Stronger Than Fear

Fear is everywhere today. It has a hold on people of all ages, young and old. It is a strong force that is relentless. But I know something that is stronger than fear. God’s love! I want to share with you some passages from a book which has had a profound influence on me personally and has brought freedom and relief to me in so many ways. The title is, “He Loves Me,” by Wayne Jacobsen: [words in Brackets are mine]

After his work on the cross was finished Jesus went looking for love. Could this be what he most wanted the cross to produce in his followers? Was his death designed to reach past their fears of God and begin a new relationship based on the intimacy of love instead? What else could it be?

Through the Old Testament, God often identified himself as the God of love and mercy, but few understood him that way. They seemed able to obey him only under threat or judgment. Even commanding them to love him with all their hearts seemed to negate the end by the means employed. Can true love really be commanded?

Love is at the very core of God’s nature. In fact, when John summed up the substance of God, he did so in a very simple statement: “God is love.” We may not be able to explain in concrete terms all that God is and how Father, Son and Spirit relate together in such unity, but we do know that they exist in a perfect state of love.

When that love touches you, you will discover there is nothing more powerful in the entire universe. It is more powerful than your failures, your sins, your disappointments, your dreams, and even your fears. God knows that when you tap the depths of his love, your life will forever be changed. Nothing can prevail over it; and nothing else will lead you to taste of his kind of holiness.

I am not saying that the fear of God is wrong, only that it is incomplete. It is the first rung on the ladder to knowing God in his fullness. He said himself it was the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7 ), but it is only the beginning. Love is the end product of wisdom.

If you don’t love God, you would be well-served to fear him. At least that might keep you from behaviors that will destroy you and others around you. But once you know how much he loves you, you’ll never need to fear him again. In other words, this Father doesn’t just seek your obedience, he desires your affection. He can have your obedience without your love, but he knows where he has your love he will also have your obedience.

“There is no fear in love…because fear has to do with punishment [or torment: KJV],” John wrote as he tried to convince the church in Ephesus that God’s love had replaced the old order of fear. It was revolutionary then and regrettably still is today. We seem more comfortable fearing God than we do loving him.

But fear isn’t in God’s nature. He fears nothing. Thus his own holiness is produced not by his fear, but by his love. In fact, fear cannot produce the holiness God wants to share with us. It is incapable of doing so. For God to transform us to be like him, he must expel our fear and teach us the wonder of living in his love.

Fearing God can compel us to conform our behavior to his desires, but it will not last. Because it convinces us to act against our will, even when it leads us to righteousness, it does not change us. The behavior that results lasts only as long as the fear itself, which is why those who approach it this way will need greater levels of fear to stay motivated.

God knows that responding to his love will take you much further than fear ever could. That’s why love must first deal with your fears. “Perfect love drives out fear,” John continued. While fear may be the most powerful motive known to man, God’s love is MORE powerful still, and in the face of it our greatest fears are swallowed up in him. Love displaces fear the same way light displaces darkness.

There is nothing more critical to spiritual growth than making this transition. John concludes, “The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). As long as we live in fear, we exclude ourselves from the very process that will make us complete in God.

People who serve God because they fear his punishment will forever try to please him by doing the best they can, and they will always come up short. Dominated by guilt and having to justify themselves in failure, they will never discover what it really means to become God’s friend.

God has better things in mind for you. He wants you to know his love so completely that fearing him will have no place in your life. When you are absolutely convinced how much God loves you, that knowledge will drive out every fear you have. You won’t need to fear an uncertain future, the rejection of friends, the lack of desires, or even God himself. Knowing his heart for you will free you to trust him more than ever, and that alone will lead you to ever greater participation in his holiness.

You would think being free from the fear of the Lord would be great news, but I don’t find that everyone shares my excitement. Many see their fear of God, or eternal judgment, as the only thing that keeps them from indulging in sin. Without it, they are so afraid they might give in to their flesh, they cling to their fear of God as if it were a life raft in a frothing sea.

It is difficult to give up our fear of God if it has served us so well. That’s understandable. We don’t often think of love as a compelling enough motive to hold us in check.

But the love God extends to us and invites from us is nothing like any love we have known before. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). John defines our Father’s love for us because he knew that our earthly references to love would never do justice to God’s.

John said it best. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Until we experience the reality of God’s love and grow to trust him with the details of our lives, we will not break free from the power of self. That’s why it is so critical to understand Jesus’ death on the cross as an act of love for you. If you see it only as God satisfying his justice, then you unwittingly empty the cross of its power.

The doorway into the Father’s love begins at the cross. Seeing what Father and Son accomplished together in that moment defines love in a way that you can experience only in him. This is the love that will allow you to feel perfectly safe in the Father’s presence. It frees you to be exactly who you are, weaknesses and all, and never again have to pretend before him.

Then you will discover that life in God rises out of your security in his love, not your insecurity that you don’t love him enough.

Romans 8:15
“You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.”

FOR YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY

Are most of your actions motivated by your security in God’s love for you, or your fear that if you don’t do enough God might not be pleased with you? Ask him to show you the ways your fears motivate you in day-to-day decisions. Read through 1 John 4:7-21 every morning for a few days and meditate on John’s words there. Ask God to help you discover how much he loves you and, in doing so, to drive out the fears in your life.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for speaking to me in your word today. I need a revelation of your love for me. I want to be free from fears but haven’t known how to get free. Help me to be motivated to meditate on the passages of scriptures that tell me about your love. And as I am working on this renewing process, please help me to love others the way you would have me to love them. Thank you Jesus for the cross and for demonstrating your great love for me and for the world. Thank you that you want me free even more than I want to be free. I can’t do this on my own so thank you that by your Holy Spirit great things will be revealed to me and the transformation will be possible.

In Jesus’ Holy name I pray,

Amen

The God Who Wants To Be Loved

When someone we know is hurting or going through a difficult time, we are likely to tell them, “God loves you, He knows best.” Yet, so many times those words aren’t really received by the hurting person. They may find it difficult to really believe that God loves them because they are still challenged by their situation and have more questions than answers. What is missing here?

Just after Jesus was taken by the soldiers to be tried, beaten and crucified, the disciples fled in fear. Peter’s fear was so great that he denied he knew His Lord three times. Soon after Jesus’ death and resurrection, He appeared to His Disciples. He asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” It had been a little more than a week since Peter had abandoned Jesus at His greatest time of need. After telling Jesus he would die for Him, Peter’s fears had caught up to him. He proved that he loved his own life more than he loved his friend.

As Jesus engaged Peter with the question, Peter answered Him with a different word for love than Jesus had used. “I have great affection for you, as a brother.” Could it be that Peter’s failure might have been his reason for using a less intense word for love? Perhaps in the face of his denial of the Lord, Peter tried to find a word that would more honestly fit his actions.

Jesus asked Peter a second time, yet he still did not answer Jesus with the same word for love. When Jesus asked him the third time, Jesus switched to Peter’s word for brotherly affection. Peter answered in the affirmative. Yet Peter was hurt that Jesus had asked him three times.

What is so astonishing is that each time Peter answered Jesus’ questions, Jesus invited Peter to minister in His Kingdom. “Take care of my sheep.” Peter had failed Him, he hadn’t loved Jesus enough. His fears had ruled his decisions. Still, Jesus held out the invitation. Eventually, Peter got past his fears and failures and experienced God’s love so deeply that he walked in powerful ministry, literally changing the world.

Why would Jesus care about being loved? After all, He is Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, with countless angels who worship and adore Him. Why would He desire Peter’s love?

After Jesus’ work on the cross was finished, He went looking for love. He knew His followers didn’t understand why He had had to die. He would appear to them and they would see love in its greatest power. And because He loved them this much, they would at last understand the purpose of the cross and would embrace His love and therefore love Him in return. Love lies at the very core of God’s nature. The Disciple John summed up the essence of God this way: “…God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

Every idol or false god man has created seeks the submission of his or her subjects by fear, or terror. Not love! What false god or devil ever wanted to be loved? Feared? Yes! Obeyed? Yes! But never was love a component for worship.

I am not saying that fearing God is wrong, only that it is incomplete. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 9:10), but it is only the beginning.

Love is the end product of wisdom. Many people today believe that fearing God keeps them from behaviors that will destroy them or others. But so many of these same people do not rest or abide safely in God’s love for them. I believe the lack of knowing and experiencing God’s love keeps many people distant from Him and unchanged in their character. It is not in focusing on our fears and performance that transforms us. It is only by being in the security of God’s affection that He is able to transform us. God knows that responding to His love will take us much further than fear ever could.

The disciple John tried to convince the church in Ephesus that God’s love had replaced the old order of fear. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment (torment), and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)

All along, mankind has been more comfortable fearing God than loving Him. But fear isn’t in God’s nature. He fears nothing. His own holiness is not produced by fear but by perfect love. John portrays love and fear as polar opposites.

Why would it be different now? Before Jesus came to earth, God allowed fear to hold people in check, but fear never made anyone holy. I believe through what Jesus came to do, God wanted to win our love with His own love.

People who serve God out of fear will forever try to please Him by doing their best and will always come up short. Then guilt will dominate and they will never really discover what it means to become God’s friend. The law of God (Old Covenant) tells us we are sinners. We’ll never measure up. But Jesus fulfilled the law and has brought a new order…LOVE. God wants us to know His love and He wants us to follow Him out of love for Him. “We love because He first loved us.” (John 4:19) If we can embrace His love, we can love Him back. When you are convinced of how much God loves you, this knowledge will drive out every fear you have. When you know His love you will be free to trust Him more and more.

I know so many Christians who get angry at God when they are facing a difficult trial. This kind of response shows that they do not know how much God loves them and they do not understand His nature: “…that for those who love God all things work together for good….” (Romans 8:28) They don’t trust God to work for the good in their situation.

People fall “in love” or “out of love,” but this is self-centered love. God’s love is not based on selfishness but selflessness. Until we experience God’s love and grow to trust Him, we will not break free from the power of self. We must understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection were an act of love for us. The greatest love we will ever know!

This is the love that will allow you to feel perfectly safe and secure in the Father’s presence. Then you will discover that life in God comes out of your security in His love, not your insecurity that you don’t love Him enough. This is the lesson Jesus wanted to teach Peter that morning.

God has great things in mind for you. He wants you to know His love so completely that you will never walk in fear and you will love Him.

Are you ready to embrace His love right now? “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) This is your time to be free. His love is enough!!!

Let’s pray!

Dear Father,
I have lived so much of my life in fear, yet you still embrace me. You still tell me to come to You. I want to know this love of Yours. I choose right now to reach out to You, to trust Your embrace. Please melt these fears away by Your love and fill me with Your love so that I can love You back. Thank You for being My Savior, My Deliverer and My friend. I’m excited to walk this new walk secure in Your love for me.

In Jesus’ Holy name I pray,

Amen

 

Except as noted, all scripture references are from the English Standard Version

I highly recommend you read “He Loves Me” by Wayne Jacobsen! It is awesome!

There Is More Of God’s Love For You

I was walking during my quiet time with the Lord the other day, praying, and I just sensed the Lord speaking to my heart. He was saying, You’re touched by My love when you realize I am here. You are filled by My love when you reach out for it. I long to do more than touch you with My love. I long to fill you with My love. Will you ask so it will come? Will you lay down the things that hinder you from receiving My love? Unworthiness, fear, doubt, complacency; My love is SO much better than any of these. So why hang on to them? Release them and have My love. Release them and have more of Me. Release the hurts and the offenses, the things that people have done to you. It’s not worth hanging on. Put My love in place of these things and you will rise out of them successfully.

There will always be offenses but you must not take them when they come. There will always be something to fear; but you must choose to not fear it and take MY love. There’s more for the asking! Just ask and I’ll give more.

Walk in My love. Let love be your aim. Love never fails; I AM love and what I give you is love and it will never fail. Let this be in you; you have the choice. You choose to love, you choose to hate. You choose to forgive. You choose to hold a grudge. In the releasing of these negative things, there is room for love. There is room for you to change. It is possible for you to change and become the person I have called you to be, I have created you to be, I have purposed for you to be.

Cry out to know Me more. There IS more to know of Me, you know. Cry out! See Me move in your life, in your circumstances and in the impossible situations; yet by My power I will make possible to move and to change. It’s time for you to be refreshed. Be refreshed in My love and in who I am. I AM MORE than you know. So come and know MORE. I am MORE than you’ve seen. So COME and see MORE. I am MORE than what you’ve experienced so COME and experience MORE.

Dare to ask, dare to receive, dare to believe. There is a planting and a harvesting. Plant the seeds of faith into My love and watch them grow.

Scriptures to meditate on:

I John 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.”
I John 2:15 “Do not love the world or the things in the word. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
Jeremiah 31:3b “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued My faithfulness to you.”
I Corinthians 14:1 “Make love your aim.” (RSV)
I Corinthians 13:8 “Love never fails.” (KJ)
Romans 8:39 “…nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 5:5 “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
I John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” (KJ)
Luke 11:9 “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Scripture references are from New English Version unless stated other wise.

What Can I Do?

When we are in a trial, our first reaction is to ask, “How can I get out of this?” It’s human nature to want to run away, to get out of a difficult situation instead of going through it. Psalm 34:17 tells us, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” But deliverance doesn’t always come as quickly as we would like. So what can we do while we wait for our time of deliverance? The Word tells us what we should do: “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart, his steps do not slip.” (Psalm 37:30)

So, if our mouths are to utter wisdom, is it wise to speak negative things while enduring a time of trial? Is it wise to complain or express doubt about the situation? God loves justice, so it would be right to speak out that God is going to bring justice to your situation. His Word, the holy scriptures, should be in our heart so that we will not stumble or fall. “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalms 119:11 NAS) Find scriptures that speak positive, hope-filled things to or about your situation and read them over and over. Meditate day and night on them. Write them down. Carry them with you to work, as you go about your day. The enemy of our soul is always right there putting doubts and bad thoughts in our mind, so we have to counteract those messages with God’s word. Psalm 37:23 tells us, “The steps of a man (woman) are established by the Lord, when he delights in His way, though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” And I love the next verse which says, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”

King David struggled through many tests and trials throughout his life, yet out of these trials he wrote most of the Psalms which offer so much real-ness and encouragement for anyone who is struggling. Read the Psalms and mark the verses that relate to your situation and that will encourage and bless you as you wait upon the Lord.

You may feel overwhelmed by the trial you face. Maybe you have lost your strength from fear or discouragement and you think it’s impossible to pull out of it all. God’s Word will strengthen you. As you meditate on His Word, your thoughts will begin to line up with God’s thoughts. Hebrews 12:12-13 offers valuable instruction from the Lord: “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” This, to me, is a picture of worship. Put on some praise and worship music and get yourself up and lift your hands up and worship the Lord. Sing out words of praise despite how you feel. You may even need to jump and dance, get your feet moving as you worship! Isaiah 61:3 paints a wonderful picture of this: “. . .to grant to those who mourn in Zion, to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Find reasons to praise the Lord in the midst of your trial. It’s easy to speak out the negative things, the hopeless things, so you will have to make a conscious decision and effort to think of the things you have to be thankful for and to offer your praises to God. In praising Him, you will open the door to be led by faith instead of doubt and unbelief. God has given all of us “The measure of faith,” but it is up to us to exercise it and allow our faith to grow.

Ask your friends or a close family member to help you be positive, to help you stay focused on God’s Word instead of your problems. If you don’t have any one close to you who can support you in this, pray for God to bring a prayer partner into your life. We all need support in difficult times.

In everything we do, in everyday life, we are faced with choices. The choices we make always begin with our thoughts; we then act on our thoughts and live them out. So it is important to examine the choices we make throughout the day. God has given us all the ability to choose how we’re going to live and what we’re going to think. Use the power God has given you to choose His way for you.

King David’s statement of faith, recorded in Acts 2:25-28, is still true for each of us today: “I saw the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” His presence will make you glad, so make room in your day to focus on Him. As you reach out to God, He will make Himself known to you and will give you His peace that is beyond our understanding (Philippians 4:7) and fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy (Job 8:21 NIV).

Another important thing we can do while facing tough times is to reach out to others. When we help someone else who is in need, we think less of our own problems and gain a personal blessing by being of service to another. In the words of the Lord Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Let’s pray together:

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are truly my Father, so I come to you as your child. Please help me to keep Your Word before me and to lift praises to You in spite of how I feel. Help me to see and learn all that You want me to see and learn in this trial. I open my heart and mind to you. Please fill me and touch me in my time of need. Show me others I may reach out to and help so I can be a blessing. Thank you that you hold me in Your loving hand and You are watching over my life to perform something good, even something great, as I learn to trust in You every step of the way.

I ask this all in the mighty name of Jesus Christ,

Amen

Except as noted, all scripture references are from the English Standard Version.

Fear Not

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” Everywhere we turn, that’s the message we hear today, from news reporters, politicians, bankers, stock brokers, auto executives, retailers, employers, even our friends and family members. Fear seems to be overwhelming the world.

As believers in Jesus Christ, are we to submit to this spirit of fear? God’s holy Word teaches us otherwise. In fact, the Bible is full of examples of God and His messengers assuring us with words like, “Do not be afraid,” “Do not fear” and “Have no fear.” I love the way these passages are translated in the King James Version: “FEAR NOT!”

The subject of fear is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. In the 14th chapter of Genesis, Abraham is in the midst of a tense confrontation with the King of Sodom, yet God reassures Abraham: “‘Do not be afraid, Abraham. I am your shield, your very great reward.’” (Genesis 15:1b)

The story of the Exodus contains one of the greatest moments in all of history. The Israelites have been released from slavery and are making their long journey out of Egypt. The land through which they must journey is a wilderness with little food or water. The Israelites are complaining to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt just to die in the wilderness?” The situation becomes urgent when Pharaoh has a change of heart and decides it was a mistake to release the Israelites. He arms his chariots and sets out in pursuit to take them back into captivity. To make matters even worse, the Israelites are backed up against the Red Sea with nowhere to run. If ever a group of people had a right to be hopeless, this was it! Yet Moses says to the Israelites, “. . .Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today. . . . The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13-14) We all know the rest of the story. God divided the waters and made a path of dry land right through the middle of the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape between the walls of water on either side. Wow! At a moment when all seemed hopeless, God said, “Don’t be afraid! You don’t have to do anything except trust in Me!” Can we really believe that?

The Psalms contain many assurances about fear. “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (118:6 KJV) “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (27:1 KJV) And of course, the beloved 23rd Psalm, in which the Psalmist acknowledges that even when we walk through the darkest valley (the Valley of the Shadow of Death), we need fear no evil, for God is with us!

In the Old Testament, several passages are translated, “Do not fear or be dismayed.” Wouldn’t you agree that all of us are feeling a little dismayed these days? Don Moen wrote a wonderful song inspired by passages such as Joshua 1:9:

Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the Lord will go before you
And His light will show the way
Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the One Who lives within you
Will be strong in you today!
(Be Strong And Take Courage by Don Moen, Integrity Music)

Have we become so content with our earthly comforts that we have forgotten how dependent we are on the Lord? We must humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are not in control. God is in Control, and He hears our prayers! “Do not fear,” the Lord’s angel said to Daniel, “for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before God, your words have been heard. . .” (Daniel 10:12) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6) “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) What wonderful promises these are! And yet we must never forget our responsibility to humble ourselves, to acknowledge the Lord, and to seek to please Him with our lives.

If we are instructed to not be afraid, what does God offer to replace our fear? He offers the most wonderful thing of all, peace! In the words of our Savior Jesus Christ, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27) Two chapters later, He says it this way: “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (serious trouble), but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) We’re supposed to be of good cheer even when we’re facing serious trouble?

The apostle Paul faced his share of serious trouble, but he also knew the peace of God. Acts chapter 16 tells of a time when Paul and his friend Silas were wrongly accused for preaching the gospel and casting out a demon. They were beaten with rods, then thrown into prison, where they were bound by foot stocks in the innermost cell (maximum security). Under those circumstances, I’m not sure I would be of good cheer, but Paul and Silas were! About midnight, they were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them (probably thinking they must be lunatics!). Suddenly there was a great earthquake so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors of the prison were opened and all the prisoners’ chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he assumed the prisoners had escaped and drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself. We are all here!” The jailer rushed into the cells and fell on his knees in front of Paul and Silas, amazed that they had remained in the jail when they could have easily escaped. The jailer took them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” By trusting God in the middle of serious trouble, not only were Paul and Silas released from prison, but others were led to believe in Jesus as God’s Son, even the jailer and his family!

Later, Paul would write, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication (asking with humility), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear: “. . .Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? And can you, by worrying, add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the [ungodly people] who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33)

Beyond doubt, these are troubled times, but God never promised us that we would never have to face trouble. In fact, He promised us we could not escape it. But He has further promised that we can rely on Him completely to walk with us through every trial. He is the Creator of the Universe, and He is bigger than all the problems this world will ever face. No wonder He can say to us, “Fear not!”

Let’s pray:

Dear Lord,

We are worried and fearful and too often weak in our faith. Please forgive us. Please teach us to trust in You completely. Help us not to be caught up in the fears and anxieties of this world, but to lay all of our concerns before You in faith. May we know your peace that passes all understanding. May our faith in You be a shining light that turns the eyes of the nation upon You. As we humble ourselves and pray, as we seek Your face and turn from our wicked ways, please hear us from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land. May we live each moment in the assurance that we need not fear; we can trust You in every way, for You are in control. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Unless otherwise noted all scripture references are from the New Revised Standard Version.

Babel In America

Written Friday, October 10th, 2008

I am sending Myself to America in the time of crisis, in the time of woe. Those who are calling out to Me have moved the pace that has accelerated My coming. It is not a coming as in “My return.” This is a coming as in “My Fullness and My power.” The tower of Babel, the god of this country, is coming down. The rafters are falling, that which supports the tower is crumbling. But all is not lost, for I will be in the midst of it ALL. I will be there for those who cry out to Me, and I will rescue them. But there will be many who will not cry out, many who will die in their sins. The lofty will be brought low, as Nebuchadnezzar was.

The Church, what about the Church? Those who will turn to Me will see Me and be changed and will be brought to the place where I have meant for them to be all along. To those who will not turn, the doors of the Church will be closed. There will be a bringing in, a coming forth, an admitting to wrongs, a repenting of hearts. And then MY JOY, oh, MY JOY unspeakable and full of MY GLORY, will descend like a flood, and the watchful will see it coming, and the watchful will shout it out and will embrace it, and will be engulfed by it.

Then new words will rise up and come out of the mouths of My people, because they will be changed and will see My likeness and My glory. A new song will be sung because new hearts will embrace My movement, My appearance. You can see the joy now. You don’t have to wait for the disaster in order to see the joy. In the midst of the tower falling, My people can walk in MY JOY.

Those who are not prepared, those who are not solidly standing firm in Me, will fall prey to fear. And when they fall, it will be difficult to pull out, because their foundation is not settled in faith and trust IN ME. Those who are strong will be used to lift up the weak and to help lead them to a place of faith and assurance in WHO I AM.

So many of My people have come to put their trust in Babel and all that it stands for. Trust in this world produces a shallow and unstable foundation, and anything built on such a foundation will come to ruin.

Will you trust Me when you hear the rumbles of the quake, when you see the tower swaying? Many in this generation have not seen destruction, and many are not expecting it to come. My people, who are listening to Me, will hear and will be prepared. For revival can come when people realize that what they need most of all is Me.

Are You There, God?

In a time of economic downturn even believers can become fearful, as many struggle financially and some have even lost their jobs.  In 28 years of marriage, Matt and I have received many blessings and victories.  Yet, we’ve also experienced countless trials and tough times.  It is during the tough times, when our faith has been tested, that we have seen God come through in amazing ways so that we could take none of the credit and all the glory belonged to Him.

When we face hard times, there is always a “pressing through” that is painful and discouraging to walk.  In the midst of it, it’s hard to see God at work.  We are so quick to fall into doubt and fear, asking, “Where is God in all of this?”

If you are in a difficult place and need a miracle from God, I want to encourage you to not lose heart.  This is JUST the place where the door is wide open for you to see Him come through for you in a mighty way.  There have been many times when I have said to God, “You sure must think I can handle a lot,” when I was sure it was more than I could bear.  Yet, with His help, I made it through to the other side.

In tough times, we face two choices:  be angry at God, OR, draw closer to God.  Hebrews 7:25 says, “…He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  Jesus is the one who makes intercession for us, that is, He acts on our behalf before His Father, the Lord God Almighty.  Jesus acts on our behalf when we draw near to Him.

I like the saying, “You can become bitter or better.”  The choice is always up to us.  Sometimes, halfway through a trial, our frame of mind will change from one state to the other.  It is of course best to work on “becoming better” rather than allowing ourselves to become bitter.  Yet, if you find yourself becoming bitter, there is hope in Christ.  It takes repentance, admitting that we have been wrong, and then choosing to turn in a new direction with God’s help.

James 4:8 tells us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  Often in times of trial, I have had to take time to repent to God for my bad attitude, or for doubting Him instead of trusting Him.  He is always faithful to forgive us and cleanse us.  It takes recognizing that we are weak and He is all-powerful, but it also takes seeing that He loves us, even when we don’t endure a trial with perfect behavior.  He isn’t trying to punish us.  I have seen for myself that if I will submit my attitude to God, He will turn my outlook around and I will find it easier to endure a trial.  Eventually, with His help, I will begin to see a way out of the struggle.

In Psalm 31:1-4, King David gives us a wonderful example to follow:  “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!  Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily!  Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!  For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.”

If we think God is punishing us, or He has something against us, this false belief will prevent us from turning to Him.  We will be too afraid to draw close to Him.  I find that these false thoughts also stir up confusion.  You wonder, “Is God done being mad?  Is the punishment enough now?  I don’t know what God’s trying to teach me, have I learned what I’m supposed to learn?”  The Psalms and other books of the Bible contain many examples of times when someone experienced such troubled thoughts, and they ring true for those who are going through a time of difficulty.  Psalm 107:6 tells us, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.”  (Read the entire 42nd Psalm)

So often, we try to figure out everything before the trial ends.  Yet typically, it is not until we are past the trial that we are able to see a purpose, or to understand that we have learned something of value. We see so much more clearly afterward.  During a trial, we can see only part of the situation.  Our vision is limited.  God may speak to us during our struggle, but He usually only gives us a part of what we want to see and know.  I believe this is because He wants us to keep looking to Him, trusting in His guidance and not in our own limited abilities.

I want to encourage you to look for the little things, the small morsels of understanding as you walk in the midst of your struggle.  God is actively moving and speaking and revealing Himself all along.  We just have to let our eyes see and our minds understand the little miracles He sends our way.  I encourage you to journal everything, with dates, so you can keep track of the praises along the way.  After the trial, when you read back through your journal, you will see God in every step of your journey.

There have been many times when I have been struggling and not able to see a way out, when a good friend would send me a “word from the Lord” that was just in time and so uplifting for me.  First Corinthians 14:1 teaches us, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”  I have often held on to that special word to carry me through very dark times.  Eventually, I would see God’s word fulfilled, but during the trial, my faith would be increased as I held on to the hope of victory before it came.

Jesus promised us that we WILL have trials and tribulations, but HE has overcome the world (John 16:33).   HE has given us HIS overcoming power!  In NO WAY does God mean for us to be defeated!  Satan and his demons long to steal, kill and destroy, to defeat us every chance they can.  We must recognize that there are forces of darkness fighting against us.  We are in a spiritual battle.  So know this: that God intends for you and me to be victorious overcomers so we can help others to also be victorious.

The Apostle Paul writes, “In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

Yes, while going through a difficult trial it can seem as though the Lord is far away, that the difficulty has somehow separated us from God.  But His word says nothing can separate us from His love.  He IS love and He is always with us no matter what we may be facing.

Maybe someone close to you who is enduring a time of great difficulty.  This can be a great opportunity for you to stand with that person, to pray with them and see them through the trial.  We are not meant to live the Christian life alone.  We are to walk together, encouraging one another in our faith.  So let’s not encourage doubt and unbelief when someone is struggling.  Let’s not agree with their negativity or bitterness.  Let’s speak words of life and encouragement.  Let’s speak scriptures that will build up their faith to understand and believe that God IS making a way for them because He loves them and is for them, not against them. More than ever, we need to support and encourage one another.

Let’s Pray:

Father God, I thank you that your word is our guide through every path of life and it especially helps me when I am struggling.  Thank you for your great love and mercy that never fail to comfort me, even when I can’t see what’s ahead.  Help me to trust you in everything and to believe that You are for me and that You are making a way of escape for me.  I can take comfort in knowing that You know all about my struggles and my weaknesses and you WILL see me through to victory.

In Jesus’ Holy name I pray, Amen.

Where Are You Living?

Are you living mostly in the past, the present or the future? When I was asked this question, I realized that I had never thought about it or taken the time to analyze where my thoughts were focused most of the time. I realized for the first time that I spent much of my time replaying things from the past, especially at night before going to sleep. I would re-live events from that day or from days before. I also realized I spent a lot of my time worrying about the future, and I would come up with all kinds of “what ifs.” I spent the least amount of my thinking time enjoying the present. I could enjoy the present for a moment, but then into my mind would pop something someone had done to me that was hurtful, and I would run with it. My thoughts would be consumed by those hurtful memories, and when I would finally catch myself, I would have to consciously work my way out of the dark place to regain my peace of mind.

We live our lives in our minds, first with our thoughts, then living out what we are thinking. Isaiah 26: 3 says, “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind {both its inclination and its character} is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.” (Amplified Version) There are so many things that go on in any given day for most people. Our lives are so busy. Our society has us pushed to our physical and mental limits. It’s difficult to keep our minds on God with so many other things demanding our attention.

When it comes to thinking about our future, many of us worry about what may be ahead, especially in times of economic turmoil like today. It’s easy to live in fear. But Jeremiah 29:11 gives us this promise from God: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (New King James) Do you know that we can trust God even in a recession? We can rest on what His word teaches us instead of what the world tells us to believe. In Matthew 6:25 and 30-33, Jesus Himself speaks to us: “Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater {in quality} than food, and the body {far above and more excellent} than clothing? But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and green and tomorrow is tossed into the furnace, will He not much more surely clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, what are we going to have to eat? Or, what are we going to have to drink? Or, what are we going to have to wear? For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all. But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His Kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right) and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.” (Amplified Version)

For some people, it is difficult to live in the present because the present is so miserable. Perhaps you are facing health issues, or financial challenges, or problems in a relationship, or any of the countless trials we face. I know from personal experience how hopeless life can seem at times. But I have learned that our attitude plays an important role in overcoming times of difficulty. Maintaining a positive outlook and attitude helps us to maintain our faith in the Lord as He helps us make it through the trial. I have good friends who encourage me when I have a bad attitude, and I try to do the same for them. It’s important to have a good support group around us. But in tough times it definitely takes determination and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us be calm and positive. It is imperative that we keep our eyes and minds meditating on God’s Word for support and help.

There are times when I struggle to stay in peace. I quote the scriptures but quickly fall out of peace, then feel guilty because I couldn’t get the Word to work for me. “I must be doing something wrong,” I think, because I know God’s word does not return void, and it is powerful to accomplish much for me. Well, I learned some interesting things from Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Christian whose specialty is the human brain. In her book, Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions, she describes the anatomy of a thought and the influence it has over emotions and attitudes. Understanding how this all works helps us learn to control and change our thought life so that we can change our resulting behaviors. Dr. Caroline says, “Don’t let a thought come into your mind without recognizing if it’s a good thought or a bad thought. If it’s a bad thought, throw it out and replace this with a good thought.” For years I would apply the scripture, “Take captive every thought that exalts itself above the knowledge of God,” but I wasn’t getting results until I realized that the negative thought that I threw out must be replaced with something positive. It is important to know that we really can and must control what comes into our minds.

I have also learned that traumatic experiences can produce powerful holds on our mind and adverse reactions in our body because the mind is held up or bound up by the traumatic experience. A powerful hold takes time and help from others to break free of, but above all we must seek the Lord’s help and face the matter so we can come to live in freedom and victory. The trauma will keep you living in the past and will cause you to be fearful of the future, preventing you from enjoying the present, today, now, which God intends for us to experience and enjoy. When we fail to live in the present, we miss opportunities to impact those around us who may need our encouragement and support.

I wish I had heard Dr. Caroline Leaf’s message years ago. In fact, it would be great for parents to study, learn and teach to their young children and teens, and it would also be a great Home School learning project. I want to end by quoting from Dr. Caroline’s book: “Behavior starts with a thought. Thoughts stimulate emotions, which then result in attitude, and finally produce behavior.” I wish every believer would get a copy of Dr. Caroline’s book and DVD. She gives a clear biblical perspective on the mind and thoughts and how our thoughts affect us emotionally, spiritually and physically. I highly recommend getting her materials. You will never think the same again. (www.drleaf.net)

Try discovering where you live your life the most; in the past, the present or the future. In Matthew 6:35 our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (New American Standard) If you’re not living mostly in the present, begin today to make the necessary mental and spiritual adjustments.

Let’s pray:

Dear Father,

In the daily challenges of life, we need Your help and understanding to know what our part is in changing our life and perspectives. Thank you, Father, that You created such an amazing part of us, the human brain, and that You care about what we are thinking. Help us to glorify You in our thoughts and in our actions, this day and every day.

In Jesus’ Precious Name,

Amen

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