This is Your Fault, The Weight of Shame, and The Cross of Christ

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…. (Romans 8:1)

I have carried the weight of condemnation and shame like a backpack of tyranny upon my soul. Its oppression has set me in places behind bars and its weight has kept me from running freely with the Lord Jesus Christ. Even today, as I write I am finding there is still shame in my heart. As I ask the Lord to search my heart what I find there is a message that says, “this is your fault.”
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Sadly, I have had people in my life tell me that message. If I have had that happen, I know that you have too. Unfortunately, many of us speak out of our own personal brokenness and we cover it with statements of, “this is what God would want me to do.” I think we believe that because we speak before we listen to the Lord. We do not sit in places of rest. We do not sit with others in their pain either. We want the problem to be done with so we piously believe our words will fix the problem.
 
These messages have only placed me in a state of deeper oppression over the memorandum of shame the enemy has tried to cast upon my heart. I think we do a great disservice to people when what we try to do is fix them, not minister to them. Jesus was a healer. He rebuked people when their hearts were far from God, but He never used shame to motivate people to deeper lengths of faith. Whenever we speak into someone’s life before properly listening to their stories we have become the stench of death to them.
 
I’ll be honest, I too have wrongfully spoken messages of shame into the hearts of people. It comes from a misunderstanding of grace. I have been quick to try and call out bad behavior before properly caring for the heart of that individual.
 
Should we be called out when we sin? Yes, absolutely, but if the message we speak into the hearts of those we are ministering to is, “this is your fault, figure it out,” we only load them up with heavy burdens they were never meant to carry. It is the cross that liberates men and women from shame. The cross releases our burdens. The cross sets us free from the message of, “this is your fault.”
 
Jesus’ ministry was centered around grace. HIs mission was to set people free from bondage and shame. Why then do we only place people back into prisons of shame? Why do we tie up heavy burdens to place on their backs thinking it will somehow motivate them towards change when all it actually does it weigh them down into the grave? If someone comes to you and says, I have been hurt, abused, mistreated and rejected our first response must be to care for that person. We must understand that there is a deep message of shame already written upon their heart. They already carry unnecessary guilt.
 
A dear friend of mine once said to me, “Heather, you have to speak what is into what is not until what is not becomes what is.” At first, I didn’t understand what he meant, but as I processed his comment with the Lord I started to understand the intended application.
 
Walking with someone in discipleship doesn’t mean that we speak into their hearts the wrong of who they are, but instead, we speak to them the truth of who they are in Christ. We remind them of the Father’s love for them. We journey with them away from bondage and towards grace. Doing so releases them from shame and places them on a path towards victory. Should there be accountability and repentance for destructive behavior? Yes, absolutely, but when the individual has repented we must carry them back to the cross, the place where shame was set free.
 
My husband has a friend who always says of people, “You are awesome for God.” At first, I’ll admit, his statement bothered me. I would think, that person is not awesome for God, look at their life and what they’re doing! Now I understand the reason for his positive approach. We cannot change the hearts of people. Only love does that. Even when we speak a word of rebuke into someone’s heart it should never be motivated by shame, manipulation or anger, it should always be presented in love.
 
Oh Lord, I rebuke any message of shame the enemy wants to set up in m heart! Today, I receive your grace! I ask that the Lord and grace that was poured out on Calvary would be poured into my heart even now. Jesus, you love me! That is good news indeed. Today I live in that freedom with great joy for your glory! Amen!

When God Takes Out the Trash

I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty….. (Ruth 1:21).

At work, I have had the honorable task of taking out the trash from time to time. These are heavy, stinky trash bags that take a concerted effort to dispose of. In fact, yesterday I even took out a few more than what was expected of me. It was needed and necessary, but it was also very hard work. I did not delight in it, but I knew it needed to happen.
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Could it be that God operates the same way in our lives? The trash heaps that lie within our hearts is the place where He is working to make us new. We all come with our messes, some of our messes are bigger than others. Some lies and stories we have written on our hearts for so long that the garbage has piled up quite high. In His love, He starts to dispose of the refuse we have stored up in our hearts. I don’t think God delights in the process, but He knows it is needed and necessary. He knows it is for our good. It is often a painful process as our trash heaps become a place of comfort and safety for us when God says, “Please, let me dispose of that, I’m trying to make you new.”
 
I’ve got to be honest, I can totally relate to Naomi’s statement here in the book of Ruth. “I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.” Unfortunately, Naomi makes this statement in a place of bitterness. She even changes her to name to Mara, which means, bitter. Could it be she grew bitter because Naomi spent a number of years in a place far away from the tabernacle of God in Moab? Moab was a place where false gods would be reverenced and worshipped. Some of us have strayed from God too or stayed out of His word for far too long and when trouble strikes we quickly become bitter over what life has brought our way.
 
I’ve been there, in a place of resentment, a place where my heart starts to grow cold. I have said terrible things to people I love in places of bitterness and resentment. The thing is, God is always trying to work something out of us so He can work something new into us. His emptying is not punishment, it is for our good.
 
I hear the Lord saying to me, “Heather, I am doing a new thing, it’s coming, be patient.” I sense Him calling me to fast and pray so that He might further cleanse my heart. I hear His voice, calling me, to believe Him with great expectation. The problem arises when we focus so much on the process of being emptied that we forget God is doing it to fill us with something new. Whenever we grow angry over the emptying our growth as Christians stalls and sometimes God has to keep going back to the same place because we shut off our hearts when He was on His way to filling up our hearts with His love and blessing. We never know when the moment of His filling will come, but we must wait with great expectation for the Lord to fill our lives, for His glory, in Jesus name.
 
Sovereign Lord, you are doing a new thing. Thank you for emptying my heart. Thank you for the deep humbling you are doing in my life. Thank you that your no just means a better yes is coming. Thank you that you are filling me, even now, with more of your love. Pour out your grace upon me in this season and grow my heart to be just like yours, in Jesus name, Amen!

Drink in His Love

The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul….. (Ps 19:7).

My husband likes to pick on me from time to time for how I drink water. The reason being is because I don’t really know how to take small sips of water. Usually, I’ll down half of the bottle in one drink. After chugging if down like I’ve just run a marathon I’ll let out a big, refreshing, “AHHHHHH.” I’m sure for others watching it really is quite comical. I’ve just never known another way to drink.
 
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What if we started drinking in the word of God with the same kind of approach? Would our souls finally be quenched? Would we experience for the first time, true, deep, satisfaction in our lives? I think so.
 
As I look around, I see many people, myself included who struggle with deep insecurities and bondage. For example, a weight problem is not an outward problem, it is a deeply embedded inward issue. There is no shame in that and you don’t have to be overweight to have a weight issue. I’ve had weight issues of my own of the opposite nature that only revealed a deep heart problem within me of fear and insecurity.
 
Many of us, instead of running to the Lord’s refreshing fill our lives with an excess of food, or in my case; exercise. We may run to things like success, sex, money, and an overabundance of friends to fill our hearts. Yet, the soul will never be truly refreshed without the Lord. The heart doesn’t need another diet program. The heart needs the Lord and His love to fill it instead.
 
Research is showing that people are more lonely than ever before. Why? Could it be because social media has only perpetuated the draw to live a life of excess and superficiality? I think so. The outward appearances of people can be deceptive to the heart, but God’s word is refreshing to the soul of a person.
 
What the soul needs is God. To drink deeply and daily from His word. It is only then when we find true, lasting satisfaction for our souls. Drink in God’s love for you. Take a few big gulps and be refreshed in His love for you today, in Jesus name.
 
Lord, I long to drink of your word. I cannot make it through the day without it. I am too much of a mess without our goodness guiding me. Thank you that you love me for who I am today, even when I don’t always get it right. Lord, I pray that the fullness of my life would be out of the overflow of what you have poured into me, in Jesus name, Amen!

I Chickened Out

you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”… (Luke 19:44).

Yesterday God spoke something very directly to me and I chickened out. I got scared. I feared the thoughts of people and the unknown. I allowed those thoughts and fears to win out over following God in faithfulness. I just stood there, frozen, hoping the word that He was placing in my heart would pass, but it only burned more and more within my Spirit. Wrongfully, I tried to push it out and ignore it away. As I reflect on that moment, I feel like Moses, whom God called to speak before Pharoah, but he said, “Lord, send someone else!” Then gave his list of excuses for why he wouldn’t have been good at it to begin with. I gave the Lord a long list yesterday too.

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The crazy thing is that I had been praying for God to plant a word in my heart for Him. Then He did and I got scared. Maybe you’ve been there too, praying for bold and courageous faith, but when the time comes, your jaw locks up and your fears take over. Years ago I had been praying fervently for an opportunity to share my faith with a dear friend. The opportunity came and I chickened out on that one too. Thankfully, God is tremendously gracious and gave me another opportunity and I shared then.

I’m just being honest, that even those of us who write blogs or speak from time to time still battle, just like you, with being courageous for Jesus. We’re all the same. Just because someone writes, speaks, ministers or leads doesn’t mean they’re some super spiritual person who lives above the rest. Truly, we are all the same. Thankfully, there is grace for those who don’t always get it right. I am living proof of that.

Although I punked out yesterday I don’t want to be like Moses, begging God to send someone else. I want to be like Isaiah, a man who said, “Lord, send me!”

I believe one of the greatest tragedies in modern Christendom is not Christians who sin, but those who live unaware of God. We are all going to struggle against sin, but the greater unawareness we have of God only increases our propensity to follow our own paths. If we never hear from the Father how can we know what He wants? Yesterday I was living proof that even when you hear from God you can live in fear. I wonder though, how many Christians are actually hearing from God?

When do we allow ourselves to sit long enough in silence or in a posture of praise to actually hear from the living God? Could it be that we have conditioned our hearts in such a way to be catapulted by distraction that we never stay in one place long enough for God to plant a seed of His Spirit within us? Why has the world not heard of Christ? Why hasn’t your next door neighbor, co-worker or friend heard about Jesus? I think it’s because we have fed fear and distraction more than the Spirit of God. We don’t know how to hear from God, because we have not trained ourselves for it. I’m still a work in progress though too because I’m learning to feed my faith more than my fear when I hear from God.

What if God’s people started removing distractions and started stepping out in faith? What if His people started living in the fullness of the Spirit? What if God’s people started listening and obeying the voice of God? What if we set aside our fears to take up courage? What then would become of us? Only God knows, but it would be a beautiful sight to see. Yesterday, as God was stirring my Spirit I was afraid of what He wanted to do. He made me uncomfortable because although He was planting something and I knew the direction He wanted me to start I did not know where He wanted me to finish. This is only reveals something about my heart that feared not being in control. Oh Lord, forgive me!

Whenever God plants something in you, trust Him to see through to fruition. Don’t worry about what you don’t know, but praise God that He knows. Live with an awareness of Him so strong that you recognize His voice so clearly that when He speaks you’re certain beyond all else that it’s Him. Then, run with courage for God’s great glory in Jesus name.

Lord, I want to live with courage. I know that your grace covers me from yesterday. Thank you for loving me despite my failures. Thank you that you see me as your beloved. I am free from condemnation. I have been crucified with Christ and I can live in the fullness of your love as you dance over me, in Jesus name, Amen!

Rejected, Received and Held Close

the LORD will receive me….(Ps 27:10).

When I was a child my dad taught me how to catch and throw a football. He said to me, “Heather after you catch the ball you’ve got to tuck it in close to your side so you can run with the ball safely protected.” Dad and I would practice this over and over again. Each time I’d do my best to practice what my Father taught me and tuck the ball in close to my side.
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This too is how the Father receives us. He welcomes us, into His arms of love and tucks us in close to His heart. This is good news for the heart that feels too messy to be received with love.
 
It is a devastating reality to be rejected by someone. To have them fumble you and toss you away because quite frankly, they just want nothing to do with you. I think it’s because having you close to their heart reveals something about their own heart that needs to change and they’re just not ready to go there yet. It’s quite possible that the discomfort they feel in having you close has nothing to do with who you are, but everything to do with who they have not yet become.
 
When we are rejected by someone we take it personally. We think there must be a flaw in our personhood or character. When in reality, the issue lies within the heart of the individual who refuses to receive us.
 
Truly, God receives us in all our messiness. He receives us just as we are as we come to Him in humility. He welcomes us in all our brokenness and imperfections with unending joy. This is the beauty of the gospel.
 
Sadly, the extension of God’s love and acceptance stymies within the hearts of His people when they refuse to receive others with the same kind of love. This is one of the deepest tragedies in the church. The inability to receive someone with the same kind of love the Father has for his children.
 
If you have been rejected and put out by someone be reminded that God holds you close. He tucks you in next to His heart. He protects you and shields you from any opposition that might try to snatch you from His hand. Do not let the voices of defeat, discouragement, and despair intercept you into a place of self-loathing. Be reminded that as your own heart changes you will have a deeper capacity to love others. Don’t take it personally when someone doesn’t receive you, but instead, pray for their own heart to change and grow through the love of God.
 
Father, thank you that you hold me close. Thank you for your great love. You are truly a good and loving Father. I have such JOY in your embrace. You love me, that is enough. I will face rejection in this life but help me to see you in the midst of it. You always hold me close, even when my life gets messy. Lord, thank you. I am your beloved, in Jesus name, Amen.

The Fear of Failure and God’s Redemptive Grace

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart…. (Pr 27:19).

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I have had very destructive thoughts try to weasel their way into my heart and mind recently. As God has been taking me down a different path the past few months of my life I thought for certain the path would re-direct and it did, but not in the direction I was hoping for. Now, I feel the enemy pressing in trying to get me to be discontent in the place of God’s provision.

Thoughts like, “What are you doing? You’re a loser and a failure. Things like this don’t happen to people who have their lives together.” “Look at all these others people around you Heather, they haven’t gotten themselves in the place that you have. What God has allowed to happen in your life is unfair, just look at your other friends they aren’t failures like you.”

I believe what God is showing me is that my heart really loves success. When I feel like I have something tangible to show I feel valued as a person. Now, God is stripping me of all my successes to bring me to a place of being least at the table, so that He and only He might be exalted in my life. I can’t say that I always like it here. Some days and moments are better than others. Yet, I know that my Redeemer lives. I know that the only thing that matters in this life is that I am His daughter. I’m working hard with Him to get that thought to dwell deeply in my head and into my heart. Truly, I am His beloved child.

The drive for human success is purely motivated by the longing to be accepted by people. When I was a child I felt rejected by some people in my life, so I started getting good at other things. I started pursuing satisfaction and joy in the things I did. I was driven to be excellent at what I did, not who I was becoming or who I was investing in. My life quickly became about caring more about the things I was good at than the people I was surrounded by. I quickly became an island of success. Driven only by self for the gain of my own glory.

Over the years God has been stripping that old woman away. I am learning, sometimes slowly, the value of investing in others. Sometimes I think I still like working too much and in my pursuit of work forget that it’s not about the success I gather along the way, but the person I become and the people that I love and shepherd well along that journey.

Maybe you’re like me and you just want to follow Jesus, but you don’t always get it right. There is grace for you. It is His endless love for people like you and me who still struggle and stumble along the way. We can rest in the Father’s arms. We can be honest about our true selves apart from Christ. We can allow God to go to the dark places of our hearts still in need of His redemption. Thanks to His daily, unending grace.

It’s His grace that sets us free from condemnation. It sets us free to be transparent, and share with honesty our own struggles. We’re all a work in progress. The beauty of the gospel is that God makes lost people found and is in the process of making them new. Truly, He is a God of restoration. The longer we hide in pride the longer we’ll stay the same old man or woman. When we let God’s love penetrate the most broken places in our hearts we find His hand, along with His chisel, rebuilding us into brand new people for the sake of His great love.

Oh Lord, I long to be like you. It is a difficult process sometimes. Thank you for showing me the true reflection of my heart. Thank you that you are changing me. I will come forth as gold. I will come forth as a new woman who has a deeper capacity to love others for the sake of your great name. I submit my sin, my heart and my life to you. God, use my life today, in this present season for your Kingdom, in Jesus name, Amen!

Life with God: A Continual Feast

Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”…. (Lk 14:15).

Years ago, a friend of mine said to me, “Heather, life with God is a continual feast.” At that time in my life, her words did not ring true to my soul. Truly, my soul felt empty, dry and angry. Life was not a feast, it was certainly an unfair famine. At least, that’s what I believed within my heart. My perspective on life was bitter. Resentment had become a close friend and there was no feast to be had for me within my heart.

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The table of God’s provision we see before us has everything to do with our perspective on life. One person sees a beautiful bounty of God’s love because their heart trusts the Father, even the in the midst of trying circumstances. Another sees a famine, an empty table, and an unfair God. Their heart says to God, “you are not good, in fact, you are mean, spiteful and unfair, how could you do something like this to me?” This is when people start to adopt the erroneous theology of believing they need to “forgive God.” This perspective only means we have grossly misunderstood God. Forgiving God is a blasphemous theology that we must do away with. God needs no forgiving. Believing so only reveals what lies deep within our hearts- the inability to trust whatever comes from the hand of a loving Father.

My nephew loves to hand things back to me. He’ll say, “take back,” then hand me some random piece of just about anything you might imagine. I’ve got to be honest. I love getting handed the most random things from him. They are a great joy to me because I take great delight in the hand giving them to me.

What if we had the same perspective with God? What if we loved Him so much that we received whatever He gave us with joy? The cancer diagnosis, marital struggles, relational strife, the loss of a job, or the dying of a dream? What if we saw these all as a gift from God to make us more like Jesus? I’m not saying we should desire those things, put them on the top of our prayer list and be overwhelmed with gladness by them, truly, they are all heartbreaking realities. Some realities we will mourn for the rest of our lives and the Father’s love will meet us there in our grieving if we allow Him to love us in the places of our brokenness.

The Father is in the business of transforming our hearts and sometimes the best thing the Father can hand us is brokenness so that we might be made new. Peace is found in letting go. It’s found in seeing and believing in the goodness of the Father in the midst of a cancer diagnosis. It’s allowing your heart to grow deeper with God in places of humility in the midst of relational strife.

Sometimes I think what God hands us is not the victory lap, but a mirror. A mirror to see our sin. Without it, we would never see the depth of our own deception. When God doesn’t give you what you want it’s not because He doesn’t love you. It’s because He loves you. Sometimes my nephew asks for things that wouldn’t be good for him. Since I can see what he can’t I choose not to give him what he always wants in order to protect him. God is the same. Let us rejoice in Him that He doesn’t always give us what we want.

Truly, life is a continual feast with God. It is all about our perspective. It’s all a choice. A choice to delight in the hand that is providing for us. Today I choose joy in knowing that the Father loves me. Today I will feast from the hand of His provision, because He is good and I can trust Him, in Jesus name, Amen.

Lord, you see our hearts. You are in the business of making them new. Forgive me, Father, when I stray into believing things about you that are wrong. Lord, sometimes life is really hard. You see that. You don’t expect us to not grieve or mourn certain realities in life. As we grieve with you, you fill our hearts with peace. Lord, I surrender, because I long to take great delight in the provision of your hand, in Jesus name, Amen!