The Gospel

Guilt Might...

  • ...get you nowhere
  • ...create a violent life that thrashes around in a flailed attempt to make up for past mistakes
  • ...paralyze you
  • ...blind you to the freedom that is yours because of grace

Last Sunday's call to a life of true repentance that pursues justice - particularly for the poor - from a heart of mercy left many of us feeling guilty for our failure to live this way. The response this week in our community groups has been somewhat predictable: feverish planning to do something about the poor.

While I don't intend to get in the way of the work of the Spirit - and I do believe he intends to change us into a people who give our lives to the cause of justice and mercy - you might want to listen to this from David Powlison:

So often when people feel remorse for what they've done wrong, it is a remorse against their idealized self-image, a remorse in their own eyes, and a remorse against what other people think about them.

There is a kind of guilt that will not make you more like Jesus but will drag you away from him in a bitter self-reliance. But there is a kind of guilt that owns up to our failure to declare and display the character and life of God and leads us straight to the cross where Jesus died to forgive us for our unjust treatment of the poor and to free us from the deep spiritual poverty created by injustice.

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Adopted By Grace - Alice Woodard

At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that God has adopted us into his family. As one man writes:

Our acceptance by the Father is therefore the foundation of our Christian lives. Before we do anything for God, we know that we are beloved by God. By grace, we have brand new identities as sons and daughters, and we are brand new creatures. Being loved by the Father becomes the very core of our existence. This is both our legal and actual status before God.

One of the ways this doctrine has been made evident in the life of our church is in the story of Alice Woodard:

One day when I was 10, I abruptly asked my mom “was the baby you lost a boy or a girl?  Quietly, she responded, “a girl”.  Very matter of factly I replied, “Now I know why God gave me to you.  He knew you needed a little girl and I needed a mommy.”

I didn't know much scripture, but from that day on, I knew God had a plan and purpose for me being adopted.  When I did learn scripture, Romans 8:28 became my life verse, “all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.”  I had no idea why I couldn't  grow up with my biological parents, but it was clear God meant it for my good and His glory.

As an adult, I began to see the importance of knowing and understanding your story.  My story was like a huge puzzle... the picture was beautiful, but a piece was missing.  After receiving my father and brother's blessing, I decided to search for my biological mother.  What unfolded was an amazing story of God's grace and provision.

My biological mother died 2 years prior to my search, so unfortunately I never met her. Nancy Neal's story is a tangled web of struggle.  She was plagued with bad health, loved multiple men and regularly took drugs.  Substance abuse is a recurring theme in many of my siblings lives.  In fact, it's been reported that the family Christmas Celebrations included most everyone on the front lawn getting high together.  Depression, anxiety and bad choices abound.  Jail time, living on welfare, abortions, beer in baby bottles, acting in porn movies, taking drugs, dealing drugs, are all so much a part of their lives.  School wasn't important and college never an option.  It's almost too overwhelming to put on paper ~ it takes my breath away to type these words.

The only reason I didn't grow up in the same environment, is that I was born first.  Nancy wasn't married, so her parents made her give me away.  I didn't do anything to earn or deserve a better life.  I was plucked out of much sadness and turmoil, because God simply called me out.

No one knows who my biological father could be.  At first I was sad I would never know him and then it occurred to me that often God gives us substitutes.  Ken Rockey has been more than a father.  He's been my daddy; I couldn't ask for more.  God gave him to me as a substitute, just as He gave us Christ as a substitute on the cross for our sins.  We don't have to pay the price of our sin; Jesus already took care of it.

At my adoption agency, a baby is placed into THE Cradle for Adoptive Parents to view and see if they want the baby.  My parents walked in, saw me and began to dress me to take me home.  The case worker questioned, “oh you want her?” Immediately they responded, “yes, we want her.”  I didn't promise to love them well, always behave or keep my room clean; in spite of myself, they picked me up and made me their own.  Isn't that much like when we reach heaven?  Just when we expect the gavel to fall and proclaim us unwanted, Jesus steps in and says, “She's mine.  I want to take her home.”

I can not grasp why I've experienced so much GRACE in my life.  I continue to rest in Romans 8:28, that “all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.”  I continue to trust that He knows best, that HE is the Author and Sovereign Creator of my life.

“Jesus you are mercy, Jesus you are justice, Jesus you are worthy, that is what you are. You died alone to save me, you rose so you could raise me You did this all to make me a chosen child of God.”



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How We Handle Conflict

When someone becomes a member of our church, they make six promises to everyone else in the church. The last promise is a pledge to 'maintain the purity and peace of the church to the best of your ability.' Practically speaking - and we talk about this when we interview prospective members - this promise means that in moments and seasons of conflict, each of us will: 1. Assume the best about each other; 2. Refuse to gossip or talk behind someone's back; 3. Go to the person we are in conflict with directly to seek reconciliation.

[NOTE: We've adapted this idea from Walter Henegar, pastor at Atlanta Westside]

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