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

You Are Radically Loved

The words in this devotional are taken from Author Mike Mooney and his book, “Look! The Finished Work Of Jesus,” except for the words addressing the Bible verses and the prayer at the end. This will really bless you!

The more time we spend beholding Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us of His greatness and of His perfect finished work upon the cross, the more we are transformed along the way. We can rest in the truth that we don’t need to be perfect in our own strength, we just need to rest in the truth that God considers us perfectly acceptable because we believe upon His Son.

We can walk this great journey without fear or condemnation because as we walk, we rely on God’s grace and not on our perfect steps.

Jesus is a great King and it is His grace that empowers us to be able to live a life that can leave sin behind us and enable us to walk in His ways of love. The religious world may want to drag you before God for judgment, but God’s desire is to justify you by His grace. Christ is not a condemner, He is a life giver!

As disciples who have been justified by Christ’s perfect finished work upon the cross, we now share in the joy of listening to the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to live with us and to remind us that we are children of God. We only need to give ourselves permission to hear the life-giving words that the Holy Spirit is saying to us today, for the Holy Spirit is testifying to our spirit daily that we are God’s beloved children!

“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 written by the Apostle Paul)

Why is it so important to see the finished work of Jesus? It’s important because when we see all that He has done for us it allows us to truly rest in the radical love of God. It is in this place of resting in His love for us that the Spirit supernaturally shines that revelation into our relationships and into the world around us.

When you rest in the truth of how much Christ loves you, you find yourself starting to love others with the same kind of love. When you understand how much patience Christ has for you, you begin to have the same kind of patience for others. When you understand how much grace God gives to you, you begin to have the same kind of grace for others.

What is the greatest blessing we as Christians can receive? It is the blessing of knowing Christ and being found in Him. He is SO wonderful, just belonging to Him is more than enough to live a peaceful and joyful life. God has so many gifts and so many blessings that He wants to give us as believers in Christ, but as great as they all are, they are incomparable with the blessing of simply knowing Christ Jesus as our Lord.

We can rest in Jesus and have hearts that proclaim: ‘Lord, you are enough for me!’ When God sees this to be the confession of our hearts it makes Him smile, and I’m sure He says to us, ‘that really is wonderful, but I’m still going to give you all the rest of My blessings as well!’

The more we look to Jesus and believe in our hearts that He is more than enough for us, the more love increases in our hearts, we receive more peace and we overflow with more joy. When we see Jesus for who He truly is and declare, ‘Lord, my eyes are fixed on You, You are more than enough for me!’ the Spirit gets so excited that He can’t wait to fill us with the fullness of all of the likeness of Christ!

We, the community of God’s people, who believe in the perfect finished work of Christ, are the church. We each individually have the privilege of beholding Jesus and seeing Him for who He truly is, the perfect one who through His perfect sacrifice has made us perfect forever in the eyes of God.

Look to Him for who He is and by the Spirit of God be transformed. Each new day, as we look to Christ, we will discover more of the treasures, the glory, the power, the beauty and the majesty of Christ. We will also find ourselves coming together with thankful and joyful hearts, knowing the truth of His love for us with an ever increasing understanding.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 2:2-3, “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

You are a new creation. You are the holiness and righteousness of God. You are without blemish in God’s eyes. You are His beloved child. You are perfectly united with Him. All of this has been accomplished by the grace and power and perfect atoning sacrifice of Christ, to whom you now belong. You are so loved and are now standing in the very place where God’s abundant provision of grace flows in your life. You are ‘in’ the Son of the living God!

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2 Apostle Paul)

Rejoice! You are living in a covenant relationship with the Almighty God based on His divine faithfulness, His perfect finished work and His unfailing love!

This is the reality of Jesus: He is everything, and you are everything to Him. You are His treasured possession. You are His love.

The simple gospel truth is actually the most profound truth anyone could ever know. You know it and you believe it. Now enjoy it.

You are radically loved.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for showing Your love to me by sending Your Son Jesus Christ to die for my sins, guilt, shame, failures and for sending Your Holy Spirit in Jesus’ place to dwell in the hearts of all who receive Him. Give me a revelation of this radical love and help me to receive all that You have for me and to walk in the fullness of this love and grace. And help me to love others with this radical, amazing love.

In Jesus precious 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!

The Really, Really, Really Good News

The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers, and to us, a wonderful truth in Romans 8:1-4: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (ESV)

I have had my own struggles at times to walk consistently without condemnation. I know so many believers who struggle with condemnation, and who are not walking in true peace with God. Why is this? I believe, for myself and others, that we have not fully accepted that because Christ died for all of our sins, God is not “sin conscious” like we are. Many people believe that God can and will forgive them of their smaller sins, but they do not believe that He will ever forgive them of their BIG sins. This, my friend, is not the truth.

Where does this “sin consciousness” come from? Well, we know that the Law was written down for Moses and the Israelites to reveal to them their sin. The law brought judgment and death. But how did this change when Jesus came and was crucified, died and resurrected? Jesus fulfilled the law! Therefore, believers are no longer subject to the law. Yet, to this day, Christians continue to struggle to accept this grace and freedom from the law. Instead, we want to mix parts of the old law into our relationship with God, afraid that if we don’t do certain things or behave in certain ways, He will no longer love us. Could this be why the “Church” is struggling? Is powerless? Is not witnessing the miracles and “greater works” than those Jesus performed, which He promised we would see when He sent the precious Holy Spirit? (John 14:12)

Romans 5:20-21 offers another explanation of the difference between law and grace: “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Most believers who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior grasp the “eternal life” part of this verse, but many do not grasp the significance of this promise: “…so grace might reign through righteousness…” It is a powerful and awesome thing to realize that Jesus came to fulfill the old law and to give us a new commandment. What is the new commandment? “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (1 John 3:23) There is no higher law or commandment than this one: Believe in what Jesus Christ has done FOR YOU!

The law of the Old Testament was a standard of how mankind was required to live to be righteous before God. Jesus came to fulfill that standard of living, so that we can have His life as a free gift. If you have this in mind as you read the Bible–“I must do EVERYTHING Jesus did”–then you must do everything He did. Let me explain: you must go to the temple, you must wear the clothes that Jesus wore, if you were healed you must go to the temple and sacrifice as Moses commanded, you must keep the Sabbath laws, you must eat only “clean” foods, and the list of requirements goes on and on. Today, only the most devout Jews even attempt to live by the Law of Moses, yet there is a misguided form of law that people in the Church continue to feel bound to. This mixed form of law and grace does not bring life, peace or freedom, because we are “redeemed” from the law and are the recipients of grace through Jesus Christ. Isn’t this great news? Jesus kept all of the rules of the law while He was here on earth. Why? He had to in order to fulfill the law. In order to be the “perfect” sacrifice, He had to be without sin, and if He had not kept the whole law, He could not have been the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

So here it is: It is not by our obedience to laws that we can stand holy before God. We can only stand holy before God through the obedience of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Hallelujah!!! This is the manifestation of the love of God toward us: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9)

So, as a believer, what happens when you sin? Is God pleased with your sin? No, He is not pleased with your sin, but this doesn’t change His love for you. Every one of us has messed up, but here is God’s “mess–age”: He took care of our mess! Jesus gave Himself on the cross to atone for all of our sins, for all time. Our sins “died” with Christ on that cross, and because they are now covered by the atoning blood of Christ, God no longer holds our sins against us. That is His grace! So, does that mean we can go on sinning, since God has given us this grace? “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:2-3, 6-7 ESV)

God wants to know that we love Him, and one of the key ways we show our love to Him is by choosing to receive what Jesus did for us. God gives us the choice, because He wants lovers, not robots. (“We love Him because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19)

Jesus had the unshakeable knowledge of the Father’s love for Him. We can have this knowledge too, but we must realize that we cannot love Him until we know that He loves us first. His love is placed in us when we believe. The only thing we “do” is receive the free gift of salvation. We don’t have to do good things to earn his love so that He will approve. We must simply live in the work of Christ on the cross and rest in what He has already done for us, what we could never have accomplished for ourselves.

When we first believed on Jesus as our Lord and Savior, many of us were taught Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” We began our walk of faith by receiving this great and precious promise of grace, which means “unmerited favor.” Yet, as we continued our walk with Christ, many of us fell into the bondage of believing that in order to become holy, we had to “do” holy things. We became focused on works and lost sight of His grace.

I want to reiterate the last half of 1 John 4:9, “. . .that we might live through him.” We can’t live by the law. We must live in and through Christ. God sees us through Jesus. He sees Jesus’ righteousness, Jesus’ shed blood covering us, and Jesus’ perfect, sinless life. It is not by our works of the flesh that we become righteous, not by our own hard work or power. Rather, it is God’s gift to us that Jesus’ life becomes our own, and we are judged, not according to our own failures and acts of selfishness, but according to Jesus’ perfection.

There are two ways God takes away sin: 1) He took upon Himself the punishment for our sin, and 2) For those who believe in the work of Jesus on the cross, He has removed the law. Forgiveness of sin is not just God saying, “I’m not angry with you.” Forgiveness of sin means to set free from the dominating power – the law. My friend, Christ as set you free from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13) Praise His name!!! It is easy for sinners to sin. It is easy for believers to do right because we now live in Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in our own willpower or belief in our own ability to do right.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way that is free from the requirement of works, from having to do things by your own power in order to achieve righteousness. This is the REALLY, REALLY, REALLY good news. . .the GOSPEL! Oh, don’t you just want to praise Him for what He has done for you by taking your sin upon Himself so that you can live a wonderful, peace-filled, satisfying life?

Let’s pray together:
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for sending Your Son Jesus to pay the penalty for all of my sins. I receive what you have done so I can walk in this newness of life. Please show me the areas in my mind where I have been caught up in “law-based thinking” and help me to allow You to replace this with a full acceptance of Your grace. Please help me to be free of “sin-consciousness” and the fear that I can never be “good enough” for You to love. I want to be ever aware of Your grace and love, and to live daily in this wonderful freedom you have given to me by Christ’s holy work on the cross.

In Jesus Mighty name I pray,
Amen

 

Except as noted, all scripture references are from the New King James Version.

What If?

WHAT IF … God really took the time to think about and plan for every detail about you before He created you?

For example, “I’m going to make your eyes a beautiful green, and not just because your Mom or Dad has green eyes.”

No, He decides He wants your eyes to be green!

WHAT IF … He thought out and He planned every detail of your being; your personality, your talents and abilities?

And then He looked at His creation and said, “I LOVE YOU! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!

WHAT IF … God knew there was going to be trouble in your life, hardships, pain, sadness … and He was reaching down with His loving hand to lead you to the other side?

But You never looked up. You walked the other way. You were angry at Him and you refused His loving hand.

And yet, He spoke once again, “But I LOVE YOU. I CREATED YOU, and I have a GREAT and AWESOME plan for your life.”

WHAT IF … you embraced His love and decided to trust Him?

WHAT IF … God caught every tear you cried and saved them in a bottle…

And because He is God, He turned those tears into a sweet perfume of His presence that He pours over your wounded heart and turns it into joy!

WHAT IF … you embraced His presence to heal your heart?

WHAT IF … God can read your mind and He knows the intentions of your heart, and your mind is full of bad thoughts like FEAR, SELF-HATRED, JEALOUSY, ANGER, LUST…?

And God says, “That’s not what I created your mind for. Think on ME. I can give you peace and contentment if you dwell on what is good, pure and lovely…

WHAT IF … God is looking at you right now and He sees your sickness and He sees your pain and He says, “I LOVE YOU My child. I want you to be well. I am your healer. I created you to be whole.

WHAT IF … you choose to believe Him and you resist the lies, your old ways of thinking and your doubts? What if you change your perspective and you see and embrace His love tonight?

WHAT IF … you have worked and worked to do good things to win God’s approval or His love? But you don’t think you’ll ever measure up … you must keep working hard because you think it’s the only way God will save you and accept you.

WHAT IF … God is saying to you right now, “There is nothing you can do to make Me love you more or make Me love you less I love you. You are saved by accepting the GRACE of My Son Jesus and His shed blood to cover ALL of your sins.”

WHAT IF … you accept this fact that God isn’t looking for your works to gain His approval but He is looking for you to surrender your heart; for you to allow His LOVE to fill you and cleanse you?

So you can know YOU ARE ACCEPTED and LOVED by Him!

His love is PERFECT
His love is PURE
His love is CONSTANT
His love is HERE for you RIGHT NOW

Scripture Verses to support these words:
Isaiah 44:2 “…the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb…”
Psalm 139:13 “For You formed my inward parts…”
Genesis 1:31 “…God saw everything that He made…it was very good.”
John 16:33b “In the world you will have tribulation…”
Isaiah 54:17 “…no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed.”
Jeremiah 29:11 “…I have plans for you…for wholeness and not for evil.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…He will make straight your paths…”
Psalm 56:8 “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle.”
Psalm 30:11 “You have turned for my mourning into dancing…”
Psalm 3:3 “…You are a shield about me…the lifter of my head.”
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord…has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.”
Hebrews 4:12 “For the Word of God is living and active…and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Matthew 9:4 “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts…”
Philippians 4:8 “…whatever is true…just..pure…lovely… commendable… think about these things.”
Matthew 9:35 “And Jesus went throughout all the cities…proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”
Isaiah 53:5 “…and by His (Jesus’) stripes (wounds) we are healed.”
James 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Galatians 2:16 “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Ephesians 1:4-8 “…even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 2:4-10 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the GREAT love with which He loved us…made us alive together with Christ…”

Dear Father,
I want to make my “what if” into “I will.” I can see by reading your Holy Word that You do love me and You do have so much for me, but I must give to you my heart. Thank You Lord Jesus for what You did for me in suffering and dying for my sins and for my sicknesses. I give You my whole heart right now. Take me and cleanse me and bring me into Your Kingdom. I want to live for You.
Amen

*Most Scripture references are from the English Standard Version; a few are from the New King James Version.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town?

When you were a child, as Christmas approached, your parents may have said something like this to you: “You had better be GOOD, or Santa isn’t going to bring you any presents!” I know mine did. Even though our parents knew they would still give us gifts, the myth of Santa gave them a kind of leverage they used to influence us to be extra good, in case our bad behavior, like fighting with our siblings, might ruin the happiness Christmas was supposed to bring.

A young child’s mind is very impressionable. Even at ages 4, 5 and 6 we have already begun forming mindsets based on our experiences and what we have heard from adults. Much of our belief system is built upon those early experiences; both good and bad.

How many of us have grown up to believe that God must be like Santa Claus? You may have never put the two together as I am suggesting, but I hope you will consider the following observations and examine your own belief system for possible misconceptions about God.

Here is a song almost every child in America has sung many times, not to mention the countless times they’ve heard it on T.V. and radio. Let’s consider this song line by line and then ask some questions:

“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”

You better watch out, you better not cry,
You better not pout, I’m telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town!

Do you believe that God is someone you’d better “watch out for?” You know, in case you haven’t behaved yourself very well? And what about crying and pouting? Do you think God is angry if you cry or pout? Even adults cry and pout sometimes and feel sorry for themselves. Does God turn away and tell us, “Grow up! Get over it?” Is God really that harsh and insensitive? I say He’s not, and so does the Bible! “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are!” (I John 3:1a) “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

He’s making a list and checking it twice,
Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice,
Santa Claus is coming to town!

Wow! Does God keep a list of all we’ve done? And if we’ve been bad does He use it against us and keep good things from us? Well, yes He knows everything about us: our past, present and future. Most people believe God is capable of this. But God’s reason for keeping track of everything isn’t to see if we’re being good or bad and to knock us over the head if we mess up. If we are in Christ, if He is the Lord of our life, He has cleansed us and we are in His righteousness. Yes, we still mess up and fall short most every day, but His grace is greater! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23). And if that wasn’t enough, consider Psalms 103:12: “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Now what about the line, “Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice?” By this the child is convinced that he or she must be good enough (perfect?) in order to receive gifts for Christmas. The great news about being a believer in Christ and living for Him is that God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He first loved us, so that is why we are able to love Him (I John 4:19).

But what about this: If we have been a believer for quite some time, we know we are to please God and not sin. But when we do sin, is God mad at us? Will He not forgive us? Will He turn away and not give anything good to us if we’re not perfect? I John 1:9 assures us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If we have hurt another person or have sinned against them we need to follow James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

The Law given to Moses and the Israelites, as recorded in the book of Leviticus, was meant to reveal to the people just how far short they had fallen from the Lord’s standards. The law required the sacrifice of goats, sheep and bulls, so that the shed blood would atone for the people’s sins. Yet, because of their selfish natures, the people were still unable to keep God’s commandments. So God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the perfect atoning sacrifice for all of mankind, that whoever would believe in Christ as Savior would not die eternal death, but would be saved and have eternal life (John 3:16). God doesn’t force anyone to believe in Jesus. He leaves it up to each of us, individually, to choose to believe and follow Him, and to accept the shed blood of Christ as the atonement for our sins. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

The next few lines of the song read:

He sees you when you’re sleeping,
He knows when you’re awake,
He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!

Yes it is true that God sees us when we’re sleeping and He knows when we’re awake. No human person is capable of doing this, only God is. He is omnipresent (always present) and omniscient (all-knowing). “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Psalm 15:3). The message of the Santa Claus song is that you had better be good so you can get good things from a man who comes to your house once a year! But when we have repented of our sins and accepted Christ as our Savior, we can rest assured that as God sees us and knows us, we can feel protected and safe in His presence. Not judged and condemned or in fear that we’ll not receive good things from Him because He’s angry at our behavior. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set us free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). If we decide to sin and behave in rebellion toward God, we leave ourselves open to the influence of the devil. God sees all of this too, but He leaves us with the choice to follow Him or our own selfish desires.

It is so wonderful how His Holy Spirit reveals truth to us. As we seek Him, He is faithful to transform our hearts, so our desires become His desires, and we find ourselves wanting to do good and to be like Him. And with the help of the Holy Spirit we can become all that God desires for us to be. He longs to help us; not to criticize and judge us.

Have you seen any similarities between your faith walk and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”? Deep down inside, do you really trust God to be for you and to be there to help you? If not, pray that the Lord will help you replace your wrong beliefs with His truth: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

The Christian life is a journey. It is a mountain climbing, valley walking, river crossing journey in which we must learn to depend on God and not ourselves. When we mess up we must turn to God and not away from Him, because He loves us and wants to help us get back on His path. And He wants us to experience His love. Why? So we can know His love is always there and will never fail us, and so we can love others as He loves us. “. . .God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I John 4:9-11).

The song ends by repeating the first verse again, “You better watch out.” Do we need to watch out for God? Yes, but not because He wants to punish us. We should watch out for Christ’s return, when He will come to receive his Bride, that is, those who accept Him as Savior and truly follow Him. The Bible says that He will return in the clouds and take us to be with Him forever. “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (Mark 13:26-27).  We are to watch and be ready! “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).

Let’s Pray:
Dear God,

I know that I haven’t been perfect, but your Word says that You love me anyway. Forgive me for relying on my own efforts and going my own way. I ask that you help me to step down from the throne of my life and to give You complete control. Please come into my heart and make me new. Help me to see You as the loving Father that You are and help me to then love others as You love me. Thank You that I now see that You are not to be compared to Santa Claus, or to any other man. You are God and You are always with me, guiding me, revealing truth to me and helping me to be transformed into your very likeness. Thank You for being My Lord and Savior!

Amen

All scripture references are from the English Standard Version

The Great Exchange

At the October CityPrayz event I performed a skit titled, “The Great Exchange: Exchanging your baggage for God’s luggage.” We received a lot of positive comments about the skit, and as I was praying concerning this devotional, I sensed God leading me to reiterate its message:

Most everyone I know can name something about themselves that they would like to change but have felt powerless to do so. In my own life, I have discovered that changing something that has been part of me for a significant length of time takes a process: a series of steps required to move from where I am now to where I want to be, or more importantly, to where God wants me to be. I am amazed every day, as I walk this journey with the Lord, at how great His love is for me, for all of us. He loves us the way we are, and He loves us so much He wants to transform us into what He knows we can be. And He has some pretty good ideas for each one of us!

Is it true that we all have baggage? Can this baggage be keeping us from the best God has for us? Can it hinder us from truly changing for the better? I say, most emphatically, YES!

God wants to take us from a mindset of unbelief to a mindset of total faith: that is, fully trusting who He is and trusting Him for our lives and for our future. He says to you, “I know the plans I have for you and they are GOOD.” (Jeremiah 29:11) You have a future and a hope in Christ. He works from your present to your future, not your past to your present. If you choose to live from your present to your past, you’re going to miss so much of who God is. All of us come into a relationship with God carrying baggage from our past. What is this baggage?

Hurts and wounds
Low self-esteem
Sins that have scarred your mind and heart
Abuses
Anger you feel justified in harboring (grudges)
Bitterness
Jealousy
Rejection
Hatred
Negative pronouncements about what life has taught you
Condemnation
Guilt
Shame

You can be locked into a present-past lifestyle and a present-past perception that says, “Nothing’s going to change, nothing’s going to work for me.” You will notice that many of your current experiences come from your past in constant replays. If you live with this mindset, you are almost guaranteed your past will repeat itself again and again. Why is this? Because what you focus on keeps coming back again and again. If your expectations come from your history, then you are locked into that history. What is it that you doubt about God that keeps you focused on the negative and trapped in your old ways? What is it that you do not understand about God because your vision of yourself is distorted by your past? Many people have lived for too long in this mindset. The enemy, Satan, wants to keep us trapped in defeat, negativity and fear. But God doesn’t!

When we are “in Christ,” old things will pass away and all things become new. (II Corinthians 5:17) This doesn’t happen instantly, but the transformation can begin when we come to understand that, regarding anything we cling to that keeps us in bondage, God is constantly saying, “LET IT GO!” Let it go and let Him replace it with something wonderful that He has always intended for you to have.

A beautiful thing about the cross is that it represents our deliverance from the bondage of present-past thinking. Part of dying to “self” is the crucifixion of the thought patterns and behaviors that we really don’t like but can’t seem to escape. Allow those parts of you that are governed by your past to be crucified with Christ. God is our present and our future. The Lord wants to take us from our current life with Him to the future He desires for us. Walking with the Spirit means letting go of your “baggage,” the things that keep you from the best He has for you.

How much of your daily time is spent brooding over your past, dreading your future, and as a result, failing to enjoy the present? When I was first asked to contemplate this question, I realized that most of my life was spent dwelling on my past (the negative things) and worrying about my future because I was sure my past would keep repeating itself. But I can honestly tell you that I have gone through the processes of getting out of that mindset and I now walk in the freedom of trusting God, enjoying my life and living with a hopeful expectation of my future. I know this change is possible and it is crucial for God’s people to be set free.

Too often, we carry the hurtful words of others in our memories; words that make us feel worthless, useless, with no value, or ridden with fear. Our memories are full of pain or abuse, guilt or humiliation. God says to you, “I don’t want those things in your head. I don’t want them in your life. I don’t want them to rule you. It is time to let them go.” Realize that Jesus came to give you newness of life and freedom from your past. Yes, our past happened, and we can’t actually erase it from our memory, but we can let it go and give it to God. And when we do, it loses its power over us as we walk in the grace and love our heavenly Father is bestowing upon us.

Be comforted by these words: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Those are His words of promise to us! When you are in the midst of crisis and turmoil, when your life has been turned upside down, that is the very best time to turn to God, because it is when we have come to the end of ourselves that we are most willing to fully trust in Him. At those times, when He truly has our attention, He may be able to bless us in ways that we might ordinarily not allow when things are going well. Too often, it is only in those times of great pain and misery that we are desperate enough to look beyond ourselves, to ask “What is really going on here? What can I do to change my terrible circumstances?” God wants to help you see those things that hold you in bondage and are not pleasing to Him. He will gladly take them from you. He is always there, always present, and always able to help you “let these things go.”

Unless your identity comes from the Lord, you’ve got a false identity. You are not living from the place of truth. For God is truth and He will restore your true identity. All that baggage we carry becomes our identity, and the devil does everything he can to keep us trapped in that false identity. But as we give our baggage to God, we find that we now have room for His luggage. He is saying, “You won’t need this baggage for where we are going, so can I have it? I have plans for you, I have places to take you, but in order for you to be that person you have to give me your baggage. I can then enable you to become the person I created you to be.” The Holy Spirit will point to those things that He wants you to let go of, to exchange for the gifts He has for you in return. What are these gifts He gives in exchange? Let’s call them “God’s luggage:”

Peace
Joy
Love
Faith
Patience
Confidence
Assurance
A joyful, confident expectation of good
Enjoyment of life
Hope
Restoration

It is about “The Great Exchange,” where God will love you through the process of change, taking your earthly baggage and giving you his heavenly luggage. God loves it when we see Him for who He is and walk daily in the relationship He has always longed to have with us. As we follow in His footsteps, we walk boldly into the future with hope, faith and confidence.

Dear Jesus, my Lord and Savior,

Thank you for giving me the knowledge of “The Great Exchange.” I am so tired of carrying this baggage. I have been afraid to let these things go, but I am willing to give these things to You because You know what is best for me. I long for the new luggage you give for my journey with You. Please help me to submit daily to your transforming power. Thank you for Your unfailing love and for the good future You have in store for me.

In Jesus Holy name, Amen.

*You may find it helpful to write a list of the things you need to surrender to God and the things He will give you in exchange, and then meditate on those good things He wants to give you.

More Scripture Verses:

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

I John 3:1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I John 5:4-5 “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

All scripture references are from the English Standard Version.

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.

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