10 ways to help you not worry – 1. Write down your decisions.

In light of yesterday’s story of my anxiety I made a decision which will mean that doesn’t happen again! What about your anxiety stories? How do you help yourself not to worry? When you are worrying how do you stop yourself?

Anxiety often stops you from making the right decision because your focus is so exaggerated on what is going to go wrong.

Jesus says, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6 v 25)

Therefore

The verses prior to this Jesus has instructed us on treasures, eyes and masters. There are decisions of the heart, the eyes and that of our lifestyle that will impact on whether we worry or not. This is an uncertain world we live in and the decisions we make are crucial.

  • Stop making the wrong decisions regarding what your heart desires, your eyes focus on and how you live your life. Write them down. You will need to refer to these in the future.
  • When the worry comes write down what it is, but also get a new rationale around that thought and then the decision you are now making. Keep on reading what you have written until the worry moment leaves.
  • Decide to look at life differently. Get a new perspective. Research those who don’t have ‘food or clothes’ (or whatever you tend to worry about) but who have lives far better than you because of things like joy and peace. Decide to see life through their eyes. Write down your findings.

Worry

Have you ever sat alone on a zoom meeting wondering if something has gone wrong?

It was just a slight niggle. With 10 minutes to go there was not the usual number of Pastors online for the pre-meeting banter. In fact there was no one. Then it struck me. Panic! I hadn’t sent out in my usual way the zoom link to the Pastors. I hadn’t even sent it out to our guest who was speaking on Anxiety! How could that have slipped my mind?! That was 2 days ago. Anxiety had grabbed hold of me before the seminar on how to deal with it when it does!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6 v 25-34)

Let us look at this passage of 10 verses as a whole and then over the next 10 days I will try and give 10 tips to not worrying!

Look at the birds:  Luke’s account says Jesus mentioned the type of birds, ‘ravens’.

A quick research shows this: As intelligent as dolphins, in tests of logic a raven had to get a hanging piece of food by pulling up a bit of string anchoring it with its claw. Ravens have pushed rocks on people to keep them from climbing to their nests, stolen fish by pulling a fishermen’s line out of ice holes, and played dead beside a beaver carcass to scare other ravens away from a delicious feast.

See the flowers of the field growing: Luke’s account says Jesus mentioned the type of flower, ‘wildflower’. A wildflower is any flower that is not planted by intentional human intervention. They can be seen in deserts, forests, meadows and fields. They are so beautiful here in the UK most gardeners actually sow a wildflower patch.

God doesn’t feed the birds and clothe the grass of the field.

But within them both is the ability to do what they need to do and be the best they are created to be. Survive and be beautiful.

So do not worry about stuff.

What you will get and what you will look like. Stop fussing over those things. Stop making life all about worrying whether you will have enough and look your best.

He has built in to you what you need. The ability and the creativity to live and the beauty inside that is more important than any make-up or designer clothes to wear, is in you.

The seminar on Anxiety? The panic was over. It actually turned out alright. It usually does.

Money, Money, Money

I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay; Ain’t it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me; That’s too bad
In my dreams I have a plan If I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn’t have to work at all, I’d fool around and have a ball

A recent study last year by Paragon Bank revealed that a British person will think about their finances 4 times a day for a total of 28 minutes. This equates to 170 hours a year which is a whole week. So across a whole life the typical Brit will spend one entire year of it thinking about money.

Some of you reading this will roll your eyes and think how cheery this devotion is today! Others will nod their head and agree that their mental health is suffering because of such anxiety.

Often we do not seek help until the lack of money is crushing our minds and situation.

We actually need help on the rise upwards with money before any decline.

In The Testament of Judah, ancient Jewish texts from the patriarch’s last words to his children, he says these words, “My children, the love of money leads to idols; because, when led astray through money, men make mention of those who are no gods, and it causes him who has it to fall into madness. For the sake of money I lost my children…” (The Testament of Judah 19).

How sad. Many have lost family and friends for the sake of money. When this has happened it is easy to realise that money has a life all of its own. Jesus says this:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6 v 24)

In this section of the sermon there has been 2 treasures, 2 eyes and now 2 masters.

The word ‘serve’ is doulos which is more an exclusive serving like a slave to their owner.

Who is the master? Who is bringing order into your life? Who truly leads you? God or Money?

To serve money is to abandon the frugal lifestyle of a previous generation perhaps in favour of realising it is money that will give a better life even if it means carrying a whole lot of debt.

To serve money means I will feel respected and valued once I have more.

To serve money can also mean you are fearful of not having it so are not generous.

To serve money is to truly believe you will never have enough. In the words of Bob and Larry of Veggie Tales:

Bob the Tomato: “Larry, how much stuff do you need to make you happy?”

Larry the Cucumber: “I don’t know. How much stuff is there?”

If you are in debt then seek help to get out of it as soon as possible.

If you are desiring money then bring it under the lordship of Jesus.

If you have money then be generous and help others.

A man like that is hard to find but I can’t get him off my mind; Ain’t it sad
And if he happens to be free I bet he wouldn’t fancy me; That’s too bad
So I must leave, I’ll have to go; To Las Vegas or Monaco
And win a fortune in a game, my life will never be the same

Money, money, money
Must be funny; In the rich man’s world
Money, money, money
Always sunny; In the rich man’s world
Aha aha
All the things I could do; If I had a little money; It’s a rich man’s world

The Evil eye

You will have seen them on your travels in the many markets around the world. The charm is called ‘Nazar’ and more often than not it is a blue glass jewellery piece to ward off the ‘evil eye’ that comes from someone who is wishing bad-luck on you. If you have ever been to Turkey you will definitely have seen these amulets as they are everywhere! Even on their budget aeroplanes a Nazar was placed, though it didn’t help them as they went bust in 2007.

It dates back to at least 6th century BC as drinking vessels have been found with Nazar engraved on them. But even today especially in some Asian and African cultures the strong belief that your soul can be damaged or even lost means that these charms are placed on people and their animals to ward off the evil eye.

The Greek Philosopher, Plutarch, who was born only 15 years after Jesus was the leading voice regarding the power of the evil eye so potent to even cause the death of children and small animals.

Did Jesus know of these traditional practices? They were certainly prevalent in the Jewish culture. In the Midrash Sarah casts an evil eye on Hagar causing her to miscarry her pregnancy. In the Talmud the descendants of Joseph are immune from the evil eye.

Here are the verses today …

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy,your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6 v 22-23)

It cannot be lifted out of the verses before where Jesus speaks about our treasure in heaven. Nor can we ignore the next verse which is about money. Simply put, Jesus is saying you will only be able to store up treasures in heaven and master money if your focus in life is good.

When our focus in this life is geared towards focusing on God and true value then our whole lives will be illuminated. But if we are chasing after things in this world that will never last, if our eyes are pinned on money, possessions and relationships then even the shiniest things that are on offer in the shop-windows of life are full of darkness.

Don’t wear Nazar’s or any other charms to ward off darkness from other people’s evil-eye instead makes sure your desires, your ambition, your gaze is not the evil-eye that others may fear or even entrap you into selling your soul for. Many have fallen because the evil-eye masquerades as the look of love. Stay healthy. Stay focused on the Kingdom of God not what this earth can offer.

Treasure

Do you ever wonder why others are more ‘blessed’ than you?

By ‘blessed’ I mean they have more money or things or anything that your heart really desires but you don’t have.

Have you ever prayed a Jeremiah prayer?

“I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1)

If only …

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6 v 19-21)

The truth is we all like money. Most of us would like more. The reason being is obvious, we like what it does, what it gives us, where it takes us. But it is dangerous because of all of that. It can demand our attention and our desperation, our worship and our servitude.

Are you worrying about money? Are you wanting some retail therapy today? When was the last time you gave some money in just an act of generosity and not your tithe? Do you tithe? Are you free from the power of money?

According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, about 70 percent of people who win a lottery or receive a large windfall go bankrupt within a few years.

LOTTO jackpot winners Colin and Christine Weir have been granted a quickie divorce after 38 years of marriage. … Colin, 71, and Christine, 62, who took home the jackpot in 2011 had been married for 38 years before being hit by the curse of the lottery. They won £161 million! All that money and it didn’t bring them happiness and it certainly didn’t save their marriage. By the end of that year sadly Colin died of sepsis. Wealth can seriously affect your health and well-being.

To find out what we really love, Jesus says, examine the heart. There are treasures in heaven that have been stored up from what we have saved on earth. He has just spoken about giving, prayer and fasting and he instructs us to do those things in secret.

Whatever heavenly treasure means and the Apostle Paul would speak about rewards stored up for him, Jesus said we should do more things in secret before our Father.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus …. And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim …

Glorious disfigurement

After the destruction of the second temple, nearly 600 years before Christ, fast days increased amongst the Jews.  Fasting became ordered and specific days were designated fast days. 

Post AD, fasting along with other Jewish legalism and piety weaved its way into the Christian doctrine and it was administered as a form of penance, and the Popes ordered that quarterly fasts be undertaken which if broken led to torture!

In 1303 King Philip IV of France brought down Pope Boniface VIII on charges of heresy, blasphemy, sodomy, sorcery … and not fasting on fast day!

Fasting seems to have lost its beauty somewhat in history. It has become what Jesus spoke against. It has been gloriously disfigured by hypocrites. We need to recover it as a natural part of our discipleship as much as praying and giving.

“When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6 v 16-18)

There are reasons to fast that are beneficial and it is not to look good amongst the crowd.

Fasting must be centred on God. It is not a means to get our own way, to somehow manipulate God to do what we want. 

Fasting is not a way to earn favour with God, to impress God or to earn his acceptance, for that is given through the work of Jesus Christ not our works.

Fasting will also identify to the ‘faster’ the things in their life that controls them, for example, pride or anger.

We are often unaware of being controlled, but fasting brings those things to the forefront, so that they can then be dealt with. So fasting isn’t necessarily from food but that will be the most popular form of fasting.

Fasting is a reminder to the Christian that our dependence is on God alone and not on food or the thing we happen to be fasting, that it is God who sustains us. Fasting unto God therefore is feasting – feasting on him and on doing his will. Fasting also helps us to recognise that the nonessentials really are nonessentials.  So often they can take over our lives; fasting helps to maintain balance again.

Fasting strengthens prayer because it helps to focus more clearly on what we are seeking God for. It doesn’t bend his arm it helps to bend our knee.

Fasting makes us more receptive to understand what God is wanting from our life.

Fasting can best express to God the depth of our feelings. Fasting can express the grief and confession of our sin that words cannot.

Fasting is often used in the Bible story to seek protection from enemies or circumstances

Fasting can indicate a new season has begun.

Fasting is a physical expression of humility before God.

Fasting can be used to overcome trials and temptations.

Fasting expresses love and worship to God. It is an act of sheer devotion to God.

How do you incorporate it into your discipleship?


Extreme Love

Our world is in need of this.

A few days ago I wrote of Eva Mozes Kor who had forgiven the Angel of Death, Josef Mengele. Afterwards I discovered that she had adopted the grandson of Rudolf Hoss, the SS Commander of Auschwitz, “I’m proud to be his grandmother. I admire and love him. He had the need of love from a family he never had.”

Extreme Love.

Jung Jin-Wook and her husband had been Korean missionaries in Turkey since 2015, they were great evangelists. Then one day her husband, Kim, was attacked in the street whilst evangelising, he was fatally stabbed twice in the chest and once in the back. He was 41 years old. Later she wrote to her husband’s killer facing court: “I do not understand why you did this, but I cannot be angry at you. Many people want the court to give you a heavy punishment. But I and my husband don’t want this. We pray that you become worthy of heaven, because we believe in the worth of people. God sent his Son Jesus, who forgave those who persecuted him. We also believe in that and we pray that you would also repent of your sin.” February 17,2020 (Christianity Today).

Extreme Love.

The horrendous picture of the naked girl in 1972 running for her life with the other children from the napalm bombs dropped in the Vietnam War went global. But so did her forgiveness of the pilot she met in 1996 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Extreme Love.

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”(Matthew 6 v 14-15)

This is not Father standing over every individual watching to see if they are as quick to forgive as He is to forgive them. Your forgiveness is not conditioned on you being able to buy it through your conduct of others. That’s not it. But it is this ….

If you really have then you will.

If there is nothing there then it is an indicator that you haven’t truly received.

It goes together.

Extreme Love flows through a forgiven heart from a Father who made it all happen.

A prayer to be used, part 5

Every day the Jews say a prayer like this one:

“May it be Your will, HaShem, my God and the God of my forefathers, that you rescue me today and every day from brazen men and brazenness, from an evil man, an evil companion, an evil neighbour, an evil mishap, the destructive spiritual impediment [‘Satan’], a harsh trial and a harsh opponent, whether he is a member of the covenant or whether he is not a member of the covenant.” (The Complete Artscroll Siddur)

So now compare the prayer that Jesus made, I have underlined our verse today so you can see the comparison:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13)

As we can see at the end of His prayer Jesus introduces us to the spiritual battle that we daily face.

There is a path that knows no end and which has ruined and continues to ruin countless lives, families, churches, communities and yes even nations.

No one really knows what it is that causes a person to be tempted to such destructive means, No one really understands the mind of the one being tempted at the time.

What was Samson thinking when he kept going back to Delilah, even when he knew she was trying to kill him through a sexual trap?

Why did Judas betray his friend even when there must have been doubts in his mind over what he was doing?

Why did Ananias and Sapphira pretend they were giving everything when they weren’t, they must have wondered if anyone would find out?

Temptation is irrational.

We will not know the answers to these questions, they are held within the mystery of fatal attraction.

James 1: 13-15 “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Jesus tells us to pray about the spiritual battle. There are times the Holy Spirit will lead us into a desert experience where for a period of time we are tempted by our own desires in that place. If we give in to those desires we sin. If we surrender to God we mature in the power of the Spirit, just as Jesus did.

Temptations generally fall into the following categories:

The temptation of not having.

Temptation will come in the area of your lack, what you need or think you need, in the place of emptiness. It strikes at what you previously held as a personal belief or value for your life.

“Did God really say? Maybe not!” “Why not? Maybe God understands.”

Temptation comes to emphasise your restricted life. It will highlight freedom as being the most important thing and cause you to forget that you are already free.

The temptation of being secretive.

Temptation will try and fool you into thinking you can manage the consequence of sin. It will blind you to the effect on the people you influence.

The temptation of needing to be needed.

There is a temptation that tries to move the person from the place of adding value to focusing on feeling valued.

The craving to feel value can hinder a person from being valuable. We are most valuable when we get to the place where we do not need appreciation from people.

The craving to feel valued is one of the most common reasons people make bad decisions, “I’m leaving. I just don’t feel valued anymore.”

The craving to be valued causes people to assume they are most valuable when they are most valued.

The temptation of needing answers for your suffering.

God did this to me, Satan did this to me, maybe I did something wrong that brought this suffering?

Sometimes, stuff just happens and there is no one to blame.

But temptation draws you away from the treasures that can be found in suffering. It slows up the process of all things working together for good.

Let me end with the Jewish daily prayer followed by the Jesus prayer:

Do not let us be overcome by sin, disobedience, or iniquity, not by trials, nor by disgrace; and do not let the evil inclination rule us. Distance us from harmful people and harmful friends … rescue me today and every day … from my evil inclination, from an evil friend, from an evil neighbor, from an evil incident … and from the destructive adversary (satan). (Siddur, Morning Prayers)

“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one.”

(Matthew 6:9-13)

This is a prayer to be used and perhaps by increasing the prayer being used in our daily lives we will be better equipped as disciples.

A Prayer to be used, part 4

In Mark Twain’s, Huckleberry Finn, Huck is told that if he doesn’t turn in his friend, a runaway slave named Jim, he will surely burn in hell. So one day Huck, not wanting to lose his soul to Satan, writes a letter to Jim’s owner telling her of Jim’s whereabouts. After folding the letter, he starts to think about what his friend has meant to him, how Jim took the night watch so he could sleep, how they laughed and survived together. Jim is his friend and that is worth reconsideration. Huck realizes that it’s either Jim’s friendship or hell. Then the great Mark Twain writes such wonderful words of resolve. Huck rips the paper and says, “Alright then, I guess I’ll go to hell.”

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6 v 12)

Every day there are wrongs done to people. You may be reading this carrying such a horrible weight of wrong that has been done against you.

There are unbelievable tragedies today. There are many victims. Since the beginning of time God has seen what mankind can to each other. “The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10).

God has given mankind the freedom to choose.

We choose to love which blesses or we choose to sin which hurts.

Today you may be the victim because someone made the wrong choice.

When we are the sinner we cry for mercy. But the natural response when we are sinned against is to cry for justice.

The blood of Abel in Genesis 4 cried for justice. It was a prayer of ‘Get him God.’

The blood of Jesus is not ‘Father get these murderers’ but “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

What name needs to be mentioned that would cause you to react? They may have died years ago. The event is not far from you. Who still needs your forgiveness?

Who is your Jim?

A Prayer to be used, part 3

The enemy of your soul is out to attack your today. He’s not interested in tomorrow but today. He’s planning to mess it up, cause problems, to do everything he can to make it into a bad day. He uses yesterday to do that and he knows if he can destroy today he has broken your tomorrow.

“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6 v 11)

We go every day. We don’t miss a day. We don’t have a holiday. We never get too busy to go.

AND it is this persistence that changes you as you see the world through God’s eyes.

We don’t have to be like Moses wanting to give up and for God to end it all or like Jonah wanting to curl up and die or Elijah running into a cave of self-pity. We choose persistence. Daily.

What do we ask for? Bread. It is a physical and a spiritual matter, the source of life.

God doesn’t need to hear lofty prayers.

He longs for reality from us. He wants to hear prayers over what may even appear trivial matters. He heard the prayer for wine at the party. He hears the prayers from the hungry and the tired. He hears the prayers from the poor, the powerless and the sick. Today your daily bread may be so insignificant, but tell Him, don’t hold anything back.

Father I need bread today.

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew’s version)