Friday, September 15, 2017

Quick….Slow…Slow (James 1:19)

One of my YMCA trainers sometimes encourages her class to do some arm and leg movements quick, quick slow. Doing the exercise at different speeds allows us to use our muscles in different ways and increase agility. The variety of movements and speeds benefits our bodies in different ways.
James’ words of instruction do not advise us to do certain things quick, quick, quick slow, but to do them quick, slow, slow. Following his God-given instructions will enhance our spiritual lives.
James encourages us to be quick to hear. Having two ears is much more valuable than the better
aesthetic look we would have with only one ear. Having two ears means we wisely spend much more time listening than speaking. It means we should be much more ready to listen than to speak. Each time we pray we should ask ourselves how much time we are spending listening for what our Lord has to say rather than hurrying through requests and rushing off to do other things we “must” do. We should also ask how quick we are to hear what others want to tell us whether that be information, encouragement or constructive criticism.

James also advises us to be slow to speak. Some people will become impatient when we respond slowly and might even take that slowness as a sign of intellectual weakness. But taking time to think about how we will respond helps us avoid hastily spoken words we may immediately regret. We can never take them back, as much as we would like to do so. Taking time to respond may give our Lord time to bring to mind words that will edify, bless or encourage the other person.

James also advises us to be slow to anger. Being slow to anger makes it less likely that we will do or say something angrily that we will immediately regret. Notice that James does not say, “Never be angry.” Think about the day our Lord drove the money changers out of the temple in righteous indignation. Paul writes, “Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26) From these verses of Scripture, we see there is a time to be angry but it should be brief and for good cause. Some things aren’t worth getting angry about and we may stumble into sin when we do. Other times confrontation in righteous indignation is demanded. Wisdom comes in knowing the difference. Examining being quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger will bless others and work to our benefit.

David Oldfather

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Idolatry of Worry

Dividing a number by a letter to get a color...
Biblical thoughts on worry and how to overcome it

Reasons to avoid worry?  I thought of at least 5.

1.) Worrying forgets the Gospel
It denies God’s sovereignty and power.  Christ has said in John 14 that we are not to let our hearts “be troubled.”  Why?  Because He was going to be and has now died and been raised, thereby making the way for man to get to God.  Worry denies the peace promised by the Holy Spirit and makes God out to be a liar.  It forgets the Gospel’s power to bring peace as it fails to trust that Christ is a refuge for all our strife.  Worry elevates some stresses as being beyond the perfect plan and power of God.

2.) Worrying is meditation
Defined, to meditate is to “think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time.”  It is to have your mind captive to something.  Scripture tells us that we are to let our minds dwell (meditate) on Christ and His Word.  The truths of God are to be our meditation.  In Psalm 19:14 the Psalmist pleads with God to let his every word, every thought and every devotion be pleasing to God.  Verse 13, however, sheds some additional light to his plea.  He petitions the Lord to keep him away from presumptuous sins.  The “presumptuous sin” in worrying is presuming that meditating on what you can do about a worry will produce a more favorable result.  It sets the meditation of your heart on that issue and resolving it as opposed to trusting the Lord to do what is right and in keeping with His perfect will.

3.) Worrying is idolatry
If worry is your meditation and meditation is that which you think and dwell on... then doesn’t it stand to reason that what you dwell on is your idol?  That stings a bit.  We know we aren’t to have any idols (Exodus 20:4-6).  Instead we are to dwell on Christ alone, but how easily idols sneak in and construct themselves in plain sight, and before we know it we have allowed them choice real estate in our heart.  Idols form when our hearts are drawn away from Christ by other things (Deuteronomy 30:17).  They are demonic in origin and dressed as something seemingly harmless but massively destructive to us.  Be on guard for them in your heart.

4.) Worrying is disobedient
It seems that this one should be most obvious, yet it bears stating even still.  Matthew 6:25-27, Jesus declares that we aren’t to worry.  Our Father, He says, knows our needs and will provide.  So to engage in constant worry is to disobey the Word of the Lord.  Before you think me legalistic, please remember that God’s Law is a law of liberty!  Though often stated in the negative (“Thou shall not...”) they are always intended for our good.  They are intended to preserve our joy by focusing us on Him and our need for Him in all things.

5.) Worrying is vanity
What good does worrying incessantly do?  “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27).  What more needs to be said about the sheer wastefulness and vanity of worrying?

So what should we do?

I write to you, the one tempted to incessant worrying, from the trenches with you.  My mother says that I get that nature from her.  Maybe I am predisposed genetically to struggle with worry to some extent, but the truth is that I wrestle with it because sin dwells in my flesh.  I don’t set out trying to worry, but it creeps in at times just the same.  At its worst in me I literally lie in bed, my mind racing so fast over the many daily things I’ve decided to worry about, that I can hardly lie still.  There are few things more frustrating than a restless mind fixated on worry.  For someone whose sin struggles doesn’t include worrying this is hard to understand.  I explained that those times when the worrying is at its worst, in my mind, it feels as though I am trying to divide a number by a color to derive a letter.  I mean that quite literally!  I have seen that frustrating formula over and over in my mind at times.  It is the sign of just sheer mental exhaustion that has come on over time as I have failed to pray and rest in Christ as I ought.  As the Lord works in and grows me I am learning how to more quickly rest in Him and for that I am grateful.

Can you relate to this struggle?  If so, here are some Scriptural helps.

1.) Pray – (Philippians 4:6) – Seems simple, but for those who struggle with worry we also struggle to keep our mind focused during times of prayer.  If you find it difficult to pray at all times and stay focused, wrestle and pray all the more!  Strive in prayer until you feel the Spirit of God bring you rest.

2.) Seek God’s Glory, not Your Solutions. – (Matthew 6:33) – Certainly we are to engage our minds in problem solving but there is a difference between evaluation and problem solving vs worry.  Ask God to help you seek His will above all things.  Seek His wisdom and trust His sovereign plan.  Striving with worry will only weigh you down (Proverbs 12:25).

3.) Humble Yourself. – (1 Peter 5:6-11) – Worry is arrogant because it sets our “wisdom” over God’s.  Scripture says to humble ourselves “under the Mighty Hand of God.”  We are to cast all our cares upon Him “because He cares for” us and is abundantly mighty to take all the cares we can think of and infinitely more.  We are promised rest if we will seek it from the Lord (Matthew 11:28-30).

4.) Remember the Gospel. – (Romans 8:28-39) – Are you born again?  Redeemed by Christ?  Think on that!  What greater promise is there?   I know of none, than to be certain that I have been redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Remember the Gospel and apply it!  What worry is greater than the problem you once had of being condemned and under the wrath of God for your sin?  None.  Yet Christ was mighty enough to rescue you from your condemnation.  Will He now not be able to strengthen you, guide you, and give you joy and rest?  Of course!  Nothing, not even that which you worry over, can separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ.  Nothing.  So, my fellow worriers, let’s press on in the love of Christ together and trust Him to care for us as He has promised to do.

by Pastor Jason


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