Accept That You Are Accepted

A few years ago (and for many years before that) I was deep in the trenches of sin, harboring fear and giving away chiseled pieces of my heart. I had deemed myself the dreaded unworthy, thus, I distributed my heart in various ways, without cost to the taker. I subsisted on the alms of quick fixes, a little gospel here, a petty repentance there. I was altogether lost and malnourished, blaming myself for my condition, perpetuating my condition all the more.

I call myself ragamuffin because I am a bedraggled beggar with always ulterior motives and a guilty grimace. I am unable and futile to save myself. Taking it too far, however, I started calling myself unworthy of God’s love. I made the silly mistake of thinking I was too far gone. If we start identifying ourselves without the hope of God’s love, we lose before we even start. But, one morning, I woke up with the stunning conviction that I could not limp or crawl nor be carried any further if I did not wholly accept that I am wholly accepted.

Here is where we learn about Papa. He is fully God and fully man. He tells stories and whispers tales. “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and they know me.” We start knowing his voice. The chorus of sin that used to roam through our bones and souls is stifled and silenced indefinitely in the wake of the victorious work of Christ. We no longer crawl or scratch at the rubble, we are being carried on his shoulders. His banner over me is love. His banner over you is love.

God is far less concerned with how sinful you are than He is with loving you and healing you. If you disagree, look deep into the Gospel. Jesus spends a heck of a lot more time healing people and restoring their worth than He does on grumbling over their messes. Is it possible that we’ve misunderstood grace again? It seems to me that the Father of Jesus is intent on lavishing us with freedom and victory. It seems to me that He’d far sooner welcome an arduous sinner home than reject somebody for messing up.

Here’s God’s verdict on our sin. I expect more failure from you than you expect from yourself. He proved it to Peter, and He says it to us. This is not condemnation, this is freedom. This is the scandalous truth that our Abba knows every minuscule detail from here to now to then and then further. He knows it, and despite our bedraggled, beggar state, he lavishes us with ransom love and redemption. It is foolish that He would love us. But it is also out of our reach. We have no choice. He loves us as his children because because because.

Scandal and folly are in the DNA of grace. That’s just how good he is.

Accept that you are accepted.

What I though made me unworthy is simply clay in the Maker’s hands. He’s. Not. Done. Yet.

Accept that you are accepted.

We are sons and daughters. You, yes you, who think you are unworthy, are nevertheless a daughter. You who think you are too messy, too far gone, too dirty, you are a son. We cannot erase our sonship. We have been ransomed and we are furiously, boldly, whimsically loved.

Accept that you are accepted.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”‘ (Romans 8:15)

No more fear of being unloved. No more fear of a cold, austere God. We are free from the burden of earning the family name. It has been freely given to us. We are free from our wretched, death-earning sin. It has no power over us.

God has chosen you and I once and for all. The reason for Jesus’ final symphony “It is finished” was so that we would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are already welcomed into Him. The saved were home before they started. God has done it all. (Romans 8:3)

Accept that you are accepted. 

The Audacity of Advent

From garden, to tabernacle, to temple, to flesh, God has been giving Himself into our presence, refusing to abandon us, and deliberately pursuing and partnering with vapid sinners. Every story, prophecy, psalm, and parable whisper the rumor of a love that is more audacious, offensive, and wild than we could have ever dreamt. The audacity of Advent is simply the climax of God’s endless pursuit and preference for the grimiest, meanest, most wretched sinners; and that is the Good News.

In Luke 4, Jesus announces His intentions. To proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the oppressed, to restore the sight of the blind, and to announce the year of the Lord’s favor. He reminds everyone that God’s been in the act of pursuing outsiders for long time.  And that’s exactly what the Gospel is. It’s less about a babe in a manger, come to give secret passage to a fluffy, exclusive, heavenly club, and more about a rogue Shepherd, in pursuit of the runts of society.

Jesus’ mission was aimed at the oppressed, the poor, and the blind. He tabled with sinners who were known for prostitution, thievery, and remarkable mediocrity. He discipled the man who would betray Him unto death. Can’t you see it? God’s agenda is entirely focused on loving the worst of us. (And we are all the worst).

When God came to us as an infant wrapped in flesh, helpless and small, He made a declaration that could not be undone. He’s for us. He’s with us. He’s willing to crawl into any trench if it means our freedom. That’s the audacity of Advent. God will go anywhere for us, and He invites us to go everywhere with Him.

I don’t want the Good News to be lost on us this Christmas season. Especially in the climate that we’re in now, it’s imperative that we remember who our Papa is. You don’t have to look hard to see someone who is oppressed or captive. It’s even easier to find the lost and the blind. God’s mission hasn’t changed since Eden, Bethlehem, or Calvary.

The audacity of Advent is that God doesn’t withhold. He’s given Himself to us in full with the intention that we’d let ourselves bleed into oneness with Him. Every challenge, sermon, and story that Jesus told was for the purpose of drawing us in deeper. When He washed the disciples’ feet, He asked them to share their sin with Him. When He walked on the water to their sinking ship, He asked them to share wonder with Him. When He died at Calvary and rose on the third day, He invited them to share death and life with Him.

The audacity of Advent is that God is with you. He’s with sinners. He’s with the broken.

Now go be with Him, and go be with people!



The Very Good Master

I used the think God wanted me to work for Him, now I know He just wants me to know Him.

In the Gospel of Matthew, there is a story about servants and their master. The master has to travel, so he leaves each servant with money meant to be invested and multiplied. Two of the servants invest the money and return to their master with more than what they started with. They grew what was given to them. But the last servant buried the money he was given. When the master came to him, the servant confessed, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your money in the ground” (Matthew 25:25).

This story used to give me chills because it doesn’t end well for the fearful servant. But that’s exactly what he is, right? Afraid. He buried what was meant to be multiplied because he was afraid of the master. Does that sound familiar? Often, I stunt my own growth and welcome paralysis because I forget who God is. It’s easy to get caught up in lies about God’s character and bury what was designed to be alive.

In the story, the master is overjoyed at the servants who had enough guts to invest in what was given to them. He welcomes them into his joy. He says, “well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21) What a ride! In this joyful moment, I see a master who didn’t have very high expectations, but simply wanted to see his servants take a risk. I see a master who was on the edge of his chair waiting to bestow a reward higher than what was truly earned. I see a master yearning to invite his people into his joy. I’m willing to bet those servants knew these things to be true of the master. They were confident in who they knew the master to be, so they didn’t have to act in fear. They got it. They were committed to knowing their master, so it was easy for them to walk in obedience to him; and, it was even easier for them to walk into his reward! But here’s the kicker. The master didn’t reward them solely for what they had done. He rewarded them because what they did was fueled by what they believed. His joy didn’t come from the servants’ obedience, but from the reason for their obedience.

God is always more interested in us knowing him than us working for Him.

The fearful servant chose burial because of what he believed about the master; he believed the master was harsh and unfair; so he didn’t trust him. I do that with God, too. I forget that I’m partnering with a God who has a track record full of joy, whimsy, and goodness. I sink into the lie that He’s angry or disappointed in me. But I’m realizing now that all that produces is death. When I believe lies about who God is, the gifts He’s given me don’t get any air. Suffocation is inevitable, and the joy I was meant to partake in gets stifled.

Papa God wants us to know Him. That’s what this story is about. I think the fearful servant lived out of misunderstandings and bad rumors. It’s easy to do that. Maybe that’s why Jesus always emphasizes the importance of knowing His Dad. He takes relationship seriously, and the way He knows you, He also wants you to know Him. What an invitation! Instead of withholding, God is leaning in, inviting you to catch wind of who He really is. He’s trusting you and giving you an opportunity to trust Him!

If we learn anything from this story, it’s that the true character of God is a joyful one. He’s poised and waiting to reward us and welcome us into Him. Trusting God is sometimes terrifying. It might even feel safer to just bury our trust and go through life numb. But God’s an adventurer and a risk-taker! He’s on the edge of His seat beckoning us to invest that trust back into Him; to gamble on Him and reap the abundant reward. God isn’t asking you to be something you’re not. He’s not asking you to perform impossible tasks or live on a tightrope of expectation. What He is doing is inviting you to trust that He’ll take care of you. He’s given you the grace necessary to move deeper into His love story and you get to choose whether or not you jump in.

The Vine

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

I used to think I had to earn my way into God’s family. Now I know I was home before I started.

When Jesus said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches,” He meant it. Think about it. We are not severed from Him.

One of the most impactful things I’ve learned about Christianity is the incredibly audacious reality that we are intertwined with Jesus. But sometimes we live like sleepwalkers, groping in the dark, trying to fight our way back to the Vine. We’ve caught onto the lie that we’re not already branching off of Him, getting our life from what’s coursing through His veins. I used to spend so much time thinking I was separate from God, trying to be enough to get His attention. I practically broke myself in effort to be good enough to earn His approval. I got so caught up in the fog of guilt and shame that I was blinded to God’s good mood and smiling face. If you ever feel encouraged to live that way, under the immense pressure of disappointment or “good-enough,” you’re not alone. But after spending time with Jesus, I can assure you that Papa does not intend for us to live that way and He has carved a path for us straight into wild freedom and delightful belonging. Papa’s Kingdom is like a feast where you know that you know that you know you belong.

If we used to be severed from the Vine because of sin, that is not true any more. The church was never supposed to forget Jesus’ finished work at Calvary. Thankfully, God loves reminding us. The Son of God took us on, took our sin, and took the punishment. That won’t ever stop being true. Jesus reconciled us to God. He brought us back to His Dad, scooped us up in His arms, and carried us Home.

Jesus’ statement, “you are the branches,” is a divine invitation, a well-worn welcome mat.  He’s not telling us to earn our places in Him, He’s telling us what our place already is. He’s the vine, and we are connected to Him. Life as a branch looks a lot like surrender. It feels a lot like simply believing that we’re in Him. First you abide, then He produces fruit. Once we have that down, there’s no telling what Jesus will do! The Good News Promise tells us that there will be undeniable fruit, the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit.

I think the best way to have a deeper connection with Jesus is to simply know and believe that you already are connected to Him. We can’t abide in Him until we know that we’re fully welcomed and wanted. We can’t remain in Him until we know that remaining is more surrender than work. Papa God did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. Even through the storm of human emotions, Jesus stays consistent. While our opinions of Him and ourselves may vary, His opinion of us never changes. His constant verdict is Love. His always-attitude is commitment and joy.

That’s why He calls Himself the Groom. It doesn’t matter what you do because the aisle is always leading to Jesus. You’re on your way to Him. He made it that way. Accept that you are accepted. Run head on and know that rejection is not something the Father of Jesus dishes out. He’s an open-arms kind of Dad and He spared nothing in the pursuit of welcoming you into His family. Despite the lies, the walls, and the fear in our way, our identity cannot change. You’re in Him. You’re beloved and living off of the Vine.

He is the Vine, we are intertwined with Him. No matter where we go, we’re rooted in Him. And He wouldn’t have it any other way. I dare you to believe it.

Disarming Shame

Today, God told me we disarm shame by bringing it into the Light, let’s link arms and do this thing. 

For a long time I’ve given shame a ton of power in my life. To be honest, a lot of my story is rooted in things I’m not proud of. I know a heck of a lot of darkness, and I was exposed to pain and fear at a really early age. Somewhere along the way, I picked up the lie that my past makes me dirty. Pile on a slightly devastating cycle of rejection, and I’ve got one heck of a story. Honestly, I’m pretty easily ashamed of what’s behind me and inside of me. Sometimes the shame makes me want to shut my heart down forever and never risk telling the story again. But I’m sharing this with you for a very deliberate reason. Anything in the dark stays dark. Once it’s exposed to the Light, it can’t help but be transformed. We disarm shame by bringing it into the Light. Everything that is illuminated becomes Light. (Ephesians 5:13).

I love the promise that anything entrusted to the Light will become Light. God’s got a knack for turning our stories into good and glory. He’ll do that with anything you’re brave enough to put into His hands. (Romans 8:28)

My experience of blinding darkness isn’t a stain on my life, it’s actually a testament to the lengths that Papa God will go to rescue His children. A string of brutal rejections doesn’t mean my identity is tarnished, it actually means I’m now able to relate to every other ragamuffin who feels the terror of risking vulnerability ever again. My track record with running to sin to find fulfillment doesn’t mean I am a failure, it’s giving God room for more grace and more redemption, which He is never in short supply of, no matter who you are.

Every little thing that I am ashamed of is actually just making more room for God to work, heal, redeem, and restore. I bet it’s the same with what you’re ashamed of, too.

God has created an unbelievable narrative for you and me. He’s constantly inviting us into a story that strips our shame away from us and renews our identities. When Jesus bore our sin, He was bearing our guilt and our shame too. Those things are in His jurisdiction now. The good news is that shame only has the power we give to it, and Jesus has given us permission to never, ever engage with those feelings again.

We’re free to be unashamed because He is unashamed of us. We’re free to be renewed because renewal is God’s intention. We’re free to love ourselves relentlessly because God loves us relentlessly. That feels like coming up for air to me.

God isn’t disappointed in your story. I’m afraid we’ve cultivated a rhetoric that is ashamed of sin. I’m afraid we’ve begun trying to solve darkness instead of heal it. If you’ve ever felt burdened by the expectation that you have to be perfect before God will love you, I’m so sorry. And I’m here to tell you that isn’t true. We can look into everything Jesus did and see one thing over and over again. God loves sinners. God loves people with stories that were built in the trenches. God loves messy, broken, embarrassing, failing, noisy people (we are all all of those things).

“Now: unlike ourselves, the Father of Jesus loves men and women, not for what He finds in them, but for what lies within Himself…He loves the loveless, the unloving, the unlovable…He acts, he doesn’t react. He initiates love. He is love without motive” -B. Manning

Even more, we’ve been invited to share an identity with Jesus. We were united with Him in His death, and we are united with Him in His resurrection. (Romans 6:5) Your life is at that level of value. It’s tied straight into the life of Jesus. You’re woven into a Family, a Kingdom, a Promise. It’s only just started getting good. To me, that’s a huge deal. Only a true Lover would give Himself to us the way Jesus has.

One more time with feeling. You’re free from shame. So am I. God’s hand in our lives is bigger and better than the lies of shame. If you’re in Jesus, you’re a whole, brand new, never-before-created person with an amazing story to tell! (2 Corinthians 5:17). You’re a part of Him. Disarm shame. Tell your story. And don’t forget to remember that Jesus is on your freaking team.




Don’t you remember what happened when the Prodigal came home? I saw my son crawling over the hill, drenched in the stench of booze, stained by last night’s girl’s lipstick, caked in mud and grease. My ears could have rang with the soiled words he spoke against me so long ago. Give me my inheritance. I could have let the sting of rejection and rebellion burn in me. I could have let his sin outweigh his identity. But that’s not who I Am. Instead, I hiked up my cloak, sprinted until my lungs felt charred, and embraced the son I had been waiting for since I let him leave. And then I threw a party. Don’t you remember what happened when the Prodigal came home? I celebrated him with all that I had because I valued his presence in my home more than I could ever have been disappointed in his past. I welcomed him in because I could never be dissuaded by his sin. I restored him to honor because I loved him.

And what about my girl? The one they brought to me in the synagogue after catching her in bed with a man she wasn’t wed to? Don’t you remember what happened when they brought the woman caught in adultery to me? She was red-handed, barely clothed, stone ready. Nothing in her deserving of acquittal. But I knelt in the ground, drew the eyes of men away from her direction, and freed her with one sentence. Then I rose to look into her eyes. Neither do I condemn you. I freed the one most worthy of condemnation because I’m in the business of absurd grace. I gave her a new identity because I value second, third, millionth chances. I restored her to honor because I loved her.

And Peter. My friend who let fear cause his knees to buckle and the truth to depart from his lips. Don’t you remember what happened when my best friend betrayed me? I rose from the grave a few days later and went to find him first. I stood on the shore because I knew my best friend would throw himself into the water for me, full speed into my embrace. I cooked fish and loaves, watched the sun rise into its place in the morning sky, and I reminded Peter that he was not the sum of his failures. I reminded him that he loved me. And then I gave him the keys to my kingdom. Don’t you remember? I freed Peter from the burden of guilt because I prefer absurd freedom for my people. I established his new identity before he deserved it because I know what I’m capable of redeeming. I restored him to honor because I loved him.

And what about the murderous adulterer whom I trusted to be king? I loved him dearly. And the murderer whom I taught to write letters upon letters about My Son? What about the bedraggled tax-collectors that I shared meals with, the untrusting woman whose brother I saved, and the nervous-speaker who led my people out of captivity? Are you beginning to believe it? To see it? My love is so much greater than your sin. It’s the foundation of The Story!

I love you, I love you, I love you.

That alone is what makes a murderer an apostle, and adulterer a king, a prostitute a daughter, and a sailor a saint.

Finally, don’t you remember what happened when I created you? When I breathed my very image into your frame, knit you day by day until you were you? When I wrote and read the precious days of your life, and traced your name into my Book? Little one, I am not afraid of , angered by, surprised by, or disappointed in your sin, your failures, your pain, or your mess. I love you. I like you. I am especially fond of you. Yes, you! Look deep into The Story. I have been freeing people, redeeming people, and loving people into who they really are for a long time. 

I’m not worried about you. I never was. I love you uniquely and tenderly and compassionately. I’m on your side. I will always restore you to honor, because I will never stop loving you. Kid, I can’t wait to see who you become.


Life with Jesus is simple. Jesus said that eternal, abundant, joy-filled life has everything to do with knowing God (John 17:3) That’s it. His entire definition of life eternal is a relationship with Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

I think we get baffled and ashamed at our need for community and intimacy because we forget how relational God really is. God’s never been alone. He’s always been with the Son and the Holy Spirit. Every piece of God is about intimate, loving relationship. If that’s the case, then it makes sense that Jesus would tell us that abundant life is to be invited into that relationship. He’s not a go-it-alone kind of God. God never intended for us to walk alone, guessing at who He is. He wants to be known, and He wants you to feel known too.

Peer back into The Garden at the very beginning. On the day that Adam fell, God came to find him in the cool of the day. When God calls out “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) I think He’s letting us in on a little secret: God and Adam had a cool-of-the-day meeting spot. I’m serious! It was the place they met to begin their daily walk together. God isn’t asking where Adam is because He doesn’t already know, He’s asking why Adam isn’t in their spot, awaiting their quality time together. I love that the Holy Spirit snuck this in. It shows us God’s original intention for Man, and it looks a lot like evening strolls in the cool of the day.

God is about relationship. God is not too big-minded, nor is He too small-minded for you. You’re not just a blip on His radar; you’re not just a tool in His salvation plan who is only here to complete a couple tasks for the greater good. And on the other hand, you’re not some out-of-control, bad-behaving child that God feels like He has to micromanage, either. His mind isn’t so big that He can’t see you, and His mind isn’t so small that He has to control you. He cares about more than that. He cares about watching you become a whole entire person with a life story, who has favorite foods and favorite songs! He likes that you are you, and He likes being lovingly involved. 

Though we are indeed Papa’s children, we’ve sorely confused our God-given sonship relationship with stifling slavery. Some of us are still trying to work for our wages, striving to be just perfect enough to earn a half-glance from God; we’re trying to preform, to work, and to behave our way into God’s affection. But if that’s how God worked, Jesus would have called Him Boss, not Abba.

Jesus makes it strikingly clear that our relationship with God is that of a child and papa. He taught His disciples to see God as a deeply good Father, to take their relationships with Him from law to bloodline. He made a huge deal about His Father’s real-life character, and He did so by welcoming every ragamuffin with enough chutzpah to come near Him, by re-identifying the prostitutes, and by taking little children up into His arms one at a time to bless them.

Think about it. Jesus, the King of heaven and earth, wanted and considered it vitally important to pick up every child, pull them into His chest, and kiss them (Mark 10:13-16). And because Jesus is “the very nature of God” revealed, then we can bet our last dollar that God is the kind of Papa who sees us running after Him and explodes with joy. He’s not the kind of God who turns His back when He hears our voices. He leans in. He engages.

If that doesn’t convince you, check this out. God knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7). If you’re struggling to believe that God even knows your name, I have good news for you. His attention is so focused on you that He’s joyfully numbered your hairs. He knows you. From the top of your head to the tip of your toes, He knows you. What’s the only thing that could compel a Father to know every hair on His kiddos’ heads? Outrageous, determined, overjoyed Love.

Don’t let fear plague the process of getting to know God. Trust Him. The second you stop trusting is the second you stop enjoying. 

We have to be brave enough to let God be tender. Our relationship with Him hinges on allowing all of His characteristics to speak to us. He is sovereign, He is strong, He is righteous. But He is also deeply tender, delighted, and joyful. You have permission to experience Him in His fullness. That’s what a relationship is. It’s knowing someone else and letting them know you, and that is God’s desire for us. We are invited into relationship with the Trinity. We are invited to enjoy Him. Run wild.