I, I am he
        who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
        and I will not remember your sins.
  • Isaiah 65:16 ESV
    So that he who blesses himself in the land
        shall bless himself by the God of truth,
    and he who takes an oath in the land
        shall swear by the God of truth;
    because the former troubles are forgotten
        and are hidden from my eyes.
  • Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
        his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness.
  • Luke 9:62 ESV
     Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
  • Romans 6:4 ESV
    We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
  • Romans 8:1 ESV
    There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 ESV
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
  • Galatians 2:20-22 ESV
     I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who 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. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
  • Ephesians 4:22-23 ESV
     to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds
  • Philippians 1:6 ESV
    And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 3:13-14 ESV
    Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 2:13-14 ESV
    And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
  • Hebrews 8:12 ESV
    For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
        and I will remember their sins no more.”
  • Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
  • 1 John 1:9 ESV
    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • 1 John 3:2 ESV
    Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Today I can’t do perfect, but I can do good

psalm 37-1

Shhhh…don’t tell my daughter, but I let her down last month.

She just doesn’t know it.

Five years ago, I committed to having lunch at the school with each of my daughters every single month.

Now that I have three girls in elementary school, that’s three lunches a month or 27 lunches a year, plus an occasional extra lunch thrown in for a birthday or other special occasion.

My kids are typically on top of this, too.  If I haven’t had lunch with my youngest daughter within the first week of a new month, she starts nudging.

Mom, you know you haven’t had lunch with me this month, right?  When are you coming?

The very first day my kids went back to school after winter break—the very first day!!!!!–she came home from school and asked when I was coming for lunch.

But January zipped right past me.  I made it up to the school for my  youngest daughter (or I’d never have heard the end of that failure!), but not to eat with my two older girls.  Every time I planned a day for school lunch-time, we had a snow day.

When they actually had school, I was in a mad rush to make up for everything I didn’t get done because of those same snow days.

My husband says—You’re eating lunch with them at home.  Doesn’t that count?

No.  That does not count.

Finally, on the last day of January I resigned myself to the truth:  I’d failed: A five year streak of faithfulness broken by winter weather and a packed calendar.

Funny thing is, the one daughter who I thought would be bruised and destroyed forever by my failure never even noticed.  She didn’t pressure me about it, didn’t nag or pester.

So, I’m not telling her I missed out on January’s cafeteria lunch.  It’ll be our little secret. I just went early in February and hoped for the best.

At the beginning of this year, I set some goals in four areas of my life:  Marriage, Parenting, Ministry, and Self-Care.

I’ve been replacing soda with water or green tea.

I’ve been exercising and listening to podcasts while packing my kids’ school lunches.

But there’s one that’s harder to do. It’s not a box to check off or a physical habit to create.

It’s this:  Choose to be gentle with myself.

It means not letting Mom Guilt terrorize my like the tyrant it is.

It means not listening to my self-criticizing internal dialogue.

It means putting a Lunchable in my kids’ lunch box every once in a while.

It means not beating myself up if I occasionally have to order pizza for dinner or go for the quick-fix like boxed macaroni and cheese.

It means laughing instead of berating myself if I forget, and cutting myself off from chores in the evenings so I can spend some time with a cup of hot tea and a book.

And yes.  The struggle is real to let go and choose grace.

I still have this nagging sense of guilt that I didn’t make it to the school for those lunches in January.  It’ll probably plague me for a long time.  Because I can’t go back and fix it. I can’t make it all perfect.

Then I read what the Psalmist said:

 

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
(Psalm 37:3-5 ESV).

Trust Him and do good. That’s what it says.

It seems I spend a whole lot of time and effort trying to “do perfect” or “do all.”

But that’s not what God asks of any of us.

God doesn’t expect perfection because He knows we’re imperfect.

He simply asks us to trust Him, “do good” and keep doing good.  Choose the right things.  Show up day after day.  Be faithful.

Even more than that, don’t try to figure it all out or make it all work.

He’s not going to give us the desires of our heart because we worked like mad-women to make them happen.

He gives us the desires of our heart when our greatest desire is for Him.

And after Jesus, what is it that my heart desires?  It’s to love my kids to Christ.  One missed lunch isn’t going to change that.

You cannot be perfect today.  Neither can I.

But we can trust God and do good and leave everything in His hands.

And we can choose to be a little gentle with ourselves today.

Shrug off some shame and step into some grace.

Let go of some expectations and cling to the freedom Christ offers.

 

 

Even When I’m Disappointed, I’ll Love You Anyway

Suffice it to say, hiding the evidence didn’t work.

I found her hidden stockpile, proof of mistakes that she’d stuffed into a corner of her bedroom.  I suppose she thought somehow that it’d eventually disappear or I’d just never notice.

But she underestimates a mom’s ability to discover truth (she never did figure out those two eyes in the back of my head)….so we stand there in that corner confronting the reality.

She had done something wrong and I had proof.lamentations3

But instead of bringing all that trouble straight to my feet and asking for help, she’d hidden it away and hoped I wouldn’t notice.

I tell her I’m disappointed, tell her I expected better, tell her she needs to overcome.

But then, when she’s tearful and we’ve retreated to the sofa, we pray for God’s help.

I hope she’s really listening, deep-down-take-this-to-heart listening, because I don’t want the words to just shoot through her before pushing their impression down into the soft clay of her heart.

When you’re in trouble, when you mess up, when you’re hurt, when something is wrong….

come

to

me.

Yes, your first impulse will be to run and hide, no different than Adam and Eve crouching among the garden leaves.

Yes, I’ll be sad at first.  Yes, I’ll be disappointed.  Yes, we’ll have to deal with it and that might be messy and hard and it seems easier in the moment to just avoid that pain.

I understand this.  Haven’t I stashed sin before, as well, desperately hoping that no one would notice—that HE wouldn’t notice?  I’ve been Eve in that Garden before, too, and I know how it feels to hold my breath and hope that God walks on by.

But God picked me to be your mom and that means sticking with you and helping you learn and overcome  That means loving you right on through the tough times.

Mary Kassian tells me:

When we face trouble, we are to pour out our hearts to him.  Everybody trusts something; we must learn to trust the Lord, our eternal rock (In My Father’s House).

Trust.

Is that what this is about?

If she trusted me enough to love her through anything, wouldn’t she come to me even when she’s done something wrong because she knew I’d help her?

If I trust His love that much, wouldn’t I run breathlessly to His feet, just run, no looking back, no hesitation, because He is the only One who can handle the mess I’ve made?

Yes, He’ll be disappointed.

Yes, He’ll be sad.

But what hurts His Father-heart most of all is when we trust in ourselves, trust in others, trust in programs, trust in Google searches and advice columns and friends and substances and self-help books, but we don’t trust Him.

The Israelites in that wilderness fretted over destination, clothing, enemies, food, water.  They whined.  They strategized.  They rebelled.  They wheeled and dealed.

The Psalmist writes

they did not believe God
    or trust him to care for them (Psalm 78:22 NLT).

Troubles rose up, maybe even just minor annoyances like dietary preferences, and they never did just learn to run to God right away.

He was angry.  The Psalm says, “When the Lord heard them, he was furious” (Psalm 78:21 NLT).

BUT

He still loved them.  And even when they abandoned Him time after relentless time, He always stayed faithful.

God’s love for them, His love for us, isn’t feeling love, temporary love, conditional love.  The Hebrew word that Scripture uses over and over is “Chesed”—it’s the loyal, steadfast, covenant mercy and love God has for His people.

They didn’t trust Him, didn’t bring their troubles to Him and they messed it up over and over and over, but He still went on caring for them abundantly, miraculously, faithfully.

He rained down manna for them to eat;
    he gave them bread from heaven.
They ate the food of angels!
    God gave them all they could hold. Psalm 78:24-25

He rained down meat as thick as dust—
    birds as plentiful as the sand on the seashore!  Psalm 78:27

So, I rest there with my daughter, my arms wrapped all the way around her and I say it one last time:

Come to me.  Do not hide away or lie or run.  Bring it all to me.

And I hear God rustling the leaves in my life, calling to me just as He did Adam and Eve, asking me to trust Him enough to bring everything, bring the sin, the mess, the worry, the fear, the troubles big and small, bring it all to Him.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Ask Me Anything: No More Hiding in Shame

Welcome to the first “Ask Me Anything Friday!”

For the next few weeks, I’ll be posting short excepts from my book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Lives to God’s Questions, as we prepare for the book release in November.

For more information about the book release, you can click here.

I hope you enjoy these glimpses into the study on the questions God asked in Scripture and what happens when we allow God to search our own hearts and draw us closer to Him.

~heather~

*******************************************************************************************************************

God asked them a question.

Adam and Eve sinned that first sin in the Garden of Eden and they impulsively hid.

That’s when they heard God’s steps as He searched for them and they heard Him ask that one simple question:

“Where are you?”

“At least some part of them probably wanted to remain silent and continue cowering among the leaves as long as possible. They had wandered away from God’s side, choosing sin over ask-me-anything-lord_kdinnocence, and then when their eyes were opened, they were so filled with shame that they hid from God.

It’s no different than my daughter when she is in trouble. When Momma discovers her disobedience, she’s sad.  She cries a bit at punishment and feels remorseful.

The ultimate pain for her, though, is if Momma tells Daddy what she did. It’s not because Daddy is going to punish her again. She’s already received discipline from me. She just so desperately wants to hide away her sin from him because she’s ashamed of it and knows he will be disappointed.

Shame is so destructive. It builds up walls in our relationships, preventing us from experiencing the freedom of vulnerability and intimacy. Adam and Eve were burdened by shame and they couldn’t even stand face to face with God, even the God who created them and loved them.

Yet, it is grace that counteracts shame in our lives…

This is a grace that Adam and Eve had not yet experienced as they stood among the foliage in the garden, hiding their faces in shame. There had been no sin in that paradise and therefore no need for grace. They didn’t know that while there are consequences for sin, there is also forgiveness available.

It’s a grace I struggle at times to comprehend and feel even though I’ve seen and experienced a life overflowing with God’s grace. I fall easily into works-based living, expecting perfection and achieving failure. I see the stains of sin on my heart and even when they are washed away, I still feel dirty, unusable and bound for the trashcan sometimes.

I struggle with a prison of self-condemnation. Long after I’ve repented and sought forgiveness, I feel the heaviness of guilt—no, shame really. It’s a prison of thoughts—“You’re unworthy.  God can’t use you. You fail, all the time you fail, same sins all the time.”

Shame imprisons us and hides us away from God. We feel unworthy of His attention and beyond salvation. That’s why Adam and Eve covered themselves in palm leaves and stood still with hushed breaths as God came walking in the garden. They were paralyzed by the shame of what they had done. It probably seemed as if there was no hope of restoration.

That is what we feel sometimes, too, but this is what we can know:

  • “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).
  • ” Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7, NIV).
  • “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.  For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12, NKJV)
  • “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, NKJV).

Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, God purposed to send His Son, Jesus, to die for all our sins so that we could be cleansed, thoroughly washed clean, all sin stains removed. 

Why?

So that our relationship with Him—the relationship broken by that initial sin in the Garden of Eden and then re-broken over and over again in our disobedient lives—-could be restored.

He “reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18, NKJV).

That was a plan enacted by God in immediate response to Adam and Eve’s sin. They and all their descendants were not beyond His reach, even with sin so ugly and shame so heavy that it interrupted their relationship with Him.

God’s grace produces reconciliation. 

Satan’s accusations—even long after we’ve repented—bow us low to the ground with shame. We become burdened with sins already forgiven and are unable to look up into God’s face any longer. We can’t walk in relationship with our Savior when we are too ashamed to match His gaze.

So, like Adam and Eve, sometimes we hide from God rather than respond to His call.

Yet, God whispers the searching question to our shame-filled hearts, “Where are you?”

He wants us to return to His side and resume our intimate walks with Him through life, to converse, to share, to listen and respond, but first He must meet us where we are and then heal the heart paralyzed by shame.

Taken from Ask Me Anything, Lord,© 2013 by Heather King. Used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 49501. All rights reserved. www.dhp.org.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Catching Fireflies on a Summer’s Night

For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
Romans 6:7

It’s what summer looks like to me.

Stepping out into the slightest hint of coolness in the final minutes of a hot summer’s day, we carry an empty Mason jar with a foil lid folded down over the edges of the glass.  The sun drifts down and the light dims so that we can see the fireflies at play.

Last night, I called them “lightning bugs” like we did as kids, and my daughter scrunched up her nose in confusion.

Lightning bugs.  Fireflies.  It’s the freedom of summer.  We stay up past bedtime and run around the yard swinging our arms and cupping our hands trying to catch one.  Unfortunately, I think we’ve scared off the fireflies in our particular area.  They hear us coming and taunt us by flying just a little too high and just a little too far into the woods.

Still, we manage to catch a few.  For those daughters who don’t succeed in the hunt, we gently ease a bug into their hand and they giggle because it tickles, of course.  Then we drop the firefly softly into the Mason jar and deftly replace the foil lid so none escape.

On TV, whenever you see a jar of fireflies, it’s lit up, a natural lantern for the evening jaunt.

But I haven’t seen this.  Last night as I watched the few captives in our jar, they remained dark.  They didn’t expend any energy for light.  Instead, their every effort remained focused on escape.  Most of them immediately scaled the jar and sat at the top, right up against the foil, just waiting for me to open the lid again so they could fly to freedom.

Usually, we manage to defeat their various tactics and keep them in the jar until the end of the night when one daughter whines because she didn’t catch one and another daughter begs to catch just one more.  Then they all ask if we can just keep them overnight or for an hour or just a few minutes.

Pleeeeease?   Pretty please?

But I’m sympathetic to the plight of our captives.  So, before we trudge inside we lift up the foil lid and let loose the fireflies.  They jump into the air and without hesitation light up—probably sending out a warning that predators are on the move.

Whatever their message, freedom helps them shine.

Their freedom comes at little cost to them really.  They’ve made attempts at escape, but most have failed.  Ultimately, their freedom flight simply requires me to lift the foil beneath my fingers.

Our freedom, however, is costly.  Physically, most of us receive the gift of freedom because of the sacrifice of others.  I read this week that Thornton Wilder, the famed American playwright and novelist, fought in both WWI and WWII.  People like him paid the price for people like us.

In the same way, our spiritual freedom carries a high price tag, one we could never pay.  Instead, we are the recipient of freedom because of another’s sacrifice.

Paul tells us:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Freedom is God’s design for us.  It has always been His intention and plan and Christ willingly paid the costly price on our behalf.

A girl in my online Bible study group reminded me of this verse:  “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38 ESV).

Jesus is a freedom-giver, a defeater of oppression and freer of captives.

But Paul charges us with a task, as well. Christ offered us freedom and now it is our job to “stand firm” and refuse to submit to slavery again.

It seems silly, but we often choose prison over the freedom Christ offers.  We sit in the bottom of our Mason jar, unwilling to fly and light up the night.  Perhaps we want to do it on our own, scale the glass, escape the lid.  Perhaps the night air is too frightening and the jar too comfortable because it’s what we know.

Do you do this?

If anxiety is your jail, do you rebuild the prison walls by wallowing in fear, allowing your mind to travel where it shouldn’t, looking up information that you know will disturb you, inciting emotions and then letting them run wild?

When the rigors of legalism and the chains of people-pleasing threaten to oppress you, do you submit–check the boxes, follow the crowd, follow expectations, try not to rock the boat, don’t do anything crazy or radical?

If shame holds you captive, do you allow Satan to throw your past in your face, to call you names, to cover your eyes so you can’t see the totally loved, totally forgiven person Christ has made you?

God never meant for you to live oppressed. 
So, now that He’s offered you freedom . . . live free by living in truth (John 8:32).

Combat lies with the Word.
Feed on a diet of Scripture so that doubts and Satan’s schemes starve.
Be alert to the first sign of shackles and chains as Satan, the world, and even your old habits try to sneak them onto your wrists and feet.

Freedom is Christ’s gift to you, so refuse to accept captivity any longer.  He’s called you to shine and to fly and to share the message of sweet, sweet freedom with other prisoners.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Weekend Walk, 06/16/2012: Happy Father’s Day

Hiding the Word:

Happy Father’s Day weekend!

One of the things my husband and I have learned (and perhaps are still learning) in this whole parenting life is that each of our daughters is a unique original.  Her gifts, talents and weaknesses don’t mimic her sisters’.

They don’t respond to the same discipline strategies either.

With our youngest, we’ve discovered that even the slightest remonstrance, a serious look and the word no, can catapult her into deep sobs.  She’s just that sensitive.

The other night, she was perky and giggly at bedtime instead of the tired and obedient toddler we’d prefer to see at 8:00 or 9:00 or even 9:30 at night.  Even her older sisters complained.

My husband called her out of the room and she emerged with a sheepish grin.  He looked her in the eye and practically whispered the words, “It’s time to sleep.  You need to go into your bed quietly. No more playing around or talking.”

She bawled.  It was perhaps the most tragically despairing cry I’ve ever heard.  So, he scooped her up and hugged her, stroked her hair and promised that he loved her, but that she needed to obey. Slowly, she progressed from sobs to sniffles to calm and toddled off to her bed . . . laid down quietly . . . and went to sleep.

Aren’t you thankful that God our Father has compassion on us, knowing exactly the grace, the guidance, the blessing, the provision, and the discipline we need?

Here’s a Father’s Day verse to meditate on this week that reminds us of God our Father’s abounding love for us:

‘As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13 NIV)

Weekend Rerun:

The Writing on The Wall
Originally posted on October 5, 2011

 ”There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake”
(Ecclesiastes 7:20, Good News Translation).

My two-year-old created a masterpiece with a purple marker and a piece of paper.

Then she made a masterpiece on my kitchen wall.

I caught her standing back to admire her mural, giggling with pride.

Walking her back to the paper, I reminded her where art belongs without yelling or even raising the volume of my voice a decibel.  She took one look at my stern face, listened to my firm “no” and burst into truly remorseful tears.

I scooped her up to hold her, but she ran out of the room and I found her lying face down on a pillow, pouring out heavy sobs of brokenness.

All because she had made a mistake and done something wrong.  All because she wasn’t perfect and because I had to correct her.

Surely we all can shrug our shoulders and say, “We all make mistakes sometimes.”  Some of us can even get theological about it and quote “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

But then there is that moment when you need grace because it’s not “all” who sinned or “all” who made a mistake.

It’s you.

It’s me.

Please don’t tell me you missed that part of the blog where you discover I’m not perfect.  The part where I sin.  The part where I have a bad attitude sometimes.  The part where I make silly mistakes and stupid decisions and act like I’m in an I Love Lucy episode.

And every time I’m the one in need of grace, I react like my two-year-old—-run away, bury my face and sob.

Grace sounds so wonderful when you’re explaining it to someone else or extending it to another. But when you are the one who needs grace, oh, how painful it is sometimes

Grace addresses sin.  Forgiveness always requires a wrong.  Erasing always requires a mistake.  Strength always highlights weakness just like perfection always reveals imperfection.

Admitting that we need a Savior requires personalizing the message of redemptive grace.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Good News Translation).

So, that means we’re doomed to imperfection sometimes?  Guaranteed to need forgiveness?  Certain of mistakes and assured of being wrong occasionally (or often)?

Yup, that’s us.  That’s you.  That’s me.

So, when we mess up, we can engage in the horrors of self-condemnation.  We can become weighed down by shame and guilt—

that we are a mess
that we’re stupid
that we’re an idiot
that we never do anything right
that we deserve whatever punishment we get
that God can’t ever use someone so broken

Or we can accept the gift extended to us by a God who specializes in forgiveness. As Emerson Eggerichs wrote, “Mistakes can’t be undone, but they can be forgiven.”

But how do we move on after a mistake?  How do we walk humbly, yet not live paralyzed by shame?  How do we serve gratefully rather than withdraw altogether, unworthy as we are? How do we let the past shape us and not destroy us?

David experienced this same struggle.  He was a godly king turned adulterer and murderer.  Faced with the magnitude of his sin, still he continued serving on the throne of Israel, still he wrote Psalms of praise to God.

It wasn’t easy.  In Psalm 51:3, he says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”

But David acknowledged the need for grace, accepted forgiveness and moved forward in joy.

He brought to God the only acceptable sacrifice: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

God doesn’t desire our brokenness because He rejoices in our shame or needs our degradation.  He wants us to remember that He is God, not us.

We can begin to feel perfect, strong, capable, worthy in our own strength. But if we really are all those things, then who needs grace?  Who needs a savior?  Our worship and ministry can become tainted with self-exaltation. It becomes all about us and not at all about Him.

But when we accept grace, we acknowledge that we’re never worthy, not now, not ever.  Thomas Merton said,

“God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God’s likeness.  And to laugh, after all, at the preposterous ideas of ‘worthiness.’ ~Thomas Merton~

Yes, we advance in His love.

We don’t need to be shamed by our sin, by our foolishness, by our scattered-brains and accident-prone clumsiness.  We should be humbled.  We are reminded that even though we are not perfect; He is.  Though we are not good enough; He is always sufficient.  Even though we are never worthy, He is worthy of all our praise.

And so we ask Him to forgive us.  We accept His grace.  And then we, like David, ask him to help us move on.

David prayed:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.   Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you”
(Psalm 51:10-13).

We pray this as well.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

There’ll Be A Scar

The doctor said there will be a scar.

I stood over my two-year-old as she laid on the hospital bed in the emergency room, cradling her hand in mine and gently stroking her blood-soaked hair.

More than two hours before, she had been tucked in her bed when she felt inspired to climb into the crib on her own.  We heard the thud and then her cry.  Then we heard the cries of the older girls who were certain they “saw her brains coming out” and were afraid “she was going to die.”

My husband and I scooped up my baby girl, threw on her jacket and snatched up her shoes.  Pressing a rag to her head to cover the gash and to stop the bleeding, my husband snuggled her close as he carried her to the van for our ride to the emergency room.

And I prayed.

Sometimes when you’re in that place of adrenaline and potential bad news, fear, and love for your child, you can’t pray much more than the name of Jesus.  I’m thankful that’s enough.

In the emergency room we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited some more.  By a true miracle, my two-year-old played happily for two-and-a-half hours without one single tear, entertained only by the items I happened to have in my purse.  Two crayons.  Three miniature My Little Ponies.  Two children’s books.  A sheet of stickers.

When we saw the doctor, I confessed that I’d never had a child receive stitches for anything.  So, he cleaned out the gash in her forehead, probed it and kind of hmmmed and sighed for a few minutes.  Then he announced, “There’ll be a scar no matter what.  But in order to avoid a needle and anesthetic for her and to keep you from passing out, let’s try glue instead of stitches.”

That sounded good to me.

When I told her the story, my friend said, “Who doesn’t have a scar with a story from their childhood??”

I’ve been thinking about this all week, every time I peek under the Band-Aid and examine the line of dark red across my baby’s face.  Don’t we all have scars?  Not just from childhood, but we bear the wounds of hurtful words from a supposed friend, the betrayal of someone who said they loved you, the embarrassments from long ago, and the pain over last week’s mistake.

Jesus chose, following His resurrection, to keep His scars.  He was healed and restored to life, but when He extended His hands, the palms still bore the signs of what He did for us.  This didn’t just give a basis for the disciples’ faith, but “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:19-20). 

His scars are our source of peace.  His hands upturned remind us that our healing, our forgiveness, our deliverance, our freedom, our redemption, our eternity are all part of the peace He gave us through His sacrifice.

Isaiah tells us:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus’ scars are a reminder of what He has done and that gives us peace.

Our scars can do the same.  Oh, I don’t mean we cling to burdens, shame, guilt, hurts, and fears, refusing to lay them down at the cross and remaining forever imprisoned by the stories of our past.

Scripture is clear.

God forgives us.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

God heals our broken hearts.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1)

God sets us free.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1)

God doesn’t hold our past against us.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

We are washed clean, made new, redeemed and set free because of the scars Christ bore on our behalf.

Yet, the experiences that He brought us through, all of the times He carried us, and the moments when we stumbled, aren’t times we completely forget.  They are, instead, seasons of transformation in our lives.  He uses each trial and mistake to change our hearts and draw us closer to Him.

The scars we bear from those times of difficulty and growth are our testimony to others.  We can point to our own scabs and gashes and say, “Look what God has done in me.  He brought me through this.”  We are walking reminders of His mercy, standing testaments to His grace, and an ever-present sign of His peace among the hurting, the broken, and the oppressed.

And it’s not despite our scars; it’s because of them.  That’s why Peter, after experiencing the pain of rejecting Christ, became the apostle who argued so passionately for humility.

That’s why Paul, knowing that he had been a murderer and a persecutor of Christians in the past, became the apostle best known for defending grace.

Their scars became part of their testimony and pointed to Christ.

Years ago, I stumbled upon what became one of my favorite songs, Point of Grace’s Heal the Wound.  I hope it blesses you as it did me!

You can click on the video from the blog in order to listen or follow the link here: http://youtu.be/KjnCxvH4Q3w

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.