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The Trumpless debate

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida., former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, talk after the Republican presidential primary debate, Des Moines, Iowa, January 28, 2016 (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)Fox News hosted the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucus on Thursday night with an interesting shift from the previous debates in that frontrunner Donald Trump chose not to participate. He cited an ongoing feud with Fox News' Megyn Kelly, one of the event's moderators, as the reason he would not participate. Apparently, he told Fox to replace her as a moderator and they refused. The feud largely began after Trump took offense to Kelly's question regarding whether or not he had the temperament to be president in the first debate, later implying that she asked the question because it was her time of the month (though he has since denied that that was his intention).

Many questioned whether or not the debate would suffer in the ratings as Trump not only refused to participate but held his own event at the same time. While Fox News' ratings did likely suffer somewhat, the dip was not as great as many feared (or as Trump predicted). The candidates that did attend took a few shots at the absent frontrunner but largely kept the debate's focus on their own policies and credentials. And, as CNN's Eric Bradner notes, while the event did lack some of the "personality" of previous debates, its substance was largely the same.

Ultimately, the debate sounded quite similar to the last several. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio sparred on multiple occasions while Jeb Bush and Chris Christie interjected where possible. Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and John Kasich tried their best to remain relevant, and often had some good things to contribute, but were largely left on the periphery. And Donald Trump, even in his absence, remained a figure of prominence more for what he said prior to the debate than for what he said in it.

It will be interesting to see if any of Iowa's voters were swayed by Thursday night's event. While the results are not always indicative of how the larger process will go (the last time the winner in Iowa was the eventual nominee was 2004), it can serve as an important indicator of each candidate's progress to date. As such, a great deal of time and money has been spent in trying to secure the necessary votes for each to seem like a legitimate contender going forward.

As Christians, we are very fortunate that our walk with God doesn't work the same way. Neither our place in his kingdom nor his love for us are based on our actions or investment. Rather, we can live with the security of knowing that when he looks at us, he sees the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). And while that doesn't mean that he ignores our sin or that we should not be concerned with obeying him as such obedience should be a necessary outpouring of our love for him, it does mean that we no longer stand eternally condemned for our mistakes.

The problem is that we don't always live that way. There's an important distinction between conviction and guilt and the Holy Spirit is only responsible for the former. God convicts us of our sin so that we might know to ask his forgiveness and learn from our mistakes. However, guilt begins to creep in when we forget that we are not ultimately defined by those mistakes but rather by the love that led our heavenly Father to sacrifice his only Son so that we might live in a restored relationship with him.

You see, when we forget that our place with God is secure in Christ, our sin not only drives us away from the Lord in the moment but for as long as we allow it to make us question our place in his kingdom. I truly believe that allowing such a misunderstanding of how God sees us to make us doubt his love breaks the Father's heart far more than any mistake ever could, because it speaks directly to how we see him.

So the next time you experience the Holy Spirit's conviction, allow it to drive you into the Father's forgiveness rather than question your place in his kingdom. God's love for you is not and never will be dependent on anything other than the simple fact that, if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and savior, you are his child once again (Galatians 4:1–7). Live like it.

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