Perfect Love Can Overcome Fear

Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that His love has not been perfected in us. 1 John 4:18 NLT

Evidently, according to this verse, if we could have perfect love for God, we could get rid of all fear. The challenge comes in having perfect love.

I’m not sure I understand the concept completely, especially as it relates to a God I cannot see, but the best way I know of is to compare what I don’t understand to something I do understand.

I do, at least on most days, understand my relationship with my wife.  Working with that thought, let me say that before I met my wife, I didn’t love her. I hope that doesn’t disappoint you, but I really didn’t even know her, so loving her was hard to do.

Oh, sure, I might have had a general love for her as I hope I have for all people, but I didn’t really love her the way I am to love my wife.  Over the years, I have grown to love my wife…and so much more! She has become my closest friend, my richest ally, and my surest companion. I love spending life with her. I truly do love her with all my heart. I can’t imagine life without her.

Additionally, in addition to my love for Cheryl, I’ve learned to trust her completely and without any reservations. We have centered our life together, focussed on Christ.

How did this love develop? It happened over time, as I grew to know her, spent time with her, dated her, and we experienced life together. The saying goes that I “fell in love” with her. That love continues to develop and grow.

This helps me understand what I must do to get rid of fear in my life. I must work towards developing perfect love for Christ. To do that, I need to get to know him better, spend time with Him more regularly, and figuratively date Him as we experience life together.

As it was for falling in love with my wife, learning to love Christ more is a process which can take years, but as I learn to love Him more I will find myself trusting Him more, learning that He is trustworthy, reliable and fully able to meet my needs. When the temptations of fear and doubt enter my mind, I’ll be able to trust in the God I know so well.

What is your greatest fear?  Would you love to be rid of that fear?

Then, may I ask you: Are you investing in your God relationship enough to develop that perfect love?

Where Do You Look When in a Valley?

I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? Psalm 121:1 NIV

When you are in the valley, I mean really, deep in the valley, the only place to look is up!

Life has a way of placing you in the valley for seasons. Have you ever been there before? Are you there now?

Have you ever lifted up your eyes, heavy, burdened with guilt, mourning with hurt, drooping from the strain of sorrow, to see the mountains where your heart longs to be again?

Have you ever been so low that you barely have a dream of what it is like to be on top?

All of us will one day have a heart that needs to be filled. Each of us find ourselves at times expereincing that empty painful, awful hole in our heart, the size that only God can completely fill.

In those times, it’s important, more than ever, to remember where your help come from. Your hope lies in a Savior, in a man like no other man, who came, who loved, who shared, who died, and who lives again! Your hope is in Jesus! Your help is found in Jesus! In that most desperate moment…there is no substitute!

If you are in the valley today…look to the hills….look to Jesus!

Can my readers and I pray with you about an issue?  Leave a comment on this post.

We’ll Do Radical Things for the Ones We Love

Our oldest son Jeremy beat me to the shower Sunday morning. He graduated from college last year and works in Nashville, staying there during the week and coming home on weekends. Normally he sleeps late and attends Grace Community Church, but this morning he was up early…way early…so he could meet a friend for breakfast back in Nashville.

Why? You see, Jeremy is a relationship king. He loves people. If it involves a friend or his fiance Mary he will gladly alter his plans, even if it comes at an “inconvenience”.

It was odd timing that Jeremy provided me with this illustration. Just before I got up Sunday morning, I said a prayer. As I spoke, I sensed God saying to me, “Would you rush to get up to spend time with me? You rush to get up to check your emails?”

Ouch!

He’s right. The first thing I do when I get up is check my email. Some mornings before I even pray…

Yet, we’ll do crazy things for the relationships we love the most. If we truly love someone, we’ll alter our schedules for them. We’ll be “inconvenienced” for those we love. We’ll change our plans. All because we love the one with whom we have a relationship.

Or, will we?

It was a great reminder for me to prioritize the relationships I cherish the most.

Do you need this reminder?

What Style of Worship is in Heaven?

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” Revelation 4:9-11 NIV

About 10 years ago now, my family spent a weekend visiting churches with a group of people from our home church. The church was preparing a long-range plan and one part of that report was to review the style of worship. At the time, the church had a very traditional style of worship and was asking if it should incorporate more contemporary or a blended music.

A few days after out trip, I was sitting with my youngest son having lunch. He was about 10 years old at the time, but very perceptive.  Reflecting on our recent trip, he asked a good question and it was one that helped shape my thoughts at the time. He asked, “Daddy, what kind of worship will there be in Heaven? Will there be one contemporary worship service and one traditional?”

I was stunned.  I had never thought about it. What style of worship does Heaven have? Will we sing praise choruses, or will we use hymnals? Will there be organ music or piano? Will there be a praise team or a choir? And…most importantly…the bigger question…do angels sing?

As I read God’s Word, I can’t really say what style of worship we will have in Heaven. What I can discern, however, is that we will certainly worship! We often come to “worship service” with the junk of life on our minds. When we get to Heaven, there will be no more junk. We will no longer experience times when our hearts are not really into worship. I get the idea that when the created worships the Creator, God will care less about the style of music we sing and more about the devotion of the hearts singing!

We will fall at the feet of Jesus and Worship God! It will be unlike anything we have ever experienced! I don’t know if we will call it contemporary or traditional, but for sure, we will call it worship!

Just curious, what style of worship, worship song, hymn or artist leads you best in worship?  Do you have any opinions/ideas/thoughts about the worship in Heaven?

What does the sign of Christmas say?

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12 NIV

One thing I have learned about Bible verse: a verse usually has more than one application.  As I have read the Christmas story over the years, I have become intrigued by the phrase “This will be a sign to you”. A sign of what?

Well, after careful study, I’m certain I can apply this verse in multiple ways.

Obviously, the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger was a sign to help the shepherds recognize Jesus. When a child is first born, sometimes clothes just don’t fit.  It would not have been unusual for a newborn to be found wrapped only in a blanket. Though there could have been many babies, even newborns in Bethlehem that night, there probably weren’t many in an animal’s feeding trough.

Also, the sign of the baby could have been the angel’s way of saying, “this will prove that I’m telling the truth.” I’m quite sure shepherds out in a lonely field at night, might have some doubts about what they had seen and heard. It could be a situation where one would say to the other “I didn’t see anything if you didn’t see anything.” Seeing the baby would insure they had indeed been visited by an angel.

Perhaps another, even deeper, meaning by the phrase, “this will be a sign to you” points to the real meaning of Christmas. I did a little research. The Bible uses the term “a sign” several times. Gideon asked for a sign that God was talking to him (Judges 6:17). David requested a sign of God’s goodness.  (Psalm 86:17). The first rainbow was a sign of God’s covenant (Genesis 9:12). Circumcision was a sign of being God’s child.  (Gen 17:11) The Sabbath Day was a sign of God’s Holiness. (Ezekiel 20:12) God uses signs to teach us and guide us!

Now I know that’s pretty deep this Christmas Eve, but let me leave you with a question: What is the sign of Christmas? The baby Jesus…wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger…. What does it all mean? What is the real meaning of Christmas? I really don’t intend to answer the question for you!

I have a strong feeling, deep within my heart, that at Christmas, God was sending us a sign; the greatest and most important sign of all times. Have you discovered and read that sign this Christmas?

What would you think the sign of Christmas would say?

Your Favorite Christmas Songs of All Time

I love the readers of this blog, my Twitter and my Facebook friends! Ask a question and you answer!

Yesterday I asked for your favorite Christmas song…and you responded.

Here are the results of this very scientific survey….(j/k)

Songs receiving multiple votes in order of total votes received:
O Holy Night (This one was the overwhelming number one choice)
Mary Did You Know?
Silent Night
Little Drummer Boy
Oh Come Oh Come, Emmanuel
Away in a Manger
Angels We Have Heard on High
Carol of the Bells
White Christmas
I Celebrate the Day by Relient K
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Do You Hear What I Hear?

Songs receiving at least one mention:
Wexford carol
O Come, Emmanuel
The Star of Bethlehem
Holly Jolly Christmas
Hallelujah Chorus from Handle’s Messiah!
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
I Wonder as I Wander
Adeste Fideles
Redneck 12 Days of Christmas
Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer
Happy Christmas (War is Over)
It’s Cold Outside
Where Are You Christmas?
A Baby Changes Everything
Joy to the World
Silver Bells

Songs with a specific artist mentioned:
Little Drummer Boy by Jars of Clay
How Many Kings by Downhere
Winter Snow by Audrey Assad
Love Came Down at Christmas by @HighStreetHymns
I Celebrate the Day by Relient K
Christmas time by Phil Wickham.
Nuttin’ for Christmas by Sugarland
Winter Wonderland by Steve Taylor
O Holy Night by Third Day
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams
O Holy Night by Nat King Cole
More than a child by Sylvia Fleming
Oh Holy Night by Jon Berry

We do have different tastes…don’t we? Does the variety surprise you?

Did we list yours? If not, feel free to share something we could be missing? What is your favorite Christmas song of all time…or at least at this time?

Unwrap Christmas – Gift of Life

When Jesus spoke again to the people He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Merry Christmas!

This week we have unwrapped some of the real gifts of Christmas. (If you missed any of them, see the suggested links on this post.)

When we think of Christmas, we might think only of the baby that was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a feeding tray. We often forget that the child grew. Jesus grew to be a man; a sinless man who would bear the sins of the world, be beaten and hung on a cross, placed in a borrowed tomb, and rose to life on the third day.

Jesus came, not simply so that you and I might have new life, but that we might enjoy it to the full! One of the gifts of Christmas is that you and I are no longer doomed to a mediocre existence! You and I, the children of God are no longer confined to the darkness! We have victory through our Lord Jesus Christ…the Light of the world!

Child of God, if you are still living in darkness; if you have not began to experience the joyous Christian life; if you are still moping around in your sorrows; if you haven’t yet discovered that this really is “good news”, then you haven’t finished opening all the presents of Christmas! There’s still one left under the tree!

Open them all this Christmas! Tell Jesus thanks for bringing you peace, joy, forgiveness, love, and yes, the fullness of life this Christmas!

Unwrap Christmas this year!

What is one practical way you could help yourself (and others) experience the true meaning of Christmas this year?

Ruth’s Part in the Christmas Story

This past Sunday at Grace Community Church I spoke about the genealogy of Jesus, including where Ruth fits into the story.  It’s a shorter message than normal, but my prayer is that it will challenge you to see the Christmas story as your story.

Who is your favorite character in the genealogy of Jesus?

Unwrap Christmas – Gift of Love

For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:16

This might not be part of the Christmas story you share with your family as you sit around the fireplace, but maybe it should be!

As we unwrap the gifts of Christmas this year, we can’t help but mention God’s love. It was because of His great love for you and me that we even have a Christmas to celebrate!

When God created the heavens and the earth, the world was a perfect place. Man was in union with nature. Man had a committed relationship with his Creator God.

Then sin entered the realm of mankind. Sin separated man from God. What once was a perfect relationship was scarred forever. Men and women were subject to death, because of the plague of sin. Mankind could no longer reach a Holy God.

But then there were those two words…”but God!” But God so loved (insert your name here) that He gave His one and only Son! God threw a smelly birthday party, decorated with hay and attended by the local barnyard animals, overseen in the starlit night by a simple carpenter and his teenage wife to be. At the center of the celebration was a baby, helpless, yet powerful, weak, yet strong, unknown, yet to be the most popular figure to ever walk along the earth.

God loved you and me so much that He was willing to give up His son for a while, that the penalty for sin might be paid on a cross.

The greatest gift of Christmas is the love of God that brought us Jesus!

Dear friend, won’t you today accept His gift of love? Regardless of who you are, what you’ve done, where you are from, or how desperate you feel, you can know right now that God, the awesome Creator, has a real, intimate, and deep love for you!

Now that’s a Christmas present!

Do you feel loved by God today?  What does that mean to you this Christmas?

For more in this Unwrap Christmas series, read HERE, HERE or HERE.

Unwrap Christmas – Gift of Forgiveness

Jesus came to be a Savior! As we unwrap the presents of Christmas this week, we must not forget the wonderful gift of forgiveness!

I read a sign once that went something like this:

  • If we had needed healing, God would have sent a Physician.
  • If we had needed knowledge, God would have sent an Educator.
  • If we had needed information, God would have sent a Scientist.
  • If we had needed money, God would have sent a Banker.

But, we needed forgiveness, so God sent a Savior!

The greatest need you and I have is to be forgiven! Sin, or disobeying God, is that plague that keeps us away from experiencing all the blessings He has for us. Sin seperates us from God. Only through the precious mercy and grace of Jesus Christ can we receive the forgiveness which makes us whole again and right with God. Without forgiveness there would be no Heaven for you and me.

Thank God that is not the end of the story! Christmas should remind us that on that crisp, clear night in Bethlehem, a child was born. That infant laid in the feeding tray was more than just a miracle birth, He was the one who would save His people from their sins! He was Emmanuel:God with us! He was our Kinsman Redeemer!

In my christian life I have seen countless people struggle in the area of forgiveness. Often they can’t imagine how God could offer them such redemption. Dear friend, I don’t know the worst of you. I don’t know the dark side of your past. What I do know is that Jesus is able…and willing…to forgive you of all that you have ever done wrong. You have not gone too far for Him to reach you. Take one step and He’ll take ten thousand (or more).

One of the greatest gifts of Christmas is forgiveness. You and I needed a Savior! And that’s just Who we got…His name is Jesus and we celebrate His birth at Christmas!

Don’t leave this gift under the tree!