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Showing posts with label Worry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Worry. Show all posts

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Jesus' Questions for You

My hope for this message series was to answer your questions about God and Christianity. 
But so far, I’ve only received on question (and I answered that one a couple weeks ago.
So even though I’ve offered you a chance to write your questions on the tear off in the bulletin and announced it from the pulpit each Sunday (and I’ve also sent out numerous emails and solicited questions on Facebook), I haven’t received any other questions.

But as I prayer about your lack of questions, Jesus laid something else on my heart.  Jesus said, “If they don’t have any questions for you, I’d like to ask them a few questions."  So that’s what I’m gonna do today for the sermon.  Since you haven’t asked any questions, Jesus has some questions for you.  The first question comes from Mark 8:27-29.

Mark 8:27-29
27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”
29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”

Who Do You Say I Am?
Jesus actually asks his disciples two questions in this passage: “Who do people say I am?”  And “Who do you say I am?”  Jesus asks you the same questions this morning.  Who do people say that I am and who do you say that I am?  These are critical questions.  Your answers will influence everything you do in this life and even eternity.

Almost everyone has some opinion about Jesus.  In America, you would have to live under a rock to have never heard something about Jesus. So, who do people say that Jesus is?  A prophet?  A revolutionary?  A truly gifted religious leader? A fictional character people made up?

Most people, unfortunately, have a very inaccurate idea of Jesus.  Their notion of Jesus is just what they've picked up from popular opinion or myth.  Perhaps they have some vague ideas that he is loving and nurturing or merciful and forgiving, but they aren't necessarily clear of what all this entails.  Unless people read and understand the Bible—both the Old and the New Testaments—they probably only know of the popular image of Jesus, an image that is woefully inadequate.

CS Lewis once wrote that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.  Lewis argued that when people claim Jesus was just a good man, they disregard what he said about himself.  Lewis claims we must listen to what Jesus said about himself in the Gospels.  Jesus claimed to be the Son of God who was going to die on the cross and rise from the dead to save humanity from sin and grant eternal life.  Now if Jesus was just a good man, he was lying when he claimed to be the Son of God, Lord, and Savior.  Furthermore, thousands of people in his day (including his closest friends) died because they believed him.  Therefore, if Jesus was lying, he was anything but a good man.  He was actually evil if he was lying.  Or another option was that he believed his own lies; which means he was a deluded lunatic, not a good man.  The other option left to us is that Jesus was really telling the truth and he is indeed Lord.

What Jesus really cares about is not what other people say about him.  What he really wants to know is: “Who do you say he is?”  That’s what really matters.  You can’t control what other people think and do.  But you can make up your own mind—and you must decide about Jesus.  Who is Jesus to you? 

I’ll tell you who Jesus is to me.  Jesus is Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, my Savior!

The second question Jesus asks you today comes from Mark 4:35-40

Mark 4:35-40
35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?
Again, Jesus ask two questions; but this time the two questions are really the same thing asked two different ways.  Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?

Maybe we should cut the disciples a little slack.  We have the benefit of looking back on the story already knowing a lot more about Jesus than the disciples had figured out by the 4th chapter of Mark.  They were still getting to know Jesus.  We’ve already heard the end of the story.  We’ve heard about all his other miracles—healing the sick, driving out demons, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, raising the dead, and (most important) rising from the grave himself.  Also understand this: if you’ve been a Christians for more than three years, you’ve been walking with Jesus a lot longer than the disciples did.  Jesus was only on earth with His disciples for three years.  If you’ve been a Christian longer than that, you’ve already got more experience with Jesus than they did. 

And that’s why Jesus wants to ask you the same questions today. 
Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?
Storms come in all our lives.  They may not include wind and rain.  They may include: health problems, financial troubles, losing your job, grief over the death of a loved one.  Sometimes our fears aren’t even brought on by actual events.  More often, we worry about things that haven’t even happened yet, things that might never even happen.  What if my son/daughter gets hurt?  What if I get sick?  What if I never find someone to marry?  What if my marriage doesn’t work out?  What if I lose my job and can’t pay my bills? 

We worry because of sin.  It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made.  For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”  I always thought the reference to "sweat of your brow" was talking about how hard work will be.  But a study of ancient middle eastern phrases shows that when they used the phrase "the sweat of your brow" they were almost always talking about worry and anxiety.  Think about how Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane was praying that God would take the cup of suffering from him if it was possible and he was sweating like drops of blood from his brow.  Because of Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden, ancient farmers would always worry that their crops would fail because of drought, or pestilence, or failure to thrive and so they and the people they loved would starve to death.  It was a a very real possibility in an agricultural society.  And though today, in America, few will starve to death because of a crop failure, we still worry that we will lose our jobs or something else terrible will happen.

Worry and anxiety was a curse humanity received because of Adam's sin in the garden.  Praise be to God, Jesus came to set us free from the curse.  That’s why the angels who announced Jesus birth said, “Do not fear!  I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-11)  That’s why Jesus could say, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”  (Matthew 6:31-33)

Just a few minutes ago, Jesus asked each of you, “Who do you say I am?”  And many of you affirmed with me, “Jesus is Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, my Savior!”  If Jesus is your Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, your Savior, then:
Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?
If Jesus can calm a storm on the sea of Galilee, if He can rise from the grave, don't you trust Him to take care of you and your problems?

Jesus’ Questions
What has been bothering you lately?
Is Jesus asking you to do something?  (Forgive someone?  Answer a call to do something for Him?  Serve in some way?)
Are you worrying about something that might happen (but probably won’t)?  
Are you struggling with worry and anxiety?
Are you going though a very real and difficult storm in your life?

I want you to set aside your worries and concerns for just a moment and answer Jesus’ questions for you this morning. 
Answer His questions first and then pray about what’s bothering you.

Jesus’ questions for you this morning are:
Who do you say I am?
Why are you afraid? 
Do you still have no faith?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sound Different

            I will never forget the first time I said "I love you" to Kelly.  She was only 16 and I was 18.  We'd only been dating for a short time.  I walked her to her door after on of our date and said good night and then it just came out, "I love you."  I said ti as much out of habit as anything (that's the what we said when we told each other good night in my childhood family).  There was an awkward pause... and Kelly did not reciprocate.
            Back in the car on the drive home, I was kicking myself.  Why did I say that?  It wasn't appropriate because we hadn't been dating long enough and I didn't really mean it; it just slipped out.  When I got to my house, the phone rang and it was Kelly.  She said, "I think I should explain why I didn't say I love you back.  Those are very important words to me and I don't use them lightly.  I think you should really know that you love someone before you tell them "I love you.""
            Now that sounded different--so much more mature and honest than most 16-year-old girls I knew at the time.  And it impressed me that Kelly had a deeper understanding of love and was willing to stand up for what she believed in and to call me and explain.
            Well, we are supposed to sound different than the world.  You see, long ago, God chose you to be holy different--to think different, to act different, to look different, and to sound different.  How You Sound--what you say--is serious business.  Proverbs 18:21 says, "The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences."  Proverbs 15:4 says, "Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit."  And Proverbs 12:18 says, "Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing."  And listen to what Jesus said about the power of what holy people say. 

Mark 11:22-25
22 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. 24 I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. 25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

In the Passage, Jesus Implies 3 Ways Holy People Will Sound Different.
            First, holy people have faith to speak and move mountains. Holy people use their words to change lives and change the world. In the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. looked around and found a world full of racial discrimination and segregation. It seemed like an impossible mountain to move, but King knew it was not right and he was a Christian leader, a holy man. So King began to speak and what he said sounded different from everyone else. He urged non-violent protest. He spoke about how segregation and racial bigotry was hurtful not just black people, but also to white people and oppressors. King preached that we all need healing--even those who are mistreating others.
            Holy people don't just sound different when they speak out on momentous social justice issues.  Mountains are moved in small ways every day.  David Crawford is the music minister of our church.  Not only is he talented, but he also has a Christ-like attitude that blesses so many people in so many ways.  David started attending my church decades ago when Tom Dickson invited him to come.  Tom's invitation was just a small thing, but it has made a world of difference for everyone David blesses at my church is linked to Tom's invitation.
            Holy people pray.  Philippians 4:6 says, "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done."  When others get made, get sad, get worried, get discouraged, holy people pray.  Negative emotions produce more negative emotions.  Worry and stress produce more worry and stress.  Everyone gets to talking and dwelling on their worries and stress and all the negative emotions just get worse and more intense.  But holy people sound different.  Holy people pray and God gives them peace.  And peace gives birth to more peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers…”
            Holy People forgive.  When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he looked down at the soldier gambling for his clothes and said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)  Holy people sound different because they forgive.
            On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof gunned down 9 Christians in a church in Charleston, SC.  The relatives of the slain had a chance to speak directly to the gunman at his first court appearance. One by one, those who chose to speak did not turn to anger. Somehow—by the grace and power of God—they were able to speak life even in the presence of the man who brought death to their loved ones.  [i]Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, said at the hearing, her voice breaking with emotion. “I forgive you,” she told him. “You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul. … You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. If God forgives you, I forgive you.”
            Forgiveness sounds different. It brings healing—first of all to you. Bitterness will poison you from the inside out. Holding a grudge will tear you apart and damage all your other relationships.   Forgiveness helps you heal and move on to the brighter future God want to give you.

Are You Ready to Sound Different?
            Thankfully, most of us will never experience the tragedy of our loved ones being gunned down in a church prayer meeting.  But there are still some practical things that everyone can do to sound different than the world.  First of all, get in the Word f God.  Your conversations are not scripted.  They are spontaneous.  It's not practically to measure every word you're going to say and how you say it.  Most of what you say just comes from your heart.  Jesus said, "What you say flows from what is in your heart." (Luke 6:45).  So fill your heart with God's Word.  Dig into the Bible so that you are more and more like Christ in your heart.  Then everything you say will flow from your Christ-like heart and you will sound different and holy.
            Second, refuse to use abusive or vulgar language.  Don't try to tear people down in order to make yourself feel better or right.  There is already too much of that going on in our world.  Holy people should sound different.  Refrain from cutting remarks or trolling on Facebook.  Refuse to gossip or talk about people behind their backs.  Instead of texting or emailing, call or visit and talk to people directly. 
            Third, encourage people with love and grace.  Be kind.  Be positive.  The world has enough negativity and darkness.  Sound different.  Speak light, not darkness.  Speak life, not death.
            Fourth, use your words to invite people to church.  People need to be in the church.  We need Jesus and we need each other.  The Church is the place Jesus chose for his holy people to gather.  Let us gather as many here as we can. 
            Some will say, "But I've already asked everyone I know."  Jesus told a parable about that--the parable of the great banquet.  A master sent his servants to invite people to a great banquet.  One by one, all the guests made excuses why they couldn't come.  So the master sent his servants out saying, "Go out into the highways and byways and compel everyone you can so that my banquet may be full.”  It may be that the people you are asking just don't feel they need to be in church.  But there are many others out there who realize they're in desperate need.  So go.  Invite them!  They may be different from you, but different is OK.  Jesus loves different.  In fact, God chose us all to be different and holy.  So build some relationships with different people.  Invite them to lunch.  Get to know them.  And invite them to church.
            Are you Ready to Sound Different?  Good!  Because God wants you to be holy different--to think different, to act different, to look different, to sound different, to be different.  You are His holy people, a royal priesthood set apart for His special purposes to go into all the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ to build His Kingdom.  Amen.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Do Not Worry

            Today, I would like to write about one of my all-time favorite passages.  It’s very poignant today as we reflect on so many troubling events in our world. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus reminds us not to worry.

Matthew 6:25-34
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

What is Worry?
            Worry is:  “To allow one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles”  Some people are more prone to worrying than others, but we all worry.  It is part of our fallen, human nature; we forget to trust God or we never really knew we could trust God.  
            Sometimes, we even worry about problems that are only imaginary.  For instance, a teenager might worry themselves sick wondering whether there will be any friends in their classes when school starts back.  This may be a potential problem, but it’s not a real problem right now.  And there may be plenty of friends in their classes, we just don’t know yet.  But people will worry even about things that are only potential problems.
             Worry is a waste of time and energy.  It’s not healthy.  It’s like spinning your tires—it doesn’t get you anywhere and it ruins your tires.  If you can do something productive about your problem, do it.  But then, stop worrying about the problem over and over.
            What would it feel like not to worry?  How much time do we waste worrying?  How much mental, emotional, and spiritual energy do we waste in the unhealthy habit of worrying?  What would it be like to be free from the anxiety of worry?  To know that God has got your back.  Oh, what a wonderful thing!  Our lives would be less stressful and so much happier, peaceful, and serene if we gave up worry.

The  Basics
            The Scripture lists two things we should not worry about:  food and clothing.  But it’s really about more than just food and clothing.  Food and clothing represent the basic necessities of life.  To these, you could add other basic necessities like water, air, shelter, companionship, etc.  God will make sure we have the basics we need to live.
            There is something else implied in Jesus statement.  You may have a deeper spiritual problem if you are worrying about more than the basics.  Perhaps you have become self-absorbed and fallen too deeply in love with the things of this world.
            What do we really need to be satisfied?  Perhaps it would be enlightening to compare our problems in America (a first-world country) to those who live in third world countries.  Consider the following meme's about our first world problems:

            Meanwhile, most people around the world earn less than $2/day and struggle to find enough food and clean water.  Now, I know that all our problems are not so trivial.  We have real problems too.  However, we already have so much.  Sometimes we lose perspective about real problems and what are just our “worldly” concerns.  Sadly, the only time we may regain a proper perspective is when a real tragedy strikes.
            If we want to be truly happy, we should learn to be happy with the basics.  Paul tells us in Philippians 4:12, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”  We would all do well to learn Paul's secret to a contented life.  I suggest you practice needing less.  Here are some ways you can improve:
            Simplify your life.  Get rid of things you don’t need.  Resist the urge to buy more and more new things.  Learn to live with what you have.  Borrow or rent instead of buying if it’s practical.
            Go without.  Fasting is the spiritual practice of going without.  Typcally, fasting involves giving up food, but it can be other things as well like watching TV or using Facebook.  Fasting can help us discover what we can do without, remind us what we really need, and it can also help us to be more grateful for what we already have.
            Practice being thankful.  Genuine gratitude for what we already have helps us to be more satisfied and need less.  We stop looking for the next great thing that might make us satisfied and start to realize how blessed and satisfied we already are.  Being thankful actually helps you to be a happier person.  Take the "Gratitude Quiz" and see if you are a grateful person –
            The point is, God is going to provide for your basic needs.  You don’t need to worry about the basics.  And don’t allow yourself to become consumed by yearning for more and more beyond the basics.  When you are satisfied with the basics in life, you will worry less and have less stress.  You will have a happier, more peaceful life and you will be more focused what’s truly important.

How to Overcome Worry 
            Jesus said “do not worry.”  But how can we actually overcome worry?  It is hard sometimes because worry is not just mental; it can physically take over your body.  For some, worry can become a paralyzing medical disorder that requires medication to overcome.  If that is the case, I encourage you to get medical help.  Regardless of your situation, the following steps can help you overcome worry.
            Pray about it.  Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”  Putting it in God's hands through prayer is the first step and can make all the difference.  Remember, God can handle any problem you have.
            Talk about it.  Another thing you can do is talk about your worries with a trusted friend or two.  Talking about your concern can relieve stress and bring fresh insight.  However, don’t keep talking about your worries over and over again all day long to everyone you meet.  That’s just an outward form of worry and will only aggravate and prolong your anxiety.
            Make a plan.  You can deal with worry by making a plan of action.  Worry is often mistaken for planning because both require you to think ahead and consider a plan of action.  The difference is, planning is productive.  Planning sets up goals and identifies practical steps that can change a situation.  Worry is unproductive because it just keeps going around and around about potential scenarios and possibilities over and over again.  Planning turns into worry when you go too far and your planning stops being practical and productive.
            Do what you can.  Instead of worrying, make a plan and then do what you can do.  Instead of thinking, do.  If you can’t do something, stop worrying about it.  You’ve done all you can.
            Let it go.  Once you’ve done all you can do (at least for right now, in this moment) then, let it go.  Don’t go on worrying about it.  You’ve prayed and put it in God’s hands.  You’ve done what you can do.  Now, let it go.

How to Let Go
            Sometimes, you get stuck and just can’t stop worrying.  When that happens, here’s what works for me.  First, I meditate.  I make a concerted effort to quiet my mind while asking God to help me.  I concentrate on my breathing.  People often comment that I am so relaxed and calm when I preach.  I can tell you, it takes effort.  I am not a natural public speaker.  It has always made me nervous--even after 17 years.  I've learned to relax through lots of practice.  One of the biggest things that helps me relax is concentrating on my breathing--breathing slow and deep.
            Then, if your mind continues to wander back to your worries, try to think of something else. It helps me when I listen to music.  Another thing that helps me is to watch a commedian or something funny on TV.  It's hard for me to worry when I am laughing.  I will also sometimes blow off steam by joking around with others or just being silly.  Another thing that helps is to go out and have some fun.  These are all things that have helped me break the cycle of worry.  Maybe they will help you too.

            There is one thing you should worry about:  Is your heart right with God?  Have you repented of your sins?  Have you asked the Lord’s forgiveness?  Have you decided to follow Jesus?  To listen to his instructions and obey?  Has the Spirit of God assured you of your salvation—that you are a forgiven, child of God?
            If your heart is right with God, you have nothing to worry about.  Even if terrorists attack. Even if the wrong person gets elected.  Even if the country falls apart.  Even if the Methodist church splits apart.  Even if you lose your job.  Even if your children go astray.  Even if things seem completely out of control, remember, God is in control!
            If your heart is not right with God, I beg you to get it right with Him today.  Won't you repent of your sins, turn to Jesus, let him take control of your life, and commit to follow him the rest of your days?  If so, perhaps you would like to use the following prayer to guide your words to Jesus.

Lord, come in and take control of my life.
Fill me up with Your wonderful grace.
Cleanse my heart and my wretched soul.
Lord, take control of my life.
I know Jesus is the blessed son of God
and that He died on the cross for my sin
and that He rose from the grave
and is living again.
Lord, I confess my sin.
Lord please come in.
Forgive my sin and make me anew.
Teach me to walk in Your ways.
Shine in my life for the world to see.
Lord, take control of my life.