I am prone to guilt: to being consumed by the things I’ve done wrong, the things that I am not, and by the knowledge that I am not perfect. Yes, sometimes I do brush away my sin far too flippantly, or ignore it, or live contentedly in it: this I am not proud of either. But the main vein of my response to sin or mistakes is guilt.
Here’s a prime example:
Last weekend, Brian (my fiancé) and I were in Sioux Falls, attending a marriage conference. We had a lunch break, so we drove downtown to find a restaurant we’d heard of. This restaurant turned out to be in a quite rundown area of town, and as we parked (right next to a homeless shelter), we realized it was permanently closed. No pizza for us.
As we sat in my car googling another place to eat, a stocky Native American man made his way to my window. He wore shabby clothes and had a wide face dotted with moles and blemishes. He ambled along slowly, but I couldn’t deny he was approaching us. I hesitantly rolled my window down, knowing exactly what he would ask.
“Hello. I know you are both hardworking people, is that right?” Brian and I nodded and smiled haltingly at the man while he made his request. Loose change, he asked for. Anything would help. I dug in the center console of my car and found approximately $2.50 in coins. It looked pathetic, but the amount was something for him and giving it away was nothing for me. He thanked us and said something about unity, then something else in his native language, raised a large hand in a wave, and left.
I rolled up my window, feeling mostly satisfied. “He was nice,” I commented to Brian. Although I had withheld a fresh $20 bill from the man, and it still nestled discreetly in my wallet, I mostly felt good about myself. I had done good.
As we made the short drive to our second-choice restaurant, though, guilt assailed me. Why hadn’t I said anything about Jesus? I had seen the chance. Then it had slipped away as I dropped the coins into the man’s open hand and drove away. What could I have said that would mean anything for his salvation? Why did I always miss opportunities?
We pulled into a parking spot across the street from the next restaurant, a bar that would have greasy, tasty food. It was in the same questionable area of town, and I felt an urge to get inside this place as fast as possible. As I got out and took a few clambering steps towards the restaurant, there was a group of three men behind me.
As I walked, one called out to me: “Hey sistah. Do you have ‘awogmbwmfo’?” The words jumbled as I turned towards them briefly and uncertainly called out “No—thanks—” then scurried across the road. What in the world did they want from me?
As I rejoined Brian and swung open the bar’s door, it clicked in my head.
Jumper cables. They had asked me if I had jumper cables.
To which I had responded: “No thanks!” and ran away.
Once Brian and I were seated, I was so overwhelmed by everything that had just happened that I came close to tears. I thought I looked like the biggest jerk ever. We were nicely dressed for the conference. We had been entering a restaurant, where we had plenty of money to fill our stomachs. We were so privileged. And I blew off someone asking for jumper cables.
On top of that I felt vulnerable and confused, and I also feared that I looked racist: all the men had been Native American. We ended up switching tables so we could keep an eye on my car, because I was convinced that they would break into my car or destroy it or something.
Looking back on it, I see that guilt assailed me when it had no right to. Those men didn’t have to yell out at me: they could have approached Brian and asked for jumper cables. In that moment, I had done what felt right and safe.
As we were driving away from the bar, we actually witnessed someone break into the car that had been parked next to us. Now I’m glad that we didn’t stop to chat, or even help them. My conscience is clear, and it saddens me that I felt so guilty right away.
I’ve been studying through 1 John with a friend, and a certain passage really stuck out to me when thinking through this experience and guilt:
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19-20
When we feel overwhelmed with guilt and condemnation, we know that God is greater than our feelings. He knows everything: he knows the stories and futures of those men who called out to me, he knows their true motives (whether innocent or ill-willed), and he knows my heart and my motives (whether innocent or ill-willed). Above self-condemnation, we have confidence and obedience in the Trinity. God has also given us the Spirit to remind us that we belong permanently to the truth, and he can lead us in uncertain and tricky situations.
Our hearts are not always right when they condemn us.
When our consciences are right
But honestly, sometimes they are right. An active conscience is a good gift. We are not perfect, and often give into selfishness, pride, sinful worry, lust, the need for control, and other sins. These sins need to be identified and killed. Often when my heart condemns me, it has every right to do so!
So how do we know if our hearts’ condemnation is right or wrong? I have a few questions we can ask ourselves when dealing with guilt:
The 4 Questions:
1. First, ask “did I sin?” If we have committed a sin (something that God says is wrong) then our conscience is right to make us feel uneasy. It is a good thing to recognize our own sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8
On the other hand, if you’re feeling guilty about something that isn’t a result of your sin, you may need to recognize your guilt as faulty and overreactive. Either way, acknowledge the guilt, identify its source, and then move on to the next step.
2. Next, ask “Is this feeling of guilt making me feel paralyzed, dirty, and hopeless?” Satan loves to paralyze us in our shortcomings. He knows that everyone sins, and he wants to make us sad, ineffective, and stunted in growth because of that.
When God brings a sin to our minds, though, he does so to let us to move on in forgiveness, positive change, and victory over sin. There’s a difference here. If satan is trying to paralyze you in hopeless guilt, it’s time to ask Jesus for the power to let go and move on.
3. Next, ask “Have I trusted Jesus to forgive my sin?” If you have accepted Jesus’ work on the cross, you are now made holy in God’s eyes. You have Jesus’ spotless record given to you. You have a Savior who overcomes every sin, and you have received perfect forgiveness. Confess the sin to him and trust his power to forgive. You are made righteous!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
4. The final question is “How will I move forward in Jesus’ power to kill this sin?” This part is important. If we don’t move forward in killing our sin, it will continue to enslave us. Kill your sin, or it will kill you. Jesus gives us amazing grace and forgiveness, but lingering sin can still harm us and the people around us. The Bible uses strong language when it talks about killing sin. It’s something we’re commanded to do:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Colossians 3:5-8, emphasis added
It’s also incredibly helpful to have people around us who will help us in this process. Do you have someone you’re comfortable being honest with, someone who will lovingly bring your sin to light? We don’t need to confess our sins to others to be forgiven, but it can help us feel free and live free from these things. As followers of Christ, we want to live like him, and we should be helping each other do that!
So in the end, guilt is a tricky emotion. I hope that with these steps, you can trust God to help you move past guilt and deal with the things you need to. Ultimately, we have no condemnation because of our Savior Jesus. Thank him for this today!
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:17-18, emphasis added
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2, emphasis added
I've recently tried out bread-making as a hobby, and I love it! It's so cozy, affordable, and very functional. It's fun to make bread with your own hands, have one less thing to buy at the grocery store, and enjoy the homemade goodness all week long!
Today I'm sharing my favorite bread recipe, which is a simple and healthy honey wheat bread. It works great for sandwiches, toast, or just enjoying a slice straight out of the oven! It's a very soft loaf, which is great because homemade bread can sometimes turn out crumbly. The honey also adds a nice complementary flavor level to the dense whole grain taste.
(Disclaimer: I ended up using white flour when I made the bread this time, but either whole wheat or white work very well! You can even opt for a half and half mixture.)
A smaller, printable version of this recipe can be found at the bottom of this post. If you want to see detailed step-by-step instructions with photos though, read through the post first. Let's get started!
First, gather all the ingredients:
The first step is to combine the water, yeast, and 2 cups of the flour in a large mixing bowl. Stir it to combine well. It's okay if there are some lumps.
Let the mixture sit for 15-20 minutes, until it rises and becomes quite bubbly. This process is called sponging!
Here is what my mixture looked like after 20 minutes.
Now it's time to add the rest of the ingredients. I set my bowl in the KitchenAid mixer, then added the honey, oil, salt, and remaining 4 cups of flour.
Next, mix it all up! The flour might try to jump out right away, so start on a low speed setting.
Once all the elements are nicely combined, it's time to knead the dough!
Did you know you can actually use a KitchenAid mixer for kneading? If you choose to do it this way, switch to a dough blade. You'll stir the dough for 6-7 minutes, adding flour a small amount at a time if it starts sticking to the sides of the bowl.
If you opt for kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.
After kneading for 6 1/2 minutes with the mixer, I noticed my dough was still too sticky and soft. So, I turned the dough out onto the counter and added some flour, then kneaded it in with my hands.
Once your dough is kneaded, split it into two sections.
Now it's time to get the loaves shaped! This is the part where you could go two ways. The simpler way is to use your hands to form the dough into loaves, then set them in the pans. You can skip straight to the rising process if you do this.
If you want to try something new, you can try this method I just learned! I've found that this helps the bread turn out beautifully tall and fluffy. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece of dough into a rectangle shape. The rectangle should be just as wide as your loaf pan is long. To measure this, I set my loaf pan at the end of the dough as I roll it.
Your dough should be about half an inch to an inch thick when you're done rolling it out. Then, starting at one end, start rolling the dough in a spiral shape. After each turn of the roll, press down firmly on top of the roll. This is important to ensure there won't be gaps on the inside of the loaf.
When you're done rolling, turn each end under itself, and set the dough in a greased loaf pan.
Do this for each loaf, then cover with a thin cloth and allow to rise for about 60 minutes. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, you may need to rise for 15 minutes longer. The dough should be risen to about 1 1/2 inches above the edge of the pan.
The rising process is so amazing! I love seeing how the dough changes in such a short amount of time.
One reason I love this recipe is that it only requires one rise (other than the 20 minute rise in the beginning). This makes the entire process much faster than other bread recipes.
About 10 minutes before the loaf is fully risen, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Then it's time to bake the bread!
Bake for 30 minutes. You can switch the loaves halfway through baking if you're worried about getting an even bake, but I've never had a problem with that. I just leave them alone for 30 minutes, and they turn out beautifully!
Immediately after removing the pans from the oven, run a butter knife along the edges to loosen the loaf. Turn the pans upside down to release the bread onto a cooling rack (or a cutting board, if you don't happen to own a cooling rack).
The original recipe said to let the bread cool completely before cutting, but who are we kidding? That is not necessary.
You can see the swirly pattern in the bread from the rolling technique! So neat!
Also, the bread is heavenly on its own, but add butter? Yessss please.
And that's it! Like I said, this post was for a class project, but I really enjoyed making it. I would consider sharing some other favorite recipes in the future, since I love cooking. I hope you love this bread if you decide to try it out!
The original recipe for this bread was found at https://anoregoncottage.com/whole-wheat-sandwich-bread-101/2/
I grew up on a farm, a mile away from a town of 76 people. My childhood and teenage years were the definition of ‘rural.’ School was 20 miles away; the nearest movie theater 50, and the nearest mall 80. My dad and grandpa farmed together, and still do: growing wheat, soybeans, and corn. The weather was a constant conversation topic. I grew up knowing that it determined how well the crops grew, which determined how much money we would make that year, and ultimately how many Christmas presents I might receive.
My family also taught me about Jesus. We prayed for sick family members, for help with situations at school, and for rain (either for more or less of it. It seemed there was never a ‘perfect’ amount of rain for our crops). I grew up trusting that God had things under his control, and that he cared about what we needed.
After graduating high school, I packed up and headed to a city of 200,000+ people for college. I’ve been here for three years now and have grown accustomed to the type of life I lead in a city. In a typical day, I have plans to go to class, work, meet up with friends, and do things for a ministry I’m involved in. If I focus and work hard, the result of my day will likely be positive: good grades, strong relationships, and the size of paycheck I’m counting on. Most of my productivity and the day’s outcomes are up to me.
Farming, however, has a large stock in the weather and other uncontrollable factors. I heard someone say that “there is no better demonstration of faith than a man planting seed in his field.” My dad could work his tail off all year long and make the most careful plans, and still his crop could fail! Yes, he uses high-technology equipment, sprays fertilizers and chemicals, buys crop insurance, and makes educated decisions. But at the end of the day, the results are not up to him. Growing massive amounts of produce under the open sky requires a strong, daily-bread type of faith and persistent prayer.
When your tiny soybean plants are drowning in muddy fields and rain clouds are gathering yet again: you pray. When the summer days are slipping away into fall and your crops are not nearly mature: you pray. When gusting wind lays all your corn flat on the ground: you pray.
Every time I go back home, I appreciate the farming-faith a little more.
Ultimately though, even if you’ve never seen a corn field, we all need faith for our daily lives and jobs. Faith is simply believing that God will do what he says, that he will provide, and that he is in control. It ain’t just for the farmin’ folk.
And when I stop to think of it, I realize how very dependent I am on God. My heart is beating right now, and I am breathing. Can we grasp how much of an unearned blessing even those two facts are? We rely on the Lord for everything: both the simplest needs of life and the loftiest pursuits. Every one of us needs daily, humble faith: whether we’re doctors, cooks, secretaries, parents, teachers, or farmers.
We can all use the reminder that the air in our lungs, the food on our plates, and the length of our days reflect God’s faithful provision.
** Photo credits to my brother, Nathan Koeppe
If I had one word to describe this summer, I would say ‘breezy.’ I’m talking ice cream cones, sandals that have grown dirty from outdoor adventures, and countless hours reading good books. The best of the best.
Throughout most of the season, my relationship with God has also felt breezy: very simple, gentle, and foundational. I studied the book of Colossians with a small group, which emphasizes the gospel. Much of my time in prayer and reading was spent marveling over the most foundational truths of the Bible: that Jesus is the reason for everything, that his life and death have freed me, and that I am brought to fullness in him. Just like the easy rhythms of summer, I was reminded daily of the sweet, sweet truths that make life possible.
Lately, though, the breezes have gained a certain chill to them. The season is changing, no matter how us Midwesterners pout and protest: and much is changing in my little life too. I am now finished with my job at the YMCA summer program, and soon will be starting my last undergraduate semester at college, resuming my beloved tutoring job, diving back into leadership with Cru, and planning whatever the heck will happen beyond December (as well as the wedding!). I’m excited for these changes, and the people and change of pace they’ll bring back to my life.
My Bible reading has also switched from Colossians to Numbers, which describes the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert. After God frees his people from slavery in Egypt, he leads them through wilderness towards a good land he has prepared for them. The journey is tough, though, and God’s people prove to be imperfect: whining about the food they’re given, choosing fearfulness instead of faith, rebelling against leadership, and even (multiple times) talking about how much better it was to be slaves in Egypt!
However, God continues leading these people through the wilderness, towards his promise. They have a good destination, and it’s God’s faithfulness that’s getting them through. Their feeble minds think that turning back is a good option, but God has something so much better for them.
The whole thing has reminded me that I have a destination: Heaven, the greatest land ever promised. No matter how breezy and full of little novelties my life is, I’m supposed to live with a purpose and a goal. Though I might feel like a whiny, aimless Israelite at times, the worst possible thing I could do is turn around and pursue the things of the world. We are called by God to seek the things that are above, to set our hearts and minds on them!
The message that has been reinforced in my mind through sermons and my own times with the Lord, is “keep on going.” That’s what I want to do as I step into this fall season: keep on going, with a destination in sight. The Lord has beautiful, wonderful things in store for us.
We can all agree this summer is going too fast. I’m trying to fully appreciate the long, warm days and all the time I don’t have to spend on homework. It’s been a beautiful season, and for the most part life has felt simple and joyful.
When I look at my relationship with God over the past month, it also feels simple and joyful. Rather than teaching me new, tough lessons, I feel that he’s been reminding me of foundational truths about himself. The main thing I’ve been learning is my dependence on the gospel: how all-sufficient Christ is for all areas of my life. This theme keeps showing up. No matter how high or low I am, God reminds me that I need all of him all the time. Here are a few examples from what I’ve been up to lately:
I’m still working at the Y, and it’s still testing and growing my patience (working with kids will do that to ya). The best parts of the job are when we bring the kids swimming or on field trips, and the moments when I teach them something new or laugh like crazy with them. The worst parts of the job are when all 40 of them are cooped up in the school all day because of rain. Or when we use an attention getter (where a leader yells “YM!” and the kids are supposed to say “CA!” then pay attention) four times and they’re all still talking and goofing off with each other.
I’ve felt my need for God’s purposes and his love during many workdays. He has helped me see how each child is made in his image, no matter how much they get on my nerves. He’s been reminding me that there is a true, good purpose for this job: to show these kids radical love and to take care of them. He’s also been showing me that the gospel should dramatically affect how I act at work and how I treat my coworkers. One morning I finished praying and suddenly realized how crazy it is that I can talk to Jesus every single day. Then I thought, ‘if I get to start my day with prayer, there should be a difference in how I work and speak and act. Am I different?’
I need Jesus for my workdays.
Another thing I’ve done recently is studying for and taking the GRE. This is a huge standardized test for admission into my graduate program, and the scores matter quite a bit. I admittedly procrastinated studying for it, which is out of character for me. Then, the week before test day, I stressed out and studied hard and cried a lot. I do not recommend my method.
During that week of doubts and stresses, I felt close to God in a different way. My relationship with him felt very simple: I needed him obviously and unashamedly, and he met me each morning with the hope of the gospel. I questioned my abilities and future plans, and he reminded me that it would be okay no matter what: he had a plan. The test scores would not define me.
I ended up doing well on the test (which is super fancy and gives you scores right away), and I know it’s a huge blessing. It feels wonderful to not have to do a retake, and I’m relieved. But the moment I saw my scores, something shifted in my thinking. I felt a little more sufficient, like I had proved myself. Pride crept in. The raw, desperate need for Jesus I had felt just earlier that morning seemed to fade: and I hate it! The truth is that I need Jesus, even in the area of academic plans and achievement.
I need Jesus for my future plans.
I could keep writing about scenarios where I’ve felt my need for Jesus and have seen his beauty. But this post has already gotten quite long, and I’m impressed if you’re still scrolling through it :) I just want this to be an encouragement for you: the truth of the gospel is sufficient for all situations and emotions. We always, always need Jesus, and the good news is, he is always there.
It’s his grace to us that he reminds us of himself. Whether it’s something hard like a rough day at work, a stressful decision, or confusing emotions, or something positive like a gorgeous sunset or good news, he is constantly drawing us to himself. Can you see evidences of it?
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!