The Power of Living, Daily, in Grace

text pulled from quote and image of a woman gazing across the water.

Sometimes I want to tack sticky notes to my forehead declaring: I acted like a jerk today. Or, I chose fear instead of faith, or selfishness when God called me to give. Not because I enjoy self-degradation but because I encounter too many Christians who continue to live in guilt and shame. They praise God for His abundant grace but then live as if it’s been withheld. Worse, as if grace is somehow no longer needed, moral perfection was obtainable, and their failure to consistently live as Christ desires proves how worthless or insufficient they are.

If only they prayed more, or memorized more Scripture, or attended more Bible studies, then they’d live more like all their smiling, hymn-singing friends flooding their social media feeds. But all their striving leads to temporary behavior modification at best, leaving them feeling worse than before.

I think this hiding and self-condemnation, exists, in part, because we’ve given hurting, reactionary, flawed, and broken people power over us and our emotions. We’ve made their perceptions our standard instead of our relationship with Christ. As a result, we’ve traded the life-affirming growth of Christ for perfectionism.

Perfectionism paralyzes every time. It eventually drags us backward as we substitute time with our Savior, simply resting in His presence—no hiding, conniving, or striving— with checking off lists and following rules. As we do, our self-reliance grows, weakening our dependence on Jesus.

Our source of power, hope, and life.

And we wonder why we feel so defeated, exhausted, and consumed with guilt. For being unable, in our own strength, to demonstrate the power of grace.

A while back, while going through a particularly challenging time, a ministry team member confronted me regarding a series of behaviors. Some were inherent to my “dream-big-and-run-fast” personality, others from inexperience, and tangled between the two, lay my pride. In the past, that pride almost always initiated defensiveness and hiding, turning what should’ve been a growth opportunity into regret and yet another reason for shame.

Yet another reason for self-condemnation.

Only this time, that didn’t happen. Armed with a more robust understanding of grace, when I sensed a reaction rising, I mentally hit pause and reminded myself of what I knew to be true: That Jesus loved me, had died for me, forgiven me, and was growing me.

More than that, I reminded myself of grace and the simple fact that I needed it as much that day (and every day) as when I first trusted in Christ for salvation. My weaknesses were simply proof of what He and I already knew—that apart from Him I was (and am!) a hopeless mess!

Therefore, with the joy of my liberating Father welling within me, I was able to smile and say, “You’re right. I really stink at that, and here’s how God’s growing me in this area.”

That simple statement, “Your right,” defused her anger, my fear, and placed me exactly where I needed to be—in a position of dependency on Jesus.

That’s where strength, freedom, and life-change are found.

Image of a flower with text pulled from post“This is eternal life,” Jesus said, speaking of heaven but also of the here and now, that we would know, through an ever-deepening relationship with our Creator, God the Father and Jesus Christ, whom God sent. (John 17:3). To experience the abundant, thriving life Christ promised, we need to recognize how completely dead, apart from Him, we are.

And then determine to do something about it, not by working or trying harder but instead by connecting deeper.

Let’s talk about this! Are you living in grace? A great indication of this is how you respond to constructive feedback, failure, and personal weaknesses. If you find yourself getting defensive, that probably indicates you’re not consistently living in grace. Share your action steps, celebrations, examples, and prayer requests with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another.

Additional Resources:

 
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Love For a Felon

When I was a kid, while walking to and from school, I’d see signs showing which homes were “safe houses.” Should trouble ever arise, I knew where I could go. The welcome mat on these doorsteps meant exactly what it said.

Although safe houses still exist, it seems many have been replaced by no trespassing signs as we isolate ourselves further and further from one another. But as followers of Christ, I believe our homes should extend a loud and hearty welcome. You never know when God will use you to be a beacon of love and hope to one of His broken children.

Today’s post comes from Kenneth W. Bangs, a man who extended a welcome instead of a barrier, and in doing so, spoke love and acceptance into two people’s lives.

***

Herschel lived down the road. First time I saw him he was sitting on his porch. I realized we had a new neighbor so I stopped to say hey. He stood as I walked up…tall and thin with a demeanor that told me he had done time. I shook his hand, chatted a minute…could tell he was really uncomfortable so I drove on.

Some months later I was on a tractor and saw him pull up. He shuffled over, head down and said, “Boss would it be ok if I brought my grandson over to fish in your ponds?” I told him sure and he said, “You know I done some time.”

“I know,” I said.

“It was over dope and it was hard time because I acted the fool in the joint.” He looked up at me and said, “You’re police aren’t you?”

“Used to be.”

He nodded and started talking…told me his whole life story. I’d heard it so many times before…so hard, so violent. I prayed with him and told him to enjoy the fishing. He brought his grandson by several times and then stopped. I got a call from a local pastor. He told me Herschel had cancer, no insurance and asked if we could help. Of course we did. I talked with him from time to time, watched as the disease consumed him. Then he was gone. I saw that little grandson as I drove past the other day sitting on the porch steps with his face in his hands. He loved his grandfather and his grandfather loved him…love – so important to give and receive…it lives on long after we’re gone…

***

Stop for a moment and consider the chain events that occurred because Kenneth extended a hearty welcome and created a bridge instead of a barrier. For a moment, consider the impact Kenneth’s choice had on the grandson. Consider the memories, the precious moments, Kenneth’s pond allowed the boy and his grandfather to share.

Now, consider the impact this had on the shame-filled man–the message of love, grace, and forgiveness Kenneth’s actions revealed.

Powerful messages.

But the blessing wasn’t done. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God brought this man to Kenneth’s pond prior to the man’s bout with cancer. God’s timing is perfect. By acting in love and obedience, Kenneth built a bridge that allowed him to speak love, hope, and truth into this man’s life when he needed it most.

Consider also the long-term impact each pond visit had on this precious child. I’ve often shared stories of the countless Christians God placed in my path when I was a child. (Read more here.) As an adult, when I looked back over each encounter, I realized it was God loving me through them. I realized, because of the love poured out through His children, that God had never left my side.

Powerful messages provided by such a simple act of love.

Who can you love on today? And how authentic is your welcome mat?

I’d love to hear from you. Have you, like the precious child in our story, experienced God’s love and grace through the actions of another? Or like Kenneth, have you extended a welcome and seen it blossom into something more–something of eternal value?

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book, and submit your “reach out” story for a chance to win a gift basket.

April’s donors include Mary Ellis with An Amish Family Reunion, Deborah Raney with Almost Forever, Cara Putman with A  Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, Vannetta Chapman with Falling to Pieces, Rebecca Lyles with Winds of Wyoming, and Gina Holmes with Dry as Rain. (Read more about all these great books here, and show your appreciating by clicking on their names to visit their websites.)