LOVE OVERCOMES FEAR

1 John 4:17-19 (The Message)

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way love has the run of the house, becomes at home and matures in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgement Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgement – is one not yet fully formed in love. We though, are going to love – love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

I have come to the conclusion that maturing as a Christian is synonymous with maturing in love. Learning to love is nurtured by our grasping of the reality that God loves us.

Love begets love. Fear opposes love. As the above scripture points out: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.”

There is natural fear. I don’t get too close to the edge of a cliff, and I keep my distance from poisonous snakes. However, the unfounded fear of impending doom opposes love. When we embrace God’s love for us, we put aside fear; for we know, he cares for us. Death and judgement are taken care of.

John 3:16 (The Message)

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

The freedom we gain through salvation in Jesus Christ allows us to walk through life without fear. His love conquers the fear in us. The less we fear, the more his love passes from us to others. Isn’t it the goal of Christians to love one another?

A prayer: Help us Father to more fully grasp the love you have for us that we might grow in love for each other.

FREEDOM IN JESUS

In Romans Chapter 6, Paul gives us a detailed explanation of the freedom we have as believers in Christ Jesus. As I read through this chapter, it reminded me of what life was like before I surrendered to Jesus. I was in control, and nothing seemed to be going right. When I surrendered to Jesus, I gave him control. It was very freeing. I realized that, though I thought I was in control, I had been under the control of my sinful nature.

The challenge of living in this freedom is founded in who’s in control. When I am truly surrendered to Jesus, I’m free to humbly respond to daily life with love and forgiveness. When I take back control, I’m living in my sinful nature. The lie is that when I’m in control, I can make things right; but no, sin takes over. The mess I create leaves me in pain, stressed out, and filled with regret.

Jesus has set me free from sins control. Only in Jesus can I live freely.

HUMANS WITHOUT GOD

In the first chapter of Romans Paul writes about the state of humans without God. It is a scathing account of what we are like when we turn our backs on God. The frightening part of reading his words is that I see the potential for these evils in myself.

I have just finished the intense season of my job as a driving instructor. When the high schoolers are out for the summer, we’re on the road for many hours. If I had any doubts about Paul’s discourse on the state of humans, all those hours in traffic have been a visual clarification of his accuracy.

As I watched humans aggress upon their fellow man, and continually endanger the lives of others, I was appalled. Then I remembered. Almost every self-centered uncaring act was something that I had done. Yes, even as a Christian.

What did I learn from this? I desperately need God. Every moment of every day I need God. Only in him can I be loving, compassionate, and forgiving. These are the traits I need in every situation, especially in traffic.

A TRANSFORMED MIND

One of the difficulties followers of Jesus face in our current society is avoiding the consumer mentality. “Let’s go shopping” is the call. We get to buy things and spend money. There is never an end to what we can buy, but unfortunately there is an end to the money we have to spend. Running out of money is a definite downer. We are then driven to figure out how we can get more money. Living the consumer life never brings us satisfaction.

I have been reading through Matthew chapters 5-7, and as I read it occurred to me that Jesus is redirecting his disciples’ way of thinking. Jesus taught his disciples to think differently. He wanted them to put aside self-concerns and focus on the Kingdom of God. Paul restates Jesus’ teaching in Romans 12:1-2,

            So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (The Message).

If we allow him, Jesus will change our way of thinking. He will transform our minds. Let me recap what Paul is saying. We should take everything about our lives and place it before God as an offering. Then we should humbly accept what he has done for us.   Our way of thinking is not about what we can do for him, but what he has done for us. So with a heart of gratitude, we fix our attention on him, and receive the new way of thinking that he works into us. This allows us to do what he sets before us without distraction. The result, “God brings the best out of us, develops well-formed maturity in us.”

Repost from 6/2018

OUR SIGNIFICANCE

Today, I will go about my day doing what God has set before me. Perhaps, I will touch someone else’s life in an important way. Maybe, they will be encouraged in the Lord. Maybe, they will find a greater measure of the life that Jesus brings. Whatever happens in this day, it will be a minuscule part of what will happen on the earth. Across the globe, billions of Christians will also be going about doing what God has set before them. We are part of a great Army advancing the Kingdom of God.

Over the weekend, I put together a 500 piece puzzle. Each piece was just a small part of the whole, but the picture would be incomplete if one piece was missing. So, I recognize that what I do today may seem insignificant, but it is not insignificant. It is a little part of God’s big picture.

STAY WITH GOD

1 Samuel 12:20 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”

Pastor Eric used this scripture several weeks ago in his sermon. I have thought about Samuel’s words ever since. Our natural tendency is to hide from the Lord when we’ve done wrong. After the very first sin, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord. But Samuel is telling the Israelites to stay with the Lord. Face the Lord with what you have done. It is a brave and humbling thing to face God, but without God there is no life.

I was riding along in my driver’s training car when this thought came to me; Jesus told us what happens when we come to God with the guilt of our sins. In the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) Jesus tells us what to expect from our heavenly father when we turn to him. The prodigal son came to his senses and realized that in his father’s house there was life. He hoped for a lowly position. What he received was welcoming arms and celebration.

God loves us; we are his children. In God, we find forgiveness and grace. Stay with God, for there is no other place where we find life.

A FATHER’S DISCIPLINE

I love this post from several years ago. It is not only encouragement for us in our relationship with God, but an example for earth bound fathers. We can see that discipline takes patience, love, and help.

I came to the realization today that God has me in a tight spot with no wiggle room. I can’t wiggle myself out of this situation. The only thing I can do is trust Him. I have a tendency toward self-reliance, but I can’t think myself out of this one. God knows me so well. I chuckle at myself as I realize that God has infinite patience. He can wait me out. I am slowly surrendering.

As I ponder this quandary, I recognize the Father’s touch. He loves me enough to work in my life. He is disciplining me. I then remember the words of Hebrews 12:5-6:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

The God of the universe is taking time for me! He loves me enough to discipline me. I can’t take this lightly.

 

I now have a choice. I can humble myself and learn the lesson, or I can resist and gain nothing. Surrendering to discipline is not easy. Verse 11 reminds us, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” Yes, I concur that it’s painful, but the verse continues, “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” I hope I can stick it out. I will definitely need His help.

 

I pray by God’s mercy and grace that I will learn this lesson. May my heart be humbled and encouraged, so I might reap the fruit of this lesson and gain what the Father intends for my life.

WHAT CONSTRAINS YOU?

I was reading in the book of Job a couple of days ago when I came upon these words, “The fear of God has kept me from these things – how else could I ever face him?” (Job 31:23 The Message) Job says these words after he describes a long list of sins he did not committed. What constrained Job was his relationship with God.

These words and my thoughts about these words sent me into self-evaluation. I asked myself, “what constrains me.” After much contemplation my final answer to the question of what constrains me is I love God. How could I ever face him if I indulged in things that would displease him? Well, unfortunately, I have indulged in many things that would displease him. I find that I am unable to please God on my own. What a dilemma, I love God and want to please him, but I can’t seem to restrain myself.

The Apostle Paul describes this dilemma and then says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Christ Jesus our Lord!” I need a savior. I can’t do it on my own. Jesus has not only saved me from sin, but he has sent me a helper, his Holy Spirit. God has done everything to help me in my desire to please him. When I fail; He forgives me. How amazing is that!

SHOW ME YOUR WAYS LORD

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4&5)

This week, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 25. In this psalm, David expresses his trust In God, and explores what it means to follow God. Those of us who make decisions from a Godly perspective are often thought foolish by worldly standards. David asks, “Do not let me be put to shame.” But, David knew that those who follow the ways of the world will eventually be put to shame.

Verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 25 were part of a worship song we sang many years ago, so those words are very familiar to me. However, I never spent much time thinking about the words, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.” David articulates, in these words, the desires of all God’s children. Show me, God, how it’s supposed to be; guide me and teach me.

As I reflect on my years of following the Lord, they have indeed been learning his ways and seeking his path for my life. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in this favorite passage:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28&29)

My human nature continually fights against this rest that Jesus offers, but I stay in the battle, for I have this burning desire. I want to know his ways and learn his paths.

THE PICTURE OF YOUR LIFE

Have you ever opened a 1000 piece puzzle and dumped the contents out. It’s quite a jumble of pieces and cardboard dust. Now imagine that someone gave you this puzzle in a Ziploc bag without a picture. It would be quite a challenge to put together. Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody came along who knows exactly what the picture looks like? That person could guide you while you worked to put the puzzle together.

Isn’t this what life is like? We don’t know what it will look like. We’re just trying to put the pieces together. And, isn’t Jesus the one who knows the whole picture? When he was on the cross, just before he gave up his spirit, he said, “It is finished.” He had completed the goal of restoring our relationship with God.  Now he’s at work guiding us through life. We should let him. When we pray, we should trust him for the answer. He has the whole picture, and he knows what’s coming.