Friday, August 26, 2011

Managing Stress

casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7 NAS)

Stop StressStress often prevents us from relaxing, and many of us know what it is like to be distressed. Causes of stress can come in many forms—pressure at work, finances or other personal problems. Not all stress is bad, however. Stress is good when it pushes us on to reach intended goals. Whether we crumble or excel under stress depends very much on how we handle and perceive the things we face. If we do all things to our very best as for the Lord and the people we care (Colossians 3:23-24), or for the interest of others (Philippians 2:3-4), we do well and should not feel stressed.

Proverbs 16:26 (NAS) states, "a worker's appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on." This in essence means hunger can help provide the necessary stress and motivation for people to work hard, although earthly desires can also do the same. Stress in itself is not evil. What we deem as stress, however, may not be a stress to another. Similarly, what helps us to de-stress may not help another.

Some months ago, I heard a sermon preached on the topic 'Managing the Stress of Life.' The speaker mentioned that stress can be driven by fear or material wants, and there is no need for us to be judgmental as to who or what is causing our stress. How we respond is what really matters because distress or eustress is subjective. While distress is the negative effects of stress, eustress is a stress that is healthy, and gives one the feeling of fulfillment or other positive feelings.

The top five distresses in life, according to the speaker, are death of spouse, divorce, relationship separation, jail term, and death of a loved one. Some suggestions on how to manage stress include:

Avoid stress inducers. Learn to stop saying "yes," and start saying "no." If we cannot meet the deadline for a task requested, just say "no" or negotiate for a later date. Control the environment and do not spend too much time on the things that stress us. Rushing, for example, is stressful, so control and manage the time we have and try to eradicate rush altogether. Avoid things or people that upset us (Proverbs 13:20), and walk only with the wise, not with the fools, for bad company corrupts and can cause undue stress (Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33).

Adapt to the stress. Our mental frame of minds should be opened to changes and adjust to expectations. Stressing ourselves and others does not help, and although expecting high standards is good, perfection is seldom possible so long we are here on earth. Do not be an absolute perfectionist without giving room for unexpected or occasional mistakes. Some of us may feel life is a battle, but even so we need to learn to defocus on the negative and change our perspective to see things differently and positively.

Accept the things we cannot change. Come to terms with whatever is changing or happening or have happened. Be still and acknowledge God is supreme and sovereign (Psalm 46:10; Jeremiah 29:11).

Add joy and laughter to life. A cheerful heart makes good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22). Do things that give us joy, and we will be able to manage our stress better.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Give ourselves a break regularly and eat healthily. We need to rest and stay healthy if we are to present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

Assess ourselves and the situation honestly. Sometimes it is our own fault or mistake. Take responsibility, confess and get help to address the problem (John 1:9), and then move on.

Apply God's word. Lay our foundation on the rock (Matthew 7:25; Luke 6:48), and meditate on God's word (Joshua 1:8). Commit all situations to the Lord (Philippians 4:6). Stop worrying (Matthew 6:27). Cast all our cares and problems on God (1 Peter 5:7). Rely on God's strength and fear not (Psalm 27:1). Have a peaceful and good sleep (Psalm 4:8).

Anticipate the future. For most assuredly there is a future, and our hope will not be cut off or be in vain (Proverbs 23:18).

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Dear Lord, You know how frequently we are stressed over so many things. Calm us therefore Lord and grant us Your peace amid the distress we face. Help us not to be overcome by the stress of this world, but grant us the strength to prevail. Teach us to say "no" when no is needed, rather than always take what is given without thought. We know Lord all things are in Your control and within Your plans for us, therefore, we need not be afraid or feel distress, but with cheerful hearts do all things as for You rather than for men.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Earnestly Seeking

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1b NAS)

Earnestly SeekingIt was two years ago that the neighboring city near where Laura lives started a tradition of setting off fireworks to kick off the Christmas season. By the time she realized what the noise was, it was too late. Laura's pet dog Suzy, a border collie mix, was nowhere to be found, frightened by the sounds of fireworks.

Alone with her nearly one-year-old daughter, Laura drove around in the darkness through the neighboring streets calling out Suzy's name out the window. It was very cold, and Laura knew she could not keep her daughter out all night. Feeling her stomach in a knot as she reached home, Laura tried to settle down so her daughter could get some sleep. Just before laying her daughter down in bed, the phone rang.


"Hello, do you own a dog named Suzy?" the voice at the other end asked.

As it turned out, Suzy had run about one and a half mile east through woods, neighbors’ yards, and even across a fairly busy roadway and intersection. The man who found her said he had let his dog out to go to the bathroom and when he let him back inside, Suzy had followed. Laura guessed the cold night may have helped in the quick recovery of Suzy. The man had found Suzy's ID tag around the dog's neck and called Laura immediately.

That was the story shared by pet owner Laura Best with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
.

Many of us know what the feeling is like to lose something and find it back later. What a joy we receive when something we have been earnestly searching is found! This sentiment is illustrated very clearly in Luke 15 through the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (Luke 15:3-20), exemplifying what it means to earnestly seek the lost.

About 850 years before our Lord shared to the world through parables, God through the prophet Jeremiah also shared to the exiles in the Babylonian captivity about what it means to be in earnest.

‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ (Jeremiah 29:12-14 NAS).

Our Lord will be found by us when we earnestly seek Him with all our hearts. This is God’s promise to us. If we have strayed or are feeling far away from the Lord, or have lost something we desperately need, Jesus is able and willing to restore to us what we have lost (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9). If we seek Him earnestly with our souls thirsting, and our flesh yearning for Him, He will quench our thirst and satisfy our souls (Psalm 63:1b, 5). For our Lord’s lovingkindness is better than life, and He will uphold us with His right hand when we cling to Him (Psalm 63:3, 8).

Let us therefore come to God with faith, believing that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Seek the LORD while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near. Return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on us, and will abundantly forgive us (Isaiah 55:6-7). Like water that quenches thirst, our yearnings shall be filled when we earnestly seek the LORD our God (Psalm 63:1, 5). Like the lost that was found, great will be the rejoicing in heaven when the strayed is restored (Luke 15:7).

Forgive us Lord for the times we stray, and when we feel You are far away. Return to us the joy of salvation Lord, and restore us to a close relationship with You again as we earnestly seek You. Quench our thirst O God and uphold us with Your right hand, for Your lovingkindness is better than life.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Only One Thing is Necessary

The Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha! You worry and fuss about a lot of things. But there's only one thing you need. Mary has chosen what is better, and it is not to be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42 ISV)

Too Many ActivitiesAccording to an article 'Death by Church Activities' published on June 27, 2011 at ShareFaithBlog.com, program-heavy churches look pretty awesome to many people because they are big, bustling, active, and energetic. There are events for almost every single demographic in the church with plenty of activities for everyone. Members give their time, effort, talent, and money to maintain the programs. By and by, however, instead of thinking of church as a body of believers, people tend to think of programs, services, activities and the like, which eventually can lead to major spiritual decline.

Many Christians today spend a great deal of time keeping activities going instead of meeting the needs of people around them. Consequently, these people become disillusioned because their needs are not being met behind all the activities. Even if we feel we have done a great job serving the Lord, we need to regularly check ourselves to be sure we are not too busy spending time doing things till we forget Who we serve. Suppose our Lord visits us today, can we be sure we recognize Him or will we fail to receive Him (John 1:10-11)?

Busying ourselves in worthwhile Christian activities and causes is perfectly fine. However, if we become too distracted with all the preparations like Martha when the Lord visited her or too bothered by the many things and activities that need to be done, then all our efforts would be in vain. Martha, in her busyness, asked the Lord why He does not care that her sister has left her to do all the work by herself. Jesus in reply said, "Martha, Martha! You worry and fuss about a lot of things. But there's only one thing you need. Mary has chosen what is better, and it is not to be taken away from her" (Luke 10:40-42 ISV).

That one thing Martha needs is what we need as well, especially if we, like her, are too busy serving till we forget the purpose and the One we serve—Jesus Christ. Like Martha, we need to stop spending too much time busying ourselves, and like Mary, we should choose to spend time with the Lord to build a closer relationship with Him. Unless we spend time with the Lord to learn from His word and talk to Him regularly, we can gradually lose our focus in our busyness serving Him and His people. We can also become spiritually dry if we fail to recharge and renew our minds (Romans 12:2).

Let us therefore while serving the Lord, consciously be aware Who we serve and for what purpose. Rather than keep ourselves too busy in activities or programs, let us remember always to do all things for the Lord, to build up, train, grow, solve problems, and meet the needs of the people. Without much ado about nothing or fussing over trivial things, let us do the needful and fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Dear Lord, help us to stay focus on You in all we do that we may amid the many activities, and in our busyness, not neglect to spend meaningful time with You. Keep our focus fixed on You Lord and draw us close to You that we may build up, train, grow, and meet the needs of others in leading them to a closer relationship with You. Thank You for renewing our minds and strengthening us Lord as we serve You willingly and joyfully without fuss or much ado.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Crime and Punishment

Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:45-46 NAS)

Crime and Punishment“On one count of theft, the Court imposes upon you a fine of one thousand dollars,” said the district court judge.

“But Dad,” said the defendant, a teenager. “You’ve always forgiven me when I did wrong; why are you punishing me now?”

“Son, you have broken the law, and the law requires that you pay for the wrong you did, regardless who you are or who you are related to.”

The enactment of the courtroom proceeding was a scene from a slide show presentation on the big screen of a church gospel event some years ago. Voiceovers by different people representing the different characters in the story were used, and I was the one providing the voiceover for the district court judge. The defendant teenage boy was the main character of the story.

As the story progressed, a message began to unfold of One who paid with His life for our sins—the just for the unjust—once for all and for all eternity (1 Peter 3:18). This message still stands today. Regardless who we are or who we are related to, rich or poor, ruler or commoner, the fact remains that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The price we have to pay for our sins is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). If we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9). For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth confesses, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:10). Whoever believes in the Lord, the Scripture says, will not be disappointed (Romans 10:11). For our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

As Christians, we know the message of the gospel very well, and we know the price our Lord paid to save us all. Our Lord was pierced through for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). Will we then be the ones to deprive the unsaved from coming to the Lord? We know it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Can we with sanctified eyes see how the end will be for someone we know to come before the judgment throne and be sentenced to eternal death?

The Lord had said that when the Son of Man comes in His glory and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-33). In that day, the unsaved, even those who may have heard of Christ or attended church, will come before the Lord and say, “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.” Then our Lord will say to them, “I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from me, all you evildoers” (Luke 13:26-27).

For to the extent we do not do what is right to one of the least of these, we fail also to do it for our Lord, and the consequence for them who are yet unsaved is eternal punishment (Matthew 25:45-46). Let us therefore not hesitate or neglect to do our part to bring the unsaved to the Lord.

Direct us in Your paths O Lord and make us know Your ways, that we may not stand ashamed before You for failing to do what is right. Lead us in Your truth and teach us Lord, for You are the God of our salvation. Help us not cast a blind eye on the yet unsaved, but steer our hearts and move within us that we may cry out to You for the salvation of these who are lost. Open our eyes dear Lord that we may see with sanctified eyes the consequence the lost will face if we do not reach them for You.

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