God is good, merciful, and kind. He didn’t cause your pain, but He’s ready to help you through it. — Christine Caine, Unashamed
 You have power to choose freedom over shame

What We Don’t Reveal Can’t Heal

Christine Caine, Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny

Hi, I’m Christine.

The story of the woman with the issue of blood [Luke 8:43-48] speaks to each of us. The power that healed her is available to us as well. That’s why I love this story! We all have shame wounds that are bleeding, and nothing we’ve done — no passage of time, no procedure, no ritual, no conversation or compensation — has been successful in closing them. Whether the cause of our shame was forced upon us or was the result of a choice we freely made — or as in my case, both — each of us bears that wound, that secret, that blemish. We feel unclean. But as the woman who took her shame to Jesus — who risked stepping out of the house, who in fear and trembling reached deep into her well of courage and confessed her need for Him right there in public — found healing, we can too.

I did… even though I felt powerful reluctance as my journey progressed.
It’s ironic, but the strongest resistance to the process of healing from shame is shame itself. We’re ashamed to admit that we need healing, that we have been damaged in ways that cause us shame. But to be healed, we must acknowledge all of our wounds. The journey from shame to freedom and a full life in Christ must be a blatantly honest, nothing-hidden voyage.
Like me, you probably spent years covering up your shame wounds — so why would you now want to uncover them and look at them? When you’re suffering from shame, the last thing you want to do is make yourself vulnerable.
Your vulnerability is one of the reasons you’re suffering from shame in the first place — so why would you want to open yourself up for more?
Because what we don’t reveal can’t be healed.
Our wounds need treatment, and the only way they’ll be healed is if we acknowledge them, uncover them, and hold them up to the One who can help.
But here’s the challenge: We’ve been shackled in the dark for so long that the darkness has crippled and immobilized us. We need the light of God to shine on us — shackles, shame, and all. The entrance of his Word gives light (Psalm 119:130). That light is the understanding that sets us free.
Until we let in the light — the truth — we will remain hindered, unable to fulfill our potential.
The apostle Paul teaches in Ephesians 5 that bringing what’s hidden in the dark — our secrets of shame — into the light, into God’s merciful presence, is how they lose their power over us.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. — Ephesians 5:8-13
God’s light is tender, not harsh. As you trust Him with your pain, He will gently shine His healing light on all your wounds. He is for you, not against you — and will never shame you or humiliate you (Romans 8:31). That kind of treatment is not in His nature. He is good, merciful, and kind. He didn’t cause your pain, but He’s ready to help you through it.
Jesus paid for your guilt and bore your shame. He carried it all to the cross. But there He left it!
He has borne our griefs, sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses…
He carried our sorrows and pains…
He was wounded for our transgressions…
He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities…
The chastisement needful to obtain peace and well-being for us was upon Him…
With the stripes that wounded Him we are healed and made whole. — Isaiah 53:4-5 AMP
His death, burial, and resurrection were more than enough for you — for all of us. When He emerged from that tomb, He was no longer clothed in the sin and shame of this world. Sin and its shame were left entombed. Conquered. Vanquished. Paid for. Redeemed by His blood sacrifice. It is finished. The blood of Jesus has healed you. The blood of Jesus has set you free. Jesus was wounded for your healing; He bore your shame so you could live free (1 Peter 2:24).
So, will you remain in hiding or will you, like the bleeding woman, like me, seek Jesus to heal your guilt and shame? Will you risk living free?
God answered my cry and called me daughter.
He calls you daughter as well.
That is why He came.
Excerpted with permission from Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny by Christine Caine, copyright Christine Caine.
What is it that we expect from God when we’re hiding what plagues us in shame? Maybe defining that fear and claiming the truths of Scripture is a good place to start the unshackling He has for us. I know I don’t want to live in the dark feeling ashamed and afraid any more. How about you? Are you ready to hear God the Father call you daughter? Come join the conversation on our blog! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up (if you haven’t already) for our Unashamed online Bible study starting in three weeks! We’re giving you FREE access to Christine Caine’s 5 study videos, a 28-Day Unashamed Guided Journal, and other downloads to get started!

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 Shame is everywhere we look. It hides in the shadows, lies to us, and shackles us in the prison of our past. It holds us back in ways we do not realize. But the truth is that God is not only more powerful than anything we’ve ever done but also stronger than anything ever done to us. We can grow in freedom and strength!

“I know. I’ve been there,” writes Christine. “I was schooled in shame. It has been my constant companion from my very earliest memories. I see shame everywhere I look in the world, including in the church. It creeps from heart to heart, growing in shadowy places, feeding on itself so that those struggling with it are too shamed to seek help from shame itself.”
In her passionate and candid style, Christine leads you into God’s Word where you will see for yourself how to believe that God is bigger than your mistakes, your inadequacies, your past, and your limitations. You will see that you are not fundamentally flawed and that you are worthy of acceptance. You have been set free.
Join the journey. Lay ahold of the power of Jesus Christ today and step into the future — His future for you—a beautiful, full, life-giving future, where you can even become a shame-lifter to others. Live unashamed!
 In Unashamed, Christine reveals the often-hidden consequences of shame — in her own life and the lives of so many Christian women — and invites you to join her in moving from a shame-filled to a shame-free life. Regular $19.99. Sale $15.99. With promo code CHRISTINE: $11.99

 

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In this five-session video Bible study, author and teacher Christine Caine leads you into God’s Word to find out how to believe that God is bigger than your mistakes, your inadequacies, your past and your limitations. With Jesus you can step into a beautiful, full, life-giving future filled with purpose! Regular $12.99. Sale $11.99. With promo code CHRISTINE: $7.99

 

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The Scandal of Forgiveness

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. — 2 Corinthians 5:21FaithGateway

FaithGateway Today

The Scandal of Forgiveness

by Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

Meet Philip Yancey
2 Corinthians 5:21
The only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative.
Magnanimous forgiveness, allows the possibility of transformation in the guilty party. Lewis Smedes details this process of “spiritual surgery”:
When you forgive someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it. You disengage that person from his hurtful act. You recreate him. At one moment you identify him ineradicably as the person who did you wrong. The next moment you change that identity. He is remade in your memory.
You think of him now not as the person who hurt you, but a person who needs you. You feel him now not as the person who alienated you, but as the person who belongs to you. Once you branded him as a person powerful in evil, but now you see him as a person weak in his needs. You recreated your past by recreating the person whose wrong made your past painful.
Smedes adds many cautions. Forgiveness is not the same as pardon, he advises: you may forgive one who wronged you and still insist on a just punishment for that wrong. If you can bring yourself to the point of forgiveness, though, you will release its healing power both in you and in the person who wronged you.
Forgiveness — undeserved, unearned — can cut the cords and let the oppressive burden of guilt roll away. The New Testament shows a resurrected Jesus leading Peter by the hand through a three-fold ritual of forgiveness. Peter need not go through life with the guilty, hangdog look of one who has betrayed the Son of God. Oh, no. On the backs of such transformed sinners Christ would build His church.
Rebecca is a quiet woman, and in weeks of meeting together she had rarely opened her mouth. At the mention of divorce, though, she proceeded to tell her own story. She had married a pastor who had some renown as a retreat leader. It became apparent, however, that her husband had a dark side. He dabbled in pornography, and on his trips to other cities he solicited prostitutes. Sometimes he asked Rebecca for forgiveness, sometimes he did not. In time, he left her for another woman, Julianne.
Rebecca told us how painful it was for her, a pastor’s wife, to suffer this humiliation. Some church members who had respected her husband treated her as if his sexual straying had been her fault. Devastated, she found herself pulling away from human contact, unable to trust another person. She could never put her husband out of mind because they had children and she had to make regular contact with him in order to arrange his visitation privileges.
Rebecca had the increasing sense that unless she forgave her former husband, a hard lump of revenge would be passed on to their children. For months she prayed. At first her prayers seemed as vengeful as some of the Psalms: she asked God to give her ex-husband “what he deserved.” Finally she came to the place of letting God, not herself, determine “what he deserved.”
One night Rebecca called her ex-husband and said, in a shaky, strained voice, “I want you to know that I forgive you for what you’ve done to me. And I forgive Julianne too.” He laughed off her apology, unwilling to admit he had done anything wrong. Despite his rebuff, that conversation helped Rebecca get past her bitter feelings.
A few years later Rebecca got a hysterical phone call from Julianne, the woman who had “stolen” her husband. She had been attending a ministerial conference with him in Minneapolis, and he had left the hotel room to go for a walk. A few hours passed, then Julianne heard from the police: her husband had been picked up for soliciting a prostitute.
On the phone with Rebecca, Julianne was sobbing. “I never believed you,” she said. “I kept telling myself that even if what you said was true, he had changed. And now this. I feel so ashamed, and hurt, and guilty. I have no one on earth who can understand. Then I remembered the night when you said you forgave us. I thought maybe you could understand what I’m going through. It’s a terrible thing to ask, I know, but could I come talk to you?”
Somehow Rebecca found the courage to invite Julianne over that same evening. They sat in her living room, cried together, shared stories of betrayal, and in the end prayed together. Julianne now points to that night as the time when she became a Christian.
Our group was hushed as Rebecca told her story. She was describing forgiveness not in the abstract, but in a nearly incomprehensible scene of human linkage: husband-stealer and abandoned wife kneeling side by side on a living-room floor, praying.
“For a long time, I had felt foolish about forgiving my husband,” Rebecca told us. “But that night I realized the fruit of forgiveness. Julianne was right. I could understand what she was going through. And because I had been there too, I could be on her side, instead of her enemy. We both had been betrayed by the same man. Now it was up to me to teach her how to overcome the hatred and revenge and guilt she was feeling.”
In The Art of Forgiving, Lewis Smedes makes the striking observation that the Bible portrays God going through progressive stages when He forgives, much as we humans do. First, God rediscovers the humanity of the person who wronged Him, by removing the barrier created by sin.
Second, God surrenders His right to get even, choosing instead to bear the cost in his own body. Finally, God revises His feelings toward us, finding a way to “justify” us so that when He looks upon us He sees His own adopted children, with His divine image restored.
It occurred to me, as I thought about Smedes’s insights, that the gracious miracle of God’s forgiveness was made possible because of the linkage that occurred when God came to earth in Christ. Somehow God had to come to terms with these creatures He desperately wanted to love — but how?
Experientially, God did not know what it was like to be tempted to sin, to have a trying day. On earth, living among us, He learned what it was like. He put Himself on our side.
The book of Hebrews makes explicit this mystery of incarnation:
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.”
Second Corinthians goes even further:
“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us.”
You cannot get any more explicit than that. God bridged the gap; He took our side all the way. And because He did, Hebrews affirms, Jesus can present our case to the Father. He has been here. He understands.
From the Gospels’ accounts, it seems forgiveness was not easy for God, either. “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me,” Jesus prayed, contemplating the cost, and the sweat rolled off Him like drops of blood.
There was no other way. Finally, in one of His last statements before dying, He said, “Forgive them” — all of them, the Roman soldiers, the religious leaders, His disciples who had fled in darkness, you, me — “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Only by becoming a human being could the Son of God truly say, “They do not know what they are doing.”
Having lived among us, He now understood.
Excerpted with permission from What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, copyright Philip D. Yancey. Published by Zondervan

 
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Have you ever forgiven an offense so severe that it was a scandalous choice to do so? What happened when you did? Join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you! 
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What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey
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In What’s So Amazing About Grace? award-winning author Philip Yancey explores grace at street level. If grace is God’s love for the undeserving, he asks, then what does it look like in action? And if Christians are its sole dispensers, then how are we doing at lavishing grace on a world that knows far more of cruelty and unforgiveness than it does of mercy? Yancey sets grace in the midst of life’s stark images, tests its mettle against horrific “ungrace.”
Can grace survive in the midst of such atrocities as the Nazi holocaust? Can it triumph over the brutality of the Ku Klux Klan? Should any grace at all be shown to the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and cannibalized seventeen young men?
Grace does not excuse sin, says Yancey, but it treasures the sinner. True grace is shocking, scandalous. It shakes our conventions with its insistence on getting close to sinners and touching them with mercy and hope. It forgives the unfaithful spouse, the racist, the child abuser. It loves today’s AIDS-ridden addict as much as the tax collector of Jesus’ day.
In his most personal and provocative book ever, Yancey offers compelling, true portraits of grace’s life-changing power. He searches for its presence in his own life and in the church. He asks, How can Christians contend graciously with moral issues that threaten all they hold dear? And he challenges us to become living answers to a world that desperately wants to know, What’s So Amazing About Grace?
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The Questions That Never Goes Away by Philip Yancey
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Finding Meaning in the Midst of Suffering
In his classic book Where Is God When It Hurts?, Philip Yancey gave us permission to doubt, reasons not to abandon faith, and practical ways to reach out to hurting people.
And now, thirty years after writing his first book, Yancey revisits our cry of “Why, God” in three places stunned into silence by the calamities that have devastated them. At some point all of us will face the challenges to faith Yancey writes about and look for the comfort and hope he describes.
There are reasons to ask, once again, the question that never goes away: Where is God when we suffer? And Yancey, once again, leads us to find faith when it is most severely put to the test.
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God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. — 2 Corinthians 5:21FaithGatewayFaithGateway TodayThe Scandal of Forgivenessby Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?Meet Philip Yancey2 Corinthians 5:21The only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative.Magnanimous forgiveness, allows the possibility of transformation in the guilty party. Lewis Smedes details this process of “spiritual surgery”:When you forgive someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it. You disengage that person from his hurtful act. You recreate him. At one moment you identify him ineradicably as the person who did you wrong. The next moment you change that identity. He is remade in your memory.You think of him now not as the person who hurt you, but a person who needs you. You feel him now not as the person who alienated you, but as the person who belongs to you. Once you branded him as a person powerful in evil, but now you see him as a person weak in his needs. You recreated your past by recreating the person whose wrong made your past painful.Smedes adds many cautions. Forgiveness is not the same as pardon, he advises: you may forgive one who wronged you and still insist on a just punishment for that wrong. If you can bring yourself to the point of forgiveness, though, you will release its healing power both in you and in the person who wronged you.Forgiveness — undeserved, unearned — can cut the cords and let the oppressive burden of guilt roll away. The New Testament shows a resurrected Jesus leading Peter by the hand through a three-fold ritual of forgiveness. Peter need not go through life with the guilty, hangdog look of one who has betrayed the Son of God. Oh, no. On the backs of such transformed sinners Christ would build His church.Rebecca is a quiet woman, and in weeks of meeting together she had rarely opened her mouth. At the mention of divorce, though, she proceeded to tell her own story. She had married a pastor who had some renown as a retreat leader. It became apparent, however, that her husband had a dark side. He dabbled in pornography, and on his trips to other cities he solicited prostitutes. Sometimes he asked Rebecca for forgiveness, sometimes he did not. In time, he left her for another woman, Julianne.Rebecca told us how painful it was for her, a pastor’s wife, to suffer this humiliation. Some church members who had respected her husband treated her as if his sexual straying had been her fault. Devastated, she found herself pulling away from human contact, unable to trust another person. She could never put her husband out of mind because they had children and she had to make regular contact with him in order to arrange his visitation privileges.Rebecca had the increasing sense that unless she forgave her former husband, a hard lump of revenge would be passed on to their children. For months she prayed. At first her prayers seemed as vengeful as some of the Psalms: she asked God to give her ex-husband “what he deserved.” Finally she came to the place of letting God, not herself, determine “what he deserved.”One night Rebecca called her ex-husband and said, in a shaky, strained voice, “I want you to know that I forgive you for what you’ve done to me. And I forgive Julianne too.” He laughed off her apology, unwilling to admit he had done anything wrong. Despite his rebuff, that conversation helped Rebecca get past her bitter feelings.A few years later Rebecca got a hysterical phone call from Julianne, the woman who had “stolen” her husband. She had been attending a ministerial conference with him in Minneapolis, and he had left the hotel room to go for a walk. A few hours passed, then Julianne heard from the police: her husband had been picked up for soliciting a prostitute.On the phone with Rebecca, Julianne was sobbing. “I never believed you,” she said. “I kept telling myself that even if what you said was true, he had changed. And now this. I feel so ashamed, and hurt, and guilty. I have no one on earth who can understand. Then I remembered the night when you said you forgave us. I thought maybe you could understand what I’m going through. It’s a terrible thing to ask, I know, but could I come talk to you?”Somehow Rebecca found the courage to invite Julianne over that same evening. They sat in her living room, cried together, shared stories of betrayal, and in the end prayed together. Julianne now points to that night as the time when she became a Christian.Our group was hushed as Rebecca told her story. She was describing forgiveness not in the abstract, but in a nearly incomprehensible scene of human linkage: husband-stealer and abandoned wife kneeling side by side on a living-room floor, praying.“For a long time, I had felt foolish about forgiving my husband,” Rebecca told us. “But that night I realized the fruit of forgiveness. Julianne was right. I could understand what she was going through. And because I had been there too, I could be on her side, instead of her enemy. We both had been betrayed by the same man. Now it was up to me to teach her how to overcome the hatred and revenge and guilt she was feeling.”In The Art of Forgiving, Lewis Smedes makes the striking observation that the Bible portrays God going through progressive stages when He forgives, much as we humans do. First, God rediscovers the humanity of the person who wronged Him, by removing the barrier created by sin.Second, God surrenders His right to get even, choosing instead to bear the cost in his own body. Finally, God revises His feelings toward us, finding a way to “justify” us so that when He looks upon us He sees His own adopted children, with His divine image restored.It occurred to me, as I thought about Smedes’s insights, that the gracious miracle of God’s forgiveness was made possible because of the linkage that occurred when God came to earth in Christ. Somehow God had to come to terms with these creatures He desperately wanted to love — but how?Experientially, God did not know what it was like to be tempted to sin, to have a trying day. On earth, living among us, He learned what it was like. He put Himself on our side.The book of Hebrews makes explicit this mystery of incarnation:“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.”Second Corinthians goes even further:“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us.”You cannot get any more explicit than that. God bridged the gap; He took our side all the way. And because He did, Hebrews affirms, Jesus can present our case to the Father. He has been here. He understands.From the Gospels’ accounts, it seems forgiveness was not easy for God, either. “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me,” Jesus prayed, contemplating the cost, and the sweat rolled off Him like drops of blood.There was no other way. Finally, in one of His last statements before dying, He said, “Forgive them” — all of them, the Roman soldiers, the religious leaders, His disciples who had fled in darkness, you, me — “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Only by becoming a human being could the Son of God truly say, “They do not know what they are doing.”Having lived among us, He now understood.Excerpted with permission from What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, copyright Philip D. Yancey. Published by Zondervan * * *Forward to a Friend Your TurnHave you ever forgiven an offense so severe that it was a scandalous choice to do so? What happened when you did? Join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you! CommentDon’t Miss This $5 DealWhat’s So Amazing About Grace? is $5 for a limited time only!What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip YanceyRegular Price: $16.99 Sale Price: $5.00Buy NowIn What’s So Amazing About Grace? award-winning author Philip Yancey explores grace at street level. If grace is God’s love for the undeserving, he asks, then what does it look like in action? And if Christians are its sole dispensers, then how are we doing at lavishing grace on a world that knows far more of cruelty and unforgiveness than it does of mercy? Yancey sets grace in the midst of life’s stark images, tests its mettle against horrific “ungrace.”Can grace survive in the midst of such atrocities as the Nazi holocaust? Can it triumph over the brutality of the Ku Klux Klan? Should any grace at all be shown to the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and cannibalized seventeen young men?Grace does not excuse sin, says Yancey, but it treasures the sinner. True grace is shocking, scandalous. It shakes our conventions with its insistence on getting close to sinners and touching them with mercy and hope. It forgives the unfaithful spouse, the racist, the child abuser. It loves today’s AIDS-ridden addict as much as the tax collector of Jesus’ day.In his most personal and provocative book ever, Yancey offers compelling, true portraits of grace’s life-changing power. He searches for its presence in his own life and in the church. He asks, How can Christians contend graciously with moral issues that threaten all they hold dear? And he challenges us to become living answers to a world that desperately wants to know, What’s So Amazing About Grace?Shop now and save for a limited time onlyDon’t Miss This Other Great DealSave 30% off Why? The Question That Never Goes AwayThe Questions That Never Goes Away by Philip YanceyRegular Price: $16.99 Sale Price: $11.89Buy NowFinding Meaning in the Midst of SufferingIn his classic book Where Is God When It Hurts?, Philip Yancey gave us permission to doubt, reasons not to abandon faith, and practical ways to reach out to hurting people.And now, thirty years after writing his first book, Yancey revisits our cry of “Why, God” in three places stunned into silence by the calamities that have devastated them. At some point all of us will face the challenges to faith Yancey writes about and look for the comfort and hope he describes.There are reasons to ask, once again, the question that never goes away: Where is God when we suffer? And Yancey, once again, leads us to find faith when it is most severely put to the test.Shop now and save for a limited time only    Inspired by today’s message? Share it with someone!ForwardFacebook Share Tweet ThisPinterestYou are subscribed to FaithGateway Today, our weekly dose of inspiration. Sign up for for other newsletters, like Devotionals Daily, Faith.Full for women or Bible Study of the Week, by clicking here.Copyright © 2016 HarperCollins Christian Publishing, All Rights Reserved.501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN, 37214 USATerms and Conditions | Privacy PolicyManage Your eMail Preferences or Unsubscribe

Hammock of Grace

Stretch yourself out in the hammock of grace!
I will give you rest. — Matthew 11:28
Devotionals Daily

You Can Rest Now
by Max Lucado, from Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine

Matthew 11:28
God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it. — Romans 4:16 MSG
A man whose hands are full of parcels can’t receive a gift. — C. S . Lewis
Faith’s only function is to receive what grace offers. — John Stott
Our merits merit nothing. God’s work merits everything.
You’re tired. Fatigue is not a foreign word. You know all too well its fruit: burning eyes, slumped shoulders, gloomy spirit, and robotic thoughts. You are tired.
We are tired. A tired people. A tired generation. A tired society. We race. We run. Workweeks drag like Arctic winters. Monday mornings show up on Sunday night. We slug our way through the long lines and long hours with faces made long by the long lists of things we need to do, gadgets we want to buy, or people we try to please. Grass to cut. Weeds to pull. Teeth to clean. Diapers to change. Carpets, kids, canaries — everything needs our attention.
The government wants more taxes. The kids want more toys. The boss, more hours. The school, more volunteers. The spouse, more attention. The parents, more visits. And the church, oh, the church. Have I mentioned the church? Serve more. Pray more. Attend more. Host more. Read more. And what can you say? The church speaks for God.
Every time we catch our breath, someone else needs something else. A taskmaster demands another brick for the newest pyramid.
“Stir that mud, you Hebrew!”
Yes, there he is. Your ancient counterpart. The loin-clothed, bare-backed, stoop-shouldered, brick-stacking Hebrew slave of Egypt. Talk about tired! Slave drivers popped whips and shouted commands. Why? So Pharaoh with his Nile-sized ego could brag about another pyramid even though his fingers never developed a callus or lifted a piece of straw.
But then God intervened.
I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. — Exodus 6:6
Did He ever! He opened the Red Sea like a curtain and closed it like a shark’s jaws. He turned Pharaoh’s army into fish bait and the Hebrews into charter members of the Land of No More. No more bricks, mud, mortar, and straw. No more meaningless, mind-numbing forced labor. It was as if all of heaven shouted,
“You can rest now!”
And so they did. A million sets of lungs sighed. They rested.
For about one-half of an inch. That’s the amount of space between Exodus 15 and 16. The amount of time between those two chapters is about one month. Somewhere in that half-inch, one-month gap, the Israelites decided they wanted to go back into slavery.
They remembered the delicacies of the Egyptians. Couldn’t have been more than bone stew, but nostalgia is no stickler for details.

So they told Moses they wanted to go back to the land of labor, sweat, and blistered backs.
The response of Moses?
Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? — Galatians 3:1 MSG
Oops, my mistake. Those are the words of Paul, not Moses. Words for Christians, not Hebrews. New Testament, not Old. First century AD, not thirteenth century BC. Understandable error, however, since the Christians of Paul’s day were behaving like the Hebrews of Moses’. Both had been redeemed, yet both turned their backs on their freedom.
The second redemption upstaged the first. God sent not Moses but Jesus. He smote not Pharaoh but Satan. Not with ten plagues but a single cross. The Red Sea didn’t open, but the grave did, and Jesus led anyone who wanted to follow Him to the Land of No More. No more law keeping. No more striving after God’s approval. “You can rest now,” He told them.
And they did. For about fourteen pages, which in my Bible is the distance between the sermon of Peter in Acts 2 and the meeting of the church in Acts 15. In the first, grace was preached. In the second, grace was questioned. It wasn’t that the people didn’t believe in grace at all. They did. They believed in grace a lot. They just didn’t believe in grace alone. They wanted to add to the work of Christ.
Grace-a-lots believe in grace, a lot. Jesus almost finished the work of salvation, they argue. In the rowboat named Heaven Bound, Jesus paddles most of the time. But every so often He needs our help. So we give it. We accumulate good works the way Boy Scouts accumulate merit badges on a sash. I kept mine on a hook in my closet, not to hide it, but so I could see it. No morning was complete without a satisfying gander at this cummerbund of accomplishment. If you’ve ever owned a Boy Scout merit-badge sash, you understand the affection I felt. Each oval emblem rewarded my hard work. I paddled across a lake to earn the canoe badge, swam laps to earn the swimming badge, and carved a totem pole to earn the woodworking badge.
Could anything be more gratifying than earning merit badges? Yes. Showing them off. Which I did every Thursday when Boy Scouts wore uniforms to middle school. I strode through the campus as if I were the king of England.
The merit-badge system tidies life. Achievements result in compensation. Accomplishments receive applause. Guys envied me. Girls swooned. My female classmates managed to keep their hands to themselves only by virtue of extreme self-control. I knew they secretly longed to run a finger over my signaling badge and to ask me to spell their names in Morse code.
I became a Christian about the same time I became a Boy Scout and made the assumption that God grades on a merit system. Good Scouts move up. Good people go to heaven. So I resolved to amass a multitude of spiritual badges. An embroidered Bible for Bible reading. Folded hands for prayer. A kid sleeping on the pew for church attendance. In my imagination angels feverishly stitched emblems on my behalf. They scarcely kept pace with my performance and wondered if one sash would suffice. “That Lucado kid is exhausting my fingers!” I worked toward the day, the great day, when God, amid falling confetti and dancing cherubim, would drape my badge-laden sash across my chest and welcome me into his eternal kingdom, where I could humbly display my badges for eternity. But some thorny questions surfaced.
If God saves good people, how good is “good”? God expects integrity of speech but how much?
What is the permitted percentage of exaggeration? Suppose the required score is 80 and I score a 79? How do you know your score? I sought the advice of a minister. Surely he would help me answer the “How good is good?” question. He did, with one word: do. Do better. Do more. Do now. “Do good, and you’ll be okay.” “Do more, and you’ll be saved.” “Do right, and you’ll be all right.”
Do.
Be.
Do. Be. Do.
Do-be-do-be-do.
Familiar with the tune? You might be. Most people embrace the assumption that God saves good people. So be good! Be moral. Be honest. Be decent. Pray the rosary. Keep the Sabbath. Keep your promises. Pray five times a day facing east. Stay sober. Pay taxes. Earn merit badges.
Yet for all the talk about being good, still no one can answer the fundamental question: What level of good is good enough? Bizarre. At stake is our eternal destination, yet we are more confident about lasagna recipes than the entrance requirements for heaven.
God has a better idea:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. — Ephesians 2:8
We contribute nothing. Zilch. As opposed to the merit badge of the Scout, salvation of the soul is unearned. A gift. Our merits merit nothing. God’s work merits everything.
This was Paul’s message to the grace-a-lots. I picture his face red, fists clenched, and blood vessels bulging a river on his neck.
Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into Himself. — Galatians 3:13 MSG
Translation: “Say no to the pyramids and bricks. Say no to the rules and lists. Say no to slavery and performance. Say no to Egypt. Jesus redeemed you. Do you know what this means?”
Apparently they didn’t.
Do you? If you don’t, I know the cause of your fatigue. You need to trust God’s grace.
We find it easier to trust the miracle of resurrection than the miracle of grace. We so fear failure that we create the image of perfection, lest heaven be even more disappointed in us than we are. The result? The weariest people on earth.
Attempts at self-salvation guarantee nothing but exhaustion. We scamper and scurry, trying to please God, collecting merit badges and brownie points, and scowling at anyone who questions our accomplishments. Call us the church of hound-dog faces and slumped shoulders.
Stop it! Once and for all, enough of this frenzy.
Your hearts should be strengthened by God’s grace, not by obeying rules. — Hebrews 13:9 NCV
Jesus does not say, “Come to me, all you who are perfect and sinless.” Just the opposite.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. — Matthew 11:28 NASB
There is no fine print. A second shoe is not going to drop. God’s promise has no hidden language. Let grace happen, for heaven’s sake. No more performing for God, no more clamoring after God. Of all the things you must earn in life, God’s unending affection is not one of them. You have it. 
You can rest now.
Excerpted with permission Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine by Max Lucado. Copyright Max Lucado

Your Turn

Are you tired of working so hard for God’s favor? Of trying to earn Christian merit badges and Christian brownie points? What if you believed in grace — really believed in in — enough to stop and rest? Join the conversation on our blog! We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily
Grace by Max Lucado
We talk as though we understand the term. The bank gives us a grace period. The seedy politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe an actress as gracious, a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, kings, and premeal prayers. We talk as though we know what grace means.
But do we really understand it? Have we settled for wimpy grace? It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response. When asked, “Do you believe in grace?” who could say no?
Max Lucado asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace?
God’s grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A white-water, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God secure. From regret riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid to die to ready to fly.
Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.
Let’s make certain grace gets you.

 
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