What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, July 28, 2016


I’m writing a special blog today to talk about anxiety. I can’t afford to let anxiety rule my life. And I can’t afford to use unhealthy coping skills for alleviating the stress (or forgetting all about).
I didn’t grow up in an environment that taught me how to effectively cope with situations that bring anxiety into my life. I recognize, after being told many times, that everyone has anxiety to one level or another, but some people learned coping skills that are effective. I developed coping mechanisms, however they were not healthy. In fact, they usually added to the stress and were deadly if I continued to use them.
I’m talking about drinking, withdrawing from others, self-harming behaviors, not eating, eating too much, etc. Sometimes those techniques worked for a while – a short period of time – however, the long term effects were worse than the original anxiety. I’ve learned to play the tape all the way through to the end. The final scene in the movie of my life is a very sad one should I choose to use any or several of the dysfunctional skills. I didn’t really learn that until I was almost 40 years old.
So, I’m experience some anxiety over several situations happening (or will happen soon) in my life. Today, I share about those feelings and get some guidance on what to do or think so I make healthy choices in my behaviors and thoughts. For instance, one of the things causing me anxiety is an upcoming trip I am making to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’m okay with the trip except the part about driving over the Mackinaw Bridge. I’ve been a passenger many times, but I’m in somewhat of a panic about actually doing the driving. It was pointed out to me that the same conditions apply to that segment of the trip whether I’m driving or not. All the catastrophes I think about are not really very realistic. It was pointed out to me that they close the bridge if conditions are unsafe. I was reminded that the bridge authority is constantly maintaining the bridge. It was suggested that I don’t look at the “scenery” but keep my eyes on the road. And finally, I was reminded that God is in ultimate control and He has my best interests in mind. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”
If I believe that God is all powerful, in control, and loves me, I cannot then say I don’t trust Him in my current situation. That thought brings me a certain amount of peace – for a time; it doesn’t always last very long. I can go back to Him as many times as it takes for me to get over the bridge or past any troubling situation in my life.

Acts 6:1 -15: About Stephen

As I’ve been studying Acts 6, I was struck by two verses and their possible applications to my life. The first verse is Acts 6:7: “And the word of God kept on spreading and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”

This verse comes directly after the apostles and the congregation appointed 7 men to be the distributors of the communally held assets so the Hellenistic (Greek-speaking) Jews would not be slighted. So the apostles were relieved from having to handle the daily tasks and could focus on studying and preaching the word of God. Somehow, doing this lead to an increase in disciples and impacted a great number of priests so that they came to believe.

I don’t know if the increase in disciples resulted from the apostles being freed up to preach the gospel (instead of dealing with internal dilemmas within the church). Or possibly the increase happened because these 7 men impacted the community in such a way as to draw attention and respect from the people in Jerusalem. Possibly Stephen and the others, learned valuable lessons from their service which enabled them to become exceptional preachers of the message (as seen in verses 8 and 9). It’s possible they learned from serving God in this behind-the-scenes way more about power, faith, wisdom and grace (6:3, 5, 8), which led them to be powerful and effective proclaimers of the word.

This can be applied in my life by recognizing that the seemingly menial tasks I do (especially volunteering in a couple of ministries at church, and writing my blog, and even getting healthy) may become (or are) a platform for sharing the truth of God's Word and work in our lives. I need to be faithful, diligent, and responsible for doing the tasks ordained to me by God, so the Word will be proclaimed. Specifically for me, today, this means writing my “weekly” blog article (which I haven’t done for a couple of weeks now).

Then as I finished up Acts 6 I was challenged by the second verse that stood out to me. Acts 6:15 says, "And fixing their gaze on [Stephen], all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel." This is an incredible description of Stephen as he's being accused in front of the Council of blasphemous acts and speech. I asked myself what a "face like the face of an angel" would look like. I also asked myself if I, in a similar situation having to defend Christ and His Word, would I have a similar countenance as Stephen did. The first question was answer by several commentators. Together they indicated that the phrase "face of an angel" could mean several things. First it could mean, "God permitted His glory to shine through the face of Stephen to convince all the people that what he had said was the truth." That's what I always believed in the back of my mind. However, other commentators said that it was not some miraculous sign of God. They tended to say that the look on Stephen's face (a face like an angel) was "denoting that {Stephen] manifested evidence of sincerity, gravity, fearlessness, and confidence in God . . . calmness and dignity and confidence in God." That led me to some possible answers to the second question (would I have a similar countenance?)

I'm not sure what my face would look like. I hope and pray I would appear to others to be calm, sincere, serious, fearless, dignified, and having confidence in God. I prayed this morning that God would develop those characteristics in me. When all is said and done, I want it to be obvious to everyone – nurse, doctor, mental health worker, policemen, family, friends – observing my dying days that I have faith in God and belief in the principles of Christ right up to the last moment I'm alive. And today, I am trying to develop that character in my life through reading and studying His Word, as a way of applying these two principles to my life.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Acts 5:1-42: Persecution, Again

This chapter of Acts addressed two things: Purging from within (the results of Ananias’ and Sapphiras’ lies); and Purging attempts from without (the Sanhedrin persecutes the apostles again). I saw two things in the second part that made me take notice.
The first thing was found in verse 32: “And we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” In the study notes, it mentioned that we all have the capacity for the Holy Spirit to work through us in miraculous ways. Why don’t we see the kinds of miracles the apostles witnessed and performed? I think the answer is in how much we are obeying (or not obeying) Christ’s commands and words. Are we as nearly devoted to sharing about Christ’s resurrection to a world that doesn’t know Him as the early Church was? Are we sharing communally with our fellow believers as the early Church was? Are we willing to rejoice in the midst of persecution as the early Church was? I don’t see that today in our churches (or in myself). I think my obedience and belief are tempered by the supposed sophistication of modern ideas and philosophies. So my commitment and behavior are not what I would call “filled with the Holy Spirit.” I think there are elements of unbelief in my heart that are thwarting the Holy Spirit from giving me the same power that the early Church had. And therefore I don’t see the same results the apostles saw.
This brings me to the second thing that stood out to me in this passage. In verse 41 it tells us the response of the apostles to the persecution they had just gone through. “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” When I encounter suffering or persecution (in no way as severe as the apostles suffered), do I rejoice in the midst of it? Do I rejoice after it? For that matter do I rejoice at all? If I had the same power of the Holy Spirit working through me as the apostles had, would I rejoice then? Possibly but I won’t know unless I give myself completely to His cause.
I don’t see persecution as a blessing or something to rejoice about. One of the writers of the reference notes I was looking at for this verse pointed out why this may be so. Basically, when we don’t focus on the reward in the world to come (i.e. heaven), we don’t see anything to rejoice about. The suffering seems pointless and purposeless and just part of the grind of life. However, when the suffering comes and we view it as part of God’s plan for our lives, and recognize that we are suffering the same as Jesus did, we can rejoice because we will receive the same reward Jesus received: eternal life. And, not just any eternal life, but a life filled with joy, glory, blessings, painlessness, without struggles, and basking in the glory of the Lord. When I focus on the reward to come, I am better able to accept the suffering in my life. I need to take it one step further and rejoice in it.