Thursday, August 28, 2008

When I Feel Stressed...

The past few days have been super tough on me, but God has been faithful to get me through. As I've struggled through different trials the Lord has placed in my life, I was wondering why I continued to sin and choose the wrong path when I knew the truth. I realized (by God's grace) that the reason I was sinning was that I was basing my decisions--my thoughts, actions, deeds, words, etc.--on my emotions and feelings in the moment rather than the truth of God in His Word that is steadfast and eternal. Think about it. Often times, our feelings, though deceptively conveyed as a "natural" part of humanity, lead us into sin. Indeed, the word "natural" almost always sounds much safer than it is, for "naturally" we are all inclined to (and will, without Christ's intervention) sin. I hadn't understood, but Satan was deceiving me into believing that it was a-okay to act on my emotions. Thus, in the heat of the moment or under pressure, I made poor, sinful decisions, because I was rationalizing with myself that it was "only natural" to respond as I did, which, in fact, it was. Although some emotions/feelings--such as loneliness and temptation--are not sinful in and of themselves, many emotions/feelings--like pride, doubt, stress, anger, and impatience--are in sinful in and of themselves. Plus, those feelings like loneliness and temptation that aren't sinful in and of themselves can very easily (and often do) lead to sin. For example, the lonely man or woman might find themselves falling prey to the temptation of lust and sexual impurity if they don't guard themselves against both the loneliness and the temptation. 
As a result of this God-given realization, I knew I needed to put on the Word of Christ and use it as a shield against my feelings and emotions, fighting the momentary "truth" in my life with the absolute truth of Christ. Here is the first set of verses that I have found (and this is by no means a comprehensive list) to fight stress.

When I Feel Stressed...
...I know that Christ is all-powerful, and Christ is in me.
"And [God] put all things in subjection under [Jesus'] feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." --Ephesians 1:22-23
"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." --Philippians 4:13
...I know trials are intended in God's will for my sanctification.
"Not that I have already obtained [resurrection from the dead] or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus." --Philippians 3:12
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." --Romans 5:1-5
"But He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness." --Hebrews 12:10b
...I know I am instructed to give my worries/problems to God.
"'Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.'" --Matthew 11:28-30
"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 minds in Christ Jesus." --Philippians 4:6-7
...I know my current "sufferings" pale in comparison to the riches of Heaven.
"For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." --2 Corinthians 4:17-18
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." --Romans 8:18-21
...I know I am called to a life of service for Christ's sake.
"For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bondservants for Jesus' sake." --2 Corinthians 4:5
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." --Mark 10:45
...I know my problems are as dust before the power of my God.
"If I say, 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You." --Psalm 139:11-12
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" --Romans 8:31
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed." --2 Corinthians 4:7-8
...I know peace, not stress, is indicative of God's overwhelming grace to me.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." --Galatians 5:22-24

God be glorified!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Humility in the Workplace

Today I was at work and I had to laugh at myself when I realized that I don't have anything at all to be proud about at work (or anywhere else, for that matter). My realization came about when I realized I was struggling--yes, struggling--to use white out. Let that sink in for a moment. I was struggling to use white out. In my (poor) defense, it was the roll on tape white out, but still. I was sitting there, whiting out some numbers on a patient's bill, and I found my face screwing into the same determined look I get when doing a difficult calculus problem. My eyes squinted, my tongue stuck out slightly to the side, and I actually broke a little bit of a sweat! I was even getting frustrated, because the dispenser thing was just not working for me.
I've been reading the book Humility: True Greatness, by CJ Mahaney, and it has been such an encouragement and guide for me in (by God's grace!) growing in humility. One of my favorite chapters (so far, at least) was the chapter on encouraging others. He writes about our speech and how we are instructed in Ephesians 4:29 to "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." He says,

Truly edifying words are words that reveal the character and the promises and the activity of God. They're cross-centered words. They're words rooted in and derived from Scripture, words that identify the active presence of God, and words that communicate the evidences of grace that you observe in others. They're words that flow from a humble heart.

What an awesome way to describe what our speech should, by God's grace, be! When was the last time you shared with someone the evidences of grace that you've seen in their life? 

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tenth Avenue North

Tenth Avenue North is a fantastic band that I just discovered. They have an album out, "Over and Underneath," that has absolutely incredible songs. Two of my favorites so far are "Beloved" and "By Your Side." I think the reason the songs are so moving is because they are written from God's perspective (at least these two are for sure)--it's God speaking to His wandering children. Here are the lyrics to those two songs.
Love of My life, look deep in My eyes--there you will find what you need.
Give Me your life, lust, and the lies--the past you're afraid I might see.
You've been running away from Me.

You're My beloved; lover, I'm yours.
Death shall not part us--it's you I died for.
For better or worse, forever we'll be.
Our love, it unites us; it binds you to Me.
It's a mystery.

Love of My life, look deep in My eyes--there you will find what you need.
I'm the Giver of Life, I'll clothe you in white--My immaculate bride you will be.
Oh, come running home to Me.

You're My beloved; lover, I'm yours.
Death shall not part us--it's you I died for.
For better or worse, forever we'll be.
Our love, it unites us; it binds you to Me.

Well, you've been a mistress, my wife; chasing lovers--it won't satisfy.
Won't you let Me make you My bride?
You will drink of My lips and you'll taste new life!

Cause you're My beloved; lover, I'm yours.
Death shall not part us--it's you I died for.
For better or worse, forever we'll be.
Our love, it unites us; it binds you to Me.

You're My beloved, forever we'll be.
Our love, it unites us, and it binds you to Me.
It's a mystery; it's a mystery.

"By Your Side"
Why are you striving these days?
Why are you trying to earn grace?
Why are you crying--let Me lift up your face.
Just don't turn away.

Why are you looking for love?
Why are you still searching, as if I'm not enough?
To where will you go, child; tell Me, where will you run?
To where will you run?

Cause I'll be by your side, wherever you fall; in the dead of night, whenever you call.
Please don't fight these hands that are holding you; My hands are holding you.

Look at these hands and My side; they swallowed the grave on that night when I drank the world's sin so I could carry you in and give you life. 
I want to give you life.

And I'll be by your side, wherever you fall; in the dead of night, whenever you call.
Please don't fight these hands that are holding you; My hands are holding you. (x2)

Cause I, I love you--I want you to know.
That I, I love you--I'll never let you go.

I hope these songs affect you as much as they've affected me. Although they're not directly from the Bible (at least, to my knowledge! I could be way wrong), they are clearly based on Biblical truths and Spirit-inspired. Do you know the moment or the situation where you finally "got" that God loves you? Remember that moment now, and keep it with you forever more--because the worst thing we could do to offend God would be to forget or reject His love for us.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I yearn for a heavenly country, where I will be free from sin and sinful desires and temptation. But this life is what God has called me to! Not to sin, but "for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." It is such a gain. I used to think if I died without being married or having a family or a career or whatever, I would be disappointed. But now I am so aware of how little that matters! Sure, I'm still going to desire a family, a husband to love me--because that is how God has created me as a woman. But what I want more than any of that, by God's grace and God's grace alone, is to know my Father as He knows me! My flittery heart jumps from one fantastical dream to another, soaring on a fake high before crashing miserably to the earth. But God, His love is like a magnet; my soul is inextricably drawn back to it. I am repulsed by the things that are similar to me and drawn to my soul's polar opposite--Christ, "where true joys are to be found." Where I am weak, there He is powerful (2 Corinthians 12:9-10); where I am foolish, there He is wise (1 Corinthians 1:18-25); where I am proud, there He is humble (Mark 10:45); where I am ugly, there He is beautiful (Psalm 27:4); where I am fearful, there He is victorious (Isaiah 12:2, Joshua 1:9, Philippians 4:6-7, Psalm 37:4); where I am lost, there He is light (Psalm 119:105); where I am tired, there He is my strength (Isaiah 40:28-31); where I can do nothing, there He can do everything (Philippians 4:13, Matthew 19:26); where I am in chains, there He breaks them (Romans 5:18-21, Romans 6:17-19); where I die, there He lives (Romans 6:8-11); where I am conquered, there He conquers all things (Romans 8:37-39). Thank God for saving us from death and bringing us into life!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Living an Anxiety-Free Life in an Anxiety-Filled World pt. 1

Sunday night at church, Bill Shannon spoke from Philippians 4:4-9 in a sermon entitled, "Living an Anxiety-Free Life in an Anxiety-Filled World." When I first saw that this was to be the subject (and passage) we would be studying, my prideful heart thought, "Well, I might learn a little, but I've already gone through this passage in my own time and I think understand it fairly well." Prideful little me was definitely proved wrong.
Mr. Shannon (Pastor Shannon?) brought up four (count 'em, four!) ways that Paul showed the Philippians how to live an anxiety free life. I knew one of them (to pray!) coming into it, but the other three I hadn't grasped as even relating to the subject of anxiety!
Here's the passage:
"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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 minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
According to Mr. Shannon, the first step in handling anxiety is engaging in the right kind of praise. The verse says to "rejoice in the Lord always." Continually and habitually practicing the right kind of praise, no matter what the circumstances, leads to the unmitigated joy of the believer--one's circumstances shouldn't dictate one's joy. I have always wondered why Paul went from talking about rejoicing to talking about praying about one's anxieties--it's because the two are inextricably connected! If we are sincerely rejoicing in the Lord's provisions and graces lavished upon us, then there is no reason to be worried. Worry, in fact, shows a lack of trust in the absolute sovereignty of an entirely wise God! I am always heart-broken when I see my own doubt in light of this truth--why on earth I would choose to believe my own deceptive heart above the absolute veracity of God is beyond me! Faith is a grace I seek daily.
Next, the second step in handling anxiety is engaging in the right kind of prayer. Mr. Shannon pointed out an interesting but important distinction when it comes to dealing with our futures--it's alright to plan for the future, but it's not okay to be distracted by the future. Unfortunately, as humans, we have the tendency to be too legalistic and to think, "Well, if thinking about the future could potentially give way to worrying about the future, I mustn't think of it at all!" There's a fine line to be walked between trusting in God for your future and being responsible for your future. I recently read a blog that discussed the importance of exercise in the Christian's life. While God has our days numbered, He uses human means to extend (or shorten) the days of our lives as He sees fit. One of these means is, in fact, exercise. In the same way, God uses the wisdom and responsibility He gives His children to direct them in making godly decisions about their futures. While it is still entirely in God's hands, we are not absolved from responsibility to live our lives according to the wisdom presented in the Bible. 
One thing that Mr. Shannon also mentioned about prayer that stuck out to me was that anxiety is the mark of the person without hope--and as Christians, we know we definitely have hope! He even went so far as to say that if a person is without hope, we can "extrapolate that maybe they are without God." That statement sent a chill through the room. It's absolutely true though. Obviously, many true Christians (myself included!) struggle with worry, but, honestly, what have we to worry about? CJ Mahaney, in one of his books, talks about the single person worrying about whether or not God has it in His plans for that person to marry. Mahaney's encouragement to believers is, "Your greatest need is not a spouse. Your greatest need is to be delivered from the wrath of God--and that has already been accomplished for you through the death and resurrection of Christ. So why doubt that God will provide a much, much lesser need? Trust His sovereignty, trust His wisdom, trust His love." In light of this, we are called to cast our cares upon the Lord in prayer, with thanksgiving, and what a wonderfully rich gift that is! May we always remember to use it!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

First Post!

Hey Everyone!
For a couple of weeks now, I've been considering starting a blog with all the notes and such I post on Facebook. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading other people's blogs and thought a blog would be a sweet way to communicate to a lot of people at the same time. I'm going to try to get some stuff up about my recent Week of Silence and just some awesome stuff God has been teaching me. My hope and prayer is that this blesses and encourages you in some way. Thanks!