From a Place of Disquiet to Freedom…

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Luke 1:68-75 (KJV)

65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,

The Scriptures distinguish between two kinds of fear: healthy and unhealthy.

For example, a protective type of anxiety helps prevent avoidable harm by warning us not to touch a hot stove or walk on thin ice. And we are commanded to have a proper fear of God. This includes an overwhelming sense of awe because of who He is—namely, Judge and sovereign King.

It also involves a lifestyle of respectful obedience that honors Him.

Unhealthy fear causes us to feel tense, uncomfortable, or threatened.

Its source may be a childhood experience or an authority figure’s repeated negative words. The feeling of distress becomes rooted in our thinking and colors our decision-making.

Even when there’s no longer any basis for this anxiety, it may continue to inhibit us.

The imagination is also a source of fear.

We can get caught up in “what if” thinking, such as,What if something goes wrong? or What if the outcome I want doesn’t come about?

This kind of agitation can block God’s best in our life.

His purposes often require that we move beyond where we feel most comfortable.

Learning new skills, changing jobs, or trying a different way of ministering to others could be part of what He expects. Such challenges present the opportunity to trust the Lord and obey Him.

Fear doesn’t come from God (2 Tim. 1:7).

Let the Holy Spirit guide you from a place of disquiet into the freedom that is ours in Christ.

There you will discover the ability to follow His plan without being hindered by overwhelming fear.

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When Doubt Invades Our Minds…

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Exodus 4:1-13 (KJV)

1 And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.
2 And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.
4 And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:
5 That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.
6 And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.
7 And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.
8 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.
9 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.
10 And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.
11 And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?
12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
13 And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.

A faith barrier is made up of attitudes that short-circuit our trust and prevent us from obeying the Lord’s will.

A negative self-image can hinder us in this way, as can ignorance of God’s character and promises.

Three other attitudes can also trip us up: doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and fear of failure.

Moses doubted that the Israelites would believe he had been chosen by the Lord to lead them. But God graciously provided reassurance–in the form of evidence that He could accomplish everything He’d promised (Ex. 4:1-5).

When doubt invades our minds, it can be overcome with diligent study of Scripture and persistent prayer, which will dislodge uncertainty and replace it with biblical truth.

Moses wasn’t eloquent, and a perceived lack of skill left him feeling inadequate for the job–he was afraid trying to speak would make him stumble. God patiently reassured him of divine help in that task.

The Lord often chooses unlikely people to carry out His plan because He looks at the heart, not human qualifications (1 Sam. 16:7).

He can overcome all our inadequacies.

Sadly, Moses did not embrace what God promised but instead asked to be relieved of the assignment.

A fear of failure can prevent us from saying yes to the Lord.

Carrying out God’s will requires a heart that trusts Him, a soul that steps out in obedience, and a mind that leaves success or failure to Him.

As we break down the faith barrier, we will be able to see the evidence of God’s presence and power–and experience the joy of obedience.

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The Landmine of Fear…

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Psalm 27:1-4 (KJV)

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

Fear has been a part of man’s emotional makeup since the fall.

When Adam and Eve rebelled against the Lord, they hid themselves from Him and were afraid (Gen. 3:10). Things haven’t changed much.

Anxiety often affects our thinking and controls our actions.

It can keep us boxed in and unwilling to venture into unknown territory.

Let truth help you defeat fear.

Remember that God is . . .

Almighty.

Through the Savior’s perfect life and His sacrifice on the cross, our two greatest enemies have been defeated—Satan and death. Jesus set us free from slavery to sin; the devil has lost control over our lives. What’s more, we no longer face eternal separation from God. Jesus’ physical death has become the gateway to heaven, where we can live with the Father forever.

Always with us. 

Though He called Abraham to move away from all that was familiar, the Lord Himself promised to remain nearby. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus gives us similar reassurance. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we as believers have God not only near us but also in us. Nothing can ever separate us from His love—not past mistakes, present circumstances, or difficult people (Rom. 8:38-39).

Actively involved.

God promises His help, and He always keeps His word. He knows what is happening in our lives and can turn hardships into a time of spiritual growth and ultimate blessing.

God Himself is the reason we should not be afraid. Grasp the truth of His power, presence, and involvement, and use them to disarm the landmine of fear.

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The One Who Can Help Us…

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Habakkuk 1:2 (KJV)

20 Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!

At some point everyone experiences dashed hopes.

Disappointment—an emotional response to a failed expectation—is the normal initial reaction. But allowed to linger, it can turn into discouragement, which hovers like a dense cloud.

When that’s the case, there is no sense of joy or contentment, no matter what you do.

The circumstances that trigger these emotions may be unavoidable, but the way we respond is a choice.

We can either let sadness overwhelm our souls or face the situation with courage and bring it before the One who can help us.

Living in discouragement will divide the mind, making it hard to focus on anything besides our pain. Then as anger becomes habitual, we’ll look for someone to blame—whether God, people around us, or ourselves.

Frustration that isn’t handled well may develop into depression, which in turn can estrange us from others—people do not enjoy the company of someone who’s bitter and defeated.

This isolation leads to a low self-esteem.

Finally, in a fog of discouragement, we can make poor decisions based on crushed emotions instead of truth. Obviously, choosing this self-destructive path is not God’s best for our lives.

Though we’ll all face disappointment from time to time, believers are not to wallow in it.

Instead, God wants us to trust Him with everything—even our unmet expectations and deepest sadnesses.

Remember, there is divine purpose for everything He allows to touch His children’s lives (Rom. 8:28). 

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Kindness to The Utterly Undeserving…

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Ephesians 2:4-10 (KJV)

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Many people believe that piling up good works makes them right with the Lord.

Yet when it comes to sin, death is the only payment that can satisfy divine justice (Rom. 6:23). Since we all transgress, this leaves us in a desperate situation facing an eternity apart from God.

Grace, the expression of divine love and kindness to the utterly undeserving, prompted the solution: God sent His Son Jesus to die in our place.

According to Romans 10:9, all we need to do is believe. Jesus’ death satisfied God’s justice and brought us:

New Life.

Our spirit is made alive in Christ the moment we acknowledge we’re sinners, turn from our rebelliousness, and believe that His death paid our sin debt in full.

Freedom.

At salvation, sin’s power over us is broken and we are set free from its hold. Jesus raised us up out of the quagmire of disobedience and gave us the faith to believe. Now we can exercise our newfound freedom and follow Him.

Security.

When we accept God’s judgment that we are, by nature, sinners and acknowledge our Savior’s sacrifice as payment for our sins, we’re permanently adopted into the heavenly Father’s family. Our status changes instantly: Once objects of wrath, we are now children of God. Someday we will be seated in the heavenly realms with Christ to enjoy life everlasting with Him.

God, the very One against whom we rebelled, substituted His Son Jesus in our place to receive the punishment that was rightfully ours.

How will you show your gratitude to God for His saving grace?

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Sanctification Isn’t Always Pleasant…

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Romans 8:29 (KJV)

29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

God predestined us to grow into His likeness, but this doesn’t happen at the moment we are saved.

While we are redeemed by the Savior’s precious blood and immediately have a new heart, our transformation is a lifelong process.

The Holy Spirit enables this journey.

Growth is impossible without Him, regardless of our efforts.

Yet we can welcome or hinder His transforming hand.

One way we give God willing access to our lives is by obeying this mandate in Romans 12:2:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

Everyone chooses either a biblical or worldly philosophy as his or her source of truth–and that choice shapes the mind and spirit.

Therefore, the Lord tells us to immerse our mind in Scripture, allowing Him to mold us into His beautiful image.

The Bible story about the Israelites wandering in the wilderness illustrates this principle.

After saving them from Pharaoh’s abuse, God did not bring them immediately to the Promised Land. The Lord knew doing so would bring sinful ways with them. Instead, He led them to the wilderness and gave the Ten Commandments.

Only after they learned to obey and turn to almighty God were they ready for the next step.

The process of sanctification isn’t always pleasant.

In fact, it’s often painful for us, just as it was for the Israelites.

In God’s amazing wisdom and love, however, He knows what we need to leave our old ways that lead to death. And He builds new character in us–full of life and joy.

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Man’s Need for Salvation…

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Ephesians 2:1-3 (KJV)

1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Followers of Christ know the importance of being saved, but the world sees no need for rescue.

Let’s think about some key truths regarding man’s need for salvation.

Those who don’t have a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus are:

Spiritually dead.

Many people don’t realize that there are three kinds of death—physical, eternal, and spiritual.

Eternal death comes at the end of the age, when all those who have refused Jesus as Savior are cast away from God permanently (Matt. 25:41). Spiritual death occurred in the Garden of Eden. Disobedience severed Adam and Eve’s intimate connection to God and caused all of their descendants to be spiritually detached from Him (Rom. 5:12). We’re born as “dead” people in need of new life.

Living a life of sin.

Our nature is to rebel against God, and that’s called sin.

Over and over, we choose what pleases us, not Him. We’re enslaved to sin (John 8:34), and any effort to free ourselves from its power is in vain. We need someone to rescue us.

Under divine wrath.

Because of our disobedience, we are under God’s judgment, awaiting punishment.

All efforts to earn His approval and escape our sentence are insufficient.

Sinful man has nothing acceptable to offer holy God. Our only hope of escape is for someone else to take our penalty.

The good news is that the Lord has provided a way for all to pass from spiritual death to life, from the bondage of sin into freedom, and from condemnation to intimacy with Him.

Jesus Christ alone is the way (14:6), and He meets our every need.

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A Life That’s Committed…

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Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Living a life that’s committed to Christ calls for following His wisdom.

Let’s look at attitudes necessary for consistent Christ-centered lifestyle:

Determination.

Walking in wisdom is not something that happens automatically. We must decide ahead of time to pursue godly living wholeheartedly.

Focus.

To stay on the path of the Lord’s will, we must fix our attention on His Word. As we meditate on Scripture and absorb its truths, our minds will align with Christ’s, and our choices will be in tune with biblical principles.

Spirit Sensitivity.

With determination to live a holy life and with close attention to Scripture, we become more sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, our guide who indicates the direction we are to take.

Trust.

Sometimes the Lord’s choice for us doesn’t appear sensible. It may seem foolish or require sacrifice. Trusting in His perfect wisdom is necessary if we’re to walk according to His plan.

Courage.

Some things God requires of us may cause us to react with fear. As our trust in Him deepens, courage grows, and we discover the joy of embracing His choice for us.

Perseverance.

It is one thing to start out on the right path; maintaining the course for a lifetime is something else. By depending on God, we can persist and choose wisely over a long period.

Walking in wisdom requires that we continually practice a few basics: Know God, trust Him, listen, and obey. Is this your pattern for living?

Remember, a lifetime of godliness develops one choice at a time.

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