Do Not Be Afraid

God has recently called me to something bigger than myself, something that scares me. I was writing in my journal last night right before bed and I wrote that I’m scared, but it’s okay because that fear is causing me to rely on God. First thing this morning I began the book of Jeremiah and I got to a passage that stopped me in my tracks.

“The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’

‘Alas, Sovereign Lord, ‘ I said, I do not know how to speak; I am too young.’

But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord. Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put My words in your mouth.'”

Jeremiah 1:4-9

God has not called me, or you for that matter, to be afraid. He has called us to have courage in what He calls us to do, holding fast to the knowledge that He is going before us and He will equip us.

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Photo Credit: Connor McSheffrey

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Real Life

As time goes on, I realize that life isn’t always what I think it should be. It seems that the Christian life is portrayed as a life with no problems or that if problems do arise, we are sad for a moment and then are miraculously  better. I’ve come to realize that this is not true in the slightest. Life as a follower of Christ can be just as difficult as that of a non-believer. Tragedies still happen, depression is still a real thing, stress still exists. The list goes on and on. The difference is that having hope in the Creator of all things, having hope that the One who paints the sky and crafted nothing into a functioning universe holds our lives in His hands, having hope that He can make beauty out of ashes brings us peace. But even as followers of Christ we sometimes still have a problem with holding onto that hope. We let the problem consume us and it enslaves us, making our God seem small. Our God is so much bigger than any problem or circumstance, but if you hold onto the problem, your heart hardens, when all you can talk or think about is your situation, you become bitter. God waits with open arms and I bet it breaks His heart to see us clinging to our problem instead of Him. God has shown me to worship Him through the storm I’m in, because the thing is, worship isn’t based on how we feel, it’s based on who He is, and He is good and deserving of our praise. Bad things happen in real life, but we get to choose how to handle them, we choose what to cling to.

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Photo Credit: Daryan Shamkhali

For Real

I mentioned in last week’s post that I began the book of Matthew.  The past few days I’ve been in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  I’ve read it before, heard sermons on it before, but this time I noticed a common thing as I studied.

  • Jesus says that we know that God told Moses to tell the people not to murder and those who murder will be judged and punished.  He then goes on to say that those who are angry with their brother will be judged (chapter 5).
  • Jesus again says that we know that God forbade adultery; however, He says any man who lustfully looks at a woman has committed adultery in his heart (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that we are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that when we give, do not do so in front of other people where we will be praised, but to do it secretly in front of the Lord (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to pray in front of others as if it is a show or to ramble on, but to pray privately and concisely (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says to forgive or we will not be forgiven (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says that when we fast, do not make a spectacle of it, do it quietly (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to worry (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to judge others, because how we judge, we will be judged (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says that those who seek will find what they seek, that we should continue to ask for what we need (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says to treat others as we want to be treated (chapter 7).

Do you notice a common theme? All of these things have to do with our relationship with God (e.g. are we praying just so others will see us or do we have a true relationship with God?) and the spiritual condition of our hearts (e.g. yes, murdering is bad, yet God says so is harboring anger at someone).

If you’re like me, you look at this and think that this is impossible. When you’re having a terrible day it’s hard to treat someone how you want to be treated, when things are hard it’s difficult to trust God and not worry.  Yet these things I have listed (only some of the things that Jesus says in this sermon, there is plenty more!) give me hope.

I have hope in the fact that Jesus lived a sinless life.  Hebrews 4:15-16 in the Voice translation says, “For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.  He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious without failing God.  So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace when we need it most.” Isn’t that amazing? Jesus knows these things are hard to do, yet we have the Spirit to guide us and the free-flowing grace of God at our fingertips (for more on this topic, check out a previous post: Victory in Jesus).

I also have hope because I know that my relationship with God is what’s important.  I don’t have to put up this charade that I have my life together so that other people will see.  I also know that when I have a real relationship God  I am filled with the Holy Spirit, and Galatians chapter 5 says that the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  When you have a real relationship with God these things will start to become a part of who you are, and when these things are a part of who you are, doing what God wants you to do instead of what you want to do becomes more natural.

We will always struggle, we are human, but when we take part in a real, intimate relationship with God and allow our hearts to change, we find it is easier to live like Jesus.

Check out the Sermon on the Mount for yourself if you haven’t before, or if you have, read it again.  The Word of God is alive and relevant.

Photo Credit: Cherry Laithang

Victory in Jesus

I woke up this morning with “Victory in Jesus” stuck in my head, which is no surprise because it’s one of my favorite hymns and often ends up rolling around in my head for hours.  This morning, however, the words were really just resonating with me.

Hebrews 4:15 in the Voice says, “For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.  He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious, without failing God.”

Jesus was completely human yet completely God.  He walked, breathed, and lived on our very Earth.  The verse says that He was “tested in every way that we are tested.”  Jesus was tempted as we are, but He defeated temptation, as the verse says “He emerged victorious.”

After Jesus is resurrected but before He ascends to Heaven, He tells the people in Luke chapter 24 (NLT) that He is sending the Holy Spirit to them.  In Matthew 28 (VOICE), Jesus tells the disciples that He will be with them “to the end of the age.”

When Jesus left this Earth He didn’t leave us all alone, He left us with the Holy Spirit to guide us, to give us the strength to fight temptation just as Jesus did when He was living among us.

Jesus’ death didn’t just give us the ability to find victory over temptation, but over the everyday situations in life.  Because Jesus died and sent us the Spirit, we now have a personal connection with our Creator.  Philippians chapter 4 tells us that we don’t have to succumb to the harmful clutches of worry and anxiety; we can go to God and exchange our worries for peace.

There is definitely victory in Jesus, and I am so thankful for it.  I do not have to live my life chained to sin or circumstance.  I know that Jesus understands my struggles, He understands my pain, He wants me to come to Him with my problems – and my praises – and He wants to give me peace that can only come from Him.  Such a sweet message my God gave me this Saturday morning.

“So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16 (VOICE)

Photo Credit: Japheth Mast
 

The Missing Peace

Let me set the stage (cue lights, audio, and other technical things I don’t know about): Something happens, something bad, something you just can’t get out of your head.  Maybe you were in a car wreck, or you lost your brother, or you are experiencing heartbreak for not the – but just as painful – time.  You relive it over and over again in your head, especially at night when you have nothing else to keep your thoughts from wandering to the infamous ‘thing’ that haunts you.  They say time heals but it’s been weeks, months, years and you don’t feel like you’ve healed much at all: you’re just stuck in this endless cycle of remembering.  Or maybe in your case it’s not even that, maybe it’s just the balancing act of life that’s got you stretched beyond what you can bear; you have finals and bills and your car broke down and your job doesn’t pay enough and you’re sleep deprived and you just yelled at someone for no reason and the list goes on and on.

Sound familiar?  What’s missing in the scenarios above?

Peace.

Things happen that we cannot control – you can’t control the fact that your sister has cancer or that your landlord raised the rent a hundred dollars that you can’t afford to pay – but you can control how you deal with the situation.

I know, you’ve heard it before.  So had I.  Did you let that sink in, though? You do not have to fall victim to things that happen outside of your control, even the things that happen because of your own bad decisions.

Jesus didn’t die so we could live miserable lives.  He died to give us hope.  He died to free us from sin. He died so that our trials can build our faith instead of ruin our lives.  He died so that death would not be the end for us.  Jesus didn’t die for us to fall victim to a lost and dying world, Jesus died for us to have hope even in the gravest of situations because He overcame the power of the grave. 

But how do we do it?

Philippians 4 is such a great chapter of the Bible and is so relevant.  Check out the whole chapter (it’s short, it won’t take long), but I’m going to leave you with verses 6 and 7.

“Don’t worry about anything instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all that He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds all anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Don’t worry.  Pray.  Give your needs to God.  Thank God. The result? Peace that soothes your soul.  God can handle your mess, I promise.

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If you have specific passages, chapters, or books of the Bible that have helped you through hard times, leave me a comment.

Until next time, lovelies.

 
Photo Credit: Aubin A Sadiki