Christian, church, Encouragement, God, gospel, grace, Jesus, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Afraid of grace

I’ve been afraid of grace before. Mostly afraid that it was just too good to be true. Afraid it was for others who hadn’t made so many messes in life, but not for me. It took me a long time to get it but I finally did. Grace is mine. As mind-blowing as it is, the unrelenting favor of God rests on my life. Forever.

Jesus did that.

For me. For you. (If you haven’t yet done so, just say “yes” and take it!)

But that’s not really where I’m going with this today. I’ve been thinking about how hard it is for us to give grace sometimes. This is where we are often still afraid. Afraid that if we give undeserved favor to someone who’s messed up it will be wrongly interpreted. Afraid that it will appear we approve of sin. Afraid that our love and compassion toward someone suffering the consequences of their own actions will make light of the sin that caused it all.

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I’ve been thinking about the law and it’s purpose: to alter behaviors. That was the design and intent of the Old Testament law and all the many additional laws the religious leaders attached to the original list. The laws established through governments and nations are designed for the same thing – to give permission for behaviors/actions or to prevent them; important guidelines for civility among the masses.

But the law can’t change hearts.

If our outrage at sin has it’s roots in the demands of the law, biblical or the natural world rule of law, and that is our argument to try to affect change in our world, at best we can expect a few to change behaviors because we made them feel guilty. A temporary change. No doubt the presence of horrid sin in our world grips our hearts and often leaves us feeling helpless to do anything about it. And yes, it’s important that we participate in the things we can do to make our laws better. But they will still never be able to change hearts.

Jesus does that.

Passionately believing in the high standards Jesus laid out for behaviors and loving the worst-of-the-worst sinner are not contradictory actions. But we react as if we must choose one or the other. Rather than speak the truth in love we blast them with the law and hope they change behavior. And even if we manage to redirect a sinner from a particular wrong action by our accusations, it’s not enough. The heart remains unchanged.

For the remarkable, undeserved grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It (the grace of God) teaches us to reject ungodliness and worldly, immoral desires, and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives (lives with a purpose that reflect spiritual maturity) in this present age…  Titus 2:11-12

Truth. Truth is to be shared. The truth that the consequence of sin, ALL sin, is eternal death. The truth that sin leads to suffering. The truth that Jesus came to save us from the bondage of sin. ALL sin. But if we can’t share these truths from a heart of love for the very one who is bound in sin, we have missed the mark ourselves. We have sinned.

To be a loving speaker of truth is the goal. This requires the dying of self. Every. Single. Time. It’s not about my opinions. It’s not about my emotions. It is about obedience. It is when we take the magnificent grace given to us through Jesus and turn and give that very same grace to another that hearts are softened and they can find Him.

He’s the one who does the work of changing hearts. We can relax in that and remember that the greater joy is in the giving, not receiving. Give grace. Every. Single. Time.

“Afraid of grace” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photo from https://conquerlife.net

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Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, love, peace, prayer, retreat, righteousness, sorrow, Spiritual, tears, trials, Uncategorized

There are victories to be won

 

heart of hands

Where do I begin? The events of the last two weeks have rocked our world again. Emotions have driven hasty words, hurtful words, divisive words, all in a desperate attempt to cast blame because surely if we can point a finger at the culprits we will feel better. We will feel as if we have affected change. But is that the kind of change we really want? To step into the battle blindly believing that anger will stop anger, hate will stop hate?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

 We have been called to a maturity that requires we lay down our opinions and surrender our emotions to the One Who has called us to greater love. Loving our enemies wasn’t a suggestion. It was an expectation that if we call ourselves His children this would be how we show it to be true. This would be the only way we turn the hearts of our enemies – overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

“But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:43, 48

The emotions are raw and intense and conflicting and disturbing. Anger and frustration and sorrow and grief. And fear. FEAR. All whirling so violently in our souls that it seems they cannot, should not be contained. To feel so passionately about injustice surely must be the indication that we speak, no, SHOUT our views and if we shout loudly enough surely we will feel better. Surely someone will listen. Surely the madness will stop. Surely once released our souls will be quieted.

But this is the moment we must stop and turn the fierceness of those emotions into passionate prayer. We must retreat into the secret place wanting only what HE wants, saying only what HE says, doing ONLY what He says to do for everything else will be wood, hay, and stubble. It will not endure. It will not affect real change. It will not win the lost. And that remains our mission – to be led by His Spirit to be His heart, His hands, and His feet that take His love to EVERYONE.

He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty – Whose power no foe can withstand.  Psalm 91:1

Does it mean we don’t have good conversations in order to find understanding and work toward unity? Absolutely not! But good conversations rarely begin with verbal assaults or fingers pointed in blame. 

Should we protest? Should we post on social media? Should we bare our heartbreak through videos? Should we sit silent? These are questions that can only be answered in each and every Christian’s secret place with God. Will He lead us all to do the same thing? No. We each have a role to play in representing Him to the world and once committed to the pursuit of our individual purposes we can no longer play the comparison game amongst ourselves. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is where we find the peace Jesus died to give us and nothing can take it away. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is the first of the victories to be won.

We must stand for those oppressed. ALL who are oppressed. We do not choose sides. We do not take it upon ourselves to deem one worthy of His love and mercy and another condemned without hope. That is not our call. Our call is to obey. Whatever He says. No matter what anyone else thinks or says.

But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.  Psalm 9:7-10 

As I pray for the angry and the violent, the grieving and the lost, and for His children to be His shelter for these the oppressed, I pray for you “Peace”. Not as the world gives but as Jesus gives. For we simply cannot give away what we do not have.

There are victories to be won” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photo by Just Wild About Teaching

 

Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, Jesus, love, Spiritual, Uncategorized

When you hear my story

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When you hear my story will you love me?  Will you look through eyes of mercy and give of your richest treasure?  Will you offer a kind word and a soft touch?  

When you hear my story will you judge me?  Will you withdraw in disapproval as my sins are laid bare?  Will you weigh and measure my failures and find me unworthy of your love?

When you hear my story will you see me?  Will you look deeper than my choices and experiences and see that I am more than the sum of those?  

When you hear my story will you walk with me?  Will you stay by my side as I continue this journey?  Will you step with me into uncertainty until the certain is found?

When you hear my story will you discover that you know me?  Will you throw off your pretense and find that deep within we are very much alike?

When you hear my story will you tell me yours?  Will you take advantage of my vulnerability – for good – and trust me with your joys and sorrows, victories and defeats?

When you hear my story will you find Him?  Will you hear His words of love and mercy and grace and favor spoken to you just as He spoke them to me when my life was anything but perfect? Will you see Him more than me?

When you hear my story will you love me?

It was the day to give my testimony at the end of a five-week study.  I know how important our individual stories are and I thought I was ready.  Until I began the drive to the church.  God began to speak to me about the things He wanted me to share and the tears began to flow.  My story isn’t tragic or extreme as compared to so many who have suffered greatly.  But it is marked with bad choices, difficult inward struggles, and deeper sorrow than I had ever believed possible.

My heart was so tender that particular morning that my first instinct was to guard it.  From what?  I would be speaking to ladies I’ve known all my life, a few I’ve known for many years, and those I had met only through this study.  What was I afraid of?  What we are all afraid of in the natural – what will they think of me?  If they really get to know me will they still love me?  It is the question that so often prevents our stories from ever being heard.

I knew I couldn’t resist His leading, for what would be the point?  I knew that once I opened my mouth these things would pour forth hindered only by feeble efforts to control the tears.  And so I told my story.

It was frightening and liberating and exhausting all at the same time.  I realized on the drive home that I had told them something I had never spoken to another human being.  And it was in this moment that I found new freedom.  We so often fear the vulnerability that is the pathway to the very peace we seek.  But He is there.  In the raw exposure of our lives He is evermore our Healer and our Comfort.

He may never ask you to share your story in a crowd.  But I daresay the very mission of Christ involves us telling our stories to others, be it one at the time or in groups.  Your story is someone’s answer.  Someone needs to hear how you found Him in your darkest times.  Someone needs to hear that the very Grace that has lifted you is calling to them.  Someone needs the love and mercy you have to give because you have a story that matters in this grand plan of God.

Let’s be sensitive to His leading when He says “Go and tell”.  Will they love you when they hear your story?  Some will, some won’t. But that’s not the basis on which we decide to speak because telling our story isn’t really about us.  It’s about Him.

 

When you hear my story” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

Bible, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Jesus, love, righteousness, Spiritual, Uncategorized

You had ONE job…

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I had a visit with my sister last night and we talked of many things.  But we talked the most about our faith and how it has grown and evolved through the years, both of us having spent our lives very actively engaged in the church.  We’ve heard multitudes of sermons, attended countless bible studies, taught an abundance of classes, and written thousands of notes on all that we have learned.  We’ve gotten some of it right and some of it wrong and have no intentions of ever relenting in our pursuit of more of Him.  But as we talk and share where we are right now and where He is leading us, we are finding that many things we think we’ve learned have become less and less important.

Perhaps important isn’t the best word.  Perhaps it is better said that much of the knowledge we possess (or think we possess) is no longer at the top of the list of what fuels our desire for Him.  This life as a Jesus-follower is becoming clearer every day and with that clarity an uncomfortable simplicity.  No matter which way our discussion took us last night, we continually came back to the same place.  We have been given one job:  LOVE.  It is to be the root and foundation of every thought and action of our lives.

If our “one job” were visible in picture form, what would it look like??

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This last one would be funny no matter what the fortune turned out to be, but really…?  While the cookie is intact and the little slip of paper is very neatly packaged with it, it is in truth not a job well done.  Does it matter?  You still get a cookie and a fortune, right?  Ask the manufacturer.  It matters.

Are we so busy in the work of Christianity that we’ve missed the point? Does it matter if we dole out our brand of compromised Christian love, giving it only to those who are willing to be neatly packaged with us conforming to our ideas of right and wrong?  Does it matter if we rail (publicly or privately) against the sinner through our fears that their lifestyle will taint our comfortable world?  Does it matter that we drive by the homeless without a thought, much less an action?  Does it matter what we say and do toward those who are unrepentant and even antagonistic toward us, His children?  Let’s ask our Maker…

But I say to you who are listening now to Me:  make it a practice to love your enemies, treat well – do good to, act nobly toward – those who detest you and pursue you with hatred.  Invoke blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you, implore God’s blessing and favor upon those who abuse you – who revile, reproach, disparage, and high-handedly misuse you.  To the one who strikes you on the jaw or cheek, offer the other jaw or cheek also; and from him who takes away your outer garment, do not withhold your undergarment as well.  Give away to everyone who begs of you…

If you merely love those who love you, what quality of credit and thanks is that to you?…But love your enemies and be kind and do good – doing favors so that someone derives benefit from them – and lend, expecting and hoping for nothing in return but considering nothing as lost and despairing of no one; and then your recompense will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind and charitable and good to the ungrateful and the selfish and wicked.  So be merciful – sympathetic, tender, responsive and compassionate – even as your Father is all of these.

Make no mistake:  simple and easy are not the same thing.  The command is simple:  lacking complexity, not hard to understand, and not having many parts.  Love God, love others like He does.  This simple instruction, however, is hard in the “doing”.  It is not easy.  It is not comfortable.  It is not without difficulty or pain. To fulfill this command is to put our own opinions and feelings to death.  It is to allow ourselves to be emptied of ourselves and filled with Him.  Loving as He loved.  Unconditionally.  Extravagantly.  To the extreme.

It is the evidence to the world that He exists, that we are His, and that His extravagant love can bring to them healing and hope and forgiveness and eternal life.

He who does not love has not become acquainted with God – does not and never did know Him – for God is love.

We have been given one job.  Let’s do it well.  The greatest blessings come in doing life His way.  In the end it will not be the hours we’ve sat through sermons or the volumes of study notes we’ve accumulated that matter.  What will stand for all eternity is that we accepted the lavish love He has given and allowed ourselves to be vessels that spilled that love onto everyone we encountered.

“You had one job.”  It will be worth it all to hear Him say “Well done.”

Matthew 5 & 25, Luke 6, and 1 John 4

You had ONE job…” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Bible, children, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, Jesus, love, prayer, Spiritual, trials

In her shoes

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I caught her eyes several times during the service.  She struggled to listen as she was surrounded by her four children and the activity that invariably ensues when two or more children are in close proximity.  The chapel is simply the dining area with most of the tables removed and only chairs in their place.  She sat at the back with the other mothers of busy children, concerned that they were a distraction but longing to hear anything that might expose a glimmer of hope.

Their faces are like open doors giving a glimpse into their hearts.  I can see some are simply there because it is a place to rest in the air conditioning, a break from the routines of responsibilities they don’t want to do in a place they don’t want to be.  They are disinterestedly polite.  Some smile and nod in agreement as my words confirm what they already know.  Others are so tired from the physical and emotional demands of the day that they nod in a different fashion.  Anger and frustration burn in the eyes of a few as there is no longer a pretense that they are fine even when they come to church.  Especially when they come to church.

She was the farthest from me but it’s as if I can see in her face a silent plea. “I’m hungry!  Feed me something that will last until tomorrow!  Give me more than empty platitudes and churchy phrases!  Please make it real.”  Across the room expressions without words reveal she is not alone in her desire.

Does she know that I see her?  Does she see in my eyes that she matters?  As I look from face to face I pray that the women who sit before me know they are seen.  I haven’t walked in their shoes on the paths they have traveled, but I see these, my fellow Egypt-wanderers.  I have no stones to throw.  We’ve traveled paths we never planned and feared we would never find our way home.  We’ve found our feet unable to move through the muck and mire of our own selfish choices.  We’ve fallen under the burden of someone else’s choices.  We’ve choked in the grips of trouble, desperate to believe there is more than this.  More to life than the struggle.  More to church than a list of do’s and don’ts and the fear of going to hell.  More to God than children’s stories and greeting card verses.

Can she hear me?  Can she fathom the depths of the Love offered her this night?  Can she imagine a life of freedom purchased through Grace where no condemnation speaks?  Can she believe the stirring in her soul is His voice compelling her to come to Him just as she is, loved and accepted?  Can she find the Hope that is her future?

I watch as she walks toward me.  She is tall and beautiful and tired and ready.  Ready to reach out to a stranger who has not walked in her shoes but will take her hand and perhaps point her toward the way out of Egypt.  We pray and hug.  She takes a bible.  There is so much I want to say but there is no time.  We smile and say goodbye.  We will probably never meet again.

God, take me to a place in prayer for her where there is no hint of opinion or judgement, no arrogance that thinks I know what she needs, no pride that considers myself any different as you have delivered me out of my own Egypt-wandering.  Remind me as I pray that I haven’t walked in her shoes.

I am the Lord your God, Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. 

Psalm 81:10

In her shoes” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

 

Christian, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, Jesus, loss, love, righteousness, Spiritual, tears, trials, Uncategorized

She just doesn’t know it yet

He’s been watching her all her life.  He’s whispered to her time and time again but she didn’t hear.  He yearns to hold her and comfort her as she struggles.  It’s going to be all right, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She trembles with the fear of the unknown as her circumstances have stripped her of her identity.  She is strong, she just doesn’t know it yet.

The love that had been her foundation has been ripped away.  She yields to the new identity that presses in on her:  the unlovable.  She is immeasurably loved, she just doesn’t know it yet.

This roller coaster ride of choices makes her sick.  She hates herself because of her weakness.  His opinion of her remains unchanged, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Loneliness is her constant companion as no one wants on this ride with her.  She is not alone, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She goes through the motions of living while she entertains the thoughts of ending it all.  Her earthly life has eternal purpose, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Defeat hangs over her like a thick black cloud as she cannot go back and change the past.  Her knees buckle under the weight of the consequences.  She is redeemed, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She grasps to find hope in the words she reads and the messages she hears, but it seems she is grasping at air.  She is full of hope, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Her tears are constant from the pain of this deep, gaping wound from which she believes she will never recover.  She is healed, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She heard the words again today.  The same words she’s heard over and over, but this time something is different.  Can it really be true?  He loves her?  Something stirs inside her as she considers this possibility…something life-changing…

Her life is changing, she just doesn’t know it yet.

 

She just doesn’t know it yet” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Jesus, love, new creation, righteousness, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Newness

There is a certain pleasure that comes with new things – that new car smell, the look of a new outfit, the feel of crisp, untouched pages in a new book (a pleasure lost with e-books…).  We try to take excellent care of the new things we’ve obtained in the hopes that the newness will last longer.  But try as we might, the evidence of use appears more and more with each passing year.  Some things become more valuable simply because they have survived the decades and centuries intact.  Other things more personal are increased in heart-value with much use, like the tattered-edged quilt that my grandmother made for me. It was beautiful when it was new, but evermore beautiful to me now with its ragged edges and broken threads.

In a world where time leaves its mark and things age and become old and changed, we struggle to grasp the concept of newness that the resurrection secured for us.  We have been given a newness that doesn’t fade with time or become less valuable because of our imperfections.

We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, so we too might habitually live in newness of life.  Romans 5:4 

Paul writes further:  consider yourselves dead to sin…and alive to God – living in unbroken fellowship with Him – in Christ Jesus.  (v 11)

Consider:  to think about carefully; to take into account.  Paul was writing to those who had already chosen Christ and attempting to help them understand what change had taken place:  they had been made dead to sin and alive with Christ!  Consider it!  Think about it!  Take it into account!  Every moment of every day we have new life!  This body will show the wear and tear and age that time will bring, but this is only the outer shell that holds who we really are – new creatures.  When we sin and miss the mark we think we become damaged and broken, but our new natures remain unchanged and unmarred. He has washed us with the blood of the Lamb and we are beautiful in His sight.

This is how we truly honor His resurrection – by sharing in our own resurrection through His.  Taking what He’s purchased for us that will be ours for all eternity:  Newness of life with every breath.

 

Newness” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com