Archive | November, 2015

How to decrease worry – Luke 12:22-34

30 Nov

I recently heard the story of a person who said “If I worry about it, it won’t happen.” So maybe we should worry! Ha!

Why is that story funny?   It is funny because 99% of the stuff we worry about never comes to pass. But yet we worry. We can allow our minds to go wild with worry.  We can’t stop and we wonder if it is possible to stop.

Generally these things are fear and emotion based – not factually based. In scientific terms, worry is based in something called cognitive distortion. When we allow our emotions to control our minds, our thinking. I do this regularly, and actually allowed my emotions to control my thoughts a bit this past week.

We had our youth lock-in on Friday night, and I was chaperoning, so I knew that meant a night of no sleep. I also knew the lock-in was going to be fun, but in worry and fear, I allowed myself to dwell on thoughts that weren’t even close to true. Those thoughts were cognitive distortions. Just some simple thoughts like “I’m going to feel horrible” or “the next day is going to be awful” can lead to a sleepless few hours. And they did.

What actually happened at the lock-in and aftermath? It was an awesome, fun night, and I was able to get four hours of sleep Saturday morning.  I was a little tired that day, but now a few days later, I don’t feel horrible or awful.  Instead, I have great memories of a fun event.

We can allow ourselves to let our emotions control us. So when Jesus says “Do not worry” the first thing we realize is that it possible to make progress in decreasing our worry!  He wants to us fight worry in our lives.  Jesus teaches us how to decrease worry.

In this passage, Luke 12:22-34, Jesus goes on to give illustrations of how our life is more than food and how our body is more than clothes, as he seeks to help us learn to deal with worry.

First he talks about Food and Ravens in Verse 24. God feeds the birds, right? He has provided a world where they can eat. So what is this illustrating? Jesus gets to the principle in verses 25-26: worry can’t actually help us, so we shouldn’t worry. If God cares for birds, how much more you are valuable to him.

Second he talks about Clothing and Lilies in Verse 27. Not even the fabulously wealthy King Solomon, the richest man in Israel’s history, was as gorgeous as the lily.  Jesus is saying that God has made nature beautiful, of which flowers are a stunning example. Again, Jesus gets to the principle in Verse 28: God clothes the grass, how much more will he clothe you.

Did you see the phrase that Jesus repeated? How much more! God has made the world a place that feeds the birds, and he has made loads of spectacular flowers. But How Much More he cares for you!

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics.  Soak that up deeply: God cares for you. I am preaching this to myself for sure. When I’m lying on my bed in the middle of the night worried about this or that, I can tell myself the truth that God cares for me far more that I realize. There is a great power in that thought!

Use the truth of God’s care for you to mentally attack that worry. Defeat it. You can think, “No, I don’t need to worry to about bills or the kids or (you fill in the blank), because God cares for me more than I can imagine,” then watch the worry gradually fade away. Over time, and it might be weeks or months, you’ll notice that you are depending on God’s care, and you are worrying less. He doesn’t promise that all the bad circumstances will go away. He doesn’t promise that everything will be great. But he promises you aren’t alone. He sees you. He hears you. He knows what you are going through. He cares for you DEEPLY.

Jesus has another way we can attack worry. First we remember that God cares for us, and second, look at verses 31-34.   He says we need to seek his Kingdom. That is the second antidote to worry.

Seeking his Kingdom is another way to describe obedience to Jesus. When you are obedient to him there is peace in your heart and mind before the Lord. When you are obedient, you are not expecting that God will reward you with material abundance, but that your hearts are right with him.   You are at peace with him. What an amazing place to be in! And when you are focused on his Kingdom and not on yourself there is perspective on the worries of life.  Peace with God gives you strength to fight worry.  You can trust in him amid the difficulty, amid those struggles in life that bring you anxiety.

Furthermore, Jesus says, you can sell possessions and give to the poor. The early church took this seriously. We don’t need to store up possessions because we know God cares for us. We can seek the advancement of his Kingdom rather than lavishing ourselves with comfort and entertainment.

In other words, Jesus says, find your treasure in heaven.

Obedience is its own reward! To know that I am being pleasing to my father, that is the reward. We have his kingdom! That is the ultimate reward. That is better by far. It is amazing that God has given us his Kingdom. Knowing that God is pleased with us, because we are seeking first his Kingdom is the reward, the blessings.

Thus we can be at peace, feel peace, knowing that we are right with God. It cannot be underestimated how incredible it is to know that we are pleasing to God.

This is why Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  In other words, put your treasure where you want your heart to be.

If you put your treasure in entertainment, luxury, possessions, vacations, food, then your heart will be there.  And you will watch those things feel good, but only for a season.  They fade, and the anxiety returns.

If you put your treasure in the kingdom of God, there your heart will be.  And you will find lasting peace.  So how do you put your treasure in God’s Kingdom?

Take a step of faith to trust in God that he will do what Jesus says he will do: God will care for your needs. So take a step of faith, perhaps to give more generously this next week.  Say to God prayerfully, teachably, “Lord, I’m going to trust you in this.” It might be frightening, but you will never see forward progress if you don’t take one step.

Place your trust in him, depend on him to care for you.

What Jesus is talking about is not just financial.  You can also implement the Sabbath principle in your life. Instead of working 24-7, take time to rest, worship, fellowship serve. Seek his Kingdom. Show that is where your heart is.

What do you need to do to take the next step toward seeking his Kingdom?  It is super exciting to trust in the Lord this way! No doubt, stepping out in faith can feel anxiety-inducing. But we need to see the joy and adventure and exciting of taking a risky, step towards God.

One man told me the story about his retirement. He was accustomed to getting a paycheck. The move to retirement-level income was risky, but he asked God to provide. And you know what he did with retirement?  He and his wife started increasing the amount of their time serving in church, meeting weekly here at the church to pray for hours at a time, caring for family members, helping at a local transitional housing ministry, teaching Sunday School, and the list goes on.

That is what seeking God’s Kingdom looks like.

And that is how to decrease worry in your life.  Dwell on the truth that God cares for you deeply, and seek his Kingdom.

Is it possible to stop worrying?

27 Nov

“Do not worry”???

This is how Jesus leads off his next teaching, and it frustrates me.

This phrase, “Do not worry” is in the imperative tense. “Imperative” means it is a command. And when I think about Jesus commanding us to not worry, immediately I feel frustrated because I struggle with worry. I’ve tried to stop. I want to stop.  But I can’t!

Does anyone else out there feel the same way?

And there is Jesus commanding us not to worry. I think, “Really, Jesus? Life is filled with things to worry about.” Jesus himself mentions two things that people in his day worried about:

  1. About life, what you will eat.
  2. About your body, what you will wear.

Most of us are not worrying about where we are going to find our food for today or whether we’ll have clothing for our family.   But we can worry about tons of other things.

Paying off debt, parenting our kids, and how they will turn out. We might not worry about what we will eat, but we do worry about our body, health, disease, sickness.

So when Jesus says “Do not worry”, I can easily think he is being unrealistic. Does anyone else agree?

Over the last few months, I’ve been learning about worry, as I, myself, have been struggling more acutely with it. I went through a couple months of really struggling. Including not sleeping well for a stretch of 4-5 days, where only got 1-2 hours per night. My heart was pounding, mind racing, and I couldn’t stop the anxiety. One commentator says that to be anxious is to be torn apart by circumstances. Any of you ever felt like that?

So what do we do about this? What does Jesus teach?  Can we really deal with worry?

This Sunday, we’ll look at Luke 12:22-34 to learn more.  You are welcome to be our guest at Faith Church as we study this teaching of Jesus.

Why Faith Church Observes the Season of Advent

25 Nov

The angels said to the shepherds “peace on earth, goodwill to men” that night Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But many of us do not feel like Christmastime is peaceful or filled with goodwill. In fact many of us are afraid that we will have what Elvis Presley sang about, “A Blue Christmas”.

Or we get so harried by the shopping, the traffic, the preparations, decorations, and expenditure of money we don’t have, that we end up frazzled. Worse, we can truly get stressed out.

So how do we navigate the intensity of Christmas? I would encourage you to participate in Advent, which begins this coming Sunday, November 29. Advent is a four-week preparation time that ancient Christians created to help disciples of Jesus prepare themselves for the celebration of his birth. Nowhere does the Bible teach about Advent. But in the same way that the Bible doesn’t teach about church buildings and Sunday morning worship services, which are also man-made, Advent can be a wonderful tool to help us deal with all the stress of the holidays.

Each Sunday during Advent at Faith Church begin worship with the lighting of the Advent Wreath candles, and short reading and prayer designed to help us prepare for Worship. That brief ceremony is a taste of a much larger personal emphasis that we can place on Advent. Advent, itself, means “arrival or coming”. It refers to the coming of the King. The entrance of Jesus into our world. When we celebrate Advent we are preparing ourselves for the coming of the King. How, then, should we prepare?

If you look on the communion table, or the front the cover of our bulletin, we display the color of Advent, which is purple.  Three of the four advent candles are purple.  This color gives us a clue for how to prepare ourselves to worship the King. Purple is the color of a bruise. A bruise hurts, but the purplish, painful spot reminds us that after injury, healing is taking place. During Advent we face the injury of our sins, and with a penitent heart, we confess our sins, and ask Jesus to heal us. Advent is like a bruise on our spiritual lives, helping us to heal so that when we gather for worship on Christmas Eve, we will erupt in praise that our Savior has been born!

So rather than allow yourself to get sucked into the frenzied vortex of Christmas, I urge you to prayerfully slow down and examine your lives by entering into the season of Advent.

How to have a good relationship with money – Part 2: Be Rich Toward God – Luke 12:13-21

23 Nov




How is your relationship with money? I wrote this question on the welcome board in our church lobby.  We always have a question of the day, hoping to get people thinking as they walk in for worship.  As I conversed with one person yesterday, we started joking: “My relationship with money?  We don’t see each very much!”  Whether you love money, hate it, there are so many of us that are very frustrated in our relationship with money.

But here is the good news. It is possible to have a good, even great relationship with money right here, right now.

In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus told a parable about a farmer who had a killer harvest one year.  He thought with excitement that he could build bigger barns, and retire early.  He was going to live it up!  But the Lord came to him with shocking news, “Tonight you will die.  Now who will benefit from your harvest?”

The story reminds us to consider the shortness of life.  In so doing Jesus gives us the secret to having a right relationship with money. In verse 21, he leads us to consider, are we storing up things for ourselves?   Are we amassing possessions?  Or are we rich toward God?

We can be so filled with love toward God that we are not enamored by riches, possessions. When we are enamored with God, we’ll see how inferior possessions are to him.

The band U2 has a song titled Walk On that has a wonderful message about possessions in light of the suddenness and shortness of life.

What U2 is talking about is right in line with what Jesus is talking about. It is the right relationship with money. Money will be left behind. But there are riches that will not be left behind. And Jesus is saying that we should invest our lives in those riches. He says in verse 21 that we should be rich toward God.

How do we focus on being rich toward God? It is an attitude, a heart attitude that leads to action. If your attitude is right, God is glorified.  Here’s a question to ask if you’re not sure how to evaluate your attitude:

By what do I want to be remembered? If you stand before God, we should want to hear him say that we used our time talent and treasure to advance his Kingdom. Jesus does not say that being rich, amassing wealth is in and of itself wrong. What is wrong is if we amass wealth and are not also rich toward God!

So the gaining of wealth is not the issue. It is the heart.

John Wesley famously said “Earn all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can.” There is nothing wrong with being able to make a lot of money. If God has given you that gift, then by all means, amass wealth.

BUT, save it! Don’t spend it. And by “save it” Wesley did not mean what the farmer in Jesus’s story meant. The farmer planned to store his wealth away so he could have a comfortable life. But Wesley meant “do not spend it on yourself.” Instead…

GIVE all you can.

In the wonderful little book, The Treasure Principle, we read about R. G. Letourneau. In the early 1900s he made a fortune in the earth-moving business. He was a committed follower of Jesus and made the decision to give 90% of his income, he lived on 10%. And you know what he said? “As fast as I gave it away, God shoveled it right back in.”

It’s not wrong to amass wealth. If your heart is right, if you love God, amass wealth so you can be lavishly generous with it.

Plan an investment portfolio to be rich toward God.

Pay off debt, so you can be rich toward God.

As people earn more, stats have shown that they are less generous. So fight that trend and give more.

Practice a generous lifestyle. Give your time, talent, treasure.

What do your private choices tell about you? If we could display your bank account transactions on a TV show about your life, what would we learn about you? Would we be able to tell that you are being rich toward God?

If we could display your calendar on that show, what would we learn about you? Would we be able to tell that you are rich toward God?

If we could have camera footage of what happens in your home, what would we learn about you? Would we be able to tell that you are rich toward God?

Let us be a thankful people. People who are thankful remember that he is the giver of all good gifts. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that we created our wealth, that it is ours. Instead, it is God’s, and he owns it. The capabilities of your mind, your body…not yours. They are gifts given to you by God.

This past summer when a group from our church took a mission trip to Kenya, one of the phrases that we used was that we hit the geographical lottery. We Americans have hit the geographical lottery. We are so blessed here.  We have opportunity.

Why are we rich?…Paul says in 2 Cor 9:11, we are rich so we can be generous. As Jesus will say later in Luke 12:48 “To whom much is given, much is desired”

Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not rich. I can barely pay the bills, and sometimes, I can’t even pay the bills.”  I understand. My family is carrying some debt right now that bugs me to no end. I want to pay it off.

Remember that we have opportunity here in the USA. Work hard, pay off debt, so you can have more financial space to be generous. For many of us, it is our debt that is keeping us from being generous.

And perhaps, like some good friends taught us, when things are tight, that is the moment we need to show our trust in God and give. Watch him provide.   Plan your life so you are rich toward God.

How to have a good relationship with money – Part 1 – Love it or hate it?

19 Nov

Do you love money?  This guy really does:

As he’s hugging that money, he’s probably singing this song:

Or do you hate money?

Have you ever said “I hate money!”?

I have. It’s usually because I actually love money, but I feel like I don’t have enough of it. I want more. I love money when I can spend it. But when it seems that there are too many expenses and not enough income, I can say “I hate money!” Our microwave recently broke, and immediately I think “I hate money.”

Do you hate money? Or do you really love it, but you feel you don’t have enough?

Jesus talks about money a lot. I’ve often heard, and maybe you have too, that Jesus talks more about money than he does about salvation. I’m not certain that’s true. I did a bit of research and it appears he talks about the Kingdom of God most of all. But there is no doubt he talks a lot about money.

What is fascinating is to compare the topics that Jesus actually spent a lot of time on, like money, and then look into what topics have dominated Christian discussions in the last 50 or so years?

What have we Christians in America fixated on?  Money? I can’t prove it, but I don’t think so.

Instead, when you consider the topics that have been popular in politics, media and, in recent years, social media, what do you find?  Most of the talk has been about abortion, homosexuality, and immigration, to name a few hot topics.

These are all important subjects that that we need to talk about.  They are complex and important in our time.  But while Jesus talks about money repeatedly, those other hot topics of our day pretty much don’t come up in his teaching. Those topics are hot in our time, but they really weren’t issues in Jewish culture. Roman culture, yes. But not so much in Israel, and Jesus primarily ministered in Israel.  It makes sense, therefore, that he wouldn’t talk about them.

And yet, money was a big deal then, and still is today.  It has always been a big deal.  Perhaps that’s a good indication why Jesus spoke so frequently about it.  Why then are we so loathe to talk about it?  There can be a lot of fear in pastors’ hearts when it comes to sermons about money.  We don’t want to offend people.  Money is considered to be a private matter.  We don’t talk about each others’ salaries.  It is striking, then, that Jesus was so bold about money!

That said, we do have to consider why money was so important to him.  Disciples of Jesus, he was intimating, would have a good handle on how to relate to money.  What should our relationship with money be like?  Should we love it or hate it?

This Sunday at Faith Church, we’re going to see a bit of Jesus’ heart toward money. If you want to prepare, read Luke 12:13-21.

Overcoming our fears, Part 2 – God’s role in calming our fears – Luke 12:1-2

16 Nov

People say that their two greatest fears are death and speaking in public.  In Luke 12:1-12 Jesus talked with his disciples about these two fears.  Perhaps what he said will help you overcome those fears!

In Verses 4-7 he refers to the fear of death. Do not be afraid, but do fear God, he loves you. There is a logical flow of thought here.

He says specifically, “Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body. Don’t be afraid of wicked men.”  In the wake of so many mass shootings and terror attacks, it is really easy to be afraid of wicked men.  What is Jesus getting at?

He goes on to say that we should fear the one who can throw us into hell. Who can do that?  God.  So we should fear God.

Fear God? Like…be scared of him?  Should we be afraid of God like we would be afraid of wicked men?  It would be quite odd for Jesus to say that, wouldn’t it?  So what is he talking about?  Throughout the Bible, especially in the book of Proverbs, we are taught to fear God.  The fear of God is about seeing God with awe, with respect!  When we fear God, we aren’t scared of him like my kids who refused to go up to the really scary house this past Halloween.  Instead we love God, we want to be with him, know him, and follow his ways.

So Jesus is saying that we might lose our life, but that is not as important as the loss of faith.  In other words, we should be more concerned about our saving our soul than about saving our life.

He goes on to illustrate this concept of fearing God as the one who can deal with our soul by referring to one of the most common foods in Israel, sparrows.  They were a dime a dozen, and because many of the people were poor peasants, sparrows were a staple of their diets.  Jesus says that though they are cheap, sparrows are not forgotten by God.  So this God we are to fear loves lowly sparrows.

Then he explains further that God knows us so well, he’s got all the hairs on our head numbered. This shows how thoroughly he cares for you, how well he knows you.  And Jesus concludes, then,  that we need not be afraid, because we are worth more to God than sparrows.

This passage resonates with me because I don’t like the thought of death. Frankly, even though I trust in the hope of eternal life, I don’t want to die. But Jesus reminds us that God loves us. He knows us thoroughly, he cares for us. And we are worth so much to him.

How amazing is that! God considers us to be of great worth. Perhaps you need to spend time reflecting on how much God loves you. How he thinks you are worth his time, his energy, his love!

So we do not need to fear to death.  But maybe public speaking will always be terrifying?

In Verses 11-12 Jesus talks specifically about some help for those who are afraid of speaking in public. Specifically he refers to a time when the disciples might get arrested for being a follower of Jesus.

He says, “Don’t worry about how you will defend yourself because The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say.”

We may or may not have to be in a situation where we are arrested. But we all will get in situations where we are sharing our faith, and we can be assured that the Holy Spirit will teach us what to say. We have the Holy Spirit with us! He will teach us what to say.

One of the reasons why people don’t share their faith with neighbors and friends because they don’t know what to say. But Jesus says we have the Spirit. So we don’t need to be ashamed. We don’t need to be afraid!

This reminds me of the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament.  He was a Jew who had been exiled, and he heard that his beloved city of Jerusalem was in ruin.  He felt burdened to go back home and rebuild the wall around the city.  As a trusted cupbearer to the foreign king, he decided to ask the king’s permission.  What I love is how often Nehemiah prays in his story.  Sometimes the prayers are really short sentence prayers under his breath, or in his head, as he is about to do something.  As he stands before the king, Nehemiah had a distressed look on his face, a display of emotion that was not acceptable when having an audience with the king.  So we read that Nehemiah prays to God before he dives into his request of the king.  I love that detail.  Nehemiah was a man who knew that he needed God’s help before he spoke in public, in a very tense, nerve-wracking situation.

One time Michael Bay, famed movie director, needed help with a public speech, and he didn’t get it.  Take a look at this video.

Jesus tells his disciples that they do need a teleprompter!  If they don’t know what to say, they can depend on the Holy Spirit for help.  That is an amazing thing to consider.  God’s Spirit who lives with us will help us know what to say when we have the opportunity to speak up for him.

Don’t be afraid to speak up for the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words to say! Ask him to help you tell your story.

I found a great article where a professor of evangelism talks about his struggles with it!

Overcoming Our Fears – Part 1: The Two Greatest Fears

13 Nov

overcoming fearWhat do you think are the things that people fear the most? Death is #2. What is number 1? Speaking in public. #1. More scary than death.

I love what Jerry Seinfeld had to say about this:

I think we see this fear at work at Faith Church during Sunday worship almost every week. We want our want our worship service to emphasize participation.  Rather than spectators, we want everyone to get involved.  So we include a brief open mic sharing time most weeks right after we sing praises to God.   Some of you have no problem grabbing the microphone and sharing a story of God’s work in your life or a prayer request. Some of you will share only if the situation is urgent. Others, however, would never, never share. It doesn’t matter if you had the worst week in the history of bad weeks. You will not share.

Why do we hate to speak in public? All the attention is on us. We’re afraid of being humiliated if we mess up, and all those people are looking at us and they’ll see it. That will feel awful! And what if we are boring and no good at it? There are so many other GREAT speakers, who are we to try? We’ll never come anywhere close to being like them. So forget it.

We think we’ll end up like this:

And then there is the fear of death.  A few years ago I had a period of 7 months where I officiated 8 funerals, including at least one in each month.  It was like death kept being thrown in my face over and over.  I’ll admit that I didn’t handle it well.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and it really affected me emotionally.  I remember watching an NFL game during that stretch thinking “these guys are so vibrant, but they will all die.”  Every time I got in the car, I thought about how many accidents people have.  It took a long time to shake the fear of death.  Though I have faith in Jesus’ wonderful promise of eternal life, I still struggled, and sometimes still do, with the fear of death.  Studies say that many of you feel the same way.

In the passage we’ll be studying on Sunday, Luke 12:1-12, Jesus addresses both the fear of death and the fear of public speaking. What he says is quite interesting. These two fears matter.  These two fears impact the work of his kingdom. If we cannot address these fears properly, we could be putting ourselves into a very risky situation.

So join us at Faith Church on Sunday as we’ll take a look at how Jesus teaches his disciples to avoid that risky situation.