Three Keys to Taking Friendship To A New Level

Posted by on Apr 1, 2015 in Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

Three Keys to Taking Friendship To A New Level

Old_Bibles-1The movie Jerry Maguire includes perhaps one of the sappiest scenes in the history of film. Jerry, separated from his wife, suddenly comes to his senses—his life is not complete without his wife in it. So, he barges into his wife’s sister’s house (where his wife is staying at the time), and in the middle of a room filled with women who see men as “the enemy,” says to her, “You complete me.” He continues on with a long soliloquy about how he loves and needs her.

“Shut up. Shut up,” she responds, “You had me at hello. You had me at hello.”

OK…either you see this as one of the most moving scenes ever, or…it makes you want to gag. Either way, it accentuates the reality that human beings are helplessly relational. The image of the Lone Ranger or the Marlboro Man who are symbols of strength and independence—people who need no one else but themselves—is bogus. John Donne spoke truthfully when he coined the phrase, “No man is an island.” We are helplessly relational. We need connection or we will die.

Why is this so? It is because we are created in the image of God—and God is Himself intensely relational. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit co-exist as a perfect, mutually-loving, mutually-supportive, in-covenant community. What this means is that we, who are created in God’s image, cannot help but need relationship—without it our lives become distorted. This is why so many people, living in a culture where over 50% of marriages end in divorce, still ache for a “significant other.” This is why so many of us are still willing to take the risks involved with loving, even though it exposes us to the potential agony of rejection and betrayal.

Friendship means self-disclosure

Sartre once said that hell is to be looked at. Our fear of being known flows out of a fear of exposure, because exposure opens us up to potential rejection. Out of self-protection we therefore keep others at a distance. The intimacy we long for is also the intimacy we fear. We are reluctant to go deep.

But biblical friendship goes deep. It takes the risk because the unshakable favor and loyalty of Jesus provides us with a safety net. The Gospel gives us the emotional wealth for self-disclosure—a form of transparency that gives two people (or, even more ideal, a community of people) consistent access to each others’ dreams, fears, loves, hatreds, struggles and sins. The difficulty with self-disclosure, however, is that we are all afraid on a deep level of being looked at, of being truly known. We want it more than anything and we also fear it more than anything. What if he rejects me? What if she uses my struggles against me? Self-disclosure is indeed risky…yet any friendship or (especially) any marriage that doesn’t take the risk is a costly counterfeit to the real thing. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Love anything and your heart will be…broken…” If you want to protect yourself from the risks of love, “you must give (your heart) to no one…the only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is Hell.”

Friendship means enduring loyalty

Rather than being deeply committed “’til death parts us,” most of us are “committed” to people only to the degree and duration that they are useful to us. As long as they are meeting our needs at a cost that is suitable to us—as long as we are getting from the relationship at least as much as we are investing into it—we will stay with the relationship. But when a relationship becomes costly to us, we withdraw. We get a new friend, a new roommate, a new job, a new church, or even a new spouse, when the cost/benefit ratio is no longer in our favor. Rather than sticking with each other “until death do us part,” we stick together “as long as our love shall last” or “as long as I’m getting something from this relationship—as long as my needs are met at an acceptable cost to me.”

This sounds like a cold assessment, but it is true for many of us if we take a deeper look at our motivations for many of our relationships. Yet Scripture calls for relational commitments that endure…flowing from the Gospel, from Jesus’ eagerness to “stick with us” even though having us as his friends cost Him everything.

Friendship means a vision for each other’s glory

Whereas “modern” friendship asks, “What can this person do to make my life better?” a Gospel-centered friendship asks, “What can I do to make this person’s life better? What can I do to ‘enhance her glory,’ to help her be and become all she can be, as the person God created her to be and to become?” When Jesus gets into us and transforms us, he changes our entire paradigm for our acquaintances, friendships, and marriages. When we understand that all of our deepest and truest needs have been met by Jesus, our hearts are freed to love—and to devote ourselves to the good of the other people in our lives. Modern friendship treats friendship as a negotiation (I’ll take care of you if you take care of me, I’ll serve you to the degree that you serve me), whereas Christian friendship treats it as a covenant (I will stick with you even if you become costly and high-maintenance to me). Modern friendship is devoted to receiving from the other person. In a covenant, Gospel-oriented friendship, the good of the other person and the relationship take priority over our own needs and wants. And this kind of ‘one-anothering’ becomes possible only to the degree that Jesus, who ‘one-anothered’ us by giving himself to us all the way to the death, becomes our deepest and most significant other.

This post first appeared at Scott’s blog and is posted here with his permission.

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Persevering in Prayer Through Stressful Times

Posted by on Mar 30, 2015 in Featured, Prayer

Persevering in Prayer Through Stressful Times

Praying Hands bibleHave you ever had one of those days where you just can’t shake your anxiety? No matter what you do, you can’t get your mind off of what is bothering you.

You try to pray, but the only words that come out are short, anxiety-soaked cries for help. Right after those short prayers you go right back to worrying.

I’ve been there. Truth be told, this article was birthed from an anxiety-ridden prayer session. That prayer session reminded me of a very important truth:

Prayer is not worrying on your knees. 

If our anxiety level remains the same after we pray, something is wrong. Prayer involves trust. Prayer involves “casting all your anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 5:7), not holding on to what worries us with an iron grip.

Sometimes it seems like, although you want to pick up your burdens and cast them to the Lord, your hands have such a tight grip on your burdens that you cannot let go. It’s like someone super glued worry to your hands and it sticks so well that a crowbar couldn’t pry it off.

The following thoughts have proven helpful in my fight against worry and worry-laden prayers, and I hope they give you the same hope in the Savior that they give me.

Don’t give up in prayer.

It is tempting to shoot off a quick three-second prayer to the Lord and think that should do the trick instead of laboring in prayer until you enter God’s rest. Pray in faith that God hears you and keep praying for Him to help you not worry. He can instantly take you from despair to joy–don’t give up!

Take your eyes off of yourself.

When we take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on God and others, we can escape the worry-trap in prayer because we are no longer our only prayer concern. There’s a big world filled with many problems. Put your hope in God and not in a perfect situation for yourself. Do this and your strength will be renewed to continue in prayer (see Isaiah 40:31). An inward focus is enough to drive anyone crazy!

Trust in the promises of God.

Instead of clinging onto what worries you, put a firm grasp around powerful promises of God in Scripture, particularly to promises that deal with your specific situation. Your mind doesn’t have room for dwelling on both the bad and the good–so fix your eyes on God’s mighty promises and remember how He’s never failed you in the past. Pray His promises back to Him and rejoice in the God of the promises.

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

Sometimes anxiety is downright irrational. This question often reminds me that my situation isn’t so bad after all. Sometimes the answer to this question is something truly bad, but more often than not it shows me how I blow small things (and often really good things!) out of proportion and am worrying for no reason. And once I get a better picture of reality, I can do what the next step says.

Give thanks.

This is one of the biblical prescriptions for anxiety, along with prayer and supplication (Philippians 4:6-7). When we give thanks, we remember the good things God has given us and gratitude floods our hearts. This will zap any discontent in our situation by focusing on the positive instead of what you’d rather change (which will always exist in some form). It is God’s will that we give thanks to Him in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Rejoice in the Lord.

Before Paul tells the Philippians not to be anxious, he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). In Jesus Christ, God is so good all the time that we can always rejoice in Him–no matter the circumstances. Romans 8:31 puts it another way: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” If we are in Christ, His blood covers us and we are forgiven, and the Almighty on our side helping us fight our battles. That is something we can always rejoice in.

Sing to the Lord.

Singing worship songs powerfully applies the ‘rejoice in the Lord’ truth because it connects the promises of God, a thankful heart, and a Godward focus together. Colossians 3:16 says that we can have God’s promises dwell in us richly by singing with thankful hearts:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

As we set our gaze on the living Christ, we will gradually find worry’s tight grip on us loosened and the peace of God that passes all understanding giving our souls rest as we pray.

When worry comes, as it inevitably will, preach truth to yourself. Jesus is there to take your burdens from you.

He will even help you pray, making intercession on your behalf (Romans 8:34). This will help stomp out the seeds of worry that can overtake any of us if we let them fester in our minds.

May the Lord Jesus Christ help you cling to Him in prayer during anxious times and comfort and guard you with His peace!

Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This post first appeared at Kevin’s blog and is posted here with his permission.

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Five Myths About Spiritual Depth

Posted by on Mar 28, 2015 in Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

Five Myths About Spiritual Depth

bible-199x3001All Christians want “depth” in the preaching they hear, the books they read, the Bible studies they attend. I’ve never once heard a Christian say to me, “I just wish I could get more shallow preaching.” But what exactly is “depth”? It’s a nebulous term that almost nobody knows how to define. “Give me the deep stuff, pastor,” I hear. Does that mean he wants a series on systematic theology or an exegesis of the culture of the ancient near-east in Genesis or does it mean a more nuanced application to daily life?

It’s good to want depth. The writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 5:12) called out his hearers for not being teachers, for continuing to ask the same questions they had years before. At this point in their journey, they should have been chewing on the meatier passages of the Word rather than continuing the lazy intake of spiritual milk.

So depth is a good desire. But we must remind ourselves what depth is not. Here are five things:

1) Depth is not getting past the simple things.

Depth is not rolling your eyes and saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that” when you hear the same stories you heard in Sunday School. The Bible is simple and complex. Simple in that it takes the faith of a child, desperate dependence on the Savior, to enter the Kingdom. It takes that same faith to sustain the Christian life. You should grow deep in your knowledge of God, but never lose the wonder of the things about the salvation story you’ve always known. In other words, you don’t get over the gospel. You don’t move past it. Jeremiah said that it was the “old paths” that continually need revisiting (Jeremiah 6:16).

2) Depth is not accumulating knowledge so everyone can say, “Ooh, isn’t he smart.” 

There will be no Bible trivia in Heaven, no sword drills, or boasting of Bible knowledge (Ephesians 2:10). The most knowledgeable and profound theologian will only have, in his life, scratched the surface of the knowledge of the grace of God (Romans 11:33). This isn’t to diminish the importance of knowing truth. We should worship God with our minds. We should read widely and study deeply. We should continually mine the Scriptures for more, but this more should lead us to greater humility, greater awareness of our own depravity, and greater faithfulness to the God who loves us.

3) Depth is not getting past the church. 

There is a certain subset of Christians who live for the next Bible study. Please don’t misunderstand me here. I think it’s great people attend Bible studies and earnestly seek to learn and grow in the Word. But this should never come at the expense of committed, faithful, sacrificial involvement in the local church. You never get “deeper” than the local church. You never get “deeper” than your faithful pastor and shepherd.

In fact, if you’re version of depth is five Bible studies in the week, but little or no commitment to church, on Sundays, you’re not really deep at all. Because you don’t have to plum very far down into the depths of Scripture to find Christ’s love for His church.

4) Depth is not more than faithfulness

Spiritual maturity should lead to faithfulness. The knowledge you accumulate about God, about your mission, about the role of the church only becomes wisdom when you apply it to your life. There’s no reward for memorizing Calvin’s Institutes if you welsh on your monthly spot in the nursery or usher corps. Some of the most faithful, godly men I know serve at church and they’ve never heard of Tim Keller or Don Carson or Scot McKnight. They don’t blog or tweet or write books. But, they live out the gospel daily. They know the Word and can teach it. I know faithful women who are active in teaching children the Bible and shepherding other woman. When I see these men and I see these women, I see a spiritual depth. I see years of Bible knowledge soaked down into the soul and flowing out into the life of our congregation. I see men and women of prayer.

This, my friends is depth. If your idea of depth doesn’t include faithfulness, it is something much less than spiritual maturity.

5) Depth is not arrogance about everyone else’s seeming biblical illiteracy. 

We are to search the Scriptures, not to feed our ego, but to find Jesus (John 5:39). If your idea of depth, leads you to critique every pastor in town for preaching that just “doesn’t feed you,” that’s not spiritual maturity, it’s arrogance. If your idea of depth leads you to find the fault in every Christian book you read, that’s not depth, that’s arrogance. There is a place for discernment, but much of what passes for discernment these days is simple arrogance.

I hear a lot of folks say, “The church today is biblically illiterate” and that may be true, but if you’re the one saying it, make sure you’re not saying it from a lofty position of superiority. The best Bible teachers I’ve met have not boasted about their knowledge and the lack of knowledge of others. They’ve been humble, egoless men whose only desire is to feed the flock of God, to teach the Word faithfully. Biblical knowledge can be a slippery thing to possess. If we’re not careful, we’ll skip out on the worship and awe that should accompany it and instead use what we know as a cudgel against our fellow brother and sister.

Depth is not arrogance. It’s not having exalted opinions on the nonessentials of the Word. It’s not finally figuring out who those weird half-angel, half-man giants that existed in Noah’s day.

Depth is humility. Depth is worship. Depth is spiritual maturity. Depth is love and service in action.

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15 Questions for Following Christ on Social Media

Posted by on Mar 24, 2015 in Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

15 Questions for Following Christ on Social Media

cross_sunset.4.lrSocial media is everywhere today.

We can’t watch anything on TV without being reminded of the option to tweet about what we are watching.  Now with smartphones we can use social media in the car, in the bathroom, at a meeting, and even—gasp!– at church.

While there are many advantages to social media, we should ask the question: Is it good for us? More importantly, how can we obey the Great Commandment to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength while using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+?

1. Are you seeking to glorify God through social media?

1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The foundational question “Are you seeking to glorify God?” can be addressed to any situation in life because we were created to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7). When we stray from our life’s God-given purpose, we quickly fall away from where God wants us to be.

2. Does social media lead you into sin?

Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

Social media is itself a morally neutral thing, neither inherently good nor bad. But when put in the hands of sinful human beings, it should be no surprise that it can be used for a host of sinful behaviors: bullying, sinful relationships, sexual perversion, worldly ideas, and allowing yourself to be led astray by bad influences. Pray that God would reveal your sins and the idols that may exist or be fed through social media, and for the grace and power to repent.

3. Does your speech build up or tear down?

James 3:10, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

Social media is rampant with gossip, bullying, pessimism and complaining. Instead of conforming to the world, be a light and use your words to build others up. Know your weaknesses and be on your guard when someone posts something that pushes one of your buttons. Before you post, pray Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

4. Do people see the light of Christ in you based on what you post?

Matthew 5:16, “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Social networks present a unique opportunity to let your light shine before others by show the hope you have in Jesus Christ. You are able to challenge and encourage others to believe in Christ and follow Him. Don’t forget the awesome opportunity you have to proclaim to the world the unsearchable riches of Christ!

5. Is social media your master?

1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.”

Don’t become a slave to the beeping of your phone or computer and always be checking your notifications online. Do you really need to check each notification, or can you check a few times throughout the day? Instead of constantly checking notifications with spare moments, read Scripture, pray, or let your mind rest.

6. Does your use of social media help you redeem the time?

Ephesians 5:16,“…making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Let’s be honest: some social media sites act as a black hole that suck up our time. It can be easy to go on Facebook to “check one thing” and to stay on for an hour. What else could you have done with that hour? Was that making the best use of the short life God has given you?

7. Does your use of social media help you renew your mind in God’s truth?

Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

God can use little moments we give to Him throughout our day to grow us, including time on social media. You can use your Facebook and Twitter streams to grow your faith by following accounts that honor God. I have sought to develop the discipline to stop and read Scripture whenever I see it posted to remind me that everything else posted is of limited importance compared to the Word of God that has eternal importance (1 Peter 1:24-25).

8. Do you use social media as a platform to complain?

Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing…”

Paul had a lot he could have complained about (2 Cor. 11:23-28), yet he still tells us to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Some turn to social media to complain, but God’s will for His children is that they give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Which characterizes you: thankfulness or constant complaining?

9. Do you use social media for unprofitable arguments?

Proverbs 18:2, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

There is no shortage of social media arguments about politics, sports, religion–you name it! While some conversations can prove profitable, many others are a waste of time. Instead of arguing with fools, invest your time and energy into something more worthwhile.

10. Do you value social media interactions more than real-life relationships?

Matthew 22:39, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

God made us for relationships. Increasingly today, these relationships can take place through technology and can make people less social in real life. (So much for social media!) Instead of merely “liking” a picture or favoriting a tweet, invest in real relationships by having meaningful conversations. Take the extra step by letting people important to you know that you care about them. Or take an even greater extra step –actually talk with your friend face-to-face!

11. Does social media make you a healthier and more productive person?

Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Social media causes some people to have a shorter attention span, lose sleep, and even be depressed. Is that you? God desires that we honor God with not only our body, but also our entire being. Don’t let social media suck away your ability to follow that command.

12. Do you have any relationships through social media that you should cut off?

1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’”

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to connect with everyone you’ve ever known–for better or for worse. Some of our connections can discourage us in our faith or lure us into sins like gossip, bullying, and rekindling unhealthy relationships. Many divorces today are caused by discontented spouses rekindling old flames on Facebook. Don’t let this happen to you! Exercise godly wisdom and cut off “bad company” that will hinder a holy life.

13. Does social media help you be content?

1 Timothy 6:6, “…godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Social media can add fuel to the fire of covetousness and insecurity because it can lead us to compare ourselves to others and their relationships, possessions, and lifestyle. Have you ever thought that your friend always posting pictures of their possessions might not be content? The secret to contentment is not having everything you want, but being thankful with what you have. May we learn to be like Paul who learned to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11-13).

14. Do you use social media to boost your ego?

Mark 8:36, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

We can believe the lie that we only have value if people follow us or like our posts. If your mood depends on the number of “Likes” or “Retweets” your post receives, you care too much about gaining the approval of man. Rejoice in the fact that the gospel says that God accepts you because of what Christ had done.

15. Do you use social media to hide?

Proverbs 25:14, “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.”

Have you ever known someone who acts cool online but is a radically different person in real life? Unfortunately, social media can act as a mask hiding our true identity. The root of this issue is pride–we want people to think we are cool and have it all together. Remember the truth of James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

This post first appeared at Kevin’s blog and is posted here with his permission.

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ISIS: Loving Our Neighbors and the Judgment of God

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in Apologetics, Contemporary Culture, Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

ISIS: Loving Our Neighbors and the Judgment of God

Old_Bibles-1.jpgFew issues are as volatile right now as the issue of ISIS. President Obama has stated multiple times that Islam is a religion of peace. While some strands of Islam may seek to have peace, the statement that Islam is itself unequivocally a religion of peace is a historical inaccuracy. Mohammed was a murderer who slayed not only his own people, but also anyone who got in his path that did not conform to his ideology. The true form of Islam isn’t peaceful; it’s always been violent. Any religion that views others as opponents to be dominated is not a religion that’s peaceful—it’s a religion of war. Islam desires war and to make everyone submit to what they believe. Now I realize that’s not what you hear on TV every day but it is a historical fact.

While Islam continues to be presented as a religion of peace; contrary to historical fact, the truth of the matter is there was once a man who committed terrorist’s acts against God’s people. That man was Saul who later became the Apostle Paul. Terrorists are nothing compared to the sovereign power of God. God can transform a terrorist and turn him into a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ. He did this with Saul, when He turned him into the Apostle Paul, a man who set the ancient Mediterranean world on fire for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christians have been called to love God and to love their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). God’s people have been called to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). Is it “wrong” for a Christian to pray specifically with regards to how they feel? Regardless, if one is comfortable or not praying the imprecatory Psalms, or whether they become a core of our prayers, such an approach should remind Christians that the world is full of injustice and God is just. With this understanding, the Christian can leave the wrongs that others have delivered to them in the hands of a Sovereign God.

Too often today the love of God is highlighted apart from the holiness and justice of God. The imprecatory Psalms highlight the anger or wrath of God. Furthermore, the Old Testament is replete with examples of God’s justice. Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies to offer atonement for the people of Israel. Before the high priest went into the Holy of Holies, the other priests tied a rope around his ankle so if any of the prescriptions and regulations the Lord had established had been violated, the priests could pull out the high priest’s dead body.

The imprecatory Psalms are part of Scripture. God is holy and loving. The God of the Bible is a God of justice who demands retribution to be paid for man violating His law, commands, and statutes. The imprecatory Psalms reveal a God of justice. With that in mind, the reader of the these Psalms needs to know the rest of God’s attributes, along with the fact that the God of the Bible is not primarily interested in smiting people, and sending them to hell.

When the totality of Scripture is examined, the God of the Bible emerges as a God who is loving, just, and holy. His holiness demands that He deal with sin. His love compels Him to pardon sinners who come to Him in faith. While the imprecatory Psalms highlight a crucial aspect of the attributes of God, the reader also needs to know the story line of the Bible which focuses on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:43-48 is clear that we are to love our enemies. The supreme command for the Christian is to love God and their neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus in Luke 6:27 declares, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” Christians can pray the imprecatory prayers, but they cannot act on what they are praying. For example, someone could pray, “I feel this way about this person God” (insert how they feel here about this person, people group, etc.), but they are not allowed to act on those feelings on their own accord. I would also counsel people to not tell someone that you’ve prayed for them in such a way. The Christian can pray the imprecatory prayers with the understanding that ultimately what they are desiring is God’s sovereignty to reign in that situation. Our goal as Christians should be to love God and one another. With that said the Christian is to “feel” how they feel, but they must express those feelings primarily towards God with a focus on His will to be done on earth.

One weakness of the diary approach to the imprecatory Psalms is it doesn’t take these Scriptures seriously. Imprecatory prayers are more than just a “diary approach” where people share their feelings. Instead, they reveal a God of justice. While the imprecatory Psalms passionately express how the Psalmists felt, they are also part of the Scriptures. As part of the Scriptures, they reveal an essential aspect of God’s character, namely His holiness and justice. Undergirding the imprecatory Psalms is the idea that vengeance belongs to the Lord. The Lord will mete out His justice in His time and according to His sovereign purpose. As such, while the Christian may/should pray imprecatory prayers, they also need to trust the sovereignty of God. When all of this is considered, we come to understand now that He alone will executive His justice on the wicked in His own timing for His own glory.

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Calgon Take Me Away?: Scriptures To Help Deal With Stressful Situations

Posted by on Mar 21, 2015 in Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

Calgon Take Me Away?: Scriptures To Help Deal With Stressful Situations

time-line-1970There are quite frankly some weeks you would rather forget. Often those type of weeks are a result of a rough patch at work, squabbles at home, or any number of other factors. When such difficult times occur, it most always produces that nasty “s” word – Stress. I write this article because I experienced a great deal of stress this past week at work and I admittedly did not deal with that inordinate level of stress in a way I should have.

What happens to most of us when we become stressed? I would submit at a minimum we get snippy and impatient with others and at a maximum we completely fly off the handle in a fit of rage. Neither end of that spectrum demonstrates a godly response to stress. Additionally, there is no amount of Calgon that will magically solve the situation that is causing the stress like some magical elixir of peace. If you do not know what Calgon is then you clearly did not grow up in the 1980s like I did. The video below explains the supposed magic of Calgon:

I am quite sure we would all love to sprinkle a little bath soap into the tub, fill it with hot water so that the stress of life melts away to be experienced no more. Well, we can all fantasize as much as we want; however, that particular fantasy is just not going to come to pass this side of heaven.

Does this mean we are doomed to deal with stress and to fly off the handle or to be snippy with those we love for the rest of our lives? While stress will always be a part of daily life due to the sheer demands we all face at work, home, and elsewhere, we can begin to do a much better job of dealing with that stress in a way that brings glory to God and that does not harm our relationships with others. Let’s take a look at what the God’s Word says about dealing with stress.

James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Seriously? We are to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds? Absolutely and for the explicit reason that this testing of our faith produces endurance. This means that stressful events are a good opportunity to strengthen our faith.

Psalm 94:19, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

King David certainly experienced a great many stressful events in his life. For instance, King Saul pursued him, desiring to kill him. I would submit that qualifies as being under stress. Anxiety and stress are kinfolk with one often leading to the other. What this verse is telling us is when a multitude of thoughts (i.e. stress) comes out way, the place of solace in those situations is found in the arms of God. He is the One who brings joy to us when stress comes calling.

Psalm 119:143, “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight.”

Here is another beautiful verse from the Psalms again directing us to where peace in the midst of the storm can be found. The Psalmist declares that when distress (i.e. stress) comes upon him, he finds his delight in the commands of God. These commandments are a reference to God’s Word. When we meditate on the Word of God, we will find peace for His Word shines a needed light in the midst of dark and stressful times. When God’s Word permeates us, we are better prepared to deal properly with stress. Instead of yelling, screaming, becoming angry, and the like, we will instead remember the truths found in Scripture, namely as noted earlier that such testing is often an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Psalm 55:2, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”

I hope you are seeing a pattern developing here. The Psalmist once again notes that our sustainment during times of trouble (i.e. stress) comes from the Lord. When we cast our cares upon Him, He will lift us up and will be the rock we can stand upon. This does not mean we just throw up our hands and not deal properly with the situation at hand as it things will magically disappear. We will always have to deal positively and biblically with difficult situations. We are able to deal with those situations properly when and only when our lives are rooted in God and His Word.

Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”

Now before we go calling our boss Satan hoping God will crush him under His feet, let’s remember what this passage is speaking about. We live in a world that has stress because of the weight of sin that bears down upon us. We look forward to a day when sin is no more and all this worry, anxiety, strife, and stress are done away with, a time when the peace of God washes across the universe as Satan and his minions are dealt with for all eternity. Knowing and trusting in this future state helps place our focus in the proper perspective.

Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I will end with this verse which about as clearly as can possibly be said lays out what we are to do when anxiety and stress rear their ugly heads. On top of rooting ourselves in the Word of God, we should be a people devoted to prayer, not just in times of stress, but at all times. If you are having a difficult time at work as I was this past week and likely in the foreseeable future, tell God about what you are going through. He knows what is taking place and He longs to hear from you. When you tell God about your difficulties, we are told the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. This means that when we are tempted to lash out, stop and pray. When you have that urge to tell your boss or upper management what you truly think about them, stop and pray.

Remember that Calgon will not save you from stress. It may provide a nice warm bathing experience, but only God can help us in the midst of life’s raging storms. So when you are stressed, when you feel like giving up, when you have that urge to scream, curse, and yell at anyone who will listen within a 100 mile radius, stop and meditate on the verses we just read and discussed. We will not always get it right and there will be times when we do not deal properly with stress. However, when we throw ourselves in the arms of the One who loves us, cares for us, and is watching out for us, we will be better equipped to deal with that “s” word.

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