Love isn’t always smiling

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There came a point in my life where I realized that being around people wasn’t about me. I didn’t need to overthink things. I didn’t need to be afraid about what people might be thinking about me. I didn’t need to hide inside my comfy turtle shell and watch the world pass me by.

Praise the Lord! The whole point of social interactions isn’t about me. I’m not the center of the world. You’re not either. We can forget about all the craziness of what’s going on in people’s minds and focus on the point of living.

Because the whole point of being in community with others is simply to reflect the love of God. That’s the beauty of the gospel. It gives us the Spirit of Christ that creates restoration, peace, and sweet fellowship among people. It gives us a sacrificial type of love that breaks barriers and searches for people’s needs, lifting up the broken and humbling the proud in the gentlest of ways.

Love God. Love people. It really is that simple.

But recently a question was hanging in my head that I didn’t know what to do with: What’s the difference between love and people-pleasing?

Because when we set out to love people on our own strength, often people-pleasing takes control instead of true, Christ-like love. A genuine desire to love people in order to bring glory to God can all too easily turn into a desire to please the world. To grant the world’s wishes, not meet their needs.

But is that true love?

“Love is patient, love is kind… It is not self-seeking.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

It really does seem all sweet and dandy when you please others, and they in turn please you back. But is that ultimately seeking for the good of your own self?

What is true love? Is it always smiling? Always pleasing? Always making sure you feel good?

Sometimes, maybe? But not all the time? How are we to define which circumstances demand which responses? It gets too complicated when you look at things that way.

Instead, we can find true love by looking at God. He Himself is Love for us, manifested in His Son, a human we can touch and see. Jesus Christ demonstrated love when He washed His disciples dirty feet, performing the job of a servant. His ultimate act of love was when He sacrificed Himself for us on the cross for our eternal salvation.

Our Savior came to serve us sacrificially, but when it came to people failing to understand the truth, He did not serve their own desires and sacrifice His own. He told them outright that they were wrong and He was right. He loved people too much to let them go astray into false beliefs.

Jesus demonstrated love when He reprimanded His disciples for falling asleep instead of staying awake at the Garden of Gethsemane, and when He rebuked His disciples for assuming that they could call fire down from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village (Luke 9:52-56).

God both serves us sacrificially and disciplines us gently because He loves us.

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” – Hebrews 12:5-7

The definition of God’s love isn’t good feelings. It’s patience. Kindness. Sacrifice. Discipline. It’s meeting our deepest needs, not our surface-level wishes. And sometimes God is gracious to grant our wishes, but only with the intention of pointing us back to Him, the Giver of good gifts. Because, ultimately, love is all about bringing us closer into relationship with the God who is Himself the only source of true love.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8 

The way to get to know Love is by getting to know Jesus, who is God in human form. And the best way to love someone is to point them to Jesus and to help them get to know Him. He alone is what we need. He alone brings us into a secure rest in God’s love and gives us the means to love other people.

We can’t love people on our own strength without being self-seeking and people-pleasing. We need to humble ourselves before God and ask for His strength in order to love selflessly.

So, pray with me for this kind of love that only comes from God. The kind of love that casts out fear. That brings people out of hiding and into His wonderful light. The kind of love that sometimes smiles tenderly, sometimes cries with us, and sometimes disciplines us, but is always right there, giving you everything you need (Phil. 4:19). Put your faith in that kind of love, because He exists, in the form of Jesus Christ.

And together we can learn to love people in a deep way that doesn’t merely cheer them up, but instead directs their affections to the true Author of life and love.

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The Gospel Explained to a Child

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This is my attempt at nailing down the truth as simply as possible so a kid can understand! I wrote this awhile ago actually, and then I forgot about it. It gets a little graphic when I bring up the gun, lol, but the gospel can’t really be explained without mentioning a little bit about sacrifice. I hope you enjoy, and feel free to use any of this to explain it to kids you know!

Do you know who Jesus is? Jesus is my friend, and He loves me even more than my friends, my siblings, or even my mom and dad could ever love me. People sometimes don’t understand how he could be anybody’s friend, let alone how he could love us more than anyone else in the world. A lot of times I don’t understand this either.

Well, what could a best friend do to prove his love for you? Give you a box of chocolates? Give you a hug? Listen to you when you’re upset about your dog chewing up your doll?

I don’t know about you, but I think that choosing to die in your friend’s place is the greatest way to show your friend love. Most of the time neither you or your friend’s life is at risk. But imagine if you and your friend fought in a battle. You see a man point a gun at your friend, but your friend doesn’t see. You love your friend more than yourself, so you jump in the way, blocking the bullet from shooting your friend. You just died in your friend’s place.

Imagine if someone did that for you.

Well, someone did do that for you! Jesus did. Your sin made the guns want to fire at you, but Jesus took your place. He ran in front of you and got shot instead of you. Because He loved you. Because He’s the greatest friend of all.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

Why did Jesus choose you to be his best friend, when he is the Lord of the whole world? We don’t even deserve to look at his face. But he loves us too much to treat us like dust under his feet. God wanted to make us perfect and beautiful just like His son Jesus. So after Jesus died in our place, He came back to life like a caterpillar changing in its cocoon and coming out of a chrysalis as a butterfly.

And now the same can happen to us. We can become perfect and beautiful butterflies just like Jesus.

But not all by ourselves. We can be butterflies not because we stretched and struggled to get wings, but because we sat still, trusting God to wrap us up and change us into flying beauties. We can fly freely all around, not because of any good things we’ve done, but because Jesus laid down his life for us.

He decided that He would rather die than to see us die. And because He is God, He came back to life so we could also come alive inside our hearts!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

So how do we become these amazing butterflies? First we have to admit to God that we have done bad things that He doesn’t like, and say something like, “God, I need you. I need you so much. Please change me and give me wings.” Or maybe nothing like that at all. Use your own words. There are different languages even within languages, and God understands them all. What matters is that we believe in Him and open our hearts to let Him inside of us.

Jesus is our best friend forever. By laying down his life for us, He gives us a chance to win over the bad things that we want to do. He gives us a chance to love Him instead of the bad choices. We can’t forever say “no” to the bad things without God getting inside our hearts. We can say “no” some of the time, but we will end up failing if we’re just trying to be strong all by ourselves.

From the beginning of time, God has been trying to tell us that we need Him. God has given us the greatest friend, Jesus, who offers us a life that never ends. It just goes on and on forever.

We can’t keep on doing the right things without loving Jesus. And we can’t love Him without telling Him, “I’m sorry for doing bad things. Please give me a new life in You, Jesus. Amen.”

God is strong enough to help us out of our chrysalis. Sometimes I feel too weak to do the right thing, or I go my own way, but Jesus is patient with us and reminds us the truth before we get too lost. Jesus died for me, so I don’t have to worry about not being good enough for God. I’m not perfect, but He is, and He lives in me. Jesus helps me out of my chrysalis into the open air of His grace. Every time I get my thoughts on what He can do, He sets me free. And believe me, He can set you free, too.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear of Evangelism

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I’m terrified of evangelism. And I’m bad at it… Not to mention I’m really, really introverted.

However, (as you’ve likely heard many times before) God calls us as Christians to evangelize.

My guess is you’ve heard this verse before, when Jesus commands the disciples to spread the gospel and make disciples of all people:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

In a post I made a few weeks ago, I urged you all to fight against the fear of evangelism and reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ, because so many are condemned to death without hope of a Savior.

Now I want to take a step back and say, yes, evangelism is scary. In fact, it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done…

But I have done it.

Not because of anything about me—no way! I don’t want you to leave this post thinking I have some special gift, because I truly do not. Everything within me repels the idea of going up to a stranger and sharing about the love of God. My flesh squirms in utter discomfort. Won’t it be awkward? I think. What if they already know about it? What if they reject me?

Everything about me prevents me from sharing the truth that sets captives free and heals the hearts of the wounded. My own self is a barrier between me and another soul.

But as Christians, we aren’t called to live for Christ. We are called to let Christ live in us.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 5:20

I can’t emphasize enough how much this post is not about me. How much my evangelism is not about me. How much reaching the hearts of this broken world is not about me.

And I can’t thank God enough for what He has done through me! Allowing Christ to live in me is the most breathtaking adventure I’ve ever been on. Letting Him take control continually blows my mind. His beauty and power are enormously greater than anything I could ever accomplish.

I’m continually amazed at what He does when I simply submit myself to Him and say, “Okay, Your will be done, not mine. Let Your love shine through me, and not my fear. Let them see the fragrance of Christ within me, and not the trembling fear within me.”

And the beautiful thing about God is, that He has no fear in Him. He is not fear. He is love. He is precious, atoning, unfailing, merciful, sacrificial love. When we trust in Him fully, His perfect love for us casts out fear of evangelism.

“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

Still, that doesn’t mean we have to wait to be the perfect person to evangelize. We don’t have to try to make our motivations right before spreading the word about the God who saves. Sometimes we just have to take that step of faith into the unknown in order to experience peace and strength.

Believe me, evangelism brings so much joy. While it is the scariest thing I have ever done, it is also the most joyous thing I have ever done. I’m not kidding about this—I rejoice in the hope I have for so many people to experience a lasting relationship with Jesus! I rejoice in the God who is giving these people a chance or more chances because of His power working through me.

After most of my encounters with people in handing out gospel tracts, I’m flooded with overwhelming confidence in the God who truly cares for His people. Even if I receive a rude response, I am only more assured that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that their resistance is not against me but against Him. Each time I allow God to reach out to a soul through my act of faith, the Lord becomes so sweet to me, and I fall more in love with Him than ever.

Evangelism is what has strengthened me most in my faith out of anything I’ve ever done—and this is no exaggeration! The power of evangelism in our lives and the lives we touch radiates the name of Jesus Christ and bears eternal significance.

I sing for joy—joy, it’s something I don’t think I fully understood until I started evangelizing! Instead of looking at the thousands of people I pass by without hope, I have a stronger reason to pray for them and a deeper love for them and a greater hope that God would reach their hearts.

It’s that amazing.

I’ve learned so much about God through each step of faith. He is truly greater than anything this earth can supply. Forsaking all to shine His light instead of my own is beyond worth it, because God is far worthier and far more satisfying than even the good things I cherish around me.

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” – Acts 20:21

God is so good to us, and He knows how scary it can be to take that first step of faith. I have some verses in my phone that have encouraged me when I’m feeling afraid about evangelizing.

“He must increase, but I must decrease” – John 3:30

“Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent, for I am with you” – Acts 18:9-10

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21

So please, please, don’t let fear stop you from sharing the wonderful news that God’s Son came down into our mess to completely purify us from all our sinful deeds.

Together, we can be terrified of evangelism, we can be bad at it, and we can even be really, really introverted (though if you’re extraverted that’s a bonus! 😉). That’s okay, as long as you surrender it at the feet of Jesus and choose to trust in Him no matter what. Because together, we can and will fight against this fear, because that’s the kind of mighty God we serve.

Savor the magnitude of what God has done in your life, for He has saved you out of the pit of death by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Let your joy and hope overflow to those around you. Let your life be grounded in prayer, full of the Spirit, and abiding in His word.

With all your heart, let your life be a living sacrifice to God as you give of yourself to others without any care of awkwardness or discomfort, and with full care for the souls of those you may see in heaven one day.

Here is a song that tells about God’s perfect love casting out our fears and failures. People are often surprised when I tell them what God has been doing in my life, but as Christians, anything is possible, for any of us. It’s not about who we are, it’s about who He is. Be encouraged today, and let Christ’s love shine brightly through you to this broken world!

What do you think about evangelism? Is it scary to you, or does it come more naturally to you? What kind of settings have you considered or are you evangelizing in (to strangers, friends, family, etc.)?

I have a light

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The most terrible thing in the world is hell, and I want to save everyone from that. But I can’t.

At times, I feel absolutely helpless.

At times, I weep for the souls of millions.

At times, I feel selfish for living bold and free in Christ, while others are charging blindly into agony.

But what else can I do but be bold and free?

What else can I do but speak truth to the souls of millions?

What else can I do but trust God to help us all?

Some people are already in hell, and some are going to hell. That’s horrific. Why aren’t we doing more to show them the Way to hope, to peace, to everlasting life with our wonderful God?

The temptations of this world are so many, and so alluring. Sometimes I ask: Doesn’t God understand the appeal of sin? Doesn’t God understand how easy it is for us to displease Him?

And yet, He absolutely does understand. Jesus, God made into flesh, completely understands every tear, every longing, and every lure of the devil.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16

Let us hold fast to our confession, and be truly humble before God! And let us seek Christ’s sympathy so we may find the courage to stand. When we fully allow ourselves to bask in the grace of Christ, His own perfection cleanses us and empowers us with fresh love for the world.

We can’t convince the world that God is real until they see the reality of God inside us and in our everyday actions. We can’t convince the world that God is love when we speak to the truth to them out of fear. We can’t be the light when we allow darkness to settle over our souls.

I am mainly writing this for myself. It’s hard for me to stand tall when everything’s crumbling around me. This world is crazy, and people are suffering everyday. But God is going to win in the end. Each of us is going to bow before Jesus Christ at the end of this age and confess He is Lord. (Phil. 2:9-11)

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:9-11

God is good, but the only way people will know it is if we believe it. And the only way to truly believe it is to die to ourselves and seek His will every day. Once we live fully understanding His love, fully trusting that He has sent His Son to bear our sins, we can be free. And once we are free, people will know at first glance that we’re completely changed.

The most terrible thing in the world is hell, and I want to save everyone from that. But I can’t. I can’t fix everything—or anything, for that matter. I’m completely helpless, on my own.

And so are each of us, on our own. But together? We can change the world.

We as Christians need to acknowledge our fear of evangelism, so we can overcome it together, and win the fight together against our flesh together. In doing so, we can band together, and stop ignoring the deepest need in our world today. Together, let us not be silent about the God who is infinitely greater than we can ask or imagine. With hope, let us pray, for that is the very foundation of all our interactions with unbelievers. And with faith, let us shout His name.

And with wide eyes, let us watch to see God move.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” — 2 Corinthians 5:20

Not only do we need to unite as believers, but first and foremost we need to unite with Christ Himself. The only way we can win souls is if the world is convinced that there is true freedom in Christ. And for that we ourselves need to experience abundant freedom in Christ. And for that, meaningful time in God’s presence is needed, where we can find fullness of joy. Don’t settle for a timid declaration of God’s truth–that won’t last. Connecting yourself to the Vine is the only way to bear fruit.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” — Psalm 16:11

J7: Cling to Belief

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In this journal piece, I will be talking about the importance of believing in God’s abundant grace for us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Paul, speaking to Cephas, who separated himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of the Jews who still lived by the law/circumcision (Galatians 2:21)
The idea permeating through this gospel-centered verse blew my mind last Sunday. God’s grace is so baffling that you and I will take a lifetime to even begin to understand it. Sometimes I am so afraid to believe that Jesus is all I need to enter heaven. I think, “But He wants us to serve the poor and to tell everyone the gospel and sacrifice our time and money for others, doesn’t He?”
And that’s absolutely true.
But our focus needs to remain steadfastly on Jesus, because without Him, we are trying to make our own way to eternal life. It’s so easy to get caught up in doing things for God, as if we could do enough things for Him to actually break open heaven’s gates.
Maybe we don’t realize we are believing this, but the truth is, reluctance is a sign we have the wrong focus.

Reluctance is a sign that perhaps our half-hearted attempts to serve God reflect our half-hearted belief that Jesus has paid the ultimate price for our sins.

If we only half-heartedly acknowledge that Jesus is the sole reason we can worship Him eternally, we are dismissing the whole truth of the gospel. If we say, “Yes, Jesus made the Way, but now I have to be good so He doesn’t change His mind”—who are we? Why is it so hard to fall prostrate before our King, admitting that He truly is the One thing keeping us alive? Why do we think God is so weak that Jesus wouldn’t be quite enough to save us?
It’s so hard for me to believe in the goodness of our Savior sometimes, but we can’t let uncertainty bring us down when we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Rom. 8:37). Cry out to Jesus like the father of the demon-possessed boy, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Make believing that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, more important than doing things for Him. Spend time in His Word, pray to Him, worship Him. Jesus delivered you from the snares of death and bore your shame on a cross so you might live. Be in awe of that.

Here’s how my pastor explains it: Jesus + nothing = eternal life

Once we believe that His grace truly is sufficient to cover all our sins, true joy and motivation will blossom in the deepest parts of our hearts.