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.

When You (Actually) Surrender

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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”

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.)?

God Sees, Knows, and Cares

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Hey everyone! You may have noticed that it’s been a long time since I’ve posted, since college has kept me over-the-top busy, but I’m going to (try) to begin posting at least once a week (while hopefully continuing with my academic duties ;)). God has really been speaking to my heart lately, and I really want to share with you all about the goodness of His love that He has been showing me. I know it will do myself some good to process the things I’ve learned, and I truly hope and pray that it is a blessing to you as well. Now here is today’s post about God’s compassion, something I wrote awhile ago, but never got around to posting!

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.” — Psalm 31:7 (NIV; emphasis added)

How many times do we feel that God laughs at our existence? I know I have too many times. It’s so easy to imagine a great God like Him rolling His eyes at us every time we do exactly what He told us not to do.

And yet somehow… He doesn’t. The above verse describes God seeing every scab of David’s affliction, and knowing every anguish that overwhelmed this man’s soul. God saw and knew the raw, vulnerable state David was in, but David didn’t hide away. No! David rejoiced in God’s love.

Why? Because David knew that God had compassion on Him in his miserable condition.
Think about it: God showed that same compassion through His Son who died for us. We don’t need to feel hopeless that our great God knows every aspect of our lives, even our hateful thoughts. He cares for you, and offers you grace when you run after idols of selfishness, and rest when you feel anxious about final exams. We simply must lay everything before Him and be washed clean with Jesus’ righteous covering. It’s a daily exercise that will bring you so much joy!

Too many times people, including myself, can feel like death is the only way to end their anguish. That is so far from the truth! God is always waiting with an abundant supply of tender comfort to draw us gently back to Himself. Hope is only a stretch of faith away. Even when we feel at our wit’s end, by surrendering our whole lives before God, Jesus’ death can bring us the fullest life within our soul.

Whether we can completely understand it or not, God sees, He knows, and He cares. When we feel His eyes on us in the midst of our anguish, we don’t have to be ashamed or hopeless. His love is more powerful than our circumstances, letting our hearts soar above the pain around us with inexplicable peace.

Will you choose take hold of His love today?

Take a look at this song by Caroline Cobb! It has been speaking to me deeply recently, as I begin to grasp the idea that God’s presence is truly greater than anything this earth can supply. God bless you today with His tender compassion!

 

Like A Child

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I remember one of the first days I experienced the joy of the Honduran children of Las Flores. Wild, sweet, overflowing joy that radiated from their faces when you so much as smiled at them.

I couldn’t engage in conversation with them very well because of my lack of Spanish, but I soon learned that they didn’t care. They hugged, laughed, and played. They ran around, creating chaos.

Beautiful chaos.

Usually I take a step backwards from a high-energy crowd, but this was different. They needed me. They needed my love.

I didn’t know enough Spanish, so I couldn’t give it in words. And what are words to children anyway? All I could do in that moment was forsake all and plunge into the chaos. And what a relief that was, breaking the language barrier with the unspoken message loud and clear: “Yo te ama,” or “I love you.”

I didn’t know them, but God gave me unrelenting love for those kids. I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop trying to make them smile. I chased them around, tickled them, played games, and proved to myself that I must be a kid person after all. It makes sense, I guess. God loves children, and His Spirit is inside me.

Not only did God give me love for the kids, but I learned to be a child myself that day. I learned joy. I learned childlike faith. That’s what God wants for us. When we are like children, we can rejoice in God’s love for us without a single doubt of our Father’s goodness.

Sometimes I don’t understand how God could truly love us. But even if we can’t completely understand it, like a simple child, we can understand that it makes us feel alive.

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” — Luke 18:15-17

Chapter 9 of The Healer of Istagun – Risen

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This is the ninth chapter in my ten-chapter fantasy novella. So close to finishing! I hope you enjoy! Feel free to comment below your thoughts or any feedback that could make this climax better. 🙂 Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

The first thing Tarquin did when we reached shore was rush me passed the fight and into Tiana’s house. Gently, he laid me in a bed. I was too weak to sit up as he spooned Gesu’s blood into my mouth.

At first it was painful to swallow, like my throat was on fire. But then, as it trickled down, a miraculous taste as sweet as a cherry filled my mouth.

“It’s terrible, isn’t it?” he asked me, wincing.

I grinned, as energy spread through me. “No, it’s… it’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted!”

He raised a brow quizzically.

Amazement rushed into me as I jumped out of bed and wrapped my arms around him.

“The plague is gone—completely gone!”

He clasped my arms and withdrew slightly, looking into my face in wonder. “Praise Gesu!”

“What are we waiting for?” I exclaimed. “Let’s save the others!”

***

Thankfully, the battle had not yet touched the village where the sick ones lay in the homes of the kind elderly people. In his loud deep voice, Tarquin ordered the healthy old folks to bring the sick ones out of the ice homes into one place, so they could more quickly be healed. Many were doubtful at first, but I testified to the miraculous power of Gesu’s blood.

“Dahlia.” Prima flew up to me and embraced me quietly. “You look well today, girl.”

I grinned as I explained to her the miracle. “Where is Kari?”

Her face flooded with pain. “He’s so sick—I don’t know what to do.”

Tarquin was feeding the blood to many people already, so I didn’t say a word to him as Prima led me to Kari.

His eyes were closed shut, and tumors covered his once-soft skin.

“He hasn’t moved for hours,” Prima said, shivering. “And there…” She pointed to three young boys beside him.

I nodded but remained emotionless. Mechanically, I bent down to him and fed him from the small bottle Tarquin had given me. When he opened his eyes, he smiled and jumped up into my arms, laughing. “DAHLIA!”

I hugged him tightly and set him down. “All right, all right!” I laughed. “How are you feeling today, kid?”

Before he could answer, he turned to Prima and gave her a hug that sent her tiny frame toppling to the ground.

“Be careful—remember she’s a fairy!”

But I couldn’t blame him. Inside me, I couldn’t have felt more joyful with this new life coursing through my veins. Yet there were so many more people in need of healing.
Andrea. The thought stole my happiness in an instant. She had been my best friend for as long as I could remember. I couldn’t let her die along with Hollis.

As I began scouting out the sick ones to find Andrea, Tarquin hurried up to me. “Dahlia, I need to help the Summer humans and Gesu-followers fight Hazina’s fairies. As soon as you heal the men, instruct them to go to shore to help us.”

“Of course.” I searched his handsome face, not knowing what might happen to him once he confronted the powerful fairies. “Don’t die, Tarquin.”

I hadn’t meant it as a joke, but he smiled. “I won’t, Dahlia. I’m going to be King.”

With that, he ran off.

 

“Dahlia…” When the strained voice reached my ears, I swiveled around.
Andrea lay in the snow, with a beautiful old woman spooning broth into her mouth.

The woman lifted her head when she saw me, locking her blue eyes onto me. “Dahlia,” she said again. “Your friend needs you.”

I rushed to Andrea, ignoring the old woman. “My friend, it’s been so long. I’m so sorry. I wish I’d—you’d never believe what happened–are you all right?”

She looked up at me, but, for once in her life, she didn’t speak a word. She was no longer the bright, outgoing young woman I knew a few days ago. I remembered how she’d teased me about the strange miner staring at me from across the field. Had he loved me then? I shook the thought off and brushed her hair out of her face.

I quickly brought out the bottle and fed her a small drop, so as to save plenty for the others.

Slowly, she sat up. “Wow… what was in that bottle?”

I pulled her to her feet, chuckling. “I’ll tell you another time.”

We embraced each other, giggling like young girls again in the Spring orchards. “I’ve missed you so much,” Andrea said.

I regretted to think I had been so focused on Hollis that I hadn’t thought much of her.

“I’m so sorry, Andrea. There’s so much to tell you.”

“About that miner boy?” Andrea raised her brows, and for once I was glad to see her being herself again. “I saw him walking around here a few minutes ago…”

“His name’s Tarquin.” I shrugged at her growing smile. “He’s… he’s my friend now.”

I ached at the thought of him. Feelings I hadn’t realized existed rushed inside me. He was so good to me. I wouldn’t ever be able to repay him for all he had done for me. I could never repay Gesu either—he had paid his own life for me.

But… not in time to save Hollis.

“Tarquin’s fighting the fairies by the sea,” I said quietly. “As soon as this stuff heals everyone, we can all help him.”

“What’s wrong, Dahlia?” Andrea leaned forward, her hand on my shoulder, looking deeply into my eyes like the friend I had always known and loved.

I turned away and sat down on a fallen log. She sat beside me, her kindness seeping through her dark eyes. I’d forgotten how much she loved me. Guilt wrecked me. I had done nothing to deserve her affection, always scorning her for her silliness and carefree nature.

“I feel… paralyzed.” My voice was feeble. “Andrea, it’s true. Hollis is dead. It’s more than I can bear.”

She wrapped her arms around me and sang softly, a song she’d so often sung to Hollis and me in the nights when we were young children, staring up at the stars. She was like an older sister to us—or a mother? Were mothers like this? I didn’t know.

“It’s just you and me… us together. The flowers bloom, it’s lovely weather today…”

Hollis used to sing it all the time. I remembered my dream about her… and about the longing for something more. The stars. I looked up at the brilliant little lights dancing across the black sky.

Thank you, I whispered silently up at them.

“—Andrea! We need to heal these people with Gesu’s blood.” I stood up and pulled at her hand.

“Blood? Yuck!” She yanked her hand out of mine and looked at me strangely.

I explained to her quickly the miraculous healing Gesu provided. “He healed you,” I finished proudly.

She gasped and shook her head. “I don’t know, Dahlia.”

I smiled. “I’ll show you.”

 

As Andrea witnessed strength returning to the sick, she laughed. “That’s truly amazing, Dahlia! But you need to stop saying it’s this Gesu person who caused all this. There’s something in that bottle! A spell, or something.”

I tried to explain to her that the great Queen Hazina had caused the plague, and therefore no spell could overcome it.

“I can’t believe that.” She shook her head. “What has that miner boy been telling you?”

I ignored her as I tilted the bottle into a middle-aged man’s mouth. It was the same man in Autumn, I now realized, who had bemoaned about his wife and children being taken from him. The man opened his eyes and sat up, looking up at me bewilderedly. “Dahlia?”

I gasped. How did he…?

He embraced me, tears streaming down his cheeks. “My daughter… He told me you were my daughter.”

I hugged him in return, astounded. “Gesu?”

“Yes,” he murmured. “In my dreams. But this is real! You are really here, my sweet child!”

***

A few hours passed of simultaneously chatting with my father and curing the sick ones with Andrea until we had finished.

I told him of dear Hollis, my life in Summer and Spring, and my recent adventures. He told me of how he had fallen in love with a woman named Mariella, gave birth to each of his daughters, and how recently Mariella passed away from the plague.

Finally, I spoke to the rejoicing humans who had been cured of disease: “If you are able and willing, please go to the battle to help fight against Hazina’s fairies.”

As people found spells and weapons, Andrea looked at me fearfully. “How are we going to do this? You cannot trust a dead man, Dahlia.”

Distress gripped me at the thought of the humans and Gesu-followers dying in battle—of Tarquin dying. No. Not him.

“Gesu is not dead,” I said firmly, though I did not know how I was so sure of this. “He is alive inside of us. With his power, we must fight, or else we will die.”

“You’re right, my daughter.” My father stood quietly beside me, placing a hand on my shoulder. “We don’t have much choice.”

 

As we reached the shore, my anxiety heightened. The Hazina-followers had circled around the Summer humans and Gesu-following fairies. They’d bound them up to poles. In the center, Tarquin was writhing against the ropes as a fire culminated beneath his feet.

The mud wall monsters from Spring and Autumn were marching toward us, and in between them Queen Hazina flew in all her splendor, colorful spells exuding from her and armed fairies by her side. Behind her, the Treelanders, undoubtedly under some sort of mind-bending spell, marched with swords made of the sharpest wood and shields made from the toughest leaves.

My heart pounded in my chest, and my father looked at me, concerned and alarmed. I did not look at him.

Tarquin was staring at me, from across the field of snow. The shore splashed on the rocks yards away from him. I stared back, horror coursing through me, even through these veins that rushed with new life.

His dark tortured eyes called out to me, undeniably, silently screaming, “I love you, Dahlia!”

I ran toward him, though my father yelled from behind me. I ran past the Hazina followers, past the loyal followers of Gesu tied to poles, I ran to the center, to the flames that blazed beneath my king.

“What are we going to do now?” I shouted up to him, tears streaming down my cheeks. If only my tears could put out this fire. But that was the hopeless romantic in me. Tarquin could never be mine—he could never be mine even if children didn’t exist.

He was going to die.

I looked into his eyes, aching all over, wishing I could express how thankful I was for all that he had done for me.

“Dahlia,” he choked. “You need to leave.”

“I need to save you—how can I save you?” Desperation filled my voice.

Suddenly, a Hazina-follower grabbed me and tied me to a pole beside Tarquin. Soon a fire was lit beneath my feet.

Tarquin cried out in agony as the flames began to smolder him.

Away from the scene, stood the humans from the village, including Andrea and my father, who didn’t know what to do. They didn’t want to run out here and end up like me.

All at once, Prima and the good fairies burst forward, and a great battle ensued between those who followed Hazina and those who followed Gesu. With the Treelanders and the mud walls on Hazina’s side, the good fairies were greatly outnumbered.

I watched as Prima cast soothing spells on the mud walls, and began talking to them, as if convincing them to join Gesu’s side. Soon Queen Hazina found out and got rid of Prima’s spell. A Treelander pitted Prima with the wooden sword while Prima fought back with her spontaneous spells. The wooden sword accidently turned into a bat, looked confused for a second, and then flew away, leaving the Treelander defenseless. But just as Prima rose her clear blue wand to strike another spell, a Hazina fairy electrocuted Prima, and she fell to the earth, helpless and paralyzed.

Prima. I wanted to shout her name, but the smoke was suffocating. I winced as I felt a flame on my own foot.

I glanced at Tarquin, terrified as I saw his feet being burnt bit by bit, and the fire mounting higher and higher to his ankles and legs. He screamed.

That scream shattered any innocence I had left in me. I sobbed wretchedly, broken, and so alone. Gesu, where are you now? Your blood saved my life. Why do you let me die? Why do you let Tarquin die, when you promised he would be King?

Just then, a cry rose through the air. A sweet, innocent crying out in terror. It shook my nerves, so I turned toward the noise, toward the shore.

I caught my breath. Hollis stood in a flowing white dress, her blond hair whipping in the wind, her face soft and beautiful. She was smiling.

Behind her, thousands of humans stood, glowing, radiant as the Summer sun.

The battle came to a sudden halt. Everyone stopped and stared, mesmerized and baffled by the beauty of these humans.

Gesu stepped forward, calling out in a deep voice, “Queen Hazina, these are the people you tortured with the plague. These are the ones who died from the poisonous waters. These are my friends that I have brought back from the graves of Midfuna Island.”
And before anyone could gasp or murmur let alone get a good look at him, he vanished into the Winter air.

Queen Hazina fluttered toward the risen dead, her guard fairies by her side. “What is this!?” she roared into the silence of the crowd.

I clenched my teeth as the fire licked my feet and ankles, withholding a shout. Murmurs of pain filled the air around me from the others who hung on poles.

To my astonishment, Hollis, meek and quiet, stepped forward, a smile still on her face. “My queen, you have no idea what Gesu had to go through to get us back. Your sin destroyed us, and only Gesu was strong enough to give us life again. Now before you kill us all off again, I ask you to listen to me.”

Hazina groaned. “To a little girl!? Are you kidding me?”

“It is the least among us that Gesu uses,” Hollis said simply. “Now, I bet you never considered the details of your plan to destroy the human species. Your sole object was to better Istagun’s economy, right?”

Hazina’s rainbow wings fluttered violently. “All right, whatever. Continue!”
I hung on that pole, my feet on fire, tears escaping me. What was Hollis thinking, to anger the queen like this?

“Well, what you didn’t realize, was that people were risking their lives to save the people they loved. Take Dahlia, for instance. My sister risked everything, even traveling to all of the seasons to find me.” Hollis quickly continued before Hazina could respond. “Dahlia risked her life for me. Have you ever known that kind of love, my queen?”

Tears continued to drip down my cheeks as Hollis spoke, but now more out of amazement rather than the pain in my limbs as the fire crept up and the smoke stung my eyes. My sister had matured over the years she’d spent in Spring without me. But even more, these words seemed to come from the power of Gesu who lived inside her.

“Gesu let your fairies kill him, so the sick ones could drink of it and be healed. Have you ever known that kind of love?”

Hazina folded her arms across her chest, impatient. “Get on with your rhetorical questions!”

Hollis shrugged. “You can answer them if you’d like.”

Hazina laughed. “Okay, I’ve never known that kind of ‘love,’ whatever that means. My father abused me; my mother didn’t want me to exist. Continue, please!”

Sorrow filled Hollis’ face. Within me, I too felt compassion for the queen. I had never imagined I would feel bad for such a person.

Hollis spoke more gently now. “No wonder you’ve been enslaving the humans, making us do certain tasks at certain times in certain ways, controlling very aspect of our lives. You’ve never learned freedom. Your own soul is enslaved to fear, unable to express love to anyone else. The only thing you know is fear.”

Hazina’s beautiful rainbow wings suddenly drooped very low as she sunk to the ground. Each guard fairy put a hand on her shoulder.

“My queen, you’ve separated the people so the children grow up without mothers and fathers, and the parents have to say goodbye to their babies as soon as their born.” Hollis sighed. “How can you let us live like this? Don’t you know anything about love, about loss, about healing?”

The queen waved her wand slightly, and then dropped it. Instantly, the fires beneath our feet went out, the ropes were undone, and we fell to the ground.

As cheering arose, I ran to Tarquin, whose feet were burned by the flames.

I clasped hold of his hands in mine, though they were covered in soot and ashes. The fire had scorched him more than me. “Tarquin, are you going to be okay?”

“What just happened?” he murmured, too much of a man, of course, to admit he was in pain.

I bit my lip, smiling slightly. “Queen Hazina… she saved our lives.”

 

The Gospel, The Light: 6 Things God Has Done For Humanity

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(Photo by Samantha Lynch on Unsplash)

I blind myself to the truth, do you? Am I the only one who runs from the Light, preferring the safety of darkness? 

When the Light pierces through the darkness, it hurts. It hurts when I see I’ve been trying to fill the void inside me with my passions, dreams, ego, or self-pity. It hurts to see that me, you, and the whole human race sin every day without realizing it.

Or maybe we do realize our weakness, but we’re too afraid to do anything about it.

Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think,
“Who sees us? Who will know?” – Isaiah 29:15

Without this Light, I feel so empty. I’m in constant pain, letting insecurity rule and darkness overshadow any good that’s left in me.

I’m blind to my own weakness.

Why are we like this? It’s my fault. It’s yours. It’s Adam and Eve’s fault for eating that fruit in the garden. Their sin began a chain reaction that spread to every generation of humans who have lived since.

Doubts come: Come on, I’m good enough. God wouldn’t send a nice person like me to hell. I’ve done enough good things to outweigh the bad.

But God doesn’t weigh the good versus the bad; no, He measures us up to a stick, and we have to reach the top to enter heaven—He requires us to be 100 % perfect.

And we’re not.

And God is truly sad about that: “[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

So, how did God provide a way for us to escape hell and to enter His heavenly presence, now and forever?

1. He sent a perfect man.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to live on this earth perfectly following God’s laws, like no human ever had before. He was the one person in history’s existence who actually deserved heaven.

Only God is 100% perfect all the time. And that’s exactly who Jesus was, and still is to this very day.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” – Hebrews 1:3

Jesus is the one perfect Light, the one true fulfiller of our souls. He spoke out against lies and injustice; He uplifted the outsiders in society. He was filled with deep compassion for people, healing the sick and preaching about the Kingdom of God, a place where hearts are free, a place their souls had been longing to hear about.

2. He sacrificed this man, His Only Son, for us.

What’s terribly ironic, is that the One person who deserved heaven went to hell in place of everyone else who deserved hell. Jesus was nailed to a cross to purify us from our sins, dying in our place so we wouldn’t have to eternally bleed.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” – John 3:16-21

3. He, in the form of a man, came back to life.

But it doesn’t end at the cross. Three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the tomb, alive and well, and witnessed by hundreds of astonished people. He went up to heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the throne of God.

4. He saves us not by any goodness in ourselves, but by His amazing grace.

This is the most crucial point I have, even though it’s number four (number 4 is a good number, right? ;)) So pay attention here.

The thing is, Jesus did NOT die so we would follow rules, He died so we would place our faith in Him and come to know Him. It is only by faith in Christ that we are saved.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Christianity is NOT a religion. It is a beautiful, everlasting, soul-fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ.

5. He shines His Light into our everyday lives.

Today, in the 21st century, Jesus offers this hope as we battle against anxiety, depression, temptations, grief, and feelings of emptiness: He is the Light.

Let those words sink in for a minute.

After Jesus left this earth, His Holy Spirit came to convict this world of sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

Wow! What an amazing truth that is. Throughout our Christian lives, we must bring our dark deeds into God’s glorious light, so that He may completely and totally outshine this darkness within us. His forgiveness is real, and He is waiting for you to simply cry out to Him with a repentant heart.

Once we believe in Jesus’ power to overcome death and sin on the cross, the Holy Spirit illuminates through our pitch black souls and guides us into more and more victories over our sin and failures, and more and more into the love and peace of walking in His ways.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:16

6. He fills us with joy—now and forever.

With God’s Light inside of me, I’ve found the absolute freedom of His grace. I am no longer empty. I am truly, definitely, totally forgiven, as far as the east is from the west. When I place my surrendered trust in Jesus, my heart bursts with this Light.

As Christians, we face hardship. But through it all, our joy is made complete through Christ.

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

I am free.

I am not floundering in darkness, but I am running out into the open arms of my Father, whose eyes ignite with unspeakable joy when He sees me. Without Jesus, I don’t know where I’d be. I don’t know how I’d bear the fires of this raw, miserable life.

But with Him, the sword of truth has attacked my old self. Now I am new like a polished ring, waiting like a Bride for her Groom, until the day He returns.

Please, when He comes back, don’t let it be your first time to bow.

“[Jesus], being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
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 2:6-11

(All Scripture taken from NIV.)

 

Through Prayer Comes Life

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(Photo by Diana Simumpande on Unsplash)

A thousand voices echo in the night:

“I feel like I’m the only one trying.”

A girl falls to her knees at dawn.

Through praying she fights

for the people she loves.

 

Everything is intentional–

Walk the walk, don’t just talk.

She finds every corner of brokenness

and tries to fix it

but no one knows it.

 

Her tears breathe life

in the mother’s womb,

her prayers

move the heart of God

when all hope is lost.

 

She wrestles through the night

and fights the fight every day,

Smiling to the people she cares for.

She gives away the kindness stored up within her,

the Holy Spirit’s earnest, searching concern.

 

When she comes home,

she cries out to God in the silence:

“I feel like I’m the only one trying.”

But one whisper fills her with faith in the night:

“Your prayers have resurrected the dying.”

 

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” —  James 5:16