Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 24, Matthew 23, Nehemiah 13, and Acts 23

Matthew 23By Mary Freeman

Today’s art is a response to Matthew 23:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others… (Matthew 23:1-5, ESV)

Mary’s thoughts on her art are below:

I think if one believes she has to live by a list of rules and do’s and don’ts to be loved and accepted she quite likely will impose those very same rules and do’s and don’ts on others.

However, if one lives believing she is loved and accepted by God and she knows she is under grace…that she has done nothing to earn that love and acceptance, that it’s been given… she is more likely to extend that grace to others. Yes, there are times when we all lapse, but if living in grace is a way of life, grace is what is lived out.

We are all in need of grace, every moment of each and every day.

Here’s where I am. I want to obey all of God’s rules because I know they are life giving, life producing, and life sustaining rules. God never gives arbitrary rules. We do that. But I live in a fallen world – in fallen flesh even though my spirit and my heart have been awakened, and I don’t just see with fleshly eyes anymore. I continue to have a lot of un-learning of old patterns and learning of new. I’m pretty sure that ever ends in this lifetime. I don’t think we will ever arrive till Jesus comes again and makes all things new. But he begins that process when we begin our journey with him.

In verse 37 Jesus says:

How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate.


How heartbreaking!!

God offering love, acceptance, forgiveness, protection, comfort, life… “and you would not let me”….

When we are his, we desire to please him. We desire to live the kind of life he calls us to live. But how do we do that without falling into the performance trap? The trap of “if I just have my quiet time, or attend church, or tithe my 10%, or pray with the right words at the right time”. All are good things, but also all the things Jesus held against the religious leaders of his day in Matthew 23.

He said, “They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in behavior.”

How does it begin to change my behavior because of love and not just because of the “I shoulds”?

Here’s a key I believe is most critical. If I do not believe (not just in my head, but at a heart level where real transformation takes place) that:

I am accepted as I am
I am loved deeply and completely
I am free
I don’t have to do anything to make myself so
I do not need to get my identity from others
Or from fame
Or from anything other than God
My identity has been answered
It has been settled

If I don’t believe this, then I will try to get my identity from something or someone else.

When I try to grasp at getting my worth from something or someone other than the source of all life, the holder of all, and the giver of all, I find I am no longer free but bound by others’ perception of me. I am bound by thinking I am not good enough…that I have to do more….

When I am bound, I cannot give and extend grace to others as God would have me do.

When I live out of the truth that I am loved and cherished, that I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, then I am free to love and free to give without thought of what I may or may not get out of it. I am free to get to know others, be with others, and engage with others on a whole different level. I can reach out and offer without grasping, clinging hands and without fingers that point to others in judgment.

The religious leaders that Jesus spoke so harshly about looked good on the outside. They lived a life that could be praised for how they looked. It may have looked like they kept God’s rules, but they had no real life to offer others.

While our heads may believe we are loved and accepted, do our lives reflect this belief? I think if we are really honest, our lives do not reflect this as much as we would like. But, beloveds, that’s okay. Grace is offered. We are continually being transformed as we live out our days with God in this world. Our identity has been settled, we need not perform to be called beloved. We ARE beloved! And in our heart of hearts we yearn to love freely and extend God’s love and grace to others. We do it imperfectly sometimes…well, maybe lots of times…but we have moments where we shine with the light of God. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we are transformed and the more those glory moments occur.

Today’s Question: Do you believe you are beloved? How does that impact your interactions with others?

MaryF_200Mary has always kept a journal, but what began as a woman’s own journey of God-discovery in her personal journaling, has spawned a ministry of reconciliation and healing for women. A few years ago, this mom of three realized a desire to dig deeper into her own heart-wounds and invite God into her hurt. The artist in her began experimenting with layering images, patterns and text into journal pages that captured words and feelings in a more coherent and impacting way. As Mary began to share her experience with her friends, opportunities to teach the technique of visual journaling began to open.  Mary now leads workshops at her local church and in her home studio. She says, “God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to His eyes…” Find her at and

Related posts:

Injustice for Innocence: Naboth's Vineyard - 1 Kings 21
Rich With Rusty Treasures - Mark 10
How to Grow Up In Christ - 1 Peter 2


  1. What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable experience on the topic of unexpected feelings.

  2. Truly beautiful Mary. You are such a blessing!!

  3. I do believe I’m beloved, dear Mary, on many days and in many parts of my heart.
    There are those times when circumstances push just the right buttons
    and my “un-beloved” places get exposed and I get to choose whether or not to cover
    that awfulness back up or to stand there, vulnerable, and let the Father love me into
    wholeness there. You know, get some healing done.
    I still struggle with that process.
    Usually I don’t go quietly:)
    You’re such a sweet inspiration and I love sharing the journey with you,

  4. This is gorgeous! Thank you, Mary.

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