The Bible tells us not to fear, but then tells us to fear God. So what is it? Fear or no fear? Watch this video for the answer.
When I was 34 years old I made a bad decision that, at the time, I didn’t think was so bad. I want to tell you about that decision for two main reasons. First of all, many Christians, maybe even you, have made this same bad decision and might not be aware of it. Secondly, I want to show you how you can reverse the consequences of that decision so that you can live a more fulfilling life of peace, hope, and joy.
Before I became a pastor at age 40, I spent most of my early adult years as a farmer on the family farm where I grew up. My grandfather farmed, my dad farmed, I was farming, and I wanted my two boys to farm. I loved farming and that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was my plan. But the romance of farm life quickly became overshadowed by the realities of low commodity prices, high input prices, and disruptive weather events that made life for me as a young farmer very challenging, to say the least.
One day in late September, I was in my John Deere tractor plowing a field and was mulling over and over in my mind how difficult the past few years had been, and it seemed to be getting worse. In my frustration, I cried out to God and said, “God, it doesn’t seem like You even want me to farm!”
Immediately, I heard the unmistakable voice of God say, “I don’t.”
Although I didn’t hear His voice audibly, I heard it loud and clear in my heart. I was shocked. You see, I had been a church-goer all my life, and at age ten I accepted Jesus as my Savior. As a young adult in my 20’s and 30’s, I went to church every Sunday, gave my tithes, and even served in music ministry. Because I was so “faithful” to God, I assumed it was His duty to be faithful to me by blessing my farming operation. Didn’t God understand that the more He blessed my farm, the more I could tithe?
The day that God told me that He didn’t want me to farm was the day I quit listening to Him. I wanted His salvation, but I wanted my plans for my life more than I wanted His plans. I now know that I wasn’t alone, because after many years as a pastor, I’ve seen that many people follow Jesus for what they want, not necessarily for what He wants.
This is nothing new. Two-thousand years ago Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as a King and recognized as the promised Messiah because the people expected Him to free them from the tyranny of Rome. That’s what they really wanted. But what Jesus wanted was to set them free from the tyranny of sin and death. Because their desire to be free from Rome was so great, most of them missed what Jesus came to do; to set them free from sin and death. They acknowledged Jesus as King, but were disappointed when His Kingdom didn’t match their desires.
Today most of us pray “Your will be done” with our mouth, but our heart oftentimes prays “My will be done”. We want Jesus to bless our kingdom rather than us blessing His Kingdom. And when we discover that His plans aren’t the same as ours, we tend to tune Him out. That’s exactly what I did. Sure, I still wanted Him to punch my ticket to heaven, but I didn’t want to listen to Him if His plans didn’t match up with mine. One of the worst decisions I’ve ever made was to quench the voice of the Holy Spirit because I didn’t like what He was saying.
How about you? Has the Holy Spirit been telling you something that you don’t like hearing? If so, you only have two choices; to do what He says or to tune Him out. The problem with tuning Him out is that you miss out on much of His supernatural power for your life.
That’s exactly what happened to me. Although I was saved and going to heaven, I missed out on the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit working in me and through me. How do I know I missed out on it? Because four years after I made the decision to quit listening to God, I reversed my decision and pressed into the Holy Spirit like never before. Almost overnight my life exploded with the power of God working in me and through me. Not only was I listening to the Holy Spirit, I was actually doing what He said. Instead of focusing on the kingdom of Mike, I began to focus on the Kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean that everyday is easy, but it does mean that everyday I can life a meaningful life full of peace, hope, and joy.
Maybe you’re just now realizing that you’ve quenched the voice of God because you didn’t like what He was saying. Or maybe you know that you’ve been doing this for a long time. Either way, you can reverse your decision and start seeing positive changes in your life almost overnight. It happened for me and it can happen for you. Here’s how:
1. Make a decision right now to listen to the Holy Spirit, whether or not you like what He says. Whatever He says is the best for your well-being.
2. Make a decision right now to actually do what He says. It’s not enough just to hear Him, you have to put His words into action for positive changes to come into your life.
3. Make a decision today to change your perspective and start viewing life through the lens of God’s Kingdom instead of your kingdom.
These decisions aren’t easy, but they’re good. And life-changing.
Here’s a question for you: Is there a main motivating factor that brings people to turn to Jesus for salvation and eternal life? According to the Bible the answer is “yes”, but it might not be the yes that you think it is.
For centuries, many churches and even entire denominations have used guilt and shame as a motivator to point people to Jesus. Then, once those people become part of the church, guilt and shame has been a favored tool to keep them in line. If more “motivation” is needed, just throw in the continual fear of going to hell and, well, now you’ve got a great way to persuade a lost and dying world to accept Jesus, right?
In Luke 15, Jesus tells a well-known parable about a man who has two adult sons. The youngest son asked his father to give him his inheritance early. Surprisingly, the father granted his request and the son headed to the big city with enough cash to last a lifetime. Before long he was dead-broke, having spent all his money on a sinful lifestyle of drunkenness and prostitutes. He found himself working for a pig farmer and eating pig feed just to survive. The Bible says it was then that he “came to his senses” and realized that his father was a very kind man. So kind, in fact, that maybe he would take his errant son back into his care.
As the son traveled back to his father’s house, he rehearsed his repentant speech and fully expected to have to grovel at his father’s feet. But it didn’t happen that way. As soon as the father saw the son approaching, he ran to lovingly embrace him and welcome him back into his family as a fully-restored son.
The Bible tells us in Romans 2:4 that it’s the kindness of God that brings people to repentance and a right relationship with Him.
The teachings of Jesus bear witness to the Father’s extravagant love and acceptance for you. If you view God as a heavy-handed taskmaster who’s ready to smite you every time you mess up, then you’ve got an unbiblical view of Him. That could also be a reason why you struggle to enter into a close relationship with God as your Father. The truth is that God is yearning for you to turn away from the junk of this world that steals your dignity, and turn to Him to experience His lavish love for you.
So as Christians, let’s make sure that we give others an accurate picture of God as a loving Father who’s excited for people to come home to Him, no matter what they’ve done.
Several years ago, two of my good friends invited me to go hunting with them deep in the mountains of Montana. On one of the last days of our hunting adventure, we found ourselves far from camp as the sun began to set. Before we knew it, darkness set in so quickly that we could barely see our hand in front of our face. My two friends, who were experienced outdoorsmen, began to lead the way back to camp. As we groped our way in the dark, I had the strong sense that we were heading the wrong way. I voiced my concern to my friends, but they assured me that we we heading in the right direction. Since I was the greenhorn, I didn’t argue with them. But the further we went along, the more sure I was about our wrong direction. Again, I voiced my thoughts, but to no avail. I was sure we were lost, but my friends assured me that we weren’t. Eventually, my friends began to question themselves and finally agreed that we were indeed lost. In time, we somehow found our way safely back to our hunting camp.
Has there ever been a time in your life that you were lost, and you knew you were lost? What about a time when you didn’t think you were lost, but you actually were?
In Luke 15, Jesus tells a well-known parable about a man who had two adult sons. The youngest son asked his father to give him his inheritance early. Surprisingly, the father granted his request and the son headed to the big city with enough cash to last a lifetime. Before long he was dead-broke, having spent all his money on a sinful lifestyle of drunkenness and prostitutes. He found himself working for a pig farmer and eating pig feed just to survive. The Bible says it was then that he “came to his senses” and realized that his father was a very kind man. So kind, in fact, that maybe he would take his errant son back into his care.
As the son traveled back to his father’s house, he rehearsed his repentant speech and fully expected to have to grovel at his father’s feet. But it didn’t happen that way. As soon as the father saw the son approaching, he ran to lovingly embrace him and welcome him back into his family as a fully-restored son. The father was so happy to have his son back in relationship with him that he threw a big party to celebrate.
But the older brother was extremely upset about the lavish acceptance the father had shown the younger brother and refused to attend the party. When the father went out to try and talk the elder brother into joining the party, the elder brother went off on a rant about how he had been the good son who had always stayed home and worked hard, never asking for anything. His pouty rant showed his true relationship with his father; a relationship based on duty and good works instead of love and acceptance.
So which brother was more lost? Although Jesus doesn’t specifically state it, He has a mic-drop moment in which the listener must come to the conclusion that the elder brother is more “lost” than the younger brother.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t the formerly sinful and rebellious younger son who was lost, but rather the well-behaved and hard-working elder son. Elder brother lostness is dangerous because they don’t see themselves as lost. They think that their exemplary conduct and hard work saves them. But it doesn’t. Salvation is only found through a real, loving relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son. We’re saved to do good works, not because of good works.
In this parable, Jesus is teaching us that there’s danger of religion replacing relationship.
Since elder-brother lostness is so hard for elder brothers (or sisters) to see, I’ve listed a few characteristics of elder brothers for you to take a look at and determine if you might have some elder brother issues in your life.
Characteristics of an Elder Brother:
- Elder brothers lack joy, but are rich with judgment.
- Elder brothers focus more on their own goodness than the goodness of God.
- Elder brothers expect their goodness to pay off, and if it doesn’t, there is confusion and/or anger.
- Elder brothers base their self-image on being hardworking and self sufficient. (“I never asked for anything”)
- Elder brothers achieve a sense of significance through competitive comparison.
- Elder brothers have a dry prayer life due to the lack of relationship with the Father.
- Elder brothers lack an assurance of the Father’s love.
Whether you’re an elder brother or a younger brother, your Heavenly Father wants you to be in relationship with him. Not out of duty or fear, but out of love and acceptance.
Stop right now and ask the Holy Spirit to give you a greater revelation of God’s extravagant love for you.
Imagine if you were seeking marriage advice and an “expert” told you to find the bare minimum that would be required on your part to keep your spouse from divorcing you. Some sort of imaginary line that if you performed above that line, your spouse would stay with you. However, if you perform below that line your marriage is over. So, if you have time, just try to live up to the bare minimum and you’ll have a great marriage.
Horrible advice, right? No one in their right mind would think that just living up to the “bare minimum” in a marriage would be a good idea. And yet, many people live their lives as Christians with that same mindset. Not as it pertains to their marriage, but rather how they view their spiritual life. Instead of investing in a personal relationship with Jesus and living all-out for Him, they tend to focus more on “the line” between going to heaven or going to hell. They think more about what the bare minimum requirement is for going to heaven when they die than who it is that they’ll actually spend eternity with.
But is there actually a “line” that determines whether we go to heaven or hell? I And if so, where is that line?
According to the Bible there is a line, but it’s not what many people think it is. Over the years I’ve asked many people who identify themselves as Christian if they think they’re going to heaven, and most of them have answered affirmatively. When I then ask them why they think that, the vast majority say something to the affect of trying to be a good person and trying to go to church when they can. Although these are two very good practices, they do not get you across that “line”. What gets you across that line is committing your trust to Jesus and receiving Him as Lord and Savior. But that line is not the finish line, it’s actually the starting line.
Unfortunately, many Christians view the moment of salvation as the culmination of their efforts – whether for themselves or on behalf of someone else. But as Christians, we’re to live from the line, not to the line. Salvation through Jesus is meant to be the start of our new and fulfilling life in the Kingdom of God here on earth. We should be focusing on living our new life for Christ instead of half-heartedly trying to live up to the “bare minimum line” of good deeds and church attendance. Our goal is not to get saved, our goal is to live saved.
So how do we get past living for the line and starting living for Jesus?
1. Know that your purpose is to glorify God.
If you were to ask people what their purpose in life is, most of them would struggle to come up with a clear and concise answer. Many men might say their purpose in life is to provide for their family. Many women might say their purpose in life is to be a good mother to their children. While these are very noble answers, according to the Bible they’re not our purpose. They are responsibilities given to us by God. God has given us many important responsibilities in this life, but we are not to confuse them with our purpose in life. God’s Word clearly tells us that our purpose is to glorify God. As followers of Jesus we all have the same purpose, but we have many different responsibilities.
If we know that our purpose is to glorify God and point our life in that direction we’ll be less inclined to wander aimlessly in life, hoping that we’re living up to the line.
2. Yield to the Holy Spirit.
It is impossible to glorify God and live for Jesus without the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. Jesus told us that every New Covenant believer has the Holy Spirit living within them. We can either ignore the Holy Spirit and live like any other human, or we can listen to and follow Him. When we yield to the Holy Spirit, God works in us and through us to pour out his supernatural power. God’s mighty power working through us brings glory to God in very noticeable ways.
When we listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His leading, the Bible says our lives will be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When people around you see these characteristics in your life they’ll know it’s not just you. In our own strength we don’t have what it takes to live a life like this. It takes the supernatural presence of a living God for us to live like this. When people see these things in your life, God will be glorified and people will be motivated to cross the line of salvation and live for Jesus.
If you’re going to live from the line instead of to the line, you’re going to need to start engaging the people around you with the life-changing power of Jesus. One of the key words in Jesus’ Great Commission is the word go. You’ll have to step outside of your comfort zone when the Holy Spirit begins to lead you outside the walls of your home and your church. And when you go you need to be loaded with the power of God through the Holy Spirit. Words are important, but a demonstration of God’s supernatural power is what will get people’s attention.
Today is the day to quit getting tripped up on the line of salvation and start actually living for Jesus instead of living for the line. Live with you purpose in mind. Listen to and follow the Holy Spirit. Are you ready? Go!
Every Christian knows that God sees them. But not every believer knows HOW God sees them. In other words, what does God see when He looks at you? Does it make you uncomfortable to think about how God sees you? If so, you probably don’t know how He sees you.
Thankfully, the Bible tells us how God sees you if Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Colossians 1:22 says, “Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.”
The most important thing you can see is seeing how God sees you. And because of Jesus’ sacrificial death and your trust in Him, He sees you as holy, blameless, and without fault. That may be hard to wrap your head around because you know that even as a Christian you still mess up. But God isn’t looking at your faults, He’s looking at the perfection of Jesus Christ that covers you like a robe.
If we don’t understand how God sees us, then we expect the worst and live an inward life of guilt and shame and an outward life of self-righteousness. We try to prove ourselves to God and the world around us by our good deeds, while inwardly we’re getting beat up by the devil because of our misdeeds.
When you see how God sees you, then you can quit trying to become what you already are; holy, blameless, and without fault. And when you quit striving in your own self-effort you’re more available to partner with God so that His power can flow in you and through you to not only change your own life, but the lives of those around you.
How To Live Without Stress
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve read the title to this article and you’re thinking, “Yeh, right…” Perhaps like you, I’ve spent most of my life thinking that stress was just a fact of life for those of us who are “getting things done”. But recently, God showed me from His Word how to live without stress in my life and still get things done. But before we can learn how to live a stress-free life, we must understand what stress is and what it isn’t.
Stress is NOT a responsibility, it’s a negative emotion.
Most people believe that stress is a necessary part of living a productive life. We’ve bought into this belief so much that many of us begin to think that stress is a responsibility, and if we’re not stressed we’re probably not being very responsible or productive. The truth is, stress is not stress until we allow it inside of us where it immediately begins to affect how we feel. That’s what makes it a negative emotion. So we have to understand that stress does NOT make us more productive or more responsible or more important. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Because stress is a negative emotion, it can suck the energy right out of us and begin to cloud our thinking. Anxiety and stress have never improved a situation.
Stress is a choice.
There are basically two ways to live; from the outside in OR from the inside out. As followers of Jesus, we’re called to live from the inside out because the Holy Spirit lives IN us and we’re supposed to release His power into our world and the world around us. Unfortunately, most people live from the outside in. They internalize the difficult situations that surround them and they become more than difficult situations – they become the negative emotion we know as stress. We don’t usually have a choice in what happens outside of us, but we do have a choice of what happens inside of us. That’s why stress is a choice. Numerous responsibilities and difficult situations should remain just that – responsibilities and situations. These things only become stress when we allow stress inside of us. I know that it may seem almost impossible to not allow stress in, but that’s because we’re so used to living from the outside in. Living from the outside in is a choice we make because God has also given us the ability through the Holy Spirit to live from the inside out. And therein lies the key to living without stress.
Choosing to be led by the Holy Spirit will alleviate stress from your life.
Galatians 5:16 says that we can either choose to be led by the Holy Spirit or not. However, Paul goes on to tell us in verses 22 and 23 that if we choose to be led by the Holy Spirit, He will produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control in our lives. We don’t produce it, the Holy Spirit does. So if we follow the Holy Spirit, that fruit will be in our lives. But stress is a negative emotion and therefore definitely not from the Holy Spirit. Negative emotions are opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. So, according to the bible, if there’s stress in our life we’re not walking with the Holy Spirit.
Interestingly, the only fruit of the Spirit that doesn’t seem to have an emotional component is self-control. Until recently, I thought the fruit of self-control was there to help me say “no” to my second (or third) donut. What I’ve come to learn is that the fruit of self-control is there to help me say “no” to living from the outside in and “yes” to living from the inside out. When I’m tapped into the Holy Spirit, stress can’t come in because it’s going the wrong way on a one-way street!
Living from the inside out can change the atmosphere around you.
Jesus said in John 7:38 that rivers of living water will flow FROM those who follow Him. Based on the context of that verse, living water refers to the Holy Spirit. When we live from the inside out, the power of God flows out of us and it not only changes our life but also the atmosphere around us. So instead of drinking from the sewer pipe of the world, as followers of Christ we’re called to release His power from within us and let it flow to the world around us. It’s a case of outflow versus inflow. When we find ourselves in difficult situations or burdened with numerous responsibilities, instead of letting stress get inside of us we need to ask, “What fruit of the Spirit should I take into this situation?” If we’ll do that, not only will we live without stress but we’ll offering the wonderful fruit of the Spirit to those around us who so desperately need it.