Friday, June 29, 2012

Take Control of Anxiety

And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:27 NAS)

AnxietyDelivered during a Sunday church service, the following is a summary of a sermon on anxiety.

What Anxiety Does To Us
Excessive anxiety achieves nothing (Matthew 6:27-29), is harmful (Proverbs 12:25), and keeps our thoughts on the wrong things (Matthew 6:31-33).

Jesus said …

And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. (Matthew 6:27-29)

King Solomon said …

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad. (Proverbs 12:25)

How Should We Handle Anxiety?
Cast our anxieties to God (1 Peter 5:7).

Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)

Causes of Anxiety
One of the causes of anxiety that can affect our spiritual walk is anger. When we do not get what we want, we sometimes get frustrated. Our anger can result in hurt, for example, because of a broken promise. Our ego, upbringing, and past experiences can also contribute to our feeling hurt.

Is Anger Wrong?
Anger need not be wrong. The Bible mentioned a time when our Lord was angry with the Pharisees (Mark 3:5). In the Old Testament, God was mentioned as being angry with the children of Israel for their constant disobedience and rebellion (Jeremiah 32:30-32), yet He chose to send His Son to save them as well as us. We can be angry and yet not sin, and we ought not to let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26).

Proposed Cure for Anxiety
Let God deal with those who cause us harm.

'Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.' (Deuteronomy 32:35)

Let God complete His work in us.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

Learn to forgive.

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. (Mark 11:25)

Draw near to God.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Come clean before God.

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. (Psalm 32:3-4)

Acknowledge and confess our sins.

I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:5)

Shine for Jesus.

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Walk with God.

For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living. (Psalm 56:13)

Dear Lord, help us to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let our requests be made known to You. Grant us Your peace which surpasses all comprehension to guard our hearts and our minds in You. Help us not be easily angered or let the sun go down on our anger. Draw us near to You Lord as we acknowledge and confess our sins. We cast our anxieties to You Lord. Lead us as we walk with You, and shine through us Your light that dispel the darkness.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Guarding Our Heart

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 NAS)

Guard Your HeartIn an article ’10 New Ways to Protect Your Heart’ by Ron Donoho at MensHealth.com, the author wrote that cardiovascular problems cause nearly half of U.S. male deaths every year—a third of them by complete surprise. Fortunately, every year scientists also discover new ways to protect our hearts, from taking steps to avoid problems, to drugs and gadgets that can help those who already have heart disease. Dozens of studies over the past four decades have shown exercise is good for the heart, but the catch is we are only as strong as our last workout, according to a survey by Framingham Heart Study in Massachusetts.

"The benefits of exercise wear off quickly," says Scott Sherman, MD, of the UCLA school of medicine. Fortunately, the benefits of exercise also show up quickly, so if the only physical activity we ever have is moving pawn to knight six, we are not dead—yet. "The study shows that for sedentary patients, it's never too late to start being active," said Dr. Sherman.

Much like the need to take care of our physical heart, the Bible also cautioned us to guard our heart against turning aside to her ways and straying into her paths (Proverbs 7:25). We are also warned to watch over our heart with all diligence, for everything we do flow from it, and by it the course of our life will be determined (Proverbs 4:23). If we choose not to heed the warning, then we must be prepared for things not to go well with us (Deuteronomy 12:28; Proverbs 4:20-21).

Just as we need to take steps to avoid cardiovascular problems, we need also to take steps to keep our heart spiritually healthy by studying the word of God regularly. For like physical exercise which wears off quickly, so we need God’s word to renew our minds daily to keep up with our spiritual health. The benefit of such a daily communion with God through His word is the ability to keep our heart clean, so we may not sin against Him (Psalm 51:10; 119:11). As long as we are still alive, therefore, it is never too late for us to start getting active into the word of God.

Are we weak at heart, diseased by sin and the allure of this world? Are we walking steadfast in the Lord or are we turned aside and straying into wayward paths? If we have lost our way, let us come back to the Lord (2 Chronicles 7:14). Repent and confess our sins to Him, and He who is faithful and righteous will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). In everything, let us by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make our requests known to God, and His peace which surpasses all comprehension will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Cleanse us dear Lord from all our sins and grant us Your peace which surpasses all comprehension to guard our hearts and our minds in You. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us. Watch over our heart Lord and grant us diligence in taking steps to keep our heart free from diseases and attacks. Your word we have treasured in our heart O Lord that we may not sin against You. Keep us fit to do Your work Lord that in living healthy physically and spiritually, we may do well in You.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Affairs of Greater Importance

But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided … But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:33-34 NIV)

Current Affairs
The affairs that concern many of us currently are not about who is going to be the next head of state, the trade deficit, or the drop in economic growth. Matters of such cultural, political and social events no doubt are of great importance, but not when some of us are still struggling to make ends meet. The domestic necessity for those with dependents to feed is the current affairs of the day. Yet there is something else of concern that far outweighs all current affairs.

According to a news article of May 27, 2012 at ChristianToday.com, more than 1 billion pornographic websites are one click away, and the average age of first-time viewers of pornography is 9 years old. About 80 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds have been exposed to hardcore porn, and the adult pornography industry reports that 20-30 percent of their traffic comes from children. More shockingly, half of all Christian families report that pornography is a problem, and 30 percent of pastors have viewed pornography in the last 30 days.

"The greatest threat to the cause of Christ is pervasive sexuality and pornography," said apologist and author Josh McDowell. The problem of pornography is big enough to cause the downfall of the church, he added.

"Today we have, by and large, lost control of the controls because an intrusive immorality is just one click away from our children. With just one keystroke on a smartphone, iPad, or laptop, a child can open up some of the worst pornography and sexually graphic content you can imagine. There's never been such access in history."

As parents and guardians, are we aware of what our children are doing behind our backs? Yes, the Bible says not to exasperate or embitter our children, but it also says to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). Keeping an eye on the ones under our care is of great importance, and although difficult, we must, for their eternity lie in our hands. If we spare the rod in guiding our children, we are harming them, and the Bible says doing so is equivalent to hating them. If we love them, we have to be careful to discipline them (Proverbs 13:24).

Let us be aware therefore of the affairs that currently matters to us and our family, yet without neglecting to keep a close watch of our young. Though we may concern ourselves with the affairs of this world as to how we should care for our spouse and family (1 Corinthians 7:33-34), let us not forget to fight alongside with our children against temptations. As shepherds of the flock, let us admonish and teach everyone with all wisdom that we may present everyone perfect in Christ Jesus our Lord (Colossians 1:28; 1 Peter 5:2).

Dear Lord, You know the cares we have of this world and the affairs that currently need our attention. Help us Lord to deal wisely in all these affairs and not neglect overseeing those in our care. Guide us Lord in Your wisdom to see the areas we need to pay special attention to in fighting alongside with our loved ones against temptations and the schemes of the devil. In the offering of easy access through technology and the cyberspace at our fingertips Lord, keep watch over us and our loved ones from all enticements. Where disciplinary action is required for our young Lord, guide us on the right approach to educate or correct, that they may not be exasperated or embittered without understanding our love for them. Thank You, Lord, for always taking care of us. You O Lord are our God, and we exalt and praise You because we know You are in full control of all our circumstances and all the current affairs of the world.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Questioning Self

He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15 NAS)

A friend of mine shared with me how she began questioning herself and her competency after working for over a year in an environment where the stakeholders seemingly could not understand the value of her proposed marketing plans. Her situation reminds me of the exact same feeling I had not too long ago after the team of people I worked with in a corporation was absorbed by another department.

For many years, my work had been highly valued as contributing to the corporation. With the change in culture under a new boss and a new supervisor based at headquarters abroad, things were seemingly getting out of hand. After several months ironing out conflicts and differences adjusting from a team working environment to top-down management, I was greatly distressed and started questioning my own self-worth and values. I failed then to realize it was God’s way of leading me to new pastures, but now I know.

Many of us have probably experienced the feeling of self-doubt at one time or another and questioned ourselves whether we are cut out for a certain job tasked on us to perform. In the Bible, we read of several people who were also faced with such situations. When called by God to deliver His people out of Egypt, Moses said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). On becoming king, Solomon prayed, “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (1 Kings 3:7). When told to deliver Israel from the hand of Midian, Gideon said, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house” (Judges 6:14-15).

Questioning ourselves when feeling inadequate or when in self-doubt is nothing wrong, but we ought never to give up. This is because very often our abilities are not our own but God-given, and in His strength we can succeed (Philippians 4:13). If we take the time to ponder over our past, we may discover the many occasions we did certain things we were not qualified for or capable of doing under normal circumstances. Such abilities are God-given; not our own. Like salvation, they are the gift of God, not as a result of our works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Just as Moses, Solomon, and Gideon prevailed in the Lord when they obeyed God, let us therefore also not fret but be prepared when called upon to do His will or to a new adventure ahead. Let us be content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, difficulties for Christ's sake; for when we are weak, then are we strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Grant us dear Lord the confidence to do what You ask of us, and give us the strength to do the things we cannot do. Help us completely trust in You and not dwell in self-doubt, but overcome our feelings of inadequacy and inability. We desire to obey Your command O God, for You know us better than we know ourselves. In our weakness and distress O Lord, keep us content for Christ’s sake that when we are weak, we may be strong in You.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Taking Risks

And why should we ourselves risk our lives hour by hour? For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily. (1 Corinthians 15:30-31a NLT)

Risks Ahead
According to an article by G. Jeffrey MacDonald of Religion News Service at ChristianityToday.com, raising risk awareness and taking steps to prevent disasters is a matter of faithfulness for some church leaders. Besides preaching the gospel and ministering to the needy, figuring out how to handle an ever-growing list of risks is now part and parcel of a pastor’s life.

Some new risks are real and demand vigilance, said Travis Hutchinson, pastor of Highlands Presbyterian Church in LaFayette, Georgia. Conducting a criminal background check on everyone who works with children, for example, has become a necessity. Other risks are more remote, yet vendors stoke anxiety about everything from federal audits to shooting sprees.

"I get lots and lots of stuff that just seems like fear mongering, and apparently that's taken hold in some places," said Hutchinson. "One of the things we have to do as a congregation is to ask ourselves, how much of our time is [risk management] eating up? And how much time are we spending doing what God wants us to do?"

A number of churches and Christian communities have expressed concerns over minimizing risk because members may forget how to take risks appropriate to Christian discipleship. Scott Bader-Saye, a professor of moral theology at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, said churches preoccupied with institutional safety may become unwelcoming toward poor people because embracing them could pose hazards to their bottom lines. Another concern is churches anxious to protect endowment assets may not notice when opportunities for generosity come along.

"The question being lost in today's risk management is, what are we willing to lose for the sake of the gospel?" said Hutchinson.

Striking a balance between taking or not taking a certain risk is of great concern to many today. Yet long before risk management even existed, people were already taking risks. We read about such people in the history of the Church, the many who risked and gave up their lives holding fast to the faith. Peter was crucified, Paul was beheaded, Stephen was stoned to death, James died by the sword, and many others were eaten by lions or burned at the stake. Through the centuries, many more missionaries suffered persecution, and some were murdered for preaching the gospel in places where Christianity was forbidden. All these martyrs risked their lives and remained steadfast to the very end.

Have we ever wondered why there are people who are willing to risk their lives hour by hour and face death daily? For the apostle Paul, it was because he believed in Christ and the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12-14, 29-31). What about us? Are we willing to risk our lives for the Lord or are we at risk of becoming too unduly concerned about protecting ourselves that we turn away people who are in real need? Are we too dependent on others to ensure our safety that we do not know how to be vigilant or take care of ourselves? Are we exercising our spiritual gift of discernment and paying attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit?

True risk management is not all about preventing the dangers that can harm us, for there is no need to be afraid of those who can hurt our bodies but not our souls. Fear instead He who is able to destroy both our souls and bodies in hell (Matthew 10:28). Like the apostle Paul, let us be bold and willing to take risks for the gospel of Christ even if it means to expose ourselves to ridicule, disadvantage or persecution for His name’s sake.

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes risking the many souls that need You because of undue concern for our own safety. Help us Lord not fall prey easily to schemers and those whose purpose is to destroy, but grant us Your gift of discernment to differentiate between real risks and those that are fueled by fear. Lead us by Your Holy Spirit Lord to see and hear with opened eyes and ears in our exercising vigilance to protect ourselves, our brothers and sisters in the faith, and the people of the community. Strengthen us Lord that we may be bold to take risks and face challenges for the gospel of Christ.

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