Perfect Love Casts Out Fear, Really?

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By Josh Gordon

I've learned that kids are amazing recorders of information, but they're really bad interpreters of information. In my childhood, I would read the Bible but only the interesting parts like Judges where there were wars, killings and armies. My little kid brain soaked up all these great stories but I began to draw warped conclusions from them. One of them being that God is a great friend until you let Him down. If you do, then watch your back, just like how the children of Israel had to, because God will send the enemy armies to put you into slavery until you repent. If you toed the line, God would swoop in to save the day and hand out rewards. 

The Old Testament story that terrified me the most was Job. This guy had it all; a great house, awesome family, a successful business… Then God allowed Satan to destroy it all in a day. That story TERRIFIED me, and sunk deep into my subconscious. I didn’t see it at the time, but a deep fear was planted. What if God did that to ME? So as a result of this, I lived a lot of my childhood, and subsequent adult life, waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

I was afraid of letting people down and letting God down.

Fear and anxiety began to characterize my life - even up until recently. In response, Father brought me to this: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:18 (NASB) For the first time recently, I read this passage with complete understanding. Living with fear and anxiety throughout my whole life was linked to my concept of God. I was fearful about things in my life because I was ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’. This passage brought to light the concept of God that I developed in my childhood. This pseudo-reality where God was going to step back and allow my world to collapse because of something that I didn't do well. For me, the lie was that bad things are gonna happen in my life because it's punishment from God. It revealed that I actually believed I'm truly alone and that God is my ally only as long as I'm pleasing Him - which is not true.

As a believer, I am in Christ and Christ is in me. That transformation was not dependent on my ability but it was the gift of God through faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 (NASB) In other words, God with me was not and is not dependent on my performance. He is not going anywhere, and there is no fear of condemnation. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (NASB)

The fact of the matter is, terrible things do happen but I am absolutely 100% not alone and God is with me. 

When I realized that the fear of punishment is not a characterization of my relationship with God then I realized that fear is something that happens when there's an area where I'm not experiencing God's perfect love that casts out fear! 

The more I experience Father's love, the less fear can impact me. God knows that my capacity to receive and experience His perfect love is as limited as my own willingness to trust Him with my well-being and my external safety. God is committed to proving that love to me, in the midst of my fear, too. 

Father helped me to see that fear and anxiety were also linked to my poor concept of myself. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB) says, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and discipline.” I don’t have a spirit or nature that is fearful. That’s not what God gave me. That's not the real me.

The real ‘me’ has a spirit of power, love and self-control. I am in Christ and abiding in God’s love is my natural resting place. That's my default setting. 

My identity, which was fearful and anxious, was crucified on the Cross of Christ and was buried. That's the truth of the matter. For me to feel fear is natural, but fear can be persuasive and could lead me to believe the lie that God has abandoned me or that I am naturally a fearful person. 

So the natural next question is: how can I avoid the persuasions of fear? Well, if perfect love casts out fear of punishment and I am not the generator of that love, then I only need to receive His love. It is His job to love us and our job to receive it. God is saying to me, let Me prove it to you. I don’t even have to try and figure it out. I just need to look for His love in the midst of fear and trust in His presence with me.
To a kid who grew up terrified of getting it wrong and earning divine wrath, this is amazing! Now, I suddenly see Father the way He truly is! I see Him weeping with me through my pain, I see Him cradling my heart, and calming my panicked nerves. This is who He is, pure Love, who won’t let go.

Making Room for the Holy Spirit

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By Ross Gilbert

In the context of Christian community, I have the opportunity to get to know Christ through people. It’s within the context of community that I have the best chance to get to know Jesus. When we gather on Sundays and other times throughout the week with other believers, we are coming together in the hope of experiencing Christ more.

But do we limit the ways and opportunities in which Jesus might want to speak to us? 

Have we become so regimented and controlled by our Sunday morning schedule that we don’t leave any time for the Holy Spirit? Especially when Scripture makes it clear that there are other ways that He wants to reveal Himself to the world and to us?

In 1 Corinthians, Paul teaches on how the Holy Spirit may manifest Himself through us, and through gifts to us, when His people gather. 

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (NASB) 

From these verses, we are going to look at a gift that Paul found to be misunderstood and misused in the Church, even at that time as it is today - speaking in tongues.

Speaking in tongues is the prompting and gifting of the Holy Spirit to speak another language that is not your native tongue.

It is uttering foreign words, empowered by the Holy Spirit in the moment. It is not a sign of salvation or a greater infilling of the Holy Spirit. 

The first occurrence is in Acts 2:1-4 (NASB), “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”

This was significant because they began to speak boldly in public where people from all over the world were gathered, and each recognized their own native language. The surrounding crowds were asking, “How is it possible that I can hear these men speak my own language?” This sign got the crowd’s attention, and having their attention, Peter then preached the very first gospel message and 3,000 people were saved that day. And with it, the Church was born.

Then in Acts 10:44-45 (NASB), “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” This was incredible for the apostles and disciples to see because it meant that Gentile Christians were like the Jewish ones. In having the Gentiles speak in tongues, it made a statement that one is not better or less than the other. That all are one. All are equal in Christ.

When it comes to the public display of speaking in tongues, it will be a known, human language. In 1 Corinthians, Paul is specifically talking about “various kinds” of tongues. The “various kinds” refers to nationalities. It is the word “genos” where we get the word genealogy from and can be translated as “kin” or “kindred.” So, in the context of public speaking in tongues, it would be another language like Russian or Serbian.

But if the language spoken is not understood it is useless, because the point is to speak words that are for the common benefit of all.

If there is a public manifestation of the Spirit in the form of speaking in tongues, then there also needs to be an interpretation of what was said so that the public might benefit. 

In 1 Corinthians 14:22a (NASB), Paul tells us, “So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers.” For example, an unbeliever may attend a church by invitation, and then someone gets up, begins to speak in a foreign language (that maybe that unbeliever knows) and then someone else gets up and translates it perfectly. That would be an incredible sign that God is amongst us! The sign of speaking in tongues is meant to grab the attention of an unbeliever with something that they cannot explain away as being just normal. 

A congregation that understands the purpose for speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues properly, and handles the gift with order and reverence, will experience God in new and exciting ways - in ways that bless the Church but also blesses those who do not know Him. 

A Righteousness By Faith

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By Ross Gilbert

All behaviour is motive driven. We make choices with an aim to accomplish or to satisfy a particular need. Each of us have basic, fundamental needs - needs that do not take into account your gender, your race, your nationality, your age, your hobbies - needs that are intrinsic to the human race. To deny the existence of these needs is to deny being human. But we also have even deeper needs than these.

At the heart of every person is 

the longing to be accepted - to be loved.

Men look to prove that they are worthy of love and acceptance through their competence. They are constantly asking themselves, “Do I have what it takes? Am I doing well enough that others will respect me?” That is why disrespect is so damaging to a man. It says to him that he is unworthy of love and approval. Women also seek to be worthy of love and acceptance, but they determine their status a little differently. In general, women are haunted by the question, “Am I enough, or am I too much, or both?” How we answer these questions will determine how we deal with shame.

Ever since the fall, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and shame entered into our world, men and women have been struggling to overcome that shame, trying to find a sense of value and worth. We inherited that shame and now every one of us, at various times, look to what we are doing to evaluate who we are as a person by asking, “What is the standard for a life of value and worth, so I can be accepted and loved?”

These are some of the common standards or expectations that people often use to measure themselves against.

  • Don’t sin. Ever. Unless it’s the socially acceptable ones that we can’t measure, like gossiping or swearing.

  • Don’t get fired because then you will be poor and being poor means that you are failing in our culture.

  • Don’t let others down – always make sure that you do what you said you were going to do.

These are all good things, correct? 

The problem is that we are determining 

our approval and worth 

based on our ability to be successful. 

This is the definition of righteousness by works.

And there are others that are not mentioned above that you might use to measure yourself but the situation remains the same - no matter what you do, it will never be enough; no matter what you have accomplished, there is still more to be done tomorrow. 

The reason it will never work is because the love and acceptance we need is unconditional in nature. It cannot be achieved or earned. But when we, as Christians, attempt to earn our love and acceptance – be it from others, ourselves, or even God – we are living like the Jews who lived under the law.

Romans 9:31-32a (NASB) says, “Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.” The law is an achievement system where the Jews thought that they could work for their righteousness. Today, many Christians are doing the same thing, sometimes even using the old Jewish laws, but mostly with their own set of standards. 

Read how Paul describes this system of standards that we use to judge ourselves: “Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NASB) Those standards that we try to measure up to, kill and condemn us. It is a frustration that forces and pushes us to discover another way. 

Here enters Jesus. Through His death and resurrection on the Cross, He has:

  • taken away all of your sin.

  • made you one with Him.

  • made you a new creation – the old broken, shamed, not good enough person was crucified and buried with Jesus.

When we begin to believe that we are qualified for love through Jesus, our circumstances might not change, but our lives will. 

How we see ourselves and others will be different, too. When we begin to really trust what Jesus has done for us we will have:

  • victory over sin because we know that God’s love helps us to avoid sins that are a poor attempt at finding love.

  • freedom from trying to get people’s approval.

  • freedom to walk in what Jesus has created us to do.

Here is the question that I want you to ponder for yourself: “Will you trust that God’s love is enough?” When you are doubting your worth, and when you wonder how anyone could love someone that so consistently messes up, remember that Jesus accepts you. Not for who you should be, not for what you do or don’t do, but because of what He has done on the Cross – where He forgave you and made you into a new creation – a new person that is worthy of His love.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

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By Robin Antoine

As soon as my eldest daughter started walking, she realized that she had the ability to pick up as many things as she could hold in her hands and carry them while walking. She would get a stuffed animal and a blanket and a sippy cup with milk. I’d watch this with a touch of admiration because I love to celebrate her autonomy, but then the sense of caution set in. The blanket was getting a little close to her feet and the milk started spilling a bit. While watching, I realized that her well-being might be at risk, especially if she got close to the stairs with all those items. After awhile, I stepped in and began to reason with my toddler - but reasoning didn't work. So, I took some of the items from her which then progressed into a conflict between the two of us. I had provided those things for her enjoyment but in that moment I wanted her to value my judgement and ability to care for her - more than those things.

Now, maybe it was common sense or maybe it was the gentle counsel of the Holy Spirit. But following that scenario, I realized that my interaction with my daughter mirrored my relationship with God. 

Sometimes in my life, I'm trying to get as much as I can to go from point A to point B in my life. I may feel that if I have a house, a car, a good job, and security in all three - then I have value. In other words, my contentment is found in my ability to gain things and keep things. God celebrates my autonomy too, because He gave me free will. But I am in error if I ever think that the things that I have are more valuable than the One who provided those things. Instead, I find that: 

Contentment is always in the Provider, 

not in the provision. 

In our lives, we experience times of job security and losing a job. Maybe, it is as severe as having a loved one and having them pass away. These can all be painful experiences but mourning and loss will always be a reminder of our greatest possession - which is our Life in Christ. 

This isn’t to say that God intentionally removes things to hurt us but sometimes our delight in our provisions makes us blind to the value of the Provider. Matthew 5:4 (NASB), one of the Beatitudes, speaks to this very experience:

“Blessed are those who mourn, 

for they shall be comforted.”

The word ‘comforted’ is translated from the Greek word parakleo which means ‘to invite, to console, or to call near.’ It's a really interesting picture, isn't it? Matthew 5:4 means when we mourn a loss, our pain invites God in - it calls out to Him to console us. 

Isn’t that the opposite of what we often feel? A feeling of being neglected by God is what often accompanies feelings of grief and loss but the opposite is true: When we grieve, our pain catches God’s attention. John 14:16 (KJV) says, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” In this verse, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as our Comforter which is translated from the Greek parakletos, derived from parakleo (comforted). Being aware of the link between those 2 words, Matthew 5:4 is actually a promise that is fully realized after the Cross. Those who have accepted Christ as their life are made righteous, and the Holy Spirit abides in them. Those who are in Christ are blessed when they mourn because their comfort isn’t in the experience of being comforted - it is in the presence of the Comforter being with them continually. Not only does Matthew 5:4 demonstrate that God is aware of our pain, 

He has also intentionally placed Himself in 

permanent and close proximity to us to help us.

Therefore my contentment is in and from God. My contentment isn't in the things that I possess or things working out the way that I want. 

God also understands grief! He experienced grief on your behalf when He gave His only begotten Son to die to demonstrate His luxurious wealth of favour towards us. Romans 8:31-32 (NASB) says,What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” All things doesn’t always mean God will give us everything we want. It sometimes means that God can give us above and beyond what our five senses could conceive. God is not limited by our imaginations - He desires to exceed them. Our Heavenly Father is a better father than me and a better parent than you. You can trust Him to care for you. He is not afraid of your pain or doubts, He just wants you to receive His presence with you in the moment, and His heart to do good to you.

The Battle Within

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By Ross Gilbert

Paul wrote a letter to the Galatians to answer questions about the battle within, a battle which is within each of us as well. He says, “But I say walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh, for the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. For these are in opposition to one another. So that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:16-18 (NASB)

In his letter, Paul reminds the church in Galatia, and us today, that Jesus didn’t only die for us, but that we died with Him too. That can be a challenge to grasp, can’t it? If we look and feel alive, who actually died? Paul answers that question, telling us that it was our sinful nature that died. Our sinful nature is the nature we had when we arrived here on planet earth and that is what was crucified with Christ. It’s dead, it was buried and no it longer lives. Instead, Christ now lives in us, so the life we live now we live by faith. We live by relying upon Jesus Christ, the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself up for us.

It’s not you and your strength that provides victory, 

it’s Jesus Christ that provides victory 

over sin and temptation.

We are neither flesh nor spirit. Our new nature, the life of Christ, is righteous through and through. Paul says in verse 17 that the flesh’s desire is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. For these are in opposition to one another that we may not do the things that we please. The flesh is indwelling sin that is present in our flesh or mortal body. Paul describes this thing called “sin in the flesh” in Romans 7 as something that is not him.

When trying to understand this battle within, it is so important to understand that the “Spirit” Paul speaks of in Galatians 5, is the Holy Spirit, one of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. Wherever you have one, you have them all: Father God, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

The battle within exists because sin in the flesh wants to control your new nature. 

Its desire for you is to satisfy legitimate desires apart from the will of God. It speaks to you in first person, saying “I,” “me,” “myself,” it even adopts your accent. It knows where you lack, where you are weak and it knows your history. For example, as a spouse who is feeling unloved, the flesh could possibly entice you to satisfy your desire with pornography or with illicit relationships to feel loved. But instead of experiencing what you were hoping, you are left miserable. When you sin you are miserable because you are doing what is against your nature. 

You were made a new creation to pursue life in Christ but the flesh entices you to seek life in things that instead bring death. 

This may sound like a hopeless battle, but the Holy Spirit came to set you free, not control you. You were set free simply so you would be free. Jesus never commanded people to come and follow Him, He always invited them.

In John 7, Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come unto me.” And that is what the Holy Spirit does, He recognizes our legitimate desires and invites us to experience true life and satisfaction in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  

There is a titanic battle between the flesh and the Spirit going on inside you, but no matter who the battle is between, it’s not your job to overcome it!  

And you can’t overcome it, that is why the Spirit is warring on your behalf. Instead say: ‘God, here I am. You love me and I love you and you're living in me. What do you want to do in me right now?’ The battle within is only won by trusting Jesus to overcome the flesh for you. 

So it is not your willpower that overcomes the flesh, it’s Christ in you that overcomes the flesh. And He has a perfect record against it! Will you trust Jesus to fight the battle for you? 

God Demonstrated His Love

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By Ross Gilbert

Paul writes to the Roman church from prison and tells them For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5: 6-8 (NASB)

When we were helpless to save ourselves, while still enemies of God, God showed love to us by sending His Son Jesus to die for us. Isn’t that incredible? You see, someone may be prepared to die for a friend, but you would be hard-pressed to find someone willing to die for an enemy. But that’s how God showed us His love, He gives undeserved grace.

Grace is free to the receiver but

costly to the giver.

Grace transfers blessings from the storehouse of the deserving to the need of the unworthy. What you need to understand is that God's love for you is not dependent on you. You are not the initiator of that kind of love, God is.

Many struggle with the truth of how much God loves them because they don’t believe themselves to be worthy of that kind of love. And the simple reality is, you are not worthy, you never were, nor will you ever be. But that’s not the point, it’s not about trying to earn His love.

God's love is not based on the attractiveness

of the object He loves, it’s based in who He is.

Jesus’ death and resurrection was God letting His actions show us that He would rather die and go to hell than be without you. And for that reason, He willingly went to the cross. Some people wonder how a loving Father could demand that kind of a death? Does it not reveal pure evil? And the truth is yes, that could be the case if Jesus’ death had not been voluntary. The fact that Jesus chose to die shows pure love on Jesus’ part towards humanity.

His sacrifice was not just substitutionary, even though that is part of it. Jesus didn’t just pay the penalty of death, He took death upon Himself. He did not just pay the penalty of your sin, He took your sin, shame and guilt upon Himself.

It was while you were helpless that Jesus came

to your rescue to fight the war

you could never win on your own.

And He didn’t wait to do it until you got your act together, or when you showed more promise or commitment to Him. It’s a victory that He secured two thousand years ago on the Cross. He is willing to fight for you today, as you trust Him, He will set you free because the truth is: we are still helpless against sin. We cannot win the battle, but He can.

His resurrection life has conquered sin. Romans 6:7 tells us that he who has died has been set free from sin, so the truth of the matter is, you were crucified with Christ. The Cross was not just Jesus’ cross. It was your cross too, therefore, you have also died and been set free from sin and shame. You are now reborn a saint. Yes, you still sometimes sin, but that doesn't change the fact that you are now holy.

You are now able to house the life of the Lord Jesus Himself and have access to God anytime, anywhere. Because of this, you are no longer a helpless victim to sin and death because He has overcome it all and He is available to you.

When Paul was preaching in a synagogue, he shared the gospel and talked about what God had done. He summed it up this way: “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” Acts 13:38 (NASB) The work is done and the offer proclaimed through Him that everyone who believes is set free from every sin, because we were helpless to save ourselves.

Life in the Apartment

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By Ross Gilbert

I want you to imagine your life is an apartment with pictures on the walls. The pictures represent events and memories that form how you see yourself and your place in this world. A few of those pictures are good but most are painful events and memories.

Maybe one of your pictures is your mom or dad yelling at you as a child. The picture doesn’t so much capture the event, but instead, what the event told you about who you were. Every time you see this picture you see yourself as a failure who was unloved and unaccepted by those closest to you. Perhaps another picture is of a time when you committed some moral failure, and yet another captures the pain and rejection you felt at the hands of someone else's decisions.

As time goes by, you just can’t stare at these pictures that hang in your apartment any longer, so you decide to wallpaper over them. As hard as you try to make them disappear, the wallpaper does nothing to hide what’s underneath because you still know what they look like, and what they say, without even having to see them. You try to get more creative and build a wall to bury all those negative memories behind but all that happens is your room gets smaller and you feel more claustrophobic sitting in your apartment.

One day, Jesus shows up at the door. He had been knocking for many years, you heard Him, but you’ve always been too afraid to let Him in. But then one day, in a moment of weakness, you swing the door wide open and invite Him into your apartment.

He comes in and offers you His grace.

He offers to give you a brand new life and

take away the old one.

You accept and suddenly feel changed. But you realize that you are still living in the same old apartment, staring at the same old pictures with the same old messages. You still feel damaged and unloved.

What you do next is so critical. You have a choice to make, you can either believe that you’re truly a new creation, or you can keep believing what the pictures in your apartment tell you about yourself.

At salvation, you were justified, not by your works but by faith through grace.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done,

who you’ve done it with, or how many times you’ve

done it. Jesus loves you just as you are.

But that can be so hard to believe, can’t it? Especially when you’ve been told in your past that if you don’t change your behaviour then Jesus won’t be pleased. That, my friend, is a lie! Not only were you saved by faith, but you were sanctified the same way. Your salvation is not the product of your hard work and dedication, but instead, the product of what Jesus did for you and to you. The same is true for your sanctification. Sanctification is not the product of your hard work and dedication, but instead it is what Jesus does for you and to you. It is God's work to sanctify you, and He promises to do it. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NASB)

So here is what Jesus does, He comes up to the pictures one at a time and He looks at the most painful memories of hurt and says, “I can’t take down this picture, to do so is to pretend that the event never happened but I want you to see that your interpretation of that event was wrong... What they did to you says nothing about who you really are.”

You look again at the picture and you notice the picture changes: you suddenly see Jesus is there in the picture holding you with tears in His eyes.

Next, you try to cover the pictures of your worst sins with your hands in an attempt to hide them from Jesus. But Jesus says, “Your sins, no matter how big they are, are nothing compared to what I have done on the cross. Those sins become a testimony, a trophy of My grace, they are no longer your shame.”

We all have pictures that hang on the walls of our apartments and our apartments are all still a work in progress, but it is the work that Jesus is doing. Sanctification is to simply allow Jesus to finish what He started in your heart and life.

Too many people have been hurt by the abuse, traumas and rejections of their past and are living in claustrophobic apartments.

But the events of the past don’t begin to

compare to how powerful our Jesus is.

That is not to minimize your hurts or the impact of sin. It is to recognize that Jesus is able to bring healing to all the tender areas of our life.

Release the Right to Retribution

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By Robin Antoine

I remember one of my first encounters with racism. I was part of a youth group worship band who led worship services at the request of a handful of youth ministries. I remember travelling with the band to rural areas, often leaving evening services with a long drive home ahead of us.

One particular evening, we stopped at a crowded truck stop for something to eat. The restaurant area was crowded and while we were waiting for a table, a man seated a distance away from the entrance, started yelling the word ‘nigger’ in our direction. My eyes searched the faces seated in the restaurant where my friends and I stood - as I was the only one of African-descent, it was clear that the word was being directed at me.

The man spoke in an intimidating fashion. I was confused and embarrassed by the attack. One of my friends was getting pretty heated and began yelling back in defence. Since it appeared that no one in the restaurant was restraining the man, I told my friend that we were going to leave.

I was understandably frustrated after that event. I was mad at myself for not retaliating against the man for his racial slur, and I was mad that no one else intervened. In fact, I was so angry that it disturbed my thinking during the day and kept me up at night long after the incident. It robbed me of peace every time I thought of it.

In prayer, I presented my frustration to God and He led me to this verse “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2 (NASB) When I read those words, they illuminated something to me that I had not considered before.

Propitiation is defined as “the offering or sacrifice that turns away wrath.” Jesus showed me that He Himself was the sacrifice that turned away the wrath of God from me; and not only from me but also from the world, and “the world” included the man who offended me.

Jesus’ atoning sacrifice turned away God’s

wrath from me and my offender.  

Jesus encouraged me to release my right to retribution against my offender. Not to dismiss my hurt but to come out from under the authority of the offence. When I released the right to retribution I accepted the authority of Jesus’ redemptive work which released me from the burden of seeking justice against myself or others. His authority restored peace and dignity to my soul whereas the offence had taken both away.

In desiring retribution against my offender, I was assuming a responsibility for sin that I couldn’t carry, and trying to was nothing but a burden to me.

Dealing with the problem of sin is God’s

responsibility, not mine.

Sin is ultimately an offence to God, and God dealt with it already by offering His only begotten Son for the sins of humankind. It’s ultimately my responsibility to accept Jesus’ authority to forgive and not assume justice is mine.

A common retort to this statement of faith is “Are you not just letting the offender off the hook?” But this is not the case in light of the gospel. The cross of Christ does not devalue the price of sin. Sin had a great cost and it sent Jesus to the cross on behalf of myself and my offenders. Jesus even became the offender in my place and the place of those who hurt me. Paraphrasing 2 Corinthians. 5:20: Jesus became the ‘vindictive attempt to intimidate with a racial slur’, so that the man at the truck stop could become the righteousness of God if he so chooses to believe.

The gospel does not deny due process for acts of a criminal nature and does not qualify all humanity as saved without willfully calling on Jesus for salvation. However, it proclaims the opportunity to live the abundant life that Jesus purchased for the world, and for me, and not a life of bitterness.

When I was able to release the right to retribution it didn’t take away the painful memory of what happened to me but, if Jesus was willing to go to the cross for my righteousness,

How much more would He be willing to care for the ongoing restoration and healing of my soul.

When I was able to release the right to retribution, I was able to see that forgiveness was for me rather than for my offender. I pray that you also will accept Jesus’ finished work and move forward another day free of resentment and regret.

The Invitation

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By Josh Gordon

We were designed to live in Eden, but this world sure isn’t it. We all experience things we weren’t designed to experience and we carry weight we were never designed to carry. About four years ago, Father, in His graciousness began to dismantle and deconstruct my concept of Him. Today, we’re going to look at Matthew 11:28-30, a passage of scripture that Father used in my life to truly capture His heart and desire for me - and it’s His heart for all of us.

Matthew 11:28-30 says:

28. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Sounds pretty amazing, right? But four years ago, these verses were NOT my experience. Let’s take a look at this passage, and explore the life Father is inviting us into, and how we can embrace this amazing gift.

In verse 28, Jesus addresses us as those who are weary and heavy-laden and immediately invites them to rest. That word “rest” in the original language is a combination of ‘to be exempt’ and ‘to refresh.’ So He’s saying, whatever is burdening and exhausting you, I will exempt you from that AND I will refresh you. This Greek word also contains the interesting implication of recreation. So, not only will He exempt and refresh you, but you’ll enjoy life with Him without so much as lifting a finger.

In verses 29 and 30, Jesus uses the metaphor of a yoke; it’s important to note that the yoke does not reference work, but instead, union with Him. A yoke is a wooden collar that fits over the shoulders of two beasts of burden, often oxen, to help them pull together. When a young animal needed to be trained for work, they’d link them up with a strong, experienced partner who would pull the weight while showing the inexperienced animal how to move in unison, navigate turns etc. And that’s a picture of us right there.

Jesus isn’t saying, “Let me help you pull your load, let me help you with your burden.” He’s saying, “Let me take ALL the weight,

so you can learn to walk and live step by step with me.”

In these incredible verses from Matthew, God also invites us to find rest for our souls. The word ‘soul’ comes from the Greek word, ‘psuchais’, which is from the word ‘psyche’, which is where we get our word psychology. Biblical scholars, who have a lot more experience and skill than I, will tell you that psyche refers to a person’s soul - and that our souls contain our mind, will, and emotions. Jesus wants to give much needed rest to our mind which can become confused, clouded, and sometimes so uncertain of which choice to make. He wants to give rest to our will which is suffering under consequences of decisions we’ve made, the difficult decision we have to make, or our own efforts to try and fix ourselves. And, Jesus wants to give rest to our emotions that are wreaking havoc on us. Guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, He wants to exchange it all for His rest.

In verse 30, Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. The Passion Translation says it this way, “All that I require of you will be pleasant and easy.” Woah! This is NOT what I’ve believed and experienced, but that IS Jesus’ description of life with Him! He is telling us it is what we can count on when we’re abiding with Him.

How does this all sound to you? Too good to be true? Drastically different than your daily experience? Unattainable? Generally, there are three things that Father has shown me that can prevent me from experiencing what Jesus is offering; it could be that my idea of what God is like is off, my concept of myself is off or, I’m not abiding.

I’d like to offer you a few thoughts to consider if you find yourself not experiencing the beautiful, restful life God promises His children. These things have been useful on my own journey with Father.

  1. God is not threatened by your anger, fury, anxiety, or stress. He values your heart above all else, and He longs for your gloves off, uncensored, not-safe-for-work honesty.

  2. Acting ‘Yes, Jesus’ always trumps feeling ‘Yes, Jesus.' This means that we don’t always feel like the things God tells us about Himself are true, but in faith, we can act out of what we choose to believe, in spite of what we feel. Saying yes to Jesus can look different, during different circumstances in our lives, and that’s okay.

  3. This is a process and it takes time, so give yourself permission to fail and not be perfect. Deconstructing broken beliefs and lies takes time. Father loves you and accepts you today, as you are. His love for you will never change, even if you only got worse. So go easy on yourself.

Come to Him in your exhaustion, confusion, and clouded thinking, and the parched ache of your personal desert experience will melt away in the oasis of a trusting friendship with Jesus.

Your desert will become a beach.

I can promise you, without a shadow of a doubt, when you say yes to Jesus, when you accept Father’s invitation, He takes you seriously. He WILL respond and work in your life. He who has begun a great work… will complete it! (Philippians 1:6)

The Truth About Giving

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By Ross Gilbert

Traditions vary from country to country and culture to culture. Sometimes we don’t even know why we do these things and this is especially true in the church. Traditions by definition are not bad; they’re powerful motivators, often bred deep into our thinking, almost like a reflex. Traditions can be helpful aids to us if we remember that it’s not the tradition itself that’s important, but the reason the tradition exists in the first place.

Hebrews 13:8 tells us to remember those who led us and taught us about God, to consider how they lived, and to imitate their faith. We might expect the writer to encourage us to follow the traditions and behaviours of those leaders, but instead, we are encouraged to live in dependence on God as they did.  

Traditions are to remind us to trust in God.

The danger comes when we instead begin to put our trust in the actions of the tradition, and believe that if we follow a certain set of commands or traditions we will be fine, but if we don’t, then God won’t be pleased with us and will withhold His blessings from us. Perhaps, the teaching in the church where we see this most is with giving; when Christians are instructed to tithe ten percent of their income to the church.

Much of the teaching in the church today on the subject of tithing, is carryover from the Old Covenant. The book of Malachi tells us that the nation of Israel was not trusting God to provide for them as He had promised, and therefore, were taking matters into their own hands. God challenged them to trust Him by following His command to bring their tithes for the Levites and watch how He would provide for them.

The Old Covenant was dependent upon man’s ability to keep the commands, whereas the greatness of the New Covenant is that Jesus Christ came to live inside us to fulfill the requirements of it. The Old Covenant had six hundred and thirteen commands; the New Covenant has only one. 1 John 3:23 tells us, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” You see, on the matter of tithing, any possible obligation ended when you were crucified with Christ and died to the Law. And, if tithing supersedes the New Covenant, meaning it exists today above and beyond the New Covenant, then it leads us to ask what else we need to do? It means we are left with a covenant agreement with God that is not defined, and therefore, we have no assurance that our standing before God is secure. God can only require of us what He has included in the New Covenant, and what He requires is that we trust Him and love others.

Scripture teaches us two reasons to give. First, we’re to help others who are in financial need. In 2 Corinthians 8:8-14, Paul asked the Gentile churches to help support their Jewish brothers who were suffering for their faith in Christ. For us today, I believe this means helping our friends and family, neighbours, and even someone living across the ocean who we’ll never meet.

Father has provided for us,

which allows us to be a part of His

provision for others.

Secondly, we’re to share with those who teach us the word of God. Galatians 6:6 says, “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” And 1 Corinthians 9:11-14 tells us that those who teach you the word of God serve a role that is similar to those of the Levitical priests, and it is proper for us to bless them in response to how they have blessed us. Today, I believe this is best expressed through giving to your local church and those who teach you. You come to church each Sunday, and are faithfully taught the powerful and beautiful message of the New Covenant which leads to healing, freedom and hope. But it does not come without a financial cost, and those costs are to be paid for with the free will donations of those who attend the church. The key being “free will”.

There is also a beautiful blessing that comes with giving. Writing to the Philippians to acknowledge their gift to him, Paul shares that he was excited about the gift, not because of what it meant to him but what it meant for them. By giving to Paul they were sharing in his ministry and had become partners in ministering together, meaning what was credited to Paul as a reward for his faithful service, was also being credited to the church in Philippi.

When we give, we are joining a work that is bigger

than ourselves,

a work that is changing countless lives.

We see from Scripture that we are to give financially, but we can’t forget the difference between tithing and giving. Tithing was a mandated amount required to be given under the Old Covenant, whereas the New Covenant is about free will giving, void of obligation and given in any amount that Father leads. Galatians 5:1 tells us that it was for freedom that we were set free, which means in this case, we are free from the Old Covenant tithing system, and are now free to give with an attitude of cheerfulness, not compulsion; we give as Father leads.

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written,

“He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor,

His righteousness endures forever.”

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 2 Corinthians 9:7-12