- 2015Aug 24
The following is an excerpt taken from chapter 4 of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness.
Do It Scared
One of my favorite phrases in the Bible is “but God.” I have it posted beside my bed, and every so often my girls ask me why I have those two little words there. I tell them, “All through the Bible bad things happen—people sin or something goes wrong—but over and over two words make it all okay: ‘but God.’”
You see, no matter what happens in life, no matter how bad things seem to be, God is still the constant. He is still working all things for good. The psalmist wrote, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26, emphasis mine). Joseph echoed this sentiment when he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20, emphasis mine). Yet in my mind, the ultimate “but God” statement in the Bible is, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, emphasis mine).
Jesus truly is our Redeemer. Seeing Him as such allows us the freedom to trust and surrender ourselves to Him. We need to know our God. We need to know who He is and what He has done. It is only then that we are able to understand that He is for us, not against us, which frees us to obey, knowing He will work all things for our good and His glory.
Coming to understand God’s heart toward me—that He loves me, that He is for me, and that He is my comforter and my guide— suddenly empowered me to live life differently. Sure, I was a newbie at this whole Christian thing, but I knew I served a faithful, loving God.
I knew I could trust Jesus, for He had proven Himself trustworthy. That didn’t mean God’s call to love and forgive Anthony was easy to embrace. I was scared. I didn’t know where this was going. And I certainly didn’t know how it would end. But I also knew I had allowed fear to motivate me far too long.
Fear is a God-given emotion. Its purpose is to protect us from harm. This kind of fear is good. But so much of the fear we experience is irrational fear—fear that holds us back from living the full life Jesus died for us to have, fear that holds us hostage, never allowing us to see true growth of character. This kind of fear never brings good. And if we choose to live in irrational fear, we will never see the promises of God fulfilled to the extent they’re given. We will never follow Christ into our hard places and come out greater on the other side.
Here’s the truth. Sometimes, we simply need to do it scared. Over and over at this time, well-meaning Christians told me to “follow peace.” I wasn’t to move forward if I didn’t feel peace about taking a step. But the whole “follow peace” thing can be a ploy—shrouded in holy words— used by Satan to bind us and keep us from following God. Jesus calls us out of our comfort zones into places of discomfort. And in these areas, we’re not going to feel peaceful all the time. Yes, there is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding and is available to believers at all times, but often our propensity to rely on ourselves and do things our own way hinders us from experiencing that peace, which means sometimes following Jesus feels a bit crazy. A bit unsettling. Oftentimes we will feel scared to do that which God calls us to do. But make no mistake—fear does not negate the call. Fear is simply a by-product of our desire to control. When following Jesus into our unknown, scary places, God doesn’t usually clue us in on the big plan. And this can feel anything but peaceful at times. But still, we must move.
In my prayer journal at the time, I wrote, “I am seeing more and more that the Christian life is not a life of passivity, but a life of choices empowered by the Holy Spirit. I pray, Lord God, for You to help me to walk in Your Spirit.”
I heard it once said we can choose to live each day motivated by fear or by faith. It’s a choice we must all make. Christian reformer Martin Luther wrote in the preface to his translation of the epistle to the Romans, “Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it.”* I needed this kind of faith. I needed great faith to move beyond my fear and follow Jesus where He was leading. I needed the kind of faith that allows us to step out of the boat and walk on water toward Jesus when He beckons, knowing that we can do all things through Him. The kind of faith that confidently says to Jesus, “Only say a word, and I shall be healed,” knowing full well that all things are possible with God. The kind of faith to follow Jesus into the unknown—into my scary places— regardless of the cost, knowing He will work all things for good.
Any thoughts? Join the conversation on my Facebook page.
Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness––which tells an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God––is available wherever books are sold. Be sure to pick up your copy today!
- 2015Aug 20
Okay, now I know Letters from My Father's Murderer has just rolled out the door, but I'm already thinking about my next project, and I need your help!
If you've experienced anxiety and/or depression, I'd love to hear your story! I'm currently gathering information for what I hope to be my next project (God willing) and would love to hear your struggles and victories with anxiety and depression. Some things I'd like to know are:
How old were you when you first began dealing with anxiety/depression?
What was your experience with anxiety/depression?
How did you overcome anxiety/depression?
Or if you're still dealing with it, what do you believe is holding you back from receiving healing?
If you have been healed, are you still tempted with anxiety/depression?
How do you sustain victory in this area of your life?
How long did you have to endure with your anxiety/depression?
What did your anxiety/depression feel like to you?
What thoughts did you have (these will be kept completely confidential!!!)?
Did you think you were going to go "crazy"?
What kept you going?
What hope did you hold onto?
How did those closest to you deal with your state?
Would you have wished they dealt with it differently?
What was most helpful that your friends and family did to try to help you?
What was most detrimental to you?
What were your greatest fears?
Quite honestly, these questions can go on and on, but if you decide to share your story with me, please don't let the questions affect how you tell it. In fact, don't think about these questions when you first write. Simply tell me your story. Then, if you don't mind doing it, go back and fill in the answers to these questions.
If you'd like to share your story, please visit my contact page on this site to send me a message! I may not be able to answer every message I receive, but rest assured that I will read it every one and use them to help others overcome this pit of darkness!
THANK YOU in advance for helping me help others!!!!
- 2015Aug 18
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven..." - Luke 6:37
A 16th century English church Reformer named John Bradford allegedly said, "There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford," as he watched executioners lead his fellow prisoners to their deaths. Bradford, who had been imprisoned in the Tower of London for his Protestant faith by Queen Mary I of England, was later burned at the stake, dying a martyr's death.
It is said that, "Before the fire was lit, [Bradford] begged forgiveness of any he had wronged, and offered forgiveness to those who had wronged him. He subsequently turned to his fellow and said, 'Be of good comfort brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!'" (Wikipedia).
What an amazing man of God!
Forgiveness was the last sentiment Bradford felt, not judgement. How easy it would have been for him to judge those who harmed him, but instead, as he stood chained to a stake facing his accusers, this man echoed the words his Lord had spoken a century and a half before. Just as when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) as He hung on that cross, Bradford spoke words of love in the face hate. Words of mercy and grace in the face of great darkness. And words of forgiveness in the face of unimaginable persecution.
From Bradford's quote, "There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford," came the well-known statement, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." Bradford didn't look upon the offenses of his fellow prisoners with condemnation, though he had every opportunity to do so. He––being a righteous man, imprisoned for his faith in Christ––didn't judge those around him for their sins. He didn't compare his sins to others, considering himself greater than the other inmates, but instead, he knew his place. He knew he was no better than any other. He knew that apart from God’s grace, we are all capable of doing the unthinkable.
And I think that just may be the key. Perhaps humbly accepting our propensity to sin is the very thing that protects us from sin. Maybe recognizing our proclivity toward sin is what enables us to keep a humble heart. To judge ourselves with sober judgment. To not think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3). All of which should drive us to God. When we rightfully believe we’re capable of doing things we never thought we could, we begin to understand what I believe Bradford understood––our incredible need for God’s amazing grace. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10), and he was right. It is by grace alone that we stand. That I stand.
We are all prone to folly; we are all prone to sin. And so, it is not our place to judge.
How have you been judged by those around you? How have you judged others? Join the conversation on my Facebook page.