Fear is a life dominator. When fear wells up within us we are often physically paralyzed, speechless or at a loss for cogent thought. When fear strikes we run, we hide or we cower before it as our new and merciless master. When we see fear in others we can easily be drawn into its overwhelming grip and become hapless and helpless in our ability to see clearly and find our way. Because fear is such a powerful dominating emotion, it has always been a preferred tool of Satan. What better way to gain control of the masses of humanity than to instill fear? While fear can occasionally save us, fear is most often a pathway to dysfunction, a weapon of despair and a tool of defeat. So, what do we do to conquer fear? How can we learn to feel fear but not be afraid?
Two weeks ago we talked about Elijah and the incredible courage he had toward accomplishing God’s will. We saw him prophesy, take responsibility, wait, perform miracles, wait some more, appear before his greatest enemy and overwhelmingly conquer in a challenge to prove that God is in fact God over all. The next thing we knew, Elijah was running for his life – afraid and feeling alone. Turns out that all his heroics got him was more threats on his life. So, what happens to that courageous prophet of God now? He still must fight but in a different way for in this next stage of his life God is going to teach him submission. Submission – it does not sound like a characteristic that belongs with courage, but as we will see courage will burn you without submission and submission will burden you without courage.
Courage is perhaps the most underrated, under-appreciated and invisible virtue of our time. We are so busy complying with the status quo, with watching our words and with following what others say and do on social media that we seem to have forgotten the simple yet powerful virtue of courage. Courage is stepping up, stepping out and standing against the tide of darkness. Courage is being what you know you should be when it is unpopular with others. Courage is having the guts to listen when others only want to argue; it is reaching out to give when others are focused on taking and courage is leading by example when following in anonymity would be so much easier. Courage, when observed, incites others to stand, it provokes others to act and it plants hope where there is none. Yes, we need courage, but how do we find it and how do we learn to truly be courageous?
How is it that life seems to go by so fast? How is it that we more often than not look back on our life - the things we did and what we became - with a measure of regret, knowing that we could have been more or contributed more? Have you ever stopped to think of what makes life happen? It is actually a pretty simple equation: TIME + EXPERIENCES = LIFE. Now I know that is an oversimplification, but stay with me. If we can accept that life is the combination of time and experiences, then wouldn’t solving the issue of making one’s life fuller and more meaningful be easier to understand? Time is measurable and predictable and we all have the same amount each and every day. Experiences, be they physical, observational or thoughts, are essentially the sum total of what we do with the time given to us each day. So, what can we do to make our time and experiences produce a rich, fruitful and contented life?
Christmas has come - the hustle and the bustle, the lights, the music, the trees, the ornaments and the garland. Christmas has come – Santa and reindeer and elves and Frosty and movies and presents and gift wrap and cards. Christmas has come – whether you feel you can say “Merry Christmas” or just “Happy Holidays,” we are wishing well to those around us, for it is the season of good cheer and smiles. Christmas has come – family and dinner and cakes and pies and cookies and giving and receiving and football and dressing in new clothes. Yes, Christmas has come. It has certainly made its indelible mark on us yet again…. You know Christ has come – the prophecies said that he would and God’s plan said it was time. Christ has come – he was born to live so that he could die and redeem all of humanity. Christ has come – his gift was simple, yet it was the greatest and most powerful gift that could ever, that would ever be given to this world. Christ has come – and as a result, all of the human race has the opportunity for eternal life. Christ has come – has he made his indelible mark on you?
What a pain in the neck – or my back or my arm or my leg. None of us like physical pain and when we have it we usually try and do all kinds of things to get rid of it. One really great way to do this is to go to a physical therapist and let them understand the problem and its source, evaluate and act on that understanding and then help us work through the process to regain our strength and health. What they help us do will probably bring us more pain for a short time so that we can have less or no pain for a long time! If you ask me, that is a winning formula! Can the process and treatment we receive from a physical therapist translate into steps we can take to identify, treat and alleviate the pains and malfunctioning of our spiritual lives? The best way to find that answer is to ask a physical therapist, so we did!
Stress is all around us and unfortunately, within us. We know stress is not good for us. Physically it wrecks havoc with our bodies. Mentally it causes us to make poor, rash decisions and not work up to our full capacity. It causes us to lash out at those around us and causes damage to relationships we once cherished. Having the peace of God does not mean all is quiet in our lives. It means that even though everything is falling down around us, we are still able to hold onto our anchor in the storm and remain balanced and content. Easier said than done! What are some practical ways we can accomplish this so we can have a strong, steady walk with the Lord instead of being distracted and always giving our second best? Stay with as we explore true peace to combat all of the anxiety this world has to offer.
Here’s a question...what do the 4th of July and Thanksgiving have in common? The most obvious answer is these two celebrations are uniquely American in that their very founding was undeniably linked to the founding of the United States. The less obvious answer is that these two holidays were also founded in humble recognition of God Almighty. Just read the first and last parts of the Declaration of Independence and the first declarations for Thanksgiving and you will see that God was first and foremost. Here we are about 240 years later and God is no longer first and he certainly is no longer "for most." So, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday what can we do to relight our own fire of gratitude towards God and towards one another? Let’s start by talking about it!
People want to be happy. They think about it, they talk about it and they do things do find happiness. The United States' Declaration of Independence speaks of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Yes, we all want to be happy but have you ever thought about “joy”? Have you ever heard of people wanting and pursuing joy in their lives? Happiness and joy have several similarities in that they are both elusive and often fleeting. But joy, well, there is something profoundly special about joy. You see, joy is deeper than happiness. It can become a state of mind that unequivocally transforms you. Here is the catch – if you go looking for joy, you are actually pushing it further away from you. So, how do we find joy? Or more clearly stated, how do we let joy find us and change us in our every day experiences?
What does it mean to be a Christian? Seriously, what is the real bottom line true meaning of following in the footsteps of Jesus? Is being a Christian like an entitlement program? By professing Jesus do we receive protection from evil, deliverance from trials or the healing of our maladies? Do we receive a promise of an abundant and prosperous life? Or, is being a Christian more like a “getting whipped into shape” work and endurance program where we lose our own will, learn to do without and have to somehow rejoice in tribulation every day of our difficult lives? Is the price of true Christianity a simple acknowledgment of Jesus being in your life or is it a “sell all that we have and change what we are” mentality? What DOES it cost to be a true Christian? Is it a price we are willing to pay?