Posts tagged Grace
The Power of a Testimony {DWITW 365}
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I remember attending several Christian events as a teen. There was always vibrant worship, excellent speakers, calls to action and the sharing of personal testimonies. I remember sitting and listening with rapt attention to the personal testimonies that were shared.  Stories of people who went from party-goer to all out Christ-follower. Stories of people who went from drug addicts to totally sober and clean. Stories of people who were wretchedly sick and God miraculously healed them. Even the story of the Apostle Paul, whose radical testimony declares him transformed from the biggest persecutor of Christians to one of the leaders of the very Church he once persecuted. It seemed like everywhere I looked, I heard radical stories of change and transformation that left me breathless and in awe of the powerful saving grace of Jesus Christ. And, if I’m being honest...these stories also always left me a little deflated. That’s amazing! That’s wonderful! That awe-inspiring! And then...there is me, and my story.

I was saved at the age of 4. I don’t even remember my “conversion experience,” but my Mom told me that I prayed with her. I grew up in a Christian home (as a missionary kid, no less). I had a rough patch in junior high where I was mean to other girls and too interested in other boys (you know, from a distance). Then, throughout high school, I always received awards like “Christian character” or “leader in service.” I then attended a Christian college, where I was involved in Bible Study leadership and any service opportunity I could get my hands on. At this Christian college, I met my Christian husband and we got married at the young age of 21. Obviously, we were virgins at our wedding. Our vows were Christian and our wedding was, too. Basically, I have always been the “perfect” Christian. With a really, really boring testimony. 

Or, so I thought. Until I come across a passage in Ephesians 2. At first glance, I find my thoughts surge with selfishness and a lack of understanding. Surely, this passage doesn’t apply to Christians like me. Dead in my transgressions? What transgressions? An object of wrath? For what? God’s enemy? Yeah, maybe when I was 3 and I wasn’t officially a Christian yet. 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…
ePHESIANS 2:4-5

And then it all comes to my mind - my testimony has nothing to do with me, namely what I have or haven’t done. It has nothing to do with my list of good deeds, or even bad deeds. It has nothing to do with how drastic the lifestyle change in my life may have been or not been. Instead, it has everything to do with Christ… - Him changing me at my deepest core.

Before the grace and sanctification of God was realized in my life (whether at 4 or 104!), I was dead (Eph 2:1). I was without hope. I was, by my very nature, an object of God’s wrath (Eph 2:3). I deserved NOTHING. My very existence meant that I was separated from God. Apart from God, I followed and would continue to follow the ways of the world (Eph 2:3), and my own evil thoughts and desires (Eph 2:3). Not only was I, by my very existence, an enemy of God, I was also a follower of Satan. It seems hard to picture this in someone who was saved as a young child, but even now, apart from Christ, I am all of those things.

BUT PRAISE GOD...Ephesians 2 goes on to explain to us that through Christ (2:5), I am made alive! Through Christ, I am shown God’s great mercy and given salvation. Through Christ, I can and will stand for the ways of truth. Through Christ I am no longer a slave to Satan, but am a child of God, free to love, serve, and sit with Him.

Now that is a testimony that does not sit in the past, with a one-time conversion experience. That is a testimony that does not just apply to those who had a life-changing, radical transformation. That is a powerful and life-changing testimony that every believer can shout about from the rooftops. That is a testimony that unites every believer, whether their previous lifestyle looks more like the apostle Paul or the missionary kid Suzanne. That is a testimony that instead of pointing to a personal transformation, points to the power of being “in Christ.”

So, sisters, let us be unafraid of sharing our personal testimonies - no matter how radical or “un-radical” they may appear to us to be. Let us share what Christ has saved us from, and what He continues to lead us to - being God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10).

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 Suzanne Hines wants to live in a world where sunflowers bloom in eternal summer, where her children play instead of argue and where her family has an endless budget for travel. When she's not loving her husband, training and teaching her three children, and spreading education on the foster care system, you can find her writing, reading or running outside!

Her favorite Scripture is Romans 12:12 "...be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer..." (NIV)

Because He Bled {DWITW 365}
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I do not know where to begin.
I do not know what it is to hear a last breath.
I do not know what it is to witness death’s arrival firsthand.
I do not know what it is to lose an only child or a dear friend.

I do know an adult takes 12 to 20 breaths in a minute.
I do know there are 9 to 12 pints of blood in the human body.
I do know grief cannot be contained by words.

I’ve read of Jesus’ death through the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are stories I have heard for far longer than I have understood their gravity. They tell of Jesus being whipped, a cruelty shaped by leather lashes studded with bone and metal (Mt. 27:26, Mk. 15:15). They speak of a twisted, thorny crown forced upon His head (Mt. 27:29, Mk. 15:17, Jn. 19:2). They recall a wooden crossbar and Jesus’ beaten body hung from it. They recount the darkness, His forsaken cry, a last breath. Death.

And in the wake of a torn curtain, I am undone.

I know what it is to exalt myself at the cost of another. I know what it is to accuse innocence. I know guilt intimately. My hands have dripped with it. Like Lady Macbeth, all the perfumes of Arabia could not sweeten these hands. The stains run too deep; I am marred with an inheritance of fault and a livelihood of selfishness.

I’m loved because God is worthy of it. I am loved because of who He is. As deeply as this shatters me, it was never about me. It’s about Him.

Yet despite my guilt before others - but more importantly before a God who is wholly other - someone else has come to take the punishment that I deserve. How could I be loved like this? Why would someone innocent take on my guilt? Why did Jesus choose to endure the pain I deserved, the death that was meant for me?

And I realize my focus is misplaced. I’m loved because God is worthy of it. I am loved because of who He is. As deeply as this shatters me, it was never about me. It’s about Him. It always has been. And it always will be. God alone is deserving of our affections and attention. And to make a way for me to love Him rightly, to glorify Him as He is worthy, He sent Jesus to do the very thing that I cannot do for myself.

I cannot restore what has broken, I cannot mend my own heart, I cannot correct the course of sin and send hope ahead to forge a new way. But a way of hope has been made, born of the blood Jesus; the only thing that could fully absolve my guilt. Because He bled, I can know life; I can know love.

What do I do with a love like that? A love that offers forgiveness in the dark. A love that gives peace knowing it will cost an innocent life. The life of a Son. Jesus. Only Jesus.

I now know where to begin.

While grief cannot be contained by words, Love cannot be contained by death. And as there is hope woven into the future, it is also anchored in the past. In the silent three days of death that then erupted in life. Life renewed in the broken body of a Savior, the Christ, God with us. Life restored to my guilty heart through pain I cannot understand.

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 Robin Zastrow wants to live in a world where coffee never gets cold and kindness abounds. When she's not discovering the wonders of construction paper and cardboard tubes with her two little ones, you can find her sneaking in another few pages of a book or jotting down bits of writing on scraps of paper.

One of her favorite Scriptures is:“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22 ESV