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).

Intimacy with God, Part 1: What is Intimacy?

 

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This is one of 5 parts in a series of articles titled “Intimacy with God.” My personal intimacy with God has meant everything to me, so I cannot emphasize enough the power and beauty of drawing near to God in a daily, intimate relationship with Him. I hope you enjoy reading these, and enjoy drawing nearer to our gracious God, because in return He promises to draw near to you (James 4:8).

How do you feel when you hear the phrase “intimacy with God”?

Recently, a small group leader in a biblical healing class asked us this question. Understandably, it was met by some hesitation.

Two years ago, I would have felt the same uneasiness. I felt like there was a certain place a person could reach in their relationship with God, and that I had not arrived there yet. There was a place so deep, so pure, so close, so exciting, so wonderful, and so beautiful to be—and it was with God. I just knew it. So, how was I supposed to get there? Such deep intimacy with God seemed impossible! And too good to be true.

But soon, I learned with great surprise and joy that intimacy with God was true, and not only that, but it was better than I could have ever imagined.

What is intimacy anyway? I’m not asking what the culture’s definition of it is (a one nightstand, perhaps), but what the best kind of intimacy is: being close to God. This kind of intimacy is what our hearts are all longing for, whether we know it or not.

Nevertheless, instead of coming to God, we so often search in empty and barren places, in hopes that mere men or women, fame or money will fill our deepest desires.
In the Bible, the Hebrew word “yada” is used to mean “to know intimately, to understand, to experience.” (If you want to read more about intimacy with God aside from my blog post, check this informative article out.)

This “yada” is a great word to look at in our study of intimacy, because it encapsulates what we are searching for to fill our longings: someone to know us. To really know us. And to still, somehow, love us deeply, passionately, and tenderly, in spite of the dirty things we have ever done or thought.

Interestingly, the word “yada” is used both in Genesis 4:1, “Adam knew Eve,” and the many times David says “know” in Psalm 139, as in verse 1, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.” How is it that the same word “yada” is used for two seemingly different topics (Adam and Eve’s sex vs. David’s relationship with God)? Well, in English we have it tricky, because we have only one word for “know.”

In Spanish, for example, there are two different words for “know”: “saber” which means to know about something, like information, and “conocer” which means to really know a person, rather than just know about them. The word “conocer” often refers to knowing or being familiar with a person, rather than a surface level ability to know that, say, the capital of China is Beijing.

In a similar fashion as “conocer”, the Hebrew word “yada” isn’t your typical word for “know.” God doesn’t merely know information about us. He doesn’t simply know that we are smart or clumsy or talented or naïve. While He does know certain things about us at face value, His knowing goes far beyond the facts. He knows our hearts. Our faults. Our shortcomings. Our desires. Our longings. Our hopes. Our fears. Our dreams.

God knows every single part of us. He knows us intimately. From the beginning, He has known all about us. And not only that, but He loves us in spite of our deep failure. Because God knows us and loves so well, He made intimate knowledge of Himself and intimate communication with Him available to us through His Son’s sacrifice on the cross. Jesus paid His very own life to pull us out of the muddy pit where we have rebelled against God—all so we could come to intimately know God in a personal relationship with Him!

And this is all because God desires deeply for us to come back into relationship with Him. He desires this because knows all about us and loves us anyway. He knows us completely and thoroughly for all that we really are and all that we really do. In Psalm 139, David was well aware of God’s intimate knowledge of himself:

“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.”

Wow! God knows us so well. These are only the first six verses of this Psalm. I encourage you to go and read the entire Psalm when you are finished with this post. It is one of my favorite Psalms, because of how close to God it makes me feel. It is so full of God’s intimate knowledge of David, which transfers to that same intimate knowledge He has of us. For example, in verses 17-18, it talks about how God numbers each one of our thoughts and regards them as precious! God is so wild about us that He would be so careful and thoughtful to do a thing like that. He so adores us and is pleased with us! (Can we just appreciate God for a moment? He is pretty sweet. Hallelujah!)

Getting to know a person is a huge part of loving that person. When you meet up with a  new friend or significant other you are dating, you naturally have a desire to get to know them more. The reality that God knows EVERYTHING about us and still hasn’t struck us with lightening bolts is pretty significant.

He is mighty, He is holy, He is just, but He is also faithful, merciful, and full of steadfast love. He desires good for us. And it is plain for Him to see that, in all honesty, getting to know Him intimately is what will do us the most good in our lives. This isn’t pride or arrogance, this is pure, honest, love. It would be selfish for Him to withhold knowledge of Himself from us, just like it would be selfish for a friend to ignore us and not keep us updated on how they are doing—how they are really doing. He allows us to get to know Him by filling us with the Holy Spirit, once we put our trust in His perfect Son, Jesus, for our salvation. He reveals to us the deep things about Himself through His Spirit inside of us!

“However, as it is written:
‘What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived’ —
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9-12

So, the Holy Spirit helps us get to know God in a deep, intimate way!

And through His Spirit, we have the ability to understand God’s primary source of knowledge about Himself: His Word! Always, always, always, go to His Word, the Bible as your safe place to get to know God with full certainty that everything in it is true. Unlike every other book in the world, the Bible has not one trace of a lie in it. God has provided His Word so we can stand our ground on what He says is true! (2 Timothy 3:16).

The Bible is powerful and God-breathed, but as we read it we must keep in mind that it is only a way of getting to know God! Getting to know God in a personal way goes much deeper than simply reading off a few verses and then rushing off to work or school. We need to not merely listen to the truth, but do what it says (James 1:22). And not only that, but we need to get to know the Truth as it really is, a person (Jesus), and get to know Him intimately and personally! Only then can we do what His Word says out of love for Him, and not out of false religion.

The truth is, you don’t get your life from the Bible, you get your life from Jesus! Here Jesus says in John 5:39-40: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

Come to Jesus to have life! Get to know Him in a personal way, through reading and soaking in His Word, and through constant, faith-filled prayer.

For me, having intimacy with God has changed everything about my life for the better. I have always felt a deep need inside me to be loved. To be valued. Cherished. Adored. Delighted in. Important and special to someone. I have often felt that, and always thought, unconsciously, that some man out there would be able to fulfill that longing in my heart, someday.

Lately I have been pondering it more. No matter what “perfect” fantasy I have of the man I marry (when I am not taking my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ as it says to in 2 Cor. 10:5), the Only one who can truly make that fantasy become a reality is God Himself. He doesn’t romance our hormones; He romances our heart and soul, our entire beings!

Get beyond the ideas of sex and romance culture imposes on us and listen to the heart of God, to the dream that He allows for us to come true: being intimately known and loved by Him, and given the offer to intimately know and love Him in return.

This is SO much better than earthly romance! Really. I have experienced it myself, and it is soooo true! Being laid bare before God can at first seem intimidating, frightening, and far too vulnerable, but you will soon find that your vulnerability leads to deeper trust in Him, because as it turns out, God doesn’t hurt us when we are painfully honest with Him. Instead, He leads us patiently out of our sin and into paths of life, joy, and peace, one step at a time.

I feel the Spirit weighing these words on my heart, so once again, I will say, with greatest sincerity and tenderness, Beloved: God doesn’t hurt you. He doesn’t hurt you in your honest, raw, naked moment. He knows all about you, but He doesn’t hurt you. Unlike every other human relationship, we can get close to God without Him hurting us with words or deeds at any moment. And not only is it in His entire nature to never hurt you, His child, but He graciously covers you with the blood of Jesus and fully accepts you into His family. Trust in the good Father, who wants nothing but to lavish good things on you! (Matthew 7:11)

I have come to a point where I often (not always) feel intimate with God. I am sensitive to His Spirit, and I pray to Him often. I have moments of deep peace and joy, where God lifts my burdens and gives rest to my weary soul. I have moments where God speaks to me about a specific area of my life that I need to bring to His loving gaze for mending and repair. I have moments where God reveals His truth to me in a powerful way that greatly encourages my heart.

I know God, and I love Him, and somehow He accepts me, in spite of my imperfections. Somehow He speaks to me and encourages me and helps me. Somehow He delights in me, and there are moments where I am deeply aware of His delight, and filled with His love. I am far from perfect, but God cleanses me daily through Jesus’ blood, allowing me to have unbridled, deep intimacy with Him.

It is a wonder to me that I have come this far in intimacy with Him, and yet it is not overly surprising, considering that I have often asked God for more of Himself. He is always willing and gracious to answer prayers like that, so I encourage you: press into God, and ask for more of Him in your life! You won’t be sorry you did, and I mean that with all my heart! He wants your whole heart and your full attention, Beloved. And He is so, soooo worth it!

Because I have experienced the beauty and power of being intimate with God, I want others to experience intimacy with Him, too. No longer am I bound by chains of perfectionism. It’s not about me anymore. It’s all about Him! I want others to have this, too.

Intimacy with God changes everything. Because I am in relationship with Him, I want nothing more than to know Him, to love Him, and to do what He says. And because I am in relationship with Him, I can do what He says. I have the ability! After all, I am not relying on my own ability anymore, but on His enabling Spirit that works within me day by day, by His grace alone! Praise God!!! Thank you, Jesus!!! Amen.

OK, maybe you get the idea by this time: developing an intimate relationship with God is super important. And not only it is important, it is life-changing. The God of the universe “yadas” (intimately knows) you, and now it’s time for you to “yada” Him.

So, now you might be wondering, how do I do that? How do I begin to have intimacy with God?

Well, come back next week to find out! Because this is such an important topic, I have split this topic into 5 sections: “What is Intimacy?,” “Let God Break Down Your Defenses”, “Be Totally and Completely Honest with Him”, “Want Him More than Anything”, “How to Abide, Remain, and Rest in Him At All Times.” I might change things up once I start writing, but this is what it’s looking like at least for now.

Today, begin to trust Him. Begin to get to know Him. Begin to love Him like never before. Today is the day to draw near to God, to go deeper than you ever have before! He is waiting for you. He is waiting for you with hopeful anticipation. He is waiting for you to begin your adventure and romance with Him and to continue with Him for a lifetime, and even afterwards, into all eternity.

I hope you enjoy this song, and have a Spirit-filled, intimate day with the Lord!

An Eternal Romance

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

Do you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the best part is? Eternity starts now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S6: Tarquin’s Perspective

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This is a scene from chapter 5 of my ten-chapter fantasy novella, The Healer of Istagun, told from Tarquin’s perspective. Enjoy! To see the original chapter 5, click here.

“Tarquin, am I going to be okay? Do you think I’ll get over this?” My sister Mara’s hollowed dark eyes pleaded me.

I could hardly bear the sight of her weak figure and pale face splotched with tumors. Would she be sent to Winter with the dying ones before she got well enough?

Before I could answer her, I heard a knock at the door. Wondering who it could be, I rushed to open it.

Dahlia, with her wild brown hair and beautiful dark eyes, stood there, with a young Spring boy at her side. My heart stopped.

“Hi, Dahlia,” I said in greeting.

She blushed, no doubt surprised I remembered her name. I was half embarrassed I had.

“Oh, never mind,” she said quickly. “I thought this was where the younger boys or girls—”

“—it is. My sister is here.” I raked my hand through my hair, worried that Mara thought I’d left her forever. Her brain was in a muddled state due to the plague. “I was caring for her and the rest of them since they have no one else to help them.”

Dahlia’s face paled whiter than the sick ones. “We came here to…” She cleared her throat, but before she could finish, the Spring boy held out a basket of fresh buns.

“Want some, sir?” His voice was small; I hadn’t seen a Spring boy in so long. He was adorable.

Dahlia smiled a little. “We were giving them out to the sick.”

Her concern for the sick ones warmed my heart. I wondered if she knew Gesu. Not just knew about him, but knew him, like I did. Gesu’s kind-heartedness, after all, inspired me to tend to these girls.

I watched Dahlia for a moment as she stared around the room, as if searching for something, or perhaps someone. Then she and the Spring boy began handing out the fresh buns.

I rushed to my sister’s side. “I’m here now.”

Mara struggled to open her heavy eyelids. “Tarquin, I love you.”

“I love you, too.” I dabbed a wet cloth on her forehead. “You’ll be all right, sis.”

Suddenly I noticed a green fairy entering the room. “Attention, everyone!” she shouted. “Queen Hazina has made a new decree for the lands of Spring, Summer, and Autumn: ‘All the sick must proceed to Winter.’ The ‘sick’ are defined by the queen as ‘those unable to work for her majesty.’ Therefore, if you do not stand up within five seconds, you will be taken immediately to Winter.” Four other green fairies stood by, with chains ready.

I stood up straight, but the sick ones couldn’t even begin to sit up. I stared at Dahlia from across the room, not taking my eyes off her as her dark eyes drew me in. I hadn’t stopped thinking about her since Gesu’s miracle session a few days ago. She hadn’t wanted to marry anyone, but I could fix that.

When the door closed sharply, I realized then that the fairies had indeed taken away the sick ones, leaving Dahlia, Kari, and me behind.

I dropped my gaze from Dahlia, thinking of Mara, dear Mara. I should have tried to save her, to help her stand somehow.

“Can I eat a bun?” Kari asked the young woman.

After a pause, Dahlia told him he could have them all.

The boat. She needed to see the boat. If we were some of the only few left well and alive in Summer, she needed to know about it, in case the time came for us to leave Istagun.

“Dahlia.” Her name came out weaker than I intended. “I want you to see something.”

“I’ll be right back, Kari.”

Her willingness to follow me surprised me. Was I so attractive that I could change her mind about me within a few days?

I led her down to the dark, filthy basement. Perhaps I was a fool to bring a pretty girl down to this place. I probably was just going to scare her off. Still, it was important she knew.

“The boys wouldn’t let me use theirs, so I come here sometimes and…”

I lit a lantern, revealing the boat I’d spent hours laboring over.

“It’s called a boat,” I said quietly.

“A boat?” She stared at me, almost blissfully, and my heart ached.

“I built it, so I could one day travel across the seas, to the mountains. There are rumors about these people called Treelanders, who live in the forests. I want to meet them, to escape this Summer, and to be free.” I gazed off into the dark basement, remembering the stories I’d heard from the Gesu-following fairies. They dreamed of traveling to the Treelanders to live among them and share the goodness of Gesu with them.

“It floats?”

I stifled a laugh. “Well, I hope so. A fairy used to tell me stories, so that’s all I have to go off of.”

Dahlia grimaced. “Why are you showing me this?”

Her question caught me off guard, but I shrugged. “You and I… we’re some of the only few left here, and—”

“—and we have responsibilities!” She folded her arms across her chest. “You can’t just leave everyone here to die, while you go on a silly adventure to a land far away!”

I lowered the lantern from my face, grimacing at her biting remark. So, she thought I was an idiot. I could change that.

“I showed this to you so you’d know, when the time came,” I said steadily, though inside I shook at her entrancing gaze. “But you’re right. Now is not the time for adventures… Now is the time to find Gesu.”

“Gesu?” she asked softly.

“Yes, Dahlia. He’s the only one who can save us.” I searched her face, willing her to believe me. Of course she believed. She had seen the miracles. But there was so much more to just believing in what Gesu could do. You had to believe in who He was.

“Tarquin,” she whispered, “can he bring the dead back to life?”

I frowned, unable to grasp why she’d expect so much from the man. “I don’t know. Why do you ask?”

“I need to find my sister, Hollis. She’s been sick for years. I don’t know where she is, or even if she’s still…” Her voice cracked unexpectedly, and she turned to leave.

I wanted to reach out and clasp hold of her small hand, but I restrained myself.

“Wait, Dahlia,” I said, thinking of my own sister, and how I’d be just as anxious to find Mara as Dahlia seemed about finding Hollis. “Is that why you came to this hut? To find your sister?”

“Yeah.” She took a step up the stairs.

“Oh.”

I stared at the back of her head where her dark curls cascaded down to her waist. I couldn’t let her leave. And we both knew that Gesu was the only cure to this plague.

“Let’s go to Autumn to get Gesu,” I suggested. “He can heal everyone choked by the plague—and your sister, once we find her. She’s probably in Winter. We’ll figure something out and…”

I watched as she stormed upstairs, her sobs resonating down to me in the dark basement. My heart went out to her. Both of our sisters were gone.

Only Gesu could help us now.

CW14: Memories and Cheesecake

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So my creative writing teacher told us: “Give me some words that you would use to describe a restaurant.” So we said “okay” and gave her these: light, clatter, specials, cheesecake, spill, bacon, gratuity, bitter, delectable, tip, matre’d, mmmmmm, tasty, atmosphere, cheap, menu

Guess what she said next? “Write something without the setting of a restaurant using all of these words!”

This story is the result of that…

I pumped my feet over the bicycle pedals, taking in the glorious light of the sun setting in the west, glowing behind enormous clouds.

Evan had been pedaling behind me without speaking a word for five or ten minutes now. I only knew he was still there because I kept hearing the clatter of his gears on his rusty bicycle. No doubt that old bike was bitter of the many years of forced outdoor adventures, rumbling on the long stretches of dirt roads surrounded by the painfully flat Kansas prairies.

I made an effort at conversation: “How’s it working at the diner, being the handsome matre’d and all?”

“It’s all right.” He laughed a little, but he kept pedaling slowly behind me. His poor bike didn’t even let him keep up with his five foot girlfriend. Or was there something else on his mind?

“I’d go for a delectable slice of cheesecake right now,” I said, imagining the tasty dessert on my tongue. I remembered that first date we spent at the diner, sharing a slice of cheesecake, since we were poor college students and that was the only thing cheap enough on the menu. That was a few months ago, when our fascination for one another was at its peak. How could something that had seemed so real wear off so soon? I hoped it truly hadn’t. I hoped he still loved me.

“Strawberry cheesecake is one of the specials right now,” he murmured from behind me.

Mmmmmm.” Now the thought of cheesecake made my stomach rumble as I pedaled along. I gazed at the vast fields of wheat and corn that spread out endlessly to the horizon where the warm yellows and reds of sunlight continuously took my breath away. The atmosphere was so quiet and empty, yet strangely beautiful, calming my wearied spirit from the week of college finals that had so overwhelmed me. I set my foot down to stop the bike and stared off at the sunset.

“Why’d ya stop?” Evan said, as if forcing a playfulness in his tone.

I turned toward him, narrowing my brows. “Remember when you walked up to my table so carefully, trying not to spill the eggs and bacon?”

Evan managed a smile. “How could I forget?”

Heat flooded my cheeks, doubts surfacing within me. I was probably making him feel uncomfortable; he probably didn’t want to be here. For all I knew, he brought me here to announce that he wanted to break up. Yet I continued, “And that’s when it all started, when you started talking to me more, and I realized you liked me…”

“You gave me the biggest tip.” Evan grinned, but there was a hesitance in his dark, penetrating eyes.

“I call it gratuity.”

“Of course, Miss English Major.” He chuckled at the familiar joke, but then uncertainty filled his expression again and he searched my face. “Lydia, remember that night during Bible study?”

I nodded, but I didn’t know why he brought it up now. That had been the days before we started dating, when I had first met him, but also when I had first met the Lord.

Still sitting on his bike behind me, he stretched his hand out to me, so I shifted my body on the bike seat and reached my hand back toward him to clasp hold of his strong hand.

“Remember the Scripture we read that stirred your heart?” His voice was gentle, bringing back the memory of the Bible passage we’d read in our small group that night, a year before the incident at the diner.

“A little bit,” I said, trying to remember everything. “It was about Martha, listening to Jesus. He told her He was the resurrection and the life.”

He squeezed my hand, the warmth in his fingers comforting me.

We stared at each other in awe, holding hands, never wanting to let go. “Yes, Lydia,” Evan said, his voice returning with the passion and hope I’d so long associated with him. “Jesus is life.”

“And he brought me life again—through your message, that very night.” Tears filled my eyes again, but for a different reason than before. Even today, Evan was the leader of a small group of young men and women, often speaking passionately about the Scriptures, helping us to understand the heart of the gospel better. The Holy Spirit had convicted me through his message that night, bringing me to a place where I could fully trust in Jesus as my Savior.

But I didn’t understand why he was bringing this up at a time like this. “I thought you wanted to break up with me, Evan. I thought that’s why you brought me here.”

The young man pedaled his old rusty bike slowly till it sat close beside me. “The thought never crossed my mind, Lydia. I love you. I’ve just been tired, so tired. Between school and work at the diner, I feel like I have no time for you. I feel like we’ve grown distant, and that it’s my fault. I’m sorry.”

As he reached out and touched my cheek, his tenderness stunned me. I hadn’t felt like this in a long time, like he truly adored me. I let the tears fall down face. “I forgive you, Evan. I felt the same way, but I don’t feel that way anymore. We’re going to serve Jesus together, I’m sure of it. Wherever we are, me as an English teacher, or if you really become a pastor…”

Sitting astride our bikes, we gazed out into the empty prairie at the bright glint of the sun in the west that was now almost hidden completely under the earth. It was getting dark, but neither of us wanted to go back to the city.

Evan smiled at me, a hope burning in his eyes, and I couldn’t help but be assured of his love for me. “Or I could serve Jesus right now, as a handsome matre’d?”

“Or that. Maybe you could serve Him some delectable strawberry cheesecake…” After a moment my nervous chuckle exploded into a long, joyous laugh, as I realized he was finally laughing in return.

God’s Kind of Romance

A man is walking on the beach. The beach represents his life. There are two sets of footprints on the beach: one is God’s, and the other the man’s.  Occasionally there is only one set of footprints. “Why was there only one set of footprints during that time?” the man asked at the end of his life. God answered, “The two sets of footprints are the times I walked beside you through life. The one set of footprints are the harder times in your life, when I carried you.”

When my cousin told me that story, I exclaimed, “God is sooo romantic!” And we both laughed.

And as I thought about it more, I realized how true my whimsical statement was.

Romance doesn’t have to mean the mushy gushy falling in love with the opposite gender. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne used romance to describe nature and friendship. I think of romance as cuddled up in blankets on a winter night drinking hot cocoa, and I also think of it as God chasing after us, beckoning us to choose Him, to accept His gift of Jesus to take away our sins.

“[He] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:4

God surely carries us in the harder time in our lives, if we choose to trust in Him. He surely walks with us if we choose to walk with Him. He longs to take the most unworthy people and transform them. He loves to show love to the unlovable.

“I will plant her for myself in the land;
    I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.
I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘You are my people’;
    and they will say, ‘You are my God.’” Hosea 2:23

The story Emma by Jane Austen is fresh in my mind after watching one of the movies last night. Emma is the story of a middle class young English lady in the 1800’s. She completely misunderstands everyone, and even purposely is prejudice against people (yes, very similar to Pride and Prejudice, in those respects). Mr. Knightley ends up being right about practically everything she was wrong about. Emma responds to this discovery with deep regret, realizing how much she loves him. In return, Mr. Knightley forgives her, and loves her all the more. This gives a picture of how God loves us.

Ultimately, repentance wins God’s heart. He loved us before, but whenever we show we love Him, too, and we understand He is right about everything we were wrong about–well, the angels rejoice wildly with their instruments up in heaven. Jesus intercedes on our behalf, allowing us to have a relationship with our Creator. And His Spirit comes to dwell in us, so we may have power to will and to act according to His good purpose.

When our hearts are set on Him, anything is possible. Don’t give up, your bridegroom loves you. He calls us on the adventure of a lifetime, and in the hard times, He will carry us. In the good times, He will walk by our side.

“As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” -Isaiah 62:5

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” – Exodus 15:13

 

An Excerpt from The Thrall’s Sword

Here’s the excerpt, as promised!

The following day, he caught me crying as we hiked up a cliff.
“Sigrid, are ye doin’ all right?” he said from behind me.
I brushed back tears. “I’m doing wonderful,” I said as I stumbled over a protruding rock. Every memory of Mum lay trapped in the center of my mind. Today the thought of her had entered my head when I had picked her favorite flowers, lavender primroses, and now I could not push my grief out of my mind.
I kept walking, faster now, trying to draw closer to Lars who strode through the thick pines in the distance, energized by his morning breakfast. The last thing I wanted was this pathetic boy discovering my own weakness.
“Did ye find those purple flowers ye was lookin’ for?”
“It doesn’t matter. You can’t eat them, so there’s no point in having them.”
The truth was, I’d looked everywhere for them, but couldn’t find them. I was as if the gods themselves were ruining everything I tried to do.
“Are ye… are ye not enjoying yerself on this noble adventure of ours?” he asked gently.
I shot a glance at him. “I don’t even know why I came on your ‘noble adventure’ in the first place. To ruin a friendship and become a burden? To defend a country I have no reason to love?”
“Ye didn’t have to—”
“—I didn’t have a choice, really. It was the only way to do it.” I walked faster, but Erik drew alongside me.
“The only way for ye to do what, lass?” he asked, his forehead creased with anxiety.
We stared at each other, motionless, my heart trembling at his gaze. I wanted to cry again, but I withheld my tears. I could never tell him why I was truly going to Ireland. “I… I just want to go home.” Not to Bergen, but to my mother, my real home.
I turned away and hurried to catch up with Lars, feeling Erik’s eyes locked on me the whole way. He would never understand.

And I was beginning to fear I would never be able to go home.

A Hero for the Highest Cause

snowcapped trees

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“There’s a real war out there, you know, you mustn’t risk your life.”

She looked up at me with earnestness in her pale cheeks and round opal eyes. Dark brown cascades rippled over her shoulders. She was too pretty a girl to leave, too pretty to run off and risk my life when I could live happily here with her… but no—I could not think of myself. The lives of hundreds of others were at stake. God had gifted me with the capability of healing the sick and wounded, so I had to use it for His glory.

“I understand your fears, Clarisse, but this is a risk I must take for the Lord. I will risk my life to save the people of France and to share with them the mysteries of God’s grace. And I will risk it for you, beloved—by helping others have the strength to fight this war, so you can be free.”

She breathed in my ear. “Oh, Pierre, I would rather be with you in the coldness of this place than flying on the wings of freedom without you.”

Her voice was worn and ragged from years of adversity. She was not innocent of troubles; she was afraid, because she knew well the capacity they had to hurt her.

I clutched her hand tightly and whispered against it. “I am not going to die, my love. Trust me, I am not going to die.”

“You can never be too sure, though. Can’t you think for once of yourself?” she asked quietly. Her heart thudded against me as I drew her shivering frame close and rested my chin on the top of her head. She continued, “You’ve always been caring for the sick and wounded, but someday you will wear yourself out, you will die. Then what will become of me? Perhaps you don’t mind yourself dying, but really, Pierre, what will I do without you?”

Withdrawing from my arms, she stared fixedly up at me, her chin trembling and silent tears dripping down her cheeks. What would she do?

I studied her carefully, as I tucked her soft hair behind her ears. “You are right, Clarisse—I am not one to bother about myself, but it is simply because I have learned that my life is in the hands of God, and His grace is something to be spread like wildfire. That is the only way all the wars of this world will end: by spreading God’s grace that covers all sin to even the most undeserving. So, beloved, do not be afraid if you find out I have been healing the wounds of the enemy. They don’t deserve it, but neither do any of us. And no person can truly live if they are never completely forgiven.”

I gazed down at her glistening eyes and slim shoulders. “And as for you, dear one, God is always with you, even if I die. He loves you and He cares for you—rely on Him, will you, my love? Will you place your life in His hands while I’m gone, and even when I return?”

“I will, Pierre,” she agreed, her face radiant with a new hope. “You are right—God is in control. He will take care of me while you are off healing the dying people of France. He will take care of you as well.” She smiled tenderly. “You are a good man, Pierre.”

Heat poured into my cheeks. I knew I didn’t deserve that praise. And yet her words gave me a more acute awareness of her love for me. How could I leave her? But I had to—but no. But yes. I determined to untangle myself from the mysteries of love, and I fixed my eyes on the ground, my thoughts on God, the One I’d be a most pitiable man without.

“Then now is when we would say farewell, my love.” I kissed her hand lightly, and then hastened out the door with my burlap sack over my shoulder.

“Wait.”

I had to stop. That one word shook me with a feeling so severe I could not make sense of it. If I looked at her one more time, my heart might break from the knowledge of what I had to do. No matter the cost, the pain, no matter how much I loved her—I belonged to the Lord, and it was futile and worthless to think of myself and what I most wanted, when He had a far better plan for me. So I just stood in the doorway with my back to her.

“You will return to me?”

“Yes,” I assured her, “all in the good Lord’s timing. I will come back and marry you. You can be sure of that.” I took another step away.

“Do you promise?” she asked in a small, frail voice.

I looked back at her, just once, for the last time. Her beauty warmed me inside, as it had so many times before.

“Promise?”

Collecting my thoughts, I considered telling her what I felt to say, but the truth ended up prying its way out of my mouth. “I can’t promise my return,” I said frankly. “The French Revolution isn’t an organized war—anything could happen. But I do promise I will try my very hardest.”

She nodded slowly, accepting it. “God be with you, Pierre.”

“And He with you, Clarisse.”

I turned away from her before my emotions could overpower the insistent Spirit within me. I straddled the old mare and set her off down the road, departing the fragile young woman all alone in the cold house. Tears sprung from my eyes as I rode through the snow with the sack full of food, medicine, and blankets.

I hadn’t been completely honest with her. No matter what, I was bound to die through this risky procedure of healing the sick and wounded on the streets of Paris, simply because I didn’t have a weapon. I wouldn’t defend myself, no matter what, even if I did have a musket. I wouldn’t shoot at anyone, because God saw them all as wandering souls in desperate need of a Savior—and He had perfect eyesight. Both my allies and enemies would be healed, and God would be glorified through me. But the French Revolution wasn’t an organized war. The enemy would likely fire at me even if I came to heal them. Indeed, the Spirit within me gave me the sense that this would surely happened, and that my time would soon end. I knew I would never see Clarisse again in that cold little house, and neither would we ever marry. But thank God we’d meet in a big warm one, filled with inexplicable light. There, at least, I was guaranteed to see her again, as a sister in Christ, and in a place where I could breathe free air at last.

As I rode nearer to the deafening sound of the gunshots, I prayed that the lives I saved physically would be saved spiritually through the words the Spirit gave me, and that they would discover the big, warm house as well. But for the first time since I had learned about God’s hand on my life, it took great strength to place my thoughts off myself, and place them on the road in front of me that led to the dying people I would heal. Nevertheless, I forced myself to look through God’s eyes, and see the hurt and suffering of the world. I asked for His strength to think of them and their pain, and to forget about my own. For if I did not look through His eyes and ask for His strength, I would fail. And if I failed to turn to His power, I would die trying to do good on my own—or worse, I would die forgetting the hundreds of lives at stake.

I could not think of myself.

 

“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 20:24 (NIV)