Month: January 2020

The Fog of Anxiety

For more than 70% of us in America, anxiety is a choice.  It is a trickle of thought that now has cut a channel in our brain and thought process, and every thought flows into it.  It takes some effort to extract ourselves, even if you are a Christian.  It fogs our thinking.  The moisture required to create enough fog to shut down a city block or, as we learned tragically last weekend, to crash a helicopter, consists of less than two teaspoons of water.  Philippians 4:6-7 were the most highlighted verses recorded in Bible apps in 2019.  They give us a formula for clearing the fog of anxiety from our lives.

“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which passes understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”      Philippians 4:6-7.

We must first REJOICE IN THE LORD.  We have to recalibrate how we find contentment, satisfaction, and even how we define happiness, and it begins here:  REJOICE IN THE LORD.  Rejoicing in the Lord presupposes that we KNOW Him.  Is that true for you?

The second thought is we must intentionally, even ruthlessly RELEASE OUR ANXIETY.  Some of us have a death grip on anxiousness.  And yet, it is a poisonous serpent that is killing US!  We just don’t know how to let it go.

Jesus addressed this very problem in Matthew 6… Jesus ends His approach by assuring us of this one thing:  God will provide the strength we need for ANYTHING life brings to us WHEN WE NEED IT but not before.  Like the Israelite’s gathering manna in the wilderness, they could only collect and keep enough for one day.  Then they had to depend on and TRUST IN the Lord to bring them their supply for the next day.  This is a principle that follows God’s dealing with people throughout the Bible.  Give us TODAY… THIS DAY… our daily bread.  It keeps our face turned toward God, and not our own strength to survive.

The third principle is this; we must make our REQUESTS KNOWN to God.  God wants us to pray!  He wants us to pray for everything… with THANKSGIVING.  “God I’m taking my child to the doctor today but I am making request to You to help the doctor find the right medicine or treatment.”  “God I have a meeting today with a prospective client… help me to have the right approach to gain their business.”  “Lord, I am lonely and need a husband or wife.  I am going on a date, but I’m asking You to lead me to know if this is a person You would want me to relate to.”  “God I’ve got a test today… lots of stuff on it I’m not sure I understand.”  Do you pray like that?  Is your prayer life vital, real, ongoing with God or is it just, “Oh by the way God, would you bless this or that?”  We are to “pray without ceasing.”  We are “in all things to give thanks and pray.”

And the fourth and final piece of the puzzle is to RENEW YOUR THINKING.  Let’s go back to a fundamental place:  Anxiety is a battle in our minds.  It’s about how we think, but also about what we think ABOUT.  Our thoughts sometimes make God much too small.  We make God smaller than He really is.  We make it seem as though God isn’t aware of our issues… or He isn’t smart enough to fix them… not strong enough to handle them… not big enough to know our future… not compassionate enough to care what we’re going through.  Yet Jesus said, “the very hairs of your head are numbered.”  How much time do you spend looking at yourself in the mirror fixing your hair?  Some of us don’t have to spend much.  But others do… a lot.  Yet as much time as you or your stylist spend looking at your hair, tell me how many hairs you have right now?

God cares about us… a lot!  The smallest details do not escape His notice.  He sees what you’re going through right now.  Can you trust the One Who knows you best… and loves you most?

Covetousness is Idolatry

Covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). The cure for covetousness is not tossing a few dollars in the offering each week. Like chopping down a tree, an idol has to be killed at the root. And one half-hearted swing of the axe doesn’t bring it down.

We need to make an intentional, deliberate, committed effort to kill the idol of materialism, and only faithful stewardship… giving rain or shine whether it’s convenient or not… will cure it.

I am more and more convinced that the only thing that will turn our hearts from hoarding and keeping our resources into hearts marked by generosity is a renewed vision of the cross of Christ.

“For you know the grace of the Lord Jesus Who, though He was (infinitely) rich, yet for your sake He became poor that we, through His poverty, might be made rich (eternally).” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Only the reminder that our salvation was purchased at a horrible price, that our sins were washed white as snow in the avalanche of His grace flowing down from the cross; only THAT will be the motivation we need to become faithful stewards.

Captured by such a defining vision, Isaac Watts wrote, “Love so amazing, so Divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” If we are holding back from faithfulness to God in this matter, it is simply an indication that our hearts have not been fully gripped by the depth of God’s love and sacrifice for us.

The answer… the remedy is not a guilt trip from a pastor. It is a Spirit-sent vision of the grace and mercy and love of God that flowed from Calvary. That’s what chokes the idol to death.

And that’s what turns us from idolaters into worshipers, and from worshipers into stewards as we gladly give “our soul, our life, our all” to Jesus!

Disciplining yourself for godliness

So as 2020 has begun and we have entered our first weeks of a brand new decade, I would imagine that many of us have already abandoned that first flush of determination to:

Lose weight
Stop a bad habit
Read more books and less internet
Exercise
Clean out a cluttered closet/garage/shed/back porch
Learn a new language

All are great ideas, and any would add value to your life. However, there are some habits that we can incorporate for the new year that will change things eternally!

Read the Bible. All of it.
Prioritize church attendance
Begin a daily time of personal worship
Share your faith with someone
Start giving generously
Live obediently

Resolutions and good intentions will carry you so far: normally a week or two. Then we’re back on the binging train, reading snippets on Twitter, sleeping in rather than working out, or piling more clutter in the garage!

But “disciplining (training) yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7b ) requires something more than resolution and good intention. It requires time, a desire to live a life truly pleasing to the Lord, and a determination to be committed until it’s finished.

So will your new year, and new decade, begin by being marked by good intentions… or godly discipline. It’s your decision.

And it’s still not too late to begin!

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Happy New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

And so, 2019 is now in the history books. A new year is upon us and not only a new year, but a new DECADE has begun! I think one of the reasons we celebrate New Years so vigorously is that something about it promises hope. Hope that the old truly has passed away. Hope that the dawning of 2020 will bring good things, and not heartache and hardship.

However, if we are placing our hope in a calendar change to wipe away the pain, bad decisions, and guilt of the past, we are grasping at a straw. And if our hope of a better year ahead is rooted in our own strength to keep promises and resolutions, well just rehearse last year’s good intentions and resolutions for a moment.

There is a way to have “old things” pass away, and to truly have ALL things made new. That way is to place our hope, not in our own efforts to do better and be better, but in placing our hope and trust in the One Who can truly make things new again.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we read, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things pass away and all things become new.” God is all about new beginnings and second chances. Our past can truly be in the past, forgiven and buried in forgetfulness. Our future can be securely rooted in a hope that will not let us down.

Start your New Year and your new decade in a way that truly brings transformation; through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose coming to earth we celebrated just over a week ago. He alone can bring the hope you need.

And if you ask, He will do it! You can start again when you pray the following prayer by faith:

Heavenly Father, I know my life has been destroyed by my own sin. I ask You to pardon and forgive my sins against You and against others. Please put my sin and selfishness behind me. I turn from it and turn to You by faith. Grant me new life and a new beginning as I trust in the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus on the cross. I believe He alone is my hope. Help me to walk with Him into 2020. In the name of Jesus I pray.

Amen.

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