Putting It Simply

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“But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42, ESV

I tend to over-think things a lot. Everything gets so darn complicated. Often there is ‘a paralysis of analysis’ that gels into something stagnant and murky. I am definitely not the decisive person I admire from a distance. My illness is such that I can easily become “immobilized” in making simple decisions.

But I am aware of my desperate need of Christ Himself. My many issues demand a ‘heavy duty’ Savior, one who is capable of handling them. I guess I have tried many ‘gods’ and I haven’t found any of them who can take the load like Jesus can.

All that He has done in the Gospels, and all that He does presently declares to me his trustworthiness and power. My admiration for Christ as my Savior and Deliverer is written on the pages of the Bible. His present day ministry to me (and many others) is consistent with what I read about him in the Word.

And it is amazingly simple, when you think it through. He lived, died, and rose again for those ‘rebels’ who deserve death. The simplicity is profound. I do not have to be a Nobel Prize winner to understand. Without cheapening ‘redemption’ He has reduced things to a straightforward idea. He dies in my place, and now gives me his life to live.

I want to listen to Him. I want to come so close that I can hear the very inflection of his voice when he does speak to me. You see, we are built as communicators, and that is the part that ‘small gods’ can’t provide. They’re merely ‘dead idols.’

I so want to please him, even if he corrects me.

I want to learn at his feet, just as Mary did at her home in Bethany. Often I feel like I will probably be ‘the least of all the disciples’, but I’m okay with that. After all, it’s all about Him.

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“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Revelation 3:20

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The God of Coincidences

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“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”

1 Corinthians 15:25

In the spring of 1995, I was taking my family across the border into Mexico to live. All we owned was what we could pack in the trunk of my old Chevy. We were flat broke and unsure of where we would spend the night. But we heard from the Lord; we knew he was leading us into a situation where we must walk by faith, and not by sight.”

We were caravaning with missionaries who were to be stationed about 40 miles south of our ultimate destination. But we had separated two days before in Arizona. We knew we would see them a bit later. The evening before our crossing, we managed to scrape enough money to spend one last night in San Diego.

I’m ashamed to say that I was not the man of faith and power that I should of been. I cried out a desperate and short prayer, “Help me God, show me that this is really you. I need to know that your hand is in this.” I was taking my wife, and two small children into Mexico, and we didn’t even know where we were going to spend the night.

I was pretty stressed the morning of our crossing, and hearing nothing from the Lord. We merged into the heavy traffic for our inspection when we heard a horn behind us. I just thought it was part of the process, and ignored it. But it kept honking. I looked in the mirror to see what the problem was.

Directly behind us was the couple we had been with in Arizona! Suddenly I knew this was God speaking directly to me. I was staggered as I extrapolated the odds of this happening, it was unbelievable. We had left them behind two days ago and now we meet up at the very precise time, in the same lane of traffic.  The odds of us converging at the same time had to be astronomical!

The Lord spoke to me right then and there, “I am in control.” All my anxiety, all my fear just lifted– I knew deep down He was leading us. I could trust Him, even though life seemed so very precarious. We were in His hands! This would be a faith booster in some hard times to come.

You may have had an experience like mine. When God touches a heart and makes it peaceful– it is a beautiful thing. But it can be something different. The Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road was stunned when Jesus spoke to him. Paul’s companions heard a voice but saw nothing (Acts 9:7).

We must become people who insist that every believer have their own experiences with God.

It is the spiritual privilege of every child of God. When “it” happens, it will be something to be treasured. Looking back I see that moments like this enable one to go through a great deal. Someone once said, “Coincidence is when God wants to remain anonymous.”

When we hear his voice or see his handiwork, it is truly then we become his disciples.

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I Came to Love You Late [Regret]

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Regrets are a funny thing. You really start to gather them when you get into your fifties. They are a bit sticky, once you have them, they’re hard to get rid of— (kind of like dog hair on a nice jacket.) I’m in my mid-50s now and am surprised by the memories of things gone by. I guess this is one of the job hazards of being middle-aged.

Why do we remember the bad things; surely they weren’t all mistakes?

God’s Word gives us fresh insight into this state of mind of regretfulness. What it gives is akin to instructions to disarm a bomb— it’s ticking, and ready to explode. There are some have been severely wounded when a regret goes off.

What bothers me is all the missed opportunities. I wonder what life could of been like if I had accepted Christ at a younger age. A lot of pain would’ve been averted and perhaps I might have loved Jesus deeper than I do now. Some of us come to love Jesus late in life. There is so much time frittered away. I regret the years spent in rebellion and disobedience. I remember the words of an 70 year old man who had just received Christ, “Why did I wait so long for this to happen?”

13 “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

Philippians 3:13-14, NLT

Paul had learned to adjust his vision. He no longer let regret define him, choosing rather to forget the past and press into the future. The solution to regret is to focus on what lies ahead. Heaven is our destination–it is our calling, it’s really where we belong.

Peter tells us that our past sin was enough. We have wasted enough time doing evil. I don’t know about you, but I had a bellyful of sin, and it’s time to lay all the foolishness and rebellion and live instead for God. Enough is enough.

3 “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.”

1 Peter 4:3

There is a sorrow that leads us to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10) ,and while it affects me I should make full use of it— not knowing when it will leave. I have regrets like anyone else, but there is also a joy of having my sin forgiven. They both mingle and at times I rejoice, but the sadness comes and goes as well. David, that great sinner-king, understood the joy of forgiveness.

Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
    whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

Psalm 32:1-2

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Straining at Your Oars

“He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.”

Mark 6:48

It is good for us to know that Jesus sees our labor and effort.  He perceives all that concerns us, and he knows the issues that matter most.  Attentive and keenly aware he comes.  It is quite common for us to think that he isn’t aware, and we may feel that he will pass us by without a word.  But that is not the case at all.

Jesus watches us, all the time.  He knows the battle, the fight we have with our flesh, and the difficulty we have with the challenging people in our lives.  Not everyone loves me, and I struggle a large part of the time.  My depression, and my paranoid fears cannot obscure his sight.  Jesus knows when (and why) I labor like I do.  And he doesn’t condemn me at all.

The disciples were straining very hard to move the boat.  Every oar was being used and every man had his seat.  They probably tried to work together.  Considerable effort was being expended, but to no avail.  The wind pushed harder against them.  This is perplexing.  If you remember, they are trying to obey the command of Jesus to cross the sea.  Why do things have to be so difficult?

I’m intrigued by believers who expect sunshine, blue sky and red roses because they are doing God’s Will.  They don’t seem to factor in the issue of conflict and challenge.  They see their “Goliath” and they pretend that he doesn’t exist, or they try to make peace with him. The battle to come is of no consequence and doesn’t happen.  We are sorely mistaken.

Doing the will of God will often mean that there will be a headwind directly at us.  The seas will become impossible, and we may even be driven back.  But special comfort comes, when we realize we are being watched.  Jesus is doing constant surveillance on us, and he even sees our toil on the oars.  What a precious promise.

“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”

Matthew 28:20

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The Blue Letter Version

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The ‘red letter’ Bible emphasizes the words of Jesus by making them red. But sometimes we can learn just as much by which words he didn’t say.  I would like to submit to you the ‘Blue Letter Version’ of things Jesus never said.

He never said:

V. 1) You’re too far gone to be saved.

V. 2) I’m so disappointed in you.

V. 3) This wouldn’t be happening if you were a better Christian.

V. 4) It’s okay not to love certain people.

V. 5) Everyone should be just like you.

V. 6) Its all up to you.

V. 7) You don’t have to forgive someone who has hurt you.

V. 8) You missed my will for your life.

V. 9) I’ve given up on you.

V. 10) This is a cross you must bear alone. 

When we think through these we should realize that each ‘verse’ is wrong. Jesus never said any of these; I am certain he wouldn’t even think these things about us. We can only surmise that what he did declare is real, and that his love for us is boundless and limitless. People like you, and like me, are loved in spite of our sins. His love doesn’t fit the conventional wisdom.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”

John 6:37

There are other verses to consider. These affirm his love to each of us.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”

1 John 3:1

The Blue Letter Version exists only in my mind. Yet sometimes I catch myself thinking things from our list. But in a way, each of the above is logical. But each are also wrong.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.”

Isaiah 55:8

I encourage you to listen to the ‘drum roll’ of grace that is beating from the heart of Jesus. He loves you with a supernatural love that can not be silenced. Accept his love (or not) and he will love you the same. “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16). Securely attach yourself to this love.

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Overcoming Fear of Death [GotQuestions.org]

Question: “How can I overcome the fear of death? How can I stop being scared of dying?”

Answer: Even the most secure, devout believer can have occasions when they fear death. It is hard-wired into our systems to avoid death. And death was not an original part of God’s plan for His creation. We were made to be whole and holy, living in paradise in communion with Him. The introduction of death was a necessary response to the admittance of sin into the world. It is a grace that we die. If we didn’t, we would have to live in a sinful world for all eternity.

Knowing that in your head doesn’t necessarily counteract the visceral reaction to the thought of your own mortality. The fragility of our physical bodies and the sudden cessation of life are violent reminders of our lack of control in a large, dangerous world. We do have a great hope, that He Who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). And He did go to prepare a place for us so that we can join Him (John 14:2). But it might help to consider the more immediate, practical considerations we’re faced with.

Beginning with, what is the actual fear? There are several aspects of death that can potentially cause fear. Fortunately, God has an answer for each of them.

Fear of the unknown
What exactly does it feel like to die? What can you see as your life leaves your physical body? How will it come about? Is it anything like people have reported—a bright light? A group of relatives?

No one knows for certain what it feels like, but the Bible does describe what happens. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Philippians 1:23 say that when we leave our body, we are at home with the Lord. What a reassuring thought! We will stay in this state until Christ comes and resurrects the believers (1 Corinthians 15:20-226:14) when we will be given a new, glorified body.

Fear of loss of control
By the time humans reach adulthood, they have a pretty good idea how to interact with the world around them. They know how to find what they need, get to where they want to be, and interact with others in a way that fulfills their intent.

Many though, even those who profess a trust in God, are so fearful of not getting what they need that they feel they have no choice but to manipulate their surroundings and the people around them to their benefit. We have all met men and women who abuse and grasp out of fear. They don’t trust God to provide for their needs, so they take care of things themselves. They don’t trust others to give them consideration, so they demand what they think they need.

How much more they must fear the loss of control upon their deaths. As Jesus said to Peter, describing how he would die, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go” (John 21:18). Before Peter got this warning, he denied Jesus out of fear. Directly after, he reacted by demanding to know how John was going to die. But after Jesus returned to heaven, Peter took the gift of the Holy Spirit and became a new person—one whose passion for Christ’s message far out-stripped his need to control his surroundings (Acts 5:17-42). The Holy Spirit alone gave him the strength to face whatever challenges he might face.

Fear for those left behind
The Christian view of death is “separation.” Ultimate death is separation from God. With physical death, we will be separated from our loved ones on Earth for a time. If they are also Christians, we know that the separation will be a short blink of an eye compared to the eternity we’ll spend with them in heaven. If they are not Christians, that will not be the case. Our commission, then, becomes to use this time together to talk to them about where they will go when they die. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with them. Just as God gives them the room to choose, we must also.

Fear of the act of dying. Few of us know how we will die. Quick and painless, in our sleep, a long drawn out illness—the mystery of it, the inability to prepare, can be frightening. If we do know, if we’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it can still be scary.

But it is only a moment. A moment nearly everyone has gone through or will go through. And, when that moment is over, we can claim Philippians 3:20-21: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Often, being informed and actively participating can help assuage fear. You can take steps to prepare yourself and those around you.

Overcoming the fear of death – Practical steps
Many people believe they shouldn’t die because they have too much to live for. Often, this means they have responsibilities and unfinished business that wouldn’t be taken care of if they were gone. But having people and things you are responsible for won’t keep you from dying if it’s your time. Doing what you can to make sure they’re seen to can alleviate fear.

If you have a business or children or other dependents, consider their care. Decide who will take over your role and work with that person to come up with a plan. Look into a will or a trust. Make sure all of your necessary paperwork is organized and easy to find. Reconcile broken relationships before you’re unable to. But don’t live for dying. There’s a difference between taking reasonable steps and obsessing.

Overcoming the fear of death – Physical steps
If you have strong feelings about what you want to happen to you should you become incapacitated, express them now. It’s entirely possible that during the course of an illness or injury, you’ll lose control over the situation and be unable to make your wishes known. Get a living will. Let those closest to you know what you want—or at least tell them where it’s written down. Choose someone you trust to be authorized to make decisions for you should you become unable.

Overcoming the fear of death – Spiritual steps
These are all steps to keep up responsibilities or maintain a measure of control in the worldly realm, but they don’t get to the meat of the matter. The most important thing to remember regarding death is the truth about life. You love your family and care for them, but God loves them more. You may worry about your Earthly legacy, but God’s more concerned with a kingdom perspective. All the paperwork in the world won’t bring the peace of mind of once simple action: abide.

In the middle of living this life, with these people, in this world, it’s difficult to keep in mind that this is just a temporary condition, and not a very good one at that. 1 John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” How we remember this is by abiding (1 John 2:24). Staying in the truth of His Word, believing what He says about us and the world around us, will give us the proper perspective regarding this life and the one we will receive.

When we are able to keep that kingdom perspective, we’ll be able to fulfill 1 John 3:1-3: “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are, for this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” It will be so evident that we do not belong in this world that others will see it, too. We will so take ownership of our position as children of God that we will actively seek the day we can be like Christ and see Him as He is.

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Recommended Resource: One Minute After You Die, Updated Edition by Erwin W. Lutzer.

This is derived from a wonderful site– gotquestions.org. I rarely share something this bold or lengthy but this sort of connected and so I simply pass on what I’ve received. No editing, crimping or adjusting.

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Panic Attacks Understood

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Anxiety (panic) attack symptoms can feel awful, intense, and frightening.  The good news is that while they can seem serious, anxiety attack symptoms aren’t harmful in and of themselves. That is sonething to remember.

Because there are many medical conditions that can cause ‘anxiety-like’ symptoms, it’s wise to discuss your symptoms with you doctor. If your doctor has attributed your symptoms to stress and anxiety, you can feel confident that your doctor’s diagnosis is correct. Anxiety attack disorder is relatively easy to diagnose and isn’t easily confused with more serious medical conditions.

Anxiety attack symptoms are NOT always indications of a serious medical condition. They are simply dramatic responses to being afraid. Being afraid causes the body to stimulate stress hormones. Since stress hormones are designed to prepare the body for action, the changes stress hormones bring about can cause the body to exhibit “symptoms” of this biochemical change. Anxiety attack symptoms are simply “sensory sensations” of this biological change. Again, they aren’t harmful, but they are letting you know that your body’s stress hormone levels are elevated.

Common anxiety attack symptoms include:

  • A feeling of impending doom, that something horrible is about to happen, that you are in grave danger
  • A strong feeling of fear, foreboding
  • An urge to escape, to get out, to run away from danger
  • Blanching, turning white, looking pale
  • Blushing, skin blotches, turning red
  • Burning skin
  • Choking sensation, tightening throat, it feels like your throat is closing
  • Confusion
  • Depersonalization (feeling detached from reality, separate from one-self, separate from normal emotions)
  • Derealization (feeling unreal, in a dream-like state)
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, unsteadiness
  • Emotional distress
  • Emotional upset
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Fear of losing control, freaking out
  • Fearful thoughts that seem incessant
    Feels like there is a tight band around your head
  • Hot or cold chills
  • Inability to calm yourself down
  • Knot in the stomach, tight stomach
  • Nausea
  • Numbness, tingling sensations in any part of the body
  • Panicky feeling
  • Pins and needles feeling
  • Plugged ear(s), stuffed ear(s)
  • Pounding heart
  • Racing heart
  • Shooting pains in the chest, neck, shoulder, head, or face
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Trembling, shaking (visibly shaking or just trembling on the inside)
  • Upset stomach
  • Urgent desire to go to the bathroom (urinate, defecate)
  • Vomiting

There is a long list of anxiety symptoms. But because each body is somewhat chemically unique, anxiety affects each person differently. Consequently, anxiety symptoms vary from person to person in type or kind, number, intensity, and frequency. If your symptoms don’t exactly match this list, that does not mean you don’t have anxiety. It simply means that you body is responding to anxiety slightly differently.

For example, one person may experience only a few minor symptoms, while another person may experience the majority of symptoms to great intensities. All combinations are possible and common.

Anxiety attack symptoms can range from mild to severe, from only one symptom to all of them, and can be sporadic, frequent, or persistent. Again, all combinations are possible and common. My own attacks are intense, but I know they’ll go away in time.

Sometimes all we can do is accept the issues that anxiety brings.  We must understand that the Holy Spirit knows us fully, and that He will bring us through.  Be confident in His grace and receive His mercy.  The reality is that Jesus will carry you the distance.

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