Thursday, February 22, 2024

Relief is Found in Him

     Our minds hold a treasure trove of information....some very useful and other random information that resembles the junk drawer in our kitchen into which everything seems to go.  Under the random information category, I remember quite clearly some of the old jingles from T.V. shows and commercials.  Why I remember the Alka-Seltzer jingle is beyond me but the character in the commercial told us:  “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz.  Oh what a relief it is!”  Of course, the company wanted us to think of their product when faced with indigestion, and it worked.  Just drop the tablets in a cup of water, drink it down and feel better fast!  This world offers us temporary solutions, but when it comes to long lasting relief, there is only one source that can meet our needs. We find the remedy in God’s Word.  This is why we are encouraged to meditate on it day and night.  While indigestion is a temporary, there are many other things like worry or anxiety that plague our thoughts keeping us from true peace of mind.

     Anxiety is not a sin.  It is an emotion, but left unchecked, it can lead us to sin.  Emotional eating

disorders, alcohol, or drugs are often the quick fixes people resort to when overwhelmed by fear and anxiety.  However, Jesus warned us in Luke 21:34, NIV:  “Be careful or your hearts will be weighed down with...the anxieties of life...”  He spoke these words to encourage his disciples to be ready for the Day of His return. We must face the fact that it is hard to function when we are weighed down by worry.  So what are some of the signs that anxiety has us in its grip?  We must ask ourselves some questions:  Do we always see things in a negative light?  Do we assume that something bad is going to happen?  Do we dismiss good news by diluting it with our negative thoughts? Would we rather avoid being around others and instead, just want to stay in bed?  How much do we laugh and enjoy life?  If we can affirm any of these patterns, we may be dealing with anxiety/worry/fear.  Thankfully, God’s Word has the remedy for us to meditate on.

     Paul’s letter to the Philippians tells us (Phil. 4:4-8): “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentleness be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand. 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. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.” We find four simple take aways in this passage that will keep us in perfect peace. First, rejoice in the Lord. Think on Him and praise His name for all He has done in our life.  Second, we must ask God for help in prayer.  He will hear us when we come in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.  Third, we must leave our requests with Him knowing that His plan for us is good. Finally, we need to fix our minds on whatever is just, true, noble, pure, lovely and of good report. Negative thinking brings us down, but fixing our mind on the Lord will always lift us up.

     While the world scurries around looking for instant relief from the stress of living (the Alka-Seltzer fix), we as believers have the promise of God’s abiding peace in our lives despite our circumstances. Isaiah 26:3 reminds us:  “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You.”  The key is having our minds renewed daily by washing them in the Word of God. As we clean out the junk drawer of our thinking and replace it with God’s thoughts, our lives will find relief in ways that fizzy tablets cannot!  Selah! 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Don’t let the World Steal Your First Love

     One area that most of us have to deal with is being overly busy.  Our schedules become jam-packed with activities: job, children’s activities (soccer, baseball, clubs, school, doctor visits, parties etc.), our own appointments not to mention civic clubs and church.  Even retirees find that their schedules can become overloaded with many obligations to the point of exhaustion.  While many of these activities are good, we must remember to protect our “first love” along the path which God has laid out for us.

     In Revelations 2:1-7, Jesus speaks to the Ephesian Church. They have worked hard (vs. 2a):  “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance....” This church was on the right track but in verse 4 the Lord says:  “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”  The zeal with which these believers had pursued the Lord had somehow waned.  This is nothing new in the lives of individuals or the life of the church.  It is easy to become so involved in the things of this world that our “first love” for Christ is dimmed by all the activity of daily living.  So how does this happen?

     First, we often forget to take the necessary time to read our Bible and pray. Having a daily quiet time is the key to setting priorities for the day, asking God’s guidance, meditating on His Word and finding strength as we journey on through life.  When this is neglected, it can show up in our relationship not only towards God but also in our relationships with our fellow man.  My mother used to say: “The day is less likely to unravel if it is hemmed in prayer.”  She was right!  On those days when I neglect my quiet time, it seems that I am less prepared to face the inevitable problems that arise.  Taking time to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) before hitting the front door has proven to have far better results.

     Secondly, we can become so caught up with the cares in this world that we lose our balance. Being involved in organizations, doing fund raising or working on a job promotion can become so time consuming that we neglect fellowship with other believers.  We need to come together to worship God.  There is something so rich and meaningful in sitting together as we hear the Word of God proclaimed and join in singing praise to our Lord.  Certainly, we can watch T.V. services or even watch our own service online, but we lose out on shaking hands, smiles, and hugs.  We miss being able to share prayer requests in person and encouraging one another.  Lets face it, we live in difficult times, and being united in the Body of Christ is our best source of renewal for the weary soul.

     In his book “The Christian Warfare”, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says:  “Worldliness is the state in which our thinking is governed by the mind and the outlook of the world” (pg.363). As believers, we must daily put on the mind of Christ for we are citizens of heaven.  Our walk here on earth is temporary, and this is something that can be easy to forget. Just look again at the Ephesian Church.  They worked hard, they persevered through hard times and they opposed false teachers.  Yet, they lost their first love of Christ.  This can happen ever so slowly that we do not notice. When we depend more on our good deeds and works and less on Christ, we, too, are beginning to lose our first love.

     Each day, we must remind ourselves that Jesus came not only to save us from the bondage of sin but also from this evil world as well.  Galatians 1:4 tells us:  “...who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”  Our world in thought and outlook is under the dominion of the devil; therefore, we need to be certain that we strive to have the mind of Christ each day.  This comes with fellowship, prayer and Bible study.  To neglect these key principles is to invite the world to consume our time, our mind and diminish our first love of Christ.  Let us remember that we “have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Colossians 1:13). We are merely pilgrims passing through this life.  May we live as light and salt in a world badly in need of our Savior. Hold fast to our “first love” so we may bring glory to God.  Selah! 

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Being Renewed in the Spirit of the Mind

     Everyone needs refreshment and renewal in their lives whether traveling somewhere or just spending time with others, yet it is crucial in the spiritual realm as well. Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us: “ put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  This description in Scripture reminds me of my office desk at home which is cluttered beyond belief.  It needs attention in the same way our lives do which become cluttered with deceitful desires. We need a renewed mind, so how do we proceed?

     First, we need to open the Bible.  He knows what we need...a washing in the Word. Psalm 119:28 so beautifully tells us: “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to Your Word.” When life has seemed to empty us of all emotion, we find the river of life on the pages of God’s Word. At a time when Jeremiah felt down and needed comfort, he cried out to God:  “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”  Consuming the Word, living in His Word and acting upon it leads us to the second way to refresh the spirit of our minds.

     Calling out to the Lord in prayer and making time for Him each day helps us wipe away the cobwebs of the world that gather. We are surrounded by

 deep unrest in our nation. Meditating on that only causes greater anxiety. In our home, we try NOT to watch much T.V. or the news. Instead we try to do things that will edify, and one of them is to pray. At those times when I do not know what to pray, I open the Psalms and pray through them.  There is a lot of healing in this exercise. I love how Jeremiah calls to mind God’s goodness in Lamentations 3:21-23: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Praying that Scripture helps to bring hope and renewal.  See how the Word and prayer are meant to work together?

     Finally, if we desire to be renewed in the spirit of our mind, we need fellowship. Whether it is in person, on the phone or through a letter, we all need outside contact. I enjoy praying with others over the phone when I get the chance. Of course, being together in church or a small group is also a blessing. We know that “iron sharpens iron” so as health permits and we are able to gather, the Lord will encourage us all the more as we see the day of His return drawing near.   So,  let us endeavor to put on the new self and be renewed in the spirit of our mind. This will please God and bring glory to His name!  Selah!