I Need Joy

www.bible.com/1713/psa.94.19.csb

Its not that its a bad day today. In fact, its been a pretty good day. I was able to go to work today. I cam home. Did not run into anyone with the virus, as far as I know. I was able to talk to people today, and I hoped that listening to their troubles gave then some relief. But coming home is staying in and not going anywhere. This weekend was planned tkt be my daughter’s eighth grade trip to DC. Next week was going to belt wife and I’s 25th wedding anniversary trip, but now we need to cancer that too. She doesn’t want to be away from home so far with all the stuff happening. I don’t blame her.

It seems everyday we wake up to new rules. Everyday new businesses are being told to close for fear of drawing crowds, all except the stores that draw the largest crowds, like grocery stores. Nevermind logic. Each day we are given new insights into how thus virus works, how deadly it is, and what I need to do to stop it. I feel more informed about this one subject than anything else I’ve ever seen in the news.

But on top of all this, churches are voluntarily closed. One place that people can go when times are tough is the church. But now you have to have Internet or a phone to get that kind of ministry. I know it’s not permanent, but its one thing that will help all of us get through the next few weeks. I need the church. I need the social gathering. If where two or three or gathered, Christ is there, there is a sense I feel kind of cut off.

I’m sure I’m not the first to sense it. And maybe I just need to get over it for the duration of this crisis. Others have been cut off from church. I am not the first. Others have survived. I will too. But I am down and need joy. And I know my Lord can bring me joy.

Heavenly Father, this is not a good time. In fact, this is a difficult time. I feel Your church has been slighted. And I am angry. But I know these happen or not at Your word. If we need some time away from pretty buildings and slide presentations, loud music and smoke machines to help us hear your voice again, help me hear it. Help me hear that voice that calls to me day and night, so that I might enter the joy of the Lord. In Your Son’s holy Name, Amen.

He Cares

www.bible.com/1713/1pe.5.7.csb

Living with anxiety is a tough thing. When you are worried all the time about how life will work out unless you actively worry about it. Many that I talk to who experience anxiety constantly just can’t give it up to God. They rely on anxiety meds when they can get them. They worry that life today will not work out. The stress is real. The anxiety is real. Is there any hope?

Yes.

Because God is greater than our anxiety. But I don’t think realizing that truth is the problem. Sometimes anxiety takes on a life of its own; that if I don’t worry about something, I will need to invent something to worry about, because it is not ok to have peace. Somewhere in the growing up years you learned that you are responsible for everything, or that you are the reason things don’t go right. Maybe if you didn’t worry about it, it wouldn’t happen. But somewhere you learned that you are the center of all things, and that all things depend on you. What a great load of responsibility. Who can bear it?

No one can.

I know in my head that this is take God’s own responsibility for all things. It is to put myself in the place of God. But if there was an easy way to fix it, I don’t know it. Drugs help, but they don’t solve the problem. Scripture promises aside, anxiety is a real thing. And sometimes we have to look at what powers in us or around us are influencing us to stay anxious. We suffer stomach aches and head aches and gut issues abound. Our soul aches for relief from the overwhelming anxiety. We long to be liberated, but we can’t.

Take a serious look at your life. When did you start having these feelings and how did they manifest? Has the Enemy latched in to that and magnified it? Do you need to pray for liberation from the Enemy while you deal with they false narratives playing in your soul? It is not God’s will for you to suffer from anxiety. Hold that truth up to the mirror of your life. You don’t have to worry about everything. Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you. He wants to liberate you from your anxieties, but you must be willing to let Him. You must choose to surrender your anxiety to Jesus.

Heavenly Father, I can’t bear these anxieties any more. They are suffocating me. I can’t breathe. I feel pain all the time. I don’t know why I feel this way. Open my eyes to my own life and show me where and when I began to feel like this. Help me find a counselor who can help talk me through these things. Bind those powers that seek my harm. If there be any demons that are binding me to anxiety, help me break those bonds of oppression and show me the path to peace. I need you Lord now more than ever. I pray these things in your Son’s Name, Amen!

It’s Demons!

www.bible.com/1713/jas.4.7.csb

Once in a while you come upon one of those cases where nothing works. Meds don’t work. Sound reasoning from the Scriptures does no good. What’s left? Behavioral modification, psychoanalysis, extended rehab, nothing is effective to change the heart. If you know Jesus, you know that Jesus is the only one who can change the heart, but a person must also choose Jesus. Jesus wants to change everyone, but only those who let Him can receive that change.

But you know who doesn’t want that change? Do you know who wants you to stay just the way you are in depression and anxiety, in anger or self-destruction? It’s Demons! The devil has every interest in seeing you destroy yourself. He wants to take you away from God and will do all in his power, as God allows him, to destroy your sense of self-worth, your feeling of forgiveness and grace, especially your peace. He will sense his henchmen to take you down, through whispers, through oppression, through others who will hurt you.

And yet here is this promise in the Scripture. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. You must choose God. And in that choice you have the power to resist the devil. You have the power to choose not to listen to him or his minions. You have the power to resist him and his spiritual poverty. It is in your power to choose, and in that choice, many find healing. Because sometimes it isn’t a biological problem or a thought problem, but it’s demons. Demons will steal your joy and impoverish your spirit. They constantly tell you that life isn’t worth living and that you are alone. They will isolate you and corral you to believe that you are the only one with your problem.

You must choose to believe the truth. Jesus loves you and had died for you. Jesus has given everyone because He loves you. Even now He longs for you. He calls to you. Amidst all of the voice of sorrow and despair, Jesus’ is the only one speaking hope into you. Resist the devil. He will flee. Resist the darkness, and light will flood in. Resist the voices. They don’t love you. Submit yourself to God and enjoy His love and grace.

Dear Father, I know I’m not much. But with you, I am something. All my life the enemy has tried to tear me down and make me feel like I am worthless. I know that’s not true. I am valuable because your Som died for me. I have been bought with a price, far more valuable than gold or silver. Help me see that today, to resist the darts and wiles of the devil, and embrace your grace in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Dear Friend

www.bible.com/1713/3jn.1.2.csb

What you may not see in this translation is John’s hope for Gaius is two-fold, both that he may prosper financially as well as physically, just as his soul prospers. To prosper is to be financially well-off, to be “successful” or be financially secure. Someone who prospers is doing well. It is similar to the Vulcan benediction, “live long and prosper.” It is good wishes on those we care about. But what John adds here is the prosperity of the soul your physical and financial prosperity ought to be tied to how well your soul is doing. To be rich and healthy yet miserable is what we call Depression in America. What would you give to be happy? What would you give to have peace?

So what John wishes upon his friend Gaius is not so unusual. As a leader in the early church, he notes that physical and financial prosperity are both dependent on your soul’s health. And keeping a soul healthy depends on its reliance on the Lord. As he says in vs. 3, “you are walking in the truth.”

Soul health demands truth-walking. A healthy soul takes regular strolls through the halls of God’s word, takes in the sights, meditates on them, and allows them to fill his soul. He then can take his insights with him wherever he goes. If you are not spending time with God, you aren’t working on your soul.

So like a good pastor, John reminds Gaius (who probably didn’t need the reminder so much as those who would read the letter after him) that a healthy soul is necessary for physical health and financial health. As Paul once wrote, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” A godly soul is content even with a little, and considers it wealth. Don’t imagine for a minute John is inventing a “get rich” scheme here. The point of this physical health and prosperity is not to get religion. Being obedient to religious rules isn’t the beginning of a healthy retirement. Being obedient to the Lord is.

Like Gaius, let us hold fast the confession of our faith unwavering. And allow God to bless us in health and wealth as He sees fit. Let us not serve the Lord to be wealthy. Let us serve Him to be well in our soul. Yes, there is a return for faithful service. It is this, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!”

God bless you today!

Anxiety Nation

www.bible.com/1713/pro.12.25.csb

I’m not sure why we are so anxious, but we are. Easily half of the people I talk to, and that includes myself, feel some form of anxiety. It may be anxiety about work, about family, about health, or how that person over there is looking at me strangely. Anxiety doesn’t need a logical basis to exist. It can exist simply because we are not anxious, and probably ought to be. Anxiety is the reason for prescribed or over the counter medication, probably more than anything else, as many stomach and headache issues can be attributed to it.

The Scripture today acknowledges this reality. Anxiety is a real thing, and even the wisest Solomon understood it. He understood its effect on the human heart (or psyche), in that it is “weighed down”, which easily translates to “feeling down”. Anxiety robs our joy, steals our contentment, and makes foolish our faith. That’s right. If you worry, your faith isn’t operating as it should.

“I believe in God, but . . . ” Really? You believe in God’s providential care? You believe that God has prepared the way and the circumstances you are experiencing right now? You believe that God truly loves you and only wants what’s best for you? You truly believe there is nothing to fear because there is no fear in love? You believe that? “Perfect love casts out fear … and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18) And there it is. Anxiety is fear, sometimes paralyzing fear. We fear for the future. We fear that we won’t have enough money to make rent or groceries. We fear that our needs will not be met. Fear is a sign of immature faith. If our love is not perfect, or mature, then we will feel anxiety about God’s ability to care for us.

Now I won’t sit here on a high horse and tell you I’m perfect. Far from it. I still feel fear and anxiety. The Bible clearly says even believers still feel fear. But these two things, fear and faith, are at war in our heart, and are frequently tested. It is maturity to weather these tests and grow in our faith. Remember that to grow in our faith, the tests must be harder. But we have this confidence: the God who brought us through the last test will bring us through this one.

By the same token, we can offer and ought to offer encouragement to others who growing. A kind word, a helpful encouragement, a joy shared can all be helpful for those in anxiety. As believers, it is our responsibility to share the lessons we have learned. When God brought you through that horrible health problem, or financial burden, or relationship, you have the responsibility to share that with others going through the same thing now. Everyone’s pain is unique, but if you can share your trial overcome through faith in God’s provision, that can offer hope to someone lost in anxiety. I might say that this hope is the one sure antidote to anxiety. Anxiety says, “all is lost.” Hope says, “the best is yet to come.”

If you are going through anxiety, may I offer hope that God is not done with you? May your eyes be open today to others going through tough times, that you may offer them hope in the love of God who eagerly desires to provide for them and satisfy their needs, just as He does for you.

God bless you today.