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, April 26, 2018

Be Anxious for Nothing, Part 2

More thoughts from Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing study follow for this week’s blog article. Starting with Chapter #3 for this week, the following quotes impressed me.
“Guilt frenzies the soul. Grace calms it.” First, there’s a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt says, “I did bad, and I can do something differently next time.” Shame says, “I am bad and nothing can change that; I’m always bad to the bone.” I learned that the hard way and over a period of years. I had my doubts that they were different things. Now I see just how different they are. I would amend this quote to say, “Guilt and/or shame frenzies the soul . . .” When I feel guilt, doing what I can to make the situation better and make appropriate amends to those I have harmed does lighten the turmoil in my soul. It involves making things as right as possible, but it also involves extending grace to myself. God has forgiven me through His great mercy. I need to also do the same for myself.
“Unresolved guilt will turn you into a miserable, weary, angry, stressed-out, fretful mess.” This goes right along with the quote above. I lived for many years with a frenzied soul. I was miserable, weary, angry and fretful. I can still get that way if I don’t deal quickly and appropriately with my guilt. In AA we have a saying, “It’s better to eat crow warm.” The quicker we make amends and let God’s forgiveness wash over us, the more we can feel better about ourselves (and the quicker we can rejoice in the mercy and compassion of God).
“A happy saint is one who at the same time is aware of the severity of sin and the immensity of grace.” We wouldn’t need grace if there were no sin. And sin, I’ve found, separates me from God. My personal spiritual journey is enmeshed with severe sins and grievous missteps. I recognize I’ve been forgiven much – but all of us has regardless of the level of sin we’ve been involved in. As a result I love much. In Luke 7:47, Jesus says of the woman who anointed His feet with perfume: "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." When we realize the nature of our sins – whether “great” or “small” – we cannot but help but love God for His grace toward us.
“Rejoicing doesn’t always look like what we may think. It doesn’t have to be a smiling face and an upbeat personality.” Thank God! There have been many times in my life when others, and myself, would not consider my personality “upbeat.” Words that have been used to describe my personality include things like “intense” and “serious.” I thought for a long time that meant I wasn’t spiritual enough. I somehow got the wrong message that all Christians should be upbeat and happy – all the time. There is a difference between our personalities and the inner peace and joy we can have in Christ. Saying that does not excuse my pessimism or grumpiness. I need to keep Christ first and foremost in mind at all times. When I do that, I can praise God and be thankful in the midst of trials and suffering. We have a hope no one can take away from us. Rejoice in that. That kind of joy may show others there is hope no matter what our circumstances may be.
I suspect as my Bible study partner and I finish up the study of Philippians 4:4-9 next week, I will have more thoughts based on various quotes. Actually, this may go on for a few more weeks, as there is much that got my attention as we summarize the lessons in this study.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Be Anxious for Nothing

As I finish up my study of Philippians 4:4-9, several of the sentences from Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing are worth exploring. I have another week or two before totally leaving this study (before starting on 1 and 2 Samuel), and I may make further comments as I come up with a summary of the lessons I’ve learned. However, for now, these are my thoughts.
“Anxiety is not a sin; it is an emotion.” Emotions are tricky things for me. I’ve spent most of my life thinking that feelings are to be avoided at all costs. After years of therapy, I’m beginning to see the value of the emotional aspects of our being – aspects God created us to have. Yet, I struggle when it comes to “negative” emotions. Somehow I got it into my head that feelings such as sadness, frustration, loneliness, guilt, anger, depression, and yes, anxiety/fear are not good and we shouldn’t have them. This quote reiterates what my therapists have been telling me all along. Emotions are just information. They are not sins. God knew we would have these feelings and thoughts. What we do with them, our behavior, determines whether we sin or not.
“Have I yielded sovereignty to God?” I’ve known and understood the concept that God is sovereign over everything: creation, spiritual battles, weather, people, etc. Yet, I still tried to hold onto the idea that I was self-determined and in control of my life. That it is up to me to effectively manage my world in order to get outcomes that are positive. Wrong! Everything is in God’s hands. I am sovereign (able to rule) over nothing in this world. Yielding my self-sovereign ideas to God’s sovereignty makes life so much easier and less stressful. When I truly believe that God is able and willing to take care of everything, I can freely go about serving Him and trust Him for the outcomes according to His plans. There’s peace in that. Outcomes are not my responsibility.
“The mind cannot at the same time be full of God and full of fear.” I’ve found that to be true. In the last year or so I’ve started everyday with a focus on God. I’ve opened my day with five minutes of praise. I’ve devoted myself to the study of Scripture. I’ve started a prayer journal again. And, throughout the day, I revisit those activities as often as possible (especially the praise). I’ve found my fear to cease as I reflect on God’s power and might and love and mercy and compassion, etc. Fear comes back of course, but I pause and praise and meditate on memorized Scripture, and calm returns. Sometimes, I have to do this many times a day. I’ve found that the more God there is in my thoughts, the less fear affects my attitudes and behaviors. Ultimately, the more peace I have.
“Your anxiety decreases as your understanding of your Father increases.” That goes right along with having a mind full of God. The best (and only?) way I’ve found to truly increase my understanding of my Father is to read, study, memorize, and meditate on His Word, the Bible. I can’t think myself into understanding God. I can’t wish myself into understanding God. I can’t really get an understanding of God by listening to other people’s experiences with God. I need to spend intimate time with Him and His words in order to get to know Him. I need to give Him at least as much time as I would give a person I’m hoping to develop a friendship with. It does require quiet, purposeful discussion and conversation. I can’t really hear God without knowing His Word. Also, I don’t want to know what other people think about God. I want to personally know Him. That means personal time with Him learning about Him through His words.
Hopefully, these thoughts have given you some things to think about. They’ve been great lessons for me, and great reminders of what can happen when I apply Philippians 4:4-9 to my behavior and thoughts.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Quick Thoughts on Philippians 4:4-8

I did not have time this week to write a blog article. Appointments and computer problems got in the way. However, I do have some thoughts on Philippians 4:4-8 and being anxious for nothing.

My Bible study partner and I have been using Max Lucado's book and study guide on this passage of Scripture: Anxious for Nothing. I highly recommend it for everyone, and especially for those who struggle frequently with the issue of anxiety.

In the midst of these familiar verses is verse 5: "Let your forbearing spirit (gentleness) be known to all men. The Lord is near." In situations that can bring me anxiety, remaining gentle and kind, -- instead of frustrated, angry, and defensive -- can help soothe the situation instead of creating further anxiety. And the reason this is possible? Because the Lord is near. Some versions say, "The Lord is at hand." This is not only a true statement, it is key to our existence. He's available. He's taking care of things. He's always working and using situations in our lives to bring about His glory.

Knowing that, we can lay aside our anxieties and trust Him. We can more easily do what verses 6 and 7 say to do: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, practicing verse 8, meditating on the good things in this world and on the good character of God, will impress upon our hearts and minds the fact that the Lord is near. Peace comes from that.

Doing this study and memorizing this passage (in its entirety which I've never done before), has given me a new sense of God's peace in my life. I highly recommend it for everyone. If purchasing the books is not possible, meditating on Philippians 4:4-8 will change your perspective as it's changed mine. And the peace of God will guard you as a result.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Acts 12: Fervent Prayer

When I was writing about the Book of Acts, I did not write anything specific about Acts 12. Here are some thoughts I had as I was rereading this portion of Acts this week.
Most of Acts 12 gives us an account of a miracle involving Peter. Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of the Herod the Great who ruled at the birth of Jesus, was now ruling in Jerusalem. He was supposedly a “zealous practicer of Jewish rites and a religious patriot (Ryrie Study Notes).” In Acts 12 he was busy rounding up the believers still in Jerusalem “in order to mistreat them (vs. 1).” “And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword (vs. 2).” The mistreatment seemed to please the Jews so he also had Peter arrested and thrown in jail.
Peter was chained to guards and other guards were blocking the doorway. Just before he was to be brought to Herod for judgment, the miracle happened. An angel came and broke the chains, opened the doors and escorted Peter out of the prison. Once free, Peter realized just what God had done by sending an angel to rescue him. Peter went to a specific house where he had probably been many times. We can assume he knew people would be there praying.
In verse 5, we have a description of what was going on in that house: “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.” This is a challenge to me. Is my prayer “fervent?” Is the prayer being made in my church “fervent?” According to Merriam-webster.com, fervent is defined as: “exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling: zealous.” Great intensity. Can my prayer life be described as having great intensity? I think I’ve rarely been in a situation where I would describe the prayer as being fervent.
At an Easter Sunday service at my church recently, the Pastor was explaining the gospel message tracing Jesus’ role from Genesis to Revelation. There was an opportunity for people to come forward if they had made a decision to follow Christ during the last year or if they were making first time decisions right then. This was a cause for fervent prayer. Throughout the services, there were people praying – individually and in small groups. I think I experienced fervent prayer as I was part of one of those small groups. However, it was relatively short-lived compared to the all-night praying of the early church for Peter’s situation.
I also wonder if we prayer fervently for those in our world today who are imprisoned for the sake of the gospel. I’m convicted by my lack of knowledge of such people around the world. I know there are some, possibly many, but I just don’t know any specifics about them or their situations. I do, however, have first hand experience with situations in Haiti involving social unrest, poverty, health concerns, and educational issues. I can be fervently praying for the people I met and those who are on the front lines trying to minister in those difficult situations. I need to do more of that. I think we also should all do some research into which and where people are imprisoned or under persecution for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I think there’s a place for fervent prayer in our world today. Maybe even more so as the time of Christ’s return is closer everyday. Am I, are you, praying angels into situations where believers need divine help? I’m going to start doing more of that kind of praying.