Many Christians have bought into the lie that we are worthy of God’s love only when our lives are going well. If our families are happy or our jobs meaningful, life is a success. But when life begins to fall through the cracks and embarrassing sins threaten to reveal our less-than perfect identity, we scramble to keep up a good front to present to the world—and God. We cower and hide until we can rearrange the mask of perfection and look good again. Sadly, it is then that we wonder why we lack intimate relationships and a passionate faith. Yet all this time God is calling us to take the mask off and come openly to Him. God longs for us to know in the depth of our being that He loves us and accepts us as we are. When we are our true selves, we can finally claim our identity as God’s child—Abba’s child—and experience His pure pleasure in who we are. Brennan Manning
Sandy & I have a favorite vacation spot. Do you? Ours is called Lighthouse Cove in Pompano Beach, Florida. A few years back we decided to purchase two weeks of a low-cost timeshare there, and since then, this cozy little resort, tucked away on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, has become a haven of rest and relaxation for two weary, recovering 3-B Pastors. So for the last few years, whenever our time and finances could afford it, Sandy & I take fourteen blessed days in the middle of June, setting up shop in this very plain one-bedroom second-floor apartment overlooking a swimming pool and the sandy shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
It was in June 2012, as we were once again looking forward to getting away to Pompano Beach when the book we’re about to blog our way through caught my attention. 2012 had been quite an eventful year for us both. Pastoring a small church was our day-to-day job at the time, and as most pastors know, overseeing a ministry has both its joys and challenges. We’d also had a lot of major family events over the previous twelve months, containing both joyous blessings (the birth of a grandson) and devastating losses (an unexpected death of our son’s mother-in-law), plus I was also in the early stages of developing, what has now become, The Contemplative Activist. So as we headed toward Florida in 2012, I was expecting the Lord to do a lot more talking to me about our church and the new ministry ideas I was working on. I took a few books along with me that would help focus me on the ministry I was hoping to develop at the time. Yet surprisingly, as I settled into my devotional time near the pool on the first day there, I sensed the Lord saying, “Marty, now that we’ve talked about external ministry issues over the last year, I want to go deep inside you and talk about your core identity.”
Yikes. That sounded scary.
Back upstairs in my suitcase was a book I sensed I was to pack in my bag before I left Cedar Rapids. The book, Abba’s Child – The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging, had been on my bookshelf for years but I don’t remember ever reading it. The book is by Brennan Manning and was originally published back in 1994 and then re-released in 2002 (and now again recently in 2015). For those of you unfamiliar with Brennan, he is the author of the classic book on the simplicity of God’s grace called The Ragamuffin Gospel. I first was introduced to Ragamuffin by a fellow pastor about eighteen years ago. My pastor friend had a serious sexual addiction and, thankfully, knew he needed a brother in Christ to help him walk out his desire to live a life free from major slips and falls to those addictions. Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel was one of those books that truly helped my friend understand the redeeming power of God’s grace and when he shared his love for the book with me, I was hooked.
After reading and re-reading Ragamuffin, and also being blessed by his book, Ruthless Trust, my wife and I had a chance to attend a Brennan Manning conference in Owatonna, Minnesota back in 2003. I’m guessing that’s when I bought Abba’s Child, but like most pastors, I must confess that I often buy books with the intent of reading them, but often fail to follow through on my good intentions!
But as I walked out of my office in early June 2012, I sensed a nudge from the Spirit to pull it off the shelf and tuck it into my suitcase.
I’ll be honest. This book opened me up like a canned ham. As I sat by the swimming pool in the warm Florida sun, I slowly underlined nearly every other paragraph! Indeed, the Lord was going for the jugular and Brennan’s story of discovering his core identity in Christ was doing it like no other book I’ve ever read (outside of the Bible, of course!)
So here we go friends. Over the next 31 sessions, I’m going to blog with you through the late Brennan Manning’s classic, Abba’s Child, and offer up a few choice tidbits that just might help you benefit from the book as much as I have. I’m calling this blog series, The Gospel of Grace: Exploring the Good News of God’s Unconditional Love & Acceptance.
I hope you’ll be blessed. But let me also warn you. If you pick up this material and begin reading it, the Lord may start ‘reading’ you. Hang on. There’s a lot of stuff here that might hit the fan if you decide to let God begin digging into that self-centered imposter soul of yours. Yet, as I see it, there’s nothing better than walking away from this journey with a much clearer understanding that you and I truly are, in Christ, Abba’s special kids.
Over an eleven-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at God’s Gospel of Grace; Exploring the Good News of God’s Unconditional Love & Acceptance. We are using Brennan Manning’s classic book, Abba’s Child – The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging as our guide. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Gospel of Grace home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!