Do 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.
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A 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.
We have a biological response to fear. God created us that way to help us respond in dangerous situations, it’s our ‘fight or flight’ response. In times of danger our body has two natural responses; to fight or to flee. These are there to help protect us. They are almost immediate responses to impending situations. This response is good, it is there to keep us and those around us safe. However, fear can take on a life all its own if left unchecked. When fear of every unknown outcome, or unexpected turn of events becomes our norm, fear becomes another peace killer.
Fear is defined as, “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” As we all know and most have experience, fear is exhausting. The fight or flight response that we have increases our heart rate, the flow of blood to our brain and increases adrenaline in your system to help you cope with what is happening. Our bodies are not meant to live in this extreme state for long periods of time. This response helps us deal with or escape from the current impending situation. However, stay there too long and things begin to fall apart.
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
My oldest daughter Alex was 3 days old when she was diagnosed with a terminal liver disorder, I was told she would not live to see her first birthday. She received a liver transplant when she was 6 years old to cure her of this disorder, first one ever to be cured. When she was 11 she was diagnosed with post-transplant lymphoprolific disorder (lymphoma) which she lost her battle with 2 years later, after receiving a stem cell transplant.
I lived in a state of fear. Fear of Alex not waking up, fear of doing something wrong that would cause her more issues, fear of being a bad mom, daughter, friend, wife. The phone ringing late at night would startle me awake so badly that I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lived in a constant state of fear, and most of the time I couldn’t even tell you what I was afraid of.
When I read the 23 Psalm, I can say that those years, especially toward the end, i walked through the darkest valley any parent could imagine. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:1-5
When I look back at that time now, I can honestly say that without the Grace of God I would not have survived. Living in fear not only kills your peace…destroys it, it also damages your health, your state of mind, your focus, your career, your family, your relationships. I think one of the hardest things for a Christian to live out is not living in fear when your life feels out of control. That it’s in those times of deepest despair that we need to cast all our hope, all our cares, all our tears, all our everything on God and TRUST that He will handle it.
It really is like jumping off a cliff. I remember a scene from an Indiana Jones movie (confession: I love those movies). The scene where Indiana is rushing to get the holy grail to have his father who has been mortally shot by the Nazis. The must make a leap of faith. All he sees is the great chasm below him, and in order to save his dad he has to take the step. Into nothingness, into certain death…well if you haven’t seen the movie, he takes the step, only to discover there is a very cleverly disguised natural stone bridge constructed to look just like the chasm floor.
In those times of fear when we don’t seem to have hope, we are asked to take the step. To throw all our cares into the chasm, our very lives at times, and to believe that the bridge is there not only to catch us but to lead us to safety.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
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Marcus is my 7-year old son (almost 8). He is bright, energetic (to put it mildly), intuitive and quite often very insightful. Right now, he is into watching bible movies, and to be honest, I’m loving every minute.
Last weekend we watched the animated story of Joseph the King of Dreams and Moses back to back. While watching these movies, Marcus noticed that the Egyptian gods didn’t look quite human.
“Mom, did the Egyptian gods actually look like animals?” he asked. “I mean, in real life were they part animal, did they actually look like that?”
To which I replied, “no son, they didn’t look like that in real life. The Egyptians fashioned their gods out of a combination of human and natural/ animal characteristics.”
Marcus lifted one eyebrow (which I LOVE that he can do), and said the most amazing thing…”if the Egyptians made them, then how can they be god?” A pretty deep yet accurate question for my 7-year old.
I find myself lately in more and more conversations with individuals who seem to have a sincere desire to experience God, however they are incredibly uncomfortable with committing. They tell me that they believe in a supreme power but think that there is a lot of “truth” in all religions. They begin to fashion for themselves a ‘god’ that aligns with their wold view; part Buddha, part Christ, part Native American or New Age, whatever fits into their perception of a reality they craft for themselves. Then they are unsatisfied that this ‘god’ they have created doesn’t fulfill their desire to connect to the divine.
Exodus 20:2-4, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth…”
If you can create it, it’s not a creator. If you can chose it’s name, it’s name has no power.
John 1:1-4, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
We create our idols/gods as a result of an innate desire to connect to the divine, that desire is from God. But out of our fear, we design a version of god that doesn’t challenge us, or hold us accountable or to whom we must be accountable. A god that allows us to continue with the status quo, not telling us what to do or how to do it. Never expecting us to be more than what we are. We create an idol to say we believe in something, then become disgruntled when that idol does not fulfill our deepest need to connect.
Then we talk about how, “we tried religion” or “we gave God a shot, but it didn’t work out for us”. Did we really give God a chance? More likely than not we were too afraid of what He’d ask of us so we backed off, created our own version of truth and when that didn’t fulfill us, blamed it on our own man made macaroni sculpture.
Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light…”
God doesn’t want to ruin or control your life. He wants you to come to him of your own free will. He doesn’t want you to settle for less that the very best He has for you. Choosing Jesus is choosing a life of love, abundance, peace, joy, fellowship and fulfillment. It isn’t a choice to make lightly as it will change your life. Consider the alternative, a life with your favorite macaroni sculpture and endless one sided conversations or a life fulfilled with a loving God, personally involved in your life every day.
I saw a sign on social media recently, it simply stated, “If you are right and there is no God then I’ve wasted my life, if you are wrong and there is a God then you’ve wasted your eternity.” (unknown author so I ask for forgiveness if I’ve misquoted).
I chose eternity, and apparently so does Marcus.
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In Matthew 4 we find Jesus being “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” We know that he fasted for forty days and nights, and that the bible clearly states (as I checked this against 5 different versions) that, “He was hungry.” Forty days and forty nights, yea, he’d be hungry. He’d have a hunger inside of him that would literally make him sick, weak, faint and at this moment of weakness what should happen… The tempter came. “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Remember how hungry He must have been… his reply?
Matthew 4:4 – But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”.
I don’t know how many times I’ve read this part of scripture, but when I was reading it this weekend something struck me, one word, shall.
Just last night, I was having dinner with my parents at an Italian restaurant and of course there was bread, I love bread. Mom asked me, “would you like a piece of bread?” Of course I’d like a piece of bread, but you know man can not live on bread alone. Yup, that’s what I said. It’s what I’ve heard and I’m sure you’ve heard, lots of people say. “You know what the bible says…man can not live on bread alone.”
WAIT! The scripture says, man SHALL not live by bread alone. BIG DIFFERENCE FRIENDS! I thought to myself when I read this again last night… how did I miss it? So I went searching through every version of the Bible I have in my house, and do you know what I found? They all say the same thing.
King James: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
New International Version: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Revised Standard Version: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
New Living Translation: People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the Mouth of God.
The Message: It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.
Yes, I am telling you that man can live on bread alone, it’s not healthy, and I don’t recommend it. Bread may feed our bodies but not our souls. Only the word that proceeds from the mouth of God can feed our souls, make us whole, bring freedom, forgiveness and salvation. Bread may keep your body alive but will not give you life.
One of the definitions of the word ‘shall’; expressing an instruction or command, “Man shall not live by bread alone”, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:2-3 where Moses is exhorting the people of Israel to remember how God cared for them in the desert for 40 years stating in verse 3, “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your father know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
It’s not about the bread! It’s about living by the word of God. His promises are many and cover ALL our needs. We don’t need to focus on the immediate hungers of the flesh, we need to keep our eyes, hearts and hopes on him. Everything else is just a distraction and will keep us from fully living the life He has planned for us.
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“Mom, I want to be spider man”, “mom can I be wonder woman?”, “mom, mom, can a girl be baby Groot?” This is what I hear on an almost weekly basis these days. My children are obsessed with super heroes. They love the idea of heroes; those who are willing to do whatever is necessary for the greater good, despite the personal pain and sacrifice they must inevitably endure. Several years ago, when my oldest son was 8-9 years old he was obsessed with Indiana Jones and dressed up as him for three years running. I still have the cloth whip he carried that plays the Indiana Jones Theme Song. Da da dum dum da da dum! Yea I play with it sometimes too…truth be told it’s in my office and my whole team gets a kick out of it.
He loved that Indiana Jones had a seemingly super power where his whip was concerned however, his real super power was actually that he was smart and cared about keeping people safe. I remember when we watched the last Indiana Jones movie together, Nik kept telling me, “Mom it will be ok the hero always wins.” Then there was the scene where Indiana got a bit of a beating and Nik covered his eyes and began to worry if Indiana would still be victorious…of course he was, and Nik looked at me beaming…”see I told you the hero always wins.” Such faith he had in his hero.
It’s funny how we crave the idea that there are those in the world who are willing to serve a greater purpose than themselves, even to the extent of sacrificing their lives for it. We believe that honor, and nobility are something to be admired and looked up to. It’s almost like we were born with the innate desire to seek out that which is greater than ourselves.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
Perhaps it not that surprising after-all. Being made in God’s image we have the ability through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to share in God’s divine nature. We are created to be like Him who is noble, loving, forgiving and full of mercy. It is natural then that we look for these ‘invisible qualities’ here on earth.
The question is, why do we feel the need to create imaginary and fantastical versions of heroes to worship, as opposed to worshiping the one who embodies everything we seek?
In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Does this list of characteristics sound familiar; true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? Is Paul describing Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, or Spiderman? The list of characters could go on and on, none of them exemplify all of these characteristics, all of them represent some. The one difference seems to be that each of our heroes is mortally flawed. Whether its pride or vanity or kryptonite or a relationship or greed, we imbue each of our heroes with characteristics that make them more like us. It’s easier to believe that a hero could exist if they weren’t perfect. So, we worship the flawed over the flawless. Is it because we want to make our heroes more like us, bringing us to a more equal footing? Or is it simply because we can truly comprehend flawlessness?
God is flawless, sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent. He is perfect, He is love, He cannot make a mistake and will not cause harm. We can trust Him completely and be confident that He is who He says He is; always has been and always will be.
While heroes remind us of our innate desire to experience the divine in humanity, there is only one true source for that divinity, Jesus Christ. He is the one hero who embodied all that is divine. His flawlessness, purity, nobility is what we truly seek, Jesus was fully human and fully God. Why would we seek something less, why would we worship that which is flawed and broken when we have what is perfect.
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