Confusing Conviction with Condemnation

The hazy blue sky, warm summer air. and the lush Oregon greenery, often cause me to ponder the thoughts my brain can’t reach when busyness is attempting to smother. Lately, I have been sitting with the difference between conviction and condemnation. When Jesus followers hear the word conviction, they often cringe—starting to feel slightly uncomfortable and wiggly inside (I know, I’ve had those feelings myself). “I felt so convicted. The Holy Spirit convicted my heart and so on.” I find there is ultimately a sense of shame associated with the word conviction.

If you’ve been following Jesus for any amount of time, Christians LOVE to throw out the term conviction like a death sentence. Clearly, many people have conviction and condemnation tangled up and confused.

Clearly, many people have conviction and condemnation tangled up and confused. (2).png

As I quickly type the words ‘conviction’ and ‘condemnation’ separately into the Google search bar on my web browser, I land upon this definition:

con•vic•tion

noun

  1. a formal declaration that someone is guilty of a criminal offense, made by the verdict of a jury or the decision of a judge in a court of law.
  2. a firmly held belief or opinion.

con·dem·na·tion

noun

  1. the expression of very strong disapproval; censure.
  2. the action of condemning someone to a punishment; sentencing.

We must stop equating conviction to a sentencing or punishment. Instead of recognizing how the Holy Spirit prompts our hearts to repentance and ultimately glorifying God with a yielded heart, shame moves in and shouts “You deserve death!”

In these moments, dear friends, I urge you to remember WHY Jesus came to earth. Paul writes in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” God does not look at our sins expecting us to pay penance for our trespasses. This burden is too great to bear. Instead, when we are convicted or prompted by the Holy Spirit it is done lovingly. God sent Jesus to the Cross to die, be buried, and to rise again after three days to conquer sin and death. Our punishment was taken to the Cross by Jesus and overcome! Our criminal offense is rendered defeated.

Therefore, sisters (and brothers), we can view conviction as a stirring in our hearts to return to God, where He will embrace us with open arms. He does not look upon our faces with disappointment but with eyes of a loving Father. Conviction drives us to sanctification in God. We are not criminals, but children. Children of God.

There is freedom in knowing that no matter how repulsive or heart-breaking my sins appear, NOTHING can stop God from seeing me and choosing me anyway. Nothing I do can separate me from Him because of Jesus (see Romans 8:35). I am not a condemned woman, but free to be who God created me to be.

I am not a condemned woman, but free to be who God created me to be. (2)

The next time you overhear someone speaking of conviction, and know they are switching the terminology of conviction of Holy Spirit with the terminology of condemnation, I encourage you to gently remind them how much God loves them. Repent of their sin, yes, but relish in the freedom of a joyfully surrendered life in Christ.


sarah-dohman-squareSarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Instagram.
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3 Paths to Lead You Away from Fear

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word “fear” is our car accident nearly a year ago. I’m reminded of how I felt as I crouched on the dusty sidewalk off Hwy 22. Sobbing, I clutched my four-year-old, my two-year-old, and my six-week old baby and assured myself that they were okay. My chest felt like it had been crushed (just some deep bruising from the seatbelt), and the fear was overwhelming as I thought of what could have happened to us.

That fear developed into flashbacks, difficulty driving, and anxiety attacks. The last year has been a journey confronting my fears. Here are 3 things to do when you find yourself in the middle of fear.

Live in the day God has given you.

Sarah Clews FearEach day I can easily find something to fear—things that could happen, things that have happened to people I know, things I can only imagine. But I only have today. I have wasted countless hours fearing things that haven’t even happened.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” -Matthew 6:34 (NLT)  

This scripture couldn’t be truer. I’ve spent so much time borrowing trouble when I actually have so little control over any of it.

Trust that God is in control of it all.

It’s hard to trust that God is in control when I know He might allow hard things to happen. I know the story of Job, but I also know the goodness of God is unchanging. It’s His plan for my life that I want, but His plan may include tragedy and heartbreak I don’t want. I can’t stop trials from happening, but I can depend on the character of God.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

After our accident, I frequently listened to this song “Even If” by Mercy Me.


Fear Sarah Clews
“I know you’re able

And I know you can

Save through the fire

With your mighty hand

But even if you don’t

My hope’s still you alone”

 

Look forward to eternity with God.

It might sound a little morbid, but sometimes the only comfort to me, when things are hard, is remembering that one day it will all be made right. Whatever goes awry in this world, God will one day redeem. On the new earth one day, all our tears will be wiped away and all the difficulties ended.

He will swallow up death forever!
    The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.
He will remove forever all insults and mockery
    against his land and people.
    The Lord has spoken!

In that day the people will proclaim,
‘This is our God!
    We trusted in him, and he saved us!
This is the Lord, in whom we trusted.
    Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!’ -Isaiah 25:8-9


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews loves being the wife of Carson and mother to three little girls. She received her degree in English from Corban University and still loves the craft of writing. She also helps her husband run a martial arts school. In her free time, Sarah enjoys talking with grown-ups (!), finding new authors, doing online research, and reading her favorite childhood stories to her girls.

Positively Perplexed

Undulating road rolls under my chronically tumbling mind as I seek to soothe it by cycling into exhaustion. Call it my relief effort, or my ride to escape. However, I neither find relief nor escape. But I do find God.

Perplexed. That’s what I am. And being perplexed is like walking the side of a steep, muddy slope: one misstep and it’s a quick slide to the quicksand of fear at the bottom.

I know not what to do next. Answering that seemingly simple question is like putting pressure on a knot in my back that suddenly radiates threads of needles into previously unprotesting parts of my body. My whole network of nerves lights up with alarm, just as pressing into a tangled quandary of the mind lights up the whole network of interrelated areas of life: sin, personality, values, goals, beliefs, feelings, fears, purpose, culture, and more. The complexity of perplexity entangles me and threatens to strangle me into paralyzed fear.

 

Kimberley Mulder Fear (2)But who among us does not live in some amount of intricate confusion? Some live with health problems that radiate into finances, lifestyle, purpose, relationships and more. Others live tied up in challenging jobs riddled with sinful people and systems, fears of failure, lack of compensation, and questionable values. These are but two examples of the complexity of everyday life.

This is part of the human condition. We do not know all, and never will. No amount of understanding and figuring it out will free us of the puzzles of life. The danger is, in our attempts to escape the discomfort of perplexity, we despair and assume that our lack of clarity means God doesn’t know or care. We must find the peace in perplexity, the pace of it, for we will run our entire lives within its confines. How can I be positively perplexed and not slide into despair?

The Apostle Paul was perplexed. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” He accepted that his mortal body had its limits and would feel its sufferings in the midst of this complex world, and that God’s power and glory surpassed these limits, lifting him from the morass of natural fear into supernatural peace. He names perplexity as suffering, but he never translates these sufferings into beliefs that God was somehow against him or absent. For Paul, the only reason to despair, ever, was if God were to leave him, which is an impossibility.

Fear Kimberley Mulder

So I persevere through my puzzlement, allowing God to put pressure on my knots to release me from fear. Then I can be at peace even while I wait and wonder, knowing that He is keeping me in this difficult position of humility in order to bring about His glory and power in my life. I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t be at peace if I could figure out what to do next. Assuming the Lord was directing my decision, then I would receive peace. However, I can have peace even in the perplexity. For I know the One who created me, called me, holds me, and provides for me is always for me. I cannot be separated from His love. I trust that He knows, cares, and walks with me even in the confusing intricacies of my life.

I am positively perplexed, embracing my limitations of understanding. Positive that the power of God reveals Him bit by bit to my easily overwhelmed earthen being, and that the One who forever has perfect knowledge is guiding me through this present darkness.


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, runs her proofreading business, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Finding Confident Faith in the Face of Fear

Author: Karly Grant

All of my life I’ve been a worrier. I still remember the prayer that I prayed every night before I went to sleep as a child, “Dear God, thank you for another day. Please help my family to sleep well and to stay safe. Please don’t let there be any fires, earthquakes, or anyone breaking into our house while we sleep. In Jesus name, Amen.”

As I’ve grown up, and grown in my faith, most of my fears have lessened and my prayers have become less rote (although I’m definitely not one to skimp on the “Help me, Jesus!” prayers that I often need). While most of these childish fears only return if I’m in real danger, there is one that has stuck with me from childhoodthe fear of failure. God desires for his children to live in freedom, and as he guides me through my current struggles, I am taken back to my childhood where this fear rooted long ago.

Karly Grant Fear

I revealed the litany I ran through nightly as a child, but once a year, on New Year’s Eve, I would also ask God not to let Jesus return that year. One of my earliest memories is accepting Christ at four or five years old. While I fully believe that I was saved that day, I didn’t automatically have all the answers and that scared me. I cried to my mom one day when I was about six because I was terrified of Jesus returning. I didn’t have the Bible memorized, and in my mind, I was going to get to Heaven and there would be a test. I was afraid I would fail God. My mom lovingly explained the truth to me, but for many years, I thought God would find I failed, and if I could just postpone a little longer surely I would get there. I still haven’t found perfection, but I have found grace.

God was on his own level but this fear seeped down to my relationships with family as well. There was a time when I was about eight that my family was visiting friends overnight. I woke up the next morning and the lady we were staying with told me that my parents were at the hospital because my mom had been struck with a migraine. This was a semi-common occurrence during this stage of my life, but somehow, being in a different city made it seem different. I, being the oldest of three kids at that time, felt the pressure of telling my sisters and comforting them. What if something happened to my mom? Would I know what to do? I piled unnecessary pressure on myself as a child, and I was afraid I would fail them all as I reached for my self-imposed unrealistic expectations.

_On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate._ -Psalm 145_5

Now I fear failing at life in general. I took some huge steps of faith in a direction that I felt God calling me and it looks nothing like what I thought it would. I can’t help but wonder am I failing those who supported me? I am currently unemployed and still living in a place that I am prepared to say goodbye to. My timeline has failed me, and the enemy is quick to step into this area of my life and hiss lies.

Here in the waiting is where God and I are camping. I’ve been fighting against the enemy and speaking truth about who God is and who He says I am, going from fear of failure to confidence that can only be found through God. Scripture and music have been key to remaining saturated in truth. My times of musical worship at home are anything but pretty. I often cry, sing horribly, and pound on the keys of my keyboard. While I may look miserable to an onlooker, these are sweet times with my Savior and some of the strongest points of warfare against our enemy. Michael W. Smith has a song that I’ve been listening to often these days called Surrounded. Some of the lyrics are “This is how I fight my battles… It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You.

I’ve been doing a Bible study called Psalms for Prayer. While I read these Psalms that I’ve read many times before, they have been hitting me anew.

“On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.” -Psalm 145:5

I find that reading scripture out loud and declaring the goodness of God is life-changing. God is so good. I realize in these times that I can be confident in Him. I don’t have to fear failure. He has a plan. He is with me. He never fails.


Karly Grant headshotKarly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year, she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm of adoption. She is both terrified and excited to see how God moves and what opportunities He provides in this adventure.

God is Faithful

Author: Lila Diller

My testimony always sounded boring to me. I never had a miraculous change or an obviously God-thing happen so that everyone could hear the “Hallelujah” chorus being sung over my head. I simply grew up in church all my life. I heard all about Jesus and His love for me ever since before I can remember.

My pastor always began the invitation the same way every service: “Bow your head and close your eyes. All those who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are saved, raise your hands.” I peeked every Sunday and saw everybody raise their hands. “Now,” he would continue, “anybody who couldn’t do that, who doesn’t know for sure that you are saved, raise your hand so I can pray for you.” Nobody ever raised their hands that they weren’t sure.

I asked my mom one day while she was sewing, “Why does everyone get to raise their hands every Sunday at church?” She told me I needed to be saved and taught me the sinner’s prayer. I bowed my head and repeated that prayer, raising my hand right then.

I just wanted to be like everyone else in my church. That’s just what everyone in my world did. Salvation and baptism were just what every good little church girl did. And I was determined to be the best little church girl. I followed all the rules, trying to please my parents, Sunday School teachers, pastor, and school teachers. When my pastor baptized me, he asked me some questions about salvation. I don’t remember what they were or how I answered them, but whatever my serious answers were, they prompted the entire congregation to laugh at me.

Character of God Lila DillerThe next year, when I was seven, my little sister started asking questions about heaven and hell one night after church. My mom and dad sat us both down and told us again about the Gospel. I felt that I hadn’t really understood it before and was scared to think I might still go to hell whenever I died. I prayed again, and I believe I truly repented that night. But I had already been baptized in front of everybody, so I didn’t tell anyone.

I remember being excited enough to tell the Gospel to my best friend at school. She was shocked when I used the word “hell.” I was always really active in the church youth group and made it a point to “do” my daily devotions every morning.

But I struggled with doubt all through my school years. I would wonder, “What if I didn’t say the right words? What if I didn’t mean it sincerely? What if I hadn’t understood it enough? What if I couldn’t remember the exact date or the exact words I prayed?” I would pray over and over, “Lord, if I wasn’t really saved before, save me now.” But I was never sure.

When I turned 15, the year of spiritual darkness began. I doubted everything I was ever taught, even down to the existence of any god whatsoever! Through soul-searching and a little bit of research in our tiny little school library, I decided there had to be a higher being that created the universe. It couldn’t have just happened for no reason; there is no effect without a cause.

Lila Diller God is FaithfulThen I wondered if He was just a Force or maybe the God of the Muslims, Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I had many times before felt Him speak to me through His Word, enough to prove to me that He was the God of the Bible. But was the Bible to be interpreted literally or liberally? I was even forced into debating religion at school. It was me against all my other classmates, who were either Mormons or atheists. I had answers for all of their arguments and questions. But I still doubted every once in a while.

I made the decision early on to go to a Christian college. I desperately prayed, asking for guidance in college choice as well as career choice. I never got a definitive answer for the career, but I felt my choices narrowing and narrowing until I chose PCC. The very first week of my Freshman year, they held a revival. I realized all this time, though I knew the doctrines and believed intellectually in all the right beliefs, I had not been trusting in Jesus alone. I had been trusting—or rather, not trusting but doubting—in my prayer and understanding of my salvation prayer. After that, I never doubted again! “He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Praise the Lord!


KODAK Digital Still CameraLila is an author of Christian Romance novels, blogger, and homeschool mom. She loves sushi and Mexican food, Hallmark movies, anything dark chocolate, the color purple, and reading in her pajamas. Lila, outnumbered by a houseful of males, lives with her supportive husband Chris, two energetic boys, and a hyper dog in Statesville, NC. She loves to help readers create romance in their marriages and in their spiritual walks with Jesus. You can find her at liladiller.com and at www.facebook.com/loveisseries.

Trusting the Sovereignty of God

Author: Karly Grant

Sovereignty. It seems like such a big, daunting word, because it is. To those of us who claim to follow Jesus, God’s sovereignty is at the core of what we believe and walk in. The dictionary defines sovereignty as, “supreme power or authority.” I believe that God’s power and authority is evident throughout scripture and in my own life. The idea of God’s sovereignty seems so intimidating, but really it is simple and allows believers to experience deep freedom.

God's character Karly GrantWhen I think about the sovereignty of God in the Bible, I immediately think about the book of Exodus. A few years ago I was in a Bible study that went through this book in depth. Every week when we’d get to the last question of the study about how to apply what we had read, my answer was, “God is sovereign. I need to trust that.” The story of Exodus really begins in Genesis with God’s promise to Abraham to make him a great nation–offspring that would be as plentiful as the stars.

Abraham may not have lived to see this promise come to complete fruition, but God, in His sovereignty, ruled Abraham’s descendants. In the book of Exodus, God leads them out of exile and eventually to the promised land. God called Moses to set His people free. He hardened and softened Pharaoh’s heart, and eventually set His people free. Even while the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God was sovereign. He was in control. He provided what they needed and, with love, ruled over them.

God’s sovereignty continued into the New Testament. God sent His son to save us. He has the power to do that. It is because of His authority over the earth that Jesus came down, lived a sinless life, told us how to live, and paid the ultimate price. It is because of God’s sovereignty that He rules over us today and called us to be His children.

During those years I was weekly (if not daily) reminded of God’s sovereignty, and they were needed as I learned to trust His plan and rule in my life. That is still the case today. I am a slow learner, and, really, I think it is a lesson that will take a lifetime to learn.

When my world seems to fall apart, I need to trust God’s authority. The last few years have been extremely difficult for my family. Things have happened that I never imagined, and quite frankly, they tore my family apart. I don’t know why these things happen, and other than a miracle, I don’t see restoration happening this side of Heaven, but I know that I can trust the God who is sovereign in my life. I can rest peacefully and wake up every morning knowing that He is in control.

Karly Grant Character of GodCurrently, as I plan to take a huge step of faith by moving to another state, I am so grateful for the steadfastness of my God. The last few weeks have been stressful as I nail down specifics, such as a place to live. I’m holding closely to Proverbs 16:9 in these times, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” 

I know that God is in control. He hasn’t stopped providing for me yet, and he won’t. In His time, He will provide a home and a job for me. He is in control. He is sovereign over the world and over my life. I can keep putting one foot in front of the other and following where He leads. He was sovereign over Abraham, Moses, and Jesus’s life on earth. He has had authority and power over my life. He will have all sovereignty for eternity. For that, I am thankful.


image1 (1)Karly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm  of adoption. God has laid this heavily on her heart and she is willing to trust Him. This homebody is taking the biggest leap of faith yet this spring and moving 1,700 miles away from the life and people she has known as long as she can remember. She is  both terrified and so stinking excited to see how God moves and what opportunities He provides in this adventure.

Thriving in Change and Uncertainty

I’ve been struggling to thrive lately, pulled in every direction by life’s constant changes. I’m thankful and content one minute, then discontent or afraid the next as I remember all the unknowns and ‘what ifs’ of the new year ahead.

Rachel Olson ThriveMeanwhile, I keep thinking of the apostle Paul – a man who’d been through shipwrecks, prison, and all sorts of things, yet learned to be content in every kind of situation. I want to learn the same.

What does it mean to thrive when life is good, but my soul is still restless and discontent – hungering for something more? How do I thrive when life constantly fluctuates from one extreme to the next – full of joy and redemption; loss and grief; deep friendship or loneliness, and daunting unknowns? Circumstances are ever changing. I cannot thrive while I’m focused on my surroundings.

When I start grasping for hope and stability in the world around me, I come up short, floundering through every change and disappointment. But when I take my question back to Scripture, Jesus draws my eyes away from my fears and back to himself.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

 “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Thrive Rachel OlsonOver and over again, I see the same answer: Remember Me. Seek Me first. I am faithful.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Habakkuk describes a day when the fruit trees will not produce, the crops will fail, and the stables will be empty; nothing is left. In an agricultural society, this could mean starvation. Habakkuk’s basic survival is on the line. And yet his trust in the Lord is so deeply rooted that he can rejoice. Just like the apostle Paul, his eyes are firmly fixed on God, above his circumstances. His hope is not in his surroundings, but in the God who shaped the earth and put breath in his lungs.

This begs the question, where is my hope? Can I look beyond today’s uncertainty and rejoice in the God who holds the entire earth together? Whether today brings laughter, tears, or exhaustion, it makes all the difference to stop and remember whose world we’re in. What is it worth to depend on our own strength or the outlook of our circumstances? God is the one who puts breath in our lungs and sustains us moment by moment. He sees us, He cares, and He holds each situation we face.


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.

Messy Learning

One of my biggest surprises when it comes to parenting is how non linear it is. I always imagined that once I taught my child something, that we could just move on to the next thing. That once she learned the alphabet song,  she would always know it and we could build on that. It’s been much messier than that. She might know the alphabet song for a time and then months later “Q R S” have mysteriously disappeared and been left out entirely. Not to say that my children never retain anything, but it requires so much more relearning and repetition than I expected.

Messy Sarah ClewsPredictably, I also expected my walk with Jesus would be more linear. Instead I find that the more I know Jesus, the more I realize what a mess I am and how short I fall. Those lessons in humility I hoped I had learned in my early 20s? I find I’m learning them all over again. I’m so thankful that I am in relationship with a God who acts as a loving Fatherloves me just as I am, and meets me right where I am.

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 (NLT)

It was one thing to try and live a life honoring to God when I was single, with no kids, and very few financial responsibilities. Now, the stuff of life—financial strain, three small children, exhaustion, surgery (4 in the last 5 years!) recoveries, job shifts, changes in friends/community— chips away at my fragile veneer and reveals my own selfishness and controlling tendencies. When some of these props are taken away or changed, I find that I’m often just a hot mess. But in this mess is exactly where God is working.sarah clews mess

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

God won’t give up on me. And he’s not expecting me to have it all together. In fact, He is most glorified when I admit what a mess I am.  Each time he says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”(2 Corinthians 12:9)

So I bring him the untidiness, shambles, and mishmash that linger within me and ask, “Teach me again, Lord Jesus.”


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

July Printable: A Watered Garden

Here in the middle of summer people can begin to feel emotionally parched, but the Lord can satisfy. Sarah Dohman wanted to remind us of where the water for our souls come from with this month’s free printable.

“The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11

May the word of God water your roots so that you may bloom into whatever comes next.

Click Here to Grab Your Free Printable!

Isaiah 58-11 Printable Preview.jpg

That Which Cannot Be Earned

Years ago, I sat across from my counselor to hear her say, “Nothing you do can make God love you more or make God love you less.” My thinking was forever changed.

Freedom Sarah ClewsTo some, this might sound like a no brainer. But even though I was raised as an evangelical Christian, it was news to me. I knew my good deeds wouldn’t save me. Yet this felt like a new and remarkable truth because I did think my deeds could change God’s love. I found myself laboring under this idea that God was perpetually disappointed in me, that my sins and failures were making Him love me less. I lived my life in a cycle of shame and striving.

I had been so burdened by a yoke of slavery where I was constantly living in self-reproach, agonizing over my ungracious response to a family member the previous week or my unkind action to a friend a month ago. I was desperate for spiritual and emotional freedom. Jesus offers just that, freedom that says, “Not only do I forgive you, but I also free you from your shame.”

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

God is so clear in the Bible that He has FREED us from our striving. Living by a religion of works is so exhausting because it’s clearly never enough and obviously imperfect.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 

Sarah Clews freedomWhat freedom this scripture brings! I was recently thinking back to the story of when Adam and Eve first sinned. For the longest time, I thought they were ashamed for God to see them because they were naked. But they weren’t naked! They had tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. They tried to remove their own shame by their own efforts, by their own works. Yet it wasn’t enough. They couldn’t truly be covered until God covered them by His work.

It was God’s work that freed them from their shame, not their works.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Because I know my own weakness and inability to follow every rule, what a relief it has been to know that God’s love doesn’t depend on me at all! It is a gift that sets those held captive free. There’s no better hope than that.


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.