Life-Giving Grace

8 01 2015

“Hello, my name is (Name Your Failure Here).”

Ever felt that way? Believed it deep down? This is how I secretly ‘defined’ myself for years.

There’s good news for us:

Grace is radical!

I don’t think we even begin to comprehend the freedom we have because of this marvelous characteristic of God.

This shackle-cutting truth escaped my understanding, for sure. Thus, most of my life, I’ve lived from a position of “because of my failures, I am unlovable” and worked hard to earn Father’s love.

However, grace is not something we earn. It is a gift, freely given by God. (Ephesians 2:8-9). In fact, the very faith by which we believe in Jesus is a gift, and not something we “worked up” in order to become His.

Where my ignorance nearly became my undoing is in the area of failure.

Sometimes these were unexpected outcomes. I never saw it coming. For these I can believe there is grace.

However, sometimes the failure came as a result of premeditated sin. I chose to do the wrong thing. The end result was failure on many levels.

God didn’t “owe” me grace for my eyes-wide-open sin. I messed up. There were consequences, and I just had to buck up and get through life as best I could.

Is this the kind of life Jesus died to give me??

Reality check: When Jesus died, all my sins were yet future. Even those I have yet to commit. (Yes, because I am still breathing, I will continue to sin…even if it is confined to my thoughts. Um, so will you!) See Romans 5:8.


He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

While we were yet sinners!

What I discovered this last year is that I have been tolerating much in the name of “consequences” for my premeditated sin. There was no grace for this, in my mind. I did it. I deserved what I got as a result of my choices.

What did I do, then, with one of my cornerstone verses: I know the plans I have for you…plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope?

I had it figured out that, because of my poor choices, I would just have to “gut this out” for the rest of my life. My ‘hopeful future’ would now have to wait for heaven…and I longed for death so I could get there.

With enough effort on my part, once I arrived I wouldn’t be stuck as a shoe-shine girl on the corner of Celestial Avenue and Heavenly Way.

Underneath all of my “understanding” was seething hatred of a God who could be so harsh as to leave me where I was with a “Tut-tut! You should have chosen more wisely.”

I believed that God was withholding His promises from me because of my own stupidity.

I would tell you that God is good – but didn’t believe it for myself.  My private opinion of His character was that He was cruel and unloving.

How could He tell call Himself my loving Father – and yet demand that I live my life as a victim as a ‘consequence’?

I believed that due to my failures I was no longer worthy of anyone’s love. “This is your new normal. Deal with it.”

I believed that all I could expect from Him was ‘just enough’ to make it through life.

This, my friends, is what happens when we seek man’s concepts about God, grace, love, and all the rest – instead of asking God Himself. We can, and should, seek godly counsel; but don’t stop there. Take their words to the Lord and ask Him to reveal what is true and what is not (Acts 17:11).

Well-meaning spiritual counselors and advisers spoke Scripture into my situation…but I don’t think they stuck around to see how I processed what they said; what their words looked like after it went through my “God” filters.

I’ll bet they’d have been horrified.

Satan also used Scripture to try to derail Jesus. No doubt he continues this today. Since everything I ‘thought’ I heard turned out to be a lie…and the oldest lie in the Book (God is holding out on you), I know he was an active participant in how I understood what I was told.

Here’s what I know today:

My failure(s) did not create me; therefore, they cannot define me. Only God can tell me who I am…and He calls me “Beloved,” “Delightful,” and “Princess.” I am fully forgiven. {sigh of relief!}

Yesterday, I had to do a “Hard Thing.” (I’m loving Havilah’s study!) On the way back to my car, I sidestepped a large rock. When I glanced at it, I noticed that it was a heart!

(I have a mound of them. They are God’s special communique to me of His love.)

He was letting me know that I’d done well, and that He is proud of the steps I’m taking to walk in victory at last.

His grace is radically sufficient…for even me!

My Father loves me!

My Father loves me!

Through A Glass Darkly

27 11 2013

This week we’re looking at specific obstacles to intimacy with God. If this one’s out of whack, nothing else said here will matter. In fact, if this is your issue, call the heavenly “Roto-Rooter” asap, for this is a clog that will require the Spirit’s help!

“Wow, what could be such a big deal?” you’re asking.

Well, this is the granddaddy of them all:

A distorted image of God

A. W. Tozer stated that the most important thing about you is what you believe about God. To this I shout a hearty “Amen!”

If we believe Him to be a harsh taskmaster, we will do our best to “stay off His radar.”

If we believe Him to be cruel and whimsical, we will hide.

Intimacy is impossible if we believe God to be the ultimate abuser.

For some of us, God seems to be like our earthly father…and that is not a good thing.

(For others, God is like your earthly father – which makes you run to Him. I envy you!)

We all have a tendency to transfer our experience with our biological (adopted or step-) father onto our heavenly Father. For many, this leaves us with “father issues…” and this will be a major hindrance to our intimacy with God. In fact, some (like me) shudder at the idea of being within His arm’s reach.

Beth Moore once said,

“I knew that Jesus loved me

…but I wasn’t so sure about His Dad.”

That sums up my sentiments for most of my “Christian” life!

If this is the case, then it’s time to commit ourselves to the journey of allowing God to renew our vision of who He is. Transformation begins by having our thinking about God corrected.

How can we tell if this is a problem for us? If there are issues between us and our earthly father, pastor, or other authority figure (who’s in a “father-like” role), there’s a good chance that one occurs between God and us as well.

Here are a few truths about God:

In Luke 15, Jesus reveals the Father in the story of the prodigal. Note that when the son was still a long way off, his father – who’d been watching for his son – ran to meet him!

In Romans 8:1 we read that there is no condemnation to those who are “in Christ Jesus.”

In Romans 8:38 we read that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing (this would include you!) shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Even Jonah knew God’s character. Listen to his complaint after Nineveh repented and God spared the city:

“Lord, was this not what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish,

for I knew You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God that relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2)

Poor old Jonah hated the people of Nineveh. He wanted to see them wiped off the planet. The last thing he desired was to warn them, lest they repent and God spare their city…which is what happened.

Did you note the last bit of that verse? Jonah knew God’s character.

So can we!

If a faulty view of God is clogging up the works, admit it to God:

“I have father issues. I’m owning it and want to resolve it.”

He already knows. 😉

Ask God to reveal His true character to you…

…then stand by.

This request is “according to His will.”

The answer is “YES!”

I highly recommend these books (especially the first two):

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

The Return of the Prodigal Son Henri Nouwen

Into the Depths of God by Calvin Miller

God has a lot to say to us. Words that will bring healing and wholeness in ways we never dared dream. You can read about one of many such experiences I had with my Father in Who Defined You


You’ve dropped in on the series Intimacy with God. It begins here: C’mon In…

This week’s series is about obstacles to intimacy. It begins here: A Clogged Conduit