Faith Over Fear, Part 5: The Sacrifice of Patience

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Check out my other fruits of the Holy Spirit posts here: Being filled with the Spirit, love, joy, peace

How does patience counteract fear in our lives? It is an interesting question to ask, and actually very relevant to our current age if you think about it. With all this technology, we have learned to be quickly and easily gratified by one tap of the finger. We rush around trying to earn money to make a living. We rarely have time—or make the time—to just slow down for people.

Fear of lack of time or fear of vulnerability can get us to rush past important things in relationships in order to gratify ourselves, meanwhile dismissing the needs and wishes of another, like their desire to be listened to.

The famous love chapter, in 1 Corinthians 13, describes love right from the beginning as patient (v. 4). Why is patience so important in learning to love others?

Because impatient people show by their behavior that they don’t care about the person in front of them and they want to get on with their lives. Ouch. Haha!

You see, exercising patience reveals the deep value and care God has for people. God slows down for people because He knows that they matter more than “the next thing.” People’s hearts matter to God more than getting things done.

Real success isn’t finishing that work project, it is taking the time to listen to a friend or neighbor pour out their frustration about their finance issue. Real success is choosing to go deeper with a teenager when they say they’re fine but you know they don’t really mean it. Real success is listening to a coworker talk about what they are passionate about even though you don’t totally get why they like sports so much. Real success is intimacy, not efficiency.

(I heard something similar to the last statement one time somewhere, at a conference I think. So I don’t get full credit for it! :P)

Sometimes, though, people aren’t opening up their hearts to you in a heart-to-heart way, but more in a fist-to-fist way. They have no interest in being intimate with you. Your boss yells at you to work faster even though you already are going as fast as you can. Your parent tells you you can’t go out and meet your friends today. Your friend or sibling talks about you behind your back.

Being patient with people who are just flat out behaving badly is pretty hard. While irritation may come easy to many people, the Lord calls us to a different standard. Ephesians 4:1-3 says, “…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Being patient in the face of difficult people is a tremendous task, but one that can be done with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a high calling the Lord invites us into, but it is totally possible through Jesus to bear with even the most difficult people in love. To live in constant forgiveness towards others and always desire and aim to have peaceful relationships with others.

Patience counteracts fear because through patience you can choose to care, slow down, and see the value of the person in front of you in spite of all their flaws and in spite of all you have to get done. Choosing to be patient with someone is trusting God’s love reaches to this person so deeply that nothing else matters. It’s refusing the fear that leads to frustration and choosing the love that leads to peace and harmony.

This is what denying ourselves as Christians looks like in everyday life! It’s saying “no” to what we want and saying “yes” to what Jesus wants for that person. And He wants them to know how deeply and truly He cares for them through our living, breathing example.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'” – Matthew 16:24

Today, Beloved, choose to be patient with a friend, family member, coworker, or someone else you encounter. Ask Jesus for the patience you need to deal with him or her graciously and lovingly. God wants this person to know how loved they are by Him, and rushing past things won’t bring the message across. You are God’s vessel, and He wants to use you to show love that surpasses all fear, a love that chooses patience at the cost of your own preferences and desires. Watch and see how your patience towards someone leads to joy and blessing!

Be blessed today, as you make the sacrifice of patience and choose love over fear in your life!

 

Faith Over Fear, Part 2: Love Drives Out Fear

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Have you ever seen a young couple in love? Or a mother who really loves her child? It may be easy to love a person when we are “in love” or to love a child when he or she is behaving well. But what is true love?

How can we love ALL people—old people, young people, children, parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, spouses, strangers, our enemies—at ALL times, deeply and genuinely, the way the Lord loves us?

As you may know from my last post about being filled with the Holy Spirit, I am going through a series about the fruits of the Spirit and how those overcome and banish the fear in our lives. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit–filled with purity, love, and a clean heart–to be able to truly love others in the ways God loves us—sacrificially, unconditionally, unreservedly.

The topic of loving others and being loved by God go hand in hand. Through experiencing the love of God, we learn to love others. Through loving others, we experience the love of God.

Honestly, when my eyes aren’t fixed on Jesus, I have absolutely no idea how to truly love others in a genuine way. Without Him, I am going to fail. I am going to be self-seeking. I am going to not care for others. But with Him filling me up to overflowing, His love naturally flows out of me into others lives.

To be totally honest I am REALLY new to learning how to love others. I am so prone to failing, and I am still just beginning to learn what it means to love others without reserve.

Lord Jesus, teach us how to love. Fill us with the love of Your Holy Spirit. We need to know the depths of Your love for us that is right now so beyond our comprehension. We have so much more to learn of Your love. Speak to us tonight. Speak to us, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You and I need to be filled with God Himself in order to know how to love people. This filling of the Holy Spirit is in contrast to following the ways of our fleshly desires.

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” – Galatians 5:19-26

Have you crucified your flesh with its passions and desires? Right here it says that if you belong to Christ Jesus you have. Plain and straight. In Christ Jesus, your passions and desires are dead.

Do you believe that? Or do you still live by your passions and desires? I know I do. I mess up. And it’s not because my passions and desires aren’t dead, it’s because I don’t believe that they are. It’s because I don’t believe that Jesus paid the price for those passions and desires to be put to death. I don’t believe that Jesus’ finished work on the cross is enough, because I don’t desire holiness enough. When I don’t desire Him, I don’t trust Him. When I don’t trust Him, I don’t know what love is.

The truth is we need Him–we desperately need Him! We desperately need to desire Him in order to get to know His love. We need to desire God in order to experience His love and in turn love others.

Lord Jesus, teach us how to be holy. Right now fill us with the holiness that is in the very name of your Holy Spirit. Holy, holy, holy, are You, Lord. Uproot everything within us that isn’t of You. Completely uproot it and destroy it. Make us clean in Your Spirit. Sanctify us, Lord. Purge every impurities and sanctify us in You. Burn a fire in our hearts to desire holiness, through and through. Nothing else but You, Lord Jesus. Nothing else but You. Burn away every fear, doubt, and unbelief, and fill us with faith, Lord. You are all we want and all we need, Jesus. Help us, Lord.

In order to love well we need to be holy. In order to love well need your holiness inside us, Jesus. Make us holy, in Jesus’ name. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

In order to love well we need to be holy. God says in 1 Peter 1: 15-16, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

I bet you never expected a post about “love” to talk about holiness. Well, that goes to show how little we know about God’s love. The world’s version of love is perverse, lustful, self-seeking, out of control, spontaneous, short-lasting, and leads to ruin. God’s version of love is patient, humble, pure, kind, self-controlled, powerful, sacrificial, eternal, and leads to life and peace.

The only way to be rid of fear in our lives is to cast it out with the perfect love as describe above: God Himself.

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 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: 16-18

God is Love. God wants us to know and rely on His love, to live in His love, and so have Him live in us. He makes us like Jesus in order to make us complete in perfect Love, which in turn drives out fear from our lives. His perfect Love drives out fear from our lives!

Wow! I want some of Your perfect Love, Lord. So what exactly is it? Perfect Love…

…fights for our holiness, fights for our purity, fights for our sanctity.

…drives out every impurity in our hearts with a jealousy and passion for us to be intimate with God.

…banishes all condemnation, guilt, shame, and every lie from the devil that says we aren’t worthy of Him.

…fills us with the truth that we are worthy, valuable, and precious to God.

…protects and covers us with the blood of Jesus.

…comforts us when we are sad, heals us when we are broken, and encourages us when we feel discouraged.

…speaks tenderly to us in the wilderness of hard times and speaks boldly to us when we turn our face away from God.

…leads us onto paths of righteousness of His name’s sake.

…cherishes, guards, and keeps us

…delights in us passionately, intensely, and unreservedly

….accepts us for who we are and doesn’t let us stay the same

…makes us like Jesus.

…makes us holy.

Have you been made perfect in God’s love? Do you have any fear inside you—even an ounce of it in your being? Seek God today for purity and holiness. Seek Him for the fire that will purge you of impurities and make you clean. Seek Him for confidence, for boldness, for strength. Ask Him to uproot every fear in you and replace every area of fear with faith—full faith in His perfect love.

Do you believe that God loves you? Do you deep down, in your soul, have a peace in the Father’s tender regard for you?

If not, what is holding you back? Fear? Doubt? Guilt? One of the most helpful things I have heard about trusting in the Lord’s love for you is something like this: You feeling like God doesn’t love you doesn’t determine that He doesn’t love you.

Your feelings of condemnation don’t determine the truth. Go straight to His Word to discover His enormous love for you! There is NO condemnation in the Father’s eyes for those who are in Christ Jesus! (Rom. 8:1). Christ’s love is wide and long and high and deep for you (Eph. 3:18)! His love will NEVER let you go (Rom. 8:35-39). Check out what His Word says and then believe it, no matter what you feel!

God the Father is looking at you right now with the deepest love for you and you are sitting there believing that He doesn’t actually care that much. (Ouch.) Well, open your eyes, Beloved! Open your heart. This love isn’t like any love you’ve ever experienced from people before! God’s love knows no limits. He never stops loving you. He never stops delighting in you! He has pure, unrestrained delight in who you are: His Beloved son or daughter.

I pray that you would truly discover the infinite measure of love which God is pouring in your heart tonight. Because you hope in Him, He pours His love out in your heart through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Because you trust in Him, His love fights off the impurities and fills you with holiness.

God loves you and so He demands your whole heart. He gives His whole heart to you, now will you give your whole heart to Him?

Lord Jesus, set us free. Set us free. Set us free to love in a radical way. Make known Your love for us in Christ Jesus who bled and died for us on the cross to restore us back into a relationship with You. You give and give and give and NEVER hold anything back from us! Let us receive the depths of Your love tonight and let it fill our beings so completely that nothing else has a place to stay. Nothing else! Has! A! Place! To! Stay! Lord Jesus, draw us close to You. Captivate us with Your love! Make us so in love with You that there’s nothing else we’d rather do but be with You. Pour out Your love in our hearts, Lord. Pour out Your love, over and over, until rivers of living water flow out from us and spill over into the lives of those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The truth is, without total surrender, we can never be totally set free from fear. Without complete abandon to the will of God, we can never be made complete in the love of God that is deep, genuine, and sacrificial. Surrender. Let go everything but the One who is holding on to you and will never let you go.

Give your whole heart to Him tonight. Start afresh and experience God’s love more deeply than you ever have before! He loves you SO dearly and holds you close to His heart.

I hope and pray you are blessed, refreshed, and encouraged tonight, Beloved!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7d_oYr-P16M

What are you longing for? (When you feel lonely during quarantine)

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Many people during this time don’t feel so much afraid as they feel alone. With more time to think and less opportunities to socialize, it can be easy to fall into depression or loneliness.

The other day I was taken up by a raw, aching loneliness inside me. It was so strong I didn’t know what to do with it. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t focus on my online schoolwork.

So I went on a long walk with my dog and breathed in the fresh air. Then I read a chapter in the novel, Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers. Throughout all of this, I poured out my longings to Jesus. I laid it all before Him. I ached with Him. I cried with Him. I shared the pain of my restless and lonely heart with Him.

“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” – Psalm 62:8

Jesus met me there with peace. So much, pure and perfect peace. And comfort. He understands what it’s like to feel alone. The people of his hometown rejected him. His disciples deserted him. Even God the Father left him alone, hanging on the cross to bear the sins of billions of people throughout history, in order to set humanity free from the power of sin and death.

“And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).” Mark 15:34

Can you hear Jesus’ aching heart, crying out to the Father, ringing out into the still, empty air? Even Jesus felt completely, utterly alone. It is not a sin to feel lonely. It is only human. And Jesus felt that part of humanity for us, so He could be with us when we ourselves feel alone.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Search your heart. Do you feel lonely? If so, what are you longing for? When you feel lonely, you can always be sure that it’s because you are longing for something. Are you longing for companionship? Are you longing for acceptance? Belonging? Intimacy? Affection? Love?

Ask yourself, my dear friend: What are you longing for…?

It’s okay to acknowledge your deepest desires. I know I have been guilty of hiding what’s really going on deep inside me. As long as my mind enforces the truth, it doesn’t matter how my heart feels. At least that’s what I’ve told myself.

“You have everything you need in Jesus.” “Jesus is enough.”

Yes, those are true. But how can I believe it if I don’t experience His all-sufficiency? How can I believe it if I don’t let Him into the deepest parts of my being and nourish and satisfy me with His love in those areas? Do I actually live like Jesus is enough for me or do I just say that He is? The only way to live like it’s true is to experience it yourself.

Your longings are too strong to ignore. I’m not saying that the truth you tell yourself isn’t true, but that you have to acknowledge your own weakness in order for the truth to get from your head to your heart. You have to lay yourself honestly and brokenly before God in order for Him to meet you where you’re at. You have to let Him fulfill your desires with Himself, no matter how intimate and vulnerable that may seem.

Because the truth is, you need Him! You need Him involved in every area of your life. If you pretend like a part of you doesn’t exist, you are going nowhere. You’re stuck trying to pretend like everything’s all right when it’s really not. You’re being proud. I know when I do this, I feel distant from God, just as I would feel distant from a friend if I withheld the truth from her. It’s the humble thing to do to acknowledge how needy you are for the Savior’s affection.

I have tried guarding my heart with mind games. “You aren’t ready for a relationship.” “This will never work out with this person because…”

While those might be helpful at some capacity, they don’t address what’s really going on. What’s really going on?

You need to be loved! And the truth is, you are refusing to go to Jesus with that need. Go to Him, Beloved! Bring it all before Him. He is tender, compassionate, and has deep affection for you. He died for you, to woo your heart to Himself. He longs for you more than you long for Himself!

The other day as I poured my longings out on Jesus, I experienced His “enoughness”. I truly felt like He was enough for me. I didn’t hide or ignore what was really going on. I laid it all before Him, and I felt His presence so near me, soothing me.

Yes, believing the truth in your head is important. But not if it never goes to your heart. Acknowledging the truth about your longings in your heart is what will really set you free.

It’s okay to feel lonely during this season of quarantining. The key is, it’s what you do with the loneliness that will either make you feel like God doesn’t care or make you see that Jesus is truly able to satisfy your deep longings.

And even then, the whole world is groaning for the day when Jesus will completely reveal His love to the Church with the fullest revelation. Let Jesus satisfy your desires for today; and be encouraged that even then, we are allowed to feel restless and look forward to more, because we have not received all that our souls were created for yet—the richness of God in heaven.

Cry out to Him, today, Beloved. Invite Him into the pain of your aching longings, and find hope and rest in His love.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

Freedom From Anxiety: How God Freed Me + 5 Steps of Faith for You to Take Towards Freedom

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Do you struggle with anxiety? Have you ever felt like you could never be at peace again?

Anxiety affects 19.1% of Americans today. It is a mental illness of, more often than not, irrational fears. It hurts, and it hurt me too, for several months this year. There were certainly a few times when it felt impossible to overcome, and impossible to ever be at peace of mind again. Peace seemed like a far-off dream or fantasy that I could never again obtain.

I didn’t really experience anxiety much until I entered college. Suddenly, I was thrown into a secular atmosphere with people very different from me, loads of school, and little sleep. Added to that were other pressures of life, such as the aching knowledge that so many people around me needed Jesus, and my hopelessness to make a difference in their lives.

The anxiety got its worst last May, during finals. In a future post (an essay I wrote for a Creative Nonfiction class this semester), I will go into more detail about what happened then. In short, I was taken to the hospital for a muscle spasm caused by stress and anxiety, and I never wanted to experience that type of pain ever again.

What I learned a few months ago through the wisdom and faith of a godly lady, I will surely never forget. I left her that day experiencing so much freedom and inexplicable peace. God had always had the ability, it was only a matter of me trusting that He did.

To this day, I have a lot of freedom from anxiety. Though it still creeps up on me from time to time, I now have a newfound faith in God’s ability to trump anxiety in my life.
I cannot go on living my life without sharing how I was healed here, for any of you out there who are in the same boat as I was: crippled by anxiety, uncertain of your identity, doubting the truth.

God is not a God of confusion, but a God of peace! Let your minds and hearts be at rest in the name of Jesus as your prepare to read the rest of this post. I bind the enemy in the name of Jesus from any distractions trying to get in the way. Jesus Christ has the full victory in your life, now and forever!

So here are some key things that helped me trust in God’s power to defeat my anxiety:

1. Recognize that fear is fake

Fear is a huge deceiver, enslaving so many people’s lives with irrational beliefs about reality. Fear makes you believe that the shadow in your room must be a monster. Only when you turn the light on do you realize how ridiculous it was for you to believe that—it was only your jacket hanging up in your closet! As children of God, we have nothing to be anxious about. God is in total control! Jesus Himself is sustaining all of life—even the mundane parts. Rest in Him!

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” – Colossians 1:17

2. Recognize the anxiety is NOT yours

If you are believing anything like I was – that anxiety defines you, that it is your anxiety, that you simply are an anxious person – then, Beloved of God, turn away from these false beliefs! Did God give you a spirit of fear or anxiety? Absolutely not! In fact, 2 Timothy 1:7 says just the opposite:

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (ESV)

You already have this powerful, loving, self-controlled spirit through your faith in Jesus! This strong, life-giving spirit is already yours–because you are a child of God, you have full access to it. If you experience anxiety, it is coming from an outside source – an anxious spirit – and it is imposing itself onto you, taking advantage of your lack of faith. But all along you are more than a conqueror through Jesus, and are more than able to claim the authority over it which Jesus has already given you (Matthew 28:18-20). Anxiety has no place in your life! Anxiety is not your true identity. Instead you are one with Christ, fully able to do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13). Praise God!

3. Recognize Jesus is stronger than your feeble efforts

Over the summer, I read a classic book called, The God of All Comfort (which I highly recommend!). The author, Hannah Whitall Smith, encourages readers to simply trust in God, especially trusting in His comfort, love, grace, and forgiveness. She touches on some key truths about God that may give us the faith to fully believe Him. She describes God’s presence as a dwelling place incapable of arousing fear or doubt, and completely full of the peace that passes all understanding. When you put your faith in Jesus and trust that you are as a state of being in the presence of God, there is peace.

But for many people, this requires a battle against the spiritual forces of evil around us. At another point in the book, Hannah exhorts the reader to put off all doubt and fear all together, to slam the door on it once and for all, and to claim once in for all the victory over them in the name of Jesus! I remember when I first read that, I paused in shock, reading it over again to see if I’d really just read that. Was this actually possible? And yet, a part of me had been thinking that it might be true. She had affirmed that it was.

And so, I made an attempt to do just that. The anxiety must go away—now and forever! But before I knew it, the anxiety came creeping back to me same as ever. What was wrong with me?

After talking with the wise woman of God, I realized that I had been trusting in my own power to slam the door shut on anxiety. I myself am utterly weak, but Jesus is strong in me! Trust in Jesus’ strength to overcome your weakness. Trust that His peaceful presence can submerge all doubts, fears and anxieties. Trust that He can and will have the full victory in your life if you only let Him!

As the same wise woman told me, the healing doesn’t have to be a process, it can happen in an instant. The instant we put our faith in Jesus’ full victory is the instant we are healed. More often than not, anxiety may keep trying to get a hold of you and may come in at times when we are not alert of it, but with faith in Jesus it has no long-lasting hold in your life! With faith in Jesus, you can keep slamming the door on it, no matter how many times it takes, until it becomes easier and easier for it to go away—until at last it is gone. Anxiety can go away the instant we recognize what is going on and put our full trust in the Son of God, it’s just a matter of perseverance and faith, no in our own strength, but in God’s.

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” – 1 John 5:4 (ESV)

4. Desire anxiety to be rid of in your life

Something particularly intriguing I realized as I made steps to freedom from anxiety, is that I truly had to want very badly for the anxiety to disappear. If I were indecisive of how much I wanted it to go away and I let it hang around like an old friend, then it would—naturally—get worse. The spirit of anxiety also, in a way, seemed so bent on enslaving me that it felt similar to what people would normally call temptations. It was as if the anxiety was tempting me to be anxious! I don’t know how the enemy gets you to be anxious, but that was a particular key part of my own personal struggle.

Realize that getting rid of your anxiety isn’t just about you, it’s about obeying God. It’s about submitting to Him so that you may experience a life of freedom that glorifies Him. Turn from anxiety and let peace rule in your heart, because it is what the Lord commands us!

“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)

5. Believe that God desires anxiety to flee from you, too!

Not only is anxiety something you want out of your life, and not only would being less anxious make you more fit for His kingdom, but the Lord genuinely cares for you, as the verse from the last sections indicates. Your Father in heaven can’t bear to see you suffer from anxiety! It breaks His heart. He is moved with pity and tenderness towards you. He sees it as no little thing for you to have such mental sickness. He wants to heal you! He loves you just because He is God, and you are His precious child, whom He created in your mother’s womb. He knew you before He even created you! Have no doubt in your mind that He values you and considers you worth freeing from anxiety. He longs to show compassion on you!

“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” – Isaiah 30:18

Now, Beloved, I have taken you along my journey of how God freed me from anxiety and how He can and wants to free you, too. Hear me out: there is a bright future ahead of you! Do NOT believe that anxiety is impossible to overcome because that is a lie straight from the devil. Have a little faith, even if it be just as small as a mustard seed, because our God is an awesome God!

The Lord is waiting patiently for you in hopes you will lay back in His arms and rest in His grace. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, nothing you do or don’t do can remove His love for you, or blot out His forgiveness that stretches as far as the east is from the west. He knows exactly where you’re at right now, and He can meet you right where you’re at with patience and tenderness, and at the same time with victory.

He freed me, so He can free you, too.

God is with you, Beloved! Where His presence is, there can be no doubts, fear, or anxiety but only peace. And so, may the peace of God truly be with you, at all times and in every way. (2 Thess. 3:16)

Have a wonderful day, abiding in the Lord’s peaceful dwelling place!

 

Do you struggle with anxiety? Do you have questions for me about how to overcome it? Comment below—I would be so happy to encourage you further into the freedom you have been given in Christ!

 

How Tenderness Awakens Us: Accepting Your Identity as Abba’s Child

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How do you think God perceives you? Many of us might say with a shrug, “Well, the Bible says He loves me, so I suppose that means He loves me.”

So many of us have all this theological, intellectual head knowledge stifled up inside us overflowing so there’s no room for our hearts to truly be affected.

It’s just facts.

But when it comes to actual, practical, nitty gritty “real life,” everything’s different. When we mess up, we curse ourselves. When we enter social settings, insecurities pile up and stifle our true selves. When others point out our faults, we feel like completely miserable good-for-nothing creatures. When we try to follow God, it feels fake and we’re left empty.

We assume that when our hearts condemn us, God must condemn us, too. But that is so far from the truth!

“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:19-20 (ESV)

God is greater than our hearts! In fact, the very reason Jesus came into the world was to free us from condemnation.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

I apologize to anyone reading this who knows me and has seen me live with a hard fist against myself. I don’t want you to think that my good Shepherd isn’t taking care of me. It wasn’t His fault at all, it was my own. The truth is, He has been a good Shepherd this whole time, but for much of my life I didn’t fully entrust myself into His loving care, and was left a starved, straggly-looking sheep.

I want you to know that my God is a God of comfort, and that knowing Him brings the deepest delight. In Him there is life, and life to the fullest. (John 10:10) As I begin to know Him more, I begin to trust Him more. And as I trust Him more, I feel less inclined to condemn myself and more inclined to give it all up to Him and let Him free me from all the darkness within me.

So, yes, beloved. In Christ, there is NO CONDEMNATION. The condemnation we feel is a LIE. It’s not from God but straight from the devil! He tries to tear us down so we can have no confidence before God. But God doesn’t want us to feel perpetually condemned, but only temporarily guilty when we have sinned so we can be forgiven and then have confidence before Him!

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” – Ephesians 3:12

This past semester I was reading a book called Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning (which I highly recommend!) and this was a quote that stuck out to me:

“But we cannot assume that He feels about us the way we feel about ourselves—unless we love ourselves compassionately, intensely, and freely.”

I don’t think any of us can say we love ourselves as deeply and unconditionally in the manner which God reveals His love toward us. But the truth is, while we go off condemning ourselves, God is extravagantly loving us!

If we would only accept this unwavering acceptance God shows us, what freedom we would have!

Later in the book, Manning states: “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

God calls us Beloved! Take this to heart. Rejecting His tender voice is the same as rejecting Himself. Rejecting our identity as His Beloved is the same as rejecting Himself.

If God is love, but we believe that we are not loved by God or that His love isn’t enough to erase the condemnation we deserve, then we don’t really believe that God is who He claims to be. We don’t believe in the real God, but a masqueraded version of Him that has poured His wrath on ourselves rather than on Jesus, who willingly took our place on the cross of shame! If in Christ we have life to the full because of His resurrection, then, quite plainly, if we believe in the real God we will have life to the full!

If we insist on condemning ourselves, then as we move forward in walking in obedience to Christ, our actions will be external, marked by fear instead of faith. If we insist to our souls that God deeply cares for us, then we can move forward to serve God, internally affected by His love, and acting out of faith in Him.

Knowing deeply God as your Father and experiencing His love for you teaches your soul to love others, as Christ has commanded us. Rather than treat people flippantly, we can reach their hearts with authentic, genuine tenderness which we ourselves have received from God.

Later on Manning explains this concept this way: “If I am not in touch with my own belovedness, then I can’t touch the sacredness of others.”

People are sacred, because they were created in the image of God. They have souls. They have needs within their souls, deep longings to be loved and known. Hunger, whether they realize it or not, to be filled with the fullness of the living God.

When you yourself have been utterly swept up in His love, all your defenses broken down, and all your fears melted away, the way you interact with others changes. No longer are you insecure, prideful, or self-seeking. Now all you know is the Lord’s tenderness, and so you express that to others, seeking for their well-being and caring for their hearts, just as the Lord has done for you.

This isn’t just obeying God anymore. While it is that, too, it’s also abiding in Him. Loving Him. Being united with Him.

It’s not acting out of a false identity anymore, like a white-washed wall that is ugly when you look passed the surface. You’ve been changed from the inside out. You naturally live as the Lord wishes to, because the Lord is your good Shepherd who is taking care of you. Why would you run away from Him and try to take care of yourself, when you know you are a helpless and silly sheep who cannot find green pastures on your own? Or why would you entrust yourself to a Shepherd who starves his flock?

In either of these cases, you would simply be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Trying and trying to look good on the outside, but starving on the inside. Being outwardly a decent human but inside being a wretch who desperately needs to be rescued and cared for by the good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. (John 10:11)

In Abba’s Child, Manning calls the false identity “the imposter” while living in our true identity requires accepting our identity as God’s Beloved and living each day in the victorious reality of Christ’s resurrection.

“The imposter starts to shrink only when he is acknowledged, embraced, and accepted. The self-acceptance that flows from embracing my core identity as Abba’s child enables me to encounter my utter brokenness with uncompromising honesty and complete abandon to the mercy of God.”

Accept that you have a white-washed wall, and then brutally tear it down. Let God rebuild you into a new, beautiful creation, that is at the core His Beloved, and at the core exempt from all condemnation.

Sink deep into this love, and don’t lose sight of the magnitude of the Lord’s tenderness toward you. His compassion never fails. Be completely honest with Him, and He will be sure to lead you into an authentic relationship with Him.

Never give up on pursuing Him, because He certainly will never give up on pursuing you, Beloved. Enjoy this song, and have a beautiful day!

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.)?

An Eternal Romance

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“Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.” — Psalm 146:3

People often talk about marriage as if that is the highest goal in life. As if once you are joined with another soul you are finally complete. As if trusting fully in another person is the greatest thing to pursue.

A few weeks ago, I went to a conference that radically challenged me in my view of marriage and God. Do I truly believe my relationship with Him is the most beautiful, satisfying relationship that exists?

Do you?

While many of us may theoretically believe this, I don’t think most of us believe it so completely that it transforms our everyday lives.

Below is a common passage about marriage and our relationship with God:

“’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:31-32

I used to think—oh, come on Paul! Why do you have to talk about Jesus right now, all I want to know is how on earth should married people behave!

Well, I’ve come to realize that Paul is making a crucial point. The relationship between husband and wife is merely a reflection of the greater reality—Christ and the church. That means that Christ and the church are united as one flesh, just as the Father and Son are one. When you believe in Jesus, you have entered into an eternal covenant with Him, and one day you and I will dine at the wedding feast with our dear Bridegroom, the Lamb of God, who has taken away the sins of the world!

Our relationship with God is certainly not like earthly romance. No, it’s even better (I’m not kidding). It’s an eternal romance, more satisfying than any other relationship we will ever experience.

And the best part is? Eternity starts now.

While our culture glorifies passion, sex, and romance, what we are really longing for is God Himself. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Every time a man knocks on a brothel door, he is really searching for God.”

We shouldn’t waste our time putting our trust in earthly princes or princesses. Human beings cannot save. They can’t save us from our loneliness. They can’t save us from our aching hearts. They can’t save us from our need to feel loved.

Really, truly, absolutely. God can fill this hole inside our hearts, and He will if we simply let Him. In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

Despite all the hype about marriage, there isn’t any marriage in heaven, as Jesus said:

“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” – Matthew 22:30

Marriage won’t matter after we die, so why are we spending our whole lives planning the day we trust in a spouse rather than right now choosing to trust in our Eternal King?

The relationship between husband and wife is a beautiful sacrament that reminds us of how beautiful the day will be when we meet Jesus face to face. It is good and honorable to marry, but just the same it is good and honorable to love others. Love friends, love family, love strangers, love God. All of this reflects the love of God, just as marriage does.

Whether or not you’re married or you will one day married, please, right now, make much of Christ. Make much of your romance with Him and less of your romance with people. Make much of your purity in Him and less of your passion with other people. Make much of your hopes in Him and less of your hopes in human beings who fail to satisfy.

Because He’s worth it. I can’t promise you anything, but He can promise you everything, and He does, over and over again in His word.

I read Psalm 146:3 last night, letting it sink into me as I turned my affections completely to Christ. When I read further, I grew more in awe of the God who is nowhere near to being a frail human incapable of saving us. He is the God who saves:

“Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.” Psalm 146:3-10

The Lord reigns forever; human beings do not. Who are you entrusting with the happiness of your soul? Only God can bear the weight of it, and fill your heart with total comfort.

My favorite song at the conference completely sums up what I learned there. After vainly striving after the things of this world, I always find my rest in God, because “to be with Him” is where I truly belong.

I have a light

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

At times, I feel absolutely helpless.

At times, I weep for the souls of millions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More

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Materialism consumes us

I hate the way it grabs my soul and screams, “I want more!”

The shiny item in the corner,

the colorful embroidery,

the empty screens with empty hope.

 

I want more,

But I don’t.

You may have heard it before,

But money doesn’t buy happiness

It only tempts you with its glassiness and shine–

I don’t have time

For this.

 

For this wasted space

For this fakeness

That if you get that t-shirt that’s destined to be yours

You’ll never be the same again.

 

“What you buy is what satisfies”—

Yes, that’s a lie,

But the truth is we’ll always be wanting

More.

 

More

To the core of me I always thought more was what I needed

And more was what I wanted—

But the truth is I’ve always wanted less.

 

And yet I’m not even saying that the motto “Less is best” is how you find perfect happiness

There’s a lot of folks in poverty

Who find themselves in misery because they can’t have more

No matter how hard they try.

 

And you know why?

The secret to your dreams isn’t what you buy

It’s how you fly despite the leftovers

Despite the broken cords or the lack of flavor.

 

It’s how you fly when you’re high

And even when you’re low

It’s how you respond when deep inside you’re screaming, “I want more!”

It’s how you say with a smile, “I have more.”

 

The secret to serenity

Is taking what you got and being content with what you have.

Because when you eat the Bread of Life and drink the blood of Christ

What you have is the only thing that will last

And you don’t need anything more.

 

“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 (NIV)

 

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” – John 6:54 (NIV)

 

 

 

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