Casting Out Fear

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Fear is crippling. It ruins and destroys, thwarting the peace and happiness of life. It consumes our thoughts and covers our hearts with a feeling that is sickening and so very unwanted.

Fear is awful.

In fact, fear is a tactic used by the enemy. It is used to pull us away from God and to doubt His presence and love. It is used to remind us of things we'd rather not think of. It is used to destroy the joy in our lives.

The devil may use fear to scare you, to cripple you, to hold you down...

But there is no such thing as a life with both faith and fear. The two cannot coexist. And by standing firm in faith, consistently pursuing the Word (where God says about 365 times "Do not fear!"), and by continuously trusting in the love of the Lord, we can stand protected by the enemy's tactics.

If you are living with any kind of fear tonight, stop and take a deep breath. Cry out to Him. Trust in the perfect love of the Lord.

His perfect love casts out fear.

And let me tell you, if you're wrapped in the arms of a perfect-loving God like that, you will be reminded that there is no reason to fear.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18


It Is Finished

Whatever battles you're facing, whether it's addictions, sicknesses, or fear, let me be the one to tell you tonight that you're not alone. 

You know that feeling like you've been somewhere before? That moment when the right words come along at the right time? The instant you meet someone and you know that it must be more than a coincidence? These all point to the movement of an Almighty God.

Because God is moving in your life. Not for just an hour, or a day, or even a few weeks. When you come to know Christ, He moves for a lifetime. When He does a work in your life, the LORD will finish what He has started. 

...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

We all face multiple battles in our lives. We are all human. Humanity is flawed because of sin. There is no escaping it. We are all imperfect humans in need of grace, and that is why God's love is so beautiful. His loving hand reaches out to us, despite our imperfections. His arms are wide open, even when the battles we face are caused from our sinful nature. He makes something beautiful when we hand our own addictions and struggles over to Him.

And when we give it over to Him, He will finish what He begins. He will NOT stop working until it is done. It might take months, years, or even a whole lifetime. But God will finish what He has begun. In fact, Jesus left His home in Heaven in order for us to have eternal life through His sacrifice on the cross. He came to earth to die the most horrible death imaginable, in order that our sins could be forgiven. Despite the longing to escape this death, Jesus still went to the cross. As He took His last breath, He cried out, "It is finished!"

God finished the work that He began.

And the same God that finished His work through the cross over 2,000 years ago still finishes what He begins today.

Just a small battle I've always faced is shyness. I've always been shy since I was young, and while there's not anything necessarily wrong with that, it can become a problem when I begin to appear unfriendly or not wanting to make an effort with others. When you (unintentionally, of course) turn your head the other direction, avoid smiling, or never take the time to talk to others, you not only appear rude, but God's love is not shared.

I realized that this was becoming a problem about two years ago, and I gave my shyness over to God. I asked Him to help me overcome it, and for His love to shine through me.

It's been amazing to see what He has done. While I'm still shy, I definitely believe that I have become so much more outgoing compared to how I once was. While I once was too nervous to say hello, or start a conversation, or even add to a conversation, today I am able to do these things and more. And I know that it is a work that God is doing in my life, and a work that He still is not finished with yet. Through different encounters, He has helped me to gain more experience in talking with others. Most importantly, He has equipped me with His power to overcome this problem.

And whatever you are going through, God equips you with His power, with EVERYTHING you need, to overcome.

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave, the same power that determined victory, a finished work...
is the same power that is working in you. Give your addictions, your anxiety, your problems, over to Him. He will equip you and enable you to overcome. He will finish what He has begun.

He will make you new.
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On that day, when all the believers gather in Heaven and worship our King for the rest of eternity, every work that God has begun will be done. You and I will both be able to say the same words that Jesus said as He breathed His last breath:

"It is finished."


Cast Your Cares

I cast my cares on the Lord. He is the One who calms my soul, who stirs peace and comfort in my heart. He listens with open ears to every word spoken. He delights in hearing from His children, and in revealing the oh-so-deep love that He has for us in our lives.

This week has been rough. With huge assignments and quick deadlines in my college classes, that was enough to stress me out. In the midst of all of this, college plans remain, minor health issues appear off and on, and my Dad is in a car accident (and praise be to God, because although his car was hit pretty hard, the Lord covered my Dad with angels!).

At the beginning of the week, I gave it all to God. And I can say with all honesty that He took care of me and filled me with strength and peace throughout the week. Although I was up until anywhere from 1-3:30 am every night, the Lord kept my eyes open and my strength rising, and I not only accomplished everything on time, but He brought success.

And when the unexpected hard times came, He still provided. He still covered my family and I with His angels and His great love.

While this week was rough, it was not a bad week. I had a supernatural peace in my soul, a comfort that could only come from the love of a God like the One I serve. He held my hand and walked me through everything. Each day, He reminded me to take one day at a time. And each day, He gave me strength to accomplish and to face every obstacle that came my way.

Cast your cares on the Lord, because He is the only One who can take your troubles and transform them into something beautiful. He makes beauty out of dust. He sees potential when you see stressful times ahead. He can, and will, help you with whatever you are facing.

Whatever you are going through, He is longing to hear from you. His ears are open and ready. Cast your troubles and cares onto Him. He loves you. He cares about you. And there is no one that can comfort and strengthen you in your trials the way that the Lord does.

Be still, and give it all to Him. He cares.

Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22


Shhh...It's A Surprise!

From surprise parties to surprise visits to just the surprise of what's in the boxes under the Christmas tree, surprises bring a lot of excitement to an oftentimes already happy occasion. While surprises can be thrilling, they sometimes require a lot of patience during the waiting process, a trait that so many of us do not enjoy working on. What little kid wants to wait to open that huge Christmas gift under the tree, when we can open it now? We all know the feeling (especially, if you're anything like me as a child, you might've found a way to sneak a peek at some of your gifts early!), but we especially know the blessing a surprise gift can bring to our lives when we have the patience to wait for it, or even better, when we truly didn't know it was coming!

Surprises are good. Yet oftentimes in our relationship with God, we forget that.

We seek God. Sometimes the answer comes quickly. But more often than not, the answer doesn't come right away. We seek, we ask, but the door doesn't open. Frustration creeps into our hearts and we lose faith.

Does this sound familiar?

If this is you, don't give up. One of the things God has been reminding me again and again is that He LOVES surprises. He loves answering prayers in bigger and better ways than I ever expected. He enjoys giving good gifts to His children, especially gifts that He knows we'll love and cherish. In fact, Jesus told His disciples:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:7-11

Jesus said that when we ask, we receive. When we seek the Lord, we WILL receive. But Jesus never said that we will receive exactly what we want when we want it. God is too good of a Father to give us the thing we want when He has something better in store. 

Surprises never come at the expected time. God surprises us with exactly what we need when we need it, and it's usually not when expected. His timing and His loving gift will always be best for our lives. Yet too many times, we forget that. Too many times, we doubt His love, we lose faith, and we wonder whether God really loves us or whether He even exists.

But know this: When you keep seeking Him, He WILL provide. It may not be when you want it, but He works for the good of those who love Him, and it will come at just the right time. His timing is so much better than our own. And it is during this process that He strengthens our faith and our dependence on Him. We learn the fullness of the word "trust". We learn what it really means to seek, trust, and rely on the foundation of God and His love.

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As a senior in high school and a sophomore in college (through dual enrollment), the time is drawing near for me to decide what to major in and what college to go to after high school graduation. Sadly, I'm unsure. My main two considerations are going into Veterinary Science or Journalism (complete opposites, for sure!), but I'm open to other ideas as well. I have no idea what to do, and time is running short. But I've been seeking the Lord, and I'm learning to trust more in Him. No, I still don't know what to do, but He has been telling me recently to pray and wait. Just pray and wait, Alyssa. Pray and wait. I know that in His right timing, I will know. There's no need to worry when a good God is working on my side.

Don't stop seeking the Lord. He will provide. It may not be the door you're expecting, but the door will open.

Because I know from experience, our God is a good Father...and He loves surprises!


Through My Eyes

Gandorf at Clay County Animal Control
I'm alone. Surrounded by the thunderous noise of the other residents, barking fills the room. I spend my nights alone, with no human to snuggle with, no human to feed me and love me. I live in this temporary place called the shelter, and it is my dream that I will be leaving here soon. I'm ready for a family. I'm ready to be loved. The shelter treats me nicely and I know I'm in good hands, but I am afraid. This place is scary. There are so many other animals, so many strange people going in and out, roommates fighting off and on. I just want someone to let me out. I crave freedom. I just want to be loved.

In the middle of all of this, these humans come in. I look out the bars of my kennel with sad eyes, hoping for a chance, for some love. Soon enough, I'm taken out! These humans, called volunteers, spend some time with me. After spending hours upon hours, and often days upon days, alone in this kennel, I'm finally given a chance to run freely, to play, and to be loved.

My past has been rough. In all the years of my life, I don't often experience love the way these volunteers have been providing to me. I rest my head against her hand. My mouth curves into a smile. My eyes couldn't stay open as the girl rubs my back and head. Heaven is brought to earth. There are no words to describe what I am feeling.

I've been dreaming of a forever family, someone who will give me the love that I so freely will give to them. I have been through a lot, but I will look forward. Many humans don't act with love and kindness. They throw us out of trucks and leave us to die. Others have been given up by their owner, just because they are no longer wanted. We come in injured or with a broken heart.

Touch is beautiful. Just the petting of a dog can bring so much hope. Just dedicating some time out of a heart of compassion can change lives. Just being present can transform situations. Sometimes, when one is alone, just a simple touch in the midst of loneliness can brighten a day. Touch is a God-given gift, and the result of pure compassion is transforming.

I know, because of the love that the group of volunteers has shown me. Love is a beautiful, transforming thing. And I know that my day is coming, a day where I will be asleep in a comfy bed, in a house surrounded by other humans who will wrap me up in the arms of love.

That day is coming soon. I just know it.

Sincerely, Gandorf & his friends at Clay County Animal Control


Who Are You?

Who are you?

   All throughout our lives, especially during the teenage years, we seek to find out "who we truly are". We look to the things of this world, our circumstances, and what we believe our mind and soul to look like and we find a label and place it upon ourselves. We find what we believe defines us. The problem with that is that if the label is good, those things will fade. This world is dying day by day. Satisfaction because of the things on this earth is only temporal. If the label is negative, we depress our soul and live out a lie. We live bound to a certain sin because we believe the sin defines us, when it really doesn't.

   Once we meet Christ, our identity does not, and should not, rest in the things of this world anymore. We are no longer a slave to our sins. We are no longer defined by our success, our riches, our fame, our popularity, our outgoing nature or athletic ability, even our intelligence--but we are defined as a child of the One True King. We are defined as a son or daughter adopted into God's family and one who is greatly and forever loved and cherished by the God of the universe. Every other identity will fade away, but being labeled as a child of the King is eternal. Our God is eternal, so by resting in His Name alone, our identity will never falter. He will never leave us. He will never change His mind and take away His gift of salvation. The gift of Christ on the cross is done. There is no going back. Christ's blood spilled out for us, and we are no longer bound to our sins any longer. His grace covers us, and an identity of a heart covered by His righteousness will never leave. His death is enough.

2 Cor. 5:17. Image via Pinterest

So if you're struggling in school, you're not a 'failure'. You are NOT defined by the grades you make or the intelligence you possess.

You are NOT defined by the clothes you wear, the amount of makeup you use, or the brand of shoes you buy.

You are NOT defined by the amount of money you make, the amount of expensive items you own, or whether you have the latest Iphone.

You are NOT defined by your past or the sins you carry or once carried.

No, you are defined as a loved and cared-for child of God!

  If you're stuck in a certain sin and feel like God could never forgive you or love you, remember that Christ's death is enough. His grace is sufficient for all of our sins. You are not defined by your past any longer. Give it to the Lord and let it go. In Christ, we are a new creation, saved by grace. We no longer live like our old selves, but as our new selves, dressed in the righteousness and love of Christ.

  In fact, when Jesus met with those burdened by the weight of their sins, they never once left Him the same as they were. They walked away with a new identity, a new life ahead. When a woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus by the teachers of the law and Pharisees, Jesus didn't condemn. Rather, He put it upon the hypocritical, "self righteous" Pharisees to decide whether she should be stoned---with the question of whether they were without sin or not.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11

The adulterous woman left Jesus with a new identity. She left leaving her life of sin. Her life was changed by the presence of Christ, and the same can apply today.

Whatever label has been placed on you, throw it away. The enemy seeks to destroy with the lies and labels of the world. 

In Christ, you are redeemed. You are deeply loved. 

You are a child of God. And that will never change!