God Loves Ugly

Young woman in heart shape cave towards the beautiful sky

Do you ever feel that you were not good enough, smart, strong or beautiful enough? Do you think you are too much of a mess, and your “stuff” is just too much for God? Maybe you believe you’ve done too much in your life that God won’t forgive, so why bother? Have you ever felt God didn’t love you?

So many of us are walking around thinking that we are not worthy of God’s love, He takes those disgusting parts of our lives and creates new opportunities for His glory to shine. It’s like taking lemons and turning them into the sweetest lemonade. God takes all our deception, the guilt-ridden, shameful places that none of us wants to talk about into wondrous testimonies for us to be able to help others.

I learned this truth so many years ago, as I was once bound up by the shame of having multiple marriages. Even as writing I am thinking, “Do I want to tell the world my dirty laundry?” The purpose in telling you this is to expose the enemy’s grip and put God’s glory in its place!

I was attending a prophetic training where a women said, “You are the woman at the well.” My first thought was questioning how did she know my shameful past? Even though I knew that the Bible teaches that prophetic words are meant to lift us up, and yet all I felt was shame. She went on to say “You drank the Lord’s living water and have felt His unconditional love. You will share this love with many to glorify God.” This word has been instrumental in my sanctification. I am guided with the Spirit of God and completely feel the unconditional love of the Lord.

The Biblical woman at the well was very instrumental in sharing the Gospel. There are similarities between our two stories. Scripture doesn’t tell us how she might have felt but the Lord brought beauty, hope, acceptance and restoration to her even though she felt so much shame for her transgressions. Let’s see how Jesus interacted with her in John 4:10-26.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

At that moment, Jesus reveals the truth about Himself to this woman. He was just as vulnerable as she was, and I want to believe that Jesus didn’t want her to feel alone in her transparency. The Son of God knew she was a lovely woman who deserved the truth to know God loved her, and that she wasn’t just the woman with five husbands. He chose her to go and tell the people about His goodness by sharing their encounter, and she went down in Biblical history as an evangelist. The prophetic word I received revealed that our stories don’t end in the test, but live on in the testimonies of God’s goodness we get to share with those in our path.

I can remember broken pieces of my childhood. I suffered from a lot of painful heartache and trauma that left me wide open to find relationships with incompatible people. It was like the song “Looking for love in all the wrong places” was written after my experience. It goes something like this:

“Well, I’ve spent a lifetime lookin’ for you; singles bars and good time lovers were never true. Playin’ a fools game hopin’ to win; I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, Lookin’ for love in too many faces, searchin’ their eyes and lookin’ for traces of what I’m dreamin’ of.”

I was destroyed from this grief, trauma and damage from things in my past. I desperately wanted to be filled up with wholeness again, to have the shattered pieces of my life go back together, but I didn’t know how. I felt defective, fractured, injured and crippled. I believed a man’s love could repair my dismembered self. If only I could be loved, be married and have that “Ward and June Cleaver” relationship with 2.5 kids, everything would be normal, and the pain of the past would cease.

My warped thinking took me many years to work through, and I endured the pain of suffering through several failed marriages. I believed the lie that I was suffering the consequences of my actions. Divorce, more hurt, more pain and, of course, the shame of this echo blemish called multiple marriages. I suffered along with my children and family from my choices. I cannot take back the fact that I chose to marry several different men and the baggage that came with them; however, with God’s help, I could learn some valuable lessons and restore my hope for a bright future. God says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you and they are not to harm but to give you a hope and a future.”

God didn’t stop loving me and wanted me to know it. Even in my darkest moments, He kept on pursuing me and still does to this day. God worked all of my messes into valuable tools used for His purposes, and if you let Him, He will do the same for you.

You might think of your mess as the end, but God sees it as merely a detour. When you have veered off track, the Holy Spirit guides us right back to righteousness in Christ Jesus. When at first we don’t succeed try, try again, as the old saying goes. God works all things for good according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God is always waiting at your front door desiring to have an intimate relationship with you. It’s your choice to open the door. God loves you and is smitten by you. He is wooing you this very second because of who you are not what you’ve done.

God loves you like good parents love their children. Even though children are not perfect and often break the rules, parents love them unconditionally. The same is true for God. He simply loves us unconditionally. This is beautifully illustrated in the Bible when Jesus loved the woman at the well.

God’s love for each one of us is unstoppable and unshakable; His love penetrates tribulation, distress, persecution, pain, difficulty or any crises that we might face. Our job is to invite God into every area of our lives. Sometimes is easy to compartmentalize our lives. For example, we can invite God into areas of our lives that are all neat and tidy, but when we haven’t dealt with a painful area, we are not ready for Him (God) to be involved because it looks a little messy. But God loves us no matter what, and the reality is that He sees and knows all anyway. You actually have nothing to lose by asking Him into a bad situation; however, you have amazing things to gain if you will trust Him with your mess.

Psalm 36:7 says, “How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.” Can you imagine what it would be like to find shelter in the midst of your storm? What about letting Him guide out of your wilderness? Or what would it be like to be released from the prison of our mess?

The truth is that I am not the guilt and shame from my past. I have been sanctified by the love of God and was created in His image. I am a new creation in Christ Jesus, and the great news is that you can be too.

God loves me when I’m beautiful or ugly, happy or sad and in spite of anything I ever could do or say. I am His beloved daughter. I am His royal princess, and you, my friend are also a cherished member of God’s extended family. Beloved, It is my prayer that you will let this blog take root in the hurt places in your heart. May you come to truly know that God’s love is unconditional.

Beloved one, if it is time for you to truly receive God’s unconditional love to strengthen you, simply repeat the prayer below, have faith in God’s truth and trust that God’s word will never condemn or harm you in any way.

Prayer:
Father God, I thank you that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I recognize that I have come into agreement with the lie, I take responsibility for believing that ______________ (fill in the blank). When I believed the lie, I felt _______________ (fill in the blank). I repent for entertaining negative thoughts and renounce the lie. Father God, I ask you to replace the lie with your truth. I thank you for your forgiveness and for your unfailing love. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I break any agreements I made with the enemy and ask for a fresh revelation of my identity in Christ. Amen.

Questions to pray and ponder:
Have you felt that God couldn’t possibly love you because of past mistakes? If yes, ask the Lord to lead you to some Scriptures that you can memorize to understand God’s immense love for you.

Has guilt and shame caused you to feel unwanted, unworthy unlovable? Remind yourself of God’s sacrifice. Meditate on all that Jesus did for you when He went to the cross. Let this example of unconditional love you fill all your heart wounds.

What are some ways God has shown me that He loves me?

Advertisements

Divine Encounters

tired passenger

I had just taken a sip of my Starbucks tea when a young woman plopped down beside me. I could immediately tell this girl had a good heart, was full of mercy and had a call on her life to help others.

We were both patiently waiting for our planes to board. There was some idle chatter going on among the others in the waiting area, but there was something about this woman… I knew this was going to be a divine appointment.

Not long after the Holy Spirit began speaking about this girl, she looks up at me and says she’s been in Peru volunteering at a children’s school. I feel like God is showing me her heart as she talks about how these kids suffer from disease and poverty. I’m impressed at this young lady who sees through all the bad circumstances and can tell the children are happy, despite their environment. Exposed now is her mercy and heart for others. What would the Holy Spirit do next?

She’s a pretty girl, black hair, little to no makeup. Behind her glasses, I begin to see there’s sadness in her eyes. Something deep inside of her that is dark and haunting. I knew right then I was supposed to talk to her about the love of God.

I inquired, “Are you a Christian?” She answers, “yes,” but I can tell she doesn’t know Him well. She’s from the North, and she shares with me her thoughts that people from the South are more Godly than those from the North. I’m giggling inside when she says, “I wish I was a better Christian – like my good friend who I deeply admire.”

I smiled and said, “We will both spend our entire lives growing and learning how to be like Jesus.” I explained that the beauty of being transformed into the image of Christ – is that until we take our last breath, we will stay in the process of being “sanctified.”

She was only nineteen. She began to share details of her life with me, and I am in awe of the bravery and courage she displayed. She pours her heart out to me, and God showed me He created her to be a warrior. She was fierce. I felt strongly she’s been through some serious battles in the natural, but also in the supernatural. She’s come face to face with the enemy… she just didn’t know it.

She was telling me about being bullied in school. Her self-confidence and self-esteem suffered and then was obliterated by her parents who told her she was weak. She had watched me tell my daughter she was amazingly smart and savvy, and she said to me, “Don’t ever stop telling her that she is smart.” My heart broke.

She confessed she’d gone through a depression and had a stay in a mental hospital. I shared that the Lord was telling me she was bipolar… just like my husband was. Shocked, she looked up at me and asked, “Was bipolar?”

I smiled, and said, “Yes. Was bipolar. God healed my husband a couple years ago.” I explained how Scott had gotten better as we trusted and declared the truth of God over our lives. She’s staring at me. I could tell the enemy is telling her I am totally full of it, so I explained that Scott went from needing a high-dose cocktail of multiple medications to now being on a tiny dose of an anti-anxiety pill.

Before she could say a word, I went on to say, “I know the Lord has healed you too!”

I can tell she’s puzzled as the enemy is in her head. She asks, “God made your husband and I this way, so don’t we just have to accept it?”

And with that, I shared with her the good news of Jesus Christ, and how God secured our healing and perfect health when He sacrificed His son. I told her there was nothing about her that wasn’t perfect in God’s eyes. I praised Him for He was a good Daddy who would never purposely make anyone sick. I asked her, “Do you feel your depression is a part of you?” She nodded. She’s resigned herself to thinking it’s just who she is… depression defined her.

I looked her dead in the eyes. Quietly I told her our meeting was a divine appointment because God wanted her to know something, and as sternly and as seriously as I could I rebuked that lie off of her in the name of Jesus. I declared, “God loves you,” and shared the wonderful news that because she was created in God’s image, she was not wired to be depressed. God created her and each one of us to be happy, loved and full of peace. I went on to say that Satan was tormenting her with sadness to keep her from walking into God’s plan for her life.

I continued, “You’ve got a great call on your life. You’ve got a heart for others and will one day serve God in a major way.” She lit up. She would be a teacher. She would touch many kid’s lives. She would make a difference.

Then I shifted topics to explain how Satan operates. He is sly and subtle, dropping thoughts in our mind – negative, destructive thoughts – designed to hinder us from being close to God. He sneaks around waiting for his opportunity to strike, and his weapon of choice is the nasty thoughts that pop into our mind. I cautioned her to the fact the voice sounds like us. She’d never hear a scary male voice, and because of that, it’s easy for us to claim the lies and make them our truth.

She’s listening. She’s interested. So I continue.

“Do you believe we are made in God’s image?” She nods. “Do you believe the Word of God is true?” She nods. “Then you accept that you were created in His image?” Her response was, “I guess so.”

“Is God capable of being evil in any way?” She looks at me. I ask again. “Is God capable of being evil in any way?”

After a slow pause, she says, “I think, No.” So I continue, “So if He is not capable of any evil, then how could He be responsible for your depression?”

There’s another slow pause. I can see her mind churning. She’s zeroed in on me – Am I for real? Am I going to crack? But as I sit there with a peaceful smile on my face, the light bulb begins to come on.

To drive the point home I explained how Satan torments with unloving, critical thoughts – ones that demean and devalue us, that divide us from God and that destroy His plan for our lives. I also warned her the enemy uses accusing thoughts to get us to blame God for the bad things that happen to us.

I spoke against the lies that filled her thoughts – the ones breeding life into her depression. I declared over her that she had been given the power to trample over all evil, and I told her the Word is clear when it says in Luke 10:19, “Nothing by any means shall harm her!”

She looked up and said she wanted to be healed. I explained that all she had to do was have faith Jesus was her Savior, and fully believe in the power of the cross! I said, “You have been fully equipped with the Spirit who dwells in you to defeat all evil. While the battle against the devil would always be in your mind, God has all ready given you victory by the sacrifice of His Son.”

I went onto to explain that our job as Christians was to discern good thoughts from those needing to be instantly trashed. “2 Corinthians 10:5 advises us to take all thoughts captive and bring all negative thoughts into obedience with God’s Word,” I said.

I asked her if she had ever heard the verse in 2 Timothy 1:7 that says, “I have not been given a spirit of fear, but have been given spirits of love, power and a sound mind.” When she said yes, I encouraged her to declare that loudly over her life every day.

Knowing my time was now short, I encouraged her to get into a good church and said, “Dive into reading the Gospel, and let the Word become the lens to which you view life through.”

When the time came for my family to board the plane, I stood up. I told her God loved her, and if she listened God would talk to her in many different ways… a stranger in the airport, a paragraph in a book, a conversation with a friend, or through a Bible verse.

I ended by explaining that God had more to say to her about who He created her to be and encouraged her to spend some time listening. I prayed a quick blessing over her and said goodbye.

Just before we walked off, she grabbed my hand. She looked at me and said thank you. And as I tailed off, I said, “Don’t thank me… thank God.” I wished her well and headed to the gate.

I love God encounters. I’m always on a treasure hunt when I am at the mall or at the airport. I love watching God’s light shine in a dark place in someone’s life. I’ve had many of these conversations over the years. There’s always a common theme as each person believes something about God and/or about themselves that has warped their thinking. I take no credit for what happened this day, but I so do love getting to be a truth bomber. I love opening someone’s eyes to God in a new way. I love watching Him come forth to touch someone’s heart. I love witnessing the moment there’s a shift in their thinking… whether it’s a lie that’s just crumbled, or it’s a shift in their perceived identity.

Treasure Hunt Challenge:
Next time you are out buying groceries, ask the Lord to highlight someone in your path that you can encourage. Take that leap of faith and watch God use you in mighty ways to bring Him glory!

More on Depression:
I also feel it is important to speak to the many who struggle with depression and sadly accept this fate as God’s plan. You feel defeated and believe you’ve been left to deal with this hurt all on your own. I’m here to set this straight.

The exciting truth is God has a plan for you. Plans created to prosper and not harm you! Plans that are designed to give you hope and a future! (Jeremiah 29:11)

The Word is clear in that you will face trials, but it is never God who causes the trial. John 10:10 warns the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, but also encourages because Jesus Christ came to give you life abundantly!

It’s important if you are struggling right now with depression, that you understand God wants you set free. Depression is oppression. It torments and is NEVER from God.

The Bible is also clear that victory is all ready yours. Isaiah 53:5 says, “It was by His stripes we were healed.” Jesus healed every one of us when He died on the cross. It’s not something we are waiting for. You do not have to beg and plead for God’s will to show up. Healing is a finished work.

This is great news! You can be healed. You can be happy. You can be free. You can be all that God has called you to be, and that’s a promise that can never be broken!

 

Prayer:
Father God, I thank you that you have great plans for each and every one of us. I thank you for creating us to do your good works and creating us in your image. Father, I am not encouraging anyone to abandon treatment or stop medication, but I know your Son died so that each and every one of us can walk in health and wholeness. I am asking you, Father, to show those who are struggling with depression and mental illness that way out of this bondage. I pray that the enemy can be defeated in this way from being able to torment those who deeply need to feel your love and joy. I pray this truth will resonate with those who are hurting and lost, and they will begin to seek you out in new and exciting ways. I pray you receive all the glory for those who receive healing and for those who are out sharing your truth with this in communities they live. Giving you all thanks and praise… in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

From Chaos to Refuge

Man hand with lifebuoy ring over blue sea water

Have you ever asked God where He is in the midst of a storm? In a crisis situation, have you ever had trouble discerning the voice of God with the enemy’s lies of deception? Have you ever heard a voice prompting you, almost desperately harassing you, to do something irrevocable that does not line up with God’s Word? Do you believe in principalities?

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world,” 1 John 4:1-3

It was a beautiful sunny day at the lake, and little did I know I was about to test the spirits. I was there with my daughters and one of my daughter’s friends. The day started out pleasant enough just like every other day at the lake. We borrowed a blow-up air raft to relax on the cool water. Remember this is a blow-up raft.

After unpacking the car, carrying a heavy load down the long hill, we noticed the anchor and two life jackets were missing. It was a hot day, and the water looked inviting. Nicole quickly chimed in, “We do not need the anchor and the life vests. We are only going to be in the shallow end of the lake.” Famous last words!

There was a lovely breeze blowing across the lake with the sun glistening like diamonds. The sky was so blue and clear. We were all excited with anticipation to relax and float on the water. We put the raft into the water and took turns taking the rope and walking the raft around the shallow end of the lake.

When it was Nicole and her friend’s turn, they decided to go out just a bit, then a little further, and the next thing I see is the water is now up to their necks. The waves came rushing. I yelled for the girls to get on the raft. There was to be no more playing around, but both girls ignored my command. Within seconds, the raft drifted out where they couldn’t touch, and we were now approximately 30 feet from shore. The waves were raging as I pleaded with the girls to get onto the raft. They had other plans and decided instead to swim to shore.

I was very worried and filled with fear! The waves were strong. We were very far from shore and getting further away with every passing second. My other daughter, Heather, quickly grabbed the two life vests and decided to swim toward the girls to give them a life vest to hold onto.

One question kept badgering me. Are you going to let your children drown or are you going to try to rescue them? The voice was taunting me as the waves got stronger and I drifted further into the abyss of the lake. The taunting in my mind felt like I was being bullied. Are you going to let something happen to your children or are you going to do something about this?

Just as soon as panic began to set in, I heard another voice. This one was calm – a still small voice, peacefully telling me to stay put on the raft. I sensed that I was to stay put because I was older and not in any shape to fight the lake. I felt like the best thing I could do for my children was to call 911.

I was hearing conflicting voices at the same time. One was filling me with peace by speaking life over this terrible situation, while the other was cunning, full of chaos, and confusion spouting probable death.

I was not strong enough to swim against the turbulent waves of this lake because I wasn’t well. I was drifting further away with every passing second. I had a choice to make. I decided to listen to the still small voice and help my girls the most effective way I could.

The girls had their cell phones in a compartment on the raft. I grabbed one and immediately dialed 911. A nice gentleman answered the call and asked for my location. I pleaded to please help my children, and I began to explain landmarks of where I was.

This was extremely dangerous as this was a blow-up raft. I am now in the middle of the lake with no life vest. Normally, I would have panicked, but there was a peace, a shalom peace, that came upon me. It says in Philippians 4:7, “…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I believe that was what was happening to me.

By the time the fire department arrived on the scene, they found the girls on the shore, but I had drifted so far they couldn’t locate me. (I’m glad I didn’t realize this at the time.) I focused on the truth that God was with me through the Holy Spirit that dwells in me. I was taking comfort in what 1 John 4:4 says, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

I had a choice to make in the midst of this storm. Would I trust that still small voice telling me I’d be okay or the one that was desperately seeking to steal, kill and destroy? My emotions were all over the place but I knew the turmoil I was feeling was not from God. I could feel the Holy Spirit guiding me, gently pursuing me with peace and love to make the best decision for all involved, but more than that, this voice kept soothing my wearing soul so that I would break down in panic. It would be roughly an hour later, I was rescued, Glory to God!

Looking back now, I am convinced God was keeping all of us in His secret place. Psalm 91:1-3 says, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence.”

I learned that day that the spiritual realm is not a fairy tale like Cinderella or Snow White. There are principalities in this world. There are forces of good and evil. The evil of the world tries to fill and cloud our judgment with deception and lies, while God’s voice tries to fill us with peace and joy even in the midst of scary circumstances.

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome.” It says right in the Bible we are going to have trouble, but we are to trust Jesus. Can you say that you trust Him in the middle of your struggles?

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” That verse is so encouraging and inspires me to listen to God and to see the future He has planned for me.

I will be honest. I faced fear, but I also had enough faith to see me through all the dread. Faith is key to combating the lies of the enemy and to seeing victory in your life. It only takes a mustard seed of faith to believe what the Word says.

He takes that seed, waters and nurtures it, and faith begins to bloom. I learned that day that it’s vital to have confidence in God and His promises. The lies were trying to lure me to attempt to swim when I wasn’t physically able. But God was peacefully pursuing me, encouraging me to stay put.

No matter what you are facing in your life right now, know that God is a stronghold in times of trouble. God alone is your mighty deliverer and champion. God was my anchor, my life vest, and my refuge that chaotic day on the lake. He alone delivered me from the evil one’s trap, and friends, I am certain through my story, He wants to encourage you. You too can hear His voice in the middle of chaos. Instead of tuning into fear, zero in on that quiet voice… the one telling you no matter how bad your circumstances seem, you will be okay.

Beloved one, if it is time for you to truly trust God’s love to find your place of refuge, simply repeat the prayer below, have faith in God’s truth and believe that God’s Word will never condemn or harm you in any way.

Father God, I thank you that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I recognize that I have come to an agreement with the lie, I take responsibility for believing that ______________ (fill in the blank). When I believed the lie, I felt _______________ (fill in the blank). I repent for entertaining negative thoughts and renounce the lie. Father God, I ask you to replace the lie with your truth. I thank you for your forgiveness and for your unfailing love. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I break any agreements I made with the enemy and ask for a fresh revelation of my identity in Christ. Amen!

Questions to pray and ponder:

  1. Has there been a time in your life that things were going along smoothly then suddenly something unexpected happened that caused you to feel out of control but you weren’t sure what direction to take? What voice did you listen too?
  2. Recall a time that you felt bombarded with accusations and condemnation stealing your peace. What are some verses that you can lean on next time so that the enemy doesn’t rob you?
  3. What are some steps can you take to nurture and water your mustard seed of faith so that you can start discerning God’s voice while drowning out the enemy?

“Stop It Right Now or Else!”

When we were kids, my parents had this small car. It was a two-door, and five of us piled in this automobile everywhere we went. In the back, the three kids were crowded together like fish in a tin can. And every so often I’d get tired of my little brother poking me or invading my space, and I would begin to yell at him. From the front, I’d hear my mom scream, “Stop it right now or else!”

I think every adult can still remember what it felt like when they heard the stern calling of their name. Hearing the loud firm, “Kimberly Anne” coming from the downstairs was enough to send shivers down my spine. It was in those moments that I would swallow hard in a state of panic, as I knew punishment was coming my way.

My parents were awesome, loving people. They were trying to teach us rules were ways to keep up protected. They also wanted us to understand breaking rules had consequences because we could get hurt or something worse. They wanted us to be happy and be safe, and I always knew that was their motivation.

But as soon as I heard my name being yelled, an intense wave of fear would wash over me… the fear of punishment. No kid enjoyed psychological warfare of a parent letting you know you were in trouble but saying he or she needed to think about what the consequence would be. There’s nothing worse than spending the day fretting the inevitable with a giant knot in your stomach.

Would it be the belt to my behind? Would I be locked in my room like Rapunzel never to be let out of the house again? Would I be forced to eat liver and onions for the next month? Yep, my mind could really drum up some pretty awful scenarios as the enemy would try to convince me that my parents were the absolute worst, and I was the poor little victim of the mean, bad mom and dad. Dread could create some pretty awful scenarios… the lectures, the disappointment, and punishments, most of which never happened.

I can remember daydreaming about running away because the horror that awaited me would surely be far worse than living on the streets forced to eat crawdads from the creek down the road. The best part was imagining my parent’s regret. I could see it playing out just like The Christmas Story when Ralphie shows up blind from soap poisoning after his parents punished him for having a foul mouth. My parents would someday grovel for forgiveness too when they realized the error of their wicked ways.

In truth… I was a pretty good kid. I very rarely got in trouble, but my sister broke the rules a lot and would cause my parents to make some strict boundaries with her. She was three years older than me and watching the trouble she’d be in made me scared to do anything wrong.

The sad reality of this style of parenting was that while it did in lots of ways ensure compliance, it also came at a price because it was only out of fear that most kids followed the rules. It wasn’t because the child wanted to be a good person, respected their parents or just had a passion for the law. No… the truth was that no kid wanted to have a red sore bottom if caught. I was good because I wanted to be at the skating rink instead of grounded, so even as a young girl, I knew being good and following my parent’s orders were the means to get to my desired end.

The sad thing is though that this way of parenting mixed with no real solid Biblical teaching growing up led many, like my husband, to think the Big Man upstairs was a harsh punisher just waiting for us to screw up. Scott knew God loved him like his parents did, but the fear of being struck down by thunder for his sin was a bit overwhelming.

For me, this warped thinking in adulthood led me to believe all the bad things going on in my life were the result of God punishing me. It was a warped old testament view of life that kept lots of distance between us, and Satan liked that. The enemy had accused God of being a mean, harsh and scary dude, and I bought it like I’d bought a cheap, knock-off purse. So when I struggled with infertility and recurrent miscarriages, I blamed God and that led me to a point in my life where I hated Him.

When I was finally introduced to Jesus Christ and had my eyes opened to the truth, I saw the error of my warped thinking. I had been duped into believing a terrible lie when the reality is that God is anything but a punisher. In fact, he is nothing but a protector and redeemer!

With the coming of Easter and the celebration of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior of the World, I am reflecting on God’s ultimate sacrifice and how much He must have loved us. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I can’t even wrap my head around such unconditional love. The pain God felt, the tears shed and the agony of watching every drop of blood and the drawing of His son’s last breath. I can’t process how painful it must have been for Abraham to haul his son up the mountain believing he was being told to offer his son as a sacrifice. I am not debating whether God was testing him or not. I am merely putting into context how it must have felt to be a parent forced into choosing to watch their only child die. Being the parent of one child… I don’t know how I could make that choice.

But our Heavenly Father did. Romans 3:25 tells us God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin and watched his Son die a horrible, terrifying death. And because of this ultimate act of grace, we are set free from sin’s ultimate punishment… death.

God is a good parent. His rules and laws are for our protection. He wants us to be safe just like my mom who yelled at me to keep my hands away from the hot stove. If I disobeyed her and touched the burner, my finger would pay the price. This is the same with sin. God knows that sin opens the door to the enemy to come steal, kill and destroy. He takes our peace, robs our blessings, causes us to get sick and destroys our hopes and dreams. Let’s not get it twisted… the enemy is the real punisher.

The most amazing benefit of God’s ultimate sacrifice is the victory we now enjoy. We do not have to fear the enemy, nor do we have to dread making a mistake because Jesus took our place and received the punishment for our sin! We just have to look up to our parent and say, “I’m sorry.” When we do that… there is no penalty or punishment to pay because Jesus paid it. There is no need to run and hide or continue to sit the stronghold of dread. There is also no need to view God as harsh. Rather view him as a God filled with grace and mercy. For His sacrifice and His Son’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven conquered sin and the devil for good!

I like to imagine God said to Lucifer, “Stop it now or else!” And when he didn’t, Jesus stepped in and rendered the devil the ultimate punishment.

Happy Easter!