Category Archives: choices

Grace: God vs. Man

I have been thinking a lot about grace recently.  Apparently, a (big) life change will lead you down that road.

 

Three weeks ago, I was dealt an unexpected blow.  No, I didn’t see it coming.  No, I didn’t know it was being planned.  No, I didn’t expect it.  But did it break me?  No!  Because as I sat across from someone who defined me by a self-proclaimed stereotype a long time ago and refused to let it go, I was overwhelmed by God’s grace.  I immediately saw the hand of God on my life and realized God was at work to remove me – with blessings – from a situation that had never been healthy for me.  And internally I smiled and praised, because God’s grace produced such peace in me.  I was good – no, I was great – in the middle of this sudden life twist.  How?  Because God reassured me He is with me (always) and was closing out this season according to His purpose.  And I have the hope that He was already working out the new season of His plans for me.

 

God’s grace was at it always is – present, peace-full, and perpetual.

 

Man’s grace, however, once again showed up for what it often is – judgmental, contrary, and specifically limited.

 

And as I think about my recent days and ponder people versus God when it comes to grace, it becomes abundantly clear that while God’s grace is readily available, man’s is not.  And rarely will man be so carefree with his grace as God is.

Grace - God vs Man

Because we as humans feel like we cannot freely give grace.

We have to hoard it.

We have to withhold it.

We refuse to give it.

We dole it out in portions that satisfy us and our stereotypes.

 

So freely we take grace from God.  Yet so easily we refuse to give it to others.

 

But WHY?

 

Why do we choose to be caustic, cautious, careful, and casual about giving grace?  Is it because we sit in judgment of people based on our goodness and standards?  Is it because we are fearful God will punish us or won’t “refill” us for giving away what He gave us?  Or is it because we are drawn to disobedience and going our own way?

 

Ouch!

 

And then I wonder.  I wonder how someone can look you in the eye and call you worthless, no matter how hard you work.  Judge you as trouble, no matter what the evidence says to the contrary.  Allow someone to yell at and revile you publicly (and loudly) without consequence.  And all the while unapologetically demanding respect – and grace – in return.

 

And through it all, I am really expected to extend grace?  YES.  Because God extends grace to me.  When I least deserve it.  When I’m at my worst.  When I could care less who I hurt.

 

God is never like man with grace.  He’s never cautious or hesitant.  He’s never careful.  He’s never casual.  He’s never caustic.

 

He gives grace freely and fully.

When we ask.

 

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

 

We can come without hesitation, without fear, and without shame to His “throne of grace”, to find the freedom and healing we need – whether we have withheld grace or had grace withheld.

 

So will you be humble enough today to seek and ask God for the grace you need?

 

Marie Fremin.  5/19/18 and 6/7/18

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Come to the Altar

“O come to the altar / The Father’s arms are open wide / Forgiveness was bought with / The precious blood of Jesus Christ” (Elevation Worship)

 

We all have an altar in the center of our hearts.

 

We all have the place from which we give our affection, our attention, and our appreciation.

We all have the core of our beliefs – if God is real, if forgiveness is necessary, and if joy is possible.

We all have the driving force of our thoughts, our actions, our words, and our feelings.

Come to the Altar

What’s on your altar?

 

Is it self-righteousness, the feeling of being better than others at life and faith?

Is it self-importance, knowing you have the right name brand stuff or social media “friends”?

Is it shame, a feeling of being dirty and unworthy because of bad choices?

Is it fear, the overwhelming anxiety of not being in total control?

Is it lust, the all-consuming passion for things not meant for you?

Is it anger, the rage and frustration that overwhelms kindness?

Is it jealousy, the deep-seeded desire for blessings you see in other people’s lives?

Is it greed, a selfishness that keeps you from acts of generosity?

 

Or …

Is it God’s love, which is bigger than any situation you will face?

Is it God’s grace, which can redeem any situation for His glory?

Is it God’s hope, which reminds you daily of His purposes for you?

 

God wants whatever is on the altar of your heart.

And if it isn’t His best for you, He wants to burn it up.

Because He wants to place His grace there instead.

He wants to overflow you with forgiveness and freedom.

He wants to generously give you life, joy, and peace.

 

He wants to change who you are so you best reflect Him.

And it starts with our altars.

And what is influencing us.

 

He warned Old Testament Israel repeatedly about the altars they would encounter in the Promised Land – “But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images)” (Exodus 34:13).  Because My children Israel, these altars represent all the things I, Your God, want to protect you from – greed, lust, selfishness, idolatry, and pagan sacrifice.  Stay far away from such things.  Destroy the ones you come near.  Do not let them persuade you or distract you.  Remove them as obstacles, because they will ultimately hinder our relationship and stop the blessings I want to give you.

 

Instead, be like Abraham in Genesis 22.  Lay your most precious things on the altar of His love.  Give Him all you have – especially those things of highest value and biggest sacrifice.  Trust Him with the outcome of your offering.  And like Abraham, He will bless you with more than you could expect.

 

So I will ask again – what is on your altar?

 

God wants to take anything that isn’t His fruit or His best and redeem it for your good and His glory.  Like He did for Israel with Elijah – 1 Kings 18:38-39 – “38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!

 

He will replace your self-righteousness with compassion, self-importance with humility, shame with freedom, fear with courage, lust with self-control, anger with forgiveness, jealousy with contentment, and greed with generosity.

 

Then your altar becomes “El Bethel” (Genesis 35:7) – of the glory of God.

 

So will you answer God’s invitation to “O come to the altar”?  Be like David and run with loud praises and great affection “to the altar of God”, where you will find unending grace and unwavering mercy leading to “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4).

 

Marie Fremin.  1/28/18.  2/3/18.  2/18/18.  3/10/18.  5/22/18.  6/7/18.

Reckless Love

Reckless Love

This new popular Cory Asbury song has really gotten me thinking about what it means to be reckless.  In our simple human spectrum, to be reckless is to be careless, thoughtless, hasty, impulsive, or irresponsible (Google dictionary).

 

But in God’s realm, reckless takes on a totally new meaning and significance.  God is all about the audacious – with His love, His compassion, His care, His forgiveness, His grace, and His mercy.

 

He gives in abundance.

He gives continually.

He gives unconditionally.

Without question, without qualm, without quibble.

 

He has great care for us, wanting to touch and transform our hearts.  He has much thought for us, allowing us to use the gifts He has given us to be part of His purposes.  Nothing He does or allows is impulsive or without consideration of the consequences.  Everything is filtered through His grace to bring glory to His name.  He is a guardian of our hearts, never irresponsible with our soul.  He knows what we will allow to touch it, and He will use everything to refine us in the image of Jesus and reform us by amazing measures of grace.

 

He gives to us, and it will be without measure and with great pleasure as long as we allow it.

 

So much different from us simple humans.

 

I keep thinking how we are reckless – but usually not in the same unconditional and forgiving ways as God.

 

Because we tend toward selfishness instead of selflessness.  We often do what will help us advance or succeed instead of loving like Jesus did (perhaps at personal cost).  We often speak to help our agenda or defend our “rightness” instead of listening, praying, or considering our impact.  We often think in terms of judgment, pity, or condemnation instead of seeing a beloved child of God who needs grace.

 

We are often people whose importance is “me”.  What have I earned?  What do I deserve?  What will you do for me?  We focus on ourselves.  We center on what we need and want.  We lean in only because it benefits us.

 

When God has called us to reckless – aka audacious – love and grace.  How can I help you?  How can I encourage you?  How can I show you that you are important?

 

And I readily admit that it is HARD for me to be so reckless.  To take my eyes, my heart, and my mind off me – at times it is almost impossible.  Because in those moments my flesh has taken control, demanding everything it thinks I am lacking and driving me constantly back to me, to make all I say, do, and think all about me.

 

And in those times it takes God’s audacious grace to pull me out of the quicksand of “me” and set me right again.

 

So now I stop and consider what I am audacious about.  Is it mostly me and my well-being?  Or am I on alert for opportunities of grace God surrounds me with?

 

Loving Father, thank You for Your audacious love toward us, which never gives up on us and always encourages more of You in our lives.  Help everyone reading this to become more reckless for and with You.  Help us to see each opportunity for audacious love and grace You put in front of us – and to recklessly go after it, for Your glory.  In Jesus’ almighty name.  AMEN!

 

 

An extra nugget:

Here’s the great irony: as much as I am for and about me, how much more is God!  He is reckless for me and with me and about me, wanting me to benefit and be blessed.  He wants me to experience the FULL measure of His love – in having abundant joy, peace, hope, healing, forgiveness, and contentment.

 

Marie Fremin.  5/19/18

Resentment Be Gone

I am going to tell on myself – my mind is a mess recently.  I have had thoughts so far from grace and truth that I could have easily lost myself in the mess.  They always came at work – and feeling unappreciated.  Watching other people get praised.  Seeing other people get raises.  Feeling overlooked and overwhelmed.

Resentment Be Gone

The thoughts would come, unexpected.  They tried to take root, wanting to undo any goodness that actually existed.  And as soon as I realized what was going on, I shook the thoughts out, laughed, and prayed for protection.

 

Because resentment wanted to become my master, the mistress of my heart.  And she is a harsh mistress.  She won’t go quietly away.  Once she has a hold on you, it can become a death grip.  She wants everything you have, and she will come for you until she has it.

 

She wants your relationships.  She wants to separate you from people who can encourage you and help you grow.  She wants to connect you with people who make you question God’s goodness and who steal God’s peace.  She wants to isolate you from His light and integrate you into the darkness of the world.

 

She wants your mind.  She wants to steer your thinking in a direction away from God’s truth and love.  She wants to convince you that people think badly of you … and for good reasons.  She wants you to think about everything you aren’t – and how God stays away from such things.

 

She wants your affection.  She wants to take compassion and stomp it out with carelessness and caustic feelings.  She wants to suffocate goodness out of the picture completely.  She chooses anger, animosity, and anguish over acceptance, hospitality, and forgiveness.

 

She wants your words.  She wants you to speak rashly and quickly, without pause or consideration.  She wants knee-jerk reactions and thoughtless comebacks.  She wants harsh retorts and hard remarks without care or grace.

 

She wants your focus.  She wants to be the center of your attention.  She wants to be the “comfort” you turn to when circumstances are rough and unfair.  She wants you to turn to her first to revel in all the wrongs in your life.

 

Again, she wants all you are and all you have.  And she will dig her fingernails in inch by painful inch into whatever area of flesh you give her.

 

So how do we combat her and her deadly influence?  It starts by recognizing her when she creeps in.  Hear her evil whisper.  See her harsh influence.  Realize she lurks to wage war against truth.

 

Then fight the good fight by being grateful.  Look at your blessings and count them.  Be thankful for how God has His hand on your life and is taking care of you.  Be content with the life, the gifts, and the blessings you have.

 

There is plenty of direction to help us:

  • Hebrews 13:5 – “Let yourconduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
  • Luke 3:14 – “Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be contentwith your wages.’
  • Philippians 4:11 – “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be 
  • 1 Timothy 6:6-8 – “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
  • Jeremiah 31:14 – “I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, And My people shall be satisfiedwith My goodness, says the Lord.
  • Jeremiah 31:25 – “For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.
  • Psalm 128:2 – “When you eat the labor of your hands, You shall be happy, and it shall bewell with you.
  • Proverbs 14:14 – “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfiedfrom above.

 

So how did I handle it?  As I sat at my desk and heard the words scroll through my brain, I began to recite the history of God’s goodness and the litany of God’s blessings in my life.  How can I be resentful when I think about how blessed I am?  I can’t.

 

So maybe today we can encourage each other to appreciate what we have and stop worrying about everything else.

 

Loving Father, thank You for everything You have given me.  Thank You for every blessing – those I see and those I have yet to see.  When I take my eyes off You and allow resentment to creep in, please help me to recognize it immediately and stop it!  I want to be content at all times and in all circumstances.  So help me to tune out every whisper that isn’t from You.  Help me to not be influenced away from Your goodness, Your grace, and Your generosity.  Help me to stand firm in my faith that what I have is more than enough.  In Jesus’ all-mighty name.  AMEN!

 

Marie Fremin.  5/1/18 and 5/4/18.

Lot’s Wife

When was the last time you had a big life change?

 

They can be tough.  Especially when they are unexpected.  When the solid ground beneath you suddenly opens up and swallows your security.

 

And you have to decide.

Trust God or freak out.

Settle into peace or pass out in fear.

Believe in something better or try to hang on to something not good for you.

 

And I believe God hopes we will settle into His grace and trust the unknown plans He is orchestrating.

 

Just like He hoped with Lot and his family.  When the city of Sodom and Gomorrah became too far gone with no remorse, God decided to destroy the city.  Except for one righteous man, Lot.  God asks that in exchange for their lives that they “Don’t look back …” (Genesis 19:17).

 

While I am drawing you away from danger and destruction, don’t wish to be back in your home or talking to your friends.  Don’t long to be part of that world anymore.  It has nothing of value, of substance, or of faith.  I am saving you from its destruction, so look ahead to the possibilities of the future.

 

But Lot’s wife could not let go.  That life had become more important to her than God.  So she “… looked back …” (Genesis 19:26), unable to believe the desert in front of her held any possibility.

 

And God saw where her heart was set.   So “… she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26).

Lot's Wife

It seems harsh and somewhat cruel.  I cannot begin to understand God’s purpose.

 

But I can see a valuable lesson – by grace she was saved, but she refused it.  She rejected all God offered her in the moment, believing He was stealing her from something better.

 

Even Jesus used her as an example – “32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Luke 17:32-33).

 

Remember that wanting something outside of God’s best will eventually destroy you.

It will never bring lasting goodness or sustaining grace.

 

Don’t look back and long to be where you were scared, proud, insecure, or overly secure.

Don’t look back and want to stay in a rut that was keeping you from growing and changing.

Don’t look back and wish that you had the stress and joylessness that were destroying you piece by piece.

 

Trust God when He pulls you out of a job a relationship, a church, a house, or a city.  Believe with absolute confidence that He is going to take care of you as He brings you to something better.  Let your faith be grounded in His continuing goodness.

 

So consider where you are today.

Then consider where you were.

Now choose to believe God is at work for your good.

 

And you won’t want to look (go) back – except to thank Him for how far He’s brought you.

 

Marie Fremin.  4/29/18

Drop Your Sword

Passover is done, and Jesus has gone off with eleven of His disciples to pray in the garden of Gethsemane to prepare for His final hours.  Then there is the moment when Judas shows up “with a great multitude with swords and clubs” (Matthew 26:47) and temple guards to arrest Him.  The soldiers surge in, pushing the disciples back.  The air is charged.  “And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear” (Matthew 26:51).

Drop your sword 1

Who was it?  Peter (John 18:10).  Quick to react, impulsive Peter … ready to defend his Rabbi who is being arrested.  But Jesus does not ask to be defended.  Jesus has made peace with what is coming, knowing He is within the perfect will of His Father.  So He asks His disciples to have peace too – “Put your sword into the sheath” (John 18:11).

 

There is a similar scenario in the movie “God’s Not Dead 3: Light in the Darkness”.  Pastor Dave picks up the sword of “justice” to defend his long-standing church against the school that wants to tear it down after a horrible fire.  He spends the movie wielding his sword in every direction, demanding to be declared right in the battle of church versus school.  And in the end, he realizes that Jesus was right in Matthew 26:52 – “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword”.  God has not called him to wage war, because war is affecting his influence and God’s goodness.  God is asking him to drop his sword – to give up his right to be right and feel right.  God is asking him to step back and choose love.  To show the students and the community what a true believer looks like.

 

And God is asking the same thing from us, just as He asked of Peter and Pastor Dave.  “Put your sword in its place”.  Drop your sword.  Stop holding onto your anger.  Stop demanded vengeance.  Stop holding onto bitterness.  Stop wallowing in jealousy.  Stop drowning in shame.

Drop your sword 2

God is asking us to open those fingers clasped overly tight around the sword in our hands (and hearts).  To lay down our need to be right or be vindicated.  To let go and drop the sword.

 

Because it is only in letting go of our sword that we find the peace we are ultimately seeking.

 

Pastor Dave was never going to find peace or win the ultimate battle of touching lives and sharing the light of Jesus by suing the school.  Peter was never going to accomplish anything but getting himself into trouble and possibly dying before his purposed time by being so reckless in the moment.

 

All our sword does is keep us down and hold us back.  It will never lift us up.  It doesn’t make us right.  It doesn’t give us hope.  It doesn’t bring us peace.

 

In fact, our sword is one of the things standing between us and peace.  The peace he promises us (John 14:27, Philippians 4:7) that surpasses human comprehension and possibility.  But we invade that peace when we insist on holding onto our swords.

 

So today’s the day to drop the sword.  Whatever you’re holding, whatever you’re carrying around, and whatever seems so important that you can’t let go.  It’s time to lay it down.

 

Because the cross is the ultimate sword.  It will overcome every battle we have fought, we are fighting, and we have yet to fight.  It will defeat whatever is coming against us.  And it is always for us.

 

So today, will you trust God enough to drop your sword?

 

Marie Fremin.  4/12/18, 4/15/18, 4/29/18.

Wide Open

What is wide open in your life?

 

Is it a desert filled with hopelessness, dejectedness, and resignation?

 

Is your heart a dry and empty plain defined by shame, blame, and pain?  Are there dark corners, shadowed paths, and an overall dim atmosphere to keep people out?

 

Is your heart a deeply rutted and overly bumpy plain defined by anger, bitterness, and resentment?  Are there excessive potholes and extending speed bumps to stop all connection?

 

Is your heart a lifeless and lightless plain defined by fear, dread, and panic?  Are there no sure paths, no true footholds, and no lighted way because you have no security?

 

A heart like any of these won’t lead to a life most successful or glorious.  Because we have no wide open spaces for His love to penetrate.  We’ve crowded out His grace with our own value and estimation of life.  We’re blocking His goodness from coming in and working good in us.

 

He wants us to live wide open to all the possibilities He can do.  And He showed us how.

 

Jesus spent 6 hours with His arms wide open on a cross to overcome the influence of sin over your life and to overwrite the pain of your past.

 

With His arms wide open, He showed you that He is bigger than your greatest fear and more powerful than your hardest circumstance.

 

With His arms wide open, He looked past all your bad choices and big mistakes to give you the hope and freedom of a new life.

 

With His arms wide open, He loved you.  Right where you are, in the mess of your life.  He saw the beauty of His divinely created child and died to adopt you eternally as His own.

 

With His arms wide open, He proved He was open about:

  • Romans 5:8But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners
  • Ephesians 3:18-1918 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
  • Psalm 103:12He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
  • Matthew 19:26Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
  • Ephesians 3:20Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
  • Numbers 23:19God is not a man, so he does not lie.  He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act?  Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
  • Isaiah 55:11It is the same with my word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
  • Galatians 6:9So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
  • Romans 8:32Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?

 

And now He stand waiting, His arms wide open, for you to come to Him.  With all that you are.  With every hope and dream.  With every mistake and hurt.  To come into his open arms and be loved.  Fully.  Completely.  Sincerely.

Wide Open

And when you walk into His waiting embrace, those arms wide open will gently and lovingly embrace you in His supernatural healing love.

 

So will you open your arms to Him and choose grace over shame, forgiveness over anger, and confidence over fear?

 

He is waiting, smiling, with His arms wide open toward you.

 

Marie Fremin.  4/8/18