Archive for August, 2021

Which Way Are You Going?

Disappointments in life are inevitable.

Discouragement is a choice.

We spend our early years programming our minds and establishing our lifestyle default modes. A default is a setting or value automatically assigned. Touch a hot stove and you mentally set a default never to do that again. This is true of moral and spiritual choices also.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. one of the most brilliant of our former Supreme Court’s Associate Justices said, “It is not so important how we stand, but in which direction we are going.” As a default the direction is often set, but here is good news, it can be reset. Exhibit A is the Apostle Paul. At a room in Damascus he reset his default and dramatically changed the direction he was going in life. Like Paul, some of us had many of our mental defaults made in a worldly environment. However, God never intended for us to live according to the world’s ways of doing things.

Evaluate your mood defaults. How do you react to given events? Think of a few mood impacting events and how you respond to them.

The type of change we can make is the kind spoken of by Martin Luther: “The devil is a grumbler, every Christian should be a doxology.”

Recently many people have been disappointed in the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election. Long ago you set a mood default regarding such losses. Your mind is powerful. Things start with a thought. You can change your responses by changing your mind. Again I say:

Disappointments in life are inevitable.

Discouragement is a choice.

Therefore, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV) Don’t think like the world. “Do not be anxious about anything (even a presidential election), 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)

To do this requires that “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ….”  (II Corinthians 10:5 ESV)

We need to pray with the Psalmist, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 ESV) This is a Bible way of saying, “Reset my default.”

To do this you must be able to say, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11 ESV)

Then you can “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus….”  (Philippians 2:5 ESV)

When you do, you can experientially say, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

Now is a good time to pause and have a default reset session.

Trust in the Lord

“You will keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

This text relates to this hour of uncertainty. Practice the principle and enjoy the peace.

Solomon used the Hebrew word “batach” for trust. It is a word meaning complete surrender. It literally meant to lie helpless, face down. It pictures a servant who is ready to obey his master’s command, or a defeated soldier completely yielding to the conquering general. Thus, trust means to yield to our Lord, ready to serve Him. It means to be reliant on Him.

The person whose mind is on God is promised peace. A mind stayed on Him is one mindful of God and His word and is consistently reliant on Him. It is not an on again – off again, herky-jerky type of reliance.

The option to not trust Him may result in the clouds that overshadow you swooping in and shrouding you with confusion.

Those who trust the Lord are promised “perfect peace,” not just peace, but perfect peace. There is a bonus, He will “keep you in perfect peace.” It is an ongoing thing. It comes from a calm confidence in the Lord.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5) 

Trusting God with all your heart causes some people anxiety, fearful that though they desire to do so there may be some reservation. Trust in God with all your heart refers to a heart that does not purposely and knowingly reject God’s will. Relax if there is no deliberate mistrust of God in your heart.

A person leaning on a cane for support is a picture of a person trusting God.

When we acknowledge to Him our ways, He guides us in His ways.

If there is a current event causing you anxiety, mentally take it to the Lord, submit yourself to Him, tell Him you trust Him to take charge and relieve you of responsibility for it. Before concluding such a prayer pause and meditate on what you just did. Confirm it.

When you do, you will be “transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

If you were to ask a person to do a certain thing within a given time, and when they went to do it they would find it already done by you. That person might well conclude he didn’t trust me to do it in that he did it himself. Likewise, in this case if you ask the Lord to relieve you of a matter and He were to see you have continued doing it would give the Lord cause to feel you didn’t trust Him. Don’t send Him such a signal.

In all of life He has you in training for service and rewards. Let Him use your circumstance to allow you to demonstrate your trust of Him. Life is your school house. The circumstance you are confronting is your lesson for today.

A better understanding of trust is found in synonyms for it: assurance, confidence, certainty, dependence, reliance, and sureness. 

Never be afraid to trust an unknown situation to a knowing, loving God. Pray and leave the worrying to God. He can handle it.

He is trustworthy. You can put your whole life in His hand. Trust Him to do what He knows is best, and at a time He knows is best. God has it all figured out —- trust Him.

In Our Hour of Angst

Angst is defined in the dictionary as “a profound feeling of generalized anxiety or dread.”

Now, you know why I chose it instead of worry? In effect, angst is a worry on steroids. Circumstances lately have compounded worry for some. What are we to do about it? God chose Simon Peter, a character who might well have been a living clinic on worry had he not found an antidote for it to write, 

“…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)

Peter was a fisherman, and knew the language of the profession, chose a term used by seamen, “casting,” to describe an overloaded ship having to throw some of its cargo overboard to survive a storm. That is a beautiful graphic describing what we are to throw overboard, “our care,” and where to throw it, “upon Him,” Jesus.  You can be confident He has the compassion and capacity to handle it, so do it.

An old hymn has this line to describe it.

“All your anxieties, all your cares, take them to the Lord and leave them there.”

This makes it clear that once you take them there, you are to leave them there. To not leave them there implies you don’t trust Him or you don’t think He has the capacity to handle them, as well as you. The fact you have angst indicates you think that by worrying you can resolve an issue. It’s presence indicates you can’t. The fact He has cared for the cares of legions through the centuries proves He can.

Visualize what it is that is causing your angst. Once you have identified, analyze what if anything you can do about it. If there is something you can do about it, set about it at the earliest opportunity to do it.

If there is nothing you can do about it, take it to the Lord and leave it there.

Leaving it there may well present a challenge. Try these mechanics. Get alone with the Lord in a quiet place and talk to Him, out loud if that is comforting. Tell Him, as if He doesn’t know, your angst. Tell Him, as instructed to do, you are giving it to Him. Admit there is nothing you can do about it. Thank Him for relieving you of the cause of the care. Get up, take a deep breath, and physically relax.

Simon Peter, who penned the text, was involved with Jesus in an angst workshop. He was with Jesus on a boat when a storm came up on the Sea of Galilee. Their lives were in peril when they called on Jesus, who promptly calmed the storm. One observation is that when we are in the storms of life, Jesus is there with us. You are not alone. Remember that and let your actions show it.

Anxiety is a small stream flowing through the field of reason which if left unattended becomes a torrent of angst. Let Jesus rid you of it, let that stream dry up. 

Memorize the following as a defense against future tendencies to have angst.

“Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, ESV)

Faith’s Reward

What you are about to read will challenge your prayer life and call for the optimum of faith.

“But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him.  For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 (Amplified Bible)

The Wuest Translation reads: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him at all. For he who comes to God must of necessity in the nature of the case believe that He exists, and that He becomes a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him out.”

The one who comes to God, must believe two things: first that He exists, and second, that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. The first verb “is” is the translation of estin which speaks of existence. The second verb “is” is the translation of ginomai affirming not only that He exists, but that He exists to reward. 

The process usually takes time, and there are no shortcuts. God does not respond to part-time seekers. He is only found by those who seek Him with their whole heart. The Bible says, “You must be diligent so as to realize the full assurance of hope, so that you will receive the promise.” (Hebrews 6:11)

The words “diligently seek” are literally “seek Him out.” Those who seek Him out are diligently seeking Him, and here we have the perfective use of the preposition. Vincent says in this connection: “God’s beneficent will and attitude toward the seeker are not always apparent at the first approach. In such cases there is occasion for faith, in the face of delay, that diligent seeking will find its reward.

This verse experiences what is often our experience.

“He hides himself so wondrously As though there were no God;
He is least seen when all the powers of ill are most abroad. 
Or He deserts us at the hour. The fight is almost lost. 
And seems to leave us to ourselves just when we need Him most. 
It is not so, but so it looks; And we lose courage then;
And doubts will come if God hath kept His promises to men.”

The seed bed for faith is noted: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the (spoken) word of God.” (Romans 10:17) The word translated ‘word’ is the Greek word rhema, and it speaks of a personal face-to-face type of communication.

Vincent puts it: “He who approaches God has, through faith, the assurance that his seeking God will result in good to himself.” He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. The effect is worth the effort.

We are called to investigate and explore God, trusting that He will reveal Himself and His will at the proper time and way. Trust the Person and the process. There is never a moment God doesn’t know, love you, and design for you the best.

Keep the faith and the faith will keep you.

Worry: A Learned Experience

Psychologists have concluded worry is a learned experience. If you have trained yourself to worry, you can train yourself not to worry. Doing so may be a slow process with bumps on the reverse lane.

Go on the offence and start by speaking encouragement to persons. Try this:

“Worry and anxiety weighs a person down, but an encouraging word cheers a person up.” (Proverbs 12:25)

In summary this text means an encouraging word, a very good word, lifts the burden of anxiety and replaces it with cheer. That is a wonderful exchange.

Like you, others like to hear encouraging words. This has been described as the golden age of anxiety. That makes an encouraging word all the more valuable. In a variety of ways God has said what means “don’t worry, I will take care of you.” Trust Him. 

The Bible says to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) God loves you and will help you. He knows your heart and will enable you to grow in grace and in knowledge. Worry can’t change the past or control the future, so why let it ruin today?

Worry is simply negative thought. There is no substance to it that can change things. In reality it robs us of time that could be spent more constructively. 

To change from a negative mind set to a positive one, four areas need to be addressed.

Negative words originate in the heart. Matthew and Luke expand on this. Matthew records, “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

Luke goes even further, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

Thus, to control your tongue speaking negatively, control your heart. Before medical science proved differently the ancients thought thoughts began in the heart and were carried to the brain by the blood. That makes it essential to subdue a negative thought before it matures into words. Follow the advice of Barney Fife, “Nip it, just nip it.”

Closely associated and needing control is the mind. What thoughts do you entertain? When you think a negative thought on a subject before leaving that subject, impose a positive thought on the same issue. Don’t leave the topic until you do this.

Aiding this process is your eyes. How do you look at things? Do you habitually see things from a negative perspective? If so, take a second look, and look at it from a positive perspective.

In order, this tandem of your being must increasingly be controlled by consciously changing your disposition: heart, mind, eyes, and tongue.

This instruction given Israel before going into battle, in principle, applies to you as you war against anxiety, which is malignant worry. “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”  (Deuteronomy 20:1-4)