Who God Is

November 18th, 2014 No Comments

by Lisa Leidenfrost

It is amazing how each day our perception can get just a little bit skewed and we need to go back to God’s Word to right it again. When we are in heavy trials, our perception of God can get really cock-eyed.

When that happens, how we interpret our trial and our life can then be off and this makes our trial even harder. This is why it is important to be constantly going back to the facts to stand on when the world doesn’t make sense. When going through a rough time, to keep your perception of God intact, find the verses that state who He is and you can trust God that He actually is who He says He is.

These are ‘fact’ verses and you can stand on them as an immovable rock. They are all over the Bible, but the Psalms are particularly rich. Here are some:

Psalm 18:2-3 ‟The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;”

Psalm 16:5-6 ‟O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.”

Psalm 16 states that even if we think we are getting the short end of the stick in life, we really are not, because God is our portion and it is a good portion. He is our inheritance and it is a rich one. He is our cup and it is not half full, but running over. He maintains our lot. He maintains our life.

7-8 ‟I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.”

God gives us counsel and instruction.

8 ‟I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”

Because of who God is, the Psalmist is willing to put His Lord always before him, and that means following him no matter where He leads. That is trust for you, and confidence. The result is this:

8b ‟Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”

11 ‟You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

God’s presence keeps us from being moved. We have joy in His presence and in Him there are pleasures forevermore, even in the midst of severe trial.

Believe What Is True

November 17th, 2014 No Comments

by Lisa Leidenfrost

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6, 7

Anxiety can be a common reaction and that is why Philippians 4:7 tells us how to handle it, and handling it right gives the result of peace. Why do we need to get a handle on anxiety, and why is it a sin? Isn’t being ‘really concerned’ about something just a tiny little fault? Well, think about what anxiety is. When you are anxious, it is like you are being a functional atheist. An atheist says ‘there is no God’, but a functional atheist implies, ‘there is no God who will hear and act on my behalf.’ So if this is the underlying premise, the resultant action is to watch out for yourself and act accordingly because no one else will, not even God. But of course our emotional makeup rebels at this excessive burden and the emotional reaction of anxiety then comes to the surface.

To have faith is to not have ‘true’ anxiety. The two don’t co-exist. I believe there is a type of ‘anxiety reaction’ that can happen without an underlying cause that can be medication induced, etc. I have had one. It feels like a fire alarm goes off when there is no fire. One can be thinking faith driven thoughts of God while the body is screaming ‘danger! panic! at the same time. To handle that is simple. Ignore the fire alarm, since it is malfunctioning, and set your sights on what is stable and will not change, and can be trusted – God. Then you ride out the reaction until the fire alarm shuts off again, usually when the medication has run its course.

But a fear-driven anxiety reaction is also handled in a similar way, except you add into the above mix confession. To operate like there is no God who will hear and act for you is to believe what is false about Him. If you don’t believe He will act for you, then you have to carry the burden on your own shoulders, without the divine strength and power to do so. To get out of this unbelief, you must first confess this sin. You are not God. After you confess, you must go on and believe what is true, that He is very merciful, kind, loves you, and will act accordingly. You don’t have to feel it, just believe it. After you choose to believe that He is who He says He is, you are ready for the next step, which is to believe that He will do what He says He will do. Then stand on these promises. Know that when you make a jump of faith to believe Him, there are arms on the other side to catch you.

Saying ‘no’ to your gloomy premonitions, and ‘yes’ to trusting God even when you can’t see, is a choice. It is believing that those arms will actually catch you when you leap out into the realm of faith. When you make that choice, it doesn’t mean that the emotions of anxiety will leave right away, or if they do, that they won’t come right back in five minutes. It just means you make a choice to stand on high ground and not give in to the emotion. Let the emotion do what it wants, you will not give in to it. When you stand there repeatedly, the emotion should die down but you have to stand first for the emotion to follow, not the other way around. If you wait for the anxiety emotion to go away first to reassure you, you could be waiting there a long while, and toppling off the rock of your hope in the meantime. It is like your mind will then say, ‘See, it didn’t work; you need to save yourself. Panic!’.

But consider that emotions are the worst indicator of reality. Better to stand on what is true reality – God. Only there can you really be safe. Fear based emotions can be deeply entrenched if you have had a long habit of giving in to them. So reprogram how you operate and make the choice to ride over the emotions by focusing on something beyond – God. He is stable. He doesn’t change and is sure. Then hang on with His strength. And if you topple off that high position and fall back again into the soup of anxiety, start all over by confessing, making a choice to believe what is true and standing again. It is a process to reprogram your mind how to think without slipping into the default mode of anxiety. That process can be hard but when you put your hand in God’s, it is good and you’ll get there. You are learning how to fight with Him as your guide.

“Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:16, 17

Why I Don’t Treat Mental Illness Like Physical Illness

November 15th, 2014 No Comments

I was surfing through my Facebook pages the other night and I ran across this article in the Huff Post web page. The title asks, “What if people treated physical illness like Mental illness?” The point of the post is to try to get people to treat mental illness like physical illness. I thought I would take a stab at why I don’t treat mental illness like I treat physical illness. I think I can do it by using the article and the slide presentation attached to the article.

The major assertion is that mental illness, “just like having the flu, or food poisoning, or cancer isn’t in their control.” But is the flu, food poisoning, or cancer just like mental illness? I don’t think so. No one talks about mental illness the same way people talk about these physical illnesses. Not even the article. Here’s what I mean.

The Flu

One web sites tells us that this is how you catch the flu:

If you want to be one of the 20 percent of Americans who catch the flu this season, shake hands with a lot of sick people.

Sickly folk are contagious for a long time. An adult can spread the virus one day before and three to seven days after symptoms show. Kids are contagious for even longer periods of time. Although you can steer clear of those that sniffle, some infected individuals show no symptoms and can still spread the virus to others.

Most commonly, the virus travels through the air in liquid droplets from coughs and sneezes . Viruses prefer the wintry conditions of cold air with low humidity. In humid air, the droplets grow heavy with water and fall to the ground—or to other surfaces. read more…

Let Grace Draw You

November 12th, 2014 No Comments

This morning a young gent asked my how he can stop being worried about doing the wrong thing when he goes about his life. When I asked him to clarify what he was talking about, he told me that he doesn’t have trouble trusting God for the things in his life that he can’t control, but gets all worked up about things he can. He is sure he is going to sin and bring the wrath of God down on his head. I asked him who gets the glory when he is obedient and he was quick to point out that, “of course God gets the glory if I am obedient.”

“Help me understand,” I said. “You feel like you will be punished for disobeying? You will be a failure? Others will think badly of you? Including God? But if you are obedient, God will receive the glory?”

“Right,” he said.

“Where will you be if you do the right thing?”

“Well, God will bless me and he will smile on me and I will be filled with joy,” he said.

“So, on one hand, you are motivated to obey God by the fear of punishment and other’s bad thoughts regarding you, and on the other hand, you’re also motivated by the reward of God thinking highly of you?” “When you are given the opportunity to love someone. Are you motivated by what they will think about you when you do a good job?” read more…

Discovering Medication

November 8th, 2014 No Comments

I’m all for medication. If it helps, take it. By all means. But before you do, let’s talk about what we mean by ‘helps.’ If we mean it relieves immediate pain and suffering, I’m for it. I take aspirin for headaches. It’s a good thing.

On the other hand, if taking the medication hides something else going on in the body, does it really help? If you have a persistent headache, maybe you will want to take the aspirin while looking for a deeper source of the pain. It could be that you have a brain tumor or you are inadvertently poking yourself in the head with a sharp stick. The aspirin may help with temporary pain, but you really need to do something about the tumor.

Let’s change the illustration to something more akin to the sharp stick scenario. Suppose, a woman, we’ll call her Nancy, has a husband who thinks he’s the center of the universe and he treats her like dirt. He comes home from work and spends the rest of the evening yelling at her and belittling her. He hits her and calls her all kinds of names before drinking himself into a stupor and finally going to bed. The next day, he goes to work and it all starts again. read more…

Discovering Depression

November 5th, 2014 No Comments

In his book, The Loss of Sadness, Allan Horwitz  pointed out that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals have taken more and more symptoms and classified them under the umbrella term of depression. Of course, given the name of the book, Horwitz’s main concern was the topic of sadness. His thesis, or observation, is that people are not allowed to be sad anymore. Instead, they are depressed. As I read I noticed that this is true not only for sadness, but for virtually all of the “symptoms” listed for making the diagnosis, depression. Here is a list I came across at the web site for the National Institute of Health (NIH):

Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings

Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism

Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

Irritability, restlessness

Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex

Fatigue and decreased energy

Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

Overeating, or appetite loss

Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment. read more…

Suffering and Victory

October 29th, 2014 No Comments

In Genesis, it tells us that God created the world in six days, and after looking over his work, he proclaimed that everything was “very good.” Early in the third chapter, however, the serpent appeared and deceived Eve. She and Adam ate the forbidden fruit, thus bringing evil into the mix. When God “discovered” the sin, he cursed everyone involved and part of the curse was that there would be animosity between man and man, and between man and the world he lives in. What we see around us is the result of that curse.

God could have simply wiped man out and started again, but instead, for whatever reason, he didn’t. He allowed history to continue on, allowing man to fight and bicker against one another, making things ugly. Throughout history God was always there asking men to come back to him, to stop their rebellion against him and thus against one another. But they refused.

Then Jesus came to earth, lived among us, died as our head and in the process took the penalty and shame of our sin, and rose from the dead to prove it all.

When we come to him, we relinquish everything we thought was ours, and give it over to his control. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Our becoming Christians means we die to ourselves and change our allegiance to him. Part of this is that we stop trusting in ourselves for our wellbeing and give that responsibility over to him. read more…

A Great Witness

October 28th, 2014 No Comments

Straightforward in many ways, complex in others, he knew that he was tactless and readily admitted to being churlish, yet he was an admired pastor, a patient counselor and affectionate husband, father and friend. He shrank from violence, but his moral courage never failed. The contrast between sensitivity and his vehement denunciation of anyone of whom he disapproved may seem to us puzzling, until we realize that the profits of the Old Testament harangued their contemporaries in exactly the same outspoken manner. As always, Knox took the Bible as his model. This searing honesty discomfited his friends as well as his enemies, but his unflinching faith in God earned him the respect not only of the leading reformers of his day but of the machinating politicians at the Scottish and English courts.

John Knox, Roslyn K Marshall, pp. 215, 216.

Discovering Anger

October 28th, 2014 1 Comment

Pastor Mike,

My friends and family all tell me that I’m bitter and always angry. I agree, but they tell me to “just stop it!” And I can’t. I get angry because people say and do mean things to me. Of course I get angry, wouldn’t you? At the same time I know that the Bible tells me not to be bitter or angry. Please help.

Angry in Troy

 

Hi Angry,

Let’s begin with an example of what I think you’re saying and then give you something to think about along the same lines.

Here’s what I hear you saying: Suppose you spent two hours on a new hair-do and when you were finished, thinking this is the best ever, you walk out of the bedroom and your roommate takes one look at your new hair and exclaims, “What in the world happened to your hair? Are you alright?” She hurts your feelings, insults you and all your creativity, and you naturally get angry with her. Is that about right?

Let’s change the example slightly. Suppose your roommate loves your hair and you go out into the world wearing it proudly on your head. On the sidewalk outside your apartment, you meet the local mentally challenged girl sitting her wheelchair. She can hardly talk, everyone knows she is very slow mentally, about the age of a four year old, and when she sees your hair she exclaims in a loud voice, “What happened to your hair? Are you alright?” She hurts your feelings, but because of who she is and the challenges she lives with, you don’t get angry with her. Instead, you reassure her that you don’t have anything wrong with your hair, instead that you did it on purpose and you think it is lovely.

Okay, assuming that these two stories might really happen, what is going on here? In the first case your feelings are hurt by your roommate who ought to know better. And you blow up at her. In the second, your feelings are hurt by a woman who can’t know better. In the first case you get angry, and in the second you don’t. Instead, you gently help the second to understand that you have created a wonderful work of art.

Now let’s go a step lower in the illustration. What was going on in both of these scenarios immediately after the comments by the two women about your hair? You quickly assessed the situations and made different decisions based on your assessment. In the first case, you decided to get angry and, in the second, you decided not to get angry. In the first, you decided to yell at your roommate, in the second, you chose to speak kindly to your neighbor.

Another layer down and you realize that at some time in your past, you trained yourself to react in these two different ways in these two different situations. To use another illustration, suppose you took karate lessons for five years. Then, one night you were walking along, minding your own business and out of a dark shadow a man leapt out to take all your money. Five seconds later, you find yourself dusting off your clothes with the mugger lying in a heap next to you bleeding from his nose, holding his knee, and moaning loudly. What happened? Did you make any decisions? Yes. Did you spend a lot of time thinking about the decisions, or planning them? Yes, you did. But not in the moment. You spent five years preparing for this moment. You made all the decisions ahead of time and when the proper moment availed itself, you shifted into autopilot and beat up the mugger. Decisions made quicker because of habit, training, or some other kind of preparedness, are still decisions being made.

If we go back to your decisions to get angry or to not get angry, we can see that you have spent many years dealing with hurts and insults and other things people have done against you by becoming angry. In circumstances that allowed it, you lashed out against your enemy. In circumstances where lashing out was impossible, you simply stuffed the anger and seethed inside. Incidentally, this not releasing your anger is called “bitterness.”

I hope, by now, that you are beginning to understand that none of us “just get angry.” We choose to get angry depending on the situation. How our anger is expressed depends on the situation. When the anger is not expressed, but not gotten rid of in a godly way, it becomes bitterness and eventually comes out in other ways.

I have more, later. I want to explain how you move from naturally becoming angry to naturally becoming loving.

I hope this helps.

Mental Drift

October 24th, 2014 Comments Off

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

My question is what do you do with thoughts I didn’t intend? Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: I’m working in the shop, and my mind starts wandering all over the place, and eventually my thoughts start going to inappropriate places for most the afternoon, without trigger. I didn’t intend for this, and being what it is, I confess it as sin. What else should I do?

Thanks,

Thoughtful in Moscow

Dear TM,

Ah, the joy of mental drift. One thing leads to another and, Bam! You’re thinking sinful things. One minute you’re thinking about how to get the widget into the whosit. The next, after a few minutes of drift, you’re thinking about doing something sinful. I know the situation well. You’re not alone. Which is why I’m publishing this note.

The key is to stop the drift or if you have drifted, to get back to where you need to be, without serious sin.

One of the fruits of the spirit is self-control, and the greatest commandment is to love God with your whole mind. So, if you can start on the right track from the beginning, you’ll have a more difficult time drifting. This means you have to wake up in the morning, conscious of being in the presence of God, and train yourself to be worshiping him in whatever you put your hand to do. Even what seems to be non-Christian endeavors are really opportunities to give thanks, to be grateful, and to be in prayer about. Hammering nails is a great miracle, for example. Remember how difficult it was to hit a nail when you first started? How hard was it to cut a straight line? Now you do it without even thinking about it. But it is a marvel and very praiseworthy, if you’ll begin to think like that.

Being in the presence of God all the time will make mental drift more difficult.

Now, suppose despite your preparations, you drift off anyway. The first think you should do is to confess your thoughts as sinful. Next, get right back to being in the joyful presence of God. And, ask God to reveal to you when you are being tempted to think thoughts that don’t glorify God. Sometimes the initial drift is not sinful, it is only later, after chasing the theme down the road that they are sinful. Ask God to reveal to you the direction you are headed so that you can stop in time. Doing this quickly and consistently will be the key to keeping from major sin.

Above all, everything should be done with joy and gratefulness to the Lord. Living in the presence and active relationship with God is the key. So rejoice all the time, pray without ceasing, singing psalms, hymns and songs in your heart to the Lord all the time.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have questions.

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