Love is Greater than Fear

One the reasons in life, I believe, that we are afraid is that the thing the are afraid of feels bigger than whatever it is that makes us feel secure. Our fear seems bigger than our security. Think about that as you read our passage today from 1 John 1:16-18:

16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so 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 reached perfection in love.

love_by_darunia_artSo many things in this passage to understand. First, this important notion that God is love. Scripture paints for us so many pictures of who God is. But the two defining characteristics of who God is, is found here (God is love) and found all through the Bible, God is holy.

God is both. We all fall towards a deeper appreciation of part of God’s character, but for us to fully understand who is, we must understand that He is love, but He is also other and different from us, He is holy.

But notice today what this text says about love and about fear. We are told that there is no fear in perfect love, because perfect love casts out fear. How is that possible? How does perfect love cast out fear?

What this means, to me, is this. Of all the things that you are afraid of, things that aren’t minor things, things that are big things, things that may plague and worry and scare us, God is bigger than them.

God’s love is bigger than them.

God’s love is bigger than whatever may happen to you. God’s love is bigger than whatever mistakes lay in your past, your present, your future. God’s love is bigger than whatever may come.

You don’t have to be afraid. God has seen it all. God knows it all. God is aware of it all. He really is.

And He loves you. Don’t be afraid. You are loved. You are perfectly loved today. God loves you.

And that love is light, and that light drives out fear.

Love is greater than fear. It is. Lived loved, not afraid.

Do not fear today. God loves you. No matter what.

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What Mattered to Jesus

If you could ask Jesus what was the most important thing to do, what do you think He’d say?  What do you think he’d tell you is the most important thing for us to do as Christians?  Lots of choices, lots of options, huh?  Lots of things that He could say.

Well, you know what?  That scenario happened in scripture.  We actually know what He’d say.  Listen to what happened in Mark 12: 28-31:

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ 29Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel:the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”31The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’

love-god-love-neighborHe was asked, what is the greatest commandment?  What matters most?  What is most important?

There were a lot of things that Jesus could say, lots of places that Jesus could go.  And what did He say?

Love the Lord with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength.  In other words, love God with all that you are.  Love God with every fiber of your being.  With your intellect.  With your emotions.  With your body.  With everything.  Love God with every inch of who you are.

But that’s not all He tells us.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  So there, we see two more loves.  Love your neighbor.  And of course, we’ve seen Jesus tell us that this doesn’t mean our physical neighbor alone, but it means all the folks we come in contact with.

Love.  As Christians, we are called to love.  We have to love the people we come in contact with.  We have to show them that love.  It’s our command as Christians.  Love.

But, there is another love.  As you love yourself.  You matter.  You are important.  God loves you. That means you are to love yourself.  Stop beating yourself up.  God believes in you.  You believe in you.  You are His precious and His beloved.  And honestly, you can’t fully love your neighbor, until you love yourself.

CS Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

We are called not just to love God, love our neighbor, but love ourselves too.  Because God does.

So, we see what mattered to Jesus.  And we see what should matter to us.  Today, may we live out that love towards God, others, and ourselves, that He has called us to!

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Who Do You Trust?

I was reading one of the Psalms, Psalm 146 today, and these words just leapt off the page at me.  Listen to what it says in verses 3-9:

3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

shutterstock_250176199We have two contrasting visions in this Psalm.

First we are told this – do not put your trust in princes.  Don’t put your ultimate trust in humans, no matter who they are.  No matter if they are princes.  Or preachers.  Or teachers.  Or leaders.  Or whoever.  No matter how great they may be.  Now matter how perfect they may seem.  No matter how much you admire them.

Remember what it says in verse 4.  Their breath will fail.  The body will return to the earth.  The mortality rate is 100%.  All of us will reach that end.  Me, you, all of us.  All of us are imperfect.  All of us will get it wrong. All of us will fail at some point.

Even the best of us.

But the Lord, He sets the prisoner free.  He opens the eyes of the blind.  He lifts up the orphans.  He upholds the window.  He made heaven and earth.  He set the sea in place.

He is God.  Mortals will fail.  God will not.

Today, remember that.  God will not fail you.  Who do you trust today?  Where is your trust?  In mortals?  In humans?  Even in the best, even the princes, they will draw their last breath one day.

But God is eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, great and strong, mighty to save.  He is worthy of all our praise, our worship, all our very lives.

Today, who do we trust?

May we place our hope and faith in all areas of our lives in our God.  In Him, we can truly trust.

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Different Plans

You ever felt like there was something that you really wanted to do, maybe even something you needed to do, and you weren’t able to do it?  Maybe things came up and kept you from doing it.  It could have been a million different reasons, a million different things.

But for whatever reason, it doesn’t happen.  We’ve all be there.  We really have been.  It can be frustrating when God has different plans.  Listen to what happened to David today in 2 Samuel 7:4-6,12-13:

4 But that same night came to Nathan:5Go and tell my servant David:Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in?6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. . . . 12When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever

man-thinkingDavid wants to build God a Temple.  You know what? That’s a good idea. That’s a good thing. David says it’s not right for him to have a beautiful house, while God’s Ark of the Covenant stays in a tent.  That’s just not right, and he wants to do something about it.  So he wants to build a Temple.

All sounds good.  But God says no.  That’s not his place, that’s not his calling.  One will come after him that will build that Temple for God.  But that person will not be David.

God had different plans.  God had better plans; even better than David’s dreams.

Here’s the thing.  God’s plans for your life are better than your dreams for your like.  No matter what it is that you think is best or we think that we want to do, trust me, what God wants is better.

We just have to trust, especially when it doesn’t make sense.

God’s plans for your life are better than your dreams for your life.  Trust in His plans, even when they are different plans.

God knows what He is doing.  May we have faith to hold on, even when aren’t sure of what He is doing.  May we trust, even with those different plans.

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The Lord Remembers

remember-bowThe Lord remembers things.  Gulp.

That’s a scary phrase, isn’t it?  It’s scary to think about the Lord remembering things.  We think about the mistakes we’ve made, all the stuff we’ve done wrong, all the times we failed. And He remembers?  Man oh man.  It’s a heavy thing to think about the Lord remembering.

But, remember what the Bible says. The Lord doesn’t remember our sins, it says in Psalm 103:12 – “as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.”  He doesn’t remember our sins, He forgives them, and then He forgets them.  He doesn’t hold on to or remember these things.

So then, what is it?  What is it that He remembers?  Listen to what it says in Psalm 105: 7-10:

7 He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He is mindful of his covenant forever,
of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,

What does the Lord remember?  He remembers His promises.  He remembers what it is that He said that He will do.  He remembers His covenant with us.

He remembers His promises that He has made to us.  He will never leave or forsake us.  He will forgive us.  He will give us abundant life.  Nothing will be able to separate us from His love.  All things work for our good and His glory.

For those us that believe, we will know eternal life.

He loves us.

God doesn’t remember our sins.  But the Lord does remember.  He remembers His promises.  And He will never break His promises to us.

You can count on that.

He is faithful.  He is true. And He remembers.

And I, for one, am so thankful for that.  The Lord remembers His promises to us.  May we always be thankful for that Good News!

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Give it a Try

We like to eat sweets in our house.  We love snow cones, ice cream, all kinds of goodies and sweets.  But the thing with a lot of the sweets that we like it eat is this. There are so many options.  I mean, how can you choose among so many flavors?  What are you to do?

So, we’ve learned this.  We get sample. We’ll get a sample of this, a sample of that, we’ll try a bunch of them until we figure out exactly what it is that we want. We give them all a taste and see what it is that is just right for that day.

I thought about that when I read today’s Psalm.  Listen to what it says in Psalm 34: 4-8:

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
and was saved from every trouble.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.

f1d9973e92872262bcbffe25d0a1c265This is coming from someone who has tasted the Lord’s goodness.  David says, the Lord delivered me from my fears.  He answered him.  His soul cried out and God was there.

He needed God, and God responded.  He cried out, and God was there.  He called upon the name of the Lord, and the Lord showed His face.

And so what does David do?  He says this. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Give it a try. Try it for yourself.  See what happens.

Put your complete and total faith in God.  Turn to Him, give it all to Him, truly turn it over to Him, and see what happens.

You won’t be disappointed.  Happy are those that have done it.

So, today, maybe that’s what God is trying to say to us.  Put our whole faith in Him.  Look what David says, He delivered David from his fears.

Have you given your fears to Him?  Not just your worries, but your fears?  Taste and see.  Give it a try.

Have you truly turned in that moment of doubt, worry, and stress?  Taste and see.  Give it a try. See what happens.

Turn to Him.  Give it to. Really and truly and totally and completely.  Taste and see.  Give it a try.

He is God.  You won’t be disappointed.

Today, may we give it a try.  May we taste and see. And may we find God’s goodness.

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Thirsty

I’ve been trying something recently.  I read somewhere that one of the reasons that we get tired in the afternoon hours of the day is because we are dehydrated.  So, what I’ve been doing is drinking more water, especially in that afternoon time.  See, what I used to do was just drink more coffee, that’s kind of my answer to everything – more coffee.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

So I’ve been drinking more water, and you know what?  I think it’s working.  I was thirsty, but I didn’t really even realize it. Drinking that water has helped me feel better and have more energy.  And I didn’t even know that I needed it.

Listen to what it says today in Psalm 84: 1-4:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise.Selah

thirstyI love that verse – my soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord.  Our souls are thirsty for God.  Our souls long for that communion with God, that worship of God.  That’s what we are made for; that’s what we are created for.  To know God.  To love God.  To worship God.  To be in relationship with God.

That’s our purpose.  That’s what we are made for.

But here’s the thing.  We get so busy, we don’t realize that we are thirsty for Him.  We know something is wrong, we know that we don’t quite feel right, we know that something is off, but we aren’t sure what it is.

What is it is that our souls are thirsty for God.  And we have tried so many other things, and nothing satisfies.  No work, not pleasure, not status, nothing.  We remain thirsty.

Our souls long for God.

But here’s the thing.  God desires you, as well.  He wants you to be in relationship with Him.  He is love, and being love, He desires for you to walk with Him.  So, today, if your soul is thirsty, and really, all our souls are thirsty, know that there is living water that will satisfy.  Our souls have been crying out, but we may not have realized it.

Today, drench your soul in His grace, His presence, His worship.  You are loved, you are valued, you are pursued.  Today, we need God.  And God desires us.

Today, may we find our strength and our life in Him.

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Keep on Moving

One of the things that I know most about faith is that we are going somewhere.  We are on the move.  We have a direction and a purpose.

Now that somewhere, in time, is heaven.  Yes.  One day, for those of us that believe, we will cross over into eternity and we will forever be with the Lord.  That’s something to hope in, believe in, and rejoice in.

But that’s not just what I’m talking about it.  Listen to what we read today in Hebrews 6: 1-3:

Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this, if God permits.

Summer_Palace,_Beijing-StairsWe are going on to perfection.  Woah.  That’s scary.  We don’t like the sound of that.  Perfection?  None of us are nowhere near that!

And you know what?  That’s exactly true.  None of us are anywhere near perfection. But just because we aren’t anywhere near it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be moving towards us.  We aren’t perfect.  That’s right.  But you know what?  We are working to be faithful.  And that’s always the first step, the first key.

And second, we have to understand that.  What does it mean to be perfect?  Well, let me ask you this, what is the point of our faith?  What are we after?  What are we doing?  We are seeking to, by His grace, to be more like God.

And what is God?  Holy and Love.  That’s His character.  So, how does Jesus tell us to be like Him?  Well, He says the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all that we are, and love our neighbor as ourselves.  That’s what true obedience looks like.

That’s what true holiness looks like.

That’s what perfection looks like.  John Wesley didn’t talk about perfect in action.  He talked about perfect in love.

That’s what we are chasing. That’s what we are after.  Perfect, in love.

Today, let’s keep moving.  Let’s keep being faithful.  Let’s keep working.  Let’s keep growing.  Let’s keep trying to be perfect in love. And let’s see what God does with it!

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Who is God?

First, some housekeeping.  I send these reflections out each day as an email.  I’m changing the way that I send them out.  If you’d like to join my new email list, click here.  There were some technical problems last week that I think I should have worked out, all should be good now. Now, on to today’s reflection.

Today’s reading is just one of my favorites in the entire Bible.  I know I say that a lot. But really. This one is.  This is one of those passages that just unlocks everything for us.  Just listen to what it says in Colossians 1: 15-20:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

w8xb3kidzuon5szabbepiflyvnlBoom.  There you go.  That’s it.  Really.  That’s it.  This is one of those passages that is so key.

Why?

It tells us who God is.  Wait, what?  Yep.  This passage tells us who God is.  It says this.  Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  If you want to know God, look to Jesus.

Now, we believe in a God that is Three in One.  Trinity.  Triune.  By the way, here’s a link to a great book I’m reading that does as good a job of unpacking the Trinity as anything I’ve ever read.

But, there is something special about Jesus.  In Jesus, we see God’s heart.  We see the love of God.  The mercy of God.  The acceptance of God.  We really see in a special why who God is.  Jesus shows us who God is.

But also, we see this.  We don’t believe in just sort of a “spiritual” God.  Our culture talks a lot about God, but who is this God?  It is the God as shown to us in Jesus.

A God that forgives, but calls us to be holy.  A good that seeks the broken, and calls us all to follow Him.  A God that died for our sins, shows us the depth of His love, and rose from the dead.

A God of the cross.  Of the empty grave.  Of resurrection.  Of the destruction of sin, death, and the grave.

Jesus shows us God’s heart.  But He also shows us exactly who God is.

That’s why I love this passage.  And that’s why it matters.

It answers the question of who is God?

Jesus.  The answer is Jesus.

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