Remember

Thinking Back

“Remember when we did that right before Christmas?” she said, as her mind drifted back to relive the moment. She paused to savor the memory one more time.

Do you remember things that you are thankful for? Do you pause for a moment to savor the joy of that memory?

Recently, we earnestly prayed with a family in our church-body here in South Africa for their urgent need. This precious family had not been all together as a family for many years. Their oldest sons had moved to the States to go to college and one got married. Waiting for important government papers prevented their travel with their newly adopted children.

Many of us came before the Throne on their behalf and asked for God to be merciful to them if it be His will. We prayed for a long time. God did not act until it got very close to the wire. We knew that we could trust the LORD even if His answer was ‘no.’

But in the fullness of His plan, He gave them their request right when He chose to do so, at virtually the last minute. Oh, the rejoicing in our church. We wanted to sing and dance to celebrate with them. We were SO thankful. Full of thanksgiving. Overflowing with thanks!!🙌🏼

They were ALL together for Thanksgiving. As I rehearse that happening, I want to smile and thank God anew.

It is a good thing to REMEMBER. It is important for us to tell others, too, especially our children and people in our sphere around us. “Let me tell you of this awesome thing God did in the life of one of our friends!”

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:11-12

Remembering Builds Faith

In Joshua 4 the people of Israel were asked by the Lord to do a curious thing. One man from every one of the twelve tribes was to pick up a stone from the Jordan river as they passed through and carry it on their shoulder to the other side.

The children of Israel had weathered many hardships, and multiple challenges lay ahead. As they came upon the mighty Jordan river, the LORD did a miracle and dried up the river for all of them to cross over.

On the other side of the Jordan river at Gilgal, Joshua set up the twelve stones as a memorial to remember.

The Lord wanted them to have a physical reminder of God’s mighty power on their behalf.

“When your children ask their father in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground,’ For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

Joshua 4:21-24

As the generations would tell and retell what had happened, the remembrance of what took place would build faith for the next generation to also trust that God would direct and provide for them.

Th(i)nkful Remembrance

We are nearing the end of 2022. What are things for which you can remember to think thanks for this year?

But…what if this year has been full of raw, difficult pain? What then?

We run to the character of God. We chose to rest in His sovereignty of working ALL things in a divine plan to conform me to be like Jesus. We remember that this life is just a vapor, we are headed for a celestial home. The incredible treasure in hard things is that the Lord is with us right in those awful times. He holds us, He whispers that we need to wait on Him and take courage. We remember the myriad of other people who are going through similar struggles.

He is coming back for us. He promised. We wait with anticipation and with thankful remembrance of all that He has done for us. The main thing being that if we have trusted in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, He has forgiven all our sin, from the cradle to the grave.

What about making a time alone or with others, for which you express things you thank God for doing this year?

Thankfulness is a joy doubled.

David Brown

Choosing Companions

To Timothy, My Son

Most of us have concluded that the years 2020-2022 have been pretty world-changing. There was another set of three years long ago that brought a lot of change in the Middle East – the years 68-70AD. In that space, Peter was crucified upside down, Paul was beheaded, and Jerusalem and the second Jewish Temple were destroyed. Other apostles had already been martyred for the faith in Syria, Egypt, Greece, Armenia, Persia, and India.

Paul knew that this letter to Timothy (2 Timothy) was his last. His time to depart this earth was at hand (see 4:6). God had given Paul revelation about pieces and parts of end times prophecy, but as was typical of the Lord, He gave Paul no timelines. Paul thought it must be soon, maybe in the next 10-20 years. Paul knew other apostles were being killed, false teachers were building wealth and reputation in the church, and young men of the second generation, like Demas, were falling away.

How about Tim? Timothy was godly but the youngest of the Ephesian elders. He was timid. He had stomach issues. Paul chose his words carefully under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and encouraged Timothy to avoid the spirit of fear which is not from God. God through His Spirit gives power, love, and self control. He exhorted him to stay faithful and to entrust the gospel to faithful men.

The 19 Horribles

In the third chapter Paul gave Timothy a heads-up about how people would change in the last days before Jesus’ return. In only five verses, Paul listed the 19 Horribles. These characteristics have been around since Genesis, but toward the end, society will come under a dominant spirit of the age (zeitgeist) and be defined by it. You might feel these Horribles are strangely familiar.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Do you notice #7? Right there in the list of horribles … “ungrateful.” Just like “the hinge” in Romans 1:21 that started the long slide downward for society, unthankfulness and ungratefulness are no small sins. The Greek word means “without grace.” Ungratefulness emphasizes personal hurts, disadvantages, and inequalities, finds flaws and faults, embraces victimization, and rejects authority and society at large for messing everything up. The sister of ungratefulness, three words further on, is “unappeasable.”

“The wicked are always ungrateful.”

Miguel de Cervantes

Companions of Ungratefulness

It is a well-settled proverb that we imitate our companions (Proverbs 22:24-25). It is through others that we often invent, or reinvent, ourselves. We may dress alike, laugh the same, use the same phrases, and repeat their views about things. The companions of an ungrateful person will often become ungodly. You may say that is a harsh statement. I ask you to consider if it is true. The incessant highlighting of wrongs, faults, short-comings, and injustices will strongly impress the mind to also begin seeing the cup way below half-empty.

A person that is thankful and expresses that gratitude attracts different people. She knows there are big problems that require great thought, humility, and serious discussion, but she will highlight things in or around the situation that are cause for joy and cause to give credit to God or other people. This is not a matter of spinning the truth or “redefining reality,” but it is recognizing every reality as a mix of light and darkness, of beauty and brokenness, of merit and mess. It is a characteristic of greatness and great leaders.

It is possible that a believer well grounded in the faith and convinced of the Sovereign One’s control will be able to maintain heaven’s perspective in the midst of ungrateful company. But they will be thought of as alien. Ungrateful people think a chronically grateful person is “just unreal” or is “living in a make-believe reality.”

“Ingratitude is always a kind of weakness. I have never known men of ability to be ungrateful.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Steer Clear

At the end of the Horrible 19, Paul says, “Avoid such people.” Steer clear of them. Don’t seek their company. Paul used the word “avoid” in his letters to Timothy and Titus, saying to avoid quarrels, avoid irreverent babble, and avoid controversies. Similar idea. Ungrateful people are known for the skills of irreverently quarreling about controversies – fault-finding, knit-picking, and mocking.

Instead, Timothy was to surround himself with people who wanted to seek after God, to give credit to Him for what He had done, and to thank those used by God for making life and service a better experience.

So what about you?

First question: Are you described as a person who is ungrateful?

Second question: Do you hang out with ungrateful people?

Do some introspection and evaluate if you are th(i)nkful. Are you on a regular basis looking for things for which to think thanks? Do you express that thanks to God verbally or write it down?

I Do Not Take It For Granted

Removed

In April of 2022 the area around Durban, South Africa, received torrential rains.

Highways were flooded and homes were destroyed from landslides and water. At least 430 were reported to have passed away, with many more still missing. Such devastation and ruin. Food parcels were assembled and distributed. Collections for help to rebuild homes were taken up.

In our little complex of flats, we only lost water and power for several days. Otherwise, were just fine. It was interesting to see how frail we are in our great and powerful Western civilization; just take away our water and electricity, and we are in an absolute crisis. We had to carry water to flush the toilets and boil for drinking. It gave us a clearer picture of what it is like in our nearby rural communities to carry water for your daily needs.

Day after day we got the opportunity to learn that having access to water and power is something to be very thankful for indeed. We took it for granted, and when it wasn’t granted, we learned to value it.

The rural African lives far more like Jesus than we do. When Jesus walked on earth, He did not have running water, electricity, air conditioning, automobiles, or wifi. What was normal for him would now be a crisis for us.

All Of A Sudden

Then one morning I awoke to David saying that the power was back on. Hallelujah!! Later, water trickled from the faucet for several hours, but eventually came back in full.

I was so hit with the fact that I must NEVER take these things for granted. I am now so thankful for the absolute magic of looking intently, turning a faucet handle slowly … and there comes clean water!!

I am more thankful after going through the removal of the object. Like the old adage, “love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”

I know that my fleshly tendency will be to gravitate towards taking it for granted after a while, but I am fighting that with my whole being. I want to etch deeply in my mind that I must continue to be thankful for the conveniences technology has brought us, while being reminded not to let them make me too soft.

Thank You, Lord, for Reminders

Physical reminders can be quite effective. Going without water and electricity for many days sharply embedded in me a reminder to be thankful for those daily gifts. But I was meditating on a spiritual analogy to this loss of water as well.

Water in the Scripture is a picture of spiritual life itself. The nonbeliever goes about searching for meaning in the myriad dry wells of our cultures. The mirage of the new draws them foolishly to yet another dry well. They are like a desert shrub, like the chaff that the wind drives away (Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17:6).

But when God opens a lost person’s heart to the gospel and he or she receives the Word, they experience the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5, Ephesians 5:26). Their reborn spirit, indwelled by the Holy Spirit and fed by the Word of God, is referred to as “living water” which will never run dry and will bubble over for the benefit of others (John 4:14, 7:38).

Despite these lovely truths, there are times when I realize that I am spiritually thirsty and dried up. Sometimes it is because I have given out emotionally and spiritually for days without much of a rest. Sometimes it is because I have poured months of counsel into a soul only to experience their betrayal or to see them make woefully bad decisions. Sometimes it is because I have an idol or sin that I am not parting with (Psalm 32:4). Most often it is because I am not washing my mind with the Word to regain God’s perspective. I turn on the faucet and nothing comes out.

But I go down on my knees with tears, and I go to the Word, and I go to the Throne and pour out my heart … and that brokenness dislodges whatever stone was covering the well. The water begins to flow again. “It’s going to be ok. Self, speak truth! Self, give me God-soaked counsel!”

“Well,” I whisper to myself, “through Jesus’ sacrifice in my place, I was forgiven of all my sins (from the cradle to the grave) all at once, I was reconciled with the Creator God and was placed in right standing in His family and Kingdom. I am set to inherit from Him one day. One day soon, Jesus will return for me and my brothers and sisters. This earth is my only hell, and I will live out His mission for my life …” and I end up shouting out with my finger in the air, “because I want to make Him happy, and that’s all that matters!” Guess what? The water is on. He has washed me with His word.

Meditating and saturating my thoughts on all that I have in Christ is fodder for thinking thanks. Recently my husband handed out a paper during a message with the title “Who I Am In Christ.” I have it tucked in my Bible to remind me daily. He has given me so very much in Jesus.

Changed

This temporal removal of having something I needed every day, changed me. It prompted thinking thanks. I want to remain changed. May I not take gifts from the Father for granted.

Water and power are wonderful commodities, but even more importantly, spiritual cleansing and power are essential. I must have that living water and not let the well get blocked. Worse yet, I must never go after the empty wells of my culture.

God offers water full and free flowing to me and to you. It will always be there for us. Torrential rains and flooding will not obstruct it. Receive it with gratitude and cherish it.

I do not take it for granted!

Schedule It In

Do You Plan?

Do you use a planner? I tend to write things up on my monthly chalkboard in the kitchen and then keep paper slips as reminders. I do love to draw a big fat line through something that I have accomplished. 🙂

Well, we are way into 2022. The days are marching consistently on whether we give them permission or not. Seconds slip into minutes, minutes conspire to slide passed hours, hours suddenly become yesterdays, days blur into weeks, and weeks disappear into months. How are you doing? Staying on top of things or dragging underneath?

Check this out:

Nicolas Brown has designed his own daily planner, which prioritizes tasks, lists issues to deal with, and includes a section on th(i)nkfulness to begin the day with the right frame of mind.

The caveat, of course, to any effort at planning is that we yield everything to the Divine Editor of our moments and days. Proverbs 16:9 states: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

We do our part in planning our day and seeking to discover the will of the Father, but ultimately the Father may have added some twists and turns that were not at all part of our plan. Then, like a good GPS, we must recalculate and embrace His will. That is at least what we should be doing. Living it out could be another story.

Schedule It In

One thing we know for sure that whatever the Father’s will is for us today, it will include thinking thanks. He commands us to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you. (I Thessalonians 5:18). The Lord wants us to be th(i)nkful in whatever situation we find ourselves in. But beyond the incidental, we can schedule that into our day.

Carving those brain neural pathways of th(i)nkfulness is a matter of obedience, but it is so much more. It helps us process things. It promotes mental health. It edifies us. It wipes the lenses and clarifies our biblical worldview. It encourages us to see God’s fingerprints even in the darkest of human challenges. We can rehearse God’s promises to us even when we are overwhelmed and feeling low. Especially then.

  • We need to keep a “big-God theology.” Our God is BIG!
  • He is sovereign in all the details of my life.
  • He is not surprised at my hardship.
  • He knows that, with His enabling, I can trust Him in this season.
  • He gives me His Word as a ‘How To Process.”
  • This life is a vapor and will soon be over.
  • He is coming back for His Beloved Bride.
  • He is using the present situation to conform me a little closer to the image of Jesus as I yield to Him.
  • My peace does not have to be dependent on my circumstances (2 Thessalonians 3:16).

Living Out The Plan

So how do I hit the “Play” button?

Nick uses a paper that he prints off and places it into a disc binder for easy assimilation. You may have a different daily planner. I use a th(i)nkful journal in which I record things at night before I go to bed. I have been doing a th(i)nkful journal for many years now, and it has developed a way of thinking in my brain such that, throughout the day, I am on the hunt for things that will make it into the journal that evening. It pushes me to look for things for which I can give thanks to God. That mental action has become part of my daily plan.

Sometimes I just want to rehearse Scripture in my th(i)nkful journal – so thankful for the living Word of God that can change our perspective and help us get our eyes on things above and not on things on earth (Colossians 3:2).

Just a heads up that it might be helpful to have an accountability partner as you develop this brain neural pathway. Having someone touch base with you and ask how you are doing in that department can be the nudge to keep you carving. 🙂

Here’s my accountability partner.

“The way we spend our time defines who we are.”

Jonathan Estrin

Everything…in All Things

Very, Very Close

Jerry Bridges is one of my favorite authors. His classic, Trusting God, devotes the last chapter to ‘Giving Thanks Always.’ I just re-read that this morning as I am going through this book with a young lady that I am mentoring. Here, at the very end of his exhorting us to trust God even when life hurts, he emphasizes the importance of thinking thanks.

“The basis for giving thanks in the difficult circumstances is all we have been learning about God in this book: His sovereignty, wisdom, and love, as they are brought to bear upon all the unexpected and sudden shifts and turns in our lives. In short, it is the firm belief that God is at work in all things – all our circumstances – for our good.”

Jerry Bridges

The words “in everything” from I Thessalonians 5:18 and “in all circumstances” in Romans 8:28 are very, very close in the Greek and even in English. It is precisely because I can trust that God is working all circumstances together for my good – chiseling, sanding, poking, heating, smoothing and varnishing me – to make me like Jesus, that I can give thanks in everything.

Thanksgiving, the Opposite of Pride

When you give thanks, you are admitting that you received something. You needed something, and then you received it … and so you acknowledge the help, you throw the credit to another person. You are confessing that you are not self-sufficient. You have been dependent. You are a debtor.

While many nonbelievers feel and express their thankfulness, the world’s value system struggles with thankfulness, instead emphasizing what we lack, or mythically claiming that our own inner resources brought us success. Thankfulness toward God is especially set at naught because He is not truly a part of their worldview; they are trying to suppress any recollection of Him.

“Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Romans 1:21

For those of us who have trusted in Christ alone for our salvation, we are different. Our worldview says that God is close, that He knows and cares, that He sovereignly ordains and orchestrates all our circumstances for our good and His glory. If the trial was no longer developing our good and His glory, it would immediately end. We should feel inwardly compelled to give thanks! Part of the sanctification process started at salvation is to renovate our fleshly tendency of ingratitude into a spirit of gratitude as a fruit of the Spirit working in us.

We humble ourselves before God and cast our anxieties on Him because he cares for us (I Peter 5:6-7). We accept the adversities with His help and give thanks even for “thorns” – the pains, the delays, the heartaches, the frustrations – that come our way. As Thomas Brooks wrote years ago, we should be “mute Christians under the smarting rod,” except for giving the thanks we give for the design in the disaster.

God is Good at Being God

The foundation for how we can think thanks in all circumstances is that we trust a sovereign God. He can handle our trust. He is good at being God. 🙂 Oh, that I would be quick to get to this point.

Always look for the fingerprints. They are all over the place. He is the Master Artist and is taking all the pieces of my life and putting it together for his glory. I can praise Him even when I don’t see the full picture yet. It will be so good.

“The way to cast our anxieties on the Lord is through humbling ourselves under His sovereignty and then trusting Him in His wisdom and love.”

Jerry Bridges

The Encouragement Board

Shifting Your Focus

“Not again!” she said as her daughter spilled milk all over the kitchen floor. She had barely finished cleaning up the first mess. It seemed like lately all she was seeing were the negative things in her children. She knew that this was not the best way to go through a day, but she was tired, and she was missing her husband since he had to be away working long hours as a Covid nurse. Something had to change!

Let me introduce you to a creative momma who came up with a marvelous idea. Instead of focusing on all the negative things that the kids were doing throughout the day, she chose to look for things that were an encouragement, and she wrote them down on an “encouragement board.”

If she came across something that was nice, she would jot it down ~ maybe the children played quietly for half an hour mid-morning, or perhaps one child said ‘thank you’ without being prompted, or she observed a kind gesture. These were the things that Lori would record.

Then after dinner, she would gather the kids around and read the compilation from the Encouragement Board out loud for all to hear. The kids smiled, giggled and added comments. What a nice way to end the day before bed! The children would head to bed thinking of the blessings that had made their way to mom’s Encouragement Board. And of course, a seed thought was planted in their minds of what they would do the next day that might make it to the board.

We could say that “adversity is the mother of invention.” Below is this precious family.

“When you’re thankful for what you have….the list of things to be thankful for seems to grow.”

Melanie Beckler

Focus is a Choice

When you are going through particularly difficult days, what do you meditate on? It is the slack, lazy and simple mind that goes with the flow; it chooses not to choose; it selects the “slave to external stimuli” mode.

A wise mind embraces the conscious discipline of choosing what to think on. With introspection, it considers options; it rejects lies and worthless, dead-end, dry-well ideas and, guided toward a God-perspective by the Word and the Spirit, selects things more positive and edifying. Thankfulness is at the core of this mindset.

I love how Paul in Romans 12:1-2 challenges us to be transformed in our thinking. The Greek word means metamorphosis, like when Jesus went from His normal appearance into a transformed, radiant appearance. This is no small thing in our lives. It takes mental choice to change thought paths and embrace God’s admonition to give thanks in all situations.

It is easy to be physically lazy; it is easy to be mentally lazy. But in the long run, it can kill you. Following impulses, emotions and the values of the world is just so natural, but God has called us to lives of supernatural thinking, speaking and behaving. How about starting your own “Encouragement Board?”

Learning A Secret

The Joy of a Secret

Do you have a secret about how to do something well? Some little-known way to make a meal or a moment really special for other people? Something that is a winner every time? Not a bad secret. Not luscious gossip about another person. Not a way to get rid of people you don’t like. A delightful secret to getting a job done.

Recently I became aware of a secret to making grilled cheese ~ mayonnaise!!! Spreading a layer of mayo on the bread before grilling the sandwich makes it grill evenly, look delicious, and taste like you used butter. 🙂 I was overjoyed to learn this secret, I love knowing this secret, and well, ok, I guess I love passing it along … so it can hardly be called a “secret” anymore.

Learning A Secret Cure

But there is another huge secret that I would love to whisper in your ear. This secret is much more important than grilled cheese. This secret has to do with fighting depression and angst. It is a key to processing life, the downs, dark shadows and despair that come our way.

This secret did not originate with me, but instead with the One who created us and knows us better than we know ourselves. The Apostle Paul had a life and ministry that was hard on his body – hiking mountain passes, coping with his ship going down, and getting attacked by mobs. Sometimes, he received a financial gift; at other times he had to pay his own way. He wrote this from prison:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13

Learning Paul’s Secret

Here is Paul’s secret: I have learned to be content.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “content” as an adjective meaning “in a state of peaceful happiness.” Someone has said that “contentment is wanting what you have, not having what you want.”

Whether I am going through a very discouraging time or whether I am riding high on the wind of accomplishment and joy, I can choose to be content and be th(i)nkful. That seems almost impossible. How can I be content, in a state of peaceful happiness, when I feel my life is falling apart? Feels bizarre.

The secret key is how you process the happenings in your life. What are you thinking about? Whose perspective are you choosing?

Fight for the Secret Key

Importantly, Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13 that he has learned the secret of being content. Learning typically means chosen and fought for. When you learn another language, you must choose to do so and then persistently fight to follow through. Paul learned contentment. I wonder how many times he failed while trying to learn.

Can I also learn this secret? Can I craft brain neural pathways of contentment? Of course I can. God gives the “how-to” in the last verse. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Christ wants me to choose contentment, to fight for contentment, and when I fail, to choose contentment again. Call out to Him for His strength in order to be content with what He has allowed in my life.

The Outside and Inside

But contentment is about my view of things outside of me, my circumstances. My only discontentment should be about what inside of me is unlike Him. I must never be content with the extent of my fallenness, my fleshliness, or my rebel sighs against my circumstances and their Author.

You see, in God’s mind, our externals are about our internals. Our circumstances are meant to test and change our hearts and the hearts of those watching us. He does not waste pain or difficulty. God has designed my challenges and my successes, my wealth and my poverty, my health and my disabilities. He is behind everything in my life. In Isaiah 45:7, our God makes it very plain:

“I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the LORD, who does all these things.”

Isaiah 45:7

Part of the choosing and fighting for contentment is choosing to search for things for which you are thankful. Th(i)nkfulness produces contentment. I can be thankful for what is going well and talk about the “glass half full.” I can be thankful that I don’t need whatever seems to be lacking because God has promised to meet all of my needs.

I can be thankful for pain and loss and sorrow because I am learning, I am dying to my own will, I am becoming deep and not shallow, I am praying more than ever, I am more sympathetic to others suffering in the same way, I am receiving His grace to overcome, I have His presence and attention through this, I may get extra gospel opportunities, I have a hope that this too will pass, and if I die, it will be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Summing up, the secret to fighting depression and angst is to repeatedly express my thankfulness to the Author of my circumstances, and then to fight my way through many, many lessons, with His strength, to learn contentment. Now, go and share your secret with somebody else.

“Be content with what you have for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5

The Cure of Anxiety

Looking for a Cure

Cure is an interesting word. Some define a “cure” as relief from the symptoms of a disease. Others define it as something that causes a recovery from a disease. And still other sources define a cure as a complete and permanent solution or remedy.

So, a cure can be defined on three levels … ending the symptoms, ending the disease in one person, or ending the disease in an area or globally.

What’s saddest is when the treatments or cures for a disease are out there, but people don’t know about them or have access to them. For instance, there are treatments and a cure for tuberculosis (TB), and yet South Africa has almost 60,000 deaths a year, about 7 deaths per hour, from TB, far worse than our Covid-19 deaths.

Worldwide Anxiety

One of the greatest “diseases” the world says we face now is the dis-ease of the mind – anxiety. Our present world is infected with anxiety disorders.

“The early years of the 21st century have witnessed a worldwide epidemic of poor mental health and related illnesses. But while depression is the condition most will associate with mental health issues, and is the leading cause of disability worldwide, it is not the number one mental health concern people face. That unwanted accolade goes to anxiety.

World Economic Forum

The very imprecise statistics regarding anxiety disorders worldwide are that 264 million people (4% of the population) struggle with anxiety disorders. Yet studies in places like the United States and South Africa consistently show almost 20% of the population struggles with some sort of anxiety disorder. Women make up roughly 63% of the total number.

Unpacking Anxiety

A simple definition of anxiety could be: distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. The world says there are a multitude of recognized anxiety disorders that cause worry and stress due to social interactions, personal health, safety, work, or a particular phobia.

There is generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, selective mutism and separation anxiety disorder, to name the most common.

God Speaks About Anxiety

How I wish that there was a vaccine for anxiety! We could all have a shot and then be very unlikely to fall prey to the “disease” of anxiety. But alas, there is no such thing.

Some people seem to have a natural resistance to anxiety, an indomitable cheerfulness, a determination to see the bright side and to suppose that things will work out just fine. I love those people. I am not those people.

A grave mistake many strugglers make is simply taking meds to dull or mask the symptoms without those meds being part of a larger game plan to deal with root causes in the mind and heart. Anxiety takes root in our thinking.

There are quite a few verses on anxiety actually:

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down,
But a good word makes it glad.

Proverbs 12:25

Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:4

Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.
Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

John 14:27

When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.

Psalm 56:3

Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplications
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6

There are many more. This is just a small sampling.

Here is God’s cure. Our Creator, who made all our emotions and abilities to think and reason, gave us this prescription. He encourages us to run to Him with our anxious thoughts.

Does He know how pervasive and consuming those thoughts and fears are in our lives?

How Do I Heal From Anxiety?

Anxiety is a cruel and excruciating struggle. It elevates your heart rate and blood pressure, steals away your sleep, shortens your emotional fuse, robs your joy, mocks your hope, draws in your entire prayer time on one topic, and distracts your focus, even destroying your ability to read God’s Word and think about what it says.

To rewind, unpack and process through deep anxieties is a very engrossing, difficult task, especially if the anxiety has had time to grow long entwining roots. If you are experiencing anxiety, here are several things to ponder and consider doing:

A loving and sovereign God is sovereign of my circumstances, present and future. God is God and I am not. Much of my anxiety has to do with loss of control, a projection that the ambiguous future will turn out badly, which is not trusting in my God or believing that He is loving and will help.

I am not alone. I am not the first one to face trials like mine. Others have done so successfully. God will suit the trial to my capacities – He has checked that I can handle it with His help. God will bring me out in His time and way if I wait on Him and trust in Him. All of these ideas are in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

God created the Sabbath for human beings, and Jesus called us to give Him our burdens so that He could give us rest. Much of my anxiety might be over-busyness and a corresponding loss of perspective. Perhaps I need to retreat to a quiet place or speak with an objective voice, an advocate outside my world to regain peace and perspective.

God’s Word is alive and can help me battle temptations to worry and despair. I can write out scripture verses that deal with anxiety and put those cards in a place where my eyes will see them. Twice a day, and when I feel the coming crush of anxiety, I will read those verses out loud, and meditate on them.

Rather than using my negative creativity to imagine a horrible future, I choose to look at the good that God has surrounded me with. I will actively, consistently choose to be grateful and form brain neural pathways of thinking thanks. I will get in the habit of writing out at least five things daily that I am thankful for.

Anxiety doesn’t forbid me to say thank you … or does it????

Complaining Shrinks Your Brain

How Big Is Your Brain?

A Southern Living article highlighted some recent research revealing that when you complain on a consistent basis, it actually shrinks your hippocampus. Talk about a health hazard!!

Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining, or even being complained to, for 30 minutes or more can physically damage the brain. Seriously. Complaining has been found to shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain critical to problem solving and intelligent thought, by physically peeling away neurons.

For most of us, complaining has become such a part of life that it barely registers. We have developed “easy-complain” neural pathways that are greased and ready in our brains. Negative, murmuring, fault-finding, coming-up-short, not-quite-right, glass-half-full, this-will-end-badly thoughts find no barrier or balance but are drawn into the grooves quickly and easily. We have become pathological complainers.

Medium post by Mission.org explains this phenomenon perfectly: “The more you complain about things like flakey friends or being asked to push up a project’s deadline, the more neurons in your brain stitch themselves together to easily facilitate this kind of information. Before you know it, complaining becomes so easy for your brain to grasp, you start doing it without even consciously registering the behavior.”

Obedience Brings Brain Health

But even more motivating than the fact that grumbling and complaining shrinks our brains should be God’s instruction to us in Philippians 2:14, ” Do all things without grumbling ….”

God, who created the brain with all its function, also knows how we are to use it. At face value, thankfulness rather than complaining may seem like one of those good ideas God would want us to do for His pleasure. Yet as we look deeper into His ways, His commandments and precepts, we find that they are not burdensome but are specifically designed for our benefit and well-being. There is actually a link between thankfulness and your health, and specifically the size and function of your brain.

Give thanks in all circumstances,” He admonishes us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. He describes a successful person as “abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7).

The thoughts you allow to have free reign in your brain neural pathways are what you eventually become. Without discipline, you can allow sinful thoughts to program your mind and alter the electro-physical patterns of your brain. This will make positive changes to your thinking much harder to achieve later on. Aggressive weeding of complaining early on is essential to develop brain fitness and power.

Substitute th(i)nkfulness for complaining! Pull up a level or two to God’s perspective. Choose to form neural pathways of looking for things to think thanks about and express that thanks to God, others, and yourself. Let your ears hear your gratitude.

Basically, your brain makes sure that complaining begets more complaining, sabotaging itself in the process. So, the next time you find yourself on the verge of a grumble-fest, try to shift your focus to something you’re grateful for—your brain and your friends will thank you.

https://www.southernliving.com/news/complaining-changes-your-brain

The Aroma

Aroma Drifting In

The loud sound of grinding coffee beans burst forth from the kitchen … followed predictably and delightfully by the aroma of coffee grounds, and then a few minutes later, by the wafting wonderfulness of freshly brewed coffee. I couldn’t see it, but its presence was detected by the nose.

Steaming hot water poured over crushed coffee beans creates a specific aroma. I don’t drink coffee myself, but I sure enjoy the smell of coffee.

Fragrance of Christ

God uses the picture of aroma when describing us walking in victory with Him. All the glory goes to Him. He has conquered us. It is His victory that we get to be part of. He has taken us captive. We are vehicles of the fragrance of Christ.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”

2 Corinthians 2:14-15

John MacArthur describes diffusing the fragrance of His knowledge this way: “The imagery comes from the strong, sweet smell of incense from the censers in the triumph parade, which, along with the fragrance of crushed flowers strewn under horses’ hooves, produced a powerful aroma that filled the city. By analogy, every believer is transformed and called by the Lord to be an influence for His gospel throughout the world.”

Have you pondered what that aroma of Christ smells like?

We are emanating a fragrance. We smell.

When the Lord describes us spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere, I envision a person who is reflecting Jesus. Through our engaging of people, our thoughtful and kind words, our facial expressions, and our body language, we are wafting unmistakable scents that, in God’s estimation, smell better than coffee, jasmine, or fresh pastry … they smell like His Son who paid for our sins on the cross and rose again to be victor over death and the grave.

But there is a crowd of unregenerate believers watching our procession. To some, the aroma emanating from the procession is repulsive and offensive, representing ignorance and delusion; in their thinking, these people are just captured slaves of the victor, brainwashed, hopeless. Others are still watching and sniffing; some may be your children.

But there are others in the crowd whose hearts are strangely enamored with the victor who seems to be a benign conqueror who has actually taken these people captive for their own good. The heads of the slaves are high, their faces noble; some are even smiling. No one is struggling to break loose; they carry no shame or fear. Amazingly, they are slaves who have been set free from their old world. The sight and the smell draw the watchers forward and they feel this strange compulsion to jump into the procession; to join the slaves.

What Fragrance Are You?

Missionary Dawn Perry shared with me recently that she had been studying about this triumphal procession that the Lord leads us in. We are in this parade, not because of ourselves, but because of what Christ has done.

And as we walk through life in this procession, we give off a fragrance that not only reminds our God of His Son, but is affecting the onlooking crowd as well. Verses 15-16 continue: “we are a fragrance … among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” Will the crowd be drawn to us or repelled by us? Every act, every word to a nonbeliever who knows I am a believer either pulls or pushes them. We are being watched. We are being smelled.

Dawn highlighted the Th(i)nkful Tree concept. She recalled that when we choose to embrace and think thanks about the hard things in our lives, we are like the tree drawing up the living water from where our roots are grounded to keep our leaves green. Living leaves smell different from dead leaves, and the blossoms that break forth after a tough winter bring their own wafting scents and feathery joys.

The testimony of a person practicing th(i)nkfulness gives off a strong fragrance of Christ. Oh, may we smell good! To our God chiefly, but also to a sniffing and skeptical world.

Th(i)nkful: (adj) describing people who choose to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in their life and to express that thanks orally or in written form.