My oldest daughter and I went to the movies recently. We saw Spider Man, the cartoon version. It was pretty good. Afterwards, we stopped and enjoyed some ice cream. It was a great daddy-daughter date. Then something happened on the way home. A large piece of metal was in the middle of the road, and I couldn’t avoid it. I heard a large thump and the tire light clicked on my dashboard. I pulled over and there it was, a flat tire. I wish that was the end of the story. It wasn’t just the tire that was gashed. The wheel was damaged, too. I put on the spare and notice it isn’t in the best shape either. We were able to get home, but the spare was too old and dry rotted to keep. When you add up the movie trip, the new tire, the new wheel, and the new spare tire, the cost exceeded $400. Yet, I am happy we went. Creating memories with your family is priceless. Besides, we were safe and that’s what really matters. Your day may not turn out as you imagined, but count your blessings. God is always good!
This is the back of my house with a cross in the background. The cross is part of the Methodist church in town, which is across the street from my house. This is a bit ironic since I am the pastor of the Baptist church in town. I have occasionally glanced at the cross and thought how neat it was to see, but I have never given it much thought. I was playing chase with my two youngest children a few days ago in the backyard. I looked up at the cross and thought, “I am so glad the cross is over my house.”
It is a reminder that I need the cross, not just over my house, but over my home. It is a reminder for me to die to myself for the sake of my family. It is a reminder that I need to show my family the very same love that motivated Jesus to die. It is also a reminder that the greatest need of my children is not to be good at sports, to have fashionable clothes, or to even get a good education. It is to submit their lives to Jesus, enjoying the benefits of the cross: Peace, Forgiveness, Love, and Joy, to name a few. You may not live across the street from a church, but is the cross over your home? Your family? Your marriage?
God is far more important than football. This is what I am reminding myself after the Saints, my favorite team, lost in heartbreaking fashion. Not only that, I was rooting for the Chiefs to defeat the Patriots for several reasons. That didn’t happen either. What a disappointment. This is a good time to pause and remember that life is not about who is or isn’t in the Superbowl. It isn’t about whether our team wins or loses. God must be the greatest passion and pursuit of our lives. Jesus must be the source of our joy and value, not who wins a ballgame. Perhaps we worship football a little too much. Perhaps we have made it into more than a game. We have made it an important part of who we are and how we feel. Maybe your team lost too. We need to ingest our humble pie and go back to God. Maybe your team won. Guard your heart. The source and joy of life is Jesus, not Tom Brady or Drew Brees.
I remember the excitement Christmas once brought. As I child I would sometimes sleep under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, excited to awaken and open presents. I now enjoy seeing the excitement of my children. Still, I admit, Christmas all too often loses its wonder. We unwrap presents, stuff our faces with ham, potatoes, and pies. Then we go back to feeling miserable, tired, and discontent. We often lose sight of what Christmas, and life, is all about – Jesus Christ. Yes, we mention the birth of Jesus. Your home may even display a nativity scene. Yet, Jesus seems to take a backseat to all the glitz and glamour of lights, trees, and gift cards. He seems to take a backseat the other 364 days of the year as well. As we say goodbye to Christmas and 2018, put Jesus front and center. He can bring you far more joy than any video game, purse, or tasty treat.
When you think of Winnie the Pooh, what comes to mind? Probably his love for honey! He is also a happy go lucky bear, that sees all of life as a grand adventure. What comes to mind when you contemplate Eeyore? He is always throwing a pity party, feeling sorry for himself. We could also talk about Piglet’s issues with anxiety and fears, but let’s focus just on Winnie and Eeyore. Which one are you like?
Do you wake up seeing the day as a new adventure? Or do you wake up assuming the day will be terrible?
Are you excited and passionate about life? Or are you bitter and in a foul mood?
Do people get excited and encouraged when they see you, or would they rather avoid your negative, sour attitude?
I admit, there are times I am like Eeyore. I feel down and discouraged. Life is good and life is bad. Which aspect we focus on determines our outlook and attitude . Sometimes I have to remind myself to cancel the pity party. To pray for God to give me joy. To call to mind Psalm 118:24, which reminds is that “this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” If it helps, eat some honey, too!
RUN GOD’S RACE
Anxiety Source: The rat race of life
Solution: Run God’s race
Arnie once had a rat named Stan. It was in middle school, which seems ages ago. Stan was technically a hamster, and his home was a small plastic box. A tiny exercise wheel was his one source of recreation. Stan would climb onto the wheel and spin it around. He stopped when exhausted. The next day he would start all over again. Poor Stan never got anywhere, but he sure worked hard at it. Arnie sometimes feels like Stan, stuck in the rat race of life. Arnie does his daily work schedule. Then he scurries to the grocery store, to the ballfield for his son, and then back to the store. Arnie keeps the wheel spinning at home with dishes and laundry. It’s an endless cycle with no end in sight. No wonder he’s so exhausted.
Hebrews 12:1-2, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”
Arnie realizes this rat race mentality is a source of his anxiety. The solution is to run God’s race, not the rat race. Do you ever feel like Arnie, like you are running the rat race of life? Do you keep the wheel spinning around, with no end in sight? If so, maybe it’s contributing to your anxiety.
This passage in Hebrews reminds us that life is a race. God never intended us to run the rat race of life. We are to run the race of faith instead. It’s a life that pleases God, a life that has eternity in mind, not just surviving the day. It’s a life that builds God’s kingdom, not ours. It’s full of meaning, not emptiness. We cannot avoid responsibilities at work, home, or church. However, the goal is to live each day by faith, trusting God, not running ragged like a weary rat. Get off the wheel. Run God’s race, not the rat race. Fix your eyes on Christ, not cheese!
Think: Am I focused more on the rat race or God’s race? How is this affecting my stress and anxiety? What will it take to run the right race?
Pray: “Lord, it’s so easy to fall into the rat race mentality. Help me run the race of faith instead. Show me what’s holding me back. Keep my focus on Jesus.”
Do: Eliminate something from your schedule contributing to your rat race mentality.
An excerpt from Truths for the Anxious Christian
My dad died 10 years ago today, on July 20. 2008. It’s hard to believe it has been that long. It some ways, it seems like it just happened. It also feels like an eternity ago. It especially seems like an eternity since this cheesy family picture was taken! What precious memories. I will never forget the times I spent with my dad: Hunting, fishing, working, worshiping. I will never forget his strong love for God and our family either. What is ironic is I am preaching a funeral today. It seems that I cannot escape the reality of death. But the reality of death makes life all the more precious. Treasure the gift of today. You never know when it will be your last. You never know when your dad, mom, or spouse will pass. Hug them today. Kiss them. Tell them you love them.
Ten years ago, on July 20, 2008, my dad died from cancer. It is hard to believe he has been gone that long. He was not just my dad. He was my hero and friend. The longer I go without my dad, the more I realize how blessed I was. My father was a man who truly loved God and his family. He never harmed me in any way, other than the spankings I deserved. I remember one time I had a spanking coming, and I put encyclopedias in my shorts to cushion the pain!
Some of you were blessed to have a father like mine. If so, make sure you thank God for it. It is rare to have a good and godly dad. Many of you weren’t blessed with a “good” dad. Maybe your father abandoned your mom. Maybe he abandoned you or even harmed you. Maybe he never left but was anything but a loving example. Some of you might not even know who your father is and/or have never met him.
When you became a Christian, you were adopted into the family of God. Now you have a Heavenly Father. Regardless of who your earthly father is, you have an awesome Dad. As Psalm 68:5 reminds us, God “is a father to the fatherless.” God cares for you. God loves you. God never does harm to you. God never leaves or forsakes you. Turn to your Heavenly Father now and embrace His love. Even though my dad was spectacular, he cannot compare to the great love and care of my Father in Heaven.
Suicide has dominated the headlines of late with Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Suicide is a sensitive subject but I feel I must write about it because:
- I understand the torment of depression accompanied by many
- I have helped people struggling with suicidal tendencies
- Close friends of mine have been affected by it
The deaths of these two successful individuals remind us that you can seem to have everything in the world but be empty. Also, you can pretend that all is well, yet be hurting deeply. What does Vacation Bible School have to do with this? These two deaths happened the very same week my church had our annual VBS. The lessons pointed to the truth that Jesus gives us everything we need. One lesson was on Lazarus, the one Jesus called out of the tomb and resurrected from the dead. It is a reminder that Jesus has power over all things. Because Jesus is alive, there is always reason for hope.
If you are struggling with depression, or contemplating suicide, don’t lose hope. Jesus is alive. He has the power to deliver you from your torments. He can give you what you need: Hope, joy, worth and value, something to believe in, and deep, unconditional love. If you are depressed or discouraged, tell someone. Get help. Ask God to get you through another day. If you know someone struggling, don’t be judgmental. Respond to them with the love of Christ. No one has a perfect life. Let’s not pretend that all is great. Let’s be real, honest, and open. Let’s hold one another up in this often difficult journey called life.
I went to Wal-Mart with marshmallow on my face. I had a spoonful of marshmallow crème recently, and a small piece invaded my beard. I didn’t realize it until I got home from shopping! I laughed as I thought, “O goodness, I was walking around the store and everyone saw it.” I am sure you have never had marshmallow in your beard, but you have had stains on your shirt. You bite into a hamburger and ketchup or mustard lands on you. Someone might say, “You have something on your shirt.” Otherwise, you go the rest of the day unaware. The same thing happens spiritually. We walk around with stains on our character and never realize it. For example:
- We are arrogant
- We lose our temper
- We habitually interrupt conversations
- We come across as bossy
We do this and are often unaware of it, even though everyone else sees it. Do you know someone like that? They have a flaw in their character and everyone knows it but them? Honestly, we probably all have flaws everyone detects but us. We all have marshmallow in our beards. We need a better sense of self-awareness, understanding who we really are and how we really act. Pray for wisdom and ask God to increase your self-awareness.