Do not meditate on the mess

“Do not meditate on the mess.  You gain nothing by setting your eyes on your problem.  You gain everything by setting your eyes on the Lord.”- Max Lucado

“God . . . is the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters.”- 1 Timothy 6:25 (Phillips)

Max Lucado continues Chapter 11 of Anxious for Nothing as he delves into his acronym C. A. L. M.  In today’s blog, Pastor Lucado covers the letters C and A.

1.  Celebrate God’s goodness.  First, turn your attention away from the problem.  Then, for a few minutes, celebrate God.  For the more you obsess on your trouble, the more you stare at it, the bigger your problem grows.  In contrast, the more you look to God, your problem quickly reduces to the proper size.

Therefore, don’t meditate on the mess.  Fixing your eyes on the problem gains you nothing.  However, you gain everything when you set your eyes on the Lord.  If, like Peter, you’re sinking because your gazed at the wind and the waves, you’re looking in the wrong direction.

Since God sustains and controls all, He possesses authority over the situation you face.  And in His mercy, God’s grace envelops your sin.  As a result, rejoice in the Lord.  But don’t hurry past this first step.  Before you face your problem, face God.  That, in turn, readies you to ask God for help.

2.  Ask God for help.  Since, Max states, “fear triggers either despair or prayer,” the author cautions us to choose wisely.  Consequently, when anxiety knocks on your door, Pastor Lucado urges, ask if Jesus would mind answering the door!

In addition, reduce your request to a single statement.  Furthermore, engage in specific and promise-based prayer.

Today’s question: Under what circumstances do you tend to meditate on the mess?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the annotated bibliography of Anxious for Nothing

Tomorrow’s blog: “Life still gives lemons”

The secret to fruit-bearing

“The secret to fruit-bearing and anxiety free living is less about doing and more about abiding.”- Max Lucado

“Abide in me and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”- John 15:4 (ESV)

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 10 of Anxious for Nothing as he underscores the secret to fruit-bearing and anxiety-free living.  that secret? – more abiding, less doing.  Lest we miss the point, Pastor Lucado observes, Jesus employs the word abide ten times in John 15:4-10.  That’s ten times in seven verses.

Therefore, Jesus invites you to make His home your home.  In addition, to be at home, Max states, is to:

  • feel safe; home connotes refuge and security
  • be comfortable and casual
  • be familiar; you know where everything is

As a result, the author explains, your dominant duty as Christ’s disiple = to cling to the vine.  Thus, changing the world and making a difference for Christ represent by-products of the focused Christian life.   Our primary goal is fruit-bearing.

Consequenty, don’t load yourself down with lists or enhance your anxiety with fear.  Rather, hold the hand of the One who never, ever lets go.  In conclusion, then, Pastor Lucado describes how to disarm anxiety:

“How do we disarm anxiety?  Stockpile our minds with God thoughts.  Draw the logical implication: if birds and flowers fall under the category of God’s care, won’t he care for us as well?  Saturate your heart with the goodness of God.”

Therefore, if you abide in Christ’s word, His truth sets you free from fear, dread, and anxiety.

Today’s question: How does abiding in Christ produce fruit-beaaring in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: A pathway out of the valley of fret”

Healing from anxiety, healthy thinking

“Healing from anxiety requires healthy thinking.  Your challenge is not your challenge.  Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.”- Max Lucado

“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.”- Proverbs 4:23 (New Century Version)

In Chapter 9 (“Think About What You Think About”) of Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado encourages practicing thought management.  For when you manage your thoughts, Pastor Lucado explains, you pick what you ponder.  Yes, many things happen in life over which you have no choice.  But, it’s well within your dominion to choose what you think about.

Most noteworthy, Max observes, Satan knows this.  Thus, the devil loves to mess with our minds.  The author illustrates:

“He [Satan] fills the sky with airplanes that carry nothing but fear and anxiety.  And he is doing his best to convince us to let them land and unload their stinking cargo into our minds. . . .  The devil is to hope what termites are to an oak; he’ll chew you up on the inside.”

However, in God you possess a power that Satan cannot defeat.  Therefore, Satan isn’t the master of your mind.  As a result, when anxious thoughts fill your mind, Max urges, call on God first.  Slap handcuffs on your problem.  Next, march your problem before Jesus, the ultimate authority.  Then, lay claim to every biblical promise in your memory bank.  Finally, set out to learn a few more.  Withdraw the welcome mat for Satan’s lies.

In conclusion, Pastor Lucado notes, it’s during times of greatest distress that we feel the Lord’s presence upon us.  And, Max adds, “guard your thoughts and trust your Father.”

Today’s question: How does healthy thinking bring healing from your anxiety?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Cling to Christ, abide in Him”

When northeasters bear down

“Northeasters bear down on the best of us.  Contrary winds.  Crashing waves.  They come.  But Jesus still catches his children.  He still extends his arms. . . . still sends his angels.  Because you belong to him, you can have peace in the midst of the storm.”- Max Lucado

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 8 of Anxious for Nothing as he talks about the third promise that fosters peace in the middle of a storm.

3.  You are in the Lord’s service.  While we may not receive a clear message like the apostle Paul, we still have God’s assurance that we won’t live one day less that we’re supposed to live.  Thus, as long as God has work to do, He’ll keep you alive to do it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean no problems exist in your future.  Just as Paul’s problems continued, so will yours.  Yet, it’s still not easy to lose your ship, as the sailors did in Acts 27.  Your boat – marriage, business, job, body, etc. – kept you afloat.  But without your boat, you’re convinced you will sink.  And for a while, that’s reality.  Waves seep over you.  Fears suck you under.

Hence, Pastor Lucado underscores, “You can lose it all, only to discover that you haven’t.  God has been there all along.”

For example, in 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat faced a triple challenge as the Moabites formed a great and powerful confederacy with two other nations.  However, in response the king sought the Lord, proclaimed a fast in all Judah, and cried out to God in prayer.  Most noteworthy, Jehoshaphat  so totally believed in God that he remarkably decided that singers lead the army into battle.  For the king knew the real battle was spiritual.

In conclusion, Max exhorts us to learn a lesson from the king:

“Lead with worship.  Go first to your Father in prayer and praise.  Confess to him your fears.  Gather with his people.  Set your face toward God.  Admit your weakness.  Then, once God moves, you move too.  Expect to see the God of ages fight for you.  He is near, as near as your next breath.”

Today’s question: How does the Holy Spirit take the wind out of your northeasters?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Healing from anxiety, healthy thinking”

Fear – coming at you from all sides?

“Is fear coming at you from all sides?  Then let God speak to you.  Let God give you what he gave the sailors: perfect peace.”- Max Lucado

” . . . Paul stood in the midst of them [sailors] and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss.  And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.”- Acts 27:21-22 (NKJV)

Max Lucado continues Chapter 8 of Anxious for Nothing as he underscores that God takes responsibility for the hearts and minds of His sons and daughters.  As we celebrate Him and approach Him in prayer, God constructs a fortress around our hearts and minds.  That fortress protects us from the attacks of Satan.

When Paul penned his Letter to the Philippians, he’d recently endured a storm on the Mediterranean Sea (Acts 27).  On this final recorded voyage, Paul boarded a ship in Caesarea destined for Italy.  Not wanting to winter in Fair Havens, the ship’s captain ignored Paul, the Jewish preacher, and set sail for a better harbor.

However, the ship ran headlong into a northeaster.  Along with a winter sea, cumbersome boat, ferocious wind, and impatient crew, these components blended into the perfect storm.  Most noteworthy, the experienced sailors gave up hope.  Paul, the preacher, became the “courier of courage.”

So, Max asks, what does Paul say about the perfect storm that you need to hear?  Do you feel fear coming at you from all sides/  If so, let God speak to you and give you perfect peace.

In conclusion, Max observes, when we ignore God’s warnings, a scolding is in order.  Although we don’t like it, in such cases, Max exhorts, receive God’s rebuke.  Consequently, God corrects those He loves, and He loves you.  Therefore:

  • stand corrected
  • confess your sin
  • resolve to do better
  • be wiser next time
  • learn from your poor choice

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you rebuke fear when it comes at you from all sides?   Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Floundering between offered and answered prayer”

Part Chicken Little, part Eeyore

“You’re part Chicken Little and part Eeyore.  The sky is falling, and it’s falling disproportionately on you.  As a result, you are anxious.  A free-floating sense of dread hovers over you . . . “- Max Lucado

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret — it only leads to evil.”- Psalm 37:8 (NIV)

In Chapter 1 (“Less Fret, More Faith”) of Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World, Max Lucado contrasts fear and anxiety.  Thus, Pastor Lucado opens the chapter with the poignant, down-to-earth description of anxiety:

“It’s a low-grade fear.  An edginess, a dread.  A cold wind that won’t stop howling.  it’s not so much a storm as the certainty that one is coming.  Always . . . . . coming.  Sunny days are just an interlude.  You can’t relax.  Can’t let your guard down.  All peace is temporary, short-term. . . .  You don’t laugh often . . enjoy the sun . . . whistle as you walk.  And when others do, you give them a look.  That look (emphasis author’s).”

Furthermore, Max stresses, anxiety is:

  • a meteor shower of what-ifs
  • suspicion
  • an apprehension
  • perpetually on the pirate ship’s plank
  • twisting us into emotional pretzels

However, it’s not accurate to describe anxiety and fear as twins.  Rather, Pastor Lucado states, they’re more like cousins.  Therefore, Max explores the differences between the two:

Fear:

  • sees a threat
  • screams Get out!
  • results in fight or flight

Anxiety:

  • imagines a threat
  • ponders What if?
  • creates doom and gloom

Consequently, Max wryly offers his personal perspective on the word anxious:

“The word anxious defines itself.  It is a hybrid of angst and xiousAngst is a sense of unease.  Xious is the sound I make on the tenth step of a flight of stairs when my heart beats fast and I run low on oxygen. . . . which makes me wonder if anxious people aren’t just that: people who are out of breath because of the angst of life.”

In conclusion, Max notes, anxiety takes our breath, energy, and well-being.  Hence, to see the consequences of anxiety, simple read half the ailments in a medical textbook.

Today’s question: While considering your response to fear and anxiety, do you see yourself as part Chicken Little, part Eeyore, or both?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Anxiety – presence or prison?”

Intimacy – a fierceness that distance never knows

“Intimacy has a fierceness that distance will never know.  Inside every one of us is a hunger to be accepted, and it goes deeper than any other hunger.”- John Ortberg

“Look!  I stand at the door and knock.  If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”- Revelation 3:9 (NLT)

John Ortberg concludes the Introduction of I’d Like You More . . .  with a discussion of his third and fourth beliefs about why we fear intimacy.  We fear intimacy because:

3.  it makes us feel needy – or worse, reveals our neediness.  We prefer to think of ourselves as strong.  Consequently, we generally dislike feeling needy.  Ironically, Pastor Ortberg notes, it actually requires great strength to choose pursuing intimacy.

4.  deep down, we don’t believe we deserve it.  We fear that our defects and flaws eventually emerge to bite us.  Hence, it’ll hurt more to lose intimacy than never to have had it at all.

As a result, John observes, most people must work at intimacy.  And being close to God takes things to a whole new level.  Yet, we must not view intimacy with God as “one more obligation in an already overwhelmed life.”  For God not only created us for intimacy, but He’s also pursued an intimate relationship with us since our birth.  And experiencing intimacy allows us to take on whatever else life throws at us.

Finally, John underscores, it’s impossible to coerce intimacy, for:

“God doesn’t want compliance, he wants intimacy.  Intimacy respects distance but isn’t content with it.”

Today’s question: Which of Pastor Ortberg’s four beliefs most inhibit a fierceness in your intimacy with God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The basic building blocks of intimacy”

Don’t fear the desert – hear God’s voice as never before

“Don’t fear the desert; it is there where you will hear God’s voice as never before.”- Os Hillman

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.  There I will give her back her vineyard, and will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope.”- Hosea 2:4-5 (NIV)

In Chapter 3 (“Do You Know Why God Made You”) of The Joseph Calling, Os Hillman notes the word desert in Hebrew means “to speak.”  Thus, it’s in the desert where you’ll:

  • have the idols of your life revealed and removed
  • begin to experience the reality of a living God as never before

Yet, Os counsels, you must remember that your desert, character-developing session defines exactly that- a season or stage in your life.  When God’s accomplished His necessary work in you, He’ll bring you out of that season.  To fulfill the mission the Lord’s given you requires an adequate amount of desert preparation time.  As someone once said, “God uses enlarged trials to produce enlarged saints to He can put them in enlarged places.”

In conclusion, Mr. Hillman stresses that you not only need to discover your purpose, but also your anointing.  Writing in Anointing: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, R. T. Kendall explains the gift of anointing this way:

“The best way I have been able to describe [an anointing] is that it is when our gift functions easily.  It comes with ease.  It seems natural.  No working it up is needed.  It is either there or it isn’t.  If one has to work it up, one has probably gone outside one’s anointing . . . the result is often fatigue — that is, weariness or spiritual lethargy . . . described as ‘dying inside.’ ”

Today’s question: What causes you to fear the desert?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Your time of convergence”

The fellowship of the broken

“The fellowship of the broken believe that suffering is a gift He entrusts to us and He can be trusted to make this suffering into a gift.”- Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp concludes Chapter 18 of The Broken Way by noting we tend to shrink back from the razor edge of broken things.  However, Ms. Voskamp presents an alternative to such paralyzing fear.  She proposes:

“Maybe when pain comes looking for you and you feel out of control, maybe you try to control the pain by going looking for it (emphasis mine).  Fear can drive you straight into the things that will break you more.”

Therefore, Ann believes, a fear of brokenness lies at the root of all our control-wrestling and stress.  However, when you no longer fear brokenness, you live surrendered.  You cede control and possession of dreams, plans, and people- as well as their perceptions.

In addition, you lose the fear of fear when you know you’re never alone in facing that fear.  Most noteworthy, Ann encourages, the bravest way of all may be not being afraid of even being afraid.

In conclusion, Ms. Voskamp explains the path of the broken way.  She states:

“Maybe the broken way leads to being as compassionate with yourself as Jesus is with your soul, granting yourself the grace He gives, grace to get it wrong, and grace to change again, grace to be broken and broken again, and the grace to grow on and on, like the broken way of seeds.”

Today’s question: Describe your role in the fellowship of the broken.  Please share.

Please note: the annotated bibliography of The Broken Way publishes Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tomorrow’s blog: The “Are you okay?” question

Fear of flying blind

“We know the fear of flying blind.”- Max Lucado

And he [Jesus] asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”- Mark 8:29

Max Lucado begins Chapter 4 (“You Hear a Voice You Can Trust”) of More to Your Story by telling the story of Jim O’ Neill, a sixty-five-year old pilot.  Fifty minutes into Jim’s four-hour solo flight, his vision failed.  Flying his Cessna at fifteen thousand feet, Jim groped for the radio and issued a Mayday alert.

Consequently, air traffic controllers contacted Paul Gerrard, a Royal Air Force Wing Commander.  Having just completed a training sortie nearby, Gerrard took off in O’ Neill’s direction. Upon locating the stricken Cessna pilot, Commander Gerrard hovered within five hundred feet of the Cessna and guided O’ Neill to the nearest runway.  On his eighth attempt, O’ Neill made a near-perfect landing.

In O’ Neill’s case, a stroke caused his blindness.  But, live also strikes us down, as Pastor Lucado describes:

“We’ve been struck . . . not midair, but midcareer, midsemester, midlife.  We’ve lost sight of any safe landing strip and, in desperation, issued our share of Mayday prayers.  We know the fear of flying blind.”

Therefore, following our ministry downsizing or vocation loss, many voices besiege us. Hence, we want to cover our ears and run.  As a result, and amid all the commotion, Jesus Himself asks the most pertinent question: “Who do you say that I am?”

Jesus first asked this question in Caesarea Philippi.  As Max quips, Caesarea Philippi “was to religion what Wal-Mart is to shopping.”  Most noteworthy, Caesarea Philippi housed a center of Baal worship, a white marble temple to the godhead of Caesar, and shrines to Syrian gods.

Believing in Jesus as the Son of God, we never travel alone.  In conclusion, Pastor Lucado encourages:

“True, we cannot see the runway.  We do not know what the future holds.  but, no, we are not alone.  We have . . . the commander’s voice to guide us home.”

Today’s question: After your vocation loss, what helped you conquer your fear of flying blind?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Welcome to the vest system”