The Chains of Fear…

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Matthew 6:25-34 (KJV)

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

We’re all aware that fear produces anxiety, but it also has far-reaching effects.

Here are some ways apprehension creates chaos in our life and impacts those around us.

Fear stifles thoughts and actions.

It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.

Fear can be a roadblock to God’s plans for His children.

When we’re dominated by negative emotions, we cannot achieve the goals He has in mind for us. A lack of self-confidence stymies our belief in what the Lord can do with our lives.

Fear can lead to destructive habits.

To numb the pain of overbearing distress and foreboding, some turn to things like drugs and alcohol for artificial relief.

Fear steals peace and contentment.

When we’re regularly afraid, our life becomes centered on pessimism and gloom.

Fear creates doubt.

God promises an abundant life, but if we surrender instead to the chains of fear, we most likely won’t live in the abundance He offers.

No matter what you are afraid of, here’s what you need to know:

God will never reject you.

Whether you accept Him is your decision.

And remember, the Lord wants to meet all of your needs.

He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass with the splendor of lilies. How much more, then, will He care for you and me, who are made in His image?

Our only concern is to obey the heavenly Father and leave all the consequences to Him.

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Absolute, Righteous and Just…

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Romans 3:23-27 (KJV)

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

The cross of Jesus Christ presents us with a dilemma.

If the heavenly Father is good and loving, why would He let His Son endure the agony of crucifixion?

From our human perspective, there’s nothing loving in this scene.

But by looking beyond the obvious, we’ll see an awesome demonstration of love.

To grasp what took place at the cross, we first need to understand that the Lord is absolutely righteous and just.

He always does what’s right and never acts contrary to His nature or His Word.

On the other hand, mankind is sinful and deserving of eternal punishment.

God couldn’t simply decide to forgive us, because He would then cease to be just—justice requires that a penalty be paid for sin. Either the Lord had to condemn us all to suffer His wrath, or He needed to devise a plan that would satisfy His justice yet allow Him to show mercy.

Before the foundation of the world, God already had a plan in place for His sinless Son to come to earth in human flesh to bear our sins (Revelation 13:8).

The Father placed upon Him all our guilt and punishment.

Because the Savior’s payment fully satisfied divine justice, sinful man could now be declared righteous. Justice punished sin, and mercy rescued sinners.

No matter who you are or what you’ve done, if you accept Christ’s payment on your behalf, you will be saved.

God’s goodness and love are proved by the very act that looked cruel and hateful. This was the sole plan that could save us, and God’s perfect Son was the only one qualified to give His life in our place.

What’s more, Jesus did it willingly.

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Grace and Forgiveness…

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Genesis 3:14-19 (KJV)

14 And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Christians tend to categorize sins, rating some as small and inconsequential, but others as huge and far-reaching in the damage they cause.

In reality, no one sins in isolation.

Each disobedience to God affects not only the sinner but also countless others in both the present and the future.

If we were to separate Adam and Eve’s sin from its context, few of us would convict them of great transgression. All they did was swallow some fruit from a tree with a “do not eat” sign.

Today people think nothing of ignoring commands—even biblical ones.

But God has a totally different view of our sins. Each one is followed by negative consequences.

Adam and Eve’s disobedience led to pain and frustration in two basic areas of fulfillment—relationships and meaningful work. The whole earth fell under sin’s curse, and every person born since then has entered the world with a sin nature that alienates each one from the Lord.

That first rebellion plunged humanity into a terrible condition.

Civilization is now plagued by countless ramifications of the innumerable sins committed by human beings throughout the ages. Is it any wonder the world is in such sad shape?

Sin not only causes suffering; it robs us of God’s best.

The Garden of Eden is closed and locked to sinful mankind.

The good news of Christ’s grace and forgiveness is our only real hope in this fallen world.

Though unpleasant, focusing on sin’s consequences is necessary at times to remind us of the greatness of our salvation and to move us to obey God, even in the small things.

Each obedience is huge to Him.

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Working Outside Our Visible Realm…

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Psalm 33:18-22 (KJV)

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;
19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.
22 Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.

Our culture is not one that teaches patience.

Just watch the frustration of drivers behind a car that doesn’t start moving the instant the traffic light turns green. Because of a two-second delay, tempers flare and horns honk.

Living in a fast-paced world has programmed us to expect everything immediately, and that includes answers to our prayers.

At times, I have been very impatient and frustrated with the Lord when He hasn’t operated according to my schedule. I’ve even tried to manipulate circumstances so I could present Him with the solution and ask for His blessing.

But delayed timing from my perspective is perfect timing from His viewpoint. An omniscient God who created and rules over time can never be late.

Waiting on the Lord requires faith.

Just because we can’t see what He is doing does not mean that He is inactive.

Our heavenly Father works outside of our visible realm, arranging and orchestrating events to bring about His plan for our lives. His work is like a seed planted deep in a garden—we cannot see the underground process. But just as a budding plant eventually appears, we can trust that in time, the Lord’s ordained outcome will become evident.

The solution to whatever problem you are facing is in God’s hands.

Steadfastly cling to the truth of His love for you, His knowledge of all things, and His power over every obstacle. Then you can confidently walk by faith rather than by sight, knowing that on God’s schedule, His good purposes will be fulfilled.

In time, your eyes will see proof of His faithfulness.

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Developing Righteous Habits…

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Hebrews 5:12-14 (KJV)

12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Believers are on a continual growth track that ascends higher and higher.

This side of heaven none of us ever “arrive,” but we each have a responsibility to press on to maturity.

Though many people think those who know a lot about the Bible are the spiritually mature ones, Hebrews 5:14 adds the element of practice to the growth equation.

This word means a custom or habit. Christian growth requires the discipline of godly habits carried out daily.

The most important practice to cultivate is a personal devotional time.

Since God is the source of all spiritual development, you can’t neglect Him and expect to become mature. Transformation begins with time in His Word and prayer.

Obedience is another essential element for advancement.

When our desire to obey the Lord is stronger than our attraction to sin, we’ll know we are making progress in our spiritual life.

In terms of physical development, the goal is to become more independent and self-sufficient as we age.

But in the spiritual realm, the opposite is true.

Those who are mature in Christ recognize their own inadequacy and rely on the Holy Spirit within them. It’s His job to transform our character and empower us to accomplish everything the Lord calls us to do.

Getting older doesn’t mean maturity in God’s eyes.

By digging into Scripture and developing righteous habits, we can use our years to grow stronger in the Lord instead of wasting time with passivity.

No one accidentally becomes mature. Spiritual growth requires a diligent pursuit of God.

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Our Safeguard Against Deception and Temptation…

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Genesis 3 (KJV)

Listening to God is not a onetime event.

We must continually keep His Word before us, or we’ll begin to listen to the wrong voices.

In Genesis 2:16-17, the Lord gave a command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But Eve began to listen to another voice and did not hold firmly to her Creator’s words. All that Satan had to do was plant a single doubt about God’s integrity and offer Eve one appealing advantage of doing things her own way—and she fell for it. He mentioned wisdom, but using her own reasoning, Eve added two more benefits to the temptation: the fruit is good for food and a delight to the eyes.

The schemes of the Enemy have not changed.

He still whispers lies and twists truth to convince us that a) God cannot be trusted and b) His ways are not the best. In every temptation, there is a deception about the character and motive of God, plus an attractive promise of a better way.

The world is filled with voices that vie for our attention and influence our thoughts and actions.

Throughout the day, consider the messages that are sent your way through the media and people. Consciously begin to compare them to what Scripture says about God and His ways.

Remembering what God says in the Bible is our safeguard against deception and temptation.

Daily devotions won’t protect us if they’re quickly forgotten during the day.

Follow Christ’s example: be ready with truth in your mind and on your tongue whenever temptation strikes (Matt. 4:1-11).

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The Knowledge That You Are Valuable…

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1 Peter 2:9-10 (KJV)

9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

How often do we evaluate ourselves on the basis of our feelings rather than what God says?

The problem is, our feelings are always changing.

From one moment to the next, we never know what circumstances will arise to test our faith.

Maybe today is “one of those days”—the car didn’t start, the boss has been breathing down your neck, the mortgage payment is due, and money is short. During such times, it can be difficult to think of yourself with “sober judgment” (Romans 12:3 NIV).

But remember, Satan will do whatever he can to divert your attention from the Lord.

When we direct our focus toward circumstances instead of the Word of God, we accept what the situation seems to indicate or what others say, instead of what the Lord tells us.

So what do the Scriptures say about us?

Today’s passage calls believers “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, [and] . . . God’s own possession.” And our purpose is to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

How encouraging it is to know that we’ve been called into God’s “marvelous light.”

Yet unless we have help, we are unable to escape the “darkness” of our circumstances. As believers, we’re empowered by the Holy Spirit, who enables us to overcome Satan’s manipulative tactics.

When circumstances seem unbearable, remember the Lord paid a price to purchase you (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Wake up each morning with the knowledge that you are valuable to your Father.

Trust in His Word, not your feelings, and allow the Holy Spirit to change your self-perception.

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Facing Challenging Times With Confidence…

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1 Peter 1:6-7 (KJV)

Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

God is always at work in our lives.

Even during seasons of adversity, He wants to accomplish something powerful and good.

How should this knowledge affect our response?

Today’s passage teaches us to choose to rejoice during difficult times. This doesn’t mean we have to be happy about the hardship itself. Instead, joy comes from drawing close to the Lord and believing steadfastly that through His redemptive power, He is growing and preparing us.

If your usual response to trials is anxiety, anger, or depression, the idea of having joy in the midst of a negative situation might not seem logical.

However, if you look beneath the surface, you will discover that this biblical directive makes sense for several reasons.

Often, our natural reaction to pain is to run in the opposite direction, and as fast as possible.

However, God wants to teach us endurance–much like a long-distance runner builds up strength in training–so that we can fully benefit from what He is doing in our hearts. He uses trials as a refining fire to purify us like gold and bring us to greater spiritual maturity. As we realize that we are actually being made more complete through our adversities, we’ll begin to face challenging times with confidence that He always has our best interest in mind.

While a worldly viewpoint sees hope and joy in the midst of dark times as naïve, a spiritual perspective discerns that we’re really progressing on a journey toward life at its fullest.

We can be filled with supernatural joy, knowing that the Lord is making us into world-changing spiritual warriors.

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