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.

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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!

Finding Freedom From the Fear of Man

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

I want to be free.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love isn’t always smiling

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

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

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

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

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

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

But is that true love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Message to Those Who Have Been Hurt by the Church

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Dear friends,
I’m sorry for the Christians who didn’t love you,
For the Christians who followed a Jesus who
Didn’t eat with sinners
Or shunned the ones who didn’t have it all together.

I’m sorry for the Christians
Who created an atmosphere of fear
Where you had to wear a mask or try to be someone you weren’t,
When deep inside,
You were filled with hurt.

I’m sorry for the Christians
Who didn’t know what grace was,
Who thought they had to convince you to join their side
With hate when the truth is only found in love.

I’m so sorry you were hurt
By those Christians–
those imperfect persons
Who failed to show you who God really is.

Dear friends,
I hope you find who Jesus really is;
A person who lavishes love on you
No matter what you did–
A love so genuine and beautiful that it doesn’t make sense.

I hope you discover that a life with Him
Is like living in an atmosphere of grace,
Where you don’t have to pretend to be anything but who you really are;
And when you show Him your hurt,
He can heal your scars.

I hope you rejoice
In the grace He pours out on you,
And find that the truth only comes
When you turn from the hate and walk in His love.

Dear friend,
I hope you find safety in God’s embrace,
And find the courage to embrace
Every imperfect person,
Including myself–
And that, together, we can learn to show the world
Who God really is.

 

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:9-11

 

 

The Gospel Explained to a Child

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

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

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

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

Imagine if someone did that for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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! ❤

 

Mentorship, Rest, and 5 Favorite Quotes from a Beloved Classic

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I don’t know what to write today… So I’ll just start writing and see what happens!

I am learning how important mentorship and discipleship is. I think it’s the most encouraging and most important part of the Christian walk, and yet so many churches neglect it. I don’t have much more to say about that, but nevertheless it deserves some attention. Maybe someday I will be able to write a whole article about it, or even a whole book, but not today.

Today I’ll just encourage you to, if you haven’t already, join a small group! Find a mentor for yourself. Find someone to mentor. Go somewhere where you can grow close to Jesus in the community of other believers. One-on-one mentorship has been the most influential in my life. And it’s remarkable how willing people actually are to be mentored.

God works through the small, seemingly weak things like two people meeting for coffee far more than through bigger endeavors like megachurches that don’t offer people much besides a sermon. It saddens me that the church so often fails to meet the needs of these people who are so eager to grow in their walk with God.

Lately I’ve been grasping a powerful little word called rest. The start of a new semester doesn’t mean the end of rest. With God, you can rest anytime and anywhere, even while doing hard, laborious tasks, because it’s not you doing anything, it’s Christ living in you. The more we strive, the more we diminish Christ’s light shining through us. By resting in Him, we show the world that He is a solid rock to stand upon.

Another thing. I was reading Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard over break, and let me just say that I highly recommend it! Following Jesus is an epic adventure, and God is constantly leading us through trials that don’t make sense but are the only way to discover Joy and Peace.

My five favorite quotes from Hinds’ Feet are (because there are too many good quotes and so many of them are worth sharing):

1. Human Love is How we Learn to Love God

“This instinct for love, so firmly implanted in the human heart, is the supreme way by which we learn to desire and love God himself above all else.”

2. God’s Love is How we learn to Love People

“…it is only up on the High Places of Love that anyone can receive the power to pour themselves down in an utter abandonment of self-will.”

3. God’s Will is Always Safe

“Remember also that it is always safe to obey my voice, even if it seems to call you to paths which look impossible or even crazy.”

4. A Wonderful Meaning to Sorrow

“She had the feeling that somehow, in the very far-off ages, there would be a meaning found to all sorrow and an answer too fair and wonderful to be as yet understood.”

5. One Passionate Desire

“However, it had opened her eyes to the fact that right down in the depths of her own heart she really had but one passionate desire, not for the things which the Shepherd had promised, but for himself. All she wanted was to be allowed to follow him forever.”

So those are some main things that have been on my heart lately. I hope this is a blessing to you! May you walk in love today, always captivated by 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”

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.)?