You are valued

Have you ever done something just to get someones attention? Have you ever done something that, looking back at it, was kind of ridiculous, just because you wanted someone to notice you? Right, I’ve never done that either…

Luke 12:7 says,

And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ–meaning you turn from your sin, confess that Jesus is Lord of your life, that He was crucified and killed, buried, and you believe that 3 days He later rose again from the dead conquering sin, death, and hell, and you live your life like this is true–then you are saved and have nothing to be afraid of (Romans 10:9). You are a part of God’s family (John 1:12) and you are more valuable than any animal or created thing.You are of more value

You are loved, valued, cared for, necessary, desired, and pursued by God. We don’t have to try to get His attention or try to get Him to notice us. He sees, and even knows the number of hairs on your head! He loves you and sent His Son to die for you. So don’t be afraid, and try to understand and experience the beautiful revelation that you are so incredibly valuable to the One who Created the heavens and the earth. The Creator God values you as His precious creation.

“I wish I had more __________”

When is the last time you wished you had more of something? If you’re me, it was this morning when you woke up wishing you could’ve had more sleep!!

Other times we wish for more time, more money, more friends, more, more, more… More, more, moreMost commercials we see on TV make us desire more of what we already have or the next big thing or something we didn’t even know we needed.

It seems like when we start to run out of something, it is natural to start to hold even harder on to what we are low on.

There is a widow in 1 Kings 17 who was running out of food. She was a single mother who had no more time, no more money, no more friends. She was stressed and anxious. She couldn’t afford any more food for her or her son. She was hopeless and at the end of her rope. Here’s what happened:

“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread–only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it–and die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.'” (1 Kings 17:12-15)

Can you put yourself in her situation? She hardly has enough bread for herself or her child, and this “prophet of God” asks for some of her food? I think I may have given him a few choice words and said no way. At first it is confusing why he would have even had the gall to ask a preposterous question like that. But then we read the rest of the story.

Elijah comes with a peace and says, “Don’t be afraid.” Now naturally, when someone says don’t do something, we often do the opposite. But here Elijah is, saying not to worry about how little you have, not to wish for more than you have, not to desire more than you need, but to not be afraid and trust God. How hard would this have been??

For those of us who so strongly desire security and having enough for ourselves and our family, this would have been next to impossible. How could we trust this man and what he says about God? But the widow does trust him! And what happens? God provides. God comes through. God rescues her from despair and hopelessness.God Provides

We don’t have to be afraid because God provides everything we need. God always comes through with His plan, in His timing, for His glory (and often for our growth). We don’t have to run after security or saying, “I wish I had more ______. That would really make us secure or set or comfortable.”

Instead, we can trust that God has a plan, we can wisely live our lives with the Bible as our guidance and standard, and live such good lives full of joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment through faith in Jesus Christ. As this story shows, it’s rarely easy, but it’s always worth it.

Don’t hold yourself back

Delayed adolescence is an increasing trend in our society. What is meant here by delayed adolescence is the increase in young adults that choose to live with their parents into their later 20’s and even early 30’s. I am a product of this trend myself. I moved back home after college and lived in my parent’s basement until I was 24 years old.

Stop Holding Yourself BackThere are many reasons given as to why we move back home and live with our parents for so long. One of those reasons include the difficult job market. There are a large number of Starbucks baristas who have college degrees… it’s tough out there. Another reason is that there are so many opportunities we don’t know which one to choose; we don’t want to be tied down into one career for the rest of our lives like many of our parents are/were. Another reason is that it is so expensive to move out and live on our own. Unless we have roommates or wealthy parents who will foot the bill, money is a problem, especially considering we have all that college debt to deal with. So these factors, and many societal messages, have contributed to the trend of delayed adolescence.

Another issue that fits into this delay is that many middle school and high school students are not challenged well to become strong people of character, integrity, hard work, principle, or responsibility. Parents and schools and churches have done a poor job of calling a generation to a higher standard, and I think we are paying the price for that. We do not often challenge them to take on responsibility or to develop principles they base their decisions on. We do not often teach them how to gain wisdom and discernment and integrity, but often expect them just to have it. We often do not lead well in the realm of character and integrity, so they do not always have the best examples to follow. This is a harsh word, I get that, but I think it is the truth. Now, obviously, there are always exceptions. But be careful immediately thinking that you are the exception. Take an honest look and examine the facts.

Jeremiah from the Bible is one who wanted to avoid his challenge. He did not want to live up the potential God saw in him, and he did not want to live out the hard work and responsibility placed on his life. Here is what Jeremiah says he did when God called him to a great work that would require wisdom, integrity, and discernment, as well as hard work and perseverance:

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jeremiah 1:7, ESV)

Jeremiah made an excuse! It is so easy to do, and we have so many good ones to give. But I don’t think there is a person who made excuses that ever made much of a difference in this world. We aren’t on this earth to make excuses and live in our comfort zones, but we are here to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. We have an opportunity to be His hands and feet, and to minister to His creation as His children and ambassadors.

How does God respond to Jeremiah’s excuse? Check it out in the next two verses, 7-8:

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”

God’s response is to say that He will be with Jeremiah. There is comfort in knowing that we are not doing this alone. No matter how great the potential or responsibility, we don’t have to go it alone. God is with us. We don’t have to fear responsibility or fear failure or fear what others will think or fear not knowing what to say or do. Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit we will receive discernment, wisdom, comfort, help, healing, guidance.

So DO NOT BE AFRAID. DO NOT HOLD YOURSELF BACK. Instead, take up the challenge, challenge those around you, and make a difference in this world as you bring glory to God by following His example and His Word. GoKeep moving forwardd receives glory when we obey Him and trust Him. Obey and trust God and you will be able to move forward in faith, knowing that God is with you. If God is for you and with you, who can stand against you? “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26), so start doing some impossibly difficult things and see how quickly they become possible when they are done through God’s plan and strength and for God’s glory.

Could you “Count it all joy”?

For those who follow the news, it comes as no new revelation that ISIS is still at it. As recently as yesterday, this group has beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians for standing firm in their faith. ISIS sent a video with the title, “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” This is a war cry against all Christians. We must join with our brothers and sisters around the world and pray for them, minister to them as best we can, and never forget that we have many brothers and sisters around the world who are being martyred for their faith.

ISIS & Egyptian Christians1

1 Peter 3:14 says,

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.'”

The Egyptian Christians, and all the Christians who are being threatened, frightened, beaten, and killed by ISIS can take courage as Peter writes this verse. This verse is something I haven’t had to make my own through experience of being threatened for my faith, but there are many who have been threatened, whether by a bully at school, a political enemy, an organization that one works for, or a militant group who hates Christians, etc. The threats are real, the fear is real, but the hope of Jesus Christ is even more real.

We can be free from fear when we remember that our Savior was threatened, captured, beaten, imprisoned, spit on, laughed at, mocked, tortured, crucified, and killed so that we could experience new life through faith in Jesus Christ and a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

When you are threatened, take courage to know that He who is in us is greater than He who is in the world. They may be able to take your earthly life or harm your physical body, but our spiritual lives are caught up with Christ in heaven and we have nothing to fear in eternity. Take courage! ISIS may be a real threat, but Jesus Christ is a real, living, unending hope and joy.

Count it all joyDear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4, NLT)

Keep Moving Forward

Going on this journey of finding the Bible talk about being free from fear, not being afraid, not fearing something or someone, has been a tough one. There are many days I don’t feel like writing anything, because who honestly reads this? But then there is the other side, where I want to be a man of my word. I semi-publicly committed to going through this for 365 blog posts. I have rarely committed to doing anything for that length of time, let alone writing that many blog posts. That is more pages than a full-length book. But, here we are, on day 26 writing a post about doing it anyway! So, let’s do it, and let’s keep going with this.

The majority, in fact maybe all, of the posts I’ve done in the first 25 days have had to do with not fearing, not being afraid, not being frightened, etc. There is a pretty common theme. But, today’s passage from Nehemiah 2:2 presents a slightly different message. Here is Nehemiah 2:1-5:

During the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was set before him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had never been sad in his presence, so the king said to me, “Why are you sad, when you aren’t sick? This is nothing but depression.” I was overwhelmed with fear and replied to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king asked me, “What is your request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven and answered the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, send me to Judah and to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I may rebuild it.”

Nehemiah was overwhelmed with fear! The key here is that Nehemiah was overwhelmed with fear, but he was not made inactive by fear. Nehemiah wasn’t so overwhelmed that he was paralyzed. Nehemiah was so overwhelmed with fear that he had to pray to God at the same time that he responded to the king’s questions!

Keep moving forwardNehemiah is overwhelmed with fear, yet he continues saying what he needed to say. He was afraid, but he acted anyway. He could have kept his mouth shut, but he opened it and talked anyway. He did it anyway, no matter the consequence. The king could have had him killed for being sad in his presence, but Nehemiah, in his fear, continued on anyway and trusted God.

Where are you overwhelmed with fear? One of the pieces of advice we can take from this passage I think is this:

When you are afraid, trust God. When you are overwhelmed, trust God. When you are in over your head, trust God. When you don’t know what to do, trust God. The message is to trust God. If you are following Him, living out His Word, living out a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, then you have nothing to fear.

But, when you encounter fear, turn it over to God. Don’t just stop there, but continue on. Trust God and keep moving forward in spite of your fear.

Timing is Everything

I’ve heard something before that goes a little like this: The wrong plan at the right time is the wrong plan; the right plan at the wrong time is still the wrong plan. Does that make sense? Timing is everything. Even if you have a million dollar idea, if you try to implement it into the wrong market, at the wrong time, that million dollar idea will never take off.

Maybe you’ve heard the story, the details are a little faint in my head, but as I remember (and just Googled), James Cameron wrote the movie Avatar many years before the technology was available to film it. If he had tried to go ahead with making the movie with the technology available at that time (right idea, wrong time) it most likely would not have been one of the highest grossing movies of all time. However, he was patient and waited, and the movie did better than he probably ever guessed when he first wrote it (right idea, right time).

This brings us to the passage today:

“The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take the whole military force with you and go attack Ai. Look, I have handed over to you the king of Ai, his people, city, and land” (Joshua 8:1)

Leave Your Fears Behind

This verse comes in Joshua chapter 8, after a pretty rough chapter 7. There was this guy named Achan who had done something wrong. He did something he knew he wasn’t supposed to do, and knew the consequences of what he was choosing to do, yet he did it anyway. How often is this our story? Probably too often.

Achan made a bad choice and both him and his entire family and all his livestock and possessions paid the price for it. Not only did they pay for it, but the whole nation of Israel paid for it as well. They went to do battle with this city, Ai, early in chapter 7. They sent about 3,000 soldiers to go defeat the small Ai, but Ai routed Israel and killed 36 men. Verses 11 and 12 of chapter 7 say, “Israel has sinned… This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies… I will no longer be with you unless you remove from you what is set apart.” So, because of Achan’s sin, his entire family paid, and 36 men from Israel were killed.

The Israelites had tried to move on before dealing with the sin problem, but after the Achan problem is taken care of, God then tells Joshua to go and attack the city Ai again because God is with them and will grant them the victory. The timing mattered. The timing was everything. Before turning from sin, they failed; after repenting and turning from sin, they were victorious and blessed.

I think the message is pretty clear here for us. We need to turn from the sins we are living in, those “minor” sins that cause distraction and ineffectiveness in our relationship with Christ; those small sins, like white lies, that really prevent us from experiencing the fullness of life that Jesus promised (John 10:10).

So, turn from sin and turn toward Jesus Christ. This is really the best and only way to live a life free from fear.

Remember where you’ve been

Remember where you've beenMemory can be a good thing or a bad thing. Memories can hold you hostage or bring happiness. Memories can also bring stress or peace. It depends on what the memory is of! I’m sure we all have things that we regret, memories we wish we had never made, but often these memories are things that have made us who we are today (for better or worse). Remembering is a powerful, and necessary, habit to develop.

God brings the power of remembering to light in our “365 Days Free From Fear” passage today:

But the Lord told me, ‘Do not be afraid of him, for I have given you victory over Og and his entire army, and I will give you all his land. Treat him just as you treated King Sihon of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon.’ (Deuteronomy 3:2, NLT)

The message of this passage is in part to remind us to remember. Moses and the Israelites had just done battle, and now someone else, King Og, was coming out to attack them. As Og comes to attack, God reminds Moses & the Israelites not to be afraid of him, because God has already won the battle. God went before them and defeated the army, just like he had the King of Sihon. God seems to basically be saying, “Moses, remember where you have been and remember what I have done. You can trust Me.” Moses could confidently say, keep calm, Israelites, God’s got this.Keep Calm Because God's Got This

I think He says the same thing to you and to me. Maybe remembering is painful, maybe it is hard, maybe it is full of shame and guilt and stress. But that’s when we remember our history. When we remember His story, who He is, what God has done, how faithful He is even when we are faithless, how holy, good, just, loving, kind, gentle, and caring He is…we don’t have to be afraid!

Really, when fear starts to come up in our minds, hearts, or lives, the fear should push us to our faith because our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the only promise that never fails and the only constant that never changes. We can trust God because He never changes, never leaves us, and never forsakes us when we are accepted into His family through faith in Jesus Christ.

Who is that?

Did you know that Jesus loves you? You have probably heard, or maybe sang way too often as a kid, the song, “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me…!” This is a great song, and so full of theological truth. Jesus does love you and me; we are weak and He is strong; the Bible does tell us so often of His love!

The Bible also says that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17, ESV). I think we could easily say that love by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. What I mean is this: if someone loves you in what he or she says, but does not love you in the way he or she acts toward you, is that really love? Is that love really alive or active? I don’t think so.

Yes, the Bible so often tells us that Jesus loves us, but it always goes a step beyond this. God’s Word constantly reveals the many ways Jesus acted out His love on people. One such example of His compassionate love is comforting the disciples when they are afraid in John 6:19-20:

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

No big deal, Jesus is just walking on water. Then, as He’s walking on water toward them, the disciples see Him and are freaked out. They’re probably thinking, “Who is that??” With good reason! I would be too! But what is Jesus’ first response? “It is I”. Then, “do not be afraid.”

WebThere is comfort in knowing that Jesus is with you. There comes a peace that surpasses all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). This comfort and peace is bound up in the experience of knowing Christ intimately. When we know Jesus Christ, have experienced Him, we can be free from fear because it is Christ who is with us. Don’t let fear have the upper hand; rest in your faith in Jesus Christ. When God is here, we don’t have to fear; and God never leaves us (Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5).

Getting the most out of life…

Do you want to live a good, full life? I think if we were all honest, we would give a resounding, “Yes!” to this question. Wouldn’t you? I can’t think of anyone I know who wouldn’t want to live a good life or a full life. Living a good and/or full life might mean different things to different people, but for the sake of this post let’s say that a good and full life is living a life surrounded by people you love, doing something you enjoy, being successful at what you do, having a husband or wife and some children, being financially stable, and living long enough to see your children grow up, succeed in life, and have a husband or wife and children of their own. Sounds pretty good and full doesn’t it?

Is this really all it takes to live a good, full life? Is that all there is? For real though, think about it. Is life just about having people around you that you love, working a job you enjoy and being good at it, while marrying and having children and living many years? Is that really it? I think that is good, but I don’t think this is the best or even the fullest we can live life.proverbs

Solomon writes in Proverbs 19:23:

“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.”

I think this is the secret to living the fullest and greatest life imaginable: fear the Lord. I’ve written earlier about what this fear of the Lord really means–a reverential awe; understanding and respecting how awesome, loving, powerful, mighty, holy, and righteous God is. We will have the right view toward God when we begin to understand His mighty power, His unrelenting grace, His righteous judgment, His unimaginable imagination, His unconditional love, and His perfect plan. We can never know everything about God, but we will have the right view of Him when we begin to fear and understand how truly awesome and awe-inspiring He is. It is humbling and really puts things in proper perspective when we understand and can echo the Psalmist, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!… When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8).

Fear of the Lord brings a good life, a full life, and a life of abiding contentment in who God is and what His plan is. God, out of His unconditional love and unrelenting grace, sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you. Jesus Christ was tortured, crucified, killed, and buried for your sins. He rose from the dead three days later so that you could have a relationship with God. If you haven’t begun a relationship with God, you can start one right now. He is ready and waiting. Just talk to Him. You have nothing to be afraid of, because God loves you and wants to give you a full life (John 10:10) that brings satisfaction beyond what the world can bring or give.

“Fear not” (Revelation 1:17)

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last,” (Revelation 1:17, ESV)

Fear NotJohn, the human writer of Revelation, writes this verse 17 after he describes seeing Jesus. He describes Jesus as “one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white… His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze… and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:13-16).

I think if anyone met someone like that, the natural reaction would be fear! Imagine seeing someone that is this impressive even from the first glance. John sees this with his own eyes and describes it as best as he can in human words. I imagine the words he uses cannot do the sight justice.

So John is afraid. What is Jesus’ reaction to this fear? It is just like every reaction He’s had to someone who has been afraid. Whenever His disciples were afraid, the first thing He would say to them is “Do not fear”! So here we have it again, “Fear not”!

Why should we not fear? Well the reason is because He says, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Rev. 1:18). So basically, we don’t have to be afraid because Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead three days later. He defeated sin, death, and Hell itself.

We don’t have to be afraid of anything because Jesus Christ our Savior is the Victor.