Category Archives: fear

God knows we choose

Romans-6-1

While spending time this week thinking and praying over what to write, I was brought back to a conversation I’d had recently.

I was having a conversation with a friend, on a variety of things when they made a statement that stuck with me. We were talking about some recent decisions they’d made, and they said, “God already knows what I’m going to do and loves me anyways, so why does it matter?” This statement reminded me of another friend who made a similar statement that, “If God wants me to die from COVID, it doesn’t matter if I wear a mask or not.” I’ve actually had several conversations, over the past few weeks, where individuals are relinquishing accountability for their choices to God’s foreknowledge, (and in some cases believed fore-planning) of them. I want to share something with you today, that as I write, I pray it will be received in the spirit which it is intended.

God’s Omniscience does not affect our choices – our relationship with Him does.

Just because God knows us completely and knows all things, knows how we’ll react and respond, this does not excuse us from our accountability for the choices we make. God’s knowledge does not equate to His approval. We cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility on the basis that God knew we’d do it, and He let us do it anyway.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1-2

God created us in His image, we chose another road. God sent Jesus to die, and redeem that decision, not so we could relinquish responsibility for our choices, bu so we could make better ones. Jesus showed us the way. He showed us how to live.  As we read in Romans 6, God’s grace is not a license to drive off a cliff, it’s a get out of jail free card; for the mishaps of life – kind of like your auto insurance company’s accident forgiveness program. It’s there if you need it, but unnecessary if we practice good driving skills.

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:22-24

We all need accident forgiveness for the things that we’ve done. Here’s the rub, knowing that God knows we’ll do it, and knowing that God will forgive it, does not give us God’s permission for it.

Our choices can’t be ‘blamed’ on Gods foreknowledge and acceptance. That’s like saying it’s a parent’s fault that a child sneaks out of their bedroom at night to steal ice cream. The parent may expect it to happen, they’ve established rules and guidelines so the child knows they should not do it, but in the end the parent also knows that the stomach ache the child may feel in the morning may be the best way for them to learn. As a parent there are choices, I could prevent my child from making, but then how would they learn? Allowing them to make, and learn from their mistakes, does not mean I approve of them, it means I’m giving them the space to learn and grow.

The flip side of this coin however, is that my child’s relationship with me, and my relationship with God, can (and will) affect their choices. Demonstrating the way, reading the Bible and praying with them, teaching them how to make Godly choices, will help them make better choices.

How can we claim to know God, to know Christ and have a relationship with Him, if we don’t know His word? How can we claim to know God’s direction for our lives when we don’t go before Him in prayer? How can we claim to follow Christ when our words and actions degrade, demean and devalue ourselves and others?

Our relationship with God, and His son Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that can influence, affect and change our behaviors. Just like the single greatest influence on our children’s lives is their relationship with us. The single greatest influence on our Christian walk is our relationship with Christ.

We face down decisions every day, now more than ever our choices are so polarized that it seems almost impossible to chose wisely. The world is full of advice on what to do, what to think, how to act, who to believe, which side to chose and which side to hate. We keep looking to the world for answers, mostly because they are easy, plenty and familiar. When the stakes are highest and the decisions hardest we throw our hands in the air and claim, not my responsibility; God planned all this out, He knew what would happen, it’s His will, it’s His decision, doesn’t matter what I do.

Friends, it does matter what you do, you were given a will of your own, a chance to choose God or the World. God’s knowledge of you (like a parent who knows his child) does not absolve you from the responsibility to use the mind soul and strength that He gave you. Yes His grace is sufficient, but it is not an excuse.

Your relationship with Christ is the single largest influence on your choices; it can save, redeem, restore and complete you. Your choices, and the outcome of your life is a product of your relationship with Him. A relationship which is always present, unchanging and available when you decide to turn to Him.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!

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Who (or what) is your King?

maxresdefault“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5

The Israelite’s asked Samuel, the Prophet of God to appoint them a king to lead them, “such as all the other nations have.” They wanted to be like everyone else, like any other nation on earth. The wanted the blessing of being ‘chosen’ but not the responsibility.

“You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” Leviticus 20:26

God chose His people, He chose them to be His own. He hand picked this small band of people to be holy and set apart, and what did they do? They rejected Him, over and over, and asked Him to set up a puppet of himself to rule over them. Instead of the Almighty, Sovereign God of the Universe they wanted a visible, worldly, imperfect man to be subject to; they asked God to make an idol of Himself and have it rule over them.

The dictionary defines an idol as, an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship. There is however, a tertiary definition, a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered. Israel wanted someone they could see and touch. Someone they could look up to and revere…but they didn’t want it to be God, they wanted it to be more like them.

When I read this, I couldn’t help but yell, “what are you doing?” Why would you want some guy to rule over you when you have the Sovereign God of the Universe tripping over himself to raise you up and give you everything you could ever want? WHY??? Reading scripture it often feels like Israel spent more time running, disobeying and outright denying God, than they did worshiping, praising and honoring Him.

Why do we, (yes I said we) have such a propensity to ignore, disregard or downplay the eternal in lieu of the immediate, finite and temporal? Why do we chose idols over God? Why do we chose now over forever, even when we know that what we chose now may cost us forever?

Who is your king? Matthew tells us that, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 Your King is that person, place or thing in which you invest your, time, money and heart. It’s what you revere, worship and place your trust. Does God have that place in our hearts? Is what we chose on a day to day basis going to last us into the eternal Kingdom?

Samuel was rightfully upset when God’s people told him that they wanted a king to rule over them, God’s response was equally upsetting, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.” 1 Samuel 8:7-8

Reading through the Old Testament, God made sure that the people knew and understood his frustration at their behavior. I have been asked so many times recently if all the tragic happenings in the world today are because we have turned our backs on God. I don’t believe it is. I believe we live in a fallen world, where sin is rampant and commonplace. Diseases are everywhere and natural disasters are becoming more the rule than the exception. I believe that we are reaping the consequences of our actions. Disease more easily defeats us because we are unhealthy, as a society we eat what we want, don’t go outside and live as if we’re immortal. The environment is wreaking havoc because we have treated God’s beautiful creation as our trash heap and polluted every part of it as best we can. Sin destroys lives because we allow it (yes I said allow it) to rule and reign in our world.

No this is not God’s wrath, but it is our choice. If we made better ones, if we chose to put God in His rightful place, our world would be better, our lives would be better. Is God causing it, no! If we followed His commands and lived according to His word would it get better, YES!

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

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The Greater and lesser

1900It occurred to me when I was thinking of my role in God’s family, how I still too often struggle with wanting to have my way. I get cranky when I don’t get the recognition I feel I deserve. I feel put upon when my advice is not heeded or listened too. Notice how both these sentences begin with ‘I’? The Apostle Paul was not being figurative when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

We are raised in this world to believe we come first. The truth we’re taught by God is shifted just enough to make it believable, and yet completely off the mark, “we are better able to help others if we help ourselves first.” Can you imagine any teaching more in conflict with what God calls us to?

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of the others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)

Pondering and

praying through these early morning thoughts, while baking cookies with my son, a scripture came to mind. John states that in order for God to become greater, he (John) must become less…yes pause to ponder. No, that is not actually what it says, but that is what is so often quoted. No surprise, this ‘tweaked’ version makes the statement based on John’s actions not God’s character.

John was being confronted by individuals questioning his relevance, and Jesus’s authority. They wanted to know why John was OK with Jesus taking more and more of his fame, his popularity, his business? To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.(John 3: 27-30)

We don’t have to humble ourselves in order for God’s greatness to be realized, we humble ourselves because God is great. God is God, He is unchangeable, immutable and sovereign. None of that depends upon us, nor anything we chose to do. God is not somehow less great because we chose to humble ourselves and follow him or not. This contrary concept is born of a world where self comes before anything else. The misquoting of this scripture is yet one more symptom of the world we live in. Satan tweaking truth just enough to corrupt it completely.

Dear ones, lets face it head on. Our salvation is not for us alone, our salvation is made complete when we share it with the purpose of helping others to realize it. Our lives exit to serve God and others. Like Paul, we must die to ourselves daily. The single biggest obstacle to our relationship with God is ourselves.

I have not right to recognition for anything I do, because it is Christ in me that accomplishes everything. I have no right to be upset when people don’t listen to me, because it is the Holy Spirit working in and through my words to accomplish His purpose. Everything good in our lives comes from God. What John was referring to in this passage of scripture is that his role served an ordained purpose, Jesus is the one in whom all glory dwells. John’s role was complete, now all focus needed to be on the Son of Man. It was His time to fulfill His role, ordained from the beginning of time.

God is God and God is good. His plan is fulfilled and complete. He must become greater, (not that His greatness is changeable, but our limited view of Him must increase) as is His station and right, we must become less because the story is about Him not us.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

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Stingy Sowing

sowing reaping

I want you to picture a plot of land. It’s tilled, clean, no weeds; as a gardener myself it’s a beautiful sight to behold. There is nothing so exciting and full of expectation as a ‘yet to be planted’ harvest. Imagine what God sees as He looks down at us. However, what God sees is not a perfect, clean, weedless, fertilized, field of soil.

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.'” Matthew 13:3-8

When God is sowing, He is throwing seed (His word) toward us, wherever we are. We may be on a lonely path, in a time of life where nothing is penetrating into our hearts. We may be in a rocky time of life, and because of the difficulties in life we are unable to maintain growth without the root. Perhaps the seed is sown while we are so focused on the things of this world, that we have no energy to focus on the things of God. Our desire for wealth, fame, position, choke out any desire we have for God. Then, sometimes, the Word is sown on good soil, where it will grow and flourish and produce abundant fruit.

The point being, God is always sowing. He is always calling out to us. He calls when we are not ready, kinda ready, think were ready and when we are actually ready. Any one of us have been every kind of soil at some point in our life. But God, (best words ever) keeps sowing. God never gives up, He never stops calling us, He is faithful in all He does.

“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:1-6

God has also called us to be sowers. Christ called each of us who believe to reach out to all those who do not know Him. We are to reach out to ALL those who do not know Him. I have found that we have a tendency to reach out to those who we are most comfortable with. We reach out where we believe there will be the least resistance. We reach out to people like ourselves. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:46-47

What I found most inspiring in the parable of the sower; is that God continued to sow! He provided His word to everyone, everywhere no matter their condition, no matter their place in life. He didn’t discriminate in any way. Even knowing that some of the time the seed would not sprout, He continued to sow. God never gives up on us! He generously sends His Spirit to each of us, over and over and over again. He is constantly reaching out to bring us to Him.

Why then, are we stingy with our sowing? Are we worried about making people mad, offending someone, scaring them off, making a bad impression, losing a friend or just plain looking the fool? Everything that keeps us from walking like Jesus did, will fall away. We’ll look back one day and know all the times we stingily kept Christ to ourselves and the silly reasons we did it. We’ll also recognize that in the Kingdom, those reasons just don’t matter. How will we feel knowing that it was more important for us to be comfortable than to share Christ? We pick and chose who we think deserves our time as if we know better than God. We are called to sow not to judge.

We want to pick and chose where we sow the Word, we want to see growth, we want to stand proudly and say, “we did that.” But the truth is that God is the only reason any seed will grow, our job isn’t to identify the perfect place and time to plant, growth isn’t dependent upon us. Our job is to sow, and to sow generously. What happens to those seeds after that is up to Him. We may never see the results of the seeds we plant. We know that God’s word will always accomplish it’s purpose.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11

Sow generously, God will take care of the rest.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Humpty Dumpty and the Tower of Babel

humpty dumptyWe all know the rhyme, Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the kings horses, and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty together again. The image of something so silly as an egg, sitting on a wall, falling down, and being smashed into an irreparable state, made us laugh as children, who would come up with such a sad silly story, without a happy ending?

Similarly, in Genesis we read a story about how all the people in the world spoke one language and how they came together to build a tower to ‘reach the heavens’ and ‘to make a name for themselves’.  Like a silly round bottom egg sitting on a wall, their pride drove them to take actions which ultimately led to their being scattered across the world, unable to be unified as they once were. There was nothing that could bring them back together like that again, irreparably broken they went their separate ways.

“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.  As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:1-9

God saw that the people, (all as a group), had great pride. Pride that drove them to believe themselves His equal. A pride that will continue to drive the human race to attempt feats that bring us renown, and make us feel godlike. “If as one people speaking the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Throughout the Old Testament we find stories of the people of God, driven by pride, to take action in direct opposition to Him, serving only to glorify themselves.

Why would Humpty sit on the wall? To have the best view of the military parade passing by, to be seen as clever by attempting the impossible, balancing so precariously on a wall. We don’t know why he did it, we do know that he fell, and his pieces were so completely shattered that no one could repair the damage. Not even the people he sought so hard to impress.

This moment in Genesis, the people were of one mind, one language, working together for a common cause; the cause however was not God’s, it was their own. We as a race, instead of using our unity for good, wanted to use it to glorify ourselves and try to reach the heavens, we wanted to be god’s in our own right. Sound familiar, how many times in our history have we done something we thought was so smart, only to reap the horrible consequences of those actions? From that moment, we were scattered, never again to be so unified in purpose. “So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” No longer able to communicate the people lost interest in their project and went their own separate ways.

What happens next you ask? Well, instead of working together we fought each other; for land, for money, for ‘love’, for every reason you can imagine. The unity we knew, the unity we were created to have, was destroyed by our pride.

God knew what we were capable of accomplishing together, we are, after all, made in His image. We have His capacity for love, compassion, joy, peace, hope, patience and kindness encoded into our very DNA. But pride won over.

Then one day everything changed. He provided a way for us to again be unified. Christ is our universal translator. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit demonstrated that when He came to indwell in the hearts of the Apostles and all those who would believe, we could again be unified in heart and purpose.

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” Acts 2:2-4

From Babel to Pentecost, God did not provide us a way to reunite, doing so would only have led to the same outcome. Our lives being about us. But Christ’s selflessness and sacrifice brought us all together; Jews, Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free people. We are ALL united in Christ. The Holy Spirit speaks in and through all those who believe. God not only gave us the ability to be unified as His Church working together for one purpose, He also gave us the purpose.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

Babel to Pentecost; confusion to clarity, separation from God to unity in Christ. God’s plan reflects His character, He is Sovereign, loving and compassionate. His plans will never fade, fail or falter.

It was man’s choice to give into our pride, it was that pride that led to our confusion at Babel, it was God’s love and compassion that, through Christ’s sacrifice, we were again brought together and given a common purpose.

Yes, we all speak different languages, compounded exponentially by the number of people and cultures and countries that exist in our fragmented world today. But God (two of my FAVORITE words in the Bible) provided us a way, through belief in Christ, to come together. Will we use this blessing to serve His purpose, or our own.

 

 

Cultivate your inner gardener

An open book sitting on a bright red modern chair.I think it’s possible that each of us have had some kind of awakening or epiphany recently. Whether it’s discovering time for a new hobby, rediscovering what it’s like to spend real time with our family, or even reconnecting, in new ways, with people whom we’ve lost touch. This time of uncertainty in the world has wrought many challenges and at the same time brought many renewals, and revivals. Disclaimer: I would never want something like this to happen in the world and I am completely in awe each day by the stories of people who are demonstrating a level of bravery and sacrifice that is just plain remarkable. I continue to pray for all of us during this time for protection,  healing and provision.

What I have seen in my own life and in the lives of many of my friends, and family is a desire to know God better. A desire that cannot be quenched by binge watching Netflix, or reading the entirety of Oprah’s book list, or having a weekly Zoom meeting with everyone I know that doesn’t live in my house. Nothing can fill the space in my life that has been created for God alone. Yes, I said a space in our lives that was CREATED for God alone. For those of you asking, yes, it is a space in every person, everywhere regardless of their beliefs. We are all children of God, created in His image for His glory, so that space is in all of us.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” (Mere Christianity) We simply cannot fill the space created for God with anything other than God. What I am hearing a lot of, is people running out of things to try, and looking for what will work. People are hungry for that which can only be satisfied by Jesus.

Talking with my Pastor this week, we were discussing how there are more people watching Sunday service than normally attended pre-quarantine. With so many people in the world  looking for something to fill that space, our Sunday attendance has continued to grow. It’s a wonderful thing technology, how it can help connect people to each other and even to get out the message of our Lord. People are coming to know who Jesus is and why He came and what He did for each of us! It is a glorious thing!

Herein lies the challenge, and it’s one Paul faced with the church in Corinth. ” Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are sill worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NIV)

Paul preached Jesus and Him crucified to the Corinthians, they came to believe and formed a church. Paul shared with them all he knew about Jesus and the life of a Christian. However, when we are spiritually young we can not come to understand the deep things of Christ that He wants us to know so we can be more like Him.

OK, Betsy, what are you trying to tell us? I am trying to say that spiritual growth is a participatory sport, not a spectator sport. Yes, ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us that causes growth. However, we can not sit back in our lazy-boy and expect God to move us.

I love listening to sermons and messages from amazing Godly preachers. This week while I was listening to Priscilla Shirer, I was so engaged and inspired and I found myself wishing I possessed the knowledge of scripture that she had, her ability to know and understand and share the truth of God is anointed! Wow, I caught myself, I was (unconsciously) counting on her to pour scriptural knowledge into my head, instead of seeking it out for myself.

Let me be clear, God created and called people to be teachers and preachers. However, that does not relieve us of the responsibility to lean into God for ourselves. That was part of what Paul was facing with the Church in Corinth. They were arguing over who had the better teacher, were they followers of Paul or Apollos or Cephas? Our teachers are doing what they are called to do and they will be held to account according to that calling. Each of us, also will be held to account for what we have done with what God has given us. We won’t get to point to someone else and say, “they never told me that!”. No, we have been given a precious gift, a gift that the people of the first century Church didn’t have, we have the inspired word of God! We have NO excuse to stay in a place of spiritual immaturity.

When you think, and this goes for me as well, of the amount of time we spend trying to fill the space created for God with things created by God, we could probably have read the bible 5-times over by now.

There will always be things to do, people to see, and work to be done. Our lives are very full, (even though we can’t leave our homes or go to school or to church or the movies…you get the picture), the space is calling to us and nothing, I repeat NOTHING, will fill it except Jesus.

I love that we are finding ways to continue to share Jesus with the world. We need to also find ways to help people connect with Him in a real way outside of that initial experience. We need to find ways to grow spiritually with Christ, so that the birds of the air can’t come and snatch away the precious gift that has been planted in the lives of new believers.

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23)

We need to cultivate the ground. Where possible we need to help others do the same, lead by example, show the way, lend a hand, cultivate your inner gardener. Get out of your chair and participate, you will not be disappointed.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

High Anxiety

High AnxietyDo you remember the 1977 Mel Brooks movie? If not I’ll shed a bit of light, it is a satire on several Alfred Hitchcock movies where the scariest scenes, ones that have terrified us for decades are turned into hysterical (and a bit irreverent) scenes where knives are replaced with newspapers and blood with ink. It takes us to the edge of anxiety, ramps it up a few notches then lets us fall down laughing at how we were taken in by what seemed to be something terrible, and turned out to be nothing at all. Sound familiar?

Proverbs tell us, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good words makes it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25) In the amplified Bible it expands the meaning to anxiety weighing a heart down. Anxiety can weigh us down, cause depression and ultimately whatever we’re obsessing about becomes the lens by which we see everything else in life.

While reading recently I was reminded, “worry comes when we lose our awareness that God is our Father. That He created us, and He cares…deeply loves, that which He created. If we are truly aware of who we are in Christ, we should be more confident than any other people on earth. Here’s the stinger…does that mean that we’ll never experience any kind of fear or anxiety? Does that mean that we will walk through life, and no matter what is thrown at us, we’ll just shrug our shoulders, and think ‘it’s all good’, and move on unflustered? Does it mean that if we do experience a moment of anxiety that we are living in sin?

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) This is a verse we’ve all read…but have we understood? In Luke we read, “ The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (8:14) Allowing your fretting, anxiety, fear to drive the direction of your life is a sin and can choke the life out of you, but experiencing a moment of stress or anxiety does not mean you are sinning.

I recently had a situation at work where I was faced with having a difficult conversation with a colleague. The thought of having this conversation was both freeing and anxiety provoking, I had knots in my stomach. You never know how the other person is going to respond, will it negatively affect our working relationship, how will it change our team dynamic? All these things were running through my head and heart as I was preparing myself for the conversation.

I sat down to pray, “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.” I gave the situation to God, not with a heart of vengeance (this was not about me being right and they wrong but of clarification), I asked God to be in the conversation so we could hear and understand each other, move forward together, to be stronger and more effective in the future.

I believe in God’s word and the power and freedom that we find in obedience. I believe that we can life a life that is not weighed down by anxiety where our joy is choked out by the cares of this world. I do not believe that our lives will be, in this lifetime, free from anxiety provoking situations. In all the scripture I’ve read it states that when we experience anxiety, it is our response to that situation that determines the outcome. The scriptures say, ‘be anxious for nothing’ it does not say ‘you’ll never experience anxiety about anything’.

I will own that I struggled with this as I prayed about having the conversation. Did being anxious about the conversation mean I was in the wrong, that I was sinning? Did that mean that I was being sinful in the situation? Was the situation caused by my sin? Perhaps the anxiety was due to my being in the wrong. No! You can be completely in the right and still feel anxiety about a confrontation! It’s how you deal with that anxiety that determines where your heart is.

When Jesus sent out the disciples He said, “You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak but the Spirit of your Father  who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10:19) Jesus did not say, ‘you will not experience fear’ He said do not let fear overcome you and thus choke out your ability to hear the Holy Spirit.

We will all experience fear, anxiety, and stress in life; anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome, that happens a lot, especially in these seemingly uncertain times.  Experiencing anxiety does mean you are sinning! When you allow those feelings to become a state of being, a driver of your live that affects all areas of your behavior, feeling of self worth or belonging, then you are living contrary to God’s will.

Be anxious for nothing, knowing that anxiety will happen. But, hand it over to God through prayer, and thanking Him for all the times He has stood by you, saved you, guarded and protected you. Remember who you are, and whose you are, and anxiety will not be able to control your life.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Perspective…You are NOT your job

In-Christ-I-Am-640x226Your identity is in Christ.

That statement in and of its self is HUGE; however, we still fight the concept. Our work has become our identity. Our happiness is based on our work status and whether or not our job fulfills us. We want to find a partner who is as ‘dedicated to their work’ as we are. We talk about finding ‘work life balance’ not ‘life work balance’.

In a world where we are inundated day in and out on TV, social media, news, virtually every media outlet you can think of with finding and elevating our career satisfaction, it’s no wonder that so few do. After all, if hundreds of people can make millions of dollars teaching others how to be happy in their jobs, there must be a lot of unhappy employees out there. Work, job, career, vocation have taken the place of the only thing that can truly fulfill our lives…Christ.

No I am not saying that you shouldn’t work or that you shouldn’t want to be happy with the work you do. I’m saying that we should not be spending disproportionate amounts of time worrying, being anxious and crying over our jobs.

Recently I’ve had several individuals come to me with challenges that are rooted in their job satisfaction. They don’t feel appreciated, valued or perhaps challenged. They don’t feel they get paid enough or that the stress their job creates is wearing on them. I too have had some doubts recently about where my ‘career’ fits into my life. Then I read something that began to alter my perception of my job.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

It doesn’t say work heartily for the things you like to do, or are fun to do, it says ‘whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.’ It doesn’t matter if I’m at home folding socks (which I HATE doing) or weeding my garden (which I LOVE doing) I am called to work heartily as if I’m doing it for God Himself. If we begin, just begin to start seeing our jobs as something we do for the Lord, not something we do that takes the place of the Lord, our feelings might change.

God does not want you to hate your job. Yes, that is another truth. God has given you the work you have to do, regardless of what it is, He can bring amazing things forth from it.

“I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor – it is the gift of God”  Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

The Lord blesses us with employment so that we have meaningful work, to provide for our families (2 Thess 3:10-13), to provide for those in need (Eph 4:28), and to live as part of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-16) He does not provide us this work so that we become the work, or so that work becomes our life.

All the labor of man is for this mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6:7

I have spent the better part of my adult life striving to be the best at whatever I do. Early on I discovered that I could receive all kinds of positive reinforcement, awards, accolades and advancement if I worked harder, smarter and longer than anyone else. I achieved great success in the world…at what cost? I had a fancy office on the Potomac, traveling 3-weeks a month away from my family. I would introduce myself to people I met using my title as if it were my last name. I could never just be Betsy Stuetze; no, my true identity was found in what I did, my job title, not who I was. For the record; I was lonely, sad, scared, and desperately empty, and none of this could be cured by my job, my office, or my expense account.

Over the past year, some of which I’ve been serving as a bi-vocational pastor, I have learned that when you keep your (secular) work in its proper place, it can be incredibly satisfying. Our work can be a blessing to our families, others and ourselves. Our work can glorify God. Our work can have far reaching impact on those around us, however, it is not supposed to define you.

Lauren Daigel has a song out that I have gotten in the habit of playing over and over. You Say, has been a call to me when I feel like my priorities are beginning to get out of balance.

“Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Colossians 3:17

Can’t earn it…don’t deserve it.

if god is for usSitting face down on my bed praying, crying really, someone said something to someone else, gossip starts which creates distractions, hurt feelings and damaged relationships. I’m not sure how the snowball got formed or who pushed it down the snow covered hillside, but by the time it slammed into me it was a hard, cold, dirty and painful.

As I placed my head in my folded hands and cried, I wanted so desperately to cry out to God, intercede! I wanted to be bold like David before the throne and cry out to the Lord God of the universe to fight my battle, to carry His standard before me.

“I come to you, Lord, for protection; never let me be defeated. You are a righteous God; save me, I pray! Hear me! Save me now! Be my refuge to protect me; my defense to save me. You are my refuge and defense; guide me and lead me as you have promised. Keep me safe from the trap that has been set for me; shelter me from danger. I place myself in your care. You will save me, Lord; you are a faithful God.” Psalm 31:1-5

I wanted so much to cry out for the Lord to fight this battle and defend me, but I felt unworthy. I sat there with my face to the floor wanting to cry out for my Father’s help and couldn’t because I know I’m not perfect. I wanted to go to my Father and show Him I was bleeding and ask for His help, but I was afraid because I was dirty.

Does any of this sound familiar? This was one of those moment where God truly spoke to me. David wasn’t perfect, neither was Paul, neither was Peter. He doesn’t call people because they are perfect, actually they are usually very very imperfect. In that moment the God of the universe showed me that His love, His protection, His defense was not dependent on my perfection, or even on my being worthy. It is only dependent on His love.

Let that sink in a moment… how often have we not gone to God because we feel we are unworthy?

There is a song on the radio right now by Cory Ashbury, Reckless Love, and it says:

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

He fights for us, He chases us, there is no distance, no pain, no sin, no obstacle to big (or too small) that He can’t – won’t overcome to get to us. Hear me dear ones, there is NOTHING that can separate you, make Him love you less (or more). We all need to step out with the boldness of David and claim the amazing grace God has given to each of us. There is nothing out there that can separate you from Him.

I cried harder at the realization of the depth of God’s love for me, than I did at the pain that this situation caused. He stands between me and trouble, He defends my right and left side, He goes before me and protects behind me. The only part I play in this relationship is to keep my eyes and heart on Him, and follow. He will guide my steps and lead me in the way of righteousness.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

School House Rock, still rockin’ my world

immigrationA couple of weeks ago we attended my youngest son’s school play. They did a rendition of School House Rock where a new teacher was having some serious conversations about whether or not he could cut it as a teacher. Throughout the program the School House Rock songs were used to illustrate how much this teacher really knew and build up his confidence to start his first day. It was a wonderful production and my synopsis doesn’t really do it justice. However, one of the songs they played, truly brought a tear to my eye, not just because of the childhood memory it invoked, but because of how far we have fallen away from the very concept. To see a group of almost 100- 3rd graders from incredibly diverse cultural backgrounds holding hands, and singing The Great American Melting Pot, filled me with joy and sadness at the same time.

I don’t think I realized at that moment, how much the moment affected me until this morning. The drive to get three of my kiddos to their various schools each morning takes me about an hour. During the second half of that drive, we travel through an economically depressed neighborhood. The street is lined with mobile home parks, and at the time of the morning we drive through, it is also lined with children walking to school. There are children from Somali families taking refuge here, there are Hispanic, African and Dominican children walking to school in large groups; the older children keeping an eye on the younger children. Many of the parents are walking with them.

What struck me this morning were the smiling faces not just of the children but of the adults as well. Many of them wearing yellow crossing guard vests as they man the street corners where children will cross to get to school. They smile and wave as many of the cars pass by. Then there are those who take this street as it’s a cross between to major roadways. They are booking it down the road, way over the speed limit in their high end cars. They don’t like the crossing guards, they don’t like the school speed limit signs, they like to slam on their breaks and honk their horns…schools crossings are an inconvenience to their very busy and very important lives.

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10

I think that we’ve forgotten, that unless you are a full blood native american, you too probably come from a refugee family. Somewhere in your background either distant or recent, someone came to The Great American Melting Pot to start a new life, for a better chance for your children, to escape tyranny and oppression, there are so many reasons why. When did we become so much more important, more valuable and more entitled than everyone else?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

This morning broke my heart! I felt nothing but love for the incredible people living in this city who, to some, are nothing more than a commute slowing bother. I applaud the courage it took to leave behind everything they knew, to start over, and work for something better for themselves, and their families. I am so grateful to be an American, my family came here, some on the Mayflower, to start a new life and to build something great, to be a better example for the world. Sometimes, I think we need a reminder of that. I’m a French, German, English, Irish and Native American Indian, American and I am so proud of that.

Christ called us to be disciples of ALL nations, not when it’s convenient, not when it’s safe, not when they look like us; ALL nations. How can we possibly be the people we are called to be if we are just rushing by at 55 mph in our cars with tinted windows, wearing our dark sunglasses, not making eye contact?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

As I write this, I am praying that it will be received in the spirit with which it was written. It is written in love, for everyone, love takes time, intent and compassion. Please, don’t lose sight of who we are called to be.

 

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