Month: December 2015

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Mary heard these words from the Angel Gabriel recorded in Luke 1:28. They “greatly troubled” her, as she didn’t understand what they could mean (v. 29). Favored one? The Lord is with me? “And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (v. 30). And the prophecy came. She would be the Mother of the Messiah, the King. She was told that day, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (v. 32).

So she submitted herself to the spirit, calling herself a servant, and went on her way with the Light of the World growing within her. She believed. This was said of her by Elizabeth, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (vs. 45). And she praised. She said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant, For behold, from now on all generations will called me blessed” (2:47-48). Mary, Mother of Jesus, believed the Word of the Lord and was blessed.

And in that stable, fleeing from harm, she birthed the Messiah. As she took that journey in faith and then laid this tiny Savior baby in a manger, in the midst of all the uncertainty, she must have trusted that what the angel said was true, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” She had found favor: “perfect love that casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

A Savior had come. This was foretold. And now, there would be a king who would reconcile sinners to God. The Word made flesh (John 1). A king whose life brings grace, unmerited favor. ‘Perfect love that casts out fear.”

And so, as Mary, we abide in this love, have confidence in this love, speak of this love, and give this love….

14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:14-19 (ESV)

There will be a day when the Lord will come again to judge the world, and for those who abide in this Love, the Lord will say as he did with Mary when Jesus came the first time, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” Covered by Grace, the unmerited favor found in Jesus, those who believe In Him will have confidence on that day. And so we can rest in that Love today knowing that just as Mary knew when she held baby Jesus, “perfect love casts out fear.” The Word has come to bring Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. Through Jesus, we live in these things and by these things until He comes again. Believe the Word of the Lord and be blessed.

Let Us Live Full of Joy

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory

JoyHappiness is found in temporal circumstances. Joy is found in eternal circumstances. So, I asked myself this week: Do I live for the happy moments or do I live for the joyful moments?

If I were honest with myself, I think it would often be that I live for happy moments. I know this because I can sometimes find myself jealous, discontent, bored, despairing, or impatiently waiting for blessings not yet bestowed. There are a lot of inconsequential things that could trigger these negative feelings. It could be someone else’s museum trip in a city I used to live, a wonderful snowfall in the town I grew up, or a 1st year birthday party for a child of a blogger I don’t even know. These all seem to me like such happy moments, and I want them for myself. But these are temporal moments, meaning, you aren’t gong to bring them to heaven. And sometimes, I wonder if we are all starting to believe that because we snap a picture of it, these moments will be there forever.

I’ve found this even more in my heart as we moved from an “adventurous” city. There are times that I find myself discontent that I don’t have that level of adventure at my disposal anymore. This is interesting coming from me because although I grew to love DC in the end, that was mostly not the case when I lived there. It was there that I thought happiness would mean a slower or quieter life. But I lived there long enough that even though I’m not by nature an adventurous person, I’m more wired for adventure now. And so I try to seek experiences in my new city, exploring the sites and restaurants that meet the standard of happiness and adventure to which I have now become accustomed. There is a lot my new city has to offer. But there is one thing that it can never offer. And that is Joy.

I’ve learned since moving from DC that I am far too easily pleased with a life of good food and adventure. I know this because I am dissatisfied when I don’t have it. I’m not saying enjoying good food or having adventure is wrong. And I’m not saying you can’t have these things plus Joy. I’m just saying that no matter how much your life lives up to a standard of gourmet or adventure, it’s “mud pies in a slum” compared to the Joy found in Christ, to the joy we will experience in Heaven. If you set your hope in happiness, it will fail you. Maybe not today, but some day. If you set your hope in Christ, your eternal circumstances speak Joy over your life.

So let’s not be content with happy moments. Or be discontent with other’s happy moments. Let’s not be satisfied with temporal circumstances or with a heart that does not delight in the Lord. Let’s give our lives to sharing with others the Joy found in Christ. Let’s be like Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross” (Hebrews 12;2). This Joy was obedience to the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan on earth, reconciling sinners to God the Father, even if it meant suffering. We know Joy will be found in heaven. And so we pray, let “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This joyful prayer is why Christ came, lived, and died. And because He came, lived, and died, this same Joy is offered to us today. Sure, I hope to snap a few happy pictures at Christmas. But these won’t be there in heaven. Christ will be all. Rejoice in Him today and long for His return. Let us live for more than just happy moments. Let us live full of Joy.

Our Trustworthy God Brought Peace

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

PeaceMy former pastor  once said, “Worry is a future without God.” God must be present for there to be peace. That’s why God sent Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to reconcile us, who were once enemies, to God (Romans 5:10). We must always remember that true peace comes from being reconciled to God’s presence through Jesus, not in the absence of fearful things. Remembering this helps us not to create safe and comfortable lives to avoid fear and gain superficial peace. But I have also found that in order for his presence to bring peace, I must also believe the right things about God. Isaiah 26:3 says God keeps a mind at peace that is stayed on Him “because he trusts” in God. Peace requires a mind stayed on God, and trusting God requires right belief about God.

One of the best explanations I’ve found of what it means to believe rightly about God is in the book Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. In this book you will find Bridges unpacks how the bible teaches God is Sovereign, Loving and Wise. These are the core beliefs about God that help you know he is trustworthy. Another book I read referred to this as the “Trusting God Triangle.” To process through my anxiety, I often ask myself this question: Where am I struggling to believe God is Sovereign, God is Wise, and God is Loving? If you battle with belief in any of these areas, you will find yourself anxious or lacking peace. When I work through my anxiety, it always leads back to the fact that I struggle with God’s wise and loving plan. If God is not loving or wise, then I am just waiting for the pin to drop and things to go horribly wrong. In my anxiety, I am just certain that his provision for me will be the worst thing my mind can imagine. So I begin to take control, forgetting that he is sovereign. I try to usurp his authority and become the God of my own life. When I get like this, I think I must keep myself safe because God is not to be trusted. But it is exhausting and anxiety producing to try to play God because I am not God. I am not all-knowing, all-present, or all-powerful. I’m limited. And so I’m trying to be things I never was meant to be.

It’s when I work through these things and ask God to help me with my unbelief that I am able to let God take control, lay down my anxiety, and rest in the good and loving promises of God found in Christ. I then have peace and stop that civil war with God and remember who the enemy truly is. God’s loving, wise and sovereign plan is never your enemy. The distortion of who God is and what He has said is your enemy. This distortion has always been one of Satan’s tactics (see the garden temptation and the temptations of Jesus). You will never have peace until you stay your mind on who God TRULY is, not an inaccurate view of who he is. So to add some to what my pastor said: Anxiety is a past, present, or future without a Sovereign, Loving and Wise God. Peace is the presence of a God who is Trustworthy.

The thing that gives me greatest peace in my moments of inner civil war is believing that a Trustworthy God has set his love upon me. Think about what God has done to set a redemptive plan in motion. Look around and see him saving sinners. His plan is wise even though sometimes it doesn’t seem such. There has not yet been one thing that has come into my life that I cannot look back on and say- wow, the way he connected the dots were for my good and his glory. He did it in a way that only he could, not just for my comfort but bringing about true redemption and restoration. And his love…well he sent his beloved son, his prince of peace, into this world. 1 John 4:9 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” It was at Christmas time that Immanuel, God with us, came. His presence brought with it a plan for true peace. Believing in this good and wise redemptive plan is not just a thing for the past. It’s for the present and it’s for the future. This God who is the same yesterday, today and always is coming again, bringing final peace and restoration. Keeping our eyes stayed on these promises of our trustworthy God, helps us live in the goodness of the peace he brought and bought.

Robbed of Hope & Waiting for Help

hopeLast year my pastor preached a sermon about the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). For most of my life, I have looked to the example of the Good Samaritan in the story, seeing him as an illustration of how I should live. But last year, after having gone through a season of suffering, I began to identify with another person in the story- the man who was robbed and beaten. Maybe you feel robbed of health or a dream or hope. Maybe you were robbed of a relationship. You feel beat down and you feel like someone came and stole all of your joy, and there you are, laying on the side of the road- waiting, hoping, praying someone or something will show up. You might not even know what you need, but you know you need something.

It’s hard in the midst of feeling defeated to know what to do. And the enemy tries in all ways for you to think you are alone and that all is taken from you, after all, he “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10, ESV). From my experience, can I encourage you with two thoughts, that I hope you find helpful?

1) Pray for courage to ask for specific help, both practical and spiritual. Many times people want to help; they just don’t know how (or, if you haven’t told them you are suffering, they might not even know you need help). This is especially true if your suffering isn’t something others have experienced, or, if in your suffering you are like me, and you put walls up that can make it very hard for people to know how to help you. It takes a very bold and fearless person to not let the walls we can intentionally or unintentionally create in suffering deter them from being a Good Samaritan, so we must try to give others grace. And this requires courage on our part to speak up and say, “I need more help than I am getting.” For me, looking back, I know I should have asked for meals and more companionship during my season of suffering. I was not eating and losing weight quickly and having people bring me meals would have been a huge help, especially during the day when Chris was at work. But, many times when people asked me generally if I needed anything, I said no. I didn’t want to inconvenience people, or I thought they should just “know” what I specifically needed, or I was scared that I would contaminate them if they entered my house. So, I suffered more alone (and hungrier) than I needed to if I would have had the courage to say, “Yes, I do need help.” Once I had a friend help me realize this, I did get more practical help and that is when I started to get better.

2) You are not alone; pray for God to help you believe this. Although you may feel robbed of all else, you are never robbed from the presence of God. There is nothing that can separate you from His Love (Romans 8). When you are suffering, there will be arrows coming at you saying things like “God is not faithful” and “He is not near.” It can feel, at times, He has abandoned you. But this is a complete lie. There is nowhere or no one else you can go to receive the help, deliverance, and comfort to meet the deepest longings of your soul that are there for you by God through Jesus Christ (John 6:68; Ps 40). If you believe in Jesus, it is a promise of God that he will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus said “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:10). Yes, one of the main instruments God uses to show the love of Christ to us is the church, and that is why we need the body of believers. But sometimes, when it feels like there aren’t any Good Samaritans around, we are tempted to feel completely abandoned. However, when I look back, I see that those times of feeling alone are what God used to bring me to a greater belief that He is truly walking with me every step by his Spirit (John 14:16-17). This is why we need the Word of God and the Spirit of God. It is in Him that “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). So pray that God would help you believe and hold on to His promises. Sometimes I pray when I’m anxious, “Lord your Word says that you promise [insert any promises revealed in His Word]; I’m going to trust that you will prove that to be true. Help me believe.” I prayed the words found in Mark 9 a lot during my suffering – “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

In this season of Christmas, we celebrate Immanuel, God with us. The beauty and power of that reality is never so amazing as it is in a season of suffering. It’s the message that we truly need more than anything. Jesus entered into the pain and suffering of our world and experienced the deepest of suffering himself, all so that we could be in relationship with the Father through Him. What it cost and what was purchased through this process was complete and final and this helps me believe that he isn’t just going to stop being there for me. He knows. He really does know all about suffering and pain because He entered into it freely, willingly, with joy, and in complete obedience.What a comfort that is as we seek to be boldly honest about our true needs and courageously seek to enter into the suffering of others ourselves.

Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” In our suffering, we are moving toward restored Hope. So let’s enter into each other’s suffering, let’s let other people enter into ours, and let’s give God all the glory for what He accomplished for us and the work He is doing in and through us, as we walk this life with Him, Immanuel.

Fighting for Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love this Season

Meet Mis Faux- my fake cheapo Christmas tree I’ve had such a joy putting together for the past two years. I’m ready to take on the next 20 some days in all their potential crazy!

missfaux.2015

You know I used to loathe Christmas time. I was so overcome with expectations of myself and fear of man that all joy was sucked out of it just trying to keep up. Two years ago in the midst of suffering, I couldn’t even bring myself to fake it and cancelled Christmas in our home. Battling OCD helped start to free me from a lot of things, including my tendency to moralize personal preferences– Like the real vs. fake tree debate.  Why can’t you have joy getting your real tree with homemade ornaments & I have joy putting up my fake tree with matchy, glittery ornaments, and we all just be amazed by grace that in both of those instances there was joy. We CAN be that way. Joy > judgment of self and others. And this Christmas, I’m fighting for joy. Wanna fight with me?

This year, I’m fully intending to celebrate the incarnation of my Savior, remembering that when He came He lived the life I could not live- perfectly embodying Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. I’m asking The Lord to help me to lay down my ideas of holiday perfection and expectations and every day remember that Immanuel means God with us. He really is WITH US, helping us to walk in newness of life and live in Hope, Joy, Peace and Love. I needed Immanuel and He showed up and He gave me the precious gift of Himself. Let’s live this month in a supernatural way that could only be possible by the glory and power of His presence.