Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Meditative Moments: Philippians 4:8

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Finding Balance, Part One

In continuing to share some of the things the Lord has been teaching me about dealing with anxiety and depression, I'd like to discuss the topic of balance, particularly in regards to Biblical methods versus New Age methods.  As I've studied the issue over the past few weeks, one thing has become apparent--there is no shortage of advice out there, but how much of it is actually Bible-based?  That's where things became a bit fuzzy.

Unfortunately, our world is full of warped philosophies that are part truth and part lie.  They sound good on the surface, but if you break it down, you'll discover that it's not Scriptural.  I'm referring to health and wealth teaching and many of the other New Age practices that the success gurus are spouting.  They lead people to believe that they can do anything or have anything if they'll only believe it hard enough.  They promote the law of attraction and the principle of karma.  Their claim is that we all control our own destinies, and if we want to get anywhere in life, we need to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and make it happen.  And the real trouble is that they'll often use Scripture (which they have perverted) to back up their claims.

I'm grounded enough in the Bible to see through this web of deception and not fall victim to these ploys, but here's where I had trouble.  I was so leery of this teaching and so adamant to not get caught up in it that I swung too far the other way and dismissed the Bible's teachings about some of the very tactics recommended by these false teachers.  Take, for example, affirmations.  An affirmation, by definition, is a statement or proclamation of something that is true.  What could be wrong with that, right?

The issue is that these prosperity teachers instruct us to use affirmations to change our destinies, but instead of speaking truth, we are supposed to speak what we want to be true.  The catchy phrase is "speak what you seek."  So, if you want to be a millionaire, you should consistently use affirmations like, "I have more money than I know what to do with,"  "Everything I touch turns to gold," or "I will never want for anything in my life."  The same principle applies to losing weight or getting healthy.  Some traditional affirmations in this category are "I am in the best shape of my life,"  "I am healthy and trim," and "Food is no longer a temptation to me."

On the surface, this doesn't sound too bad, but as I said earlier, if you dig down, you'll see the root of the problem.  For starters, none of those statements is true.  Just because we want something to be true doesn't mean it is.  I guess this is why these types of affirmations have never really enticed me because it doesn't matter how many times I say I'm healthy and wealthy, I know it isn't true.  I only make myself a liar.  Secondly, it's all focused on self and selfish desires.  Where is God's will in all of this?  It's all about me and what I want.  And we know that's not what the Bible teaches.

So, with those accusations against affirmations, I considered them dangerous and tried to move on.  But as the Lord worked on my heart, I realized that true affirmations are a good thing and can be used to help combat anxiety and depression, not to mention a host of other deadly darts from the devil.  Furthermore, he opened my eyes to many of the Bible "greats" who used affirmations--particularly David and Paul--to encourage themselves in the Lord.  What is a true affirmation?  It is a statement or proclamation of something that is true, and in our situation, that comes directly from God's Word.  Instead of proclaiming what we want, real affirmations state what God has said.  And to use these affirmations as a weapon, I have found that it works best to make it personal.  Don't just mindlessly quote a verse.  Claim it!  Put yourself into it, knowing that if God said it (and if it's in the Bible, He did), then it's true and can be believed.  Over the course of a few days, I jotted down several pages of these, but I'll just share with you a few to give you an idea of how affirmations can be used to counter the attacks of Satan and of our own fleshly nature, just like Jesus did during his forty days in the wilderness.

The Lord has planned my future, and I trust that it will all play out for my good and His glory. - Jeremiah 29:11

I declare myself to be free because Jesus Himself set me free. - John 8:36

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13

I will not lack any good thing. - Psalm 34:8

My faith makes me whole in spirit, soul and body. - Mark 5:34

My body is a living and holy sacrifice unto the Lord. - Romans 12:1

I will be kind and do good to others. - I Thessalonians 5:15

I forgive those who hurt me because God forgives me. - Matthew 6:14-15

I honor God by taking care of my body which is His temple. - I Corinthians 6:19-20

There is nothing I will face today that God will not provide a way of escape. - I Corinthians 10:13

God is doing a good work in and through me. - Philippians 2:12-13

It may sound simple, but let me tell you, it is effective.  Having these affirmations ready and speaking them when I feel the vicious attacks on my soul has kept me from sinking into despair when things don't work out the way I wish.  I have found myself much more focused on God as my strength and refuge and less focused on my circumstances.  These statements have helped me resist temptations and cravings and have even kept my attitude much more positive.

In short, affirmations do work, and there's nothing wrong with them as long as they are founded in and based on Scripture.  I encourage you to give it a try.  When the attacks come, instead of complaining or allowing yourself to be swayed by your circumstances or emotions, try speaking aloud some affirming statements from the Word of God.  Make it personal.  Apply it to your life right now.  Claim God's promises.  Hold fast to His truth.  Something amazing happens when we turn our eyes off what we want and instead focus on the truth that God has given us.  Try it and see, but remember, this is not a timid exercise.  Speak it aloud and be bold about it.  It will have little effect if you don't believe what you're saying.  But if you do believe, let everyone know it, including the devil.  Remember, he can't read your mind, so he won't know that you're quoting Scripture, but if you speak it, he'll know, and pretty soon, he'll flee.  Put it to the test, and be sure to let me know the results.

Lord willing, tomorrow we'll discuss another topic of finding the balance between good practices that have been twisted to promote self rather than God.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Are You Serious?

I'm back from my week of rest and restoration, and boy, have I learned a lot!  Yes, I received an education during my break.  Let me explain.  A couple of weeks ago, I felt the Lord impressing on me to write a book about dealing with anxiety and depression the Bible way.  Never in my life have I felt so compelled to write a book (or anything else for that matter), but there was one problem--I didn't have the answers!  I am one of those who suffers from frequent bouts of anxiety and depression.  How in the world did God expect me to write about the solution to these joy-suckers when I hadn't found the answer myself?  So, I told the Lord as much.  My prayer was basically this, "Lord, I feel you want me to write this book, and I know many people need the help that could be offered here.  But, you understand I don't have the answers, so if you want me to write it, you'll have to give me the words."  And, oh my goodness, have the words been pouring in!

I have spent the last week reading, meditating and praying, and God has opened my eyes to some wonderful things.  I don't think I'm quite ready to write the book yet, but over the next couple of weeks, I'll probably be sharing with you some of the things I've learned.  Today, I'd like to kick off the education with a topic that may stomp on a few toes, but the truth is the truth, and I feel compelled to tell it like it is.

Do you have a desire?  Would you like to lose weight, have more energy, be healthier, have more money, get out of debt, have a better job or whatever?  If we're honest, I think we all have dreams and goals about a "better" something.  But here's the real question, are we serious about what we say we want?  Do our actions and habits reflect our goals and dreams?

Here are a few examples:

If you want to lose weight, what steps have you taken to achieve this aim?  Have you traded your sodas for water?  Have you begun to exercise?  Are you meals made up of healthy foods?

If you want to save money, what steps have you taken?  Are you still eating out for lunch five days a week instead of taking your lunch to work?  Do you still make weekly trips to the mall?  Do you spend extra money on brand names when generic would do just fine?

If you want to grow closer to the Lord, what are you doing to get there?  Are you spending time in the Word?  Are you praying regularly?  Are you attending church faithfully?

Here's the thing, when we say we want something, we need to determine in our hearts exactly how much we want it.  How serious are we?  Most times, I think we're serious enough to complain about it but not enough to take action.  If we could have an instant fix, well, sign us up, but if we actually have to work for it, then, maybe not.  Are you ready for this?  If we're not serious enough about the changes we wish to see to take action to achieve them, then we need to just be quiet about it and let it go.  No more whining and complaining!  If it's important enough to complain about, then it's important enough to act on.  So, if we're not willing to work, then we need to just keep our mouths shut and accept things as they are.  There are no instant fixes!  Our problems didn't arrive instantaneously, and the solutions won't either.  They require time and effort.

So, my question for you today is, are you serious?  If you're seeking changes in your life, are you determined to do what you can to see them come to fruition?  Yes, I understand that there are some situations and circumstances that we have no control over, but that's not what I'm talking about.  I'm speaking of daily choices and habits that we do control that could make or break our goals.  We can choose a salad over a double cheeseburger and fries.  We can choose to read our Bible first thing in the morning instead of the daily news.  We can opt to cut out the cable TV and spend the extra time playing board games with the family.  There are many things we CAN DO to reach our goals, but are we willing to do them?  That is the question!

Serious people see serious results.  Wishy-washy people. . .well, you can figure it out.  Which one are you?

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. - Galatians 6:7

Friday, March 17, 2017

Talk About Green!

With today being St. Patrick's Day, I simply couldn't resist doing this post. It seems that I've been hearing and reading a lot lately about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Perhaps that's where the phrase "green with envy" comes from. Even we, as Christians, occasionally suffer from a bad case of "if only's" or "it must be nice."

But here's the thing about grass that any lawn specialist can tell you. The softest, greenest grass is found in areas that are frequently fertilized, habitually watered, and faithfully weeded. Beautiful lawns don't happen by chance; they require hard work and faithful attention. The same can be said for our lives. If we want that "greener grass," then we need to be willing to put forth the effort it takes to have it.

1. Frequently fertilized – The purpose of fertilizer is to provide plants with the nutrients necessary to grow and thrive. Without it, the soil often does not contain the essential nutrients for growth. In the Christian life, prayer is our fertilizer. It gives us access to the "nutrients" we need to face each and every day. These nutrients include supplication, intercession and thanksgiving, all of which are vital elements of spiritual growth and "greener grass."

2. Habitually watered – In the Bible, water represents the Word of God. Grass, as well as other plant life, must have water to survive. Without it, it will wither, dry out and die. We are no different. We need the water of God's word to live a successful Christian life. And notice, plants don't only need to be watered; they need to be habitually watered. That means watered on a regular basis, typically daily. If we want our lives to grow and flourish, it is imperative that we spend daily time in the word of God. Read it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Allow it to flow through you, hydrating your soul and spirit.

3. Faithfully weeded – Weeds are the enemy of growth. Their primary goal is to choke the life out of anything and everything they touch. They steal life-giving nutrients from the beneficial plants, causing them to wilt and often die. We have similar weeds in our lives, and they come in the form of bitterness, pride, selfishness and other such petty behaviors. These weeds steal our joy, energy and peace, leaving in their wake broken hearts and shattered dreams. If we are to grow in Christ, we must be faithful to search out and pluck these weeds from our hearts on a regular basis. The longer they are allowed to remain, the more of a nuisance they will become.

You see, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. It is greener wherever we make an effort to give it what it needs. We can choose to live lives that are green with envy, or we can take the steps necessary to create greener grass in our lives. Fertilize. Water. Weed. And remember, this is not a one-time process. Beautiful lawns and gardens don't happen overnight, and neither do beautiful lives. But if you truly want greener grass, you now know how to achieve it.

Are you wearing your green today? If so, which shade? The shade of envy, or the shade of lush, beautiful grass? The choice is yours, but choose wisely. Your happiness may very well depend on it.

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. - II Peter 3:18

Thursday, March 16, 2017

What's In Your Hand? - A Repost

And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? and he said, A rod. - Exodus 4:2

When Moses went to God with his complaints about his mission, God didn't laugh or argue. He merely asked Moses a question: "What is in your hand?" I can picture the dumbfounded look on Moses' face as he stares at his staff and answers, "A rod." God's response? "Then use it." And Moses did. He used it to part the Red Sea. He used it to draw water from the rock. He used it in a demonstration before Pharaoh. Over and over again, Moses used the rod, and through it, God did mighty things.

David had only a sling in his hand as he hurled himself toward the mighty Goliath. Yet because he was willing to use what he had, a great victory was won.

When Jesus questioned the disciples about food for feeding the hungry thousands, all they had to bring before him was one little boy's lunch. But because they were willing to take it forward, the hungry were fed, the disciples were amazed, and the Lord was glorified.

What about you? What do you have in your hand? What talent or gift are you holding onto that you could be using for the Lord? And please don't say, "I can't do anything. I'm not talented." That's not true. Everyone can do something!!!! Gifts and talents don't reside only in the ability to sing, play an instrument, or play a sport. There are many varieties of gifts. Are you a leader? Good at organizing? A listener? An encourager? A hard worker? A cook? A cleaner? A letter writer?

God has given each of us at least one skill that we can use to bring glory and honor to his name. If we'll take what's in our hands and use it for Him, I guarantee we'll be amazed at the results. If He can work miracles through a rod, a sling, and a lunch, just imagine what he can do with your gift!