fear

Fearing Forward with Jesus

Heart pounding. Dry mouth. Hands shaking. Words fumbling. Anxiety at its finest. The first time I spoke in front of an audience about God was a total flop by earthly standards. I rushed  through as fast as possible so I didn’t have to stand up there alone for one more second. I had let fear take over and drive me into failure. Or so I thought.

I went home and cried.

Why did God call me to write, speak, and encourage others in His name if I couldn’t physically do it? Didn’t He know  I wasn’t capable of this? Didn’t He know I’m comfortable hiding right here in front of my computer?

He did know that, but He also knew I needed to learn an important lesson before moving forward. That none of this– the failures nor the wins– are about what I am capable of alone. It’s about Jesus working with me for my good and the good of others as we  step forward in faith.

After seeing their beloved Jesus die on a cross, I imagine His followers were confused and afraid, too. Maybe they even felt abandoned in the faith they were once so sure of. Jesus, knowing every one of their fears, showed Himself to His disciples to encourage their faith and to instruct them.

Some followers believed when they saw Jesus, others needed help believing so they could move forward in faith.

“And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:17-20 esv).Matt28-20Blog

When faced with fear, followers of Christ have a choice to make — will we doubt His presence? Or believe Jesus is truly with us in the struggle? What we choose determines if we can overcome our fears.

Many times I’ve doubted in my life. I’ve believed I was alone in parenting struggles, marriage lows, job crises, health scares — and most recently the first time I stood in front of an audience. Somehow I got the idea that God was here for the overall picture but not the day to day ugly. Wrong.

I poured over Matthew 28:17-20 thinking about how Jesus tells to go out boldly in his name. It struck me that before Jesus asks His disciples to go, He tells them all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Him. This is important, not just because it allows us to trust that we have a powerful God, but because of the words that follow.

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” If Jesus is with us, that means His power is too.

As a language teacher I know words cannot be translated perfectly. I wanted to know exactly what that meant that “I am” would be “with” us “always”. So I looked up the original Greek to better understand these important words of our Savior.

Here’s the gist….

The word here for “I am” is “ego eimi” which is the same name Jesus refers to himself when He says “I am the way” in John 14:6. Interestingly, the Greek word for “with” in this passage is an active with. It’s a “with” that means Jesus is working in us, not just standing by watching as we labor solo . Lastly, “always” means each and every part of the total. Each moment that makes up our entire lives. Not just the pretty ones.

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Putting this all together, Jesus promises to work with us every time He calls us to step out of our comfort zones.

Knowing this breaks down my fear when I step out in faith. Believing Jesus is working behind the scenes every time I put myself out there in obedience grows my confidence and propels me forward.

We’re not alone, but when we feel as if we are, let’s remember Jesus’ promise. The great I Am will be working with us in every moment, always.

 

Read more from Andrea at www.afruitfulwoman.com

 

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Let’s talk about this! How is God asking you to step out in faith? Do you believe that He will work in that area with you? Tell Jesus your doubts and fears through prayer and ask him to strengthen you when you are unsure.

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Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Relationships

The Ultimate Key to Conflict Resolution

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The Ultimate Conflict Resolution

Guest post by Amanda Temoshek

I’m not an expert at resolving conflict, but I often find myself in the middle of it. One night, I couldn’t sleep. My daughter was struggling with a friend, and I found my sweet girl sitting on the stairs, crying before bed. It wasn’t my fight, but I was still angry and hurt. After tucking her in, I stayed up, ruminating on what she’d told me. Should I talk to the other girl’s mom? Had I told my daughter to handle the situation correctly? I wanted to fix everything, but I couldn’t. Hours later, I finally prayed. Peace filled the space once occupied by worry, and I fell asleep. 

So what’s the key to handling bad situations well?

Seven years ago, my marriage was on the brink of failure. And this wouldn’t be my first failed marriage. My relationships – marital and otherwise – seemed so often to hit a wall of strife that I had a tough time getting through. I’ve walked away from good relationships because I didn’t know how to deal with small disputes and I’ve stayed in unhealthy situations because I was scared to confront the problem. 

The problems in my marriage were more than I could handle, but I didn’t know where to turn. I grew up in a Christian home, went to church, and participated in Bible studies. I believed in God and Jesus. I prayed before meals and when times were tough. I sporadically read the Bible. But still, I struggled. The fruit of the Spirit seemed out of reach. It was impossible to have joy when my second marriage was on the rocks. How could I have peace when I had two young children, an extremely high-pressure job, and a marriage that seemed beyond repair?

It wasn’t until I attended an Al-Anon meeting and heard “The Twelve Steps” that I finally got it. Following God was the only way to restore my sanity and relationships. I needed to turn my will and life over to him. I didn’t just need Jesus for Heaven. I needed Him every single day. If I was going to deal with my husband in a way that was loving, patient, and respectful, I needed Jesus. There was no way I could do it on my own, and no amount of self-help books would help me in the middle of a heated discussion. Only Jesus could preserve our marriage.

I didn’t just need Jesus for Heaven. I needed Him every single day.

The Bible became my best resource.

I committed to reading the Bible each day for a year. That daily time with Jesus was changing me. Even though I was walking through the most challenging experience I’d ever faced, I was growing. God was slowly transforming me. In a disagreement with my husband, I stayed calm. I had more patience when my kids were driving me crazy. I felt peace. Jesus was my source of conflict-resolution as He renewed my heart. 

I learned that the opposite of conflict is peace. And Jesus is the Prince of Peace. I can and should turn to Jesus in the middle of battles, but real maturity comes as I invest daily in a relationship with Him. He’s transforming my heart as I read truth and reflect on His love and wisdom. 

Christians 2,000 years ago faced the same choice we do of whether to lead our own lives or submit to the will of God.

The apostle Paul, an early church leader, advised believers to surrender every aspect of our lives to God saying, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16 ESV)

As I studied, I learned about how people in the Bible dealt with conflict. Paul, who had poured himself into ministering to the early church, was often rejected and mistreated, but still, he taught the church with compassion, truth, and grace. I learned about Abigail in the book of 1 Samuel, whose husband was mean and selfish, but she chose her words wisely and stayed calm under pressure. In the Gospels, I read about how Jesus submitted to His Father, was honest and bold when confronted, and forgave and loved those who persecuted Him. Conflict is inevitable, but with God’s wisdom we can endure well.

This situation my daughter is facing is out of my control, just like many of the issues I faced in early marriage, but I know God is in control. I’ve seen Him heal damaged relationships, change hearts from angry to compassionate, and work hard situations for His glory and our good. If we ask, He will give us wisdom on how to communicate with someone who has hurt us. As we spend time with Him, we’ll become more like the Prince of Peace during the battles of life.

How’s God asking you to trust Him with your relationships? Pray this week and rest knowing He’s fighting your hardest battles. Join the conversation on Facebook or find more encouragement through our 30 day Emotional Health FREE devotional on YouVersion Bible App. And make sure to grab our FREE Bible study as well. You can find it HERE.

Get to Know Amanda

Amanda's headshotAmanda Temoshek is a mom, wife, and consultant. She grew up in a Christian home, but it wasn’t until 2012 during a crisis in her personal life, that she discovered the life-transforming power of committing to daily time with Jesus. She encourages others to never settle for anything less than investing every day in their walk with Jesus and growing in their relationship with Him. She blogs about what God is teaching her at BecomingMary.com as she learns to sit at the feet of Jesus.

God's Will, Resting in Christ, surrender

The Peace of Purpose over Plans

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A decade ago God planted a dream in my journalist husband to tell the story of poverty, race relations, and athletic success in our home town. The idea simmered and grew from interviews, to newspaper articles, to a complete historical book. The process stretched him and our family to be stronger than we knew and taught me something about who is in charge of our dreams. Want a hint? It’s not us.

We’re a culture of goal makers and dream chasers. We want to make a big mark on society, find success, or increase our “followers”. We act as though it’s our effort alone that will make our dreams come true. So how do we handle it when our goals fall apart or take years to accomplish? Often we feel like failures and get stuck in frustration. 

What unmet goals haunt you? What dreams have yet to come true? What desire have you just plain given up hope on?

I’ve been a writer since third grade. I penned silly stories, songs about boys, and poems in adolescence. It was my go to when I was sad, angry, or bored. I thought I’d be a famous journalist or songwriter one day. That was my plan. But God wanted to use the gift He’d given me in a way I never expected. 

To love others.

Proverbs 19:21 says “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that Text from Prov 19:21 with a background image of the sky and flowerswill stand” (ESV).  

My idea of how to best use God’s gift of writing didn’t match His purpose. I used my talent to seek my glory, but He wanted it for His . And I’m so glad this Scripture is true in my life, that though I have many plans, God’s purpose for me remains immovable. 

But it’s hard to surrender our dreams to someone else. Often I want to know the end will be a success, and I grow impatient when goals aren’t met according to my timeline. But the more I recognize God as the creator and orchestrator of every good desire within me, it’s easier to trust those precious wants to Him. 

My husband’s story was bigger than him and it certainly didn’t occur on his time table. God used him, the talents and abilities woven into his being, for a purpose Dirk couldn’t foresee. The story he scribed validated an entire part of our city, spoke truth and justice over wounds, and connected generations. Because that was God’s purpose from the beginning. 

Whatever good plan you’re working toward or waiting on, remember you aren’t the only one striving for it. It may not always turn out the way you hoped, but God’s purpose for you in it is more complex than you can imagine. As we surrender our plans to God, He can use them to forge His loving purpose forward. Let go of your future and trust Him today.

 

Let’s digest this deeper. What unmet dream is God asking you to surrender to Him and trust that He’s logo for Wholly Loved's Bible reading plangot a grand purpose in store for your life? What makes it hard to give control of your most precious desires to God?

Join the conversation on Facebook or find more encouragement through our 30 day Emotional Health FREE devotional on YouVersion Bible App. And make sure to grab our FREE Bible study as well. You can find it HERE.

 

freedom, identity, security

Reclaiming Redemption

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Picture a woman in chains behind bars. Her orange jumpsuit is a beacon screaming, “Guilty!” She’s lost all hope of freedom from this ugly place until the warden swings open the cell door. “A stranger paid your debt. You can go.” As she hurries out in disbelief, crossing the threshold into the sunlight, she looks down. Where there was once prison garb, she now sees a white sundress and pearls. She’s been transformed by mercy.

And she’s an image of us when we grasp the power of redemption.  

It may have been real bars that kept you living in shame, or the memory of bad decisions. Perhaps it’s a harsh word you’d take back, an affair you can’t wish away, or a sinful pattern you can’t kick. According to Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.” Gulp. We’re right to feel the weight of our sin. The penalty is severe. But praise God that’s not where the verse ends. Listen to this: death doesn’t hold us because “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV).    

Over and over Scripture paints this picture of our freedom. Colossians 1:13-14 ESV reaffirms this truth saying, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

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Sometimes it’s hard to understand or accept this reality because redemption isn’t an everyday word in our vocabulary. What does it mean to be redeemed? Is our spiritual jail cell really unlocked?

Those were questions I struggled with until I did some digging into Scripture. “Apolutrosis”- it sounds like an odd sickness, but it’s the original Greek word for redemption in today’s verse. It means to be released because a ransom was paid.

What does that reveal about our identity?

It tells our story. We were prisoners to sin, held captive, and unable to gain our freedom. But in our darkest moment, God saw us and bought us back for a high price—Jesus’s perfect life sacrificed on the cross to atone for ours.

How does it make you feel to know you’ve been ransomed? That a payment was made on your behalf so that nothing hinders your relationship with God? That you now can approach Him with your head up in honor instead of down with shame? Maybe it’ll take a while to sink in.

It makes me super relieved. I’m beyond thankful Jesus paid my debt, that I don’t have to try to prove I’m worthy of God’s love because He makes me worthy. I lived in shame and struggle for so many unnecessary years when I could’ve traded my guilt for His freely offered peace. And I’m thankful I don’t have to live fearfully anymore.

Now I live in grace and I claim my redemption daily. Receiving this truth to my core, that I can’t undo the fact that I’ve been bought back, fuels me to live differently. I cling as closely as possible to my big brother, Jesus, because He’s proven His love and protection is something I can count on.

Perhaps you still feel more chained than freed. But once you trust in Jesus, He wants to bust you out of every jail cell you’ve crawled into. Trust that His sacrifice was enough for your past, present, and future mistakes. God not only paid your debt in full, but also credited you with Jesus’ brilliant righteousness. You can live joyfully knowing He traded your orange jumpsuit for His white robe.

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Living loved, Relationships, surrender

The Forgiven Forgive

There was no peace. What started as friendship ended in full out anger. We seemed to disagree about everything. There were dirty looks and silence. Those were far from our finest moments. We couldn’t let go of the small things, so they became big problems. Weary from conflict, I read a Scripture passage that pierced my soul and helped me forgive.  

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)Operating as if I hadn't needed God's forgiveness kept me from pardoning my friend. Have you been there? Click To Tweet

I realized I was withholding mercy because I forgot the full weight of grace God has afforded me every time I’ve messed up. Operating as if I hadn’t needed God’s forgiveness kept me from pardoning her. Have you been there?andreaquote1-apr29-fb

It’s much easier for me to offend with a quick retort when someone hurts me. Or self-protect when I don’t feel appreciated or others are unkind. But it’s not what God calls us to do. We are to respond like Jesus, and He doesn’t shun them with the silent treatment or cut with snide remarks. Instead, He sees their behavior as an outpouring of hurt and sin and offers love and grace to soothe their souls.

This doesn’t mean we let others abuse us. Sometimes setting healthy boundaries is the best way to love someone. But we do allow God to reign over our relationships so that we can see the way to peace.

andreaquote2-apr29-fbTo follow His lead, we must first take inventory of all the ways God has shown us mercy. What harsh words have we spoken that He’s forgiven? What poor choices has He redeemed once we confessed? Who would we be without God’s favor? As I answer those questions honestly, I realize I have no business withholding forgiveness of others because my God has taken away my sin, free of charge.

Here’s what I’ve learned, the offended offend, and the forgiven forgive. Which we choose is important because one has power to crush, and the other to redeem. Here’s what I’ve learned, the offended offend, and the forgiven forgive. Which we choose is important because one has power to crush, and the other to redeem. Click To Tweet

Paul, and early evangelist who wrote much of the New Testament, encourages us to pick wisely, saying, “so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:7-8, ESV).

You hold the power to soothe your soul and others every time you choose love over hate and forgiveness over bitterness. Take a moment to thank God for the grace He’s shown you today and extend that line of mercy to those in your path.

 

I want to hear your thoughts about forgiveness and conflict on our FACEBOOK page. What has helped you resolve problems peacefully? What Scripture do your rely on when faced with relational conflict?

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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him.Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers. Read more from Andrea online!