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

Intimacy with God, part 2: 5 Reasons Why the Connection Might Feel “Off”

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To read “Intimacy with God, part 1: What is Intimacy?” click here.

Do you ever feel “stuck” in your relationship with God? Like there’s a plug in the sink that’s blocking off the connection? Or do you ever feel like you’ve never really felt connected to God in the first place? Whatever the case, there’s just this feeling, you don’t know what it is, but just this feeling of disconnectedness, distance, and lack of love, desire, and joy in relating to God.

Have you ever felt like that?

I know I have.

When I was in my early teens, I yearned for the feeling of being close with God. Somewhere inside me, I knew that’s what I needed, that’s what I wanted, and that’s what I was searching for.

And so I searched. I sought after Him. I prayed. I studied the Bible. But the single most earth-shattering truth that brought me into intimacy with God was simple and it was this: God actually loved me.

When I believed in His love for me, when I really, truly, deep down believed, everything shifted. I didn’t just think He was with me, I was aware that He was with me. I didn’t just know He cared, I lay at His feet and I let Him love me. I didn’t just wonder what He was thinking, I began to hear His own thoughts, spoken to me through the Holy Spirit within me (1 Cor. 2:10).

When I experience God in this way, it means more to me than anything else in the world. And it means more to Him than it could ever mean to us! Drawing close to God pleases Him far more than any of our vain efforts to “impress” Him. Remember the story of Mary and Martha, when Jesus is gently rebuking Martha:

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” – Luke 10:41-42

As I’ve grown closer to God and experienced Him and been aware and in awe of His love for me, it becomes easy to notice whenever I suddenly feel like that connection isn’t fully there anymore.

And I ask God: Why? Why is the connection gone? What happened? I was having such close intimacy with You, and then it just disappeared, God. Why???

As I ponder what is going on that makes me feel off in my walk with the Lord, He has asked me at different moments to consider possible barriers that may be in the way of beautiful intimacy with Him. I detail these barriers below. Search your own heart and ask God to reveal to you what may be making your connection “off” today:

 

1. Sin.

This is the first and foremost thing we need to address if we want to be close to God! Don’t neglect bringing your sin into the Light. In the last post I talked about Psalm 139, how it describes the depths of God’s intimate knowledge about us. Because God knows us so well, ask Him to search your heart for any way you may have offended Him recently by sinning. Sin is rebellion against God, whether it is done purposefully or unknowingly. Any sin can be a blockage in your relationship with God. The Holy Spirit wants us to open our hearts to God’s loving gaze so we can become aware of what sin we need to remove from our lives, by God’s grace.

Side note: If you have never confessed your sins to God before, I encourage you to turn to God and do that right now! Through Jesus Christ you can be freed from sin and brought into a new life with Him (see John 3:16)! Your life will never be the same again!!! (See this post for more details.)

For those of you who have put your trust in Jesus, it is important to note that while you are completely covered in Jesus’ blood and are secure in God’s family, your relationship with your Heavenly Father will still feel distant if you are living in rebellion, unforgiveness, or in compromise, refusing to fully submit to Him. Check out Psalm 139, in verses 23 -24, where David prays humbly to God about his sin, an example for us to follow: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

This is a great prayer to pray if you feel distant from God! As you seek the Father, if He reveals any specific sin in your life, repent and turn to Him quickly, and then open your heart to receive His forgiveness! He SO wants to forgive you! Only when you receive His forgiveness fully will you be empowered from then on to live your life pleasing to Him in this area you have given Him control over.

And He is always, always waiting to forgive you! I know I have often wrongly wondered if God could ever forgive me if I kept messing up again and again. But the truth is: You are never too far from His grace! He is faithful and just in forgiving us, and He is faithful and just in restoring us back to Himself in full union with Him.

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

 

2. Lies.

Are you believing any lies about God? Catch yourself. Think about how you’ve been thinking, Beloved. Have you been degrading yourself, giving over to self-loathing or self-pity? Or have you been overthinking, because you don’t believe God is trustworthy enough to take control of your life? Or have you simply forgotten how much God loves you?

By all means, Beloved, stop believing lies! Don’t forget how wonderful God is. Ask God to show you His truth. Get deep in the Word and remind yourself of His unfailing, steadfast love for you. Discover His strength, His purity, His righteousness, His kindness, and all the goodness that He is.

Get to know God! Often, our wrong thinking is due to our wrong view of God. We think God is too small, or too haughty, or too harsh. These are lies straight from the devil! He is bigger than you can imagine, He is NOT too proud to overlook us, and He is tremendously patient and tender-hearted toward you.

He is not only ALL of these things, but He wants to be intimately involved in your life, no matter how messy it may be! He, after all, is the only One who can heal you, refine you, and shower you with the love you so desperately need. Get to know Jesus, because He is the truth, and the truth is what’s going to set you free!

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

 

3. Lack of Communication

This one just sounds like the #1 rule of relationships, right? Well, as it turns out, you are in a relationship with God, ladies and gentlemen! So, the same rules apply. 😉

Communicate with God how you really feel. All the frustration, worry, anger, pride—lay it all down. Express to God how you’re feeling deep down inside. How you’re struggling. Even though He knows everything about you, He wants you to share these intimate parts with Him so you can have a real relationship with Him! Tell Him your deep desires, your secret fears, your aching hopes, your heavy burdens, and your crazy dreams. He can handle it! And what’s more, He wants to meet the needs of your heart in ways you can’t even fathom! Every need, every burden, every longing, every hurt, every struggle, every pain, every fear, every little bit of unrest, everything—He wants you to lay all of that openly before Him. In your most vulnerable place, He will meet you with tenderness and care for you in the most loving ways. 

Don’t withhold any of your mess from Him! And don’t forget to share with Him all your joys, gratitude, and excitement with Him as well! Either one of these forms of honesty are so sweet to Him, like worship. As soon as you lay before Him how you’re doing, you will feel so free. And you’ll want to do it again and again—at all times, as the below Psalm urges us to do.

Come to God in your totally, completely honest place, and He will be so glad to meet you there. Pour out your heart to Him! Whether it be a disastrous mess or pure bliss, share it with Him, Beloved. He is your safe place. He is the safest place for you to be, whatever happens and wherever you go in life!

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

 

4. Lack of Surrender.

Are you willing to surrender all to God? This is not a question meant to bring guilt, but conviction. We will never be fully willing to surrender all to God. I have no idea what things I am not obeying God in and trusting God in. We will never achieve perfection in this earthly life, so we will never be completely surrendered to God, in the sense that we will never be fulfilling 100% of what God desires for us all the time, by our own efforts.

Oh… wait. Jesus, again? This is exactly where I’m going! Because you are covered in the blood of Jesus, you are fulfilling 100% of what God desires for you right now. He SO delights in you! He adores you! He finds you altogether beautiful, and He sees no flaw in you (Song of Songs 4:7). And that’s all because you were paid for at a high price, and you are clothed in robes of Jesus’ righteousness. Isn’t that incredible? God is so good!!!

So what do I mean when I challenge you to surrender? If God thinks so well of us, why do we need to do anything He wants us to do? Well, precisely because He thinks so well of us, is why we should be more than willing and happy to do anything He asks of us!

Really! You read that right. Jesus is calling out to you and asking you to let go of the things of this world. He wants you to trust Him. He wants you to believe that He is in complete control of all things and that He is worthy of your everything.

Nothing you surrender to Him truly matters in light of eternity, so you don’t need to be afraid that you will lose anything of ultimate value if you surrender to Him. Choosing Him above all else means you gain everything that truly matters!!!

Jesus is ALL that matters! Because Jesus has offered us the fullest life possible with Him now and forever, everything else we have once treasured so highly in life should not mean so much to us anymore. We should be willing to forsake anything that the Lord asks of us (Luke 9:23).

This does not at all mean we cannot enjoy this life! This means we need to, as Corrie Ten Boom said, “Hold loosely to the things of this life, so that if God requires them of you, it will be easy to let them go.”

And more often than not, there are things in our life which we must quickly rid ourselves of in order to draw near to God. The process may at first be painful, but on the other side there is always freedom!

Ask God to search your heart for what you need to get rid of. Often I find that removing distractions and hindrances leaves so much more space for God and I to have sweet fellowship together! You will be so grateful you did, and most of all, God will feel so pleased with you, Beloved.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” – Hebrews 12:1-2a (boldness added by me)

So ask yourself, honestly, what is distracting you from God today?

 

5. Lack of Desire

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m plagued by flat-out indifference or apathy toward God. This lack of desire and love for God leads straight to complacency if I don’t do anything about it. Don’t let yourself fall into complacency. Let God burn a fire in your soul for Himself alone! He is so abundantly worthy of all our passions and affections!

So, how do we get ourselves out of this rut of apathy?

Well, just because you don’t feel love for Him or feel that He loves you, doesn’t mean that you have absolutely no desire for Him, or that He has no desire for you. Don’t let the devil get you to believe that your feelings determine reality! The truth is, that no matter what happens with your relationship with God, even if you feel completely emotionless toward Him, you can always be sure of one thing: He loves you.

So, in spite of your lack of desire or love for Him, in spite of you becoming apathetic toward Him, in spite of you feeling weary and tired of everything, He wants to be ever so near to you, Beloved. It was never about your love for Him, anyway. It was always about His love for you! Let His love refresh your soul! Your apathy is a sign that you need God more than ever.

Ask God for more of a desire for Him. Ask Him for a greater revelation of His love for you. When I tell you to ask God for things, I’m not at all saying it because its the easy thing to say, I’m saying it because I really mean it! These are things you can ask God for that He is all so willing to give you.

Pray in faith that He longs to give them to you and He will soon do that beautiful work in your life. Jesus isn’t kidding when He says in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” What a wonderful promise that is!

After you ask God for more desire for Him, soon, sure enough, you will find a greater love for Him in your heart. A greater desire to do His will and walk in obedience to Him. None of these beautiful things we find in our hearts were ever from us, anyway! Faith, love, desire–all come from God! We need to continually ask for more of Himself and continually want more of Himself, or we will slide into apathy and then soon after into complacency.

So, ask Him, Beloved! Seek Him with all your heart. Knock confidently at His door. He is just waiting on the other side to respond.

 

 

In conclusion, sin, lies, lack of communication, lack of surrender, and lack of desire are some possible barriers between yourself in God. Take an honest look at yourself. Let God reveal to you what the issue is for you specifically. It could for sure be a combination of these things, as many of them are interwoven together.

The root of all these problems is simple: a lack of faith. When we don’t trust that God is better than our sin, when we don’t trust Him for who He really is, when we don’t trust that He cares enough to continually hear how we’re doing, when we don’t trust that God is better than any earthly distraction, when we don’t trust that God is  worthy of our pursuit even when we don’t feel like it–when we don’t trust God in any of these ways, there is inevitably a barrier between us and again. Pray in faith, asking for more faith, and choosing to believe God in all of these ways!

Whenever I feel like my connection with God is “off,” I search my heart and He often reveals one or more of these things to me that is a blockage in our relationship. He is so faithful, and He wants us to remove all hindrances so we can have full intimacy with Him!

You may be wondering: But how? How do I have “full intimacy” with God once I remove all these barriers. What in the world does that mean??? That’s what I’ll be covering in my 3rd and final post in this series about “Intimacy with God.” (It will be about abiding in Him.)

Today, pray and seek the Lord about why you feel distant from Him. Ask others to pray for you. I will pray for you as well.

I will pray that you have a wonderfully intimate time spent with the Lord today, free from all barrier and restrictions and overflowing with the Love of God! And as Hosea wooed Gomer the prostitute, I pray you experience God’s love for you in the midst of yourself dishonoring His name, and that you find His grace is sufficient for you now and always.

I hope you truly have a beautiful day! Enjoy the song below as well. ❤

“He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.” – Job 36:16

“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.” – Hosea 14:4

P.S. Originally, I had two title ideas for two separate posts related to intimacy with God: “Let God Break Down Your Defenses,” and “Be Totally and Completely Honest With Him.” I decided to condense those ideas into one uniform idea in this post. And in my next and final post, I will be talking about abiding in the Lord, while including the very important part of wanting Him more than anything (which was previously going to be in a separate post).

The Quiet Heart of A Child

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“My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.” – Psalm 131:1-3

Calm yourselves, overthinkers. Rest, those who are weary. Quiet yourselves, those who feel condemned. There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). You have absolutely no reason to be condemned, or to be exhausted, or to try to fix all your problems. Do NOT concern yourself with things out of your control!

Humble yourself and relax in the Father’s arms. He is really with you, holding you. Stop striving and struggling to get out of His embrace. His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

You are a royal child of the King of Kings—and this is NO exaggeration! Through the shedding of Jesus Christ’s blood, you are saved from eternal condemnation. You have rest in the Father’s love. And you have the quiet assurance that God is in control of your whole life, working everything out for your good, because you love Him.

Do not belittle yourself with the uncertainty of if you love God. You know that He is worth loving. Worth serving. Worth worshipping and praising for all eternity. You know that deep in your heart. This isn’t about feeling love for Him, this is about showing up and trusting. Trust and receive His goodness and mercy. Ask for a changed heart, a quiet heart, a childlike heart. A heart that knows Him and loves Him. That’s all you need.

Put your hope in the Lord, children of God. He is a tender Father, merciful, patient, and forgiving, if we only turn from our sins and come running into His arms. Through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, we have fullness of life.

Relax. Completely relax as if you were a weaned child in her mother’s arms. Take a deep breath. Be certain that your Father will never let you go. You are securely attached to Him. Whatever has been on your mind bears no important in light of eternity. Your life is but a passing vapor, a mist that appears for only a second, and then disappears. He has everything under control. He is taking perfect care of you. 

Your life is meant to be lived in the presence of the Holy One.

So — Live in His presence! Abide. Dwell. Rest. Soak in the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord (Romans 11:33). Through Jesus Christ, you have everything you need, everything your redeemed Spirit-filled heart desires. Just stop paying attention to all those things that fill you with pride, and turn your undivided attention to the One who created your soul. You won’t be left empty! He has the things that have eternal weight and value. Only abiding in the Father’s love, following the good Shepherd, and living by the Spirit will have any lasting importance.

To have intimacy with Christ, is to be completely absorbed in Him. To not want anything besides Him. For Him to truly be your All in All. If you can’t say that about yourself, have no fear. As the man desiring healing for his demon-possessed son exclaimed: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

The Lord will help you if you only ask for help. Trust Him. Seek Him wholeheartedly. Step into the identity He has given you with full assurance that the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Step out in faith, trusting that God knows what He is doing, and He can shine His glory and power through your utter weakness. Dig into the Word; pray your heart out; listen to the voice of God. He is speaking. He answers. He cares.

“Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” – Psalm 116:2

Don’t give up! If there seems to be a void left unfilled, a question unanswered, that is only the testing, the trying. He doesn’t always speak in the ways we expect, but He always speaks.

Have perseverance, be faithful to the One who will always be faithful to you (2 Timothy 2:13). Take heart; He has overcome the world (John 16:33). The only thing left for you to do is to overcome your unbelief. And all that requires is a simple, childlike request for more faith.

Freely Flowing

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I want to live like I write – flowing and flowing – every moment rich and full with meaning – not missing a beat – catching the present moment and soaking it in – deeply soaking, dreaming of now. Being there—no, right here – and not in the clouds – taking in everything as it is and nothing more. – I don’t want to assume or to wonder or to ponder over hidden things that I do not know – I want to enjoy what I do have – to breathe without panting – to climb the cliff without pausing and waiting over the dreaded heights. I don’t want to panic – I want to jump overboard with joy and breathe in the sweet aroma of peace. What is it that keeps me from freely flowing whenever I go out and live? What is it that stops me and breaks me into a million pieces leaving me wandering and wanting for more? Dear Lord, help me, because I want to die. Either that or I want to thrive – I don’t want to be stuck in the middle – just wishing. Please, set me free. Give me a life of humility under Your wings, living in safety. Then I can flow out like a river and be like streams of water and find the ocean to spread out and wander farther than I can see. Being with You right here – Lord, teach me how! To be freely flowing, every moment rich and full with meaning – living just like I’m writing right now.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…” – Galatians 5:1

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

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

Are you burdened by a yoke of slavery?

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

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

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

And, praise God–there is!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beholding. Trusting. Abiding. Resting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My simple answer: stop focusing on yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Meets Us in the Midst of Anxiety

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Sometimes I feel like I have to reach a certain spiritual mental state in order to experience God. I’m sure there’s people out there who can relate. The joy of the Lord should be our strength, the peace of God should guard our hearts, and the freedom of Christ should set us free.

Right?

But too often my anxiety holds me back from all this. From true, confident hope. From Him.

How can we dance in His presence when anxiety holds us in bondage? How can we follow God when we don’t feel Him?

It’s true that following God brings about joy, peace, and freedom, but these don’t come to us when we search for them. They don’t come to us when we try to make ourselves dance because we ought to.

They only come when we seek Jesus. When we contemplate Him in all His magnificence. When we open our hearts and let Him in to dine with us. When we truly, honestly enjoy Him, because He is worthy of our joy.

In the midst of anxiety, I often can’t fathom how to enjoy Jesus. I’m too worried about myself worrying too much.

And sometimes that’s okay. God doesn’t need us to enjoy Him. God doesn’t need us to be psychologically healthy. He is capable of meeting us right where we are at to simply be with us. To comfort us. To whisper gently to us reminders of His unfailing love.

He is capable of healing our minds.

When all you can think about is that one problem that keeps running over in your head, God whispers, “I’m here.”

He doesn’t shout it, He doesn’t force us out of our vicious cycle of anxiety, He doesn’t condemn us for our misery.

He holds us. He gives grace to our minds. He guides us to lay everything before Him and just rest. God is greater than any problem we have, so we can rest in Him with the assurance that He has everything under control.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7

Notice how the verse before the “anxiety” verse tells us to humble ourselves. It takes humility to release control of whatever problem we have and trust that God is great enough to hold it in His hands and take care of it for us. And at the same time, during all of this He is gentle enough to hold us in His hands and take care of us.

Once we release control and find rest in our Lord, something beautiful happens.
Peace. Freedom. Joy.

You soon find yourself dancing in His presence!

It’s amazing when you realize you really are not the one in control. He is. His plan is perfect. His mercies our new every morning. His love is better than life (Psalm 63:3).
Jesus is risen from the dead, alive and active inside of us to this very day, with victory over death and power over sin!

Take His words to heart. Enjoy Jesus, not because you have to, but because He heals you. He gives grace to your mind. And He always meets you right where you’re at, not where you wish you’d be.

This is a (kinda groovy) hopeful song that helps me “stay steady” in the Lord instead of letting anxiety get to me!

Have a blessed week, and peace be with you! ❤

Nothing to prove

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is faithful.

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

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

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

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

A few thoughts on Evangelism, Control, and Humility

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I’m going to be taking a break from blogging for awhile, as I get settled into the new semester. I also just need to take a break from sharing what I’m learning so I can sit back and allow God to just teach me things. Because–surprise, surprise–I still haven’t figured this life out yet! There is always so much more to learn. We’ll still have a lot of questions on our death bed, but thank God there is an eternity full of answers!

Before I take my leave from the blogging world, I want to share a few videos that capture some concepts I’ve been learning better than I can explain with a lot of words.

  1. Evangelism made easy! This video sounds too good to be true, but when I watched it, I was really touched by his words, which seem very well backed up with the Bible. We’re not supposed to be sleazy salesmen of the gospel. We’re called to represent Christ’s unconditional love to people, with no ulterior motives, and out of those pure intentions come the words of life and hope that people desperately need to hear.

2. Control. This song really brought into light some things I’ve been wrestling with. I want so badly to be in control of situations, and it’s so hard to trust that Jesus is my good Shepherd guiding me on the right paths. Do I really believe that God is Sovereign? Do I believe that He orchestrates the details of circumstances for my ultimate good? Really, all we have to do is take little steps of faith, be open-hearted towards people, and let God work the rest out. He is our strength and our shield. Even if the earth crumbles beneath our feet, we are still secure in Him.

3. Humility. As C.S. Lewis explained, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Which means thinking of others more! And a person who is always thinking of others is not passive. A humble person is actually a very active person! Definitely some food for thought.

I hope one or more of these videos is an encouragement to you! Goodbye for now, and may you fix your eyes continually on our wonderful Redeemer, Jesus! ❤

 

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”