Fears Are Funny

Fears Are Funny

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Do you remember what any of your childhood fears were? Maybe you never really grew out of those fears.  I can remember a number of phobias I had as a child but one of them was not arachnophobia. In fact, me and my younger brother would collect spiders from the backyard and put them all in a container in our bedroom. At night we would put a flashlight behind a clear cage and watch all the spiders make their webs— occasionally fight each other. I don’t believe mom ever discovered this little secret. For some reason as I grew older (more mature) I developed a fear of spiders, despite having played with them often as a young kid.

Fears can be funny like that. They can come from bad experiences or just somewhere in the back of our minds. There’s a lot of fear in the world today!

One of my favorite psalms in the Bible is Psalm 46. We read about what seems to be those worst case scenarios, but God still reigns over all. What if the earth gives way? What if the mountains are thrown into the sea? What if the wrong man becomes our new president? What if this virus never goes away? Even so, we have no reason to fear. God is bigger than our fears. We serve a Being with that much power and it should fill us with courage. What are you afraid of? 

“I Can’t Come To Church Because Of Covid”

“I Can’t Come To Church Because Of Covid”

(Tuesday Supplement. Note: I am well aware that there are those who are immunocompromised and cannot attend. This is not in any way meant to discourage or dishearten those in this condition. God knows and understands.)

Neal Pollard

Covid has touched nearly every family I know, including my own. It would be foolish to say that it is harmless. It has claimed nearly 5 million lives as of today. So, I have heard from many good, thoughtful people, this statement: “I can’t come to church because of Covid.” Please accept that with deep, genuine love, there are a few questions that need to be asked alongside of this.

Are we being consistent? Are we still going to the grocery store, the restaurants, the beauty shop, the office, the classroom, the gym, and the doctor? Chances are at least as great that we will contract Covid in one of those places as at church. People are not more clean or careful in those places. 

Are we properly prioritizing?  Perhaps we see the stores, the job, the school, and the medical as essential and necessary. Jesus puts our spiritual health and that of His body above all else (Mat. 6:33; 16:26). How could we conclude that any of these others are more important than His kingdom?

Are we considering others? Perhaps we console ourselves by saying that we’re getting what we need by watching Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube, or wherever services are live-streamed. But, worship and Bible class is not simply about our being fed. We must consider one another to stimulate unto love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). That is said in connection with assembling together (Heb. 10:25), and how is this done by one who stays away from the assembly?

Are we weakening our spiritual strength? Is it getting easier to stay away or opt to just catch it on the phone, computer, or TV when we don’t feel like coming? Are we losing our desire to be with God’s people? Isolation has many effects, some more subtle than others.

Are we assessing our fears? Those who are waiting for Covid to go away will be waiting years or longer. This is a virus. Scientists doubt that it can be eradicated. It spreads too quickly. Perhaps it will be like Polio or smallpox, but how long will that be? Will we stay home for years? Meanwhile, where will be, spiritually, years from now if we have disconnected from our spiritual family? 

After 18 months, perhaps it is time to do some serious reevaluating? Instead of only allowing news outlets to be our guide, we need to balance that with careful study of God’s Word. Instead of considering just this life on earth, we should balance that by considering this life is for preparing for eternity. We need to be back together–all of us, now more than ever. 

Ascending Hearts And Hills

Ascending Hearts And Hills

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Fifteen consecutive psalms (120-134) are so-called “Psalms of Ascent.” They were given this name because they were songs designated for the Israelites to sing on their way to worship in Jerusalem. Moses had instructed them at the giving of the Old Law, “For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord your God” (Ex. 34:34). You can imagine how especially those who came a long distance to Jerusalem (it’s over 100 miles from Mt. Hermon and Beersheba, for example) might benefit from a reminder of why they were making this lengthy journey. As most would walk, this would help pass the time while preparing their minds. This is not a bad idea for us even on a 10 or 20 minute drive to the church building on Sunday morning. 

There is quite a bit of uneven terrain, mountains and valleys, in the area around Jerusalem, and the temple required a steep climb as there were three valleys surrounding Mount Zion and the temple complex. So, people coming from every direction would have to “go up to Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:17; John 2:13; 5:1). But, it was more than a physical ascent, this trip to the temple. It was more significantly a spiritual ascent, an effort to get closer to God. While we can and should draw near to God daily in our personal devotion, there is still great significance and benefit when we join each other in the presence of God to worship Him and fellowship with Him and each other (Heb. 10:24-25). Each time, this should be an ascent for us! 

Notice the repetitive use of “will” in Psalm 121. The word is used eight times in these eight verses. The word points to the future and indicates either anticipation or trust. The writer is confident, especially of what he expects God will do. Such assurance had to take his heart higher!

I WILL LIFT UP MY EYES TO HIM (1)

He starts with what he will do. The writer will look up to God, seeking help and strength. A heart ready to worship is one who sees things as they really are. I am spiritually destitute and needy, and I depend on God for everything. When that is my mindset, I am prepared to praise, thank, and petition Him!

GOD WILL HELP ME (1-2)

Whatever problems, distractions, struggles, and temptations are weighing me down and wearing me down, God will help me! His power is proven. Just look at the creation (2). He has not lost an ounce of strength from that moment to now.

GOD WILL NOT LET ME FALL (3)

The terrain around Jerusalem is often rocky and uneven. I suppose it is easy for anyone’s foot to slip on those roads up to the holy city. But, spiritually, it is a different matter. If I fall, it will not be God’s fault (John 10:27-29). If I hold to God’s unchanging hand, I will successfully complete my journey.

GOD WILL NOT FALL ASLEEP ON THE JOB (3-4)

Night and day, moment by moment, God is alert. He sees everything I do and everything that is done to me. How comforting to know that the All-seeing eye never droops or closes. He does not nod off, even for a moment. 

GOD WILL GUARD AND PROTECT ME (5-8)

Half of this psalm is devoted to this idea. God is not just passively involved, watching me. He is actively involved, keeping me (5,7), providing me shade (5-6), protecting me (7), and guarding me (8). Our God is not inanimate! He is involved! It is why we pray. It is why we trust in His providence. It is why we serve and obey Him. As we love to sing, “There is a God! He is alive. In Him we live and we survive.” The writer of Hebrews quotes three Old Testament passages (Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5; Psa. 118:6) to convey two promises: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (13:5-6). 

When you enter to worship, enter with the heart and faith of the righteous pilgrims on their way to the temple for one of the annual festivals. Come with your heart ready, and come with a heart full of faith and trust in the object of your worship. You will leave rejuvenated and resolved.

Fear And Anxiety

Fear And Anxiety

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

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Todd Childress

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!

Todd delivering this lesson at Lehman Avenue Wednesday night. Excellent!
THREE QUALITIES OF A FAITHFUL FOLLOWER

THREE QUALITIES OF A FAITHFUL FOLLOWER

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Two parables and an incident in Luke 18:1-17 reveal three attributes Jesus is looking for in His disciples. As you read through these verses, ask yourself if you struggle with one or more of these. The examples Jesus holds up are all lowly characters–a defenseless widow, a sinful tax collector, and babies and little children. They were all either financially, spiritually, or physically dependent on others, yet these are the ones Jesus tells us to imitate. What are the qualities?

PERSISTENCE (1-8). The parable of the widow and the unjust judge is delivered to his listeners for a specific reason, “that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (1). A widow pleaded for legal protection from a judge who neither feared God or respected men (2). She wouldn’t stop coming to him and pleading her case until finally he relented and granted her request out of frustration and annoyance at her continual coming (3-5). Jesus’ point is that the perfect God will bring justice to His elect who faithfully pray to Him (7). He ties this persistence to faith (8). Jesus is giving us insight into God’s heart and desires. He wants to hear from us in prayer, and He is influenced by our prayers. Do we have faith in that? 

HUMILITY (9-14). Jesus launches into a second parable about prayer, to highlight another necessity in the practice of it. He focuses on an unlikely duo, a prominent religious leader and a contemptible tax collector. Both enter the temple, both for the purpose of prayer. Both prayers are recorded. Jesus evaluates them. The first prayer, uttered by the Pharisee, is self-directed (he prayed to himself), self-righteous (God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector), and self-promoting (I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get). He shows no recognition of or need for God. He’s pretty self-satisfied. The second prayer, uttered by the tax collector, is selfless, self-indicting, and self-emptying. Jesus notes his hesitance (standing some distance away), abjection (even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven), emotion (beating his breast), and honesty (his entire prayer is, “God be merciful to me, the sinner”). Jesus’ analysis? The second man was the one who went home justified, not the first. Jesus’ point is explicit: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (14). I may know more sophisticated ways to exhibit my pride and self-righteousness, but the response and result will be the same in heaven. Faithful followers humbly recognize their need of God’s favor. 

RECEPTIVITY (15-17). Parents were bringing their children to Jesus at this time so that He could touch them. We aren’t told why the disciples rebuke them for this, though it could be they were wrestled with pride of position or self-importance. Jesus corrects their course, telling them to let the children come to Him. In fact, He says, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (17). He tells them that the kingdom of God belongs to those like these little children. How so? They were dependent on others (15). They were apparently willing (16). They were open (17). Certainly, this is a great exhortation to us as parents, to bring our children to Jesus in the impressionable years of life. But beyond that, there is an admonition to each of us to keep child-like faith and recognize our need to come to Jesus in order to have a place in God’s kingdom.

Often, we think that being in the kingdom is about us daring and doing great things for God. But, doesn’t it begin with our having the lowliness of heart to come to Him, persistent, humble, and receptive? These three qualities put the focus on His attractiveness, ability, and power. If we allow ourselves to be tools in His hand and recognize that it’s about Him and because of Him, then we’ll be faithful followers. 

FIGHTING HAGRITES AND OTHERS

FIGHTING HAGRITES AND OTHERS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

1 Chronicles 5 devotes a relatively large amount of space to an incident that happened during King Saul’s reign. It involved the sons of Reuben, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh waging war with a people identified as “the Hagrites, Jehur, Naphish, and Nodab” (18-19). The contested area of land was east of the Jordan River in the territory allotted to the Israelites mentioned in verse 18.  At least some of the people they fought seem descended from Hagar and Ishmael. The focus was on the large land grab made by these Israelites in battle. They won this war in terms of spoil (21) and casualties (21-22). 

Today, we wage war of a very different type. New Testament writers describe it. It is not according to the flesh, but is intense nonetheless (2 Cor. 10:3-5). It is a fight of faith (1 Tim. 1:18). It is against world and spiritual forces necessitating our adorning spiritual armor of God (Eph. 6:10ff). We can feel overmatched and overwhelmed by this enemy. What can help us stay in the fight? There are four statements back in 1 Chronicles 5:18-22 that we can legitimately apply to our spiritual warfare today. Will you remember these?

You Will Be Helped (20).

The chronicler says this of the Israelites. “They were helped against them,” and it is implied in this verse that their help came from above. There is no way we could overcome the world (1 John 4:4; 5:4) without Divine help. God gives His help generously, gently, and graciously (Jas. 1:5). He tells us that all we need to do is ask (cf. Mat. 7:7). God’s help is THE difference-maker! 

Cry Out To God In The Battle (20).

If we are striving to be faithful, we will be in a battle. What can be done? These Israelites were helped because they cried out to God in the midst of the strife. I love how Paul says it to the Philippians: “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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7). Don’t neglect prayer in the thick of the fight. Paul follows up his description of our spiritual armor, urging “all prayer and petition…at all times” (Eph. 6:18).

God Answers Those Who Trust In Him (20).

To me, nothing is more beautiful to consider than an army bowed in prayer to God to help them. As a citizen of this nation, it is wonderful to consider our military filled with men and women doing that. But, the most beautiful picture of all has to be of God’s Holy Nation (1 Pet. 2:9) filled with spiritual warriors who so put their trust in God that they are constantly before His throne in prayerful petition. Revelation 8 describes in beautiful imagery how carefully and preciously He handles the prayers of the saints brought unto His throne. It is likened to sweet-smelling incense. God is a loving Father who is pleased when His children demonstrate trust in His leadership and guidance. The promise of Scripture is that those who trust in Him are delivered and are not disappointed (Ps. 22:4-5). 

Understand The War Is Of God (22).

We often sing, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” This passage tells us why the enemy was slain. “The war was of God.” The result was that they settled in their place until the exile, which was over 300 years later.  As great as that was, we stand to experience a far greater victory. God disapproves of unworthy battles–“foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2 Tim. 2:23), “foolish controversies” that “are unprofitable and worthless” (Tit. 3:9), or quarrels and conflicts that are fueled by our giving into the sins of our flesh (Js. 4:1ff). Be careful not to be a foot soldier carrying out the agenda of the foe. But if we are on the Lord’s side, we can be assured that He will gain the victory and we’ll be fighting on the winning side. 

Maybe we wonder why God recorded events like this in Scripture. It certainly shows His mind, nature, and power. But it also helps us understand His point of view and His desire in our lives today. The church has “Hagrites” to face. You and I have our own “Hagrites” to battle. How they won is how we’ll win. May the song on our hearts and lips ever be, “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world!”

8 Reminders For The Restless Mind

8 Reminders For The Restless Mind

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

  1. Don’t carry burdens that aren’t yours (Proverbs 3.5-6)
  2. Remember the extraordinary times that God has carved out a path where there was no path before (Isaiah 43.16-19) 
  3. Don’t forget, God can see what you can’t see (Proverbs 16.9) 
  4. Even if you stumble, God won’t let you stay down (Psalm 37.23-24) 
  5. God’s vision is bigger and better than yours (Jeremiah 33.3) 
  6. God hasn’t forgotten about you (Proverbs 20.24) 
  7. Remember to be very specific when praying to God (2 Samuel 5.19) 
  8. Always be sure your will is His will (James 4.15) 

If you’re struggling with the anxieties that can come from making life’s difficult decisions, read these verses. Perhaps they will give you some insight that help you to answer that crucial question, 

“How should I be praying about this?” 

Give it to God and rest up! 

“When you lie down you will not be afraid, when you lie down your sleep will be sweet.” 

Proverbs 3.24 

Panic Buying 

Panic Buying 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Panic buying was in the news again following the Colonial Pipeline hack. People fearing a gasoline supply interruption bought up all the gasoline in many stations throughout the southeast and mid-Atlantic. You might also recall the panic buying of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic inexplicably caused people to panic-buy toilet paper and paper towels. Why do people engage in this type of behavior? In a word, it is anxiety. Dr. Shahram Heshmat provides seven reasons people choose panic buying as the balm for uncertainty. I would like for us to consider those reasons in addition to the proper, Biblical response. 

 

  1. Emotions trump logic. People know they don’t need 100 rolls of toilet paper, but driven by fears of a possible shortage, their emotions convince them they would be “safer” buying enough to fill a shopping cart while it is available. Though we equate sobriety with abstention from intoxicants, it also highlights a watchful frame of mind. Paul counseled the brethren of Thessalonica to avoid spiritual stupor by remaining vigilant and sober (1 Thessalonians 5.6). Even if I know that there might be an upcoming shortage, my trust in God should prompt me to act rationally regarding the needs of others who likewise need to secure provisions for their own. Hence, all of us can get by with our typical toilet paper purchases.

 

  1. Fearful expectation. I anticipate the worst and become fearful before having a cause. Could it be that there will be a shortage of goods? Perhaps. If my compatriots and I hastily grab all of the items from a store’s shelf, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Jesus told us to pray for our daily bread. Then, after reminding us of Providence, Jesus concluded this section of the Sermon on the Mount by saying: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6.34 NASB1995). In other words, Jesus says to take things a day at a time. Tomorrow has its own set of concerns, and we can only deal with what is in front of us.

 

  1. & 4. The contagion of fear and herd mentality. Dr. Heshmat lists these as two of his seven reasons. The entwining of these ideas is such I will consider them together. Fear spreads like a virus. People sense fear in a group, believe there is justification for it, and follow the cues of others. God knew this about us when giving Moses instruction: “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice” (Exodus 23.2 NASB1995). It doesn’t matter if “everyone is doing it” because we will give an accounting of ourselves before God (Romans 14.12). The incident of the Golden Calf illustrates how easy it is for us to get caught up in groupthink (cf. Exodus 32.1ff).

 

  1. & 6. Inability to deal with uncertainty and the desire to be in control. Once again, Dr. Heshmat deals with these separately, but I think they are related. Some people find it harder to deal with the unknown. Do you know someone who keeps watching the news or checking social media about a current event? Does it not seem to fuel their anxiety? Such a person likely keeps an eye open for which gas station has fuel or store has toilet paper. He convinces himself he is on top of things by swiftly grabbing up supply as it becomes available. But man is not in control due to the uncertainty of life (cf. James 4.13-15). There are things that we cannot know (Deuteronomy 29.29). We do best to trust the One Who will supply all our needs (Philippians 4.19).

 

  1. Misinformation. Dr. Heshmat explained how social media spread the misinformation about the toilet paper shortage. People in Japan thought there would be a toilet paper shortage because of what they had seen on social media. Given that we had a mad dash to buy toilet paper in the United States, it is apparent that the online rumors crossed the Pacific. The spread of false information is undoubtedly a hazard to having an interconnected world. It is interesting to note how Paul connects gossip (or being a busybody) to idleness. Paul tells Timothy that the church should not financially support young widows since their inactivity might encourage gossip (1 Timothy 5.11-15). Paul said that their undisciplined life led some in Thessalonica to act as busybodies (2 Thessalonians 3.11). In regards to such Thessalonians, Paul famously reminded that those unwilling to work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3.10). Hence, if we enough time on our hands to entertain rumors, we may well be neglecting our Christian duty elsewhere.

 

Panic buying is a peculiar problem of modern man. However, it ultimately stems from anxiety, a commodity of which Christians are to be in short supply. Not only did Jesus tell us not to worry (Matthew 6.25ff), but Paul reminds us that prayer brings incomprehensible peace (Philippians 4.6-7). Let us avail ourselves of the precious promises of our Lord and cast our anxiety upon Him (1 Peter 5.7). 

 

Works Consulted 

Heshmat, Shahram. “7 Reasons for Panic-Buying Behavior.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 22 Mar. 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/202003/7-reasons-panic-buying-behavior

 

How To Avoid Worrying About Your Kids

How To Avoid Worrying About Your Kids

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

For those not on social media and connected either with Kathy or any of our three sons, Carl, our youngest (and Thursday’s blog writer), was in a serious motorcycle accident a little over a week ago. A large pickup truck tried to turn left onto the highway and Carl hit it going highway speed. Our concern was for both his immediate safety and longterm health. Add this to two sons unofficially assisting police in breaking up a local theft ring, a son tackling a shoplifter attempting to flee a store and interrupting a gang initiation beating, broken bones, ER trips, ICU stints for health issues, and that’s not to mention innumerable “close calls,” “near misses,” “close shaves,” and “narrow escapes.”  Of course, it’s not just health. What about their relationships? What about their jobs, careers, and financial futures? What about the country they are inheriting or the children God may bless them with? Most of all, what about their spiritual condition, their faith, and their relationship with Christ? With each new phase of life, we are left to numerous consider “what ifs.” For future empty-nesters, that does not decline or disappear when they leave home. If anything, it mounts. So, how does a Christian not worry about their children?

Philippians 4:6. Paul urges us to “be anxious for nothing.” That word for anxious depicts apprehension, being unduly concerned about possible danger or misfortune. We can drive ourselves crazy thinking of all the scary scenarios. Paul says instead to pray (speak to God and petition His help), supplicate (urgently request God to meet the need, suggesting begging and pleading), and express gratitude. Specifically articulate the help you seek from God. Won’t this just make things worse? Not at all. Instead, “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (7).

Luke 12:25-26. Luke records Jesus’ voluminous teaching on various material concerns. In the middle of it, Jesus shares a principle that applies to any number of matters. He teaches, “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?” What a practical, sensible truth. What do we change by endless fretting and worrying? Does it change outcomes? Does the exercise of worry keep the bad and scary things from occurring? Does it override the freewill choices of our children or others? We are at one place at a time. God knows everything (30). “He who keeps you will not slumber…nor sleep” (Psa. 121:3-4). Trust that! 

Matthew 6:33. What Matthew records is close to parallel to the material in Luke 12, though the wording and setting are different. The counsel here is about prioritization. It’s hard to “let go and let God,” but that’s Jesus’ bottom-line guidance. Again, in context, He’s dealing with material things rather than our kids. But substituting the one concern for the other does not change the principle. We are well-served to practice “God-firstness” from as early as possible, before our children are born. We should strive to live by that principle throughout the years they are in our homes, trying to show it to them. Then, we must continue to live it out personally and exemplify it before them after they leave the home. God’s kingdom, His will, His righteousness, His goals, His Word comes first and foremost. Keeping focus on that, trust Him to take care of not only us but those whose lives we care about. Jesus sweetly consoles us, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (34).

1 Peter 5:7. I love how Peter acknowledges that we all have anxiety. We’re all tempted (and all of us at least occasionally succumb to the temptation) to worry. Peter’s words are practical. Humbling yourself under God’s all-powerful hand, throw all your anxieties on Him. He is strong enough to carry it. Do you know what’s the best part? Not only can He do it, He wants to. Why? He cares for you! He’s your Father. “Care” here means concern and anxiousness. Our lives matter to Him. His heart is involved. We may not stop to think that all of us are His children. The difference is that this Father can see the future, is fully in control, will never be startled or surprised, and never lacks for what to say, how to react, and what to do. How foolish not to give Him the things we would obsess over, be consumed with, and eaten up by. 

I wish I could tell you I will never worry about Gary, Dale, and Carl again. Those who know them know what a tall task that is. I wish I could tell you that you will never worry about your precious children again. But, none of us should. We can make progress and get better if we’ll feed on the rich truths of passages like the ones we’ve visited briefly together today. Go back and read them again. Drink deeply of their comforting, helpful truths. They will help you trust Him more with whatever frightening prospects you face regarding your children’s lives. I don’t promise. He does! 

 

Saturday at Hebron church of Christ (where Carl, center, preaches). This was at Carl and Emily’s wedding shower. The boys had just returned from hunting wild hogs near Demopolis, AL. It never ends!
Sunday’s Bulletin Article: “F-E-A-R”

Sunday’s Bulletin Article: “F-E-A-R”

Neal Pollard

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It will make congregations forsake God’s command to practice church discipline, especially in the age of Facebook and Instagram. It will disrupt, cancel, and in other ways impact congregational plans, faced with something that has killed .0004% of the world’s population. It will cause congregations to abandon the biblical position on any number of things that accommodates the cultural point of view. But, biblically speaking, what is particularly the fear of the devil, mankind, or things of this earth?

F-AITHLESS. You’ll find fear and faith contrasted in Scripture (Mat. 14:31; Mark 4:40; Heb. 11:23). Jesus rebukes a fear which hinders faith more than anyone. When we are driven by fear rather than faith, we confess that we believe in something more than we believe in God. Fear is completely understandable, something the Bible’s greatest heroes felt. But, they overcame their fear of men and even the devil by a greater faith in God’s power. The generation of Israel Moses led were the poster children of fear (Num. 14:9), yet what does the writer of Hebrews diagnose as the root cause of their punishment and rejection? “Unbelief” (3:19).

E-PIDEMIC. Have you noticed how quickly and widely fear spreads? The spies sent to Canaan came back afraid and they transmitted it to the whole nation almost immediately (Num. 13:31-33; 14:1ff). The devil has plenty of channels to transmit fear, from traditional to social media. But even pulpits, private meetings, and informal discussions can fan the flames of fear. Fear plays to our flesh, and the voice of fear travels at light speed. 

A-MPLIFYING. Have you ever suffered from economic, relationship, occupational, or spiritual problems? Lie still in your bed at night (or wake up in the middle of the night) and those fears grow exponentially. Like worry, fear is often greater than the problem. It’s why the devil finds it a useful tool in his warfare (cf. Rev. 2:10; 21:8–“cowardly” is the word “afraid” in Mark 4:40; 2 Tim. 1:7). The enemy looks bigger and scarier than it is, but giving in to fear can make it seem gigantic.

R-ASH. Jesus makes this clear during His earthly ministry. He says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mat. 10:28). The analogy is definitely disturbing. There are physical and spiritual entities out there with the power to take our lives. We can be so quick to respond to them by retreating or withdrawing. But if the fear of those things replaces or supplants the fear that belongs rightfully only to God, we are in big trouble. 

These, are fearful times! Who doesn’t wrestle with fear? It seems that Jesus did (Luke 22:44; Heb. 5:7). God understands we’ll struggle with fear (Psa. 103:14). But His lovingkindness and compassion are “on those who fear Him” (Psa. 103:11,13,17). There is more Kingdom work to do than ever! There are numerous obstacles, but let’s not get in our own way through fear!