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Eeyore, the always negative donkey in the children’s story, “Winnie the Pooh” has an incredible knack for seeing the negative in everything. I remember chuckling at some of his statements while reading to my children. In his world there was nothing good. There was no hope. Expectations always fell short.

We can chuckle at this fictional character’s outlook on life, but reality is, it’s easy for us to do the same. It’s easy to live trapped by our past. I’m grateful for a relatively boring childhood, but many are still grappling with abusive homes, dysfunctional families and sometimes, as a result, mental illness or addictions. It’s been said ‘our past can kill us or make us stronger’, and while there is some truth to that, its easier said than lived.

It’s also easy for us as believers to lose hope when we look around us at the direction society seems destined for. Often our belief in Jesus Christ is construed by society as intolerant, out of touch and irrelevant.

Peter wrote his book to Christ followers in a society that, believe it or not, was more brutal to the things of God that the one we live in. Yet he wrote of great expectations. Not because of his past, but because of his future. Not because of who he was, but because of who Jesus is.

Don’t base your hopes, aspirations and expectations on who you are or what you can do. Don’t allow the actions and accusations of others deter you from expecting great and mighty things in your life. Success by God’s standards comes from a live lived rich in integrity and holiness. Success by societies standards is like flags in the wind, being tossed by every new idea. Jesus gives you stability in an unstable world and hope among the hopeless.

Real love isn’t our love for God, but his love for us. God sent his Son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven. 1 John 4:10

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” Genesis 3:8-10 (NLT)

Our finite minds won’t allow us to come to a full understanding of what it was like in the Garden of Eden when the first man and the first woman walked with God. Scripture tells us that Adam and Eve walked with God as three friends, not as creator and creation. The only relationship they knew with Jehovah God was a face to face, arm in arm, friendship.

After the first couple ate from that dreaded tree, the relationship was severed, but the love was not. That’s important! It wasn’t the lack of God’s love that drove Adam and Eve into the trees; it was a misunderstanding of their relationship with the father.

In the years that followed, if we read the stories of the Old and New Testament carefully, we realize that from that point forward, the Heavenly Father’s purpose was not to punish mankind for their rebellion, but to gain back the relationship he so badly wanted. The very purpose of him creating mankind and the universe that surrounds us was so he could love us. God’s love was the motivation for all he did. Since then, everything he does is an effort to regain the love relationship he had with us in the beginning.

It wasn’t just physical nakedness that drove Adam and Eve (and us) away from a loving, merciful and graceful creator; it was the exposure of their own ability to live up to their part of the love relationship. Guilt and shame built a wall between the lovers. In the garden, God sought to cover that shame with the temporary clothing of an imperfect sacrifice; on the cross he destroyed the barrier once and for all through the Messiah, Jesus Christ!

The problem for us becomes the fact that we still are deceived into thinking that because we fail; because we are unable to fulfill our end of the love relationship we can have no part in the pure forgiveness of the perfect sacrifice. Nothing is further from the truth.

Our ability to love God has never been a prerequisite for living in a love relationship with the Father. Our only response is to accept his love freely based on our own repentance and confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, the enemy of my soul continually bombards me with the lie that I can never love you enough and therefore I can not love you. Based on your promise I realize that my love for you has never been a prerequisite for your loving me. Today, I claim your love for me based on the perfect sacrifice you gave on the cross. Amen.

But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Deuteronomy 7:8 (NIV)

There is nothing more secure than the personal prisons we can find ourselves locked into.

The prison of loneliness can keep us trapped even when dwelling in the midst of close family and friends who are completely unaware of the battle within us.

The unrelenting handcuffs of addiction keep us shackled to feelings of guilt and shame. Guilt of our own doing fueled by the disapproving glances of those who spend more time gazing at specks in the eyes of others while ignoring the planks in their own eyes. Shame because we know better but we can’t help ourselves out of the mix.

We dwell in the solitary confinement of broken relationships. On the one hand we want desperately to get out. On the other hand fear of the outcome and not knowing how we could do life any differently keep us from reaching for the keys that enable us to see ourselves as the gifted talented people we are.

There are so many other prisons that keep us enslaved. Some, like finances/debt, handicapping conditions, and health issues are badges we wear that others identify us by even though we wish we could shed them.

Physical shackles are hard to endure, but they are no match for the emotional/relational wounds of the soul that handcuff us on a daily basis. These are the feelings that are hidden from others yet still define who we are and how we react to the problems of life.

Even though we try many different things to try to relieve the pain or at least dull its effects, nothing seems to help. Frustration and despair become strange bedfellows to failure and defeat. We ask ourselves, isn’t there someone who sees my plight? Is there anyone who understands me and loves me for who I am, bruises and all?

The answer is a resounding YES! The Creator God of the universe loves you. He’s not the god you may have learned about in religion. He’s not the judgmental, angry, accusing god at the other end of a pointing finger of accusation. He’s promised to love you. Not because of anything you’ve done. In fact, He loves you inspire of what you have done. He requires nothing in return. He simply wants to destroy the walls of the prison you find yourself in, destroy the chains, and release the shackles.

Regardless of what the voices in your mind tell you, you are loved. He proved that by sending Jesus to die for you, to redeem you from prison. Accept his love. Accept his forgiveness. Live free! Pray this prayer and begin your life of freedom.

PRAYER: Thank you God for loving me so much. I’m lonely, defeated and full of shame and guilt. Forgive me for the sin, anger, hate and hurt I hold so tightly too. Fill me with your Spirit of love and freedom so I can be all you want me to be. Amen.

For this reason Jesus had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way so he could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then Jesus could die in their place to take away their sins. Hebrews 2:17 NCV

People put a lot of stock in heritage. It seems like the smaller the town you live in, the more that is true.

“It’s really no surprise. You know what his father is like.”

“I went to school with her mother. She was the same way. Never finished school as I recall.”

“Don’t hang around with those kids. They come from bad families.”

It’s easy to fall into the trap of a critical spirit when we look at other people and their families. On one hand we look at them and make decisions on their motives based on their past. On the other hand we can go the opposite direction and compare our family to theirs (I wish my spouse would do that for me; I wish our kids could be as responsible as theirs.)

Families matter and today they matter more than ever because the very concept of family has fallen into disrepute, attack and confusion. Jesus knew about families. He grew up in one. He learned the struggle of dealing with younger brothers and sisters. He endured the mistakes of young, first time parents. But more importantly, he had a strong heritage before him.

Jesus had a direct line to David on both his mother’s side and his earthly step-father’s side. That’s impressive. But don’t forget about the others that lined the path to the manger inBethlehem. Some were swindlers that thought nothing of cheating their brother. Some were murderers. Even David, his namesake, was a poor parent, slept with a friends wife murdered to cover up his crime and quite often protected himself at the expense of his countrymen.

Jesus had a dysfunctional family heritage. That’s good news for us because most of us come from families at some level of being dysfunctional. The paths of our lives are lined with lust, affairs, failure, financial struggles, divorce, abuse and a wide range of other issues that keep us defeated. Since Jesus’ ancestors struggled with the same things he knows what your family is like.

You may say to those who judge your family, “But you don’t understand”, and from a human perspective you may be right. No one knows the pain you have gone through as the result of your family. But Jesus does!

Talk to him about your family. Tell him your struggles and fears. Remind him of the hurt others have caused you. He understands because his family, like yours, was imperfect.       

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you for the fact that you understand the pain and frustration of my family. Empower me to overlook the accusations others throw my way regarding my past and my heritage. Give me the grace I need to accept my family, just as you have given me grace. Amen.

“that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:5-6 NLT

A few years ago I changed my cell phone provider and as a result got a new phone number. For a short time after that (and still on occasion) I’d get phone calls from people looking for someone else. I’d tell them that this was my number and I wasn’t the person they were looking for. That person, who ever it was, was no longer at this ‘address’.

That’s what grace is like. As we try to grow closer to Christ, old acquaintances will try to contact us.

Old friend worry will dial our number when the boss tells us that the company will be downsizing and your hours will be cut.

Lust will pop up on the phone screen of your life when things at home get a little to stressful and you begin to wonder if the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.

You’ll hear the familiar voice of anger as you find the porn magazine under your son’s bed.

Doubt will ask for you to come to the phone when the prayers you prayed so fervently aren’t answered the way you’d hoped.

Fear will text you when the doctor calls and, rather than give you the results over the phone, asks you to come into the office.

Shame and guilt? Oh, they still have your number too. They’ll call at any hour of the day or night, waking you up to remind you of your past or question how you can talk about God with this ‘monkey’ hidden on your back.

Grace tells us that we can respond to each of these old friends by saying, “Sorry. I don’t live there anymore.” Before Christ we lived side by side with all of these old friends. Now that Jesus is in our lives we are changed, we’re new people, we live at I M Forgiven and we no longer need to take calls from the old life.

When the old friends call don’t give them a moment of your time. The shame and guilt you once carried can be placed on the back of a Savior who died to free you from that baggage. The anger, lust, worry and fear can be put out on the curb for garbage pick-up. You have no more use for it.

There’s nothing you can do to free yourself of these enemies of your soul. But that’s okay, Jesus already did that for you 2000 years ago on the cross. Today he sits at the right hand of creator God to be an advocate for us in our struggle. Because of Jesus you no longer live at that old address!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus the old life isn’t willing to let me go very easily. I still struggle on a daily basis with at least one of the old ‘friends’ from my past. Empower me by your Spirit to live free of their harassment. Because of you I’m a new person at a new address and they have no more hold on me. Thank you! Amen.

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