Sep 24

Too much stress – How to survive overwhelming stress

Too much stressToo much stress

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 2 Corinthians 1:8‭-‬10 NIV

Most of us complain about having too much stress in our job, family, and even church. And much of the complaining is warranted. However, we have managed to get through it – so far. But how much stress does it take to really qualify as “too much stress?”

In this portion of Scripture, Paul explained that his imprisonment in Asia was such that he had pretty much determined that they were going to kill him. That is surely too much stress. He even said that the pressure was “far beyond (his) ability to endure.”

So what is the takeaway from Paul’s experience?

First, that God has a purpose for each trial that we face.  Paul had experienced some tremendous results while ministering in the name of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:17) but God wanted to keep Paul focused on Christ – and not become proud and possibly stop depending on God. So, this trial was to show Paul that he was not self sufficient. Self-sufficiency is a malignant problem in our society.

The second takeaway is that regardless how difficult our situation is (even if we “despair of life”), when we put our trust in God, He will continue to deliver us! And He will do it again and again.

So, when we feel that we “just can’t take it anymore,” remember – we are not alone. And what is overwhelming to us does not even cause our Heavenly Father to break into a sweat! In fact, He was aware of your situation before it occurred. He is just waiting for you (and me) to stop relying on ourselves and start putting our hope in His loving care and strength.

Sep 17

Do everything in love – cost and benefit

Do everything in love

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13‭-‬14 NIV

Do everything in love

Difficulty brings out the best and the worst in people. It is so sad to see reports of looters stealing from the victims of the recent hurricanes. But a more powerful image is that of the thousands volunteers who – out of love – left jobs and families to give their time and money to help strangers. They don’t check race, religion, or any other demographic – they just help! That is the definition of “Do everything in love.”

There have been two unimaginable tragedies in the past couple of weeks. Hurricane Harvey flooded much of Texas and Hurricane Irma destroyed a large segment of the Caribbean and Florida – and even up the Atlantic coast. Thousands of families were forced to evacuate their homes. Some estimates place the total cost of these two storms at nearly $300 billion! It is impossible to comprehend the cost to the victims.

I do not have the financial solution to such a problem. The individual costs to the volunteers will also be substantial. But love (of any type) costs you something. Love without personal sacrifice is not true love.

What I do know is that true love is worth the cost. Matthew 19:29 NIV says, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

In acts of human compassion and love, the result is that we will receive love and compassion on a far greater level. And when Christians obey the command to do everything in love, we are simply paying forward the love that Christ first showed us when He – in love – sacrificed his life for us.

Sep 12

Consider the Lilies – a Devotional

Jesus said that we should “Consider the Lilies” when we are concerned about our circumstances (Luke 12:27,28 KJV). 

“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?”

Consider the Lilies

Asiatic Lily from our Gardens (5/14/14)

Consider the Lilies

Jesus spoke these words to comfort his followers – many of whom were likely destitute and homeless. He assured them that their Heavenly Father cared for them and was aware of their needs. He also reminded them that they should “consider the lilies” and keep things in perspective.

Coupled with the assurance of God’s love and care, Jesus mentioned two very significant issues about these beautiful flowers:

  • They did nothing to deserve their beauty
  • Their beauty is temporary

If the lily did nothing to deserve its beauty, why is it so arrayed and other plants are not so pretty? Or, to be more specific, WHY does God allow some people to amass great riches while others are starving? Or, why did God make me so homely while others have the physical appearance that makes everyone jealous?

These complaints are common in children who frequently say, “It’s not fair!” But adults are also prone to make such judgments about the disparity of wealth, beauty, or other things of this life. Too often, we say to ourselves, “it just is not fair!” Which really suggests that God is not fair.

Jesus said that our physical assets are not the most important things to consider. Matthew chapter six is the parallel Scripture where Jesus told his followers to first seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness and these things would be added to them. (Matthew 6:33)

Clearly, Jesus was telling them, and us to get our priorities sorted. Find out what is important and eternal and focus on those things. And when it comes to the rest of the “stuff,” the contemporary phrase is correct,  “Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff!” Just remember, if it is seen with our eyes, it is only temporary while the eternal things remain unseen. (Compare 2 Corinthians 4:18)

Sep 06

Gain friends and lose character?

Gain friends and lose character?

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV

Some, like the Pharisees, have suggested that a “Christian” should not have contact with anyone who does not also believe. However, the very next verse (1Co 15:34) faults the Corinthians for NOT reaching out to their neighbors, “there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.”

Gain friends and lose character?

What the verse says is that, although we can be a true friend to non believers, we cannot allow their companionship to erode our beliefs and morality. We can – and should – listen to, pray for, and help our unbelieving friends to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

When Jesus walked on earth, He visited with sinners and prostitutes, but He did so with the intention of lifting them up – rather than allowing them to bring Him down to their level of sin. He generally did not criticise or censure them – instead, He gave them an opportunity to find redemption and eternal life.

Never allow a misunderstanding of this verse to limit your contact with others. Whether a person is a believer or not, Christians should be the best neighbors/co-workers/friends that anyone could ask for.

Gain friends and lose character? Never! Instead, let them see our love and give glory to the God that we serve!

Sep 05

Mystery solved! The Rapture and the Future

Mystery solvedMystery solved

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51‭-‬52 NIV

Everyone likes a good mystery now and then. The thing about mysteries of God is that to us, they seem to be clearly spoken. But to those whose eyes are blinded, such insights are just “nonsense.”

That is the case with the coming “end times.” Christians may disagree about the details but all evangelical Christians are agreed to the basics:

  • There is a time coming (soon) where the order of things will be dramatically changed.
  • There will be a resurrection of the bodies of the children of God who have previously died
  • Living saints will be “changed” into immortal beings
  • It will all take place in an instant

This “change” is commonly referred to as the “rapture” but that is not a Biblical phrase – it is an estimation of the elation felt by those who are changed.

The focus of this Scripture is not on details but on comfort to God’s children (c.f. 1 Thes 4:18). First, the assurance that our deceased loved ones (who died as believers) will be resurrected. Second, that the then-living Christians will be changed from this mortal body into immortal (never dying) bodies. All will be recipients of eternal glory and unending joy in the presence of God Himself!

That is a mystery with a happy ending!

Sep 26

What if You Do Not Believe in God

What if You Do Not Believe in God

Don't Do not believe in God

Photo adapted from Marian Beck some rights reserved https://www.flickr.com/photos/lescientist/8430282209

Recently, Pope Francis made this statement which suggests that belief in God is optional to get to heaven :

“You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.
“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.” Note1

I agree with Francis that God’s mercy is far greater than we can imagine (Lamentations 3:22,23). It is also true that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8,9) and we cannot grasp them fully. And, I must say that our God is sovereign and can make decisions without consulting any other. Finally, it is possible that, in the larger context of his words, the Pope’s words may have been taken out of context.

But, taken as read, I have a deep disagreement with Francis about whether a non-believer can go to heaven by simply following his or her conscience.

  1. Our conscience is a result of our value system. Depending upon the society in which we live, one’s conscience may excuse practically everything that is considered sin in the Bible. An example of this is the US World Report of an Islamic Fundamentalist whose Sharia beliefs led him to rape a 13-year-old girl because (in his words), “Women are no more worthy than a lollipop that has been dropped on the ground.” 
  2. The Bible declares that the heart (Biblical term for conscience) is deceitful & desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) and out of the heart “come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). Although some may claim to have a clear conscience, it is no comfort for eternity because their conscience may have been seared (ironed over) (1Timothy 4:2). Unless it has been led by the Spirit of God, one’s conscience is not trustworthy, instead it is deceitful and wicked.
  3. Jesus said that there is just one way to our heavenly Father, and Jesus is the way (John 14:6). Even if one tries to keep up a clear conscience in the present, their past sins must be accounted for. Anyone who claims to be free of sin is a liar (1John 1:8). But when we confess our sin, “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins (1John 1:9).

Although I am saddened to say, it seems to me that the statement by Francis is diabolically opposed to Scripture.

When we offer alternative “gospels” (good news, a means of salvation), we are attempting to make Christ a liar when He said (John 14:6) that He was “THE” (one an only) way to the Father.  Romans 3:3,4 states, “If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” 

According to the Bible (John 3:16-18), unless and until, we believe on Christ, we are condemned:

“16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 1

The reward for the “unbelieving” is determined at the Great White Throne judgment:for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

It may be that sovereign God may make some allowances for those who have not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel of Christ and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior in their life. Although the Bible is unclear about such, it may fit with God’s sense of justice. However, it *IS* clear in the Bible that those who know of the Gospel and still disbelieve, are guilty before God (John 15:22) and (Hebrews 10:26) plus many others. So, how many of these “unbelievers” have never heard about Jesus Christ?

Note1 The full text of the Pope’s letter can be found here: https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130911_eugenio-scalfari.html

A rebuttal argument can be found here: https://www.catholicvote.org/what-pope-francis-really-said-about-atheists/

Sep 24

4 Reasons Smile

Smile. It makes people wonder what you have been up to!

Reasons Smile

What’s so funny? (Click on the picture to read a cute poem about smiling.)

Many years ago I saw a card on a friend’s desk with that saying printed on it. I have never forgotten it.

The saying is true but it is also very sad. What has our world become that we are (almost universally) so cynical?

(Web definition of Cynical: 1. believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.)

What would our world be like if we smiled because we were truly happy?

Reasons Smile

1 Thessalonians 5.16 (MSG) Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

If you feel like smiling, then SHARE this and pass it along! 🙂

Sep 09

Ready for Armageddon?

Are You Ready for Armageddon?

This question continues to plague people every day. The state of the world, political unrest, never ending racial issues, destabilized economy, and a plethora of other problems remind us that we must be living in the day of apocalypse. But the Bible encourages us that – if we are children of God – there is no reason to fear or worry. Here is a quote from from the Message Bible.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 MSG Continue reading