How Tenderness Awakens Us: Accepting Your Identity as Abba’s Child

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How do you think God perceives you? Many of us might say with a shrug, “Well, the Bible says He loves me, so I suppose that means He loves me.”

So many of us have all this theological, intellectual head knowledge stifled up inside us overflowing so there’s no room for our hearts to truly be affected.

It’s just facts.

But when it comes to actual, practical, nitty gritty “real life,” everything’s different. When we mess up, we curse ourselves. When we enter social settings, insecurities pile up and stifle our true selves. When others point out our faults, we feel like completely miserable good-for-nothing creatures. When we try to follow God, it feels fake and we’re left empty.

We assume that when our hearts condemn us, God must condemn us, too. But that is so far from the truth!

“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:19-20 (ESV)

God is greater than our hearts! In fact, the very reason Jesus came into the world was to free us from condemnation.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

I apologize to anyone reading this who knows me and has seen me live with a hard fist against myself. I don’t want you to think that my good Shepherd isn’t taking care of me. It wasn’t His fault at all, it was my own. The truth is, He has been a good Shepherd this whole time, but for much of my life I didn’t fully entrust myself into His loving care, and was left a starved, straggly-looking sheep.

I want you to know that my God is a God of comfort, and that knowing Him brings the deepest delight. In Him there is life, and life to the fullest. (John 10:10) As I begin to know Him more, I begin to trust Him more. And as I trust Him more, I feel less inclined to condemn myself and more inclined to give it all up to Him and let Him free me from all the darkness within me.

So, yes, beloved. In Christ, there is NO CONDEMNATION. The condemnation we feel is a LIE. It’s not from God but straight from the devil! He tries to tear us down so we can have no confidence before God. But God doesn’t want us to feel perpetually condemned, but only temporarily guilty when we have sinned so we can be forgiven and then have confidence before Him!

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” – Ephesians 3:12

This past semester I was reading a book called Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning (which I highly recommend!) and this was a quote that stuck out to me:

“But we cannot assume that He feels about us the way we feel about ourselves—unless we love ourselves compassionately, intensely, and freely.”

I don’t think any of us can say we love ourselves as deeply and unconditionally in the manner which God reveals His love toward us. But the truth is, while we go off condemning ourselves, God is extravagantly loving us!

If we would only accept this unwavering acceptance God shows us, what freedom we would have!

Later in the book, Manning states: “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

God calls us Beloved! Take this to heart. Rejecting His tender voice is the same as rejecting Himself. Rejecting our identity as His Beloved is the same as rejecting Himself.

If God is love, but we believe that we are not loved by God or that His love isn’t enough to erase the condemnation we deserve, then we don’t really believe that God is who He claims to be. We don’t believe in the real God, but a masqueraded version of Him that has poured His wrath on ourselves rather than on Jesus, who willingly took our place on the cross of shame! If in Christ we have life to the full because of His resurrection, then, quite plainly, if we believe in the real God we will have life to the full!

If we insist on condemning ourselves, then as we move forward in walking in obedience to Christ, our actions will be external, marked by fear instead of faith. If we insist to our souls that God deeply cares for us, then we can move forward to serve God, internally affected by His love, and acting out of faith in Him.

Knowing deeply God as your Father and experiencing His love for you teaches your soul to love others, as Christ has commanded us. Rather than treat people flippantly, we can reach their hearts with authentic, genuine tenderness which we ourselves have received from God.

Later on Manning explains this concept this way: “If I am not in touch with my own belovedness, then I can’t touch the sacredness of others.”

People are sacred, because they were created in the image of God. They have souls. They have needs within their souls, deep longings to be loved and known. Hunger, whether they realize it or not, to be filled with the fullness of the living God.

When you yourself have been utterly swept up in His love, all your defenses broken down, and all your fears melted away, the way you interact with others changes. No longer are you insecure, prideful, or self-seeking. Now all you know is the Lord’s tenderness, and so you express that to others, seeking for their well-being and caring for their hearts, just as the Lord has done for you.

This isn’t just obeying God anymore. While it is that, too, it’s also abiding in Him. Loving Him. Being united with Him.

It’s not acting out of a false identity anymore, like a white-washed wall that is ugly when you look passed the surface. You’ve been changed from the inside out. You naturally live as the Lord wishes to, because the Lord is your good Shepherd who is taking care of you. Why would you run away from Him and try to take care of yourself, when you know you are a helpless and silly sheep who cannot find green pastures on your own? Or why would you entrust yourself to a Shepherd who starves his flock?

In either of these cases, you would simply be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Trying and trying to look good on the outside, but starving on the inside. Being outwardly a decent human but inside being a wretch who desperately needs to be rescued and cared for by the good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. (John 10:11)

In Abba’s Child, Manning calls the false identity “the imposter” while living in our true identity requires accepting our identity as God’s Beloved and living each day in the victorious reality of Christ’s resurrection.

“The imposter starts to shrink only when he is acknowledged, embraced, and accepted. The self-acceptance that flows from embracing my core identity as Abba’s child enables me to encounter my utter brokenness with uncompromising honesty and complete abandon to the mercy of God.”

Accept that you have a white-washed wall, and then brutally tear it down. Let God rebuild you into a new, beautiful creation, that is at the core His Beloved, and at the core exempt from all condemnation.

Sink deep into this love, and don’t lose sight of the magnitude of the Lord’s tenderness toward you. His compassion never fails. Be completely honest with Him, and He will be sure to lead you into an authentic relationship with Him.

Never give up on pursuing Him, because He certainly will never give up on pursuing you, Beloved. Enjoy this song, and have a beautiful day!

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What Life is All About

A post from my author blog about the true meaning of life!

Grace Caylor

This summer I will be attending a discipleship program for 10 weeks. Prayers are very much appreciated! ❤ It’s amazing how living life and growing in my faith and meeting people and getting to know them can affect and improve my writing, helping me write honestly and from my heart, since my heart is expanding into more meaningful territory. Though I may not have much time for working on my novel, I know this experience will be life-changing. And I know I will have time to slow down and ponder what life is really all about. 

As much as life seems like it’s all about the going and moving and chasing and running round and round here and there getting success and getting a family and getting a house and getting getting getting — as much as it seems like that… I think it’s more about the slowing down. The…

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A Message to Those Who Have Been Hurt by the Church

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Dear friends,
I’m sorry for the Christians who didn’t love you,
For the Christians who followed a Jesus who
Didn’t eat with sinners
Or shunned the ones who didn’t have it all together.

I’m sorry for the Christians
Who created an atmosphere of fear
Where you had to wear a mask or try to be someone you weren’t,
When deep inside,
You were filled with hurt.

I’m sorry for the Christians
Who didn’t know what grace was,
Who thought they had to convince you to join their side
With hate when the truth is only found in love.

I’m so sorry you were hurt
By those Christians–
those imperfect persons
Who failed to show you who God really is.

Dear friends,
I hope you find who Jesus really is;
A person who lavishes love on you
No matter what you did–
A love so genuine and beautiful that it doesn’t make sense.

I hope you discover that a life with Him
Is like living in an atmosphere of grace,
Where you don’t have to pretend to be anything but who you really are;
And when you show Him your hurt,
He can heal your scars.

I hope you rejoice
In the grace He pours out on you,
And find that the truth only comes
When you turn from the hate and walk in His love.

Dear friend,
I hope you find safety in God’s embrace,
And find the courage to embrace
Every imperfect person,
Including myself–
And that, together, we can learn to show the world
Who God really is.

 

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:9-11

 

 

A few thoughts on Evangelism, Control, and Humility

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I’m going to be taking a break from blogging for awhile, as I get settled into the new semester. I also just need to take a break from sharing what I’m learning so I can sit back and allow God to just teach me things. Because–surprise, surprise–I still haven’t figured this life out yet! There is always so much more to learn. We’ll still have a lot of questions on our death bed, but thank God there is an eternity full of answers!

Before I take my leave from the blogging world, I want to share a few videos that capture some concepts I’ve been learning better than I can explain with a lot of words.

  1. Evangelism made easy! This video sounds too good to be true, but when I watched it, I was really touched by his words, which seem very well backed up with the Bible. We’re not supposed to be sleazy salesmen of the gospel. We’re called to represent Christ’s unconditional love to people, with no ulterior motives, and out of those pure intentions come the words of life and hope that people desperately need to hear.

2. Control. This song really brought into light some things I’ve been wrestling with. I want so badly to be in control of situations, and it’s so hard to trust that Jesus is my good Shepherd guiding me on the right paths. Do I really believe that God is Sovereign? Do I believe that He orchestrates the details of circumstances for my ultimate good? Really, all we have to do is take little steps of faith, be open-hearted towards people, and let God work the rest out. He is our strength and our shield. Even if the earth crumbles beneath our feet, we are still secure in Him.

3. Humility. As C.S. Lewis explained, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Which means thinking of others more! And a person who is always thinking of others is not passive. A humble person is actually a very active person! Definitely some food for thought.

I hope one or more of these videos is an encouragement to you! Goodbye for now, and may you fix your eyes continually on our wonderful Redeemer, Jesus! ❤

 

The Sufficiency of Christ

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”For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10 

What I’ve been learning about God lately is that He longs to be The Fulfiller of Our Needs. The only thing is, He doesn’t always meet our needs with the antidote we anticipate; often, He simply meets our needs with Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. The problem—the conflict, the low income, the loss of a loved one—may still be there, but our heart and mindset are transformed.

Because the reality is—though it is a reality that our flesh has quite the difficulty grasping—Jesus Christ Himself is the only thing we need. If we are in need of comfort, He provides that. If we are in need of love, He provides that. Even for the tenderest hearts who need repeated reassurances of love, God provides. He meets us where we’re at!

The Lord goes out of His way to give of Himself, because He is what we truly need whether we know it or not. He is so sweet and gentle to the most sensitive of us. And when the weakest of us open our hearts to the incredible tenderness of our Lord, we become strong and able to lavishly pour out love onto other people.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.“ – Romans 5:5

Our God is a God of Sufficiency, and the only thing that keeps us from experiencing the depth of His love and provision is our own restraint and doubt. Breathe deep into the sweet love of Christ, for the riches of His mercy are evidenced on that bloody cross at Calvary.

He is truly all we need.

This truth becomes a reality to us as soon as we accept that He is able and eager to be our Total Sufficiency! How could a God of power be incapable of anything? How could a God of grace be unwilling to draw our open hearts nearer to Himself?

Our dear Savior is more than able and more than eager to fill us with delight in His presence. Abandoning all else in life to simply be with Him and surrendering my will to His will brings me a soul-contentment that nothing in this world can offer. 

This song captures the more-than-sufficient, reckless love of God!

CW8: Insecurity vs. Security

This poem fills me with hope and strength every time I read it. God is not a God of timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline!

Grace Abounds

larm-rmah-185506.jpg(Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash)

Insecurity
Trapped in an endless position of fear,
I don’t know what to say.

My mind blanks as I stare at the questioner,
and I cry in my heart, “Someone do this for me!”

Because I want this curse of insecurity to end,
but I don’t know how to stop it—

this embarrassment,
gripping my throat and telling me
who I am—
a somebody that no one understands.

Help me, help me,
but there’s no one who hears me;
everyone’s stricken in panic,
groping for a rock
in their own little worlds.

In the same room
we all cry for somebody who will understand.

In the same room
we’re all standing alone,
wishing we could lay down and die.

Security

Struggling free from my endless position of fear,
I try to think of what to say.

My mind blanks as I stare at the…

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When You (Actually) Surrender

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“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes. All my own desires and hopes and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost now and forever.” – Betty Scott Stam

I think it’s majorly underestimated how much the Christian life requires us to surrender. At the beginning of my freshman year in college, I hung the above quote on my wall. I remember having this strange unsettling feeling as I hung it up, that for some reason, though I thought I must be surrendering everything to God, though I was saying I was surrendering everything to Him, there still were probably some things I was holding back from Him.

Was I really surrendered to God’s will for my life, no matter what that might entail?
Was I casting all my dreams and desires at His feet, completely open to what He wanted for me? Did I trust that He knew what was best for me?

The above quote was such a bold statement that I wasn’t sure if my heart was truly all the way there yet.

But now throughout this semester I have been unmasking what it truly means to surrender. Slowly but surely–painfully and gradually–I am learning not just to say that I surrender to God, but to actually surrender.

Because “believing in Jesus” is a lot more radical than it sounds. Believing in Jesus means laying your life in His hands, trusting He knows what’s best, and letting Him take total control.

It’s about putting to death your desires and being in step with the Spirit rather than the flesh. And oh-how-easy it is for me to forget who I am and let the current sweep me in the opposite direction!

“…put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5

Nevertheless, thank God for His indescribable gift of Jesus Christ! We are certainly not meant to do this on our own, and neither are we capable of it. We could never do this on our own—only through Christ’s strength can we prevail! (Phil. 4:13)

When we fail, we have a gracious mediator on our behalf, Jesus Christ, who is always there to intercede for us, to cover us in His perfect righteousness. With Him, God only sees Jesus’ perfection in us. With Him, we desire to want more of Him. We desire to cast out our flesh and fill our lives with the sweet knowledge of Christ each and every day.

If we do not desire this, we are plants that are dying. A constant heart check and persistent effort to find more of the fullness of God keeps us growing. It’s never too late to drop everything and run to Him!

“Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” 1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV

In doing this, we find abundant freedom and grace. Walking in the Spirit is an intentional everyday process that is so life-giving and peace-filled.

And yet the irony of the Christian life is that while it offers the deepest joy imaginable, it isn’t about being happy. It isn’t about having a good life. It’s about living a life sweetly surrendered to God’s will, and enduring hardship with Christ as a joy far deeper than happiness. The pain of walking humbly in the Lord is worth far more than the happiness associated with fleeting pleasures.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8 ESV

To have Christ as the focus, the meaning, and the entire point of your life is the only thing that will matter for eternity. It’s easy to say it on paper, but surrendering is not easy at all. Surrendering requires the truest humility before God, because He knows deep inside our hearts no matter how much we try to hide from Him. It requires accountability with other believers. It requires community, digging in the Word, prayer, worship, and a constant shift of your thoughts from the things of the world to the things of God.

At some point in this semester, I thought my eyes were fixed on Jesus until I looked up at Him and screamed as Peter did, “Lord, save me!” I was drowning in the deep ocean, hopeless and flailing for my life. I had been distracted by other things, and even when I tried to get my focus back on Him, it was extremely difficult. Yet I was desperate to turn back to my dear Savior, even though these other things seemed so beautiful and good in the moment.

Inspired by a picture my sister sketched, I opened to the passage Matthew 14:25-33 about Peter walking on the water. When Peter became distracted by the waves and started drowning and yelling for help, Jesus immediately reached out his hand and pulled him out of the water. He said to Peter, “You of little faith, why do you doubt?”

As I read Jesus’ words, I almost wept because God seemed to be speaking directly to me in that moment. Why do I doubt!? After all God had done for me, why did I doubt that His plan for me was good, whether or not it worked out how I wanted? Why did I doubt that God’s plan was way better, and anything I wanted that was against His will would be utterly futile and worthless compared to following Jesus? Even if what I wanted sounded good and beautiful, how could I dare trust that I was right, when God knows and see all things?

I am so foolish. Only He knows what is best for me. And yet though we are foolish, the Lord cares for us deeply like a good Father cares tenderly for His children. He wants to give us a life of purpose and hope, abiding in Him and enjoying sweet fellowship with Him.

As you and I learn to truly surrender, let us continually cry out, “Lord, save me!” and grab for His hand that readily pulls us up again. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, so we can walk on the water without fear of the waves.

And let us remember the words of this song, continually checking our hearts to see if we not only say, “Lord, I surrender,” but that we actually do.

“I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart”

A Hero for the Highest Cause

This short story comes to my mind every now and then. The power of Paul’s words in the ending Bible verse always convicts and challenges me. Will we forsake any desires and passions if they aren’t a part of God’s will? Will we put to death these things and consider our lives worth nothing compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus? In this story, we watch a man of God do just that.

Grace Abounds

“There’s a real war out there, you know, you mustn’t risk your life.”

She looked up at me with earnestness in her pale cheeks and round opal eyes. Dark brown cascades rippled over her shoulders. She was too pretty a girl to leave, too pretty to run off and risk my life when I could live happily here with her… but no—I could not think of myself. The lives of hundreds of others were at stake. God had gifted me with the capability of healing the sick and wounded, so I had to use it for His glory.

“I understand your fears, Clarisse, but this is a risk I must take for the Lord. I will risk my life to save the people of France and to share with them the mysteries of God’s grace. And I will risk it for you, beloved—by helping others have the strength to fight…

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Unworthy To Serve

“He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” – John 1:27

I don’t know about you, but so much of me wants more for myself. More honor, glory, power. I want to imagine that I am serving God the finest feast, or singing Him the loveliest song, or dancing for Him in the most perfectly choreographed dance.

I want to do the best, most beautiful thing for Him—but when I read the above verse, I have to stop myself. Wait. Am I willing to do the most lowly thing for Him, too, like tying the straps of His sandals?

And not only that, but I have to take a thousand more steps back. Wait. Do I realize that I am not even worthy to do the lowliest thing for Him?

John the Baptist’s statement is painfully humbling to me–but the good kind of pain! I need to submit to God everything I am. I do not deserve anything.

I must lose sight of myself and see only Him, for He alone is completely perfect, loving, and good! He alone is worthy of honor, glory, and power. He allows us to tie the straps of His sandals, so we can share in the joy of serving Him.

All around us are people in desperate need of Christ. And the Bible tells us that when we help “the least of these” we are serving Christ Himself. In our service to humanity, we are honoring and loving our Savior on a deep, personal level.

Because of this, we must serve others as if we are unworthy to serve them. Isn’t that radically humbling?

We are unworthy to serve others in beautiful ways. We are unworthy to serve them in lowly ways.

And we are even unworthy to be alive. We don’t deserve anything we have right now; we deserve eternal condemnation. Death.

But Jesus Christ gave us the gift of life when He died for us. He humbled Himself on the cross for us so we could cherish our King for eternity. As Christ mediates for us on our behalf, we experience God’s lavished love for us forever.

God is so good to us!

He allows us to take part in His Kingdom—there is no greater privilege than that! He doesn’t need us, but He wants us. There is no job too lowly for us—we can gladly be slaves of righteousness! And as we serve Him, it’s amazing to see how He works beautiful miracles in people’s lives, in ways we could never imagine.

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV)

Let this be the song of your heart to God today! He gladly accepts and cherishes our meager offerings!

Tears of Joy

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“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 (NIV)

Today I have lots of homework and very little time, so I’ll keep it simple. I want to share with you this awesome testimony of an ex Mormon finding out who Jesus really is on a mission trip he took. It really is so beautiful, full of Scripture, and it makes you want to weep tears of joy along with him.

God’s grace is SO amazing!

We don’t have to follow rituals or rigid rules of a religion (the English teacher in me is saying, “Alliteration, oh my!”). We aren’t bound by the law to get us to heaven. We can’t do enough good works to measure up to God’s infinite standard. That’s like trying to throw a rock to the moon. Even the best thrower gets the rock nowhere near the moon.

Jesus is ENOUGH. He truly is! We don’t have to worry if we are doing “enough” for God to be pleased with us, because He is enough. He is the only one who can throw the rock to the moon, so we need Him to take our place–and He is more than happy to!

This should make us want to cry and shout and sing and dance! We can let go of everything and know that God is in control. Jesus’ blood washes over us, covers us, and sanctifies us, and because of that we can be so full of joy that people can’t help beholding the radiance of Christ within us.

Here is the testimony: