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Living in the Light

 

 

Filtering by Category: Devotion

Blank Slate

Jessalyn Hutto

Have you ever had one of those days when you just wanted to push the reset button? Or have you perhaps had one of those moments where you thought to yourself, oh dear, if I could just rewind a few minutes and take back the words I just said... the face I just made... the bad attitude I just betrayed...? 

I know I have.

In fact, sometimes it can seem like my life is made up of an ever flowing cascade of regrettable moments. Times when I should have been quiet rather than opinionated. Days when I should have slowed down and resisted the agitation of rushing. Moments where I should have chosen peace over pride.

My husband and I have often looked at one another, as tempers begin to rise and the agitation begins to fester, and called an audible, "whoa," to our galloping emotions. "Can we just start this over? Forgive each other and start over? Can we give each other that grace?"

And in those blessed moments when we are able to deny our flesh and seek unity above selfishness, we praise God for the gift of forgiveness.

Because forgiveness -true forgiveness - frees you to live joyfully and abundantly without the guilt of the past failures holding you captive.

It gives the paralytic the ability to walk.

I think that's why we relish the idea of a new year. Realistically, nothing changes between the second that splits December 31st and January 1st, but mentally,  as a culture, we've signed a communal agreement saying that in the click of a clock's minute hand we are all allowed the grace of beginning a new chapter in our lives.

There is a metaphorical turning of the page.

A new door opened.

A previous year's slate wiped clean.

And it is this idea of a fresh, blank slate that is so appealing to us as we set about making our new year's resolutions - this feeling that we can somehow wipe the sins of last year from our memories. There's a joy found in packing up all those sins and mistakes into a little box labeled "past" and exchanging them for a fresh, empty box that shines with the excitement of "endless possibilities."

Who knows what we can accomplish in the new year - what demons we may slay? 

And so, the new year provides a "reset" option for many of us. It gives us the feeling that we can begin again with a blank slate, and that blank slate gives us the motivation necessary to scale the intimidating mountains on the new year's horizon.

It's remarkable.

In a sense, we are offering ourselves absolution for our past failures and the freedom to live unhindered by them in the future.

The problem is, the absolution we grant has no actual meaning.

It isn't real and it isn't lasting.

Poor creatures that we are, no sooner has January faded into the mist of our memories than we find ourselves reverting back to the overeating, the disorganization, the negative attitude, or whatever other vice has plagued us over the years. We come down from our New Year's high and realize that we are still the same sinners who struggle every day to deny our sinful tendencies.

We find that the guilt from our past continues to cripple us and we're forced to stare again and again into mirrors that betray the broken, messed up people we've always been. 

Sadly, after all the hype and optimism of January 1st fades away we are left with little but a renewed sense of our own weakness.

For as long as we seek absolution (and therefore, motivation) from within, we will never find true rest and lasting joy.

Abundant life will continue to allude us.

But this is not to be so for the Christian, because the Christian's absolution is not found within, but rather, it is found in Christ.

It is real; it is concrete; it is eternal. 

In Christ, we are not weak and weary sinners who've been overcome by our iniquities, but rather, we are triumphant, risen saints. We are declared righteous and holy. In Christ's strength we are made strong.

What joy is experienced by those who've been saved by the blood of the cross, whether it is 11:59 p.m. on December 31st or 12 a.m. on  January 1st! What freedom there is for the sinner whose hope is not in what she can accomplish, but instead in what her Savior has already finished! She is not enslaved by her past because the Lord has wiped all of her sins away. Truly, it doesn't matter to her if it is the the crisp, hopeful morning of a new year or a disillusioned  summer afternoon when all of her well-meaning resolutions have gone to pot.

Her hope is not in herself, but in the Lord.

She knows that her Redeemer came so that she might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Every. day. of the year.

"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin." -Romans 4:7&8

Can we say this enough?

Blessed are we, dear sisters!

Our sins are not tallied against us.

Our slates are clean - forever!

All because the Clean One made himself dirty with our sins. 

Let us not look inward this year, but instead, let us look upward toward our God in Heaven who loves us, cleanses us, and teaches us to walk in his ways by the power of his Spirit.

"For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." -Hebrews 10:14

For by a single offering, we were made free.

Let us live in the joy and the hope of that freedom.

Happy New Year... Happy eternity!

He is Not Just God

Jessalyn Hutto

It is always startling when one of my children calls me by my first name. The sound of their tiny voices, saying the word "Jessalyn" or the more familiar "Jess" catches me off guard. They've only recently begun to experiment with names in this way as they've only recently begun to understand that their mommy and daddy have proper names just like they do.

Of course, as they've dipped their toes into the exciting waters of proper name usage, we've had to remind them that they are not to call us by our first names, they are to continue calling us Mommy and Daddy. "But everyone else gets to call you Jess!" my middle son pleads.

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The Lord Who Provides

Jessalyn Hutto

Just a few days ago I wrote, "I cannot allow myself to create imaginary hurdles before those who are lost when God has created a simple and easy means of salvation." 

The words still echo in my mind.

I wonder in the depths of my soul: is it really so easy to be saved? is it really so simple?

For our means of salvation was not in the least bit easy or simple for Jesus.

It was not with a word or with a look that Jesus accomplished the salvation of man. It was with pain, humiliation, and death.

Indeed, as our holy God voluntarily stretched out his arms and feet to be nailed to beams of wood, and as he hung there, voluntarily suffocating in his own lung fluid, I'm certain it never once felt easy or simple to him.

And as the eternal Son of God experienced his Father's complete withdrawal of affections and in their place appeared the full, horrifying wrath of the Holy One against sin, our spotless lamb accomplished the most complex and difficult thing imaginable: the work of atoning for his people's sins and bridging a chasm of infinite width between God and man.

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A Simple Call

Jessalyn Hutto

Here we have a marvelously simple and straightforward explanation of what it means to become a Christian: you must call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Just call.

For belief in Jesus is not a work, it is a recognition of need.

There is an interesting story in the book of Numbers that Jesus uses to illustrate the simplicity of saving faith. It is a story of the ungrateful, complaining, and quarrelsome Israel, just brought out from their slavery in Egypt, just saved from the sword of Pharaoh, and just released from their chains of torment.

But they were not happy with their gracious and loving God who had so recently walked them through the Red Sea on dry ground. Their new life didn't suit their suddenly high standards. Apparently, freedom was not all that they had hoped it would be. Yes, God miraculously provided food for them from heaven - food meant to perfectly sustain them on their journey to the promised land, but it was not good enough. They would have preferred the food they ate as slaves. Or so they complained.

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Called Together

Jessalyn Hutto

...called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours...
— 1 Corinthians 1:2

Strangely, the idea of living in community with other believers can be both exciting and frightening for Christians. On the one hand, we long for people to understand us, to care for us, and to faithfully walk with us through the highs and lows of life. We enjoy true, good friendships and long for our churches to feel more like families than social clubs. 

On the other hand, we bristle at the thought of people getting involved in our messes.

We want them to be a part of our lives, but only up to a certain point. Certainly, we don't want them to know our weaknesses, see our faults, or - heaven forbid - be the ones to kindly point them out to us.

We want good friends, but in our minds "good friends" are those who think highly of us, who will further our cause, and who will meet our needs.

We don't typically go out of our way to find people who need us. We don't make a point of spending time with those people whose personalities grate against our own. We don't naturally seek to build bridges between strange (to us) cultures and our own.

Rather, we naturally search for a group of people who look like us, sound like us, and behave like us, and then enjoy our artificial "unity" as we worship, learn about, and serve the Lord in ways that we are all comfortable with.

We like this group of friends who are just like us, partly because we all have a similar understanding of what the boundaries are.

Yes, we've all politely decided that our friendships should go "deep," but not quite to the point where the digging hurts. When it begins to hurt and things get awkward, we will all kindly pull back a little until time has had a chance to fill in the wound.

Or we'll just find other friends who don't require so much work.

We long for something bigger - something that resembles the sweetness of genuine fellowship and unity between believers in the Bible - and yet, we find it difficult to abandon the "safe" boundaries we've set between us and the rest of our brethren.

We have lives to live, after all! We've got to work, take care of our families, and make time for ourselves... it seems all but impossible to add the needs and struggles of our church family into the mix. Going out of our way to know and understand and love people who are different than us as well? 

Well that's just above and beyond!

What is the cure for this?

How can I push my soul into a deeper and harder form of friendship - a fellowship between believers that relies upon the gospel of Jesus rather than a similar skin tone, a comparable income, or shared interests? How can I remove the self-serving motivations I have for friendships and replace them with a Christ-like love that dies for others.

I must reorient myself.

Every day.

Because every single day I wake up thinking that the world revolves around me when it revolves around the Son.

I must challenge my mind to see all of life through the one great story that has been unfolding throughout history - the story that causes all creation and all people from all nations to glorify and magnify the holy Christ.

I must see myself as one tiny, blessed player in God's perfect and marvelous plan - a player who has been carefully set in this time and in this place to serve him and glorify him in specific ways, and with specific people.

I must see myself as one who has been called out of the darkness and into the light. 

And in the light, I see a vast multitude of blood-drenched saints surrounding me. 

Yes, on every side there are people from all nations, all cities, all neighborhoods, all backgrounds, all ethnicities, all incomes, and with all different kinds of personalities, talents, and shortcomings who have likewise been called out of their former ways and into Christ's holiness. People who don't deserve God's love anymore than I do, but who have been given the gift of grace.

All around me are my brothers and sisters - we are all adopted siblings who've been made a part of God's family.

I see that in choosing each of us for himself, he has chosen each of us for one another.

With this mindset, I cannot look at another believer and be ambivalent to them. I must be concerned for them, I must love them, I must care about their well-being because they are united to my Savior, and thus they are united to me.

We are a part of one body, and no one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.

All of us, are called to live in this unifying reality together.

We were not merely saved into a personal relationship with Jesus. No we were saved into so much more!

We're not meant to enjoy and serve Christ in isolation. We're not meant to struggle and toil alone. We're not meant to fight this epic battle of faith as lone, terrified soldiers, but as a part of a mighty, Holy Spirit-empowered army!

We've been saved to experience the glories of true communion - Communion with God and communion with my fellow man. A communion that is free from the barriers of sin and guilt and shame.

Hallelujah! 

As we see other Christians in our cities, in our churches, or on the news, let us not see them merely as people who've made a similar mental assent to Jesus' gospel, but as family members whom we are eternally bound to through the precious blood of our Savior.


Father, will you grant me the humility and the courage and the diligence to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy the glorious family you have adopted me into. Would you give me a genuine love for all the brethren - the same love that you have had for your Son since eternity past and the same love that he so graciously spilled out upon us at the cross. Help me to do the hard work of cultivating the seeds of friendship, so that I might enjoy the fruit of heavenly fellowships that are ripe with the Spirit's blessings.

In Christ's name, Amen

 

Those Sanctified Saints

Jessalyn Hutto

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints...
— 1 Corinthians 1:2

Unless you are a naturally optimistic - the birds sing you awake - type of person, Monday mornings tend to arrive with a weight to them. They are just hard. Sure, there is a great sense of hope that accompanies the beginning of a new work week and all of the opportunities it represents (cue the blue jays making my bed), but often that sense of hope is overshadowed by the Goliath-sized list of things that need to get done.

It's 7:30 a.m and already my head is swirling with a host of things I failed to cross off my list last week, and that ominous knowledge is somehow being squashed by an even heftier load of tasks I need to accomplish this week.

We are busy people, and the implications of our busyness can often take our minds captive, threatening to steel the simple joy of living.

But there is another - more deflating - type of siege that likes to take place in my mind on Monday mornings. This army is in alliance with the first. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it employs the army of busyness to distract me as it attempts to flank the forces of my mind each and every day. It is the army of condemnation and its captain is Satan, himself.

He is a skilled opponent whose battle experience goes back to the beginning of creation. He understands humans, knows our weaknesses, and exploits them to the fullest extent. He  will do anything to keep us from living to the fullest - for truly living is life in God, life aware of his love and dependent upon his grace.

Living brings glory to the Life-giver, and Satan's great aim is to steal our great God's glory. 

And so, on Monday mornings, I find myself thinking not only of the many, many things I need to accomplish and in reality will probably not be able to bring to completion, but I'm thinking of the many ways in which I sinned last week.

I'm thinking of the ways that I allowed anger and pride and discontentment to fill my mind, to pour out of my mouth, and to hurt the ones I love. I'm thinking of all the ways I failed to live for others, of the may ways I jealously sought to take care of me and not my husband, my children, my parents, my friends, and my church.

I look back on last week, and wish I could look forward to the upcoming week with pure, unadulterated hope. I wish I could say, "Last week I really messed up, but this week I will make it right," and genuinely believe it, but I know my heart. I know that no matter how hard I try, I will still fail.

Unkind words will still pour from this sinners mouth in moments of weakness.

The bubbling frustration that arrises from caring for four little children day in and day out will eventually give way to me to popping and my self-serving soul being exposed - yet again. 

And I will still find myself desperately looking for ways to feed my own ego rather than pointing those around me to the all-glorious, worship-worthy King of the universe. 

I will be found worshipping myself, while the nail-pierced Savior looks lovingly on, and I will hate myself for it.

Mondays are hard.

Because with the buzz of the alarm clock comes the the trumpeting of a new battle in the war against sin and Satan. In this war, sin has had many victories and Satan has had many opportunities to glory in his accomplishments.

I've given up much ground.

But our gracious God, he does not leave his soldiers alone to fight by their faltering strength and their own faulty logic.

The battle may seem hopeless and pointless and all-together too much to logically continue fighting, but onto this hopeless morning's battle field he lays the bloody words "sanctified" and "saint." 

He tells me the story again: The story of his son's love, of his son's bravery, of his son's battle, of his son's victory. He tells me to rest, to have hope, and to be filled with joy because I've already been sanctified. I've been made a saint. In Christ, I am holy. In Christ, the battle is already won.

And so,

when Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see him there
who made an end to all my sin.

 

On Monday mornings as the battle draws near, I look not to myself for hope - because there is none to be found there - I look to my Savior. I look to the one who has sanctified me and set me apart, for his purposes and for his glory.

I resolve to live fully, to fight with all my might against the enemy, to put to death the sin that remains within me. Not because I can win every battle, but because I've been called out to fight.

I've been made holy in the court room of the one great Judge, and his verdict of "guiltless" frees me from the tyranny of my accuser. It robs the enemy of all his weapons.

I'm protected from his arrows of condemnation by the grace of my perfect Substitute and given strength to fight his forces by the power of my glorious Resurrection.

What I am in Christ, allows me to face who I am on my own with patience, humility, and even joy.

Because my failures remind me of his perfection.

My guilt reminds me of his love.


This summer, during our family vacation at the beach, my son and I were riding in an inflatable raft as my husband pulled us through the crashing waves. My son found this romping ride to be exhilarating and  terrifying all at once. With each new wave, we asked if he'd like to go back, but he would beckon us to go on through an enormous grin and nervous giggles. And so we'd continue, with me clinging to his five year old frame with a mother's steady grip. 

Eventually one wave got the better of our raft and turned us completely over. Out we went into the swirling current, turning head over heal in the salty water. When I could catch my footing, I stood out of the waist-deep water with my little boy safely secured to my chest with my viselike grip. 

But my precious boy was overwhelmed by our battle with the current. He'd never spent so long submerged in water before. Though I was securely holding on to him and he was completely out of the water, his arms and legs continued to flail and his little voice screamed, "Mom! Mom! Mom!" 

"It's ok, Hudson, I've got you," I soothed over and over again, "I've got you."

It took a few minutes for him to feel confident in my grip, to understand that I had never let him go and that there was nothing to fear. "I've got you," I continued to say, "You're safe."

These are the words our God wants me to hear this morning as I head into another week.

Yes, sin will come and swirl dangerously all around me. I will lose my footing every so often. I will be overwhelmed at times. 

But he's got me.

I'm his.

And I'm safe.

There is nothing to fear.

This is the hope for Mondays, can you hear the birds singing?

The Other Half

Jessalyn Hutto

The stack of books on my nightstand inches higher everyday. Some were recommended and loaned by friends, some borrowed from the library, and some sit caked in dust because I’ve put off reading them for so long. The majority of the stack, however, have scraps of paper jutting out from their pages–evidence that I’ve started reading them but never quite finished. They remain on my nightstand because I have this thing about finishing books: I want to give each book a fair shake, and reading just the first few chapters isn’t a fair shake in my opinion. The first few chapters don’t tell the whole story.

I suppose I have this thing about whole stories, because although I became a Christian when I was eight, for the 20 years that followed I only knew the first half of the gospel story. I knew that I was a sinner, and I knew that Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive me of that sin when I confessed Him as my Savior, but I didn’t know how this act of death and resurrection affected my life after my initial salvation. I hated that I continued to sin, that I failed God, that I couldn’t be good enough to prove my worth for what He’d done for me. I knew He loved me at the cross, but I felt certain He couldn’t love me in my ever-present state of failure and weakness. So I repeatedly cycled around to the first half of the story–the part that told me I was a sinner–and then, wallowing in that truth, tried desperately to make up for my imperfections with good behavior. 

I thought that was the whole story: saved by grace, sanctified by self-effort. But one day God began showing me through His Word that there is a second half to the gospel story–the part about life after salvation–and what He showed me changed everything. 

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Let His Love Cast Out Your Fear

Jessalyn Hutto

During a recent family get-together, I was sitting in my grandmother’s guest room rocking my baby girl in silence. As I swayed gently in a rocking chair, admiring my sweet Roseveare, my mind flipped through the many memories I have of nights spent within that room's four walls. Much about the room has changed since my childhood, but the feelings of comfort that have so long characterized my grandmother’s home were just as potent that night as they were decades ago.

A particularly memory rose to the top of this marvelous flood of nostalgia. I remembered sitting on the once plush, white carpet before me as a young girl painting my nails a bright red. As little girls are prone to do, I accidentally spilled the bottle of nail polish. The glaringly red hue seeped into my grandparent’s carpet and great tears of fear began to seep from my eyes. I tried desperately to get as much of the polish out of the carpet’s fibers myself, but it was of no use.

Through great sobs of fear, I explained to my grandmother what had happened. Of course I felt terrible about what I had done, but more than anything my little girl heart was so afraid of her being mad at me for messing up her floor. After all, she was a particularly neat and tidy grandmother. 

In my fear, I forgot who my grandmother was. I worried that she would be angry with me and that her opinion of me would be forever altered due to this accident. I didn’t trust that she loved me infinitely more than her white carpet.

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God of the Little Things

Jessalyn Hutto

There are two kinds of God's sovereignty that are difficult for our human minds to grasp. The first is his sovereignty over the big, terrible events of our lives. This is because we cannot understand how a good and loving God could possibly be orchestrating the devastating, debilitating, and often deadly circumstances that we find ourselves subject to as humans living in this sin-infested world.

Indeed, we are often met with a crisis of faith when a spouse leaves us, when a pregnancy ends in miscarriage, or when we get the awful news that we are dying from cancer. In these times we are forced to decide whether we truly believe in the God of the Bible--a God who is incomprehensibly sovereign over evil events and at the same time good in all he does--or wether we will invent a more palatable god of our own design. When catastrophic events happen in our lives we must trust--with God-given faith--his revealed Word when it says that he "works all things for the good of those who love him."

The second category of God's sovereignty that I believe we have difficulty accepting--that I see my own heart struggling to believe--is his control over the minute, tiny details of our lives. This, perhaps, is an even greater struggle than the first because it confronts us every moment of our lives. It is the unbelief that continually fails to recognize God's continual, purposeful interaction with the moments that make up our days...

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Awake Oh Sleeper!

Jessalyn Hutto

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” (John 11:11)

There are few things as final as death. This horrid thief of breath is a common enemy every human must face and ultimately surrender to. There is no potion, no surgery, and no vitamin that will delay the inevitable failing of our bodies. And so each of us will one day have to say painful goodbyes to our spouses, our parents, and our children. There is only one Man who has ever faced the enemy of death and emerged from the battle field victorious and he holds the sun and moon and stars in the palm of his hand...

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