10/31/07

Kick Out Fear!

“BOO!” I remember walking the neighborhood on Halloween night as a five year old. A prankster teen from down the block jumped out of the bushes and scared me, and I wet my pants. I was terrified! Halloween is a holiday geared not only to “fun” activities, but also, in many cases, to generating sheer terror.

But we don’t need Halloween to experience fear. Ann Landers, the famous newspaper counselor, said many of the 10,000 letters she received each month dealt with fear. A well-known doctor said 90 percent of the chronic patients that physicians treat daily have one common symptom. They are afraid!

Fear is a God-given emotion to protect us, but it becomes a problem when we have too many fears, or they become irrational. Most of the things we fear never even happen; and often, we can cause our fears to come to pass by dwelling on negative thoughts! Some fears, rooted in the past, become unreasonable and controlling. Other fears are conditioned or learned from others. And still others are real and authentic fear-causing circumstances.

We need to learn how to kick out our fears. We must be transparent and admit the truth about our fear so God can set us free (John 8:32). We can learn to control our actions, in spite of our fears. It’s a choice. Imagined fears are often based on lies or false conclusions, so examine what you are thinking and believing, and see if it lines up with reality and scripture. If fear is a constant anxiety, a Christian counselor can help to uncover the root cause, direct your thoughts and heart to the power of the Word of God, and help you rest in the presence of God. Sometimes, we need to change the circumstances that cause us to fear. For example, it’s pretty foolish to watch horror movies if you are inclined to nightmares! Or if you fear being alone, reach out to others.

Regardless of your fear, the best choice to overcome fear is to love and trust in God (I John 4:18; Proverbs 29:25).

10/24/07

Reach Out at 'Halloween'

Next week is Halloween. We can enter into the annual debate about the evils of this holiday, or we can choose to use this element of our culture to reach out and touch our world with God’s truth and grace.

Halloween is an opportunity!

My home church, Shadow Mountain Community Church (where Dr. David Jeremiah is pastor), offers a huge annual event to the community called “Royal Night.” Many of the event workers dress in elegant medieval garb to carry out the theme, and the focus is on our King of Kings, Jesus. People in the community flood to the lighted parking lot, which is loaded with fun booths, rides and jumps for all ages, a petting zoo, Christian music performances, and plenty of food. Every guest is offered a bag full of “tickets,” along with an invitation to church, and material that presents the claims of Christ.

The whole event is top-notch, because Christians do, after all, represent the King. We are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:19), and we need to conduct our lives with excellence and dignity, even when we are at play. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), and we are to manifest the sweetness of the knowledge of God “in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14), even a Halloween outreach. As a result of Royal Night, children and families have visited and joined our church, and many have come to know Christ.

On Halloween, you might choose to pass out gospel tracts with candy at your door, or take candy treats or fall flowers to a lonely shut-in. If you wear a costume, be sure that it reflects well on the Lord you love. The goal is to turn this holiday of darkness into a holy day of light for someone who needs something more than this world can offer.

So next week, do something positive with this negative holiday. Turn it into an opportunity to tell someone about King Jesus.

10/17/07

Ya Gotta Have Friends!

If we want to have friends, we must be friendly (Proverbs 18:24). We need friends of all kinds and for many reasons.

  • Some friends are Laughing friends. An early friend, Mary, helped me see “The Happy Side of Life.” She was like good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). Now I am cultivating friends like these in my Sunday school class. We love to laugh!
  • My friend Leslie is my Learning friend. Leslie opens her mouth in wisdom and shares practical advice. As my accountability partner, she provokes me to good works (Hebrews 10:24) and helps me embrace the character of God.
  • My walking partner, Kelly, is a Listening friend. There is no need for pretense or show. She hears my heart, not just my words. I can brainstorm with her about my vision, dreams, and goals. She hears my hurts and weeps with me. She rejoices in my victories and blessings without a shred of envy. She is trustworthy (Proverbs 11:13).
  • I can count on my friend Gail. She is my Leaning friend, offering support, and practical help. She answers my endless computer questions and sends emails with helpful information. She carries my burdens (Galatians 6:2). We have to be careful with leaning friends, though, because it is so easy to abuse their time.
  • And then there are the Lifting friends like Pam, Donna, Pat, and Sue. Pam is an encouraging cheerleader who helps me see my value and purpose. She gives me hope and speaks encouraging words (Romans 15:13; Proverbs 15:24). Donna, Pat, and Sue lift my ministry requests to God’s throne as quickly as their own.

Some of these friends actually fit in more than one category, but don’t forget: Jesus exemplifies all of these qualities of friendship (and that is a good scripture study). For example, we can laugh with Jesus, because He wants our joy to be full (John 15:11). He also prays for us, encourages us, gives us hope, listens to our heart, teaches and challenges us, and supports and helps us. Though we need to cultivate earthly friends, they may fail us. But Jesus will never disappoint.

Think about your friendships, and see if there are others you’d like to cultivate. Choose a variety!

10/10/07

Prayer: Standing against the Enemy

As we listen to the news each day, we have a choice about how we will respond. My new choice is to pray.

For example, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the United States recently, he caused quite a stir. I was angered, as usual, by his anti-American, anti-Israel rhetoric. I started spouting off about the insanity of Columbia University to invite him to speak, and the foolishness of offering the terror-espousing leader “freedom of speech” when he is not party to our democratic freedoms.

But then God’s Spirit nudged me. Pray.

So I prayed. I prayed that truth would be revealed. I prayed that people would be discerning and hear the lies Ahmadinejad speaks. I prayed for Iranian believers everywhere, and all missionaries to the Muslims. I prayed that God’s Spirit would convict Muslims’ hearts. I prayed for safety, protection, and wisdom for those involved in security during the Iranian President’s visit.

Suddenly it hit me. In prayer, I was standing against the enemy...not our likely enemy from Iran, but our truest, most deadly enemy, Satan himself. We are not to be ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). The scriptures speak of the battles being waged between the powers of righteousness and the powers of evil (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:12). James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” God’s power is stronger than “he that is in the world” (I John 4:4). So, God wants us to be vigilant and to stand strong against the enemy by putting on the armor of God (I Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 6:11-17) and praying for others in faith. (See Luke 22:31-32 for Jesus’ example of intercessory prayer.)

Fundamental to the Christian worldview is the truth that God is ultimately going to win! We need to pray with that in mind. We need to pray that God’s purposes will be accomplished. Prayer is a much better choice than cursing the darkness.

10/3/07

Christmas Shopping...Already?

When do you start Christmas shopping? Do you shop the day after Christmas for the next year? Or do you wait until August? Or October? Or after Thanksgiving? A friend of mine shops on Christmas Eve. I can’t imagine that. For me, Christmas shopping begins on the first crisp day of fall. It just gets my holiday juices rolling. It also is early enough to spread out the cost.

Regardless of when you shop, it’s smart to plan ahead and to budget for the holidays. Gifts don’t have to break our pocketbooks. One of the smartest gifts I ever gave was a bold quilt for my husband, made from blue, brown, and beige squares cut from my young sons’ hole-y jeans, pieced together between strips of red denim, and backed with a manly brown and red plaid flannel. We used it for years on picnics. It is a true legacy gift, full of memories, and it cost me almost nothing.

I love a good time, but I’m amazed at some of the dumb things we consumers buy as gifts—wasting our money when people have real needs. I’ve bought into “stupid gift” ideas, and you probably have, too. I saw ads recently for a “spinmallow,” a motorized marshmallow turner for making campfire S’mores...and a mini vacuum cleaner shaped like a pig...and squid soap (in an ugly soap dispenser)...and even a “Jesus Saves” bank with coins dropped in between Jesus’ praying hands. These gifts can range from the absurd to the truly tacky.

Proverbs 21:5 says, “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but to every one that is hasty, only to want.” In other words, careful planning will put you ahead financially, but hurrying and scurrying around, buying indiscriminately, will get you behind in your finances—and possibly, deeply in debt. We need to think before we buy.

It’s still early. Put some brain power behind your buying, and choose gifts that are meaningful and within your budget: good books, quality clothing, tasteful home d├ęcor, or something that will bless and encourage. Please, no squid soap.