Radical Grace: Live Free and Unashamed
Appel Creations Publishing, 2022
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Radical Grace: Live Free and Unashamed by award-winning author, Laurel Appel, examines the Biblical concept of grace that is beyond conventional thinking. The treasure of God’s grace is revealed through the authentic and vulnerable telling of her own story. Immerse yourself in a grace-focused approach to faith and relationships through understanding the power of the Spirit in your daily life and recognize that a grace-centered life is a love-centered life. Discover a new perspective on what the good news of Jesus is all about. Appel takes you on a tour of God’s grace through His word, beginning at the Garden of Eden and arriving in the arms of a Savior who loves you dearly. She reveals the beauty and power of a life that is not defined by sin, shame, and striving to obtain your own righteousness through legalistic works, but instead defined by the freedom of a new life that is blessed because of God’s radical grace.
Laurel Appel is an award-winning Christian non-fiction author, having garnered the Gold Medal in the 2023 Illumination Book Awards and was named a Finalist in the 17th Annual National Indie Excellence Book Awards. She writes for people who desire to have a deeper relationship with God by helping to free them from the shame and legalistic teachings that they think keep them distanced from God. She has over twenty-five years of experience studying and teaching the Bible and has written Bible studies for both adults and children. She is also a certified Relationship Coach and ministry leader. Drawing from her varied experiences in life, Laurel’s message is relatable, practical, compassionate, and often familiar to her readers. She and her husband, Phillip, have three grown children and three precious grand-princesses who are the joy of their lives. They live and minister together in North Carolina. For fun, Laurel enjoys hanging out with her best friend, Phillip, playing games, and doing interior decorating. She also enjoys being lazy, drinking coffee, ordering dinner in, and watching stupid shows on television.
I finally found me. The real me. Some might say God found me, but I would disagree. God has always known who and where I am. I have never been lost to Him. He made me and I’m pretty sure He has kept track of me all my life, no matter where I was. But He did show me the way to discover the authentic Laurel, the one who was lost because of her past. He helped me dig through the muck of despair that was clouding my vision of the real me. And that muck was keeping me from the life that He had created for me.
People who have only met me recently have no idea about the journey I have been on; how different I am compared to the younger me. See, I was sexually abused both as an infant and again as a preteen. The effects of that abuse on sweet little blond-haired Laurie were devastating. I was imprisoned by depression, anger, self-doubt, and negative self-talk. I felt unlovable, dirty, and shameful. I suffered from terrible anxiety which drove me to an obsessive-compulsive disorder in which I constantly counted my steps and repeated actions. I was prone to self-injury when I felt out of control. I ended up fearful of people and couldn’t go out, even to the grocery store.
In the midst of this suffering, I was so thrilled to accept Jesus as a teenager. I started learning about His love for me and that my sins were paid for by Jesus on the cross. I wish I could tell you that just giving myself to Jesus fixed everything. It isn’t true.
For years Phil, the kids, and I, would head off to church Sunday morning, Bibles in tow, to listen to the worship band and pastor’s sermon, enjoy catching up with our friends, and heading to Casa Blanca afterwards with them for some New Mexican bacon wrapped green chile poppers and an hour or so of laughter. The food and fellowship were great, but once I got home, the cold reality set in; nothing I had heard that day in church made a difference in how I felt about myself. Nothing. I was still the same person I was when I left the house that morning, only with a belly aching a little from the poppers.
The gospel I had heard didn’t free me like I thought it would. Though, I knew that I had eternal salvation, I was still a wreck. And for a long time, I thought that was just the way it was going to have to be. So, I accepted it. I accepted the gospel of “trying to clean myself up” which was the idea that I could become more righteous and holy merely by doing good works and avoiding sin.
While I now recognize it is erroneous (and destructive), this concept made sense to me at the time. I could make myself right and good by working at it. It was like compulsively counting steps. It sounded like a good plan to me. It was a way of taking matters into my own hands. And I did.
But it didn’t produce the change I sought. My marriage, children, and life were suffering, and I desperately needed answers. I needed to find myself, the real me, not the one I was pretending to be. So, I started praying specifically for that. How could I unbury myself from the muck of despair I had been trapped in for so long? I had to start walking toward God, and that was the beginning of my journey.
Eventually, I realized the one thing that cut right through that muck: His grace. But it’s not just the grace we learn about at church. You know the verse, the one about us being saved by grace, which is amazing, for sure. I got that, and that secured my eternity. That grace reveals the abundance of God’s love for us that He would die for our sins so we could spend eternity with Him. Some define it as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
I’m talking about another kind of grace that washes away the grime that gets caked on us from this world, from day-to-day monotony and working hard to be holy to the extreme of depression and suicidal thoughts. I’m talking about a revolutionary and extreme kind of grace. A type of grace that awakens us out of the deadness of this world and makes us alive and free. This sort of grace is one that very few people talk about. I’m talking about radical grace.
I can testify that when I truly got God’s radical grace, my life started to change. I remember the moment when it first hit me. I was lying on our burgundy leather couch (southwest style is all the rage in New Mexico!), reading through Galatians chapters 3, 4, and 5 repeatedly. For some reason, I just knew they held some secret that was going to help me to unlock the real, authentic me. I prayed for the Spirit to help me see what I couldn’t see. I was like the persistent widow in the Book of Luke. I kept reading it and asking God for insight, and I didn’t stop until I got an answer.
Suddenly a light bulb came on, and I finally got what Paul was telling me in those passages. GRACE! Not just grace the way we humans typically define it, but radical grace! I thought I had understood grace, but I realized at that moment that grace permeates much more of my life than I had been taught. God’s radical grace is not only for our salvation, but it governs our daily lives and inspires us to live now; really live. It is transformational when applied to our relationships, including with God, as well as the proper perspective of our sinful nature. I wish I could define it for you in one succinct sentence, but I can’t because it involves understanding a host of topics such as the Jewish Law, sin, the covenants, our dual natures in Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the commandments of Jesus. That is why I wrote this book. Getting the full version of radical grace won’t happen by reading a one-liner on a tee shirt or a coffee mug. It is going to take a little time, some storytelling, and a little digging into the Bible.
After that, I couldn’t unsee it. I knew that radical grace was missing from my life.
That day, God had started me down the path of healing and discovery. It took several more years to untie all the knots that a graceless life had tied me up in, but now that I am walking unbound and living a life of peace, joy, and love, I am excited to share what I have discovered with you.
That life is what I want for you, my friend. … As we lean into Jesus and His amazing radical grace together, I will be vulnerable and share myself with you in hopes that you will open yourself up to God, be vulnerable to Him, as He pours Himself and His love into your soul. I pray through our time together that you truly understand and fully receive God’s healing, amazing, wonderful radical grace.
Excerpt: CHAPTER 4
By grace we are saved.
“Help! Help! Dad! Anyone! Help!”
I was screaming at the top of my lungs for someone to come save me as I was hanging on for dear life.
I was only six years old.
My dad was a Jeep nut. During my young childhood years, he would take our family on many adventures with our Jeep club. That day, we had spent several hours bouncing around inside my dad’s 1970 Jeep CJ touring the town of Tin Cup, Colorado. All the Jeeps and their people had stopped for lunch near a creek in the woods. Dad gathered wood to start a campfire and Mom prepped the hotdogs for roasting and unpacked all the fixings, including the pork and beans. The Little Debbie snacks and orange sodas were set out as well.
Meanwhile, my older brother, David, and I were glad to get out of the Jeep, stretch our legs, and start exploring. He is two years older than me and had more experience, so I deemed him my leader and followed him. I knew he would have some grand adventure for us. Off we went. To the creek, of course.
We travelled along the side of the creek looking for a good place to cross because, well, that’s what you do when you are an explorer faced with a creek with no man-made bridge. We came to a spot where several large boulders rested in the creek bed, providing a series of steppingstones to reach the other side. This was it. This was the place we were going to forge forth into the unknown.
My brother and his long legs hopped from the first boulder, to the next, and then the next until he arrived on the bank of the creek opposite me and was off discovering what he could find in the woods.
I followed. I hopped from the first boulder to the next… well, not exactly. My short legs and I didn’t make it and I fell between the first two huge rocks. My instinct was to grab ahold of something, and I dug my fingernails into a slight ridge in the side of the slick, well-worn river rock facing me. The ridge wasn’t much thicker than my nails.
My torso and legs flung out down river, and as I hung sideways in the rushing water between the two boulders, adrenaline and the cold water had me shaking. Terror struck as I was sure I was going to wash away any second. My shoes came off my heels and for some stupid reason I was focused on trying not to lose them, or my pants. My jeans got heavy once they were saturated. I imagined they would find me downstream dead and naked. Dead wasn’t good. But naked too? How embarrassing!
Digging my fingernails into the ridge on the rock in front of me, I tensed up and held on for my life. If I tried to move at all, or tried to pull myself up, my fingernails would start to slip off the rock. I was helpless. I started screaming.
At that moment, I knew I needed someone to save me.
To appreciate the magnitude and beauty of what Jesus did for the world, we need to grasp the predicament we were in without Him.
I can’t imagine too many people, believers and unbelievers alike, don’t already understand that the Christian faith is about knowing we need a Savior. So why am I dedicating a whole chapter to such an elementary concept? Because you might need to be reminded about your unrighteousness. Being born into sin means you cannot claim your innocence; you are considered guilty from birth. I’m not telling you this to shame you, but rather to free you.
We read in the Book of Genesis about the “fall of man.” Adam and Eve, the first man and woman created, lived in the garden of Eden. God told them not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. However, Eve was tempted and deceived by the serpent, and she ate the fruit from the tree.
I must take a moment and say that I don’t believe that fruit was an apple. Apples have gotten a bad rap because at some point someone decided it was the fruit from the garden. Maybe I’m biased because of my last name. I don’t know.
Anyway, she then offered the not apple to Adam, and he ate it as well. Because they are the parents of all of humanity, this act of disobedience has impacted all of humankind in that from that day forth all people born on this planet are born into unrighteousness. That unrighteous nature hangs around until we shed it on our way through the door into forever with Jesus.
As if unrighteousness wasn’t bad enough, Paul the apostle tells us because sin came into the world, death came in also.
In addition to this bad news, Paul tells us that we cannot live in eternity if we are unrighteous. He tells us flesh and blood can’t inherit the kingdom of God and corruption can’t inherit incorruption. Just like oil and water don’t mix, sin and righteousness don’t mix either.
And it is at this moment, we realize, we need someone to save us.
Have you ever thought about the fact that folks like Billy Graham and Mother Teresa were born into unrighteousness? For all the good and righteous things they did while alive, they still had a sinful flesh. They needed a Savior just like you and me. Their one-way ticket to heaven didn’t depend on how much good either of them did in their lives, nor did it depend on how much bad they avoided or committed. Like them, your salvation has nothing to do with what you do, good or bad. It has to do with your faith because of God’s grace. That’s it.
Being born of the flesh as a descendant of Adam makes us unrighteous sinners, but the good news is that our unrighteousness is not dependent on how much we’ve sinned. If one person (without Jesus) only sins one time in their entire life, they are just as unrighteous as a person (without Jesus) who sins thousands of times. Why is that good news? Because that means it isn’t about what we do. We can’t make ourselves more righteous by trying not to sin, which is why we need Jesus. He is the only one that can fix our situation. Not only are we born anew in Him as a righteous child of God, but because of our new birth, our sins are forgiven, we are made alive in Jesus, are no longer separated from God, and we inherit eternal life. Wow!
Take note that it didn’t take the Jewish law to make us unrighteous. If we became unrighteous by breaking the law of Moses, then we might think we are able to become righteous by obeying it. Since we are born into unrighteousness apart from the law, we cannot make ourselves righteous by obeying the law. In fact, we can’t make ourselves righteous at all!
Isn’t that great news? It reminds me of when Jesus said we could rest in Him. We don’t have to work to become righteous. We can rest. He is our rest, every moment of every day. He is our Savior.