Sure remedy for anxiety – it’s as close as your face!

2 Comments

No matter our maturity as Christians, we still struggle with worry and anxiety.  We all know that we are supposed to cast our cares into our Father’s lap, but earthly matters tend to dog our minds, keeping us sleepless.

worry

Jesus’ remedy against worry (which also serves as an explicit command to refrain from worrying – Just stop it!!) seems simplistic on the surface.

  • Matt 6:33 (don’t worry about the ordinary but necessary stuff of life, like non-Christians) But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and ALL these things will be added to you.

What struck me the other day were the first 3 letters of the command SEEK.  We’re to SEE, to LOOK UP from our immediate and pressing concern.  And what is the object we are to seek out?  God’s Kingdom.  

Now what in the world does THAT mean?  First things first, let’s hearken back to where we might have heard this phrase. One obvious place is in the Gospel of Mark, that quick-paced eyewitness account of Jesus’ ministry. Right from the get-go, Jesus travelled around proclaiming the startling news that because HE was HERE in their midst as the incarnate God on earth, that the Kingdom of God had arrived. 

I think that by intentionally SEEing this fact, the new government and what that implies, we can reboot.  That means we exhale our distracting thoughts and breathe in life-giving truths, like: 

  • If Jesus has inaugurated His kingdom, then He is also ruling it
  • that He loves me (how do I know that? – if I am trusting Him as my righteousness, then I have already accepted the fact that He died for me on purpose.  That’s pretty strong evidence of love, wouldn’t you say?)
  • that I have an inheritance awaiting me in the near future and hundreds of grace-filled promises at my disposal RIGHT NOW in the midst of all these troublesome situations

So at the break of the new day, in every circumstance, whether segueing to a new task or initiating a difficult conversation or fulfilling an obligation, we are to stop and look up and SEE reality, which is this: “King Jesus is alive and well and at God’s right hand praying for us and talking to His and our GOOD Father”

Well, what about the 2nd part – the exhortation to SEEk His righteousness?

The term ‘righteousness’ is an example of ‘METONYMY’, that is – a shorthand term representing a concept.  For example ‘Hollywood’ is a metonymy that stands for the US film industry.  Or calling a white-collar managerial-level employee a ‘suit’, or the top generals in the army are referred to as the ‘brass’.

Righteousness 

When Jesus calls us to stop being anxious like the pagans and SEE (consider, observe, remember, center back on, enjoy the fact of) evidence of His Kingdom, He also is reminding us to SEE Him.  The righteousness that goes along with the Kingdom IS Jesus.  Jesus is Jehovah-Tsedek, the LORD-Our Righteousness.

Again when we look up and center on Jesus, we lose the craziness.  The needs are still there, but we don’t have to panic or distract and fracture ourselves by all the pieces and layers of concerns.  Jesus has PROMISED to provide; He is trustworthy; we can therefore trust Him. 

For those of you who are interested, here are Strong’s definitions of the two Greek verbs.   Do you see how close in meaning they are? 

The Greek word for SEEK is 2212 or ZETEO – to search, look for, inquire, demand, 

The Greek word for SEE is 3708 or HORAO – to notice, perceive, recognize (and understand)

By the way, I heard a pastor mention that the most common command in the entire Bible IS the verb to SEE or LOOK (1100 times).  We even use this verb in everyday parlance when we’re trying to make a point. Did you ever hear anyone say: “Lookit!” to strengthen his case?

It DOES matter what we focus on, whether we use our physical eyes or the eyes of our hearts.  

And if Paul is correct, that we become more like Jesus by looking at Him, then why not really take Him at His word and shift our gaze from our very present and real worries to the very present, real and powerful Creator of the Universe, Jesus Christ who ALWAYS acts righteously. 

taste and see

I

Why God wants to be the one to take care of our worries

2 Comments

Last week I practiced handing over each worry/anxiety/problem/’concern’ as it came up as an act of obedience to God’s call to humble myself by transferring/dumping/casting them on Him. (…when I remembered!)

Not my problem

 

 

 

 

God’s words as recorded by Peter was my guide (1 Peter 5: 6-7):

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

The new thought that pressed in on me, though, was the ultimate reasons God gives for why we MUST hand over our burdens.  The first one is explicit, a kind of ‘DUH':

  • we are to hand them over to God because it is actually HE who is the one handling them!  It’s not something He says He WILL do, but that He right now is undertaking. So when we hold on to them and ‘think about‘, aka WORRY, we’re just spending precious energy in a maelstrom of anxiety that is accomplishing ZILCH.

But here’s what is even cooler about God’s command. I’ve always stopped after verse 7, not noticing what follows.  There happens to be an even MORE crucial reason why we are NOT to invest energy into our problems.  Look at the next exhortation as verses 8 and 9 continue the thought:

  • Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith.

When I really read these words, letting them sink in, the Holy Spirit reminded me that ‘…I am not my own.  I was bought with a price….I am an ambassador for Christ..I am on duty – always!’

And what good is a soldier on duty if he is distracted?  Our orders are to be alert and watchful:

Enemy the devil

 

 

 

 

I’m beginning to see that my thinking has been too small.  My error was believing – falsely – that my worries were my own business and didn’t impact anyone else.

I obviously have forgotten that I am responsible ALSO to my brothers and sisters in Christ, to look out for their spiritual well being.  And if I am so self-absorbed; if I am acting like a functional atheist who has no good and loving Heavenly Father, I am hurting the Church.

Here’s what I want to remember this week, that with Holy Spirit power I am both encouraged and am capable to:

  • trust in my good Father at all times (Ps 62:8)
  • not depend on MY understanding of the problems, worries, concerns, needs that concern me and my loved ones (Prov 3:5)
  • not do anything from selfish conceit, but be concerned and interested in the lives of others (Phil 2:3-4)

Family of God

Man proposes and God disposes

1 Comment

Proverbs 16:9  A man’s heart makes plans, but/and the Lord directs his path

Proverbs 16 9

Six weeks ago I received a group invitation to audit a seminary course.  The topic sounded fascinating – Biblical Theology of Women.  I had never thought of taking a course in theology, so it was intriguing.  But like everyone else, my schedule was already filled with more good things to read, study and learn than I had time for.

With some newfound wisdom AND at the same time desirous of taking on yet another ‘good’ thing, I did what I’ve never done before – think outside of the time box and make some serious choices about how I spend my 24 hours.

D.A. Carson, a wise, biblically-informed senior theologian, had counseled at a Bible conference that: If God has wired you to need 8 hours of sleep and you’re grumpy if you don’t, then SLEEP the 8 hours, for heaven’s sake!

So I made ‘enough sleep‘ a priority.

Enough sleep

And not just for the rest of the summer, but during the school year, too!  Obviously, other stuff had to go!  You can’t do it all. Even if ALL of it is ‘good’.  After sufficient sleep, I made my daily walk a priority.  Then came my quiet time which I re-arranged and divided into 2 separate daily time slots for the school-week.

None of that was too radical.  But I found myself faced with the need to eliminate a lot of reading.  Hard questions.  What do I truly WANT to read if I have to prioritize?  The answer was clear:  books!  I enjoy both French-language and English-language novels and books on the Bible, theology and the Christian life.   In order to allot at least 30 minutes a day to reading from them, I would have to eliminate the ever-growing email subscriptions I have kept up with for the past 7 to 8 years.  They had gotten to be a slave driver.  Just their presence in my inbox, piling up, always waiting was a reminder of ‘stuff I had to do!’

So I turned ruthless and cut all but 1 daily (John Piper’s Desiring God) and 1 weekly French and 1 neighbor’s weekly blog.

These steps (drastic for me!) were informed through new ideas from 4 books I providentially read this summer whose one theme was one’s dreams, goals, and purposes and new ways to think about what really matters.

Contented Jason in Lambie - 27 Mar

These past two weeks leading up to the start of a new school year have felt relaxed, almost as ‘relaxo’ as we describe one of our cats.  I haven’t been driven by the tyranny of my daily inbox to plow through and glean good stuff.  Each night after the dishes are done and the newspaper read, I have settled into my French novel, sitting out on our deck.  I have thoroughly relished reading for pleasure.  I now feel that I have a chance to make my way happily through a stack of books – the physical kind whose pages you turn.

Then I received the email with the syllabus to the course I had signed up for – the one that had prompted the weeding and gleaning and reorganizing of my time. And I had second thoughts.

Without ANY guilt, I have decided that I don’t want to add anything to this new ‘stasis’ in my life.  School has resumed and I am choosing to commute, teach, interact and listen to colleagues and students FEELING like I can spend the requisite time and not cheat them of my attention.

Let me draw this reflection to a close and pick up with the title of this blog post.  The adage and the proverb point out the truth that no matter what we plan, God is the one who directs our life.  God used the offer of a free course to bump my life around this summer, all for my good. And then He communicated to me that I should NOT take the course.  I’m not surprised.  But what IS a pleasant turn of events is this:  a friend to whom I mentioned the seminary course has jumped on it, eager to benefit.  God obviously had HER in mind all along.

So let us rest in knowing that even if we choose poorly, God is still in charge and will direct us if we willingly yield to His guidance.

Question:  when was a plan that you had laid out but that God re-directed and now you can see it was a ‘more excellent’ way?

 

 

 

How Prayer and Trust relate

2 Comments

 

Call on me in the Day of Trouble

 

 

 

As Paul Miller says, we all think we stink at prayer!

I would imagine that this assessment is a plot of the devil and his evil pals.  If they can get us NOT to pray, then God won’t accomplish much.  At least this is what the Satan thinks, thus laboring steadily to dissuade us from spending the time and energy and getting our hopes up!

But God….(two powerful words that introduce HOPE)…is ALWAYS at work so we should keep on stumbling through prayer by faith and trust He’ll help us grow in this area.

*

I’ve been reading an encouraging book on prayer.

Link to the book

Power of Prayer - Samuel Prime

 

 

 

 

 

If you purchase this account of the New York revival of 1858, chapters 16, 17 and the final one are worth the price of the book.  They made me WANT to pray.

Here is my take-away after spending a month in these pages. Picture thick ice that covers a lake in winter. ice on a lake

 

 

 

When you trust in the efficacy of the ice to sustain your weight, you venture out.  The degree of faith in that ice has NO effect on whether the ice is sufficient to bear your weight. Whether you timidly step out onto the ice (a little bit of faith) or you stride out boldly (strong faith), the ice’s ability to hold you up is not effected one whit.

The promises of God are like the ice.  When God says in HIS WORD that He will do this or that, we can be sure that He will!   Why? – because He is a perfect God who never changes.  His character, the sum-total of His attributes, is consistently above-reproach.  If He is ever or even one time good, He is ALWAYS good. If He is faithful once, He is ALWAYS faithful.  If He does what is right one time (act with righteousness and justice), then He will ALWAYS do what is righteous and just.  Why?  because His character  is on the line at all times. His primary motivation is for the glory or reputation of His name

Closely intertwined with His character are His promises.  What He says He will do is as good as done.  It’s money in the bank, as some would say.  His character is the foundation for His Word.

So, when you step out onto the solid ice-covered lake of His Word, it’s NOT

  • the strength or quality or purity of your faith
  • nor is it even your goodness, aka faithfulness
  • nor the quality of your past few quiet times
  • nor how committed you are THIS time to do…

It’s ALL Him.  And that is good news.

To sum up, here is my analogy -

Throwing up a prayer to God and then resting in the PERFECT assurance that He will hear that prayer and use it and take care of the situation/desire/need as HE best sees fit, is akin to stepping out on the ice-covered lake and having confidence that it will hold you up so you can play to your heart’s content.

Taking that worry back for yourself is like running in off the lake before you even crossed over to the other side or played a game.

Here’s what we have to remember:

Once we pray, and when our mind STILL returns to the need/concern/situation/desire, we must remind ourselves that the ice WILL hold.  God WILL take care of “it”.  His character and His word are our guarantee.  If we have to remind ourselves twelve times in 2 hours to leave the need in His hands, that’s okay.  No shame – we can do it!  It’s part of our learning curve in trust.

So I ask – what do you have to lose besides your old friend – the worry habit?

Question: Which worry or need are you willing to risk losing, by discharging it on Him? 

New Beginnings….. or Repentance aka 180 turnabout

2 Comments

There’s NO way – I don’t HAVE the time!

No time

Have you ever found yourself going ’round and round’ with the same problem, unable to see a way forward?

Time is always the most stalwart of constraints, or so I thought until a new idea collided with my lifestyle time routine.

Over the years as the internet has exploded with content, I have gradually added to my daily life blog posts in both French and English about logic, French culture, teaching foreign languages, apologetics, Biblical Christianity, word origins, cooking and fitness.  Innocent at first, prideful as time passed, I got used to  beaming inwardly at having grown into a well-read, thinking person.  On top of that I would boast (to myself of course!) how I was not like others who WASTE time with TV and idle chatter, but I was one of those few ‘efficient users of time’.

Truth be told, I had become a slave to all the content, spending up to one and a half hours a day reading, saving and forwarding on to friends and family (I truly apologize for blitzing your inboxes with stuff – all very ‘good for you’, you know!)   I took pride in this self-appointed ‘job’, yet felt constrained as I continually pushed up against the 24 hours that God has allotted to each one of us.

*

Then an offer to audit an on-line seminary course on Biblical Womanhood arrived and I was intrigued.

Info about the course is here

Realistically, I knew that there was NO WAY I could fit the required on-line viewing, reading and study into my soon-to-ramp up teaching life this fall unless I eliminated something.

Here’s where God came in – by His providential timing, my oldest son Graham gifted me with a book he re-reads every year.  Pen in hand, I started working through it this week.  Some of Tim Ferriss’ ideas shattered my self-limiting notions about time!Four Hour Work Week

 

 

 

 

  • Being busy is a form of laziness
  • Lack of time is actually lack of priorities

I have ALWAYS asked God to stretch my time, but never have I asked Him to re-order my activities or even IF what I was doing was what He wanted me to do with my His time. 

If you haven’t guessed already, I like to read.  I REALLY like books and there’s never enough TIME!

So prompted by the impending collision of Tim Ferriss’  new ideas AND the desire to add something to my life, I turned ruthless!

  • Yesterday I unsubscribed from all but 3 email blogs,
  • eliminated ALL my Feedly subscriptions
  • and even dropped off the professional list-serves I have followed for 13 years.

This is good news for ALL of my friends and family.  I won’t be passing on more stuff that you either

-read out of politeness and delete

-or delete and feel guilty about

Change can exercise a snow-ball effect.  Along with freeing up study time by eliminating screen time, I have decided that the amount of sleep I get during the summer when I’m not in school is what I really need to feel good.  So come the start of the new school year, I will do the following: instead of getting up super early in time BOTH to walk AND do my daily Bible study ‘cum’ prayers, I will sleep the 7 and one half hours optimal for me and shift Bible time to the evenings when I’m not rushed.

As David prayed in Psalm 31, verse 15:

My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies

My Times are in your hands

 

 

 

I used to ask God to STRETCH ‘my’ time.  How arrogant – as though I knew best how to fill the time allotted to me!

It’s BABY STEPS in this new way of asking Him what He wants me to do with HIS time entrusted to me to steward.

Question: What new idea from God has recently turned YOUR world upside down?

What’s the rush? You’re not going to miss your ultimate appointment!

1 Comment

“There are two days in my calendar: This day and that Day.” – Martin Luther

Martin Luther

 

 

 

 

 

I like Martin Luther’s earthiness for he was not afraid to enjoy life boldly and speak the truth with fresh vigor.

But what arrested me recently was his peculiar time-management system, at least as far as I can surmise from how he kept his calendar!

What about you and me?  For all the tech devices we employ, meant to make life easier, we seem to be burdened and tied down to what was designed to free us.

I’ve pondered schedules and the existence of RUSHING as a lifestyle this summer.  With 6 of my 9 weeks off as a teacher now a pleasant memory, I’ve been thinking a lot about TIME as I have crossed off summer chores and tackled ‘meaty’ books.  Can you believe that a couple of days I even ‘stressed’ at all I had to/wanted to do?

But is that the way a Christian who trusts God is supposed to live his life?  Does the Bible counsel rushing? By no means!  God WANTS us to develop patience, that is the qualities of endurance and steadfastness (Greek 5281 – hypomone). To prove my point, I’ve pulled out a few snippets of God’s will for us:

  • ..run with patience/endurance -Hebr 12:1  (‘feels’ like a contradiction, but not according to God)
  • …Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him – Gen 5:24 (God’s schedule, not ours) 
  • ….those who wait upon the Lord will ….run – Is 40:31 (have to keep our eyes on Him to catch His signal that NOW is the time to run using His holy petrol) 
  • …But if we hope for what we do not see, with patience/ perseverance we wait eagerly for it – Rom 8:25
  • Now may the God who gives patience/ perseverance and encouragement …. Rom 15:5 (a gift) 
  • And let patience/endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing – James 1:4  (patience aka learning to wait is God’s goal and desire for us!) 
  • For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10 (If God has these divine appointments and purposes planned, let us not fret about our time which is ALSO purposed and planned)

But how are we to gain this patience? Do you know ANYONE who is naturally patient? I don’t!

Here’s the truth: Patience is a gift from God.  But He doesn’t just imbue us with this attribute; He cultivates it IN us by means of the trials, struggles and problems He walks us through.  Do you get that? Suffering has a purpose when we consecrate it to God, when we trust our good Father in the midst of our hardships.  And knowing that there are reasons, even if we can’t see them, is far better than thinking that this painful stuff is just randomly occurring to us!  Chalking problems up to bad luck or fate produces NO endurance or patience – for what’s the point of bearing up well, if there’s NO POINT at all!

*

So what about those days when we don’t get done what we had planned?  The good news is – it doesn’t matter! God IS sovereign over our time because it’s not OUR time, but His!  He can chop it short or stretch it out.  And if the only day that really counts is when we meet Him face to face, then why stress?

Here’s a fact, both for the pagan unbeliever who is hostile to God AND for the child of the King who loves God. There IS a day appointed and fixed for each of us.  That is Martin Luther’s red-letter day.  You can be sure that you won’t miss that rendez-vous when each of us will meet Jesus face to face.  You can’t rush that meeting nor delay it.

Jesus holding girl

God uses ALL things, even the ‘Beast Within’

4 Comments

I heard a sermon where the pastor made reference to Paul’s lament of not being able to control his inner beast:

Romans 7:21 – 24  So I find this law at work:  When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Those most honest with themselves, especially Christians, will sometimes despair, like the ‘Super Apostle’ Paul, of ever being rescued from the struggle.  I think we ASSUME that eventual sanctification will rid us of this ‘can’t be me version!’.

Johnny Cash

 

Even contemporary cultural icons like Johnny Cash could recognize the battle within:  His song ‘The Beast In Me’  chronicles his struggle to tame the evil self within.  Lyrics to his song

 

 

My beast came out in a hurtful way a couple of days ago.  My mother-in-law is with us this week.  Driving back from a lovely outing to Biltmore, she and I were dancing around social issues and lightly touching the topic of her denomination when one of its prominent former leaders came up.  She made me chuckle when she called him a name that I would NOT have expected from the lips of an 85-year old dignified lady!

My choice when I got home was to:

  • tell Mike privately so he could share my smile
  • tell Mike in her presence as we were fixing dinner

Even though I KNEW that by raising it publicly I risked opening up a can of worms – i.e. discussion about areas of disagreement between Mike and his mom, the beast within me carried the day.

And the pattern I predicted bore its sour fruit.  My dad used to call what I did - ‘pulling wings off of flies’ (that deliberate engaging people in their soft spots with the intention of provoking and hurting them.)

As Mike and his mom engaged, his emotions got the better of him and the tenor of his voice changed in intensity and volume.  His mother criticized his MANNER of discussing the issue and he reacted to her criticism like he was a teen at home and the atmosphere got awkward.  I changed the subject feeling remorse and shame, knowing all along that I had deliberately set Mike up.

As you might have surmised, this is not the FIRST time I have deliberately stirred the pot with my poisonous words.

*

But God…!!!

Those wonder-filled, power-affirming 2 words:  as I repented and asked for forgiveness from my heavenly Father the next morning on my walk, I started praying for my husband’s heart and for his relationship with his mom.  I could tell that he had gone to bed bothered and sad.  We hadn’t talked about it.  But I know him.  And worse….I KNEW what I had done.

Later during that next day, I asked him if he were alright.  And he mentioned he was still bothered by the previous night.  As I had been praying for his heart, I just offered the suggestion that if he were to approach his mom and apologize for raising his voice, she might be so startled at this new behavior. And who knew just how God might use that softer side of Mike?  I offered this glimpse of his mom’s possible reaction and a way to clear the air as a suggestion.

He later reported to me that he had done the very thing….and felt better.

*

I re-learned two facts:

  • I need continually to be praying that only what is KIND, true and necessary be what comes out of my mouth. The corollary to THAT is that I must not forget that my first inclination at times is to do what is NOT loving and pleasing to my Father.
  • God IS able to use all our sin for our good and His glory.  Not that we should sin on freely, but that we don’t have to despair each time the beast pops his ugly head out –  unbidden.

Returning to Paul’s admission of his personal on-going struggle with his wicked nature, the comforting reminder in Romans 7 picks up with his question in verse 24b – Who will rescue me from this body of death?

verse 25 - THANKS BE TO GOD – THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD!

God works all things

 

 

 

 

 

 

*I’m thankful that I still have a few more days to practice kindness with my mom-in-law, relying on God to give me both the desire,  the will and the strength to keep the beast tied up!

Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 394 other followers

%d bloggers like this: