The Persecution of the Spirit of Fear

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Though we Christians in the United States are not being persecuted with threats, weapons, torture, or imprisonment as Christian in other countries are, we are being persecuted by our overwhelming lack of courage, our sense of powerlessness, our deep desire to fit in, our passivity, our complacency, and overall, our terror to bring love, joy, peace, truth, and righteousness to other people. Persecuted Christians job is to count it all joy to surrender their physical lives to Jesus; our job is to count it all joy to surrender our self-focus and fear to Jesus.

“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.” – Jeremiah 1:17

We talk about God’s love so much, but we don’t know what it is. If we knew God’s love, His perfect love would cast out all our fear.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

Please don’t settle for anything less than what the Holy Spirit has already given access to you–a spirit of power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 2:7)! There is fullness of life in pressing in to Jesus!

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If You Trusted That I Cared

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I wanted a kiss from God,
So here I am awaiting it.
Somber mind and somber heart,
Doubting good things come from this.

From this
Wait.
Patient wait.
Feeling nothing,
Longing for something to satiate
This emptiness.

You’re here, and I want You—
But do I want just You
Or do I want something from You?

What is this desire—
Unholy or pure?
To feed up my hunger,
To find me a cure.

Shouldn’t I just want You,
Whoever You are,
Rather than grasp from Your hands a wish-upon-a-star?
You’re more than a genie—
I’ve heard it before—
But then why can’t I be happy just following Your rules?

Child, You say,
It’s because those rules
Are not Me;
They are only an illusion.
The real Me is found when you lose your perception of what you ought to be or to do or to say,
And with simple faith listen, trust, and obey.

In that way you can see
That the only way to genuinely want Me
Is to forget about your self, your plans, your rules—
And to bask in my care
To receive my kiss
To not doubt it, because it’s there.

Trust and see,
Wait patiently.
The only way to feel is to know I’m here;
To know I want you, to know I want to feed you,
To know I want to cure you from your curious disease that makes you see me
As selfish,
When all along I really felt that
We could be together
If you trusted that I cared.

The Real Me

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My ego is fighting for attention,
But that’s not the real me;
God did not give me a spirit of timidity,
He did not endow me with self-pity,
Or riddle me with anxiety;
I riddled myself with all of these things.

Why do I always have to focus on myself?
My ego is begging me to—
In the name of Jesus, Holy Spirit,
Break it down and shrivel it up!
If I only allow Him to,
If I only let Him be all of me,
All I need
And nothing less,
Then I could finally be set free.

Free to love, free to give, free to die to my selfish pride,
Free to function normally,
Free at last to be me—
The real me!
The one God’s always meant me to be;
This is my true identity.

Through Jesus Christ
I have access to the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind;
I have access to freedom,
If I only reach out and grab it;
Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Because of the risen Jesus, I have access
To everything I need.
My ego has no power,
And I can finally be
The real me.

 

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

An Excerpt: This Huge Space Inside Me

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An excerpt from my work-in-progress historical fiction novel, The Thrall’s Sword!

“Would she ever realize her efforts to love him could never thaw his icy heart?”

Grace Caylor

(Glossary note: Iosa is the Irish word for Jesus)

“What am I looking for?” I whispered.

Tyra pulled her blanket up to her chin and stared up at the thatched roof above us.

“Sometimes I feel like there’s this huge space inside me, wider and emptier than a starless night. Nothin’ I do can fill it up. Nothin’ but God, nothing but the grace He has given us through Iosa. That may not be what you’re looking for, but it’s what we all need, Sigrid. If it weren’t for God bursting inside of me, I wouldn’t be able to stand Ragnar. I’d run. He’d catch me and whip me. I’d run again. But with God, I’ve learned to have compassion on Ragnar. I’ve learned to fill up this void with Iosa’s love and His… strength.”

Tyra gave a gentle, rippling laugh. “God is good, Siri. He is so, so

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How to Release the Burden of Self-Focus: Gazing at Jesus

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“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

Are you burdened by a yoke of slavery?

So many of us are heavily enslaved. In fact, Paul makes it clear that we are all slaves. You are either a slave to righteousness or a slave to the flesh.

In many people’s minds, being a slave of righteousness basically translates to an anxiety-riddled life, full of empty religious duties, constant fault-finding in yourself, and lives heavily burdened by human-imposed rules.

But, surely, this is not the path to righteousness. There ought to be a way to free our minds from guilt and shame and to set us free to genuinely love Christ and follow His commandments out of that love for Him.

And, praise God–there is!

In Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus paradoxically reveals the freedom of being enslaved to righteousness: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus does indeed tell us to learn righteousness from Him, but it is only after laying our burdens of our own conceptions of righteousness and finding the freedom of simply hearing His words, trusting, and obeying. Instead of constantly analyzing your actions, let His grace sustain you and constantly push you forward into grateful acceptance of His love and eager desire for more of Himself.

After all, what kind of righteousness do we desire to seek? Is it the kind that gives glory to ourselves or glory to God?

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33

So many people seem to seek first their own righteousness, failing to trust in the righteousness only given when we simply behold the glory of the Lord.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18

I can testify to the truth of this verse. It isn’t merely a beautiful passage, it’s a practical reality. When I remember to behold Christ in all His righteousness, holiness, kindness, and beauty, I unconsciously reflect what I behold. Christ is large in my life, and everything else looks dim in comparison. His power far surpasses any problems I face. His freedom sets me free from every chain that held me so strongly before. His love is all I know, and it is all I radiate to the rest of the world.

Beholding. Trusting. Abiding. Resting.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

The Bible urges us to gaze upon Him, just as Peter gazed at Him as he walked towards his Rabbi on the water. This is the ultimate act of trust, to simply look at Jesus. I believe it goes along with what Jesus is talking about when He commands us to abide in Him.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5 (ESV)

Abiding in Jesus requires the eyes of your heart to be united with the character of Christ, just as fixing your eyes on Him brings a fellowship of loving who He is and becoming who He is all at once.

In fact, I truly think looking, trusting, and abiding in Jesus is what Hebrews is talking about when the author urges us to “strive to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11 ESV). In Hebrews the author reveals that the way to enter the rest of God, is by believing. There’s no other way. Non-belief keeps you from experiencing the freedom that God promised us in Christ Jesus. It kept the Israelites from the promised land, and it keeps us from a beautiful fellowship with God. All God wants to do is shower His love on us, but we simply refuse to accept it, thinking it must be too good to be true.

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the power of sin can be put to death, and we can have victory and freedom in a relationship with Jesus. In fact, the Bible says we can be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

Trying to take control of your religious life demonstrates that you do not believe that victory is found through Jesus alone. That’s like a thief or a robber trying to climb over the fence instead of going through the gate—that is, Jesus, the good Shepherd (see John 10). Only Jesus provides the “new and living way” by tearing apart the veil so we can enter the presence of God (Hebrews 10:20).

Trying to be in control of following God looks so good on the outside – you’re doing all the right things, you’re being generous and kind and dutiful – but in reality it’s being a slave to the fleshly desire of pride. Because if you have your hands all over everything, that means your eyes are all over yourself.

As an illustration of what I mean, this summer as I entered a discipleship program, I was very excited to grow in my faith in God. Or, perhaps, a better word would be earnest. Later on, God revealed to me that I was idolizing my growth. I was more focused on my growth than on Him. He showed me that the most important thing is to be with Him, and to enjoy Him in the present moment. He’ll take care of the growth part (see Philippians 2:13). Our job is simply to listen, trust, and obey.

If we try to follow what we think is right while staring at ourselves the whole way—even if in fact the action we are doing is what Jesus commanded us—are hidden motive is to bring glory to ourselves. But if we gaze at Jesus and in our wonder and love for Him find ourselves running after Him and enduring the race just as He endured the cross—our attentions are totally absorbed in Christ and are motives are entirely to bring glory to Him.

So how do you get out of self-focus and into freedom in your walk with Christ?

My simple answer: stop focusing on yourself.

My less-simple answer is: behold the glory of the Lord and have a soft heart to the changes He wants to make inside you.

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” – Psalm 51:2

Ask God to restore the joy of the salvation He has given you in Jesus Christ. It is all too easy to give into complacency about the miraculous gift of eternal life we have received! Once this joy has restored your mental health into fullness of life, ask Him for a willing spirit to naturally pull you through in your excitement and love for Jesus to obey His commands and give Him glory.

Following Jesus is the greatest joy. He sets you free from the yoke of slavery, which is often simply the burden of self-focus. He leads you into the freedom of self-denial, the peace of walking with Him, and the hope anchored in your soul for the future glory in heaven that far outweighs your present suffering.

So, forget about yourself and start looking at Him in all His glory and majesty and splendor. He is far too wonderful for you to waste your time getting your hands all over your life. Let Him take control. Let His beauty overwhelm you.

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” – Hebrews 13:15 (ESV)

He is so good! Rejoice continually at the salvation He has given you through Christ Jesus. Magnify His name, for He is awesome and powerful!

In the words of Paul: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Widen your eyes at His breathtaking-ness, and sing for joy at the tender, personal love of the Father. Turn you wailing into dancing! Salvation has come, justifying yourself completely so you do not need to focus on yourself anymore.

People are desperate for the true sacrificial love you of few people have experienced. Strive to enter the rest of God. Let His love flow through you into the lives of others, and you will never be the same again.