The Abundant Life: The Starting Place of Abundance

There’s no question that all of us want to live an abundant life.Abundant-Life-The-Starting-Place-Plant-a-Seed-Quote-photo

Nobody would say no to having a better marriage, a more fulfilling job, the ability to be more generous and feel satisfied with their life. Every person on the planet wants a life like that – an abundant life.

The most difficult step in living the abundant life is the first one. Some people don’t take the first step out of fear, some out of ignorance, but either way the beginning of the journey is what eludes people and leaves them in their current state.

The first step is planting seed.

If we’re going to reap a harvest, or live an abundant life, we have to plant something. No seed means no harvest.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we need to plant a large amount of seed to reap any kind of harvest. However, our Father is more concerned with the state of our hearts when we give, than the amount that we give. A greedy heart giving a lot of time or money will still reap a small harvest. A generous heart giving a small amount can reap a large harvest.

Abundant-Life-The-Starting-Place-Luke-16-10Quote-photo“And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on,” Mark 12:41 – 44 (NASB)

Even though the widow gave a smaller amount she actually gave more because of the state of her heart.

This is the attitude we have to have to start planting. We don’t need to look at the amount we’re giving, no matter how small it may be. We need to have faith that God will cause growth and bring us the harvest He’s promised us.

“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.” Luke 16:10a (NKJV)

Abundant Life: An Abundance of Grace

Have you ever wondered if you have enough of God’s grace in your life?

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us,” Ephesians 1:7-8a (NASB)

The word “lavished” in this verse means “in abundance, to exist at hand in abundance, to make abundant or excellent”. God has given us the riches of His grace in abundance. It wasn’t just a limited amount; He gave us more than we could ever imagine.

Stop and think about that for a moment: God gave us more grace than we could ever imagine.

It’s by His grace that we are saved, blessed and favored. So, we aren’t just slightly saved or favored. God has lavished salvation and favor on us, His children.

This means we have the ability to be everything God wants us to be. We have everything we need to accomplish what God has planned for us.

If we desire to be a better husband, grace is available. It is available to us when we want a promotion. If we want to increase or improve in any area of our lives, grace is available. It’s in us in a super-abundant amount to make us excellent.

This should lead us to ask the questions: How much do I want?  How excellent do I want to be? How great do I want my life to be?

If God has made all of His grace available to us, then the answers to these questions are entirely up to us.

God will meet us exactly where we are and take us as high as we want to go. He’s not going to kick down the door and force us to live by grace. He has given us the resources we need to excel and grow in every way and He’s waiting for us to use them.

His grace invites us to new levels of life we could never experience on our own. We just have to say “yes”.

Understanding Grace

If we’re going to understand our Father and have a meaningful relationship with Him we need to understand grace.

Understanding Grace - Photo of Man standing on a rock overlooking oceanGrace is one of the cornerstones of God’s character. It’s His grace that saves us, that makes us new creations. It’s by His grace that we are adopted into His family.  His grace is what makes us righteous.

Grace is defined as, “That which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor or acceptance. A favor done without expectation of repayment. The free expression of the love of God to men finding its only motive in the benevolence of God.” To put it more simply, it is the unearned, unmerited favor of God.

When we don’t understand grace we will struggle to see God as our Father.

This is why many Christians stay far from God. They believe that God doesn’t love them or favor them. They don’t know that they live in the favor of God. So, they work to try to earn His love and favor, and exhaust themselves in the process.

It is God’s will that we be saved by grace through faith, but He does not want us to stop there. Understanding Grace - Photo or Rock and trees

Salvation by grace is not just a one-time experience that guarantees we will go to heaven when we leave this earth. We are to live our whole lives in and by His grace.

This shows us God’s fatherly nature. A good father doesn’t just want his child to be born and then leave him or her to face life alone. He protects, provides and leads his child in the best way possible. This is what God does for us by His grace. He does not raise us to new life and leave us helpless.

“Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence,” (2 Peter 1:3).

Our Father has given us everything we need to succeed in life and our relationship with Him.

He shows us His love through providing for us by His grace.

I encourage you to go through the New Testament and read about God’s grace. Read the verses out loud. Speak them over yourself. I promise that you’ll move into a deeper relationship with God. You’ll no longer try to earn His love and acceptance because you’ll see that He’s already given them to you by grace. 

Adopted by God

adopted-by-god-photo-of-baby-shoe-and-handsIf God is our Father, then that makes us His sons and daughters.

However, we weren’t naturally born into His family. He adopted us. Our being adopted was made possible by the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. We are now able to find complete satisfaction and fulfillment in our Heavenly Father.

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).

However, because we were adopted and not naturally born into our heavenly family, we begin with little to no knowledge of how to be a son or daughter of God.

We don’t know how to truly have a relationship with God, or even how to pray. We don’t understand what it means to be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.

However, we shouldn’t feel condemned for our ignorance. God does not see us as His hopeless little children who will never understand. No, our Father sees our potential in Christ and gives us everything we need to be “more than conquerors,” (Romans 8:37).

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence,” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

adopted-by-god-photo-of-man-reading-bookIf everything pertaining to life and godliness has already been given to us, how do we begin to live as sons and daughters of God?

We need an example, a teacher, a guide. God provided this perfect example through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is not only our Savior. His life on earth served as the perfect example of how to be a Son of God.

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren,” (Romans 8:29).

Jesus prayed perfect prayers. He perfectly understood His standing with His Father. Jesus perfectly operated in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus perfectly demonstrated the love of God to the world. His life is our guide to being strong, loving, confident children of God.

We do not have to live in confusion or dismay wondering how to have a relationship with our Heavenly Father. adopted-by-god-photo-of-person-learning-from-bible

We simply need to look to the words and actions of Jesus Christ in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If we have difficulty understanding God’s Word, then being in a church and following a pastor will help immensely. There are men and women all over the world who have walked the path before us who are more than willing to show us the way. Paul instructed his churches to do the same:

“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ,” (I Corinthians 11:1).

Whether you’re a brand new Christian, or you’ve been one for years , you can learn to be a son or daughter of God through following Christ. You’ll find purpose, relationships and satisfaction in Him.

Perfect Love Causes Fear To Lose Power

We know that the perfect love of God causes fear to lose all its power.

When we know that we are loved and cared for by the Creator of the Universe it puts our lives and our problems in the right perspective. However, fear will try to skew our vision. Fear knows that if it can draw our eyes away from the love of Jesus, it has greatly increased its chances of destroying us.

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered,’” (Romans 8:35-36)

The things listed in these verses are all tools.  Fear uses these tools to convince us that we are separated from the perfect love of God and His provision. It uses these things as distractions from the truth. Fear tries to build them up in our minds, so we’ll view them as greater than what we have in Christ. We will see our trial as our final destination and accept it as our lot in life.

Perfect Love - Photo of man readingGod’s Word teaches us to do exactly the opposite.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4).

While fear wants to use tests and trials to shipwreck our lives, God will use them to strengthen us. We need to know that God does not send the trials, but He is more than capable of using them for His glory and our good.

So, it wouldn’t make sense to think that our faith would be strengthened and God would be glorified by a trial that destroys us. He would not tell us to consider it all joy when we endure trials if He did not already have a way out for us.

The only way we grow and succeed in trials is when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Perfect Love - Photo of the Cross by Aaron Burden. only way we fail is when we take our eyes off of Him. If we allow fear to convince us that our trials is evidence of God’s absence, then they will defeat us.

God reassures us in His word that it is impossible to for these things to separate us from Him.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8:37-39).

Instead of thinking that our hardships separate us from Christ, we should have faith that victory is ours.  Whatever we go through, trials or distresses, isn’t greater than our heavenly Father or His perfect love for us. So, let’s keep our eyes on Him.  Let’s keep ourselves in the love of Christ and we will always have victory.

Escape Fear and Insecurity

fear-and-insecurity-silhouette-of-manFear of other people most often reveals itself through insecurity.

Most of us know, or have known, at least one person who intimidates us. It could be someone we went to school with, a coworker, a boss, a sibling, or one of our parents. The idea of them can awaken fear in our hearts and minds. If it’s someone from our past, even the thought of them can bring back old emotions.

Being afraid of a person doesn’t always mean that we are in fear for our personal safety, although that is a possibility.

Insecurity causes us to intentionally make ourselves “smaller” around people who intimidate us. We don’t want to get in their way or offend them.  This is because we’re afraid of how they’ll react if we “step out of line” in their eyes. However, if we’re afraid to step out of line around them, doesn’t that mean we are allowing other people to set the boundaries for our lives? So, what we’re actually afraid of is their rejection.

fear-and-insecurity-photo-of-group-of-people-blurredThis fear of rejection is what causes our insecurity. We are so concerned with earning the approval of people that even the idea of someone not liking us, or even just something about us, can set our thoughts and emotions on a downward spiral. So, we mold ourselves to meet another person’s standards.

This puts us into an exhausting cycle of earning, losing and striving to regain man’s approval. We are putting ourselves under the control of other people, our own fear, and ultimately the devil, because fear originated with him.

no-fear-in-love-quoteHow do we escape this fear and insecurity?

By knowing that we are loved by our heavenly Father.

It may sound too simple, but God doesn’t make things complicated for His children.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,” (1 John 4:18a).

When we know we are loved by the Creator of the universe, approval of man begins to lose its appeal.

If you are trapped in a cycle of insecurity I encourage you to start saying “I am loved by God,” every time you feel that fear is trying to overtake you. Allow the love of God to drive out fear, so you can live in the peace and confidence that His love brings.

Where Does Anger Come From?

Where does anger come from?

Anger - Photo of Man's Fist on DeskThere is anger that comes from pride. There is righteous anger at injustices and evil, and there is anger that comes from fear.

Many times anger grows out of a fear that we are the victims of injustices.We think that people are always plotting against us, talking about us behind our back or trying to give us less than we think we deserve.

This fear stops us from being able to see the good in anything, because we’re too busy trying to find out how we’re being shortchanged.

Consider this scenario: Let’s say you’ve been waiting on a promotion at work and it finally happens. This should be cause for celebration, but when you allow this anger to control you you’ll obsess over how you should’ve been promoted months ago rather than how you are being blessed with a promotion.

The problem with this kind of anger is that we devalue the blessing of God in our lives.

A few weeks ago we talked about how Eve was deceived into believing that the way God made her wasn’t good enough. What this fear-driven anger will do is look at what God has given us and say “It’s not good enough,” or “It should’ve happened earlier,” or “It’s not the way I wanted it to go.”

It saps the possible joy out of every good situation. Our lack of joy is always everyone else’s fault because we are convinced that the entire world is against us.

One name for this kind of fear could be a victim’s mentality.

It gives us an unwillingness to take responsibility for our own lives. It makes us like wild animals backed into a corner. The irony is that we put ourselves in the corner. So, we lash out at anyone who comes close to us.

It will ultimately make us unapproachable and lonely. All the while we will be fully assured of our lack of culpability in our own negative situation.  

The cure for this is the very thing that anger robs us of: Joy.

Anger - Photo of Man watching sun burst through cloudsInstead of looking for the negative in every positive, joy will shine a light on even the smallest good thing. It will look at the darkest of situations and magnify the possibility for God’s power and love to work.

If we read that last sentence and think, “That sounds nice, but I don’t have any joy,” we’re wrong.

The Bible shows us that joy is already ours.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law,” (Galatians 5:22-23).

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior He gives us the joy of the Lord. Our part is just to let it flow out of us. We have to make a conscious decision to stop seeing what’s wrong with everything and everyone and allow joy to be the lens through which we view our lives.

I encourage you to pray and ask your Heavenly Father to help you with this. It will definitely  change your life.

Remove the Power of Sudden Fear

Sudden-Fear-Image-of-woman-with-head-down.jpgFear tries to dominate our lives in many ways.

There is a slow, steady fear that tries to stay with us throughout our day-to-day lives. This fear’s goal is to convince us that we’ll never achieve our dreams, never overcome our problems and spend the rest of our lives stuck exactly where we are right now. This fear is the quiet voice of insecurity that keeps us from stepping out of our comfort zones.

Sudden Fear - Photo of man stressed looking at laptopAnother form fear takes is what the Bible calls sudden fear.

“Do not be afraid of sudden fear, Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes,” (Proverbs 3:25 NASB).

This kind of fear is unexpected. It brings alarm and shock to our lives. Sudden fear often comes in the form of negative reports from the doctor, getting fired from our job, bad news about our family, etc. It catches us off guard and tries to elicit an emotional response from us.

The devil uses this kind of fear to blindside us. He hopes that he’s going to catch us with our guard down and throw us into a downward spiral of anger, frustration and depression.

Sudden Fear - Photo of Man in dark surrounded by smokeThe natural, human tendency in these situations is to think of every possible destructive outcome. Our imagination wants to run wild, creating scenarios in our head that haven’t happened yet, and may never happen. However, once we think of one that seems logical, even if only slightly, we latch onto it, foster it and place our faith in it.  

This is the devil’s strategy when he throws sudden fear at our lives.

He wants us to respond naturally with exaggerated negative thoughts and emotions, because they will open the door to further attack.

What we’re actually doing when we react this way is taking a step back in our faith.  This allows the enemy to advance in our life. We are shrinking back in intimidation while the devil puffs himself up to seem much more powerful than he is. One sudden attack can lead to an onslaught, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Proverbs 3:25 tells us to not be afraid of sudden fear or of an onslaught and the next verse tells us why: Sudden-Fear-Image-of-Rainbow.jpg

“Because God will be right there with you; He’ll keep you safe and sound,” (Proverbs 3:26 The Message).

The enemy’s goal with sudden fear is ultimately to make us forget that God is always with us.

When sudden fear attempts to blindside us we need to remind ourselves of Hebrews 10:39, “But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” As soon as we come into agreement with this verse we stop placing our faith in the words of men and place it on the Word of God. This removes all power from the sudden fear.

We need to know that at some point we’re all going to receive bad news about something or someone. This should not cause us to fall apart and forget that we are sons and daughters of an all-powerful God. We should look at these situations as opportunities for God to show His power and love in our lives.

Fight Off Fear-Driven Dissatisfaction

The Devil tries to bring fear into our lives through dissatisfaction. 

He uses dissatisfaction to introduce fear into our lives by convincing us we’re missing out on something we deserve to have. The devil tells us that other people are enjoying something that was meant for us. He makes us think that because we don’t have what other people have we are less than they are.

In fact that was his strategy when he tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Fight-Off-Fear-Driven-Dissatisfaction-Photo-of-woman-blindfolded.jpg  A photo by Oscar Keys.“One day the snake said to the woman, “Did God really say that you must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?” The woman answered the snake, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden. But God told us, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden. You must not even touch it, or you will die.’” But the snake said to the woman, “You will not die. God knows that if you eat the fruit from that tree, you will learn about good and evil and you will be like God!” (Genesis 3:1-5 NCV).

The snake (Satan) twisted the words of God to make Eve think that God was holding something back. He tells her that God hasn’t given her the whole truth and that her life would actually improve by stepping out of the will of God.

Satan does the same thing to us every day.

He tries to make us believe that our life doesn’t quite measure up.  Satan tries to convince us that we are less than sufficient, and that what our heavenly Father has provided isn’t enough.

This isn’t the kind of fear that brings nightmares and cold sweats. It’s the kind that breeds a subtle dissatisfaction with our lives.

This dissatisfaction will cause us to question everything we have: Our house, our salary, our friendships, our parenting, our marriages, etc.

We should absolutely desire to improve in all these areas, but fear and discontentment will never bring growth. Fight-Off-Fear-Driven-Dissatisfaction-Photo-of-man-with-dog.jpg

Instead of growing, we will diminish. We will become angry, closed off or overly competitive.  We will begin to think the reason that we don’t have enough is because we aren’t enough.  These emotions can drive us to do unreasonable things and the whole time the force behind our negative emotions is fear.

If you were to ask an adulterer why he had an affair it’s not likely he would answer, “Because I was afraid.”  When you ask someone who was recently fired why she lost their job she wouldn’t say, “Because I was afraid.”  If you ask someone who has no friends why he pushes people away he wouldn’t tell you, “Because I am afraid.”  These people would give you a litany of other reasons: They were unhappy in their marriage; They didn’t get along with their coworkers; Other people don’t understand them.

The real reason is fear.

They are afraid somebody is using them, lying to them or has something they believe they should have.  They’ve fallen into the same trap as Eve. They’ve allowed fear to stop them from seeing the blessing of God in their lives.

That’s really what Eve missed. The Devil told her she was going to be like God and she forgot that she was already made in His perfect image.

Fight-Off-Fear-Driven-Dissatisfaction-Photo-of-woman-blindfolded.jpg  A photo by Jared Erondu. can fight off this fear-driven dissatisfaction by knowing that we are the righteousness of God in Christ. The feeling of not having enough is destroyed by knowing that we are enough in Christ. We are made in the image of God the same way Adam and Eve were.

We need to remind ourselves of 2 Peter 1:3, “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that we are always missing out on something. God has already blessed us and will continue to do so. We only have to rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

More than a Shallow Understanding

One of the simplest things we can do to follow the plan for our lives is to know and understand the One who created it.

If our relationship with our Heavenly Father is something we only think about on Sunday mornings, then we’re going to have a shallow understanding of His plan for us. However, the more time we spend getting to know Him, the more revelation we’ll have about His specific will for our lives.

More Than a Shallow Understanding - Photo of Stacked Rocks

Knowing, understanding and acting on God’s Word is the rock whereby we lay the foundation of our lives. If the foundation is small, we won’t step into the fullness of everything He has for us.

That’s why Jesus teaches us to build our lives on the rock of His word.

“Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built,” (Luke 6:47-48).  We need to be like the man in these verses.

We need to dig deep and lay the foundation of our lives on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.  We do this by renewing our minds to God’s word.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” (Romans 12:2)

Before Jesus saved us, our minds were formed and influenced by the ways of the world. We lived by the world’s standard and desired what the world told us was valuable.

We have to change our standard and our desires through reading and meditating on God’s Word. It’s not going to just magically happen. No one becomes like Jesus on accident. It is a conscious decision we make every single day to leave behind the old way and live by the wisdom that is available to us in God’s Word.

As we do this, we will find ourselves being made into the image of Jesus more and more every day. Reading, understanding and meditating on God’s Word literally changes us from the inside out.

The devil will attempt to downplay this fact in our lives, though.

He will try to convince us that our daily Bible reading and the time we spend in prayer is inconsequential; it isn’t. He’ll try to lie to us and tell us that we aren’t understanding what we are reading, making it impossible to change, that we still make the same mistakes and we’re still the person we were before we got saved; we aren’t. Don’t give in to the lies. Keep pressing forward.

Look at the verse from Romans 12 one more time. Our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds. When our minds are made new by God’s Word, our actions will follow. It’s a process; one that we must commit to if we’re going to walk in God’s plan for our lives.

So, I encourage you, dig deep to lay the foundation of your life upon the rock of Jesus Christ and He will reveal His specific plan for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a better understanding.  Be patient; God is more than capable to do what He has promised.