Living in Fear vs. Abiding in Love

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It can be easy to make check lists when we try to follow Christ. All too easily our journey with Him can turn into trying to be the best people we can be without Him. Keeping track of our actions and being critical of every one of them. Never being sure if you’re “okay” or a total failure.

It can be easy to live in fear.

Oh, beloved of God, do not live in fear! Those mess-ups will be graciously redeemed when we run to the love of God, and those uncertainties can be cleared up when we run to His wisdom. Do not let the spirit of fear take over you instead of God’s Spirit which is of power, love, and self-control.

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)

Notice that fear and self-control are contrasted as opposites. Keeping ourselves from sin should not be a death-giving exercise (fear), but a life-giving one (self-control). The kind of discipline that God gives does not lead to fear but to freedom. Anything else is from the devil, who invents the most right-sounding lies to keep us in bondage. The devil might even convince you, like he did to me, that “denying yourself” means “not being yourself,” while in fact it really means denying your flesh which leads to you being yourself free in Christ, abiding in His love, and walking by His Spirit.

It all comes down to our need for Christ to set us free. Christ desired for us to live in freedom—that’s why He died for us!

“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

Put on the armor of God, and do not let the devil convince you that God is keeping a record of your wrongs. When you trust in Jesus, you are covered by His Love. And Love does not keep a record of wrongs! (1 Cor. 13:5)

In John 15:9, Jesus instructs us to abide in His love: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (ESV)

What does it mean to abide in the love of Christ? What does that look like?

It means to live in freedom, without fear, perfected by His love, and not trying to perfect ourselves by our own strivings. It looks like soaking in His presence after a long day’s work or before the beginning of one, drinking deeply of the Spring of Living Water, and feasting upon the Bread of Life. It looks like walking into the world resting in the acceptance of your Father, and gladly pouring that love into other people, so affected by Your Savior that others can’t help but be affected by the love expressed through you.

“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” – Galatians 5:4-6

Through the Spirit we wait for God to grow plants of righteousness and goodness in our lives. It is only God who makes anything grow! (1 Cor. 3:7) We wait eagerly through the Spirit which hungers for righteousness, trusting that we will be filled. (Matthew 5:6) When we trust in Jesus to be our righteousness rather than strive to be righteous on our own, our faith WILL express itself through love. If we truly have faith in Christ, we will long to express that faith to others. Our desire for expression is satisfied when we love people the way we have experienced the abundant love of God.

The Lord’s love is a place to take refuge in, not to shy away from in fear you don’t deserve it. Yes, Beloved, you don’t deserve an ounce of it—but that’s what’s so precious about it! That’s the kind of God we serve. He is more than capable of being our Refuge and our place of safety. He is more than willing to hold us and speak tenderly to us in our moments of weakness. He loves you.

Do not be afraid! That’s a command given many times in the Bible, not a suggestion. Bring your fears and anxieties to Him and He will accept you as His child in His open arms. I believe the phrase “Do not be afraid!” can imply the same thing as “Do not walk away from your Father’s embrace.” Only with Him can you be free of 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

Life isn’t about trying to be the best you can be, as good as that may sound. The best a person could ever do on their own would even then only be a façade, while deep inside brokenness and hurt abound in their souls.

Life isn’t about striving. It’s about being healed by Christ in the inmost parts of your being. It’s about Him setting you free from the bondages of fear, shame, and guilt. It’s about abiding in His love, and letting that love perfect you into His image.

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” – Psalm 36:7

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The More I Fear You

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“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7 

“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” – Psalm 103:17-18

The more I fear You, the more I find You

The more I fear You, the more I want what You want

The more I fear You, the more Your Word fills my heart

The more I fear You, the more sensitive I am to Your Spirit

The more I fear You, the more I find joy in You.

 

The more I fear You, the  more anxiety disappears

The more I fear You, the more the things of earth don’t matter

The more I fear You, the more my heart expands with love for others

The more I fear You, the less control I try to have

The more I fear You, the more I hear You.

 

The more I fear You, the more accepted I feel

The more I fear You, the more dependent I am on You

The more I fear You, the more I have the courage to step out in faith

The more I fear You, the more I can experience freedom

The more I fear You, the quieter my heart is in Your presence.

 

The more I fear You, the more I don’t have to fear anything else

The more I fear You, the more beautiful You are to me

The more I fear You, the more Your grace becomes miraculous to me

The more I fear You, the more I want to spend time with You

The more I fear You, the more You’re ALL that matters to me.

 

The more I fear You, the more sin becomes repulsive to me

The more I fear You, the more grateful I am

The more I fear You, the more satisfied in You I am.

The more I fear You, the more I hunger for You

The more I fear You, the more Your life fills me.

 

The more I fear You, the more I rest in You

The more I fear You, the more confident I am in You

The more I fear You, the more I want You

The more I fear You, the more I need You

The more I fear You, the more I love You.

 

Finding Freedom From the Fear of Man

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“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” – Proverbs 29:25

I want to be free.

I think each of us, deep down inside, longs for that. Whatever that means.

I am in a period of growth in my life, where God is stripping down so much of what I thought I needed and showing me that all I really need is Him. In reality, as much as I don’t like to admit it, I’ll be doing that for the rest of my life. I’ll never be strong and independent, I’ll always be desperately needy and dependent on Jesus.

God isn’t sanctifying us so we will be strong enough to not need Him, He is sanctifying us all the time, because we always need Him!

It’s hard to be free when we turn from God’s rich supply of grace and base our lives on people’s opinion on us. Many of us know the bondage of fearing men, instead of God. Being dependent on what people think of us, rather than what God thinks of us. Relying on people to determine our worth and value.

Why do we have this constant drive to be accepted by others? Why can’t we simply attach ourselves to our Creator and detach ourselves from others’ opinions of us?

I think because it is the quick and easy way to feel “safe.” They are right in front of our eyes, approving us, so what’s the big deal? Why find our security in anything else?

It’s a snare. It doesn’t set you free. If you enslave yourself to the opinions of others, as soon as someone disapproves of something you say or do, your self-esteem plummets to the earth like a crashing rocket. So much for finally being accepted. Now you feel humiliated, never able to “be yourself” again.

Whoa, hold on! Why do we care so much about what people think of us? It’s ridiculous. Even the people who have opinions of you don’t think so seriously about what they think of you. And the next day, maybe they’ll change their mind and see something about you so amazing that they tell everyone they know how great you are.

There are good and bad parts about yourself, but if you trust in Jesus, your core identity is not in what you do, but in Him. And He is perfect and deserving of the highest praise! Isn’t that incredible? God lavishes His love on you, even though you don’t deserve it! You are His child. That is something to fully embrace and never let go of. Dive into this blessed assurance, each and every day!

So, yes, people are gonna fail you. Your hunger for approval will never be satisfied in people. Let me say it again: Your hunger for approval will never be satisfied in people!

On the other hand, your hunger for approval will ALWAYS be satisfied when you come to Jesus. All because He made the way for God to totally and completely accept you when He died on the cross. And He offers Himself to us today for our hungry souls to feast on.

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” – John 6:35

This is a promise from God that you will NEVER go hungry or thirsty when you come into the presence Jesus! And when God says NEVER, He means NEVER. He delights to fill you up. I know I have trouble remembering this and often turn to lesser things, but whenever I turn to Him and spend time with Him, He is faithful to overflow me with peace and joy.

In your time with Him, trust that He meets you where you’re at in your brokenness, and He loves you even there. Don’t be afraid of Him! He doesn’t despise a humble heart, and He shows kindness to people who only have a miniscule mustard seed of faith.

Let His Spirit guide you into prayer about anything that He brings to your mind. Pour your heart out to Him. Be honest. He loves you. I seriously challenge you to spend deep, meaningful time in His presence after reading this post (out in nature is my favorite!). Or right now, if you want (the sooner the better—He is always waiting for you!!)

As mind-blowing as it is, your identity is not in people’s opinions of you, but in Jesus Christ’s righteousness. WHO HE IS IS WHO YOU ARE, whether your actions reflect that or not. And believe me, your actions WILL reflect this when you put your full faith in Jesus. There’s no getting away from life-transforming grace when you get really truly blown away by the love of God and connect yourself to that one and only source of Life, Love, Joy, and Peace.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

Once again this is a promise. If you remain in Jesus and He in you, you WILL bear much fruit. This isn’t dependent on your own effort, but on abiding in your relationship with God and letting Him transform you.

This past week God laid it on my heart that He was protecting me. He, in the midst of all the unknowns in life, is your Provider and Protector. He keeps you in safety. Trust in that beautiful promise. Meditate on it. Here is the verse from the beginning of this post again for you to dwell on:

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” – Proverbs 29:25

That isn’t just a thing we Christians say–it’s a reality! The Lord is right there with you, keeping you safe. There is no need to try to protect your own dignity by winning the approval of others. No matter what people think about you, He always loves you, and His opinion is truly the only one that matters. He protects your dignity as His beloved child.

If you’re anything like me, you long for freedom from the fear of man. God longs for that for you too, for you to trust deep down inside that He is the good Shepherd taking care of you.

You don’t need to try to find your worth in people, or shy away from people because you think you could never be worthy enough for them to accept you. According to Him, you are worth dying for!

It is dangerous to find dignity in the ever-changing opinions of human beings. It is utterly safe to enter a social setting resting fully in God’s acceptance of you.

Today I pray God gives you the faith to believe He alone can satisfy, and the grace to experience the security and peace found in His presence. Because Jesus is the only way to be truly free.

Let Him love you

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Today God just wants to love you. He sees you where you’re at right now, and His heart breaks. He doesn’t scorn you for failing to love Him; He empathizes with you in your weakness. (Hebrews 4:15)

Slow down and be gracious with yourself. Don’t be afraid to do that! You might think you would forget to follow God if you just stopped everything and let Him love you. The truth is, you would be falling into the sin of perfectionism if you didn’t stop everything and let Him love you. The truth is, we can have no part with God if we don’t let Jesus bend down and wash our feet.

“’No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’” – John 13:8-9

Let us receive all that God offers us through Jesus Christ, just as Peter did! God created us to need a whole lot of grace and tender loving care, and I know I need it far more than I like to admit it. But it’s not something we need to be ashamed of!

Come to your honest spot, letting God expose your weakness. He will accept you with welcoming arms. He wants you to let Him love on you! He longs for you to receive Him, to let Him in and sit and eat with you.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” – Revelation 3:20

When your broken honesty leads to tears, He is with you, comforting you. Don’t think that God is too far above you to show you pity! He is closer than you dare believe, more tender-hearted toward you than you could ever imagine.

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

God does NOT despise a broken and contrite heart! He lavishes unmerited favor on you—that’s what grace is: UNMERITED FAVOR! He favors you, even though you don’t deserve it. His perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)

Take a deep breath. The most humble thing to do is to let God love you. God weeps for us when we don’t see the Spring of Living water that He offers to us abundantly, and when we turn to broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jer. 2:13) Look what He offers you, Beloved of God!

Abundant, full life in Him–true love, peace, and joy! Jesus came so we could have new life springing within our hearts! (John 10:10)

If only we would listen to Him, what joy we would have! Hear the heart of God in this Psalm, longing for His people to simply listen to Him, so they may receive the goodness of His loving provision!

“If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” – Psalm 81:13-16

Give Him permission to love you today. Let Him satisfy you with His love. He truly has compassion for you, and He understands your weakness. He knows that the only cure to our wandering hearts is His tenderness and mercy.

I thank God for revealing His love to me personally today! We will truly never know another love like His! Have a blessed week! ❤

He is Alive!

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Trust and receive.
Please.
Don’t let the doubts of whether you’re trusting the right way
Be the wall between you and His grace.
There’s no right way to trust–
It’s ok.
It’s ok if it’s as small as a mustard seed.
It’s ok if you keep messing up.
It’s not about what you can do
It’s about what He can do!
God gives us endless chances
If you’re willing to confess and to trust
And to truly receive.

Because receiving Jesus’ righteousness is what you get when you trust.
The cross kills your sin,
But because He is risen
Your life is not a whiff of dust,
But it’s one of victory.
Not just victory over things, but victory in things;
Victory in doing things
Not out of deathly, mundane obligation,
But out of the poured-out love that lives in you.
The joy to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly,
Because He first loved us.

Because He first loved us,
Trust and receive.
Please.
Don’t make up excuses like a teenager who finally realizes that life is pretty morbid without God.
Trust and receive
Like a child who finally realizes that life is pretty glorious with God.
Soon victory will be yours
The darkness within you will be overthrown.

So, please:
Trust and receive.
It’s never too late to start again.
I would say it a million times if I could:
It’s never too late to start again!

Trust and receive.
Don’t do it just once in a life
Or once a year or once a week.
Do it every day, every moment
You need His love and grace,
Or His truth to discern between right and wrong.
Do it every day, every moment
A crisis hits, a worry nags at you, or shame creeps up.
Whenever darkness threatens to triumph and to tell you lies—to tell you He died,
Trust and receive,
Because the truth is He is alive.

“’Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Nothing to prove

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It’s hard to get the noise out of my head sometimes. Well, a lot of times.

God asks us to be still but I keep trying to prove myself to Him and to others. I keep trying to be something, but God is everything, and the only thing that is worth boasting about is Him.

It’s remarkable that though we are in fact unworthy of enjoying God’s presence forever, God loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us. We are unworthy of God, but God thought it was worth letting His own Son die in order to change that. In His sight, we are worthy of being in a relationship with Him, because Jesus’ righteousness now covers all who believe in Him.

But the whole idea of “worthiness” should be set aside, because our value isn’t even something to boast about, but to praise God about.

Our value has nothing to do with us. It is only because of Jesus that we are worthy to enter communion with our Heavenly Father. Our identity is in Christ, but it is not our own capabilities that influence that perfect, beautiful identity. It’s all Him.

In other words, we have nothing to prove to God. Nothing at all. And we can actually find peace in that.

We can stand before Him in simple, childlike awe. We don’t have to do anything, and He already loves us. He already loves us!

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Repent and believe! Settle in your mind that the Lord is taking care of you. Be still.

It’s ok to not think about the details of life. It’s ok not to worry. It’s ok not to be able to smile sometimes. We’re not supposed to have everything figured out or fake anything, but to let God’s Spirit work in us as we humble ourselves before Him. In His timing, we will be exalted.

He is faithful.

He is faithful no matter how small our faith is. He is faithful to liberate us from sin and all that hinders us. He is faithful to work in us to will and to act according to His good purpose. Think of that–we can’t even desire God perfectly on our own, we need to ask Him to change our desires! In the end, the Lord is in complete control, and if we admit to Him that we’re not, He’ll prove to us that He is.

This song “My Heart Burns For You” contains only five repeated words in the lyrics, but it’s pure worship. And what the guy talks about at the beginning really moved me.

“Nothing to gain. Nothing to lose. Nothing to show. Nothing to prove.”

Let these words linger in your mind. Get the noise out of your head and quiet yourself before Him. He sees, knows, and loves you right in this moment.

A Message to The Hurting

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I want to address you, my dearest friends
The ones who hurt in ways beyond what I could ever understand.
You have experienced so much,
Wounds deeper than canyons,
Rejection shattering your trust,
Dreams left to waste.
Dignity stripped away; identity swallowed by shame.
Questions left unanswered.
Hearts that repeatedly break.

I don’t understand it all
And I can’t pretend to,
But I ache with you more than you know.
And there is One who aches for you far more than I do.
Dear friend, you are not alone.

Deep in the night when you cry,
When you stay up with your heart laid bare,
Broken,
Bleeding,
I could never be there for you in that moment;
But there is One who is and always will be
Reaching out to You.
He pleads for you, He beckons you
To come into His open arms.

This isn’t even that great of a poem but I’m just concerned right now with speaking from the depths of my heart.
All I really want is for you to know without a doubt that
He cares.
He cares for you, Beloved.
He cares about you, your pain, and your brokenness beyond your wildest dreams.
He’s an ocean of grace
So don’t be afraid to jump into it.
Receive the embrace He longs to give you.
Receive.
Release.
Rejoice.

He longs to hold you tenderly and sing over you;                                    To heal you completely, to forgive you regardless of this or that, to love you intensely.

My heart goes out to you tonight, whoever you are;
Don’t be ashamed!
God wants you to know you are His Beloved.
Your identity isn’t in what you do, but in His love for you.
Your identity isn’t in what’s been done to you,
But in His love for you.

Never say “but…”
Because He doesn’t see this or that.
He doesn’t see things the way you do.
Because of what Jesus did for you on that cross
Now He covers you.

The Lord
Completely covers you from head to foot with
Purity
Righteousness
Love
Grace
—That’s the bigger picture!

As soon as you realize You need Him
He doesn’t say “Oh, I forgot about you.”
He says, “I got you.”

The bigger picture is that
He loves you anyway.
He loves you.
Anyway.
Regardless.
Even though.
Nevertheless.

God isn’t who you think He is!
He sees that You are hurting.
He knows and sees you.
You don’t have to hide or fake that you’re all right.
He knows you’re not.
But if you release your control
And let Him hold you in His arms,
He promises you that
Everything will be all right.

He’s with you,
Even when you feel too broken to lift your face.
He’s there
Through even the ugliest, messiest moments
Loving you like you’re a beautiful treasure
Worth dying for.

And if this poem that isn’t much of a poem means anything at all to you,
Then when you’re finished with it
Talk to God about it.
About you.
About what’s really going on.

Lay your broken pieces honestly before Him,
And receive His love that
knows you fully
and cares for you
regardless of this or that.
He sees the bigger picture–
He sees you.

My dearest friends, He wants to heal you.
He is no stranger to pain.
He understands you far more than you understand yourself.
Lay it all before Him, and I promise–He will never fail you.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)

P.S while this poem is addressed to those who hurt in especially deep ways, we all hurt at some level or another. the world is full of hurting no matter where you turn, and we are all desperately in need of healing–whether from sin, shame, guilt, fear, despair, anxiety, depression, or loss of trust. we all need to hear the simple words “I love you” and we all need Jesus to fill in where we are weak. let your pain, your needs, and your hunger be satisfied at the foot of the cross. have a blessed day, friends! ❤

How God Grew Me in 2018

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I want to lift my praise higher than I can reach
That you would save one soul is more than enough for me

I cry out to Him, adoring the blanket of stars in the sky.

This is it. I’m here. You’re here. For years I didn’t understand You. For years I struggled in prayer, wrestling and clawing for what was real. But You were there all along, just knowing. You knew everything.

And in truth, I always knew You were real. The thing I couldn’t grasp was how You were beautiful. How you could mean something to my life. How you could woo me and awe me into an adventure following You. I just didn’t get it. I knew I needed to follow You, but I didn’t love You enough to be able to do so for the rest of my life.

People often assume that if God is beautiful than you will know without a doubt the moment you pray your first prayer to Him. But, while that may be the case for some people, others like myself take longer to realize this. It takes faith, even as small as a mustard seed, to grow and push through the ground and soak up the rain and break through the earth and withstand the storm and survive the drought and branch into stems and produce fruit.

It takes work. It takes a complete heart transplant, a total transformation of your vision, to finally see that God really, truly, deeply cares.

More often than not, it doesn’t take just one prayer to make our spirit sing with unfathomable joy. It takes many. It doesn’t take one Bible verse, it takes a yearning for truth and a searching for the Word of God every day, with earnest pondering. It doesn’t take one act of service, it takes many to finally grasp that we can’t do this on our own. We need the knowledge that our Lord Jesus Christ is our righteousness, and nothing we do can add or subtract to that. We need the overwhelming grace of God to flood our souls so we can pour out into other people’s lives in the same way.

In 2018, I’ve realized more of my need for God’s grace, as it has filled my heart and transformed my life in ways I’d never imagined.

This year has been an adventure. I graduated from high school and started going to college. God blessed me with friends I never knew I needed. He grew me in confidence as a person and as a Christian. He pinned down some of my weaknesses and met them with His strength. He guided me gently to surrender things I never knew I needed to surrender. He gave me the wisdom and delight to focus on Him as I watched Him fix problems I didn’t even know existed.

Yes, it was all by God’s grace. And I don’t add that in as a casual obligation. His grace was, and is, everything to me. It’s becoming more and more to me as I realize that I myself really don’t have it all together. I need Him. Maybe people think I am pretty good on the outside, but the only times anything good comes out of my life is when I defeat my own impulses and let Christ’s love take control. Only through Him can I produce anything of eternal value.

But I have not always understood these things. As a young teen, I could not in all honesty say that I even loved Jesus. I wanted to say it, but if I did it wouldn’t have been true. I desired the things of the world rather than the things of God far more than I do now. Most of my life was centered on myself.

Now, as I fully rest in the assurance of Christ, I can honestly say that I love Jesus. His love fills my heart with wonder. The seriousness of my high school years built in me the strength to hold tightly to truth, and now my surrender to God’s love for me plunges me into a life of childlike faith adoring and serving my King.

But 2018 was not a year of all sunshine of rainbows. Some days were tougher than others. Some days the enemy seemed to be attacking me on every side–the hopelessness of a looming and impossible deadline, the uncertainty of my future gnawing at me, or the burden of perfectionism weighing on my shoulders.

But the beauty of following Christ isn’t just the glorious sunset or the magnificent rainbows. The beauty of following Christ is that even in the most treacherous storm, with rain pounding and lightning striking and the ground beneath you shaking—even then, you can see the sunshine behind the dark clouds.

Even at my lowest points, I still have a Hope to hold onto. Even when I’m a sleep-deprived college student with no clue how I will finish an assignment that’s due tomorrow, not all is lost. Even when the people around me close themselves off from God’s love, I can trust that He is good, and He can do more for them than anything I can imagine.

When I was younger, I didn’t know God like I do now. God has been so gracious to me, especially this year. Still, I know God is not in the least finished with me yet. I have so much more to learn. It is overwhelming to think about how much more God needs to work in my heart. But I know He is faithful to complete the good work He has started in me—and in all of us.

Please, don’t stop searching for Him. Even the person most closest to Jesus on this earth right now needs the prayers of other believers, so never hesitate to ask for prayer! God is always there for you, and if your heart is open to it, He will show you the beauty of who He is. He takes pleasure in us when we simply put our hope in His love.

“…the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” – Psalm 147:11

In this coming year of 2019, I resolve to make Christ my center. I resolve to grow in my understanding of God’s grace that we are so undeserving of and to draw deeper into an everyday fellowship with my Savior, as He directs my paths.

Whatever your heart is full of, your life is full of. And Christ’s love dwells in all who trust in Him (Rm. 5:5). So, this year, may your life be filled with the sweet presence of Him.

The Sufficiency of Christ

frozen wave against sunlight

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”For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10 

What I’ve been learning about God lately is that He longs to be The Fulfiller of Our Needs. The only thing is, He doesn’t always meet our needs with the antidote we anticipate; often, He simply meets our needs with Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. The problem—the conflict, the low income, the loss of a loved one—may still be there, but our heart and mindset are transformed.

Because the reality is—though it is a reality that our flesh has quite the difficulty grasping—Jesus Christ Himself is the only thing we need. If we are in need of comfort, He provides that. If we are in need of love, He provides that. Even for the tenderest hearts who need repeated reassurances of love, God provides. He meets us where we’re at!

The Lord goes out of His way to give of Himself, because He is what we truly need whether we know it or not. He is so sweet and gentle to the most sensitive of us. And when the weakest of us open our hearts to the incredible tenderness of our Lord, we become strong and able to lavishly pour out love onto other people.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.“ – Romans 5:5

Our God is a God of Sufficiency, and the only thing that keeps us from experiencing the depth of His love and provision is our own restraint and doubt. Breathe deep into the sweet love of Christ, for the riches of His mercy are evidenced on that bloody cross at Calvary.

He is truly all we need.

This truth becomes a reality to us as soon as we accept that He is able and eager to be our Total Sufficiency! How could a God of power be incapable of anything? How could a God of grace be unwilling to draw our open hearts nearer to Himself?

Our dear Savior is more than able and more than eager to fill us with delight in His presence. Abandoning all else in life to simply be with Him and surrendering my will to His will brings me a soul-contentment that nothing in this world can offer. 

This song captures the more-than-sufficient, reckless love of God!

When You (Actually) Surrender

alone beach calm dawn

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“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes. All my own desires and hopes and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost now and forever.” – Betty Scott Stam

I think it’s majorly underestimated how much the Christian life requires us to surrender. At the beginning of my freshman year in college, I hung the above quote on my wall. I remember having this strange unsettling feeling as I hung it up, that for some reason, though I thought I must be surrendering everything to God, though I was saying I was surrendering everything to Him, there still were probably some things I was holding back from Him.

Was I really surrendered to God’s will for my life, no matter what that might entail?
Was I casting all my dreams and desires at His feet, completely open to what He wanted for me? Did I trust that He knew what was best for me?

The above quote was such a bold statement that I wasn’t sure if my heart was truly all the way there yet.

But now throughout this semester I have been unmasking what it truly means to surrender. Slowly but surely–painfully and gradually–I am learning not just to say that I surrender to God, but to actually surrender.

Because “believing in Jesus” is a lot more radical than it sounds. Believing in Jesus means laying your life in His hands, trusting He knows what’s best, and letting Him take total control.

It’s about putting to death your desires and being in step with the Spirit rather than the flesh. And oh-how-easy it is for me to forget who I am and let the current sweep me in the opposite direction!

“…put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5

Nevertheless, thank God for His indescribable gift of Jesus Christ! We are certainly not meant to do this on our own, and neither are we capable of it. We could never do this on our own—only through Christ’s strength can we prevail! (Phil. 4:13)

When we fail, we have a gracious mediator on our behalf, Jesus Christ, who is always there to intercede for us, to cover us in His perfect righteousness. With Him, God only sees Jesus’ perfection in us. With Him, we desire to want more of Him. We desire to cast out our flesh and fill our lives with the sweet knowledge of Christ each and every day.

If we do not desire this, we are plants that are dying. A constant heart check and persistent effort to find more of the fullness of God keeps us growing. It’s never too late to drop everything and run to Him!

“Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” 1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV

In doing this, we find abundant freedom and grace. Walking in the Spirit is an intentional everyday process that is so life-giving and peace-filled.

And yet the irony of the Christian life is that while it offers the deepest joy imaginable, it isn’t about being happy. It isn’t about having a good life. It’s about living a life sweetly surrendered to God’s will, and enduring hardship with Christ as a joy far deeper than happiness. The pain of walking humbly in the Lord is worth far more than the happiness associated with fleeting pleasures.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8 ESV

To have Christ as the focus, the meaning, and the entire point of your life is the only thing that will matter for eternity. It’s easy to say it on paper, but surrendering is not easy at all. Surrendering requires the truest humility before God, because He knows deep inside our hearts no matter how much we try to hide from Him. It requires accountability with other believers. It requires community, digging in the Word, prayer, worship, and a constant shift of your thoughts from the things of the world to the things of God.

At some point in this semester, I thought my eyes were fixed on Jesus until I looked up at Him and screamed as Peter did, “Lord, save me!” I was drowning in the deep ocean, hopeless and flailing for my life. I had been distracted by other things, and even when I tried to get my focus back on Him, it was extremely difficult. Yet I was desperate to turn back to my dear Savior, even though these other things seemed so beautiful and good in the moment.

Inspired by a picture my sister sketched, I opened to the passage Matthew 14:25-33 about Peter walking on the water. When Peter became distracted by the waves and started drowning and yelling for help, Jesus immediately reached out his hand and pulled him out of the water. He said to Peter, “You of little faith, why do you doubt?”

As I read Jesus’ words, I almost wept because God seemed to be speaking directly to me in that moment. Why do I doubt!? After all God had done for me, why did I doubt that His plan for me was good, whether or not it worked out how I wanted? Why did I doubt that God’s plan was way better, and anything I wanted that was against His will would be utterly futile and worthless compared to following Jesus? Even if what I wanted sounded good and beautiful, how could I dare trust that I was right, when God knows and see all things?

I am so foolish. Only He knows what is best for me. And yet though we are foolish, the Lord cares for us deeply like a good Father cares tenderly for His children. He wants to give us a life of purpose and hope, abiding in Him and enjoying sweet fellowship with Him.

As you and I learn to truly surrender, let us continually cry out, “Lord, save me!” and grab for His hand that readily pulls us up again. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, so we can walk on the water without fear of the waves.

And let us remember the words of this song, continually checking our hearts to see if we not only say, “Lord, I surrender,” but that we actually do.

“I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart”