Living in Fear vs. Abiding in Love

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

It can be easy to live in fear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

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

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

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

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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

 

 

A Message to The Hurting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How God Grew Me in 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Jesus Frees Us From Religion

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“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2

I have this burden. I have this burden that I try to carry to try to prove to myself that I really try to do my best. I try.

But I am learning how very weak I am. And I am learning how it actually is dangerous to try to carry the weight of the world on my own. It’s foolish.

Because I can never meet up to the standards God requires. You can’t. None of us can.

When you think of religion, you probably think of a life of ritual–mechanically uttering certain prayers at certain times, caring for the weak out of mere obligation, performing various righteous duties and so forth.

What is this idol we have constructed?

It saddens me to think of how many people are trapped in an endless cycle of duty.  Religion is damaging. Hurtful. Dangerous. I say this because so often it looks like a good thing from the outside, but on the inside it is a burden of stones that people make efforts to carry in order to feel they are a “good” person.

The thing is, doing the right things doesn’t necessarily mean our heart is good enough for heaven.

God can see past our actions and deep into the hidden places of our hearts. The Bible is clear that no one who tries to reach heaven with good deeds will succeed.

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” – Isaiah 64:6

We need to recognize how religion can be a trap that myselfthose with the best intentions can fall into. Nothing we can do can make us any better of a person. Sin always clings to us in one form or another.

So then how do we follow Jesus? Doesn’t Jesus say, “If you love Me, keep my commands” ? (John 14:15)

Yes, He does. But too many people, like myself, take this verse and think, “Oh, so I just need to obey His commands to prove that I love Him.”

But how can I prove anything to God, who knows the deepest, most secret parts about me? We can’t. I am realizing how futile it is to “muster” up love for our wonderful Savior. God sees right past that. We need to look at this verse differently.

We are NOT to obey His commands to somehow prove that we love Him. Instead, the commands come naturally when we truly, genuinely love Jesus.

And what reason do we have to love Him? 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”

It’s that simple. We love because He first loved us, not because we are trying to get people to like us, not because we are trying to convert people, not because we are trying to prove that we are saved.

Once we truly experience the unconditional love of God, we are never the same again. When His love resides in us, it flows naturally out towards other people. God’s love is so deep, reaching hearts with the truest care and thoughtfulness, without any ulterior motives.

God’s love is something that we can completely, totally, and absolutely rest in.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:16-19

We obey God’s commands because we love Him, and we love Him, because He first loved us. It’s all because of Jesus that we have any hope. It’s all because of Him that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s all through Him that His joy can be our strength. And it’s through Him that we inherit eternal life.

We need to spend our whole lives focusing on that one word: love. Because once we fall  in love with Jesus, the rest will follow, without us vainly striving for perfection.

Religion is nothing compared to the love of God.

It is nothing compared to the everlasting relationship we can have with Him because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It is nothing compared to the rest our souls can experience when we lay all of our burdens at Jesus’ feet, and let Him love people through us. (Gal. 2:20) After all, loving God and loving others are the greatest commandments! (Matthew 22:37) And this is what we are called to do when we walk in the joyous freedom of God’s love.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” – Galatians 5:13 ESV

Today, and every day, I want to recognize my need for Jesus to carry my burdens. There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Once you confess your sins to Him, you are free. I am free.

So stop trying to be religious! Take a breath of the deep, deep love of Jesus. Be still and know that He is God. The only burden we have is easy and light. And it is the burden of complete and total trust that God really does have our backs.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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.” – Matthew 11:28-30