Scripture Saturdays

fire-2116361_1280Why Should Christians Hope?

I said last week when I gave up worrying last Lent that I didn’t think to put something in it’s place.  I know now I need to hope.

In The Case For Hope, author Lee Strobel states the Bible mentions hope 97 times in the Old Testament and “83 in the New Testament”.  It’s clear God expects his people to be hopeful.  Why?  Because He is the ultimate hope.  Hoping in Him give us perfect love, complete forgiveness of our sins, and the joy of living with Him forever.  And in Jesus we have the example of what a person can be in a relationship with God.  We can’t be perfect like Jesus, but we have the hope God will change us to be more and more like His son.

So why do I have such a hard time hoping?

I think it’s a combination of physical wiring and and mental habit.  In the next week, I will try to rein in my my wild worries with a few strategies.  My focus will be Hebrews 13:6 “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”  I will also do try the following:

Imagine a positive outcome for a negative one.  I need to break my automatic response of imagining the worse.  That’s helpful when plotting fiction, but it’s a lousy way to live my life.

Become objective.  When I consider my worries, I will judge how likely they are to become reality, based on my past experiences.

I am reminded of a quote attributed to Mark Twain, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

 

 

Scripture Saturdays

in-640517_1280Why Shouldn’t We Worry

Two weeks ago I related how I gave up worry for Lent last year and am doing it again this year.  But why should Christians give up worry?  I use Matthew 6:25-34 as my reason.

“Therefore, I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more imprant than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”     Matthew 6:25-27 NIV

AND

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough troubles of its own”.           Matthew 6:34 NIV

So we have it from the lips of Jesus:  DO NOT WORRY.

But worrying is such a huge part of my life – I am so accustomed to it – when I don’t do it, I feel like something is wrong.  I didn’t realize until this past week I needed to replace worrying with something positive.  Nature abhors a vaccuum, and I believe our minds and souls do too.

In Matthew 12:43-45, Jesus describes a demon being driven from a man.  When he comes back to the man, the demon finds him empty and invites seven more demons into the man.  Verse 45 states, “And the final condition of the man is worse than the first.” 

I think we can substitute “bad habit” for “demon”.  When we get rid of a bad habit, we need to put something positive in its place or we will got back to the bad habit or develop worse ones.

I recently read that the opposite of worry is hope.  I’ll talk about hope next week.

Scripture Saturday

in-640517_1280Giving Up for Lent

If you are thinking of giving up something for Lent, I recommend giving up worry.

Last year, before Lent, I was worrying about what to give up.  No surprise there.  I worry about everything.  And I do mean everything.  If I’m depressed I can always find a dark cloud in the biggest silver lining.  That’s when it occurred to me that if I gave up worry for Lent, I wouldn’t be worried about what what I was giving up.  It was the most rewarding Lent I have ever had, spiritually, mentally, even physically.

If you are like me, and worrying is so much a part of your life that you think it is normal, here are some actions I took to help me give it up.

Pray every day.  I couldn’t give up worrying without God.  I pray when I walk, so every day, I would review my vow, thank God for the worries I gave up the day before, look at what I was currently worrying about, and rededicate my efforts to give them up.  I needed to check in with the Coach before plunging into the day’s “game”.

Become objective.  I worry so naturally I had to step out of myself mentally so I could observe my symptoms of worrying.  If I had racing, repetitive thoughts, or a sick stomach, or shortness of breath, I knew those were signs of worry.  I would look at my thoughts, sort out the worries, and kick them out.  As I became more aware of my symptoms, I could catch the worries sooner.

Take it day by day.  If you tell God on Ash Wednesday that you will not worry again until Easter, you will fail.  Don’t look further ahead than one day.  Pray and then work through the day to run the worries out of your head.  Even if you have to do it fifty or a hundred, or five hundred times a day at first, you have not failed.  Every day you work at it, you are fulfilling your vow.

I wasn’t cured of worry last Lent, but I did feel more positive emotionally and mentally and actually felt lighter physically.  The experience made me eager to try it again this year.

If you pray and feel moved to give up worry for Lent, let me know how you are doing.

Scripture Saturdays

bible-998150_1280Role Models II

Last week, I talked about how I had looked in the Bible for a person who had the same problems with anxiety and timidity that I do.  While praying one day, I thought of Gideon.

When God first calls Gideon, he calls him a mighty warrior.  But his actions don’t fit our idea of a mighty warrior.  When we meet Gideon, he is hiding in a wine press to thresh wheat so the invading Midianites can’t take it.  And Gideon carries out God’s first order, destroying his father’s altar to Baal, at night because he is afraid of his family and neighbors.

When God inspires Gideon to assemble the Israelites to drive out the Midianites. Gideon asks for two signs just to make doubly sure he is doing what God wants.  As the Israelites travel to confront the Midianites, God tells Gideon he wants him to use fewer men so the Israelites will recognize that it is God who has beaten the Midianites.  God tells him to only take three hundred.  Gideon must be worried because right before the Israelites attack, God tells Gideon to sneak into the enemy camp and eavesdrop.  A conversation between enemy soldiers gives Gideon all the encouragement he needs.

It’s interesting to note that when Gideon has doubts, God is right there to support him.  In other stories of the Bible, when a person doubts God, he or she often gets a harsh response from Him.  But I think the difference is Gideon doesn’t doubt God and His powers.  He doubts himself.  I believe God doesn’t mind genuine doubt, if we really have questions that we need answered before we can have confidence in following God’s will.

It’s very comforting to know that God can use me, like Gideon, even when I am scared.  I often feel I should have more confidence if I am doing God’s work.  But Gideon was scared when he destroyed his father’s altar and still got the job done.

God does such a thorough job of building up Gideon’s confidence throughout the story in Judges that eventually he is ready to lead three hundred men against thousands.  He really is the mighty warrior God said he was when He first spoke to Gideon.  God knew it all along.  Gideon just had to realize it.

Several years ago, I prayed that if God needed to change me into a more Christ-like person to please do it gently and slowly so as not to scared me with His awesome powers.  He must have agreed with me because I feel His guidance in gentle nudges rather thunderous blasts.  God knows what I need and what I am capable of doing.  I just need to realize it and realize God can use a scaredy-cat just as easily as He can a lion.

 

 

Scripture Saturdays

book-1936547_1280Role Models

A few years ago, I was thinking about role models and wondering who in the Bible I most closely identified with.  I know Jesus is the example we Christians strive to be like, but I was looking for a person like myself, with my weaknesses.

Unfortunately, the only person I could come up with was Saul.  Not fiery, driven Saul who is transformed into dedicated Paul.  No, crazy, murderous King Saul.

I have always felt enormously sorry for Saul. He had it all and blew it about as badly as a person can, killing himself as his sons and Israel’s soldier died around him. I pity him because I understand how he blew it and know I could make the same kind of stupid mistakes.

Saul seems to have been an insecure person.  When Samuel proclaims him king in front of the people of Israel, Saul hides (I Samuel 10:17-26).  In I Samuel 13:1-15, Saul panics when he thinks Samuel isn’t coming to offer offerings to God.  His army is scared of the amassing Philistine army, and men are deserting.  So Saul takes it upon himself to do the priest’s job.  When Samuel arrives, on time, he tells Saul that his family line won’t be established as kings because he hasn’t obeyed God’s commands.  From that time on, Saul makes worse and worse decisions, often out of fear.

I have struggled with anxiety all my life.  I know what it’s like to panic, make a dumb decision, realize it, panic again, and make an even worse one.  I haven’t tried to pin an enemy to a wall with a spear, like Saul attempted to do to David, but I regret actions I took out of fear.

The only good think about anxiety is that it drives me to rely on God.  I wanted to find someone in the Bible who had also struggled with anxiety, and with God’s help, became a strong servant for Him.  So many people in the Bible seemfearless, and the lesson they needed to learn is humility.  Samson, David, and Peter all had to have the arrogance knocked out of them at least once, so God could use them.  All those stories are instructive, but they weren’t ones I had personally experienced.  Wasn’t there anyone in the Bible who had to overcome anxiety instead of arrogance?

On a walk one day while praying, I got the answer: Gideon.

Scripture Saturdays

bible-1846174_1280One Last Resolution

I like this article from Almost an Author.  It reminds me why Christian writers write.  I have tried to be diligent about letting God lead me as I started this blog, and this article underlines the importance of that diligence.

Merry Christmas!

nypl-digitalcollections-510d47da-e478-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99-001-w

I wrote this for my parents as a Christmas gift many years ago and they kindly said I could reprint it here.

Be Still

Be still

On the holiest night of the year

And think

Among the billion, billions of stars

In the vastness of forever

He would have come

If only

For you.

Scripture Saturday

nypl-digitalcollections-510d47da-e485-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99-001-wGod’s Blog

This is a speech I wrote to accompany the presentation of Bibles to the third-graders at my church and I wanted to share it because I enjoyed writing it.

How many of you know who your principal is?  Sure, you know his or her name and where that person works, but do you know his favorite food?  Or favorite subject?  What college she went to?  So you know enough about your principal to identify him or her and to say hello but not much else.

Sometimes, that’s all the more we know about God.  We know He’s there and He makes stuff like nature and miracles, but we really don’t know much else.

God wants us to know him as well as you do your mom and dad and best friends. Nothing is more important than getting to know God.  So God set up a blog, e-mail, and Facebook pages so we can do that.

The Bible is God’s blog. In it, God tells us about what he likes, like creating things, and what he hates, like sin.  He tells us about people He’s helped because they got to know him.  God posts all kinds of information about Himself on His blog in histories, poems, and essays.

He also receives e-mails, but when we e-mail God, we called it prayer.  We can e-mail God about anything, even just ordinary, everyday things, and He always responds.

God also has Facebook pages.  Interestingly, God uses real faces for his Facebook pages.  Everybody who believes Jesus saves us from our sins is a Facebook page for God.  Checking out all the Facebooks pages here in our church is a wonderful way to get to know God.

So remember to use all through of God’s electronic formats – blog, e-mail, and Facebook — and you will be working on the most important thing you can do with your life.

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