Friday, February 5, 2010

Freedom From Fear

Freedom From Fear

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear….

1 John 4:18a (NKJV)

In my previous entry, I talked about how I came to see and believe that I was a “Daddy’s Girl.” That realization was the beginning of a journey in understanding my Heavenly Father’s love for me. One day, a year or so ago, I was studying Ephesians and ran across the following passage.

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17b-19 (NIV)

I had heard that passage many times in my life but honestly never thought it possible for me to know that kind of love. In fact, I found it puzzling that anybody could grasp or know something that surpasses knowledge. How can you comprehend what is beyond comprehension? As I meditated on it, however, I found myself longing to know that kind of love…longing to be filled to the fullness of God. So, I said a very simple prayer that day, asking God to help me to know—really-know—Christ’s love in all dimensions. For I knew that the level to which I understood Christ’s love would also be the degree to which I would know my Father’s love for me. (John 14)

I have discovered that when I ask God for something that is laid out in His Word, He always gives me what I ask for. This request was no exception. God began to open the eyes and ears of my heart to see and hear things from His Word in a brand new way. I began to grasp the greatness of Christ’s love demonstrated in His laying down His own life for mine. (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16).

As I thought of Christ hanging on the cross, His outstretched arms represented the width of His love…arms spread to reach out as an invitation for every person from every corner of the earth to receive His love gift of eternal life. (John 3:16; Romans 1:16; Romans 3:29).

I began to understand the length of His love by realizing that His love is forever and ever. His time here on earth had a beginning and an end but His love never ends. His death may have been a one-time event, but the benefits of His death (salvation from sin and abundant life) are for eternity. His death wasn’t simply for those living in the days that He walked the earth…it was for everybody who will ever live and will receive His love gift. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Hebrews 2:9)

I meditated on the depth of His love in that He willingly left His Father in heaven and came to earth to suffer for sinful man. During His 33 years on earth, He suffered ridicule, rejection, humiliation, abuse…He suffered every form of suffering possible so that He could identify with us—and we with Him—in our sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10,18; 5:8; 13:12) More than that, this man, who was God—perfect and without sin—took upon Himself my sin (and the sin of every person ever to live), and then He descended to the depths of the earth. (Ephesians 4:8-10; Matthew 12:40)

The exciting thing is that Christ’s love doesn’t stop with His death on the cross; it doesn’t end with Him going to the deepest of deeps for me. Christ rose from the depths of hell and the grave and then He ascended to the highest of highs to prepare a place in heaven for me. (John 14:23) The height of Christ’s love is demonstrated in the fact that all of us have the opportunity to join Him in heaven one day.

I spent months reflecting on Christ’s love for me and discovered that it truly is impossible to separate Christ’s love from the love of our Father. After all, Jesus tells us in John 10:30 that He and His Father are one. Furthermore, it was because of God’s love for us that Christ came to earth, suffered, died and rose again. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” (John 3:16). “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…” (Ephesians 2:4-5). “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9). “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

As I thought about the far-reaching, never-ending, deep love of God demonstrated in sending His son for me, one thing began to really pierce my heart. When Christ took the sins of the world upon Himself—becoming sin itself—He was, at that moment in time, separated from His Father. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 27:46) God—because He is God and cannot look upon sin—had to turn His back on His own Son, whom He deeply loved. (Habakkuk 1:13) I love my children immensely and cannot fathom turning my back on any of them for any reason, especially not for other wretched, sinful people. That God would do that very thing is, to me, the greatest demonstration of love. Even as I write this, I am filled with such emotion, knowing that God loves me that much.

You may be thinking “okay, this is great but what does it have to do with freedom from fear?” Well, we’re getting there.

As I began to grasp just how much God loves me—enough that he would send His son AND turn His back on Him while He took my sins upon Himself—I began to realize that I had no reason to fear anything. A God whose love for me is that long, wide, high and deep is not going to allow anything to happen to me that is not for my good. His plans for me are for good and not harm…they are plans for hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11).

If I find myself in the midst of the fire or flood, I have no reason to fear (Isaiah 43:1-2) because I know that God is always with me; (Isaiah 41:10; 43:2); He will indeed work everything out for my good (Romans 8:28); and I can overcome anything through His love (Romans 8:37). I know, without a doubt, that nothing—not even life, death, angels, demons, my current circumstances, or things to come in the future—absolutely nothing will ever separate me from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39). Even when God chastises me, I do not fear because I know that God’s discipline comes from a heart of a Father who dearly loves me, His child. (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 3:19; Deuteronomy 8:5.

I had lived in fear for most of my life. However, as I began to grasp the full dimensions of God’s love for me, all of my fear disappeared. His perfect love truly cast out all the fear that was inside me (1 John 4:18). It is hard to put into words the freedom I have now…a freedom that goes far beyond anything I could ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21)

When fear tries to work its way back into my heart, I immediately remind myself of just how much God loves me and the fear dissipates and is replaced with total peace. The following are just a few Scriptures (along with those I’ve referenced throughout this blog) that I use to remind me of God’s unfathomable, perfect, matchless love. I like to say (out loud, when possible) and meditate on these verses—personalizing them—as a constant reminder of God’s love for me…especially during those times when fear tries to creep into my heart.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

The LORD my God is with me, he is mighty to save. He takes great delight in me, he quiets me with his love, he rejoices over me with singing."

Isaiah 49:15-16 (NIV)

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, He will not forget me! See, He has engraved me on the palms of His hands; my walls are ever before Him.

1 John 3:1 (NIV)

How great is the love the Father has lavished on me, that I should be called a child of God! And that is what I am! The reason the world does not know me is that it did not know him.

1 John 4:16 (NIV)

And so I know and rely on the love God has for me. God is love. Because I live in love, I live in God, and God in me.

Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)

Mostly what God does is love me. When I keep company with Him, I learn a life of love. I observe how Christ loved me. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from me but to give everything of himself to me. I desire to love like that.

Exodus 15:13 (NIV)

"In your unfailing love you will lead me, one of your people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide me to your holy dwelling.

Deuteronomy 7:9 ESV

I know, therefore, that you, Oh Lord my God are God; you are faithful, God, to keep your covenant and steadfast love with me; I love you and keep your commandments, to a thousand generations,

Psalms 36:7 NIV

How priceless is your unfailing love! I find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Jeremiah 31:3

…You have loved me with an everlasting love; you have drawn me with loving-kindness.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Daddy's Girl

Daddy's Girl©

"What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we're called children of God! That's who we really are!" 1 John 3:1 (MSG)
Most little girls long to be a “Daddy’s girl.” I know I did. I can't tell you how deep that longing was or how desperately hard I tried to be just that. I would have done anything to gain my dad's love and acceptance. I would have literally jumped off the roof or gone and played in the traffic if I had thought it would help. However, nothing I did was ever good enough.

I felt like God had failed me. He gave me the need to be loved by a daddy, yet He didn’t give me a daddy who filled that need. So, I determined I would fill that need my own way. I watched other girls’ daddies love and dote on them and I imagined they were my daddy. I found fatherly qualities in teachers or youth leaders and turned to them as if they were my father. I had an extremely close relationship with my grandfather and found tenderness and compassion from him. However, the longing was still there and so the search continued. I tried to fill that longing with any man I met who showed any kind of love and acceptance of me for who I was…pastors and other father figures within the church…even bosses.

These different father figures did provide me with a sense of love and acceptance. However, the longing to be loved by my real daddy was still there. See all of these other men seemed to fade in and out, never becoming a permanent part of my life. Plus, they offered only bits and pieces for what I truly longed. None of them could love me enough to fill the deep well within my heart.

In April 2006, I attended a women’s retreat at our church. The first night of the retreat, the guest speaker, Debbie Dittrich, spoke about being a Daddy’s girl. She told us that God put the longing to be a Daddy's girl in all of us for a reason. He put it there so that we would yearn for Him. It is a longing that goes so deep that only God can fill it -- He did that on purpose so that we would want and need Him. Even if I had the most wonderful Daddy in the world, he could never fill up that deep, deep well because God designed it so that only He could fill it. All I had to do to be a Daddy’s girl was to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior.

I had accepted Christ many years ago, as a child. That meant……. I sat there that evening, fighting back tears, realizing for the first time in my life that I had a Daddy who loved me more than anybody else ever could. He desired for me to be a girl—His girl—when I was born. He desired me to be exactly who I am and He loves everything about me. He will never use me, abuse me or abandon me. He will love me with a love so deep—the only love deep enough to fill that longing inside of me.

I admit, it was hard for me to grasp at first. It was hard for me to comprehend much less accept that anybody—God included—could and would love me that much. See, I had developed the assumption that if nothing I did was good enough to gain my earthly father’s love and acceptance, then certainly it wasn’t enough to gain my heavenly Father’s love either. After all, He was perfect and surely expected nothing sort of perfection from me. That night, however, I chose to believe---regardless of how I felt—that I was truly a Daddy's girl.

If you are reading this and have never experienced the love of our Father God, then I encourage you to simply open up your heart and receive the love that He longs to pour out on you. Crawl up into His lap and let His love fill that deep, deep void that only He can fill. Maybe you have never trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior, and therefore, you cannot experience this type of Father-child relationship. If so, I invite you to receive His love, through His Son Jesus Christ, today.

John 3:16 says that God loved you so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for you so that you could live forever with Him. In 1 John 3:1 we read that God’s love for us is so great that He calls us His children. He wants to be your Daddy. He gave up His own Son so that He could be. Won’t you let Him come and fill your heart with His love?

To read more divine love stories, visit (In)Courage.