Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The angst of anxiety

That late 90's song "Don't worry be happy" just makes me sick. It just makes the issues of my everyday life seem trivial and unnecessary to worry about. It makes the end goal of being happy the solvent of all my issues and problems. But my life and most likely yours too, life is not just a state of "just be happy." When I have been at the bedside of a man dying of cancer or at the memorial of a grieving family, or counseling a person who is trying to make sense of their marriage breaking apart after 20 years; I don't simply play that silly little jiggle. So what can I do? For myself, and to help others? Well I think the Bible again offers good news (gospel) to that question.
First off Jesus spoke about anxiety. He preached it in a sermon found in Matthew's gospel account. Chapter 6 has Jesus asking the big question of whether anxiety can add more time to your life? The obvious answer is no. However, I tend to think many folks hope it does. Because behind much of anxiety is control and power. When we are out of control or not in the power seat of life we can have an overwhelming feeling of being anxious. I think Jesus knew this about our need for control and even was being tempted to be anxious about life in general with a previous temptation story in Matthew 4. Jesus knows our needs and wants and desires. He knows we can focus hard on the things of this world to satisfy our life and the need to want more. We can get worn down and seek after a kingdom of this world and loose sight of God's kingdom. That is why I think he gives a refocus on kingdom perspectives. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." As a Christ follower, I'm not immune to being anxious, but I can do something about it. I can be rightly concerned with God's kingdom and this will place a real contentment for my anxiety. This real effort is a term called "casting." and again the Bible confirms this effort by saying, "casting all your anxieties on him (Jesus) because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7.
This is more than a mental assent of thinking happy thoughts, but a whole life effort of redirecting our trust in Jesus, who can sympathize with our worries, yet kept his obedience in check to the provision of God the Father and His timing to life's situations. So instead of singing a silly song about being happy and really not dealing with the core issues of anxiety, maybe we can sing an old hymn of truth about God's dealing with us in anxiety; "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Stress is strength?

Often I have been told we need to get rid of stress, and certainly we have tried as a culture to perfect many ways to alleviate stress from our lives. From medication to gadgets to media. However a recent article from a culture website called Very Short List, disclosed a study that a bit of stress might be good for you after all. Researchers say it can even keep you young. Well you can read more about it and even go to the extended link yourself. The article below...

(Doctors and scientists have told us that stress causes heart disease, stomach cancer, and other assorted ailments. But according to scientists at Northwestern University, a little stress can actually be good for you.
When cells are exposed to a stressor such as heat, they initiate a biochemical cascade that aims to limit the damage. A key element of this “heat shock” response is the repair of proteins that have been misfolded or injured — a process that extends the life span of the cells and thus the organism. And so, certain forms of stress (calorically restricted diets, a few long days at the office) may be healthy: They’re too mild to cause serious harm but significant enough to trigger the repair mechanism. The secret, then, isn’t avoiding stress entirely — it’s finding ways to make sure the stress isn’t chronic. )...http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/41044/title/Antiaging__A_little_stress_may_keep_cells_youthful

Of course I think the Bible has already spoken to the issue in James chapter one, when the writer says to followers of Christ, to consider it pure joy when you face trails of many kinds. That certainly includes stressful situations. The end result is not wanting more stress, but character that reflects the nature of Jesus and brings God glory. Maybe we can look more into the scriptures to see some of lifes real issues addressed too. Have a day!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Calvinism with conscience

I'm a Calvinist. Now that is off my chest, I also want to say that reformed approaches to the Bible can lend a stale approaches to actively living in the Spirit. However, I think that if I'm reading the Bible through the eyes of the Gospel of Jesus, than I have a privilege to keep in step with the Spirit.

The means of my salvation is certainly and most assuredly in the perfect work of Christ, but my continual cooperation with that work started in me is daily and a willing submission to the Spirit in me. Douglas Moo, commentator to the New Testament letter of Romans says of this tension of being saved and acting saved like this, "Security without responsibility breeds passivity; but responsibility without security leads to anxiety."

Both places are not good to be in exclusively. However, the wonderful aspect of being in Christ or in the Spirit (which is really one in the same) is "There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," Romans 8:1. This is security. And, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live," Romans 8:13, this is responsibility.

Someone who says he or she is a follower of Jesus and does not put their lives under daily review of his or her behaviors and beliefs is prone to become passive to the Spirit of God, and the one who is always trying to make themselves right through rituals of behavior modification and belief in a 'better you, ' is subject to anxiety. Thanks be to Jesus who navigates the way. More to come in future posts.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Rhythms of Redemption

Tonight was a resurgence of redemption at Beach Hut deli in Auburn CA. I have always enjoyed good music and tonight Speak With Love hosted a show with two talented artist that took their art for music to the public in a non-threatening rhythm. The stage is being set to be an incarnational work of the gospel in public places. So wonderful to be on the ground floor in this movement to bring the gospel into culture where people live and relate. Beach Hut is a superb sandwich shop that has a very cool sand and surf theme. They serve up a great sandwich and drinks, along with passionate live music that points to the gospel and you have the ingredients for a redemptive work. Now all my missionary friends at Elevation need to do is let God be God and draw his own to an understanding of His grace because we spoke with love tonight in a deli shop in Auburn CA. For more on Speak With Love...visit them on Facebook, or go to http://www.speakwithlove.org/

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Visiting Museuma vs. Living Movements

I don't know about you, but museums kind of scare me. Don't touch, stay behind the rope lines, spotless brass rails. You know what I'm talking about. So clean that you could eat off the bathroom floors. Not that I have tried mind you. They hold artifacts, relics, and valuables of the past. They are certainly interesting places to visit, but living in them is not all that "real." You pay some cash and go visit them.

This is what unfortunately the church can become. They can turn into museums that people visit and deposit cash into. They hold things, and recount the past with pictures to prove it down the halls of the building. Don't get me wrong; I think that the past and understanding, studying, and certainly celebrating it is valuable and necessary to navigate the present and future. But living in it is not related to a movement.

The Gospel is a movement. Dynamic, and challenging. It is not a solitary picture hanging neatly in a hallway of some stuffy building. It is down and dirty, and in the lives of people; people who hurt, struggle, and suffer for it's sake. This movement will be marked with many pictures and stories of history. It will have all kinds of Godly achievements announced. What is necessary for making the gospel movement not turn into a museum: is the Gospel. Simply put it is the power of God. The power of God has always been a movement of mission for the souls and lives of His followers. Who are the followers? Those who have placed a faith in Jesus Christ.

The movement of the Gospel will certainly cost you. However, it will not be a ticket entrance into something static, but a whole life lived for a movement. It is the powerful movement of the Gospel. May those who are movement minded people in the Gospel, not sell out for decorating the man made halls of museums so that men get the honor of what God has done.