Spiritual Growth

The Joyful Discomfort of Motherhood

The Joyful Discomfort of Motherhood

We all crave comfort. Comfort food, comfort zones, comfy clothes, comfortable jobs. Our decisions are often motivated by a desire to mitigate distress, discomfort, or inconvenience. Being comfortable isn’t always a bad thing. It can be one way God demonstrates his grace to people.

The privilege of Christian motherhood has challenged my notions of comfortable living in full force.

It’s uncomfortable as our bodies are broken for the sake of another’s welfare through pregnancy, delivery, feeding, & sleeplessness. It’s not easy consistently training up our children in the way they should go through fights over food & school work, tantrums & unwise choices. It’s humbling to tell our young ones about the mighty deeds of God & then display gospel-kindness when faced with their rebellion. 

Yet we pray, forbear, & show mercy because God, in Christ, forgave us. There’s no ease on this battleground because it’s a 24/7 job. 

...This role is rife with opportunities to image what God is like in his self-sacrificing, nurturing, & life-sustaining attributes. In God’s supreme design, mothers were made to image him in unique ways to our families, in our churches, at work, in the community, to ‘the authorities & the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.’ (Eph. 6:12)

This sometimes-uncomfortable work of mothering draws our attention to our need for the great shepherd’s comfort. Only his rod & staff can give us a lasting sense of safety in hard places. 

Just like we wean our children from milk to solid food, the God of all comfort weans us from a taste for only physical comfort to delight in the divine comfort of his everlasting presence. Knowledge of his presence drives us to joyfully live an uncomfortable life for God’s glory. As we share abundantly in Christ’s suffering, we share in his comfort too.

Dear sisters, when tempted to begrudge the costly & uncomfortable work of mothering, let’s remember Jesus went before us. His joyful obedience in hard things accomplished our redemption & adoption & will result in our resurrection one glorious day.

But Mommy, Why?

But Mommy, Why?

“We’ve all been there. We’ve all given our children instructions, they’ve asked why, and we’ve responded with neither grace nor eloquence, ‘Because I said so!’

We’re tired, exasperated, and in search of a quick fix.

But if time paused and we were given a moment to really think about the answer to their question of why, what would we come up with? Why do we want them to do what we’ve asked them to do? What are the motives behind our commands? What’s driving us?

In the Bible, Paul answers the question why over and over. In every letter he wrote to the early churches, he didn’t merely give them instructions for godly living and say, “Because I said so!” He gave them—and us—a foundation, a motivation, a robust reason for doing what God asks us to do.

When we read Colossians, we can almost hear Paul’s words getting faster and faster, culminating in a crescendo of praise. And then he says, ‘Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.’

The praise comes first, then the pivot, and then the instruction for godly living. This order is crucial.

First, we understand the nature and character of our God. We remember his goodness and kindness to us. We recall how he gave himself over to us. We acknowledge that we were in darkness before him and he brought us into the kingdom of light. We say out loud that he’s a gift we do not deserve.

Then, after those rehearsals and proclamations, we set out to obey our good God. It’s from a heart full of remembrance and praise, which is how we received Christ Jesus the Lord, that we walk in him.

First we remember the gospel, and then we walk in it.

Christian parenting is discipleship. As Christian moms, we want our homes, our language, our actions, our thoughts to be distinctly Christian. So our answer to why must have the substance of our Savior.

May they  bear the aroma of Christ.

It was his grace that saved us. May it also be his grace that propels us. God’s grace is the answer to why.”

At All Costs

At All Costs

‘Let’s go change your diaper,’ I chirped in my sing-songy ‘mom’ voice.

We headed toward the stairs. Stepping up, my slipper caught a rough joint in the wood, and the world flipped in slow motion. We tumbled toward the wooden landing with no possible way to prevent the fall. 

‘Protect the baby at all costs.’ 

I’m not sure it was a cognizant thought, but instinctively I turned my body to take the brunt of the fall. It didn’t matter if I’d be battered and bruised, protecting him was more important. 

As the adrenaline subsided and his safety was evident, my tears flowed. My baby could have been seriously injured. I cried and prayed, praising God for his protection over my newborn.

Of course, this scenario could have gone much differently, like a trip to the emergency room. But even so, God is still the protector. 

Because God eternally protects his children at all costs. 

Though it doesn’t always come in the form we want it to, the Lord protects. He may not spare us from grief or trials in this life, but his view is deeper, down to our very souls.

Jesus accomplished the ultimate protection on the cross. He turned his own body to take the brunt of the ‘fall.’ He was bruised and broken, but protecting his own was more important. And he protected even unto death, absorbing the full measure of wrath that should have been hurled at us.

Because Christ made God favorable toward us, all we receive is grace upon grace. 

Therefore, I can rest. I might fear injury, sickness, or even death, but I can entrust those fears to the one who has ultimate control. I don’t have to be a perfect mom. I can’t be a perfect mom. Accidents will happen. I’ll make bad decisions. I’ll sin against him. But I can run to the God who perfectly parents me, recalling grace.

I’m still pretty new at this parenting thing, but it’s safe to say I’d die for my son. But I may not always be able to protect him. 


So, I speak truth to my heart. God eternally protects his children at all costs.

For the Mom Who Keeps Blowing It

For the Mom Who Keeps Blowing It

I looked at my husband across the couch and heard myself say, ‘I’m tired of blowing it, of sinning the same way over and over again with our kids. Can’t I trade this in for another sin or something?!’

Ever since I can remember, I’ve fallen into what some have called the ‘performance trap,’ setting standards for what it means to be a good friend, a good student, a good wife, a good mom, even a good Christian.

But having young kids exposed my sin again and again. It felt impossible to ‘perform’ in this role, to hit the benchmark I had in my head of what a good, Christian mom should look like. I’d hold it together for awhile, but eventually I’d totally blow it. Feeling terrible, I’d apologize profusely to the kids and try to make it up to them. Then, I’d pull up my proverbial bootstraps and determine to do better next time. But, inevitably, I’d blow it again. And the cycle of sin and shame and ‘trying harder’ would repeat.

Sometimes, when I felt really frustrated and defeated, I wanted to give up and declare: “This is just part of my personality, and parenting is so hard!”

But this is not the gospel!

In his mercy, God repeatedly brought me to a point of desperation. God helped me realize that no amount of staring at my sin, or beating myself up, or ‘trying harder; would ever help me hit that standard.

God taught me to fix my eyes on Christ, who already fixed his eyes on me in love.

In Christ, we meet God’s standard.

In Christ, we’re free from the condemning power of sin.

In Christ, we’re free from the enslaving power of sin.

In Christ, we still struggle with the presence of sin.

In Christ, we never outgrow the gospel.

Our journeys in motherhood aren’t over. Though we’re growing, we’ll still blow it. But we can ask our kids for forgiveness and point them not to a perfect mom, but to a perfect Savior.

We can walk in the good work of motherhood in an attitude of worship, resting, and rejoicing in the undeserved friendship of Jesus and point our children to the same.”

Raising Treasure Hunters

Raising Treasure Hunters

Maybe you grew up like me, running around the white-steepled church smack in center of your small-town.

Maybe you heard stories of a different Jesus, an imposter Jesus that sent you running from the church building as soon as you grabbed your diploma and your own set of keys.

Maybe you met Jesus in small doses, spread here and there.

But whatever your story, now we’re here, wanting to lead our children to the face and hands and words of the real and risen Savior, the greatest treasure we meet in scripture.

From beginning to end, the story of redemption has always been about God. The God who shot twirling planets across space by the words of his mouth chose the weak and broken things of this world to make himself known. Our God used mud to give sight to the blind, water to bring wine to the wedding, children to feed the multitudes. So, don’t sit there stressing Bible degrees and church pedigrees, unread book lists, and unlistened podcasts.

Instead, sit there celebrating a God who is enough.

This God who wrote the greatest story ever told in the pages of eternity, also wrote a new story, this gospel incarnate, inside of us. A story painted in sweeping brush strokes of Redeemer blood. A story that rewrote our past and redirected our future.

The Author of the greatest story is present in the pages of scripture, and he’s present in you as you tentatively whisper and confidently shout his words to your children.

The greatest gift we give our children isn’t handing them the all answers to life, wrapped in a sparkling red bow. It’s bringing them along with us as we live out the redemptive reality of Christ in us. When we come to God’s word with them, asking with utter confidence, ‘God, show us yourself today,’ we are modeling for them how to live this life on earth. This is what they need.

So become treasure hunters together.

Next time you open the Bible with your children, take a moment to pray your eyes will see the wonderful story of redemption on every page.

Unity Rather Than Uniformity

Unity Rather Than Uniformity

There was a time when I struggled when other moms in our church made choices for their children different than my own. I worried that I was not spiritual enough, or that others were judging me, or that perhaps I was actually missing how God was leading me.

My struggle wasn’t with God’s will but rather with my own insecurity.

I’ve found that my discomfort with differences is not unusual among women in the church, particularly among young mothers who are navigating many important decisions for the first time. Our greatest struggles and misunderstandings leading to disunity are typically about secondary, non-gospel issues, such as education, working versus non-working, financial choices, and parenting practices.

Instead of secondary, we often make these choices primary identity markers for who we are and how we’re doing as mothers and disciples of Jesus. As a result, we self-divide within the church, huddling into groups that share our convictions and can best relate to us.

In order to experience unity as mothers, we must intentionally reject uniformity and instead celebrate the unique gifts, skills, life circumstances, and choices others may use to adorn the gospel.

Paul tells us that a grace-filled response will allow for differences on secondary issues. We don’t all have to do everything the same way, and in fact we can’t all do everything the same way.

Each of us lives by faith as unto the Lord, and we will account only to God for how we lived in response to him. Because of this, we aren’t to judge others who think or act differently on these issues. Just as we trust God to lead and care for us, we must trust God to lead and care for others.

When we see more quickly what unifies us rather than what makes us different, we focus on what is truly at the heart of the kingdom of God, and we’re able to speak grace into the lives of others who are weary, dry, and desperate for it.

And isn’t that every mother within the church?

Sharing Jesus at Home and with the Nations

 Sharing Jesus at Home and with the Nations

I’ve cared about evangelism for as long as I can remember.

Three years or so ago, the old me wouldn’t have believed my struggle with evangelism and the number of excuses I’ve made since becoming a mom. It’s true we’re busy, and our life goes from taking care of ourselves to not looking in the mirror for an entire 6 hours while also forgetting to eat lunch again—something I never would’ve done in my pre-mommy life.

We may think of evangelism like the fairy tales we tell our little princes and princesses. We imagine a special place where we will meet the right person who needs to hear the gospel. They will be saved. We will become best friends who study the Bible together over coffee and blueberry scones—everything will be happily ever after!

If evangelism likens to a fairy tale, we can play the role of the knight who has shiny armor of his own and doesn’t need God almighty and his spiritual armor to help him.

But to live a life that seeks to evangelize, we must recognize we are weak, inadequate, and unable to orchestrate the ideal scenario. We can’t change anyone’s heart either. The strength of Christ helps us obey when life seems chaotic, and God’s word holds the power to save souls.

So, let’s forget about the perfect evangelism opportunity and invite our children into the life of one who is ready at all times to give reason for the hope you have in Christ. 1 Cor. 5:20 says, ‘Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’

Obeying the Great Commission will look different now that you are a mom. Let God make his appeal through you inside and outside of your home, through prayer and direct interaction, to your children and other future children of God who wait for someone to tell them, for they cannot believe unless they hear the good news.

Mommas, We Speak From the Overflow of Our Hearts

Mommas, We Speak From the Overflow of Our Hearts

I yelled at my daughter the other day. Not a gentle ‘Don’t do that, honey,’ kind of correction, but an angry, ‘What on earth were you thinking?’ reaction.

She, in turn, yelled at her two year old brother for making her do it, and pretty quickly there was a lot of frustration going around for a little bit of spilled sparkling water. A simple misstep halted my child’s creative idea on a nice day, and there we were, yelling at each other as if the offense merited some sort of punishment.

After we cleaned up, I thought about how quickly that moment went from fun to frenzied. Rather than parenting my children with the patience and instruction they need, I responded to a common sibling squabble like I was one of the siblings. 

If a mama speaks out of the overflow of her heart, my overflow had been speaking loud and clear, pointing to the fact that I wasn’t guarding the sources filling my heart-well.

The problem is really simple: it’s me. My heart is. My misplaced worship is. The idolatry of my time and performance is. And the way I feed these things by comparing myself to other mothers, that’s the problem.

And the way I’ve sought to fill my life with the things God tells us will not satisfy—these are the barrier between me and the mom that I want to be. As I’ve escaped to worldly influences, I’ve robbed my soul of the fellowship with my Savior that it needs, and I’ve seen firsthand the difference between the overflow of a heart filled with treasure and a heart filled with idols.

Motherhood is one way God makes his goodness tangible, and I am learning each day that to be the mom I want to be, to experience that goodness, I have to begin with a posture of humility; which is sometimes as simple as the choice between one of the many temporary comforts fighting for my affection, and repentance. Simple, pure, childlike repentance of my sin. Because we’re all in need of saving from the thing that keeps us from God and from one another.

But the best news for all of us is that grace is already there.

All in All: How Jesus Transforms Our Relationships

All in All: How Jesus Transforms Our Relationships

“It was one of my first ventures out into society as a new mama. We were visiting the home of some new friends & he started crying a little bit. Then, it got louder & I excused myself to the other room as I attempted to quiet him.
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I tried bouncing him. I tried singing lullabies. I tried feeding him & changing his diaper. Still he continued to wail.
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All my visions of motherhood were crashing down hard as I tasted my own failure to soothe this real-life baby.
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Fast forward a few weeks. I’m listening to scripture on audio as I fold laundry. One short phrase rings out strong. It’s the second part of Colossians 3:11, which says, ‘But Christ is all & in all.’
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That is, he is everything, everywhere, for every moment. He provides the meaning & purpose & beauty—not just for some days or some people—but for all & for everything, even this moment as I fold my laundry, even that moment when my child is crying and crying, even when I am crying myself. 
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Jesus is the beginning, middle & end of my story & your story & everyone else’s story.
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We live in a world where relationships tend to be defined by divisions & distinctions. This is the reality of my heart—that I look on others & instinctively measure myself as either inadequate or superior in comparison.
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But there is something bigger than all our differences, bigger than all the measurements & status. Christ is bigger. He is all.
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When we look at ourselves & at others, we look for Christ, in & through all our differences. We are no longer worrying what others think of us or racing to prove ourselves, to peg ourselves as inferior or superior to another mama. Rather, we clothe ourselves in humility. 
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We’re on a treasure hunt of sorts, looking for Christ, searching to delight in His glory in those around us & his grace in our own weaknesses. We’re living out this identity as a people holy & dearly loved, freed to bear with each other & forgive each other & live in peace as one body.
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Because Christ is all & is in all, we can live in sweet peace & experience genuine love.”
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More from @jennywrenreed on the blog! Link in profile.

Planting Seeds of Gospel Hope

Planting Seeds of Gospel Hope

I spent much of my high school and college years intentionally building relationships with unbelievers, sharing the gospel with strangers, and passing out tracts. I even wanted to bring this message to other nations as a missionary. 

But God was leading me to a different season than I imagined for myself. A season that didn’t look like typical missions work or much of an evangelistic opportunity. I was to become a wife and mother. 

My interactions with the outside world were mainly the cashier at the grocery store, the children’s librarian, and people at the park. My limited interactions were fraught with countless interruptions, distractions, and little moments of crises.

I didn’t understand how this desire to evangelize matched up with motherhood, especially the part of motherhood that involved changing diapers and cleaning spit up. And I would feel guilty for not actively sharing the gospel with someone else.

But I was thinking about motherhood and evangelism wrong.

When Jesus walked this earth, he made disciples. He called them to come and follow him. He didn’t share a brief three point sermon, knock on a door, pass out a tract, and then walk away. He walked the same roads as his followers and traveled in their shoes. Jesus went the distance.

Because making a disciple takes time. 

I can change the baby’s diaper as an expression of a type of sacrificial love that reflects Jesus. I can teach both my boys that the gospel is their only hope for change and right living, while I reach out to the mom next door. I can love my children and the mom from story time. They are both my neighbor. 

When I offer my children grace, love, and acceptance in their failures I’m pointing them to a greater version of these things in Christ. Just the same, when I extend an invitation for a playdate with an unbeliever I’m reflecting a greater invitation from the Savior. 

I’m being faithful where God has me.


I can trust God with the new seeds I plant now.

Transitions

Transitions

My four daughters have been raised on three continents. They cut their teeth in Asia, experienced some middle years in Europe, and now live in the United States. These sweet babes have traversed everything from squatty potties and flying cockroaches to endless gray days and desperately wanting to buy a vowel in a language that has almost none.

Now that we’ve settled down in Colorado, I’ve noticed there are few natives here. Americans are increasingly transient. We’re less and less obligated to stay close to our roots. We move for school, work, climate, friends, a new lifestyle, even on a whim.

It was one thing to relocate when we were footloose and fancy-free college kids or young adults. But now that we’ve got a toddler or elementary-aged boy or tween girl or a teen in tow, we need a game plan.

Moves across the state, the country, or even the world can be both traumatic and exciting at the same time. As our families experience upheaval, we need to be firmly grounded in the unchanging nature of our God and his good news.

Here are some gospel foundations for making a move as a family:

1. Jesus will hold everything together.

2. You cannot escape God’s presence.

3. God ordains when and where we live.

4. As Christians we have family wherever we go.

Though difficult, transitions can be an immense blessing. Trust the Lord to work in yours. As far as you are able, be faithful in preparing your own heart and the hearts of your children. Beyond that, know that our God is good and gracious and he will not only meet you there, but he will meet your kids there in ways you never knew possible.

Birthing and Longing

Birthing and Longing

‘You know, babe, I wish I could have known you would be all into this … birth stuff before we got married.’

We became pregnant just a few short months after our honeymoon, which unlocked inside of me what has become an enduring life passion: childbirth.

My favorite portion of Romans 8 is where Paul uses childbirth as a metaphor to teach us about our ultimate future glory.

‘For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God … For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.’

Whether it’s something as significant as a waiting to see a child to come to saving faith in Christ or something more temporal but strongly felt as waiting for a child to fall asleep (PLEASE!), we all know what it means to wait for something with eager longing.

But the waiting of childbirth—and, so, creation—is marked by groaning. This is not a comfortable waiting. It is waiting punctuated by great effort and, oftentimes, pain. The tension of ‘already but not yet’ is palabable in the delivery room. Every birth attendant knows that the baby is coming; but often as the hours or days of labor creep by, it is easy to fall into wondering if the baby will actually ever come

Christians are a people keenly aware that this world is not as it should be. When we look around and see hatred and bigotry, inequality and racism, poverty and wars, it would be right for us to literally moan, ‘When will Jesus redeem this once and for all!?’

Praise God that we have assurance that day IS coming—the baby WILL be born!—though it will be at an ‘hour no one knows.’

Just like a woman in labor, may we endeavor to put those groanings to work. May our groans sound like women who shout gospel truth through the labor halls of life. And may we know when we get to see our Savior face to face, it will be cause for infinite joy—a moment that will make the breathtaking moment of looking into the faces of our own children once they’ve been born pale in comparison.

Joyfully Spreading the Word

Joyfully Spreading the Word

As women in the church learn and grow together, following Paul’s instruction to Titus that older women should teach the younger ones ‘what is good,’ a call to evangelism must be a crucial part of the good things passed on.

God’s people have the astounding privilege of passing on the good news of what God has done for us through the death of Christ on our behalf and his resurrection from the grave. Although it is clearly the concern of the whole church, the subject of sharing the gospel is one that women will do well to consider deeply together. 

Let me suggest three specific reasons why.

First, believing women need to hear voices calling us to a gospel-centered outward focus—rather than a self-centered, inward one.

When we do turn outward toward social issues and actions—and, happily, we increasingly do—the temptation is to turn with passion to the physical and emotional needs that move our hearts. Why are we not equally moved, or even more moved, to share the good news of Jesus and how he can meet the greatest and eternal needs of every needy human being?

Second, there are great role models who can teach us biblically and well. 

Women with hearts to share the gospel juggle a variety of contexts, mixing home and work and friendship and hospitality and mercy ministry in that sometimes-chaotic combination that makes up many women’s lives. No matter what our involvements, we can spur one another on in learning and sharing the Word that is at the heart of our ongoing witness.

Finally, women should be considering deeply together the subject of personal evangelism because we sense the urgency of teaching each other this part of ‘what is good.’

We all need voices calling us to a gospel-centered outward focus. We need strong Word-filled role models. And we need a sense of the urgency of this message, this message that calls people from death to life through the power of the gospel.

What Does it Mean to Remember My Identity in Christ?

What Does it Mean to Remember My Identity in Christ?

"Although we’ve had the same food expectations for all of our kids, their tastes and preferences vary wildly. Not long ago, we jokingly nicknamed our twins, “farm-to-table” and our oldest son, “Mickey” (in reference to his love of the McDonald’s cheeseburger). It was all fun and games … for awhile.
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After a couple of weeks it started affecting their behavior and excitement about different foods. Like when our firstborn pushed away his broccoli—not because he simply didn’t like it—but because he was “Mickey.”
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This goes to show that what we call ourselves has power.
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We don’t think of ourselves neutrally, but instead, we see ourselves through the lens of, 'Mary, the angry mom,' or 'Julie, the messy person,' or 'Kayla, the A-type overachiever.' The more we repeat these and believe these labels, the more we live up to them.
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The power of personal identity is one of main reasons why God spends so much of the Bible telling us who we were created to be, who we are apart from him, and who we are in Christ. These foundational truths are the dot from which all the lines of our life flow.
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In Genesis, he tells us that we are image bearers, created as males and females, equal in worth but still distinct. As image bearers, we deserve dignity, respect, love, and life. 
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But in Genesis, we also see that Adam and Eve sin. As sinners, we deserve guilt, condemnation, separation from God, and ultimately death. It feels normal for most of us (especially once we’ve heard and believed the gospel) to be horrified and ashamed about this sinful aspect of our identity. 
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If God left us like this—image bearers enslaved to sin—the narrative of our lives would be irredeemable.
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But he intervenes by sending his son, Jesus, to purchase us at an unimaginably high price so that we could part with our old identity and be raised with him, identified with Christ. Our new identity—in Christ—means that we are redeemed image bearers.
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From the basis of our new identity in Christ, we love well, we look out for the interests of others, we forgive, we submit, and we pursue peace.
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God tells us who we are in Christ, not because we have arrived today, but because we will arrive when we meet Christ. The more we believe that—remembering our identity in Christ today—the more we can cast off lies and walk in the way we’ll walk for eternity. 
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So, the next time you hear someone mention your identity in Christ, let it be a reminder that you are a new creation in Christ, which is definitely a label worth remembering."