Sermons/Devotions

How to Conquer Fear

 Setting me Free

I prayed to the Lord in my distress, and He answered me by setting me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. – Psalm 118:4-5

“God’s got this.”

Have you heard anyone say this?

It’s more than a cliché. If “the Lord is for me,” I truly can have “no fear.”

And yet we worry and fear too often, don’t we?

Anxiety is one of the biggest reasons that people come in for counseling. I tell them, in part, that anxiety is largely excessive adrenaline flowing through you, and adrenaline is normal. It’s good. If a bear jumps out in front of you on a forest path, you want adrenaline! But why does it flow so freely and so inconveniently when life gets stressful?

I’m not going to give a whole counseling session in a short devotional, but one of things I recommend is working to move our thoughts from the feeling part of our brain to the thinking part of our brain. And we need to start thinking the truths of the faith, until we begin feel the reality of God’s protection.

For example, we’re encouraged to put on the helmet of salvation. Helmets guard our heads and the thinking part of our brains. And when our minds are focused on the permanence of heaven … we’re less concerned with the temporary things of earth.

The Apostle Paul puts it like this. Read it like a blessing: “[May] the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, … guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is not

a scarecrow …

I have a thinking brain

that thinks about

God’s provision

 

 

 

 

 

Healing the Iniquity of Us All

Bourne our Infirmities

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. – Isaiah 53:4

The first time I every really paid attention to this verse was when I read Lee Strobel’s excellent and accessible Case for Christ.

Strobel was an atheist. And when his wife converted to Christianity, it through his nice, comfortable, secular life into a tail spin. A decorated reporter, started researching the evidence for Christianity … in order to disprove it. (There’s an excellent movie about his story, available on Netflix right now.) But after interviewing scores of experts in fields like history, religion, archeology, etc., Strobel actually proved to himself that God does exist and Christ is real!

One of the experts that Strobel interviewed was a Jew who converted to Christianity. “Why?” asked this reporter. “Isaiah 53” was one of his answers.

This converted Jew had been spiritually adrift and searching for answers when a friend pointed him to Isaiah 53. The Prophet was writing hundreds of years before the crucifixion, and yet with “amazing specificity” – his words – the prophet described how the Messiah would be “5 crushed for our iniquities” and “5 by his bruises” “6 all we [who] like sheep have gone astray” would be “5 healed.”

And as this Jew, now a pastor, was reading Christian theology in the Old Testament – including how “the Lord … laid on him the iniquity of us all” – the seeds of conversion were taking place. (Though he had to go home and read his grandmother’s old Jewish Bible to make sure this wasn’t a Christian addition. It wasn’t, of course. This was Jewish doctrine prophesying the coming Messiah.)

On him the seeds of conversion were taking place. On Lee Strobel, the seeds of conversion were taking place too!

Christ has “borne [y]our infirmities” and “5 by his bruises [you are] healed.”

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who recommends

the movie and the book

The Case for Christ

Shedding the Old, Putting on the New

 New Creation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – 2 Corinthians 5:17

In our liturgy we say this verse frequently: “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” … or more accurately, “he (or she) is a new creation.”

That’s a wonderful verse that talks about the ways that Christ transforms our lives and faith animates our days. And I love this translation – not in it’s absolutely clarity, but in the way it reanimates a family phrase: “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come”!

“The old has gone.”  Everything that once defined us has either been forgiven or can be shed. Indeed, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ promises the wisdom, the courage, the strength to help us shed all of the old things that defined and enslaved us.

“The old has gone. The new is here!” What’s here? What’s new? What’s freeing? Through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to love (rather than hate), hope (rather than despair), rejoice (rather than curse), forgive (rather than fester), and courage (rather than fear). When we “put on faith,” we discover a spirit of peace, an attitude of gratitude, a sense of blessing, and a character of humility.

Indeed, what’s new is that as we allow Christ to live in us, he begins to shine in us. And we are transformed more and more into his image.

In Christ’s Love,

a creative guy who

likes making new creations,

but would rather be one

 

 

Where Your Treasure Is …

Treasures on Earth

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-20

Where is your focus?

On earth?

In heaven?

A friend was about to make a huge purchase. A vacation home. He put down the offer. He was going to sign the papers in the morning. That night at dinner, he kept saying, “It’s out in the middle of nowhere. What if someone breaks in and steals all my stuff? That’d make me really mad!”

Steam was already coming out of his ears. Indeed, he was already worrying, fretting, agonizing about something he didn’t even own yet.

The next morning, he canceled the deal.

Thirty years later, he is so thankful. If I’d purchased that vacation home, it would have taken me away from church every weekend. And I can list now all the profound things I’ve done with that money instead.

His faith is strong. His family is together. Church is in the center. And his treasure is not by a lake but in the hands of God.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants to be

a German Short-hair Pointer

(I have some German roots,

I have short hair, and

I want to spend my life

pointing up to heaven

rather worrying

about earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Testifying Signs

Umbrella Rain

God has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy. – Acts 14:17

I’m talking to a group of youth soon. We’re talking about signs. All the big and little ways that God speaks to us on a daily basis.

With that talking up, I loved it when I saw this verse. “God has not left himself [nor you] without a witness.” No matter what else is going on in your life, all you have to do is look at the “rains.” Or the “fruitful seasons.” Or the fact that the world produces plentiful “food” – four pounds every day per person! Or that in spite of the sin and brokenness in this world, we keep getting glimpses of “joy.” Indeed, all and any “good” in the world testify to God’s constant goodness.

And these are all signs.

They witness to God.

When I ask people, “where have you seen God lately?” people generally talk about small – but hugely ever-present – signs that keep assuring them that God is there.

So where have you seen God lately? In hope? In creativity? In rainbows? In music? In a peacefilled assurance that comes in the midst of a whispered prayer? In a mother’s comforting hug? (I mean, even if your mom has been gone for a dozen years, can you still almost smell the cookies she’d make?)

Where have you seen God lately?

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who sees signs of

God in simple, courageous

acts of forgiveness

 

The Awe of Water and …

 Water

From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. – Psalm 104:13

Have you ever really stopped to think much about water? Here are a few fun facts.

  • There is the same amount of water on Earth as there was when the Earth was formed. The water from your faucet could contain molecules that dinosaurs drank.
  • Water is used for: cooking, drinking, washing, bathing, farming, gardening, manufacturing, and recreationally.
  • Water is also used for hydropower generation.
  • Nearly 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable.
  • Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers.
  • Just 1% of water is drinkable – and 90% of that is found in Antarctica.
  • That also leaves mainly that same 1% to be used for all of humanity’s other needs agricultural, residential, manufacturing, community, and personal needs.
  • There is about 1.5 billion cubic kilometers of water on Earth – the equivalent of about 800 trillion Olympic swimming pools full.
  • If all that water was evenly spread over the Earth’s surface it would be nearly a mile and half deep.
  • Water regulates the Earth’s temperature.
  • Water also regulates the temperature of the human body.
  • Water carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, protects organs and tissues, and removes wastes.
  • 75% of the human brain is water and 75% of a living tree is water.
  • A person can live about a month without food, but only about a week without water.
  • The average total home water use for each person in the U.S. is about 50 gallons a day.
  • The average cost for water supplied to a home in the U.S. equals about 5 gallons for a penny.
  • Water should be a gas – all similar molecules are gaseous at “room temperature.” But water molecules are “sticky” and their high surface tension holds them together as a liquid.
  • Water expands rather than contracts when it freezes – unlike almost every other liquid. It expands by 9%. Frozen water (ice) is lighter than water, which is why ice floats in water.
  • There are at least 16 different kinds, or “phases”, of ice. Each of them has a different crystal structure.

Yes, have you ever stopped to think about how amazing water is?

Wait! A better question is this: Have you ever stopped to think about how amazing God the Creator is?!

From your lofty abode

you water the mountains;

the earth is satisfied with

the fruit of your work.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is amazed

… and thankful

 

 

What is Ultimately Futile?

Futile

When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish. – Psalm 146:4

Do you know what “futile” means?

I occasionally like turning to The Urban Dictionary to get a definition. Here’s one definition of futile …

The categorization used to define an individual (whether it be inanimate or not) whose existence possesses no purpose what so ever.

I love that. Being futile is being without purpose. (Makes sense. But here’s the part I love …) Being a person is being inanimate or not.

Well, let’s take that step by step. “When [your] breath departs,” you’re an inanimate person. And without a higher power to animate you, that’s your total future is that you will only, inevitably, and eternally “return to the earth.” (“Remember you are dust” is Ash Wednesday’s yearly wake up call.)

And “on that very day,” you will be futile. Without purpose. Indeed, “on that very day [your] plans will perish” with you.

True statement. But not very cheery, huh?

So what if we want to discover a purpose that lasts, it better be rooted in the One who does last and can make us last. Our hopes and plans need to be rooted in the Lord who can, will, and promises absolutely to animate believers eternally. And plans we make WITH him, do last … forever.

(Not plans we make on our own – even godly plans – and just say, “I’m doing this for the Lord,” but plans which we check with him first! and listen for his leading! and do according to what he purposes. Indeed, plans we make with him leading will last … forever.)

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who prays,

“God don’t let me

make plans and

ask you to join me;

let me look and

listen and see where

you are moving

and join you.”