Fear Not, For I Have Redeemed You

I have a few Bible verses on necklaces or bracelets so I can wear them as encouraging and anxiety-fighting reminders of God’s presence and love. One necklace has the title of this post on it: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you.” This phrase comes from Isaiah 43, which begins one of my favorite passages of scripture.

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;
Therefore I will give men for you,
And people for your life. (Is. 43:1-4, NKJV)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to these versus for comfort and hope when I’m feeling lost, alone, or afraid. The verses I just quoted are the ones I usually read, and I find the assurance of God’s overflowing, unstoppable love incredibly encouraging on it’s own. But it’s even better in context. To really understand these verses, we need to go back to the chapter before.

Servant Song

Behold, my servant, whom I uphold;
my chosen, in whom my soul delights—
I have put my Spirit on him.
He will bring justice to the nations. (Is. 42:1, WEB)

Verses 1 to 9 contain the first of four Messianic “Servant Songs” in Isaiah. It identifies the Messiah (Jesus Christ) as the one who will bring “justice.” We talked about this Hebrew word, mishpat, in last week’s post. It refers to judgements and ordinances backed-up by all functions of government — in this case, the correct, just government of God Himself. And here’s what the Messiah does with this authority: Read more

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What Can Following The Lord Do For You?

We don’t follow God primarily because we want to get something from Him, or at least we shouldn’t. We follow Him because we love Him, He is our savior, and nothing on earth can compare to having a relationship with Him. But we also shouldn’t ignore the fact that following God does mean we’ll receive good gifts from Him.

Following God gives us hope for eternal life. He promises that all who believe in Him shall never see death. Even if that were the only gift, it would be more than enough. However, the good things we receive from God don’t all wait until after you die. He also does wonderful things in our lives right now.

We can’t expect all (or even most) of God’s blessings will be physical ones, though. While He does promise to provide for our needs and even blesses some with physical prosperity, none of us escape trials and hardships in this life. In fact, Christians are promised they will suffer in following Christ’s footsteps. If we only expect God to do things for us in the physical realm then we’ll miss a lot of the blessings He pours out on us. So today, let’s take look at one Psalm that describes some of the incredible things that following the Lord can do for us.

Psalm 19 begins by saying, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” After waxing eloquent about how the universe reveals the Creator, David begins to speak of other ways the Lord, Yahweh, reveals Himself to us. Then David explains how those revelations affect those who believe. Read more

How To Fight Anxiety With God’s Help

Some of the hardest verses in the Bible for me to accept are those that say things like “fear not” or “do not be anxious.” As I shared with you all earlier this week, I’ve been living with anxiety and panic attacks for half my life. It’s become so much a part of who I am that even the thought of not being anxious scares me. I alternate between clinging to the Bible’s promises of God’s power to drive away fear and being afraid that I can’t accept those promises.

There is a difference between having an anxiety disorder and just being anxious/worried about things sometimes. And I want to make clear from the very beginning of this post that when you’re struggling with anxiety as a mental health issue, I don’t think you should just try to pray it away. Go talk with a mental health professional. They can be a huge help in learning to manage and minimize your anxiety.

With that said, there is overlap to the way the Bible talks about combating fear and the way modern psychology (at least some therapy styles) approach treating anxiety. Working to change unhelpful thought-patterns, finding hopeful things to focus on, building a supportive community — those are all things that can help you move away from anxiety controlling your life and toward living a full life even if you still have anxieties. And that’s part of what God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ want for us — an abundant life free from fear. Read more

Crash Course In Galatians (Part Two)

A couple days ago, I shared Part One of a two-part post about Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. In this letter, he combats a destructive heresy spread by Jewish legalists in the early church. If you haven’t read that post yet, you’ll want to start there before you continue reading.

I like writing these “Crash Course In …” posts because it’s so important to look at context when figuring out what passages of scripture really mean. With Galatians, it’s easy to misinterpret if you don’t look at the whole of Paul’s purpose for the argument he makes in this letter. It also helps to look at some of Paul’s other letters, like we did last week by comparing Romans to Galatians.

Truly Fulfilling The Law

Now that he’s laid the ground work for his argument, Paul starts to clarify what it means to walk by faith as people who are no longer under the law. It’s kind of a weird balance to wrap our minds around. Much of Galatians 5 parallels Romans 12-13 in showing how walking in the Spirit means we’re fulfilling the true meaning of the law. However, Paul also makes it quite clear that we should not seek “to be justified by the Law” (Gal. 5:1-6). To say that we could earn  salvation by our own works introduces a harmful doctrine that spreads like leaven and corrupts the truth (5:7-12).

For you, brothers, were called for freedom. Only don’t use your freedom for gain to the flesh, but through love be servants to one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” … But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire. (Gal. 5:13-14, 16-17)

Being free from the law doesn’t mean we’re free to break it (i.e. does not grant us license to sin). Rather, we’re released from the curse of being under the law. Now the law is written inside our hearts. Being filled with God’s Spirit and transformed to be like Him will turn us into a person who naturally does the things we’re told to in God’s law. The law’s not our schoolmaster anymore, though. We’re taught directly by God through His spirit inside us. Read more

Crash Course In Galatians (Part One)

When Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians, he did so to combat a destructive heresy. From his comments in this letter, it appears that a group of people came through Galatia teaching the Christians there that they had to be circumcised and follow Jewish law in order to receive salvation. Paul refutes this, along with the false teachers’ claim that he wasn’t really an apostle.

I like writing “Crash Course In …” posts because it’s important to look at context when interpreting passages of scripture. Ecclesiastes, for example, doesn’t make much sense unless you follow Solomon’s whole trail of thought from beginning to end. Similarly, Galatians is easy to misinterpret if you don’t look at the whole of Paul’s purpose for the argument he makes in this letter (and put it alongside some of his other writings as well).

Another Gospel? Really?

Paul opens this letter by introducing himself as an apostle who was made so by “Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Gal. 1:1, all scripture references from WEB). He also reminds his readers of the message he preached to them before — that our Lord Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (1:4). With those facts established, Paul immediately jumps into his purpose for writing this letter. Read more

Are You Proud of Your Christianity?

Have you ever caught yourself thinking it’s great that you aren’t like all those people who don’t know the Lord? Ever patted yourself on the back, glad you have a special truth most other people don’t know about? Or been proud that you’re one of the few God chose to make a Christian?

The truths God has revealed to us are precious. But God didn’t give them to us because we’re anything special or because we have some innate ability to live a holier life than other people. He’s not out to make us proud of our moral or spiritual superiority. In fact, pride is hateful to God (Prov. 6:16-17; 16:5).

I’m sure most of us don’t go around with an attitude that intentionally says, “Look at me! I’m such a very good Christian and I’m better than other people.” But I also think that it’s easy for us to slip into a habit of acting as if we think something very similar. We set up an “us versus them” in our minds where we’re the ones with special knowledge and all the people who don’t believe what we do are in some way less than us. And that’s not a good place to start if we want to reach out to people in a godly way. Read more