Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting to the Heart of Anxiety

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, 
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil. 4:6,7

We live in an anxiety-driven society.  

I started this blog by researching the statistics of what Americans take for anxiety, who takes it, ages, male vs. female, insured vs uninsured and about an hour into my search I realized that it would be better to just assume those who disagree with my opening statement would go and research it themselves.  Truth be known, it was making me anxious…really.

So let's just agree that we have a lot of anxiety. If I took a poll at church, I think I would find many, many categories of what we worry about, from our past to our present and our future.  From children to spouse to parents, from health to wealth to death - we can find something to stress about 24/7.   

So it seems pretty simplistic to just tell people - don't worry and pray instead. But is that really what God instructs us to do in His word?  I want to start with a few basic principles from the Bible that don't have the word "anxiety" in them but contain truths that affect our anxiety levels:
  1. God wants your heart - Where your treasure is, there your heart is also (Matt. 6:21).  What you value, what you desire, your goals and your motivations - if they are set on Jesus, then your actions and feelings will follow. What does your heart value?   What is the relationship between what you treasure and your anxiety?
  2. God wants you to have an eternal perspective on life - Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth (Col. 3:1,2).  View life through an eternal lens - God is in control, He has a plan that He absolutely will accomplish, there are things that have eternal value and things that have earthly value - where do you place your focus?  Does what you think about make you anxious?
  3. God wants you to sow good seeds - Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:7-9).  The law of the harvest is true - what you put in the ground is what you are going to eventually produce.  If you put bad seeds in the ground, you're going to have a bad harvest.  Is it possible that what you are sowing is causing a harvest of anxiety?
Okay, now let's make some observations about our verse above:
  • Be anxious for nothing - God is not exaggerating when He uses 100% words.  He really is instructing us not to be anxious about anything.  But with the following phrases, we can understand WHY we are able to be anxious for nothing
  • But in everything by prayer and supplication - this means a HUMBLE PETITION brought to One who is an object of worship - we are to humble ourselves, acknowledging the fact that we need help and bring our concerns to the only One who can make a difference
  • with thanksgiving - this is our heart attitude.  Why are we thankful? Typically when we come in prayer to the Lord, life is tough and what is there to be thankful for?  Unfortunately, this is the mindset of many believers, when the list of things to thank the Lord for are endless - for life, for breath, for health, for weather, for air to breathe, for relationships, for housing, for food, for the ability to read, drive, sing, talk, sleep, play, work, think, for salvation, justification, redemption, adoption and for forgiveness…as I said, the list is endless. So with humble hearts, we thank the Lord that the gates of heaven's throne room are open to us and our Father's lap is always empty and ready for a one-on-one conversation.
  • let your requests be made known to God - He asks that you come to Him. He asks that you talk to Him. He asks that you tell Him your heart.  Don't misunderstand this - He is God and He knows all, but He has created us to be in relationship with us and instead of saying, Don't bother telling me what I already know - He beckons us into His throne room, pulls us onto His lap and says, "Tell Me what is bothering you.  I want to know everything!"
  • And the peace of God - you are no longer estranged from the Father - you have perfect communion with the ONLY ONE who can help you - in giving your anxiousness to the Lord, He will replace it with peace that comes from the understanding that He loves you, He cares for you and He is in control, working out all the circumstances in your life for good
  • which surpasses all comprehension - go back and read the last bullet point - can you really fully explain it?  In addition to that, because we are in relationship with God, He can produce a peace in us that no one can understand - why aren't you freaking out? (Your friends will say.) Because I know God is in control (is your answer).
  • will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus - God's peace has a tough job.  It has been given the task of protecting our hearts and minds - we're back to what we treasure.  The peace that comes from our restored relationship with God through Jesus and that is produced as we are sanctified in Christ, that peace will guard our minds - what we are thinking about, what makes us anxious, the origin of our worry - peace will protect us from anxiety because the peace we have is produced from a restored relationship with God Almighty
Okay, that's enough from me today - you have plenty to mull over in this verse…may God's truth richly dwell in your hearts and minds today.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Believe vs Obey

He who believes in the Son has eternal life;
but he who does not obey the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God abides on Him.
John 3:36

The top quote is by Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher/theologian/poet who is considered to be the first existential philosopher.  Despite his credentials, his message above is pretty simple - belief and obedience are intrinsically connected.

John agrees in his statement, as well.  It's not a gospel of works salvation but a gospel of faith in what Jesus accomplished on our behalf that produces obedience.  Do you see it?  If we were to write this verse out as simple equations, here's what it would look like:


Person + belief = eternal life


Person + disobedience = no life but wrath


obedience is the proof of belief

So let's test this hypothesis:
  • Noah believed God was going to flood the earth, so he built an ark
  • Abraham believed God would keep His promise to make a great nation of Isaac, so he willingly offered Isaac as a sacrifice to God, expecting God to raise him from the dead
  • Jacob believed God's promise to bring him back home so he faithfully served Laban, waiting for God's instruction to return
  • Joseph believed the dream God gave him, so no matter where he was he worked hard and sought the Lord's favor in all he did, waiting for the promise to be fulfilled, saying, "Not you, but God…"
  • Joshua believed God would give him Jericho, so he gathered his men, gave them trumpets and marched around the city day after day after day
  • Moses believed God's instructions at the first Passover, so he applied the blood of a lamb over his doorpost so that God would not kill the firstborn in his house
My point is easily made by walking through the lives of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, but let's make this more personal.  You've heard this question before:  If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

There are three things you can do in response to this verse above:

First option - you can get mad and say that Kristen is promoting works salvation and disregard the equations.

Second option - you can start to work, work, work on being good so that you guarantee eternal life.  That, by the way, will be a fail.

Third option - you can examine your life and seriously consider if you are person who walks by faith (belief plus obedience minus feelings with heart set on God - my daughter has taught me the art of abbreviating!)  True belief drives you to obedience out of gratitude - do you know Jesus?  Do you know yourself?  Do you realize how much He loves you and what He has done to get your attention?  Do you understand that without Him you are a slave to sin and with Him you are a slave to…well…Him?  If He bought you, your life is not your own - He doesn't force obedience but considering the price He paid, it makes logical sense that what He asks of you is in your best interest. 

This verse can affirm your relationship with Jesus or it can shed a light on some truth in your life.  Come on, friends, let's do some spring cleaning!  Where do you walk by faith?  How do you obey the Son?  Is there enough evidence to convict?

Monday, March 10, 2014

God's Gifts

For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

God loves to give gifts and His gifts are the best.

Let's list some of them out:
  • Salvation - this is the biggie!  The greatest gift ever given was His Son
  • Faith - even our ability to accept salvation stems from a gift He has given to us
  • The Holy Spirit - another huge one!  If all these gifts were placed in a gift box upon salvation, the Holy Spirit could not possibly be contained
  • Redemption - purchased with a price we couldn't pay
  • Justification - our account wiped clean as if we never sinned
  • Adoption - His choice, not ours
  • Sanctification - the promise to conform us into the image of His Son
  • Spiritual gifts - to serve the body He supplies us with talents and gifts
  • Every good thing in general comes from above, right? Our abilities, our discernment, our giftedness, the air we breath, the rain that produces food, our sustenance, our livelihoods…the list  truly does go on and on
What I love about these verses above is that whether it's grace, faith or salvation - all of these things are gifts from God so that no one can boast in their good works.  Period.  Boasting in our salvation would be like boasting because you have small ears.  What did you do to not have oversized elephant ears? Nothing.  What did you do to save yourself? Nothing.  Well, you had faith in Jesus, right?  Even that faith was a gift.

It's all about Him today, my friends.  Let's keep it that way.

Monday, March 3, 2014

No Other Name

And there is salvation in no one else;
for there is no other name under heaven 
that has been given among men 
by which we must be saved.
Acts 4:12

What's in a name?  Apparently a lot.

The name of Jesus has a lot of power behind it:
  • We have life in His name (John 20:31)
  • Forgiveness of sins comes through His name (Acts 2:38)
  • Miraculous healing power comes through His name (Acts 3:6)
  • Demons flee because of His name (Acts 16:18)
  • Justification comes through His name (I Cor. 6:11)
  • Every knee will bow to His name (Phil. 2:20)
So what is it about a name?  Well, names bring to mind faces, people. Think of your mother's name or your father's name and what comes to mind?  But it's more than a face - it's character, actions, expressions, words.  Try this - what comes to mind when you hear the name of our president?  Different people will respond differently to his name - why do you have that specific response?  Some names bring warm responses and others incite anger - because a name carries with it the character of the one it represents.  

In Acts 4 Peter is basically on trial because he healed a lame man.  The rulers, elders and scribes demanded to know by what power or what name was he operating. Peter turns the tables on his accusers, pointing out that what he had done was a good deed, not a crime and that his power came through the name of Jesus, whom they had crucified. He went on to use Old Testament prophecies to point out Jesus' messiahship and ended by saying there is no other name but Jesus by which we must be saved.  The leaders dismissed the room to discuss what to do and because of the nature of the miracle (which they couldn't deny) and the following it was causing (over 5,000 men had been saved as a result), they had to put a stop to it.  So they demanded that Peter stop using the name of Jesus.  Period.

Yeah. That didn't go over very well.  Peter responded that it was impossible for him to keep quiet.

You see, the name of Jesus contained the character of God. How could he keep quiet?  His life had been transformed by Jesus and Jesus had left him with a job to do - spread the gospel to the world.  So Peter's message was pretty simple - there is only one way to salvation and that is through Jesus.

How is the name of Jesus treated today?  Is it held in high esteem?  Is it treated with great care? Does it carry the weight of the character of God?  Does your heart break when you hear it tossed around and carelessly mocked?

I was watching a late night host last week who talked about the new Jesus movie coming out and with sarcasm in his voice he said that the ending was pretty predictable.  It got a raucous laugh.  A laugh from the very ones who can only be saved through His name.


The enemy has worked overtime to make a mockery of the name of Jesus and he's been highly successful.  May we as children of God work diligently to steward the great responsibility that has been placed in our care - the gospel is no laughing matter, but it is the greatest treasure that the world desperately needs, for it is only through the name of Jesus that we must be saved! 

As Peter refused to keep silent, may we follow his example and lift high the name of Jesus!