“Be strong…do not fear” (Deut. 31:6)

The last sermon series Moses preached is caught up in the book of Deuteronomy. Chapter 31 is one of the last chapters of Deuteronomy, and some of the last words Moses speaks are these:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

It is hard to think of more comforting and applicable words than these as Moses steps down, Joshua steps up, and the Israelites are getting ready to claim all the land that God had promised them would be theirs. Many of you probably know the story… Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt under the power of God, and yet the Israelites were still fearful and full of grumbling and complaining. So that entire generation of Israelites dies off, and Moses himself is not able to enter the Promised Land either.

What if we were to be strong and courageous because God goes with us? No matter where we are, what we do, or who we are, God is with us. Jesus’ name is Immanuel, which means “God with us.” God is personal. God is real. God is powerful.

 

Your worst nightmare. Your best day ever. Everything in between. God is there. You don’t have to be afraid of what will happen when the credit card bill comes, or when you finally get that phone call you’ve been dreading. You don’t have to be afraid because God is there.

When you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (which is possible when you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that He died and rose again for your sins (Rom. 10:9)), then you not only experience God with you, but His Holy Spirit actually living inside of you.

When we understand what it means to have God’s Spirit inside of us, and we live with that present reality, it completely changes the way we face our days and circumstances. Believe and trust in Jesus Christ. Faith in Him destroys all fear because He is powerful, loving, grace-filled, full of mercy, forgiveness, truth. You can trust Him. Don’t neglect the power of what can happen in our lives when we live free from fear because God is with us.

Remember that God is with us. God is right there with us. God goes with us. God will not leave us or forsake us because He is with us. It’s a good idea to keep repeating this to yourself daily, ‘cus it can sometimes be easy to forget! Remember that God goes with you :)

**Just a warning, trusting in God does not mean we can do whatever we want. We can live free from fear, but we also have to make sure that we use wisdom and intelligence. God enables us to live free from fear, and He also gives us a brain to make intelligent choices. We can use our faith and our brains to live a full life walking in God’s ways.

Serve Him without fear (Luke 1:74)

Obviously doing something without fear is easier said than done. Can we really not have fear? Where does fear come from? Is it healthy? Is it good?

What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid of that?

 

I think there are many facets to fear. I’m sort of discovering this as we go on this journey of 365 Days Free From Fear.

As we go on this journey, what I’m discovering is the truth of 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (NLT).

So, when we have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, we do not live in a spirit of fear, because we have the capacity to live in power, love, and self-discipline. We don’t have to be afraid. We can serve God with no fear.

What might this look like? Maybe it means standing up for your faith in God even when your co-workers don’t like Christians. Maybe it means speaking up when you’re hanging around the “water cooler” and your co-workers are gossiping about someone, or tearing down someone, or making jokes at the expense of someone who isn’t there.

Maybe serving God without fear looks like reading your Bible and praying even if people think you’re weird, or that prayer doesn’t work, or that the Bible isn’t really true or really isn’t the Word of God.

Maybe serving God without fear looks like daily living your life in such a way that people notice a difference in you, and when they ask you are able to begin the story of what Jesus Christ has done in you as He transformed you and made you into a new creation who loves and serves Him.

 

I don’t know what serving God without fear looks like for you. I think for me it looks like standing firm in my faith in public and private; not giving in to subtle temptations that distract me from Jesus. It means living a life full of bold love as I’m constantly being transformed by the awesome and incomprehensible and unending grace of God and have the wonderful opportunity to share that grace with everyone I come into contact with.

Why are you fearful? (Mark 4:40)

I’ve missed a few days, huh? Looks like the 365 days might stretch into more than 365 days :) but, we will get them all in, Lord willing!

 

Have you ever gone through something that was outside of your control? Have you been in a situation that was so uncomfortable because there were circumstances going on around you, but you couldn’t really influence them to reach a different outcome?

I think if you’re human, you have experienced you this before. If you’ve ever lived in the Midwest, or driven in the snow and ice in the Midwest, you probably know this feeling well. There are few things that make you feel less in control than driving on ice. When your car starts to slide on the ice, there is nothing you can do. It is beyond your control until the tires can regain some traction in order to steer and regain control.

The disciples in this passage of Mark, in 4:35-40, were following Jesus’ instruction. They were not “outside of God’s will” but were in fact doing exactly what He had asked of them. Sometimes we experience things not because we did something wrong, or sinned, but because we are living in the will of God. Sometimes we encounter storms and trials in life because those are the greatest moments through which we can meet Jesus and actually experience His provision, protection, and love.

Maybe you’re going through a storm right now. Maybe you’re coming out of a storm. Maybe you’re about to head into a storm. I’m not sure what your story is or where you are right now, but wherever you may be, the truth of the matter is this: We never have a reason to be fearful. Why? Because God is with us! Jesus’ name, Immanuel, literally means “God with us” (check out Matthew 1:23).

The way that we can live without fear is through our faith. When our faith is in God, we have no reason to fear. Jesus says in Mark 4:40, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (HCSB).

Faith in God can destroy any hint of fear of man or circumstance.

So go. Go in faith. Go and live free from fear.

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Genesis 26:24)

I remember as a child when, for whatever reason, I would be afraid of something and would sort of start to panic and freak out and know that I needed to get to a safe place. This could happen in the middle of a night with a scary dream, or even in the middle of the day watching a scary movie or when something just freaky happens. Whatever the case, as a child, I ran to my parents because they were the one’s in my mind who would keep me safe no matter how afraid I felt. We can all remember a time as kids ourselves, or kids in movies or TV shows we’ve seen, when we ran out of our room straight to our parents bed to cuddle with them because we were afraid of something.

Do not be afraidWhat made us not afraid anymore? I think as a kid, when I was next to my parents, I was fearless. Why? Their presence. We run to our parents or guardians or caretakers in these times of fear as children because just being in the presence of someone who has that kind of love and power in our lives is someone we can trust to protect us from fear.

Tonight from the book of Genesis we see the principle of presence driving out fear.

“and the LORD appeared to him that night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your offspring because of My servant Abraham” (Genesis 26:24, HCSB)

We don’t have to live in fear because we can live in the arms of Christ. We can live under His influence, in His presence, abiding in His love and grace and forgiveness. We can walk every single day of our lives in freedom from fear when we recognize the presence of God in our lives.

Are you afraid of something? Are you anxious about something? Are you doubting something? Are you stressed about something? Lay it all at the feet of Jesus, take up His yoke and His burden (Matthew 11:28-30), and live free from that fear.

Begin a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, call on Him as your Savior and Lord, believe that He died and rose again for your sins (Romans 10:9). Experience His salvation and live every day in His presence as His Holy Spirit fills your heart and your life (Acts 1:8) and you begin to live as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and live out the fullness of life Jesus promises (John 10:10).

 

Live in God’s presence each day. His presence drives out all fear.

 

Whom Should I Fear? (Psalm 27)

This is a pretty famous Psalm, or at least the statement in the Psalm is pretty famous! There have been songs and books and blog posts(!) written about this Psalm.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation–whom should I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life–of whom should I be afraid? . . . Though an army deploys against me, my heart is not afraid . . . Wait for the LORD; be strong and courageous. Wait for the LORD” – Psalm 27:1, 3, 14 (HCSB)

These are just a select few verses from the Psalm, but they embody the idea, whom should I fear?

Ultimately, since Jesus Christ is victorious over sin, death, and hell, we have nothing to be afraid of if we abide in Him. Satan, our Enemy, has no power over us when we trust in Jesus Christ through faith in Him.

If you are living in fear–fear of not having enough money, fear of potentially losing your job, fear of a bad economy, fear of being a parent, fear of what others think of you, fear of failure, fear of being a leader, fear of anything–rest in the Lord. God is the stronghold–He is the foundation we need when life gets hard and He is the foundation we are able to walk confidently on through the good and the bad.

God is always there. That is why we never have to be afraid. God is stronger, mightier, and more faithful than any enemy we could ever have. We can abide in Him, keeping our eyes focused on Him each day instead of our fear.

Replace your “fear” with the heavenly “Father” and your focus will be in the right place. David should have been very afraid when going up against Goliath, but David’s focus was not on how much fear he had toward Goliath; David’s focus was on how much faith he had in God. Place your focus on God and He will lead you and guide you through your fear, and can give you victory over your fear.

Live in freedom. Live in victory. Every day choose to live in relationship with Jesus Christ.

Freed from all my fear (Psalm 34:4-7)

Day number 2 of living a fearless life, and we are in a passage of the Bible that describes the tension between fearing the wrong thing and fearing the Lord. Fearing the Lord is really being so deeply in awe of His power, His strength, His ability, His love, His creation… it is being so overwhelmed by who He is that all we can do is keep our eyes and our focus on Him, waiting in expectation for what He is doing and will continue to do in us, through us, around us.

“I prayed to the LORD and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; He saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the LORD is a guard; He surrounds and defends all who fear Him” (Psalm 34:4-7, NLT)

This verse seems pretty straightforward. David is writing andRope breaking free speaks of simply praying to God, and God answered him. Not only did God answer David’s prayer, but God also freed David from all of his fears! I’m not sure what all of David’s fears were when he wrote this Psalm, and I’m not sure what all of your fears or anxieties or worries are either. But guess who does know? Exactly, God does!

And what should our response be? We have another example in the New Testament of what to do with our fears and anxieties. David prayed and was freed from his fears. Agreeing with this, 1 Peter 5:6-7 says,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you” (HCSB)

So here we have David saying to pray, and now Peter saying to cast all your cares on God because He cares about you! God cares—He hears our prayers, hears us talking to Him, and responds! Maybe not always in ways we understand or even really like…but God always responds to prayer. As you pray, casting your fear, your anxieties, worries, and cares at the feet of Jesus Christ, God will respond.

He has the power and ability to free us from whatever our fear or worry is. Then, as we are freed from fear, we look to Him for help and we experience radiant joy! Then, God surrounds and defends and protects and provides and saves those who trust in Him, believe in Him, and follow Him.

So, pray, be freed from your fears, believe in Jesus Christ, and follow Him every day of your life. That is what it looks like to live fearlessly.

 

Do not be afraid, Abram (Genesis 15:1)

The first passage on this journey will be Genesis 15:1 (the verses will not always go in order from Genesis to Revelation).

“After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great” (HCSB)

GenesisThis passage comes after God called Abram and his family out of the land they had lived for many years, to a brand new location that Abram would not know of until he arrived there. God called Abram out of his comfort, away from his friends and parents, leaving with his wife, possessions, and nephew Lot. Abram and Lot separate, then Abram rescues Lot and is blessed by Melchizedek. After these events, then, means that after God had called him and these tumultuous times have happened, God comes to Abram and says, “Do not be afraid, Abram.” God promises protection for Abram and God makes a covenant then with Abram that describes the reward that will come through his line of descendants. The passage in Genesis continues on:

“But Abram said, ‘Lord God, what can You give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ Abram continued, ‘Look, You have given me no offspring . . .’ Now the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘Your offspring will be that numerous.’ Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:2-6, HCSB)

Abram trusted God, believed in Him, even when there was no physical evidence in front of him that told him God’s promise would come true. In fact, with the age of Abram and Sarai, the physical evidence all pointed to the absolute impossibility of what God had promised. However, Abram does not have to be afraid, God will protect him and God will provide for him in ways Abram could never even imagine.

God does the same thing for us. As God tells Abram not to fear, it reminds us that God is with us. God is near to us, cares for us, and desires relationship with us, through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, God does incredible work in and through us that we could never have imagined.

Open your heart to the things of the Lord. Join Him in relationship. Surrender your will to His will and live with purpose for Jesus Christ. Those who live for Christ have nothing to fear in this world.

365 Days Free From Fear

I was recently listening to a podcast and the preacher said the Bible lists at least 365 times a variation of the phrase, “Fear Not” or “Do not be afraid” or “Do not fear;” one for every day of the year. I have heard this before, but I think maybe I was more ready to hear this than ever before.

Sometimes our entire days are filled with fear: of what others think of us, that we aren’t popular or well-liked enough, that we don’t have enough money to make ends meet, that we don’t matter or won’t make a difference in the world. Sometimes we simply fear going to work or school because we may see THAT PERSON…the one who broke up with us, or hurt us, or bullies us, or makes us simply dread each day.

Fear Not

Thankfully, we do not have to be afraid! Ever! The Creator God is the God of hope, of freedom, of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness; “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. ” (2 Timothy 1:7, HCSB).

I am going to go on a journey to look through as many of the places in the Bible where God says a variation of the phrase “do not be afraid,” or in places where the phrase is implied by talking about how we are more than conquerors, or we have victory, or we have freedom (all through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord). My goal is to get to 365 different posts about this over the next year, year and a half. It’s a big commitment, but one that hopefully I will be up for. I hope you’ll come along with me in this journey to be free from fear of any person or structure or program in this world, and instead be filled with a fear and awe of who God is and what He enables us to do as He is in relationship with us and working through us. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7, HCSB). So, lets go on this journey together of discovering how to fight fear of man and how to live in fear of the LORD that we may be full of wisdom.

(The first verse will hopefully be posted later today!)

4 Thoughts on Building a Legacy

Listed below are four thoughts on building a legacy. In our small group on Sunday night with the 11th-12th grade guys, I asked this question: What do you want to be known for? Ultimately we will all be known for something. People we know, or those who have maybe heard of us, will hear our name and think of a certain aspect of our lives. What do we want to be known for?

Merriam-Webster defines legacy as: “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” Each day we live, we leave something in the past. What you ate for breakfast this morning is now a part of your past. Whatever decisions and choices we made yesterday have become a part of our legacy. Here are the four ideas I have about building a legacy that matters:

1. Be intentional – The sad reality is that we can accidentally and unintentionally, almost unconsciously, develop a legacy. Most of the time this accidental legacy will not end up being a positive thing. We can accidentally build a legacy by not considering our actions on a daily basis, just kind of going through the motions of life, and not living with purpose. But, when we are intentional, we can basically choose how people will remember us. When we live with purpose, we get to determine the defining characteristics in our lives because we have chosen to live in that way. We can never be perfect, and we can’t always choose what exactly people remember us by, but as we live intentionally we increase our chances of becoming the person we have always wanted to be.

2. Keep your eyes forward – Building a legacy is built on past decisions and choices, but we cannot live in the past. If we have not built a good legacy up until this point in our lives, then focusing on the past will just be a sad endeavor. Instead, keep your eyes forward, focus on the decisions you can make right now, today, that will rebuild the foundation of your legacy. Intentionally choose to live in the present, looking toward the future, knowing the choices you make today can one day bring you to a place in the future where you look back at your life and can say with confidence that you lived well, positively impacted the lives of other people, and loved and served others over yourself.

3. Consistently consistent – The easiest way to build a legacy is to do the right things habitually. Think about who/what you want to become, or how you want to be remembered. Then, think about what actions and attitudes and decisions will get you to that point. Now, do those things over and over, day in and day out, whether you feel like doing them or not. Consistency is the key to developing a strong legacy. Consistency increases trustworthiness and reliability, and people know they can count on you in a real way.

4. Avoid shortcuts – Shortcuts are very tempting. I look for shortcuts on my drive to most places, because I want to get there as quickly as possible. But sometimes when using those shortcuts, they backfire and end up taking longer than the normal route would have. In building your legacy, avoid all shortcuts. They are not quick routes to success or to where you want to go. Often shortcuts in life necessitate a sketchy decision or a “grey area.” Intentionally avoid shortcuts because they can tarnish a legacy. Instead, consistently and intentionally choose the right things and your legacy has a good chance of becoming what you would like it to.

Lastly, our legacy is ultimately not for ourselves. All of the things I have written above are best done when the focus is not on self but in considering: “What kind of legacy can I leave that will draw people to Christ, that will reveal how real and true He is, and that will be a positive impact on the kingdom of God when I leave this earth?” Thinking of this question will help direct and guide our steps as we seek to imitate Jesus Christ.

Two passages of Scripture deal very clearly with our actions and the result of our actions (our legacy). The first is Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The second is 1 Peter 2:12, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

Live purposefully in such a way that brings glory to our Father in heaven. If you choose to live with God’s purpose as your central focus, you will almost guarantee a legacy that will reveal the love and salvation of Jesus Christ to everyone who knows or hears of you.

What kind of legacy are you leaving right now?

3 Things I’ve Learned in the Past 4 Months

Connie & I have been in Holland, MI for just over three months, married exactly four months today(!!!!) and I have been the Youth Director at Calvary Baptist Church for just over three months. Things are still pretty fresh and new for us, but there are a few lessons that I have learned, and have had to learn quickly.

1. God is so good.

This is not a new lesson, but it is one that has been repeatedly revealed to me over the past few months. Somehow a large number of people have gotten it into their heads and hearts that God is not good, that God makes bad things happen, that God is hateful and harsh, that God is legalistic and oppressive. I’ve never experienced that God; that God is not the God of the Bible. The God I know is a loving Father, who disciplines at times when it is necessary, but Who desires to see His children walk in His ways. He lovingly corrects and extends so much grace and mercy toward me that I can’t even begin to understand how it is possible.

2. Establishing good habits is a non-negotiable.

What I mean by this is if I don’t establish habits of loving my wife well and dating her, taking time to listen to her, making a habit of prayer and Bible study, habitually eating well, sleeping well, exercising well, then I will quickly exhaust myself. Poor habits are a quick road toward less effective days and may even lead to sin in our lives. Satan likes to use poor habits to make us unaware, distract us, and detract from the work God wants to do through us. So, good habits are a must. If you happen to be struggling right now with your energy during the day, motivation at work, being a light and showing others Christ in normal, everyday ways, then I would encourage you to look at your habits. I know for me, when I let my habits slip, that is when I become complacent and tired and just want to sit at home watching tv or playing video games all day (not that these are bad–but do they help me live out my calling well?).

3. I am selfish.

I don’t think it is possible to realize how selfish we really are until we get married… When I was living at home with my parents, even while I was seriously dating Connie, I was not as aware of my selfishness as I am now. But now, married to an amazing, beautiful, godly, wonderful friend and wife (Mrs. Connie Lynne Marshall :)), I am so utterly aware that I am selfish. And yet Connie is so good and forgiving, and helping me work through my selfishness :) We grow in our relationship every single day, and one of the main areas of growth is putting aside my own wants and my own apparent “needs” for the good of US and OUR. I now better understand why a relationship with God is described as a marital relationship. Selfishness has no place. A relationship struggles to grow and struggles to be a quality, encouraging, mutual relationship when selfishness is present. We each need bring our full selves, not 50/50 but 100/100, to this relationship. God is faithful and offers His fullness in exchange for all of me. I surrender myself in order to experience fulfilled and abundant life through faith in Jesus Christ. Selfishness is so utterly defeated that we can echo with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). This is the marital relationship. We become one; so intimately and intentionally connected that there is no I or me, but it is US and WE.

There are many other things I have been learning, but this is the highlight reel. As time goes on, I’m sure I will list other things that I have been learning. I hope these will be an encouragement to you, and will challenge you to think about what God has been teaching you lately. What are some things you have learned over the past few months? I’d be excited to read them in the comments below :)