Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dealing with Worry

Have you ever participated in an experiment where you were given a phrase like “yellow car” and then were asked to put it out of your mind?  But the harder you tried, the more yellow dominated your thoughts.  This kind of exercise shows that we can never forget something by concentrating on it. Anxious thoughts which come with the cares of life are like that.  How many of us spend sleepless nights trying to solve complex problems and all we accomplish is fixing them more firmly in our minds. Paul knew all about the thought process, and found a way to deal with worry.  He tells us about it in the book of Philippians.  While occupying a jail cell, awaiting trial and the eventual sentence of either life or death he encouraged his readers to be joyful. “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” This sounds like a man who found the key to worry.  He simply gave the instruction to turn them over to the Father. Possibly his discovery came by reflecting upon the admonition given to the disciples by Jesus. “Do not worry about the necessities of life, because your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” From this we learn according to David McCasland that “the way to forget our worries is to concentrate on the goodness and loving care of God, not on the problems that plague us.” David Sper agrees and wrote the following poem:

                        When we give all our cares to God
                        Our worries will depart
                        He gives to us a peace of mind
                        That calms our anxious heart

This prescription will always work. Focusing on worry will bury you but giving the same attention to God will unburden you. Everyday each of us is handed a running list of things that can preoccupy our mind and drive us to the precipice of insanity. However, on those occasions when you decide to jump make sure you leap in the direction of God. By doing so you will have no problem dealing with worry! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Converts Are Watching

Early in Max Lucado’s life he realized he had an alcohol problem so he finally in time gave up drinking altogether. He was asked to write down the reasons why he now abstains. He wrote these words, "First it affects my body.  Second, it lowers my standards. I’ve never heard anyone say, 'a beer makes me feel more Christ-like.' Third, it diminishes my influence.”  He then told the following story. “Several years ago, I was on a trip and I ended up playing golf by myself that day. When the girl came riding around in a cart and asked if I wanted something to drink I thought in my mind what harm could it cause, so I ordered a beer. She said as she handed it to me, 'Hey, aren't you the guy who writes all these Christian books?' Max Lucado said, 'that did it— that made my decision— no more alcohol.'" The noted author was surprised when he realized that someone knew him but more than that, they were watching. However, the truth of the matter is, there is always someone watching.  This is especially true of young converts who have given their lives to Christ.  They eagerly search for someone to show them the way.  Benjamin Jacob, the Baptist layman who helped to transform Sunday school into a worldwide movement, spoke of teaching as leading others by example and stated, Children--converts may or may not study their Bibles as diligently as desired, but they will study the lives of the adults they meet in the church.  Senabaugh, author of The Small Church School contended that religion is caught more than taught. If this be true and it is, we must be intentional in our attempt at making disciples.  We must teach young converts the right things and the right way, but most of all we show them; because whether we realize it or not, they are always watching.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

He Beautifies

Little Johnny watched, fascinated, as his mother smoothed cold cream on her face. 'Why do you do that, mommy?' he asked. 'To make myself beautiful,' said his mother, who then began removing the cream with a tissue. 'What's the matter?' asked Little Johnny. 'Giving up?' This humorous story reminds me of reality.  Beauty is something everyone desires.  Some work hard focusing on the outward. They buy nice clothes, shoes, expensive make-up, and flashy jewelry trying to achieve satisfaction.  Others turn their attention inwardly purchasing self-help books, going to therapists, seminars and engage in various mental exercises in an effort to achieve the ultimate sense of approval. While this search transpires daily in the natural it also applies even more so to the spiritual.  There are those who work incessantly trying to achieve spiritual perfection in an effort to please themselves and God. They engage in bible reading, prayer, works, attend church and conferences trying to crown themselves with approval.  However, Isaiah says “But we are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” The prophet of old was saying, “You’re ugly and you will always be ugly as long as you try to beautify yourself.” If that be true what is the believer’s hope? Are we to be left in our deplorable state searching for the unachievable?  No way! The Psalmist gives the answer. “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people, He will beautify the meek with salvation.” In essence the goal everyone wants to reach is that state of pristine righteousness which gives us the look of acceptance. But how does that happen? Paul describes it like this; “For he made him to be sin who knew no sin; that we might become the  righteousness of God in him. Jesus experienced all the ugliness that could ever be passed onto an individual and in exchange gave beauty. As a consequence, if you want to become beautiful naturally, emotionally, and spiritually stop trying to do it on your own and accept what has already been done.  We have all been graced by the one who through his work on the cross beautifies.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014


A few days ago while attending a meeting out of town I experienced something rather heartbreaking. I had gone to visit a friend staying in our hotel and upon returning to my room encountered a husband and wife in the hallway.  The man looked rather confused so I asked, “can I help you?” The wife in a desperate tone replied, “He doesn’t know who I am and where we are. He wants to leave.” His loving companion of many years was trying to get him to understand who she was but with little success. As I watched his actions and heard him talk it was apparent that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. I tried to help by asking questions like, “Do you know where your wife and family are? Why don’t you go into this ladies room and rest until help arrives?”  But, the confusion only continued. Finally, as a last resort medics were called in to assist. Just as they arrived it appeared as if his ability to remember returned.  He moved toward his wife, hugged her and said, “I’m sorry, I love you.”  Although she said very little you could see the feeling of desperation leave her. As I stood and watched in the silence of the moment it was if she was saying, “He’s back! I have my husband back!”  I realized this episode is one experienced by thousands as they see their loved ones make the journey into a strange land of the unknown only to return occasionally to the place of sensibility. While this is such a sad sight in the natural, it is even greater for those who experience it spiritually. Jesus looked into the eyes of the church in Ephesus and said, “Remember from where you have fallen.”  Those spoken to had lost their spiritual equilibrium. They were standing in the hallways of time unable to remember who they were and why they existed. They had momentarily lost sight of the groom who had given the ultimate sacrifice for their hand in marriage.  It’s so easy to become preoccupied with business or with the needs and pressures of life to the point that we lose all sensibility. It’s not one of those things where we wake up one morning and say, “You know I think I’ll forget God today.”  No, we don’t intend to but just like the husband mentioned earlier we feel ourselves disoriented unable to put things together. The spiritual disease of memory loss creeps upon us. While we can do certain mental exercises to help in the natural, the same holds true in the spiritual. Praying, reading, meditating and renewed focus assures us that we will have no problem remembering the one who loves us and gave himself for us.