Christianity 201

July 17, 2012

What Keeps You Up At Night?

Matt Brown is the founder of Think Eternity; and he and wife Michele blog at ThinkE.   This appeared this week under the title The Presence of God is the Answer.

I can’t stop thinking about a quote I heard from Matthew Barnett, Pastor of the LA Dream Center:

The Presence of God is the answer to everything that keeps us up at night.” 

That about sums it up.

What are you facing right now? What is holding you down? What is keeping you up at night? What is trying to steal your joy and your peace? What is causing deep boredom in your everyday life?

What is the answer to all of these? The Presence of God.

But how do we get the Presence of God? Moses prayed a good prayer thousands of years ago that people have been using to tap into the Presence and glory of God ever since. It goes something like this:

Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.

You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’  If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” 

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” 

And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:12-18).

We don’t serve a distant God, we serve a God who cares more, who loves deeper than we know. Who is active in our lives. Consider these two Psalms:

You are near, oh Lord. Nearer to me than my foes. -Ps. 119:151

In vain you wake up early & stay up late with anxious working. For God gives blessings to His beloved even while they sleep. -Ps. 127:2

What do you need to let go of? God’s Presence can help you.

~Matt & Michelle Brown


Green letter Bible?  Usually — not every time — on this blog you’ll see scriptures in green. To me it serves as a reminder that God’s word is life!

 

May 24, 2012

Cultural Overlay Adds Depth to Familiar Bible Story

The majority of Jesus’ disciples may have been fisherman, but generally, we see a kind aqua-phobia among the people of that region.  I was reminded of that this week when I decided to check back with Kevin Rogers’ blog, The Orphan Age, where this appeared under the title

WAKING UP TO THE CHAOS DRAGON
It’s good to be well rested because you never know when your strength will be tested. Consider the disciples with Jesus in the midst of a brutal storm. With their strength being exhausted bailing a swamped boat, their sense of peace was gone.

Mark 4:

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Tom Boomershine is a Bible scholar who gives us an interesting perspective on this story. The fear of the fisherman may have had a spiritual twist to it.

The chaos dragon lived in the sea and a common belief in the ancient world was that storms in the sea were caused by the sudden rising of the chaos dragon. 

Storms were a kind of tidal wave caused by the great dragon, a symbol for the cosmic powers of evil.

The chaos dragon is in the background of stories in the Old Testament and some of the Psalms. The story of the flood in Genesis reflects the Ancient Near Eastern myths of the chaos dragon. It is a sign of the powers against God. Contemporary movies have developed a large repertoire of signs of the powers of evil.[i]

Even though they were with Jesus, these fishermen grew up on stories from many sources about the dangers of the sea. What evil power was at work seeking to destroy them?

Were they thinking about Jonah who was awakened by the sailors when a violent storm threatened to destroy them? They were not spared until Jonah confessed his wrongdoing and had the men throw him overboard into the frothing chaos.

The disciples waken Jesus and frantically yell over the howl of the storm, “Don’t you care if we drown?”

Have you ever prayed like that? You are facing a life storm that has the capacity to destroy you and you cry out to God asking if He cares. Sometimes there is faith enough to believe that God is with you, but not enough faith to believe that God cares about the fearful circumstance. God may be nearby, but you are going down and cannot understand why God is sleeping.

“Don’t you care if we drown?”

The truth is that Jesus does care. It is God’s preference that none would perish. But in the threat of destruction we lose our ability to see love. How can a loving God allow this to happen? Fear and anger howl like the storm drowning out the quiet-natured presence of peace. Jesus is here, but why is sleeping at a time like this?

“Don’t you care if we drown?”

Jesus cares.

February 8, 2012

Ten Ways to Love


I wanted the above list to be the feature of today’s post here, but also wanted to share with you a short devotional that appeared post-Super Bowl at Daily Encouragement.  This both a reminder of God’s sovereignty and a reminder that even technology offers us ways to find a new analogy to explain aspects of the Christian life…


“The Victorious Outcome”

Note: Today’s illustration may not connect with non-football fans or international readers but has an important spiritual application.

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8,9). “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

In America our national sports interest turns to football throughout the fall and winter culminating in the “Super Bowl” that many of us viewed this weekend. Most had a favorite team they were hoping to see win the game. If you’re that kind of fan did “your team” win?

Having lived for nearly eight years in New England I’m sure I have many very disappointed friends up that way! But I also expect to see several New York friends this week like Dominic, who attended the game and is very pleased at the outcome. Some are excited, others disappointed. That’s the nature of competitive sports: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.

Let me share a story today: Imagine that your team is in the Super Bowl but you have to work and can’t watch the game, so you record it intending to watch it later. But as you leave work someone spills the beans and informs you that your team won the game. You are thrilled to hear this but you still decide to watch the game even though you know the outcome. However you quickly find yourself stressing out as you watch the game play-by-play. You must mentally pause to remind yourself, “This is only a recording, my team wins!”

Spiritual application: Life is like that. As God’s redeemed children, on the basis of Scripture we know that we are on the winning side. May God give us grace not to stress out in the “play-by-play” of life, worrying about finances, health, world conditions, safety, loneliness, work, home, death, things people do to us, and all the other things that can cause worry. In placing our trust in Christ we are “obtaining as the outcome of our faith the salvation of our souls.”

Ultimately this victory is assured on the basis of Christ’s finished work. We don’t have to wait to celebrate the victory; He wants us to enjoy victory right here and now. Peter, who had seen Jesus, wrote to second generation followers who had not seen Him but had a faith relationship like us: “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Remember, Jesus came so that we “might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly”! (John 10:10)

Paul, who also came faith in Christ following the resurrection wrote: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  It’s a great truth for every one of us. This absolutely reliable source informs us, “We win!” Paul is writing to the Roman believers and here in chapter eight he comes to a crescendo in his thought.  The context of “all these things” includes just about all that can go wrong in life, most of which we have never experienced (Romans 8:35).

Every word is rich with meaning but let’s consider just the phrase “more than conquerors.” This actually translates a single Greek word “hupernikomen.” This word is linguistically known as a “hapax legomenon”, a term used for words that occur only once in a body of literature (in this case the New Testament). In fact it’s so rare that it’s possible that Paul devised it to express his thought.  Brooksyne tells me that I make up words as I preach so I can understand such a theory.

It is actually a combination of two more familiar words; “huper” from whence we get “hyper” and nikao from whence “Nike” gets its name. “Nikao” is often translated “overcome” and is found most frequently in Revelation. I like to compare translations and I suppose for this verse I’m most blessed by the rendering in the NASB which states “we overwhelmingly conquer.”  Now let that bless your soul today, fellow overcomer!

That is what we are, through Him who loves us, and today I urge you to drink deeply from the spiritual reservoir we have in Christ. Even in the midst of your present trial declare, “I am more than victorious through Him who loves me!”

Hide this truth deep in your heart.  Many struggle, but God’s eternal Word declares that what really matters has already been taken care of.  “We are (present tense) more than conquerors.” Is Jesus Christ your Saviour and Lord today?  Ultimately this is the only thing that matters in winning the one thing in life that really does matter.

  Father, we recognize that we are overcomers because we are children of God.  The battles we conquer and the ultimate victory we attain in our lifetime is wholly because of the power of Christ at work in us. We are more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us and gave His life for our sins.  Thank you for the inexhaustible supply of Your grace, power, and provision for our salvation and our steadfast walk with You in the ensuing battles of daily life.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

September 30, 2011

Praying Through The Tough Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:23 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A few different things today…

First, I want to thank those of you who were praying for me.  Today I got my medical report and it was good, and we are very grateful to God for answered prayer.

Second, I don’t know why, but I felt a really strong leading to post an old song here that was a popular church solo, I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked.  After looking at what was available, I went with this one by Larnelle Harris which you’ll find after today’s devotional.  (It’s actually recorded from a Gaither Music DVD; I guess I’m not cool/hip anymore!)  Again, I’m not sure why this is here, but if it’s for you, let me know.

Finally, that brings us today’s thoughts.  This has been an exhausting week, but this appeared at T.O.L. on Tuesday and I wanted to share it with any who might have missed it. This of course was written before item one above, so I modified it somewhat…

When I’m going through a period of intense personal pressure, I find myself wondering about the condition and authenticity of my faith in light of the anxiety I am experiencing. There, I said it. Scratch my name off your list of Christian superstars. Whaddya mean it wasn’t there?

I’m a worrier. A sometimes chronic worrier.

My mother often quotes Jeremiah 12:5 to me at times like this:

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?

In the NIV it reads,

 “If you have raced with men on foot
and they have worn you out,
how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble in safe country,
how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

In other words, if you panic and are stressed by a little pressure, what are you going to do when something serious happens? Except this week things were more serious. “The swelling of the Jordan,” so to speak.

I say all this to say that it is so easy to espouse certain positional truths in scripture, but it is another matter entirely to live out those things practically when circumstances require a response.

In other words, we generally have all the answers — for someone else. It’s easy to straighten out someone else’s life; it’s hard to accept God’s instructions when we are the ones under pressure.

Mind you, I can’t imagine not having God to turn to.

I walked today where Jesus walked,
In days of long ago.
I wandered down each path He knew,
With reverent step and slow.

Those little lanes, they have not changed,
A sweet peace fills the air.
I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt Him close to me.And felt His presence there.

My pathway led through Bethlehem,
A memory’s ever sweet.Ah! mem’ries ever sweet
The little hills of Galilee,
That knew His childish feet.That knew those childish feet

The Mount of Olives, hallowed scenes,
That Jesus knew before
I saw the mighty Jordan roll,
As in the days of yore.

I knelt today where Jesus knelt,
Where all alone he prayed.
The Garden of Gethsemane,
My heart felt unafraid.

I picked my heavy burden up,
And with Him at my side,And with Him by my side
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
Where on the Cross He died!

I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt Him close to me.

September 6, 2011

God’s In Charge

Ula Gillion lives in South Africa and blogs at Jesus Carries Me.  She called this post, Smooth Sailing Results in Limited Understanding.

Suggested Reading: Matthew 8:23-27

The disciples didn’t always know exactly what Jesus’ next move was going to be or what He had planned ahead, but they followed Him nevertheless.  “He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him.” They didn’t get very far with Jesus when a sudden storm came up. These were seasoned fishermen. They were well acquainted with the weather patterns and recognized the signs of an impending storm, but this “furious” storm caught them off-guard, nonetheless. The Greek word used to describe the intensity of the storm is the word seismos, a word related to the word we use to measure the intensity of an earthquake (seismic activity). The storm was so severe that it caused a shaking similar to that of an earthquake, and in no time the waves were sweeping over the boat.

But, amazingly, throughout the shaking and the strong gale force winds and the water sweeping into the boat, “Jesus was sleeping…” I suppose it is easy to take a nap in the middle of a storm if you know you are in control of things. Jesus could sleep because He knew He was in control of the winds and waves. The problem, however, was the disciples didn’t know that He was aware of the storm. They did however believe He could do something about it and filled with fear, they decided to wake Him up. “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Although they have at this point not yet fully grasped who Jesus was, they nevertheless knew that they could call to Him for help. It does appear that they thought the storm will take Jesus by surprise. They were about to discover that not only was He fully aware of the storm, but with a simple word nature’s power will bow down to His. At that moment  they called for Him to help, I wonder what it is precisely they thought He would do about the storm. One thing is certain; they did not expect Him to settle the problem with a single word. He spoke and it grew “completely” calm. Not a little calmer or considerably calmer. It grew completely calm through a word out of our Lord’s mouth.

Evidence that they did not expect this result is in the stunned silence that followed.  Their jaws dropped to their feet and they exclaimed, “What kind of man is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” That is why He asked them why they had so little faith. They didn’t yet understand that this Man with them in the boat is the Lord of all the earth. They did not yet understand that He is the One through whom all things have been created and that all things will therefore obey Him. They did not yet understand that God placed all things under His feet –that with them in the boat was the One called Immanuel –God with us. God Himself was with them in that boat.

Do we really grasp the One who is with us in the boat when we go through the storms of life? Do we really understand that He only needs to speak one word and then everything will grow completely calm? Do we know that He can do with one word what we have been struggling for years to achieve? We need only to call on that name –the Name of Jesus, and all the powers of the universe will have to obey His command. He will never allow His own to be destroyed. He promised never to leave us nor forsake us.

Whatever storms we face will only be allowed to develop us and never to destroy us. Because of this storm His followers gained a greater understanding of who Jesus was. Had it not been for the storm, they may have continued for a while longer with their limited perception of Jesus. The storm revealed another aspect of His glory. The storm looked big and monstrous, but only until Jesus spoke. When He speaks our storms will appear minute in comparison to His power. Just as it happened for the disciples, our storms may give us deeper insight into the glorious power of our Lord. Without the storms, we may still continue limiting Him in our minds. Smooth sailing results in limited understanding of God, so let us praise Him in the storm!

 

August 30, 2011

The Storm Has Passed

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:44 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I borrow many times from Daily Encouragement, but there’s no denying the timeliness of what they wrote on Monday in light of current events.  But that’s not the only reason this is here. This morning I asked my self what I would want to read today, and what I would want to give my readers, and instantly this theme came to mind: God’s peace. When I clicked on Stephen and Brooksyne’s reading, that was the theme!

“Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39 NKJV). “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV).

As most of you know, due to the intense media coverage of Hurricane Irene, we had a severe storm come through our area this weekend.  We were to the west of the hurricane’s main path up the east coast but still had a lot of rain and high winds. Some of our friends had power outages but the damage in our area is minimal and few lives were lost due to the many warnings we received…

…But early Monday morning as we prepare this message the sky is bright blue, the winds are completely stilled, the school buses are loaded with students and drivers are heading to work. The storm has passed! For our devotional message today let us consider a famous storm in the Bible.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all recount the story of Jesus climbing into a boat with His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee. It’s 700 feet below sea level and its deepest point descends 150 feet. The sea is 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, surrounded by hills. Jesus had called four of His disciples into ministry from this very sea.

The winds blowing across the land intensify in close proximity to the sea, often causing violent and abrupt storms. Several of the disciples were seasoned fishermen who had spent their lives on this lake. They’d undoubtedly survived many storms, but in today’s Scripture account a severe squall released its windy furor which caused the still waters to erupt thrusting powerful waves of sea water above the boat.

Can you just imagine the scene; the men running about the boat to find watertight containers to bale out the water as it swirled about their feet and was rising. They surely panicked and feared for their lives. All except One; the Son of Man who, of all things, was sleeping soundly on a cushion in the stern!

Nerves completely shattered by now, the disciples awakened Jesus and asked passionately, “Teacher, don’t You care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38b). Jesus responded to the disciples with a reprimand for their lack of faith, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26). He then got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, “Peace!  Be still!” and the winds and waves obeyed their Creator.

The disciples, still shaken, after their death defying ordeal, now witnessed the instant calming of the horrific storm once Jesus commanded the elements to be still. Consider the roller coaster ride their emotions took as the sudden storm broke loose, the waters rose, and then the miracle that followed.  Their emotions went from concern to worry, then fear, then terror, then disbelief, tremendous relief, and finally amazement. Stunned by what they had seen, they surely shook their heads in astonishment as they began to ask each other, “Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey Him” (Mark 4:41).

When our hearts become troubled they’re much like the storm tossed sea. It causes unrest within our soul and our passions become unruly. Fear and anxiety are inevitable as the deadly water of doubt, unbelief, rebellion and other harmful attitudes rise up within us thereby drowning our faith in God.

Challenges, trials, and tragedies will always exist. But God has promised that His peace is available to all who seek Him – He offers a peace that transcends human understanding or human intervention. This peace will guard our hearts from anxiety, fear, terror, and strife. “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:4,5).

Jesus looks on but eagerly awaits our beckoning call. He comes into our lives upon our invitation as we ask Him to save us.  He says, “Peace!  Be still!” to the conflict, doubts, fightings, and fears that grip our hearts.  We no longer strive to save ourselves, but we ask Jesus to save us.  Fear is overcome by faith when we ask Jesus to be our Savior, to guide us over the troubled sea of life.

Daily prayer: Father, we thank You for the powerful God that You are.  Even the winds and waves recognize You as Creator and obey Your voice.  Your Word is a lighthouse that directs us safely toward heaven when the furious waves swirl about us and the water rises up to our necks.  Keep us firmly anchored in Your ways so that we stay above the waters and endure to the very end. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

July 26, 2011

Fears, Hopes, Insecurities: A Male Perspective

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:36 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I could have written this myself, though not as well.  Murray Wittke blogs at All The Days of My Life, where this post appeared originally as A Man’s Dreams and Fears.

I am a man.  And as a man I live with deep longings and unspoken fears buried within in my heart.

On the one hand I desperately long for significance.  I long to be a man of the highest quality of character, the kind of man that moves into and significantly and positively influences the people I love and the world I live in.  I long to be the kind of man that has what it takes to handle difficult tasks, to be the husband and father my wife and children need me to be, and to be the best friend anyone could have.  At the end of my days I want to be able to look back with satisfaction upon a legacy of love carrying on in the lives of others.  Secretly I also long to be recognized, appreciated, and respected for being that kind of a man, by my family, friends, and peers.  Down deep I want to be recognized and valued as someone unique and special, to not simply be a nameless, faceless, and insignificant drone among the billions and billions of identical ants in the anthill of life living and dieing without anyone ever noticing they exist.

But!  On the other hand, and at the same time, I am plagued with unspoken anxiety and insecurity.  I live with a constant and terrible fear that eventually I will be exposed to all the world as a man that is inadequate; weak and powerless, a man of little worth or significance.  I live with the fear that despite my best efforts I will be exposed as nothing more than a man of no substance, a man of no particular value or importance.  I fear ending up as a man who lived and died without leaving any trace of impact or influence, a man no one noticed.  I fear that when it’s all over my life will have had the weightiness or impact of the slight brush of a butterfly wing.  I deeply fear that all I really am is an insignificant drone among the billions and billions of other nameless and faceless people no one ever notices, cares for, or misses when they are gone.  I admit, as a man I contain a strange brew of both deep longings and terrible fears.

What calms my fears and gives me hope is the knowledge that I am God’s child, dearly loved, highly valued, and delighted in by my Heavenly Father.  For reasons I cannot fathom He loves me!  He knows everything about me and doesn’t reject me!  Despite my strike outs, stumbling, errors, and fumbles; despite my shoes being on the wrong feet and my shirt buttoned up wrong; despite my embarrassing displays of temper tantrums, pouting, sulking; and despite sometimes even running away, He still gathers me up into His arms, holds me tight and cherishes me.  Wrapped in the arms of His love all the longings of my heart are satisfied and all my fears are washed away.

I am a man, but I am also His child.

~Murray Wittke

Here’s another example of Murray’s writing; this one is called Soul Surgery.

June 10, 2011

Putting It On The Altar

This is probably one of the most extreme examples of wrenching something out of context from an entirely different type of online source, and a much longer series of articles;  but I hope a few of you will pursue this and check out the ministry of George Hartwell, especially if you’re hurting or currently ministering to someone who is hurting.  I first met George last month when he was taking a few days apart from his schedule to do some writing and studying in a kind of informal rural retreat.   The article is from the website, HealMyLife.com.  George is a Christian counsellor in Toronto, Canada.

A Multi-Purpose Prayer of Release

“Put it on the Altar” is versatile: a prayer of release, a prayer of commitment, and an act of worship. It is a prayerful way to release stress.  Any work can be put on the altar: the week’s work, a life’s work, one’s ministry, and one’s investment in a person.  By doing so you are making it clear that this work has been done “as unto the Lord.” Putting one’s work on the altar frees one from concern of what people think and concern about the results of your effort. So it clears your heart from the fear of man and your mind from lingering on the project.

A person can be put on the altar. It is a prayerful way to release stress. By doing so you are making it clear that you don’t control this person. You have taken your hands off and put them in God’s hands. Putting a person or relationship on the altar should bring a sense of freedom and release. We were made for freedom and when one person clings or controls neither is free.

You can put your heart on the altar with the meaning of putting it into God’s care. This is a good idea. It is especially good when we are heart broken. When we let God hold our broken heart He keeps if from becoming hard. In His care our heart can love again.

Putting on the altar the things that we want to control can free us from tension and anxiety. It we are pushing to control, striving to manage, wound up about things it is not good for our health. Letting go of wanting to control is a way of relaxing. The theme of letting go of our drive to over control as a way of reducing stress is fully explained in “the Power of Letting Go” by Patricia Carrington (1999).

Mental over control can dampen the spontaneous enthusiasm, creativity and wisdom our heart and spirit. When we learn to live more from heart and spirit and less from our head we enter a zone of excellence that the Bible calls “the rest” or “life in the Spirit.” Using more secular language, Timothy Gallwey explores this interesting theme of getting out of mental over control in his books which include “The Inner Game of Tennis”, ‘The Inner Game of Golf” and “The Inner Game of Work.”

You can put your plans (goals, vision, mission, programs) on the altar to surrender them to God and find God’s will for you. To find out if God is calling you to some project surrender the project to God by putting it on the altar. When you picture putting something on the altar the message at the heart level is about taking your hands off, letting and stepping back. God’s response, or non-response, can indicate whether God is in it. God may confirm with the still small inner voice, by an increase in inner joy and enthusiasm, by inner peace about moving ahead, with a clearer vision and creative ideas coming forth. With God’s confirmation and the sense of God’s wind in your sails you can move ahead with confidence and with the sense that you are in partnership with God.

Sometimes pleasing people is a stronger force in our life than pleasing God. That means we fear men more than God. This means that man’s thinking can control us. In fact, others have become our God. We are in idolatry. It could be liberating to put these others that we fear on the altar. Sacrifice them and their approval to God. Let God do a work in your heart. Be free of the fear of man. Be free to serve God alone.

“Put it on the Altar” Prayer of Release

The following steps are instructions for a healing encounter with God through a prayer of release – a let go and let God kind of prayer. Adapt the outline to your purposes as seems appropriate.

You start when you have identified what it is that you want to put on the altar.

Choose some image to represent what you are putting on the altar. For example, your physical heart represents your love and the center and source of your life.

Tell God what you are doing. For example, “Take my heart, loving Father as I put it on your altar. I put my broken heart in your care.”

Picture the altar and the action as you put what represents your concern on the altar.

Stay attentive to this drama as it unfolds. As you put it on the altar what happens? What else do you see and hear? At the end of this symbolic inner action notice how you feel.

You can enter into a dialogue with God. For example if you have trouble letting go you may want to ask God if it is in His hands now. For example: “Heavenly Father, do you have my heart in your hands?” Listen for His answer.

When something significant happens, when something encouraging is heard in a prayer encounter, you will usually have a good feeling inside. It is important to soak in this good feeling, this encouragement and comfort. Take time to receive. Be still and let this feeling soak in. Let your heart feel good.

Let you heart be thankful. Let your spirit rejoice. Thank God. If your putting something on the altar represents a meaningful release and loss then it is health if you are experiencing some grief. See the next topic on Grief and Comfort.

(Optional extension) Ask yourself what implication this has for your life. How does this change your life? How would your life be different now?

Picture how things can be different in your life. What is one thing that would be different? Imagine how that would be. How does that change feel?

Thank God for how this went, for how you feel, and for this can change your life.

Make notes: write down a record of what happened, how you felt and what God said and review this later for discernment and encouragement.

 

Click this link to learn more about George Hartwell’s counseling ministry

Click this link for a directory of online articles at HealMyLife.com

 

May 17, 2011

A Fresh Approach to Facing Fear

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:09 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Continuing from yesterday, this is from Ed Welch at the CCEF (Christian counseling) blog:

The Secret to Dealing with Fear and Anxiety

 “Humble yourselves.” That’s the secret. It has been there all along, but we rarely use it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Fear and anxiety sufferers like myself have tried on a number of Scripture passages over the years. We might start with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . .” (Matthew 6:26). When we need something easier to memorize we move on to Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

These passages work very well as counters to low-level anxiety. But, in the face of an anxiety assault—they aren’t enough. At those times, they can sound like mantras that are devoid of power, which is actually a good thing. Anxious and fearful people can easily slip into taking Scripture as a pill. Take one passage twice a day for two weeks and your symptoms will be gone. When the pill doesn’t work we have two choices. We search for another treatment, or we confess that we are using Scripture as a self-help book for symptom relief, in which case it is time to get back to basics. If you choose to get back to biblical basics, Peter’s exhortation to humble ourselves is a great place to start.

I had an anxiety assault recently. I was facing perhaps the worst fear I could imagine, and there was nothing I could do about it. What a mercy that I was confronted with the call to be humbled before the Lord. It resulted in a simple prayer.

“Lord, you are God and King. I am your servant. I know you owe me nothing. For some reason you have given me everything in Jesus. I trust you. And please give me grace to trust you.”

A few minutes later, my prayer moved even closer to Scripture.

“Father, forgive me for always wanting things my way. By your mighty hand you have created all things. And by your mighty hand you have rescued your people. I want to live under your mighty hand. Please have mercy.”

It sounds very simple—and it is—but it changes everything. This is the secret to dealing with fears and anxiety. The words of God, and the comfort of the Spirit, become much more obvious when we are repentant and humble before him. No deals—“if you spare me from this suffering then I will . . .” Just simple trust. We trust him because he is God, not because he is going to immediately remove our anxieties or our fear-provoking situation.

This passage has been a secret because we have typically entered it at verse 7, “cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” But to understand its meaning, you need to start with the preceding verse, “Humble yourselves.”

“Humble yourselves” is the only exhortation in the passage. This is what Peter wants us to hear (and obey). If we jump in at the middle—it makes no sense. We can’t cast our cares on him until we have recognized that he is God and we are his servants who have also been elevated to become his children. A paraphrase could read like this (and I highly recommend putting Scripture into your own words.)

Humble yourself before the Lord. This shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, he is God and King, Lord of all. He is the Creator. You belong to him. The creature is the possession of the Creator. Humble yourself before your King. And here is one way to express this new-found posture of humility: cast your cares on him. Did you catch that? When you come humbly before the King he reveals his unlimited love. Who would have thought? He actually wants you to cast your burden on him. You were never intended to carry those burdens alone. He is the mighty God who never leaves. You can trust him. And this casting is no mere act of your will. It comes as you know that he is God and you are not. Oh, and you can be sure that he will lift you up from your kneeling position and give you more than you ever expected.

A little wordy, in contrast to Peter’s more succinct version, but rambling and embellishment give us more time to meditate on the logic of the passage.

The secret is to

   …pause before you head into your favorite passage on fear,
   …consider the greatness of God,
   …add some of your own confession and repentance as a way to drive the message of humility home,

and   then
   …remember some of those sweet words of God to fearful people.

If you want to read more on fear, Ed has written two books on the subject: Running Scared and When I Am Afraid.


Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. Ed has been counseling for over twenty-six years and has written many books and articles on biblical counseling.

May 16, 2011

Afraid of Fear

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:40 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is shaping up to be the kind of week that causes my anxiety levels to peak.  (Your prayers are welcome!) I’m not only worried about a few things, but it worries me that I worry.  So I was glad to see this post from Kelli at the blog Restored Sunshine; where it appeared under the title Dealing with Fear:

“I sought the Lord and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4 NIV)

I don’t think there is any other emotion that we have that can strike us to move faster or stand completely still.  The above verse is my favorite, because when fear strikes, and it strikes more often for me than I care to admit, I say this verse.  I have also, received more peace, and I’ll gladly admit that, when I say this verse.

Today I started my new job.  My trainer left for the afternoon and I had only been with her for less than two hours!  So, that left me answer the phones… massive, and well deserved panic.

Then I did what I always do when I’m in an unfamiliar place tasked with unfamiliar functions… I ran to the bathroom… okay maybe not (but I never underestimate the power of a well placed bathroom break) I prayed the above.

“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.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

With Jesus we are not fear or be anxious about anything, and as someone who gets anxious about most things I fully understand how hard this command can be.  So for you, who like me, suffer from this ailment, and would like to stop I suggest the following:

  1. PRAY – do this first.
    (Remember to breathe while you are doing so.)
  2. PRAY – do this second.
    (Remember: Greater is He who is in ME than he who is in the world.)
  3. PRAY – do this third.
    (Remember: God did not give us a spirit of fear.)

So, how did it go for me.  One of the worst days.  It was so surreal and I have a ridiculous headache, but I’m okay.  I will figure this out and for only having less than two hours of training and having absolutely no clue about any of it, I think I did well.

~Kelli Wait

Tomorrow we’ll take this to the next level with a Christian counselor who offers a somewhat different foundation for facing fear.

Classic and modern worship
If you check the right hand side of the page, you’ll see that all of the various music resources that have appeared here are now listed and linked alphabetically.  Take a moment to discover — or re-discover — some worship songs with spirit and substance.

March 13, 2011

Before You Pray, “Our Father…”

This was part of our worship time this morning.  My wife adapted this from something one of our team members sent.

If my religion and my life have no room for others and their joys and needs,

…I cannot pray “Our”

If I do not live as a child, beloved and learning,

…I cannot pray “Father”

If all my interests and pursuits are earthly things

…I cannot pray “Who art in Heaven”

If I — called to be holy as he is — am not holy

…I cannot pray “Hallowed be thy name”

If he is not King in my own life,

…I cannot pray “Thy Kingdom come”

If I will not listen for and obey his voice on Earth

…I cannot pray “On Earth as it is in Heaven”

If I will not make an honest effort, or if I ignore the immediate needs of others

…I cannot pray “Give us this day our daily bread”

If I choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted

…I cannot pray “Lead us not into temptation”

If I am not prepared to fight the spiritual fight with faith and truth and love

…I cannot pray “Deliver us from evil”

If I insist on my own rights and my own way

…I cannot pray “Thine is the Kingdom”

If I live according to what my neighbors and friends may say or do

…I cannot pray “Thine is the Power”

If I’m controlled by anxiety about every day’s problems and promises

…I cannot pray  “Forever”

If I cannot honestly say ‘Cost what it may, this is my prayer’

…I cannot pray “Amen”

January 8, 2011

God, You Are So Many Things: Psalm 91

Heard this for the first time just minutes ago at 96.5FM in Australia.  Thanks to the video people who post these songs.   Because the lyrics are already in the video, what follows is Psalm 91 from The MessageThis particular blog post had a lot of different tags as suggested by the lyrics.  If one of them brought you here, kick back and enjoy the music for a few minutes.

You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
I trust in you and I’m safe!”
That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you—
under them you’re perfectly safe;
his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
not disaster that erupts at high noon.
Even though others succumb all around,
drop like flies right and left,
no harm will even graze you.
You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance,
watch the wicked turn into corpses.
Yes, because God’s your refuge,
the High God your very own home,
Evil can’t get close to you,
harm can’t get through the door.
He ordered his angels
to guard you wherever you go.
If you stumble, they’ll catch you;
their job is to keep you from falling.
You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes,
and kick young lions and serpents from the path.

14-16 “If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!”

October 28, 2010

Some People Get Paid for Being Anxious, and Some People Are Anxious For Nothing

The post title is a play on the King James Version’s rendering, “Be anxious for nothing.”   …I know, it’s a bad pun…

…Some of us might get defensive if we were challenged concerning the depth of our faith by any one of a number of criteria; but if you challenged my faith on the basis of worry and anxiety, I would often concede spiritual defeat.   Worry is my Achilles’ heel.  Can you relate?  So I really appreciated Jon Swanson’s paraphrase of a well-known verse from Phil. 4 today at his blog, 300 Words a Day

I understand being anxious.

Not in the “looking forward to” sense or the “can hardly wait” sense but in the “aaaiiieee” sense. And I understand that what I’m about to write is easier to say than to do. But that isn’t a reason to not write it.

Paul makes a very simple statement in Philippians 4. He says, “Don’t be anxious about anything.”

That sounds like scolding, a little bit. “Buck up. Everything will be okay.” Or, “Quit yer whinin’, ya wimp.” Or, “If you really were a Christian, a good Christian, you wouldn’t be anxious.”

I’ve been told things like that. I’ve probably been understood to say them.  But Paul’s not saying those things.

He says,

“You know how it helps sometimes to have someone to talk to? You know how saying things out loud clarifies them? You know how asking the right person often means that something can be done? You know how when you finally quit trying to fix everything and ask for help, you might get help? You know how when you take one little step of trusting, sometimes everything changes?

Take everything you are thinking about and everything you are keeping inside your head and heart and tell God about them. Out loud. However it comes out: incoherently and angrily and passionately and stream of consciously and interspersed with laughter and incredulity that you are talking to God about huge and tiny things all together.”

Okay, technically he says,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

But I’m pretty sure that what he means is what I said. Because that’s what it looks like when I actually stop running and troubleshooting long enough to find a soundproof room and do what he says.

~Jon at 300 Words a Day

« Previous Page