Thursday Column: Captain’s Blog
For the past 18 months, there have been many changes that we have had to get accustomed to- new guidelines and restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic .There are a lot of political issues and differences, a lot of immoral activities you see on the news. These topics I have just mentioned has given me anxiety over the past 18 months and I’m sure you can agree with me.
We all deal with anxieties, stress and fear:
–Loss of a loved one, rather that be family member or friend. The toughest situation I have ever dealt with so far in my life is losing my dad almost seven years ago to liver cancer. It was very tough to see him battling liver cancer and the toil it took on his body.
–Dealing with health issues of our own, spouse, child or other family members.
–Moving to a new area – Unfamiliar community, people, tough on the whole family
–Jobs can be stressful or give us anxiety – A lot of time at work I don’t like change.
THAT’S ENOUGH GLOOM AND DOOM – LETS LOOK AT SOME GOOD NEWS!
Psalms 34:19 reads, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
Consider three promises you can believe for anxiety. These are things that God tells us to do with our heart, mind, and eyes to combat our anxiety:
1. In Philippians, we learn what to do with our hearts when we are anxious. For you math lovers, like me, apostle Paul actually gives us a mathematical equation to tech us what to do with our hearts: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Did you catch the equation? Prayer + Supplication=Peace! God wants to hear all about our anxieties because he cares for us. Supplication means asking for something humbly. That something is peace. Because of our pride, we want to be in control of our own lives. To receive true peace, we must humbly go to God and release the control to him. The result of the equation is peace – when we have true peace from God, he protects you against temptations to be anxious.
2. In Isaiah, we learn what to do with our minds to receive God’s perfect peace. “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). It is difficult to keep our minds on Christ when we are going through trials here on Earth. Our minds want to focus on what we are going through. Anxiety is not of the Lord but from the Devil as a distraction to the work of kingdom. We worry about our lives and are blinded from the opportunities God is giving us to serve him. “Bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When you have anxious thoughts, surrender them to the only one who is ALWAYS in control of this ever-changing world.
3. We learn in Psalms what to do with our eyes when we are overwhelmed with our circumstances. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills-From where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber” (Psalms 121:1-3). By shifting your focus from your situation to the never changing promises of God, you begin to trust Him more. As you trust Him more, your anxiety begins to fade away because you realize how big God is in comparison to your troubles. God promises those who look to him that he will never forsake them and will never let them fall. You may stumble through struggles in life, but God will always be there to catch you if you keep your eyes on Him.
Always remember, whenever you are struggling with anxiety, align your heart, mind, and eyes with God. God promises to never leave you and he will provide you with peace-perfect peace.
“Discipline your thoughts to trust Me as I work my ways in your life. Pray about everything; then leave outcomes up to Me. Do not fear My will, for through it I accomplish what is best for you” (Jesus Calling – Enjoying Peace in His Presence , Sarah Young). We should always trust God and Jesus in whatever circumstance we are going through. Always go to him in prayer with what is on our hearts. God knows what is best for us and we should have nothing but absolute trust in Him!
I sat next to a man at dinner the other night, a retired Marine officer named Anthony who was now a successful businessman. Though he was in his sixties and had six grandchildren, he could have passed, even with a smattering of gray hair, for an elite athlete. He was incredibly intelligent, articulate, a war hero, wealthy, and, by anyone’s estimation, a true Renaissance man. He was also a brand new Christian.
Despite his apparent success, he confessed to having experienced decades of emptiness inside. He described it as I have often heard people describe it, that there was a hole inside and nothing he tried would fill it. He pictured it as painting a facade. He held out the canvas for others to see what he projected, but the man behind the painting was hollow, depressed, and ever searching.
That changed when his neighbor, a man named David Grimes, took an interest in his life. They began walking together in their neighborhood, discussing life. David would always refer Anthony to the Bible and what God’s Word had to say. At some time later, when Anthony faced a crisis, he found himself reaching out to David for help. Ultimately, through David’s friendship and his efforts to teach him, Anthony obeyed the gospel!
Anthony said, “There are a lot of people like me out there! They seem secure, confident, in control, and without need. But they are searching to fill a void in their lives. I know. I was one of them.” We can convince ourselves in these troubling, ungodly times that nobody is interested in God and His Word. Anthony would encourage you to get involved in the lives of your coworkers, neighbors, classmates, and the people you connect with through your children’s activities. No matter what they are projecting, invest in them. At some point, they will let you in. They will allow you to look behind the canvas and the pretty picture they have painted, and you will see a soul searching for something only God can satisfy! God is counting on us to see past the pretense and help that person He loved enough to give His Son for. The picture of success in the world’s eyes was secretly aching for something deeper and better. He found it in the only place it can be found–in Christ!
Please look behind the canvas!
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Without the proper understanding of the context, this verse can be taken to mean many different things. With a little bit of digging we can know what Paul is saying. In reference to the Jews who read the Old Law, Paul says that they had a veil over their hearts (15). What veil is he referring to? The Jews failed to see the Messiah in the Old Law. They had preconceived ideas about what He would look like, talk like, and His mission. They dreamed up a Messiah that was completely different from the One prophesied about.
These Jews read the Old Law with a veil over their eyes. They failed to see the Messiah. Their heart and mind was made up about Christ. It was so much so that they failed to see the true Messiah. Paul says all of this to make a point, “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (2 Corinthians 3:16).
Those who turn to the Lord are able to see the Messiah for who He is. In Christ and being in the spirit of the Lord, we now have freedom from this veil. Rather than failing to see Christ, we can read and understand His Word for what it is, the Words of LIFE.
What happens when you wear glasses inside on a hot humid day? You can see just fine, but the second you step out of the AC and into the heat and humidity, the glasses fog up almost instantly. This is how the Jews read the Old Testament. With a pair of fogged over glasses. But those who are in Christ can see the story of the Bible. We can see the prophecies and their fulfillment. We can clearly see God’s plan for mankind, All of this is a direct result of the freedom God has given each one of us in His Son.
While we don’t have the same circumstances surrounding us today, we can still fall into a similar problem. Sometimes when we go to the Word we only search for the things we should or shouldn’t do. Instead of studying to learn more about our Savior, we get caught up in the rules and regulations of Christianity. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if we only see the Bible as a rule book we will never have a deeper relationship with God. Studying like this effectively places a veil over our hearts and keeps us from finding that true, meaningful and love-filled relationship that God longs for us to have.
The Jews had a veil over their hearts that kept them from seeing Christ and the New Covenant. And we can sometimes do the same thing by treating God’s Word as a rule book rather than a Book that gives us a connection with God the Father.
These rules and guidelines are important, but there’s a lot more to Christianity than this.
There was a famine in Samaria and everyone was desperate. The need for food was more pressing than the danger they faced in looking for it. Elisha predicted the end of the famine but Jehoram’s right hand man refused to believe it could happen so quickly. The prophet tells him he’d see it happen but that he would not eat of it (2).
Four lepers decided to throw themselves on the mercy of the Arameans, but God caused the besieging army to hear the sound of enemy armies. They imagine the worst and leave their camp in pursuit. So, when the lepers arrived at the camp, it was abandoned. They found food and riches beyond their wildest imagination. They start to hoard and gorge themselves, then had second thoughts. They say to each other, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household” (9). Several things stand out here.
THESE MEN HAD GOOD NEWS.
IT WAS WRONG FOR THEM TO KEEP SILENT ABOUT IT.
THEY EXPECTED PUNISHMENT IF THEY DIDN’T URGENTLY SHARE IT.
THEY ADMONISHED EACH OTHER TO TELL IT.
They did and they helped save the nation. God caused it to happen but He worked through these four lepers. The famine ended (and the royal officer was trampled at the gate—he saw the famine end but died before it could benefit him).
I am reminded of my task as a Christian, one spiritually sick with sin but in a similar situation. I have found good news. It is wrong for me to keep silent. I must not just share it but do so urgently! I also need to admonish you to realize you are in the same predicament as me. You cannot afford to keep silent! A feast awaits!
Beware the DarkSide. No, that’s not a Star Wars reference. Just a few short weeks ago a cyber-gang who call themselves the “DarkSide” hacked the Colonial Pipeline and sparked a string of panic buyers to funnel jugs and containers full of gasoline. On May 7th the hacked pipeline authorized the ransom sum of $4.4 million to be transferred to the gang to try and settle this concerning situation. An odd spree of events and details shroud this whole thing and for those of us not familiar with the technological aspects, it seems even more unsettling. As Christians it’s okay to keep an eye on the latest events and protect yourself and family, but our watchful eyes would be far better put to use when it comes to our homes, personal faith, and church families. Take a look at what Jesus said in Matthew 7:15.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
There are false prophets and messages everywhere in our world. They’re doing their best to hack into our spiritual lives and they’ve been successful at doing so. When our guards are down they blend in with the flock and disguise themselves with a counterfeit truth. Thankfully our Savior gives us the solution to uncovering their scheme before they get the chance. He says, “By their fruit you will recognize them…” We have an assurance given to us in Matthew 7:16 which guarantees we will not become a victim of these spiritual hackers. The wolves seek to drag us to the dark side, but with a watchful eye and the protection of the Father they can’t succeed. You won’t see any of this covered in the News but the good news is we have the Good News. It’s powerful and it’s always accurate. Be on the alert and stay watchful for the things that deserve the energy and our attention.
The late gospel preacher, George Bailey, was known for saying, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package.” Truly, there is a little “i” in Christ! Paul exemplifies the way a servant of Christ and steward of the gospel (1 Cor. 4:1) behaves. How can we humbly serve Christ and, through such, contribute to unity in His body? Let’s examine 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:13 for some important keys.
Do Not Deceive Yourself (3:18-23)
Paul draws on his contrast between wisdom and foolishness back at the beginning of the letter. The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God (3:19). Why does Paul say that here? In part, it’s to drive home the point that they should not boast in men (like himself, Apollos, and Peter). But it is also to remind them that their glory and worth are tied to their being in Christ and belonging to Him. We wrestle so much with pride in our earthly accomplishments and attributes, but none of those things, of themselves, get us into heaven or bring about unity. Paul drives the point home by quoting from Job and Psalms. Worldly wisdom is a dead-end street.
Be A Faithful Steward Of The Mysteries Of God (4:1-2)
Instead of being spiritual heroes to be idolized, Paul says that he and other church leaders were servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (1). The mysteries of God is the testimony of God (2:1), God’s once-hidden mystery (2:7) now revealed in the preaching of the gospel (see Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1ff). Paul wanted to be seen as a trustworthy steward (manager) of that unparalleled message (cf. 3:11-15). Here’s the point. Paul knew he had only so much time, energy, and other resources to spend on accomplishing his purpose, and he wanted to be the most effective worker for Jesus that he could be. If that’s how we see ourselves, our purpose and work, it will keep us from focusing on who we are and what we have done.
Remember Who Is Examining Your Work (4:3-5)
The previous point is made more powerful by the fact that not only should we not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but we need to remember God is examining us. Ignore the idle critic or the armchair quarterback. Don’t spend a lot of time polishing your trophies and reading your “press clippings.” “Wait until the Lord comes” (4:5) and let Him acknowledge you and reward you. He will reveal all the secrets and He will disclose men’s motives. In other words, do the right things for the right reason and you will be richly rewarded by Christ in the end. God will praise you at The Judgment.
Follow Good Examples Of Humility (4:6-13)
Paul and Apollos did not view each other as rivals, measuring who was more successful, more loved, or more influential among the Corinthians. He urges them to look at their example, and let God’s Word be the measuring stick of success and failure. The end result would be preventing arrogance and rivalry. These servants of Christ had been doing their service to Him at great personal cost–they were a spectacle to the world (4:9), fools for Christ’s sake (4:10), weak (4:10), without honor (4:10), physically deprived (4:11), reviled, persecuted, and slandered (4:12-13), and, in summary, “we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now” (4:13b). Doesn’t sound like a condition to brag about, does it? Paul is not trying to portray himself as some spiritual superhero. Neither is he whining or complaining. He is trying to get the Corinthians to understand what matters. It’s not about jockeying for the top spot in the kingdom. It’s about being a faithful steward of the gospel and servant of the Christ. Focus so hard on that goal that you can ignore the praise and the persecution, and let Jesus exalt you at the end. A mindset like that kills division and disunity.
God speaks of Himself as simply “I Am.” This one powerful statement depicts His infinite presence and His existence through every age. What does it mean to know Him? How do you know if you do? To know of Jesus is very different than knowing Him.
John is one of those books in the New Testament that will help us to become better aquatinted with the Christ. It’s the last of the gospels that paints us a vivid picture of who He was and is on a deeper level than even the three previous gospels. He’s the Bread of life, Light of the world, the Gate, Good Shepherd, Resurrection and Life, the Truth, and the Vine. All of these titles found within the book teach us a little more about the Savior of the world.
There are seven “I Am” statements in John referring to Jesus and three hundred throughout the entire Bible. They begin in Genesis and end in Revelation, and in many books in-between. You just can’t read very far without discovering something very profound about its Writer. He’s eternal. God’s desired response to this is simply for us to believe, respond, and live with our minds and hearts prepared to live with Him.
When Jesus describes Himself as the “I Am” it makes the religious leaders want to kill Him in John 8. To know Jesus, to really know Him, is something that many people have not fully understood. Even as Jesus walked among us mortals and we witnessed His miraculous power, there were still several that didn’t realize what it meant to follow Him (Luke 9:57-62).
While it’s true that everyone is made in the image of God, few reflect the Father’s image. Those that know Jesus introduce others to Him. With the knowledge that we are imperfect, let’s not forget that we also have the ability to have a relationship with Him. I am flawed and I am weak, but the Great I Am is interested in who I am. By the grace of God, I am His child. He is the bread of life that sustains us, the light that guides us, the gate we’ll walk through, and the truth that will save us. It’s not how great I am, but how great the Great I Am is. Do you know Jesus?
Listen! That’s how Jesus starts His lesson in Mark 4:3. He has just stepped out onto a boat so that He could speak to the large crowd that had gathered to hear Him. This was a very special sermon. Jesus is going to give the secret to all of His parables by telling a unique parable about the farmer who goes out to sow on the various kinds of ground. When Jesus said “Listen!” He was talking to a specific kind of person.
He wasn’t interested in the one who would hear His words and then fall away later when called to stand up for their faith. He wasn’t looking for the one who would hear His words and then foolishly decide that this world had more to offer.
Jesus said “listen!” because He knew that some would hear His words and those words would change their lives. They would live out His teachings. They would become those lamps He would later discuss later in the chapter. Those who truly listened to this specific sermon and took it to heart would bear fruit. It’s humbling to think that some only believe they’ve listened to Jesus, but on the last day will find out that they only thought they listened (verse 25).
Are we listening to the Savior? One way Jesus tells us we can know if we and others are listening is by looking at the fruit being planted. This section of scripture is a great reminder that there are many who will not hear the Lord and His life-changing and life-saving message, but there are also those out there in our communities who are willing and waiting for us to share Him with them.