Growing in Grace

Woman praising and paraphrase of 1 Cor. 3:18

Imagine the peace and growth we’d experience if we truly learned to live in grace. If, instead of wallowing in self-condemnation, we moved forward in the hopeful anticipation birthed in intentional growth. Imagine if we viewed every failure, setback, and step forward through God’s eyes.

Growing in grace

By Matthew Romano

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Co 3:18, ESV).

“Beware of looking back at what you once were, when God wants you to become someone you’ve never been” – Oswald Chambers.

Before a sculptor begins shaping his masterpiece, he has a vision of what he wants to create. He begins with raw materials, such as a block of stone or marble. He starts chiseling the substance to mirror what he sees in his mind. As he crafts his vision, he’s not frustrated because it’s not yet completed. He takes joy in the work of his hands as art begins to take form and reflect the image he envisioned.

It is the same process for God.

God has a vision for us to become like Christ. In Him, He sees us as perfect, without spot or blemish in Christ. He is gradually molding and chiseling us to reflect His Son. He works on our hearts with joy and He’s not angry or upset throughout the process of our spiritual formation. Rather, He takes delight in doing the work that He knows will eventually be completed.

Unfortunately, we often fail to see ourselves as a work in progress. We tend to focus on our sins and imperfections. We cannot press forward we’re continually contemplating our present shortcomings, or reflecting on the pain of our past.

Perhaps we have listened to careless words spoken over us – and unknowingly embraced them. I remember one of my high school teachers yelling at me in front of the classroom, “You’re never going to amount to anything!” At the time, these words didn’t seem to bother me and I just laughed at him. But looking back in retrospect, a few months later I made the decision to drop out of school. If we take these words to heart they will begin to shape our self-image.

Words can create worlds for us. Every word we’ve digested internally has greatly impacted who we are today. That’s woman holding heart shaped snow and text pulled from postwhy it’s imperative to meditate on what the Lord says about us. When we welcome Jesus into our lives as Lord and Savior, He grants us not only forgiveness, but also the gift of a new identity. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Co 5:17, ESV).

As I focus on the goodness of the Lord and the words He’s spoken to me within the Bible, He transforms me to become what He created me to be. I may not be all God intends yet, but I know Him who creates beauty from what was once nothing. God is the potter and we are the clay (Jer 18:6). If we allow His hand to shape our lives, we’ll be led into a glorious destiny of purpose.

What must you put behind to become what you’ve never been?

Check out his book, The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation:

The atmosphere within the United States and most of the world is ripe for another great spiritual awakening. The current state of affairs is one of profound division, even within the church. The saints themselves have a difficult time distinguishing what is right and what is wrong because we have abandoned our first love and have embraced the love of the world.

In this season, the Lord exhorts His people to prepare themselves like a bride adorned for her husband and beckons the church to answer “The Call” toward revival that will spread like a holy fire in the hearts of many. Who will answer “The Call” to battle this present darkness with weapons of righteousness? Only when God’s own people are revived can we expect to see transformation in America and throughout the world.

The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation takes the reader on a journey of spiritual awakening alongside the author. Each chapter inspires the reader to answer “The Call” of God toward freedom, holiness, and purpose. This book will mentor people to hear the voice of God, think with the mind of Christ, be alert to the tactics of Satan, engage in spiritual warfare, learn to pray and meditate on the promises of God, and much more.

Buy it HERE.

Grab the study guide HERE.

Watch the trailer HERE.

Get to know Matthew!

Matthew J. Romano is an ordained deacon of Christ Church New Jersey. He has been walking with the Lord for over 25 years. His passion is sharing Christ with the lost and teaching believers to walk passionately with the Lord. He currently serves the body of Christ as a deacon, altar ministry to pray for the needs of God’s people, life group leader, guest teacher and speaker of the Word of God, and as a certified teacher in the School of Prayer. He is the author of The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation and The Call: A Study Guide to Revival and Transformation.

Find him online HERE.

Connect with him on Facebook HERE. 

Before you go, for those who are local and want to participate in the live teaching of Becoming His Princess Bible study, hosted this winter by Wildewood Christian Church (Papillion), registration is now open! To sign up, go HERE.

Grab your free e-copy HERE.

Grab your print copy HERE.

About the study:

Do you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? Does your confidence level vary based on who you’re around and how their bank account or how accomplishment list compares to yours? If so, this study, based on the life of Sarah from the Old Testament Scriptures, is for you.

For seven weeks, we’ll follow her uncertain and at times terrifying journey from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur to the land promised to her husband, and ultimately, the place of rest God beckons each of us toward. He met her in the middle of her pain, her shame, and all her striving, and rewrote her story—through grace. A grace bigger than her greatest failures and that proved sufficient for all her insufficiencies.Step by step, God taught this once-scorned woman to live as His beloved, His princess.

As we follow her journey recorded in the pages of Scripture, He’ll help us do the same. We’ll learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His power and presence in our most challenging circumstances, find rest from our striving, and live daily in His grace.

Won’t Be Defined

Photo by makunin taken from pixabay.com

Photo by makunin taken from pixabay.com

What if we viewed ourselves through God’s eyes? Imagine the peace we’d have. And what if, maintaining that vision, we then zeroed in on what He was calling us to do, and pursued that with everything within us.

What might we accomplish?

This is something God has been encouraging me to do. If we’re Facebook friends, you likely read my post this morning with the quote from Real Women Leading With Proverbs 31 Values (an awesome book!). I’ll post the quote I pulled from the book here:

Speaking of influencers, the author said, “They are driven to do something that matters. They seek God for what His call is on their lives, and they are focused on what He created them to be.

Focus. Unwavering. Obedient. Surrendered.

Todays post, by a sweet sister in Christ who is pursuing God’s call with everything within her, shares her journey from the beginning of a dream to full pursuit.

GIVE-AWAY ALERT! As a special bonus, Jessica is giving away 3 of her albums. Winners will be randomly selected from the comments and shipping is only available to those living in the continental US.

But first, I want to announce last week’s give-away winner. Jennifer Hallmark, congrats! You won a copy of Cherie Burbach’s latest release, 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends. I’ll message you shortly to chat about getting that to you.

Won’t Be Defined by Singer/Songwriter Jessica Angelique

“I won’t be defined by what other say. I won’t be confined. They won’t get in the way of God’s love and His perfect plan. I won’t be defined in His strength I’ll stand. I won’t be defined.”

-from the title track “Won’t Be Defined” on 14-year-old Jessica Angelique’s album “Won’t be Defined.”

When I was a young girl there was this inner joy inside of me that made me happy. I never could imagine my life without God. I always remember believing in God. In the years before I started school I had no trouble being defined by God and not what others said about me, even through challenges I faced.

I have an eye condition called Duane’s Syndrome and I have trouble seeing and reading. The good news is that it’s hardly noticed, but I still struggle even today to read, but I am overcoming it.

photo taken from freedigitalphotos.net by Ambro

photo taken from freedigitalphotos.net by Ambro

My first few years of school were challenging. I was in Dual Language spending half the day speaking English and the other half speaking Spanish. Halfway through third grade I went to a different school without Dual Language. At my new school, I was bullied at the young age of nine and I had no friends, no hope. I felt alone like an outcast. I was being me, and that wasn’t accepted.

In school you’re supposed to like sports and dance, but I loved to sing and instead took piano and guitar lessons.

When I went into fourth grade I moved schools again because of the extreme bullying. I left the school so I would never have to see that bully again.

I was the new kid again. I felt excluded, but not as bad as at the other school.

When I started middle school in fifth grade, it got a lot easier and I made friends. I felt like the same kid I was before I started school, remembering I’m defined by God and not by what others say. A huge bJessica Angeliqueurden was lifted. I did not have a care in the world– except math class.

I’ve always loved music and singing. When I was very young I would sing songs at the top of my lungs and my brother would scream at me to shut up, but I never did. I always knew I wanted to be a singer, like every other girl in my class. Instead of just daydreaming, I decided to do something about it.

I started doing talent shows and playing for family and friends. Participating in a national talent competition gave me the inspiration to do this for the rest of my life. One day I attended a Christian concert featuring Moriah Peters. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a Christian singer. I started in the Christian music field and I don’t think I could do anything else.

I was encouraged to write songs and then wrote enough to make an album. My dream became a reality. Your dream can too with God’s guidance and with the help of those who nudge you in the right direction.

If I didn’t know God, my life would be hopeless. I’ve just started, and I have a lot more to do to make a difference and inspire people to be defined by God, not by what others say. My goal is to inspire one person at a time, follow God, and see where He takes me.

Like Brandon Heath sings, “He’s not finished with me yet.”

Jessica Vogt_021
14 year old, Jessica Angelique has a God-given gift beyond her years to write music that helps others going through doubts and insecurities, inspiring people to love Jesus and love themselves.
Through her own struggles with bullying she wrote the title track to her debut album,”Won’t Be Defined,” telling the story of a young girl learning that God defines us, not what others say. It’s a story every Mom will want their daughter to embrace.

Visit her online HERE.

Let’s talk about this! First, for those of you who joined me at Reality Church’s Women’s Connection Weekend last weekend, hopefully,  you’ve been prayerfully asking livingbygracepic.jpGod to help you do as Jessica encourages, which is to allow God and God alone to define us. (For those who weren’t able to come, I may be posting all three main sessions online. I’ll let you know…)

In what ways have you allowed others to define you? What inner lies are you clinging to, regarding your identity, and what Scripture can you meditate on and pray to center your heart and mind in God’s truth? Are you pursuing God’s call on your life, and if so how? If not, what’s holding you back? Share your comments here below or on Living by Grace on Facebook.

 

Who Are You (Part II)

I get a kick out of watching my fourteen year old daughter hover between childhood and adulthood. As she matures, she experiments with clothing and hair styles, slang words, and all those other things inherent to the teenage years. We’ve had countless conversations about outfits, make-up, and jewelry, and have spent hours upon hours perusing clothing racks. Yes, her world revolves around clothes and hair right now.

Had I not spent so much time researching identity issues for a contemporary youth program I’m writing for Christ to the World Ministries, I may be tempted to think her behavior is selfish and shallow. Shouldn’t I be training her to look beyond those things? To focus on things more important? To an extent, perhaps, but I’ve learned to spend as much time trying to understand her heart as I do observing and trying to correct her behavior. Most often, there’s more going on than I first assume.

I’ve realized my daughter’s behavior really isn’t about clothes or hair. It’s about something much deeper. With every outfit, hair flip, and music choice, she’s trying to establish her identity. No easy trait considering how many changes she’s been through over the past three years. Puberty hits, and suddenly she finds herself staring at a stranger in the mirror. Friends change, and she needs to decide which group to “merge with”. She longs to belong but also needs to be unique, longs for closeness and security at home while fighting for independence.

Although most of us move past this developmental stage, I think we all struggle with our identity at times. As Donna Stone shared on Monday, sometimes we allow who we are to get tied up in what we do.

When that happens, it helps to remind ourselves of how God sees us. If you belong to Christ, He says:

You are dearly loved (Col. 3:12)

Redeemed (1 Cor 6:20)

A masterpiece (Eph. 2:10)

Christ’s friend (John 15:15)

God’s child (John 1:12)

Chosen and adopted (Eph 1:3-8)

Complete (Col. 2:9-10)

Secure (Rom. 8:11)

Are you feeling pulled in a million directions today? Like perhaps you don’t quite measure up? Spend a moment reflecting on these verses and ask God to show you how He sees you.

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about what it means to rest in who we are in Christ.

Remember Who You Belong To

In Paul’s letters to the early church, he always starts with an identity proclamation and often closes with a declaration of association.

In Romans and Philippians he is a slave of Christ. In 1 and II Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians he is chosen by God to be an apostle. In Galatians, he says, “I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ Himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead.”

Each time he penned a letter, this proclamation saturated his mind: I belong to God and am surrounded by a body of believers. This provided an emotional and moral compass with which to sift through the events of his day. No matter what he faced–no matter how painful, frightening, or traumatic, he belonged to God, the all-powerful Creator of the universe. What’s more, surrounded by a family of believers, he was never alone.

How might our day, our lives, look different, if we started each day with that core knowledge: I belong to Christ, the Creator of the universe, and I am not alone. And what if we allowed those thoughts–that core identity–to expel negative thinking that threatens to keep us in bondage.

If we belong to the God of hope, there is always hope.

If we belong to the sovereign God, our lives have purpose.

If we belong to the God of love, we are lovable.

God formed you. God sees you. God loves you. God surrounds you. God is with you. God is in you. God has adopted you and placed you in a family of believers.

Stop and think of the implications of each of those statements. What false identities need to be expelled in light of God’s truth?

On Saturday our daughter went to her first homecoming dance, and she brought a friend. Earlier in the day, I spent hours dolling our daughter up–curling her hair, painting her nails and toe nails, applying make-up. When I finished, she looked in the mirror and said, “I feel pretty.” My heart brimmed with joy, knowing she’d walk into that high school gym with her head held high.

On the way to the dance, we picked up one of her friends who struggles to see her worth. At school, she often hangs on the outskirts, never quite feeling part of the group. Although our daughter tries to usher her in, the girl’s core belief that she doesn’t belong keeps her standing on the outside. Even amidst a group of friends, she feels alone.

As we drove to the dance, I encouraged her to change her thinking–to expel the lies and grasp hold of truth, like Paul did when he wrote his letters.

Although she felt insignificant, she was a radiant child of the King, created anew in Christ Jesus.

Although she felt unlovable, Christ Himself died for her.

Although she felt like she didn’t belong–didn’t fit–she belonged to God and a family of believers united in Christ.

As we talked, and the truth of what I told her began to sink in, her chin raised a bit higher and a smile tugged on her lips.

When we picked the girls up three hours later, they clamored in the van all smiles and giggles. They’d had a wonderful time and that night as my daughter’s friend shared stories and pictures taken on her phone, I realized the girl who felt like she never measured up and never quite belonged, felt beautiful and accepted.

Again I ask, how might remembering who you belong to and who you’s standing beside you change the way you look at your day? And as you focus on your identity in Christ, what false thinking must you let go?