The Evil Within

A number of years ago there was a column in the local newspaper written by a psychologist. The column was what one would expect as it dealt with the problems common to people, like depression, anxiety, relationships and so forth. Since the psychologist did not possess a biblical worldview, terms related to nature or nurture, mental illness and the various treatments were common until one day it all seemed to unravel for this particular psychologist.

The psychologist (not a religious person by his own admission) had a patient that he could not neatly fit into the DSM IV categories. The reason? The psychologist came to believe the man he was counseling was simply evil. The psychologist seemed to conclude that the man did not possess a moral barometer (something Christians would call a conscience). The psychologist was shaken by his conclusion and it led him to consider the spiritual nature of people-something that his training had not explored or considered as it applied to human behavior.

That is what came to my mind in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre. What we heard by way of explanation was that the shooter was “crazy”, “sick”, “distraught”, “unhinged” and so forth.  All of that was followed by the usual blame the gun, blame politicians and pleas to “do something” while never suggesting anything specific that would have mattered.

Psychology does not consider evil like the Bible does and our culture is fully immersed in psychological (mostly materialistic\Darwinian) explanations and categories.

Psychology does not consider sin (although a religious psychologist might) and is thus reluctant to deal in moral categories and thus would not label a heinous act as evil\sin but rather as a type of disease, sickness or temporary insanity. That’s what bothered the psychologist I mentioned above. He dealt with mental illnesses, not moral categories and certainly not people given over to evil and the revelation shocked him.

The Bible, on the other hand, diagnoses our fundamental problem. Here is the apostle Paul quoting from, mostly, the Psalms in the Old Testament:

Romans 3:10-18

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
       no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
        no one does good,
        not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
        they use their tongues to deceive.”
   “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14  “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16      in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The passage turns on its head the notion that people are “basically good” and when they do bad, evil things like mass murder, they have some mental illness or disease. While not all people act out all the evil they are capable of (thank God), some do and we witness it on a daily basis. Yet, the majority of people remain blind to “the evil within.”

We really should not expect an unbelieving world to grasp all the ramifications of evil since the unbelieving world does not have a fear of God (vs 18). Without that fundamental fear of God the world will always look for solutions for people’s problems apart from considering “the evil within” and will continue to treat evil as a mental illness and\or blame game to gain political points.

Every time there is a terrorist attacks or a mass murder I go into a frustrated funk and grieve about our sin sick world. It takes me a day or two to once again comprehend what is truly going on.

A western person given over to evil can orchestrate a Las Vegas type massacre just as easily as a religiously minded Islamic terrorist.  There is little difference since both spring from a belief system that does not consider the God of the Bible nor mankind’s essential problem of the evil within us all.

What are we to do?

Our theology will control our reaction to these things or something else will. At the very least we can come to understand that God can use horrible evil situations to draw attention to the fact of evil (and the spiritual realm in general) and begin to open the minds of survivors to truth and thus provide the one and only remedy to the evil within us all:

Romans 3:21-24
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

IABC Conference, August 2017

Recently, I rejoined the I.A.B.C. (International Association of Biblical Counselors) and attended the conference in Denver, Colorado on August 3-5. I was blessed by the experience and impressed with the certification ministry that I was first certified with many years ago.

The name for the conference was Real Life, Real Answers-It’s Not a Game! The conference was hosted (hospitality excellent) by Life Fellowship Church in Westminster (suburb of Denver), under the leadership of Senior Pastor Ed Bulkley who is also President of the IABC.

The schedule included three partial days of general sessions and numerous workshops.

Over the years, my wife and I have attended many biblical counseling training conferences by both the IABC and ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) and listened to many speakers and instructors.  We’ve learned much and as a certified biblical counselor with both organizations I usually select the topics and speakers where I stand to gain the most insight and knowledge.

At the IABC Conference two sessions stand out. Both had two parts and we had to make a choice between them in one time slot.

Jim Berg led the first session we attended.   Jim’s name is familiar to anyone who has been blessed by Changed Into His Image. My wife and I have done Changed into His Image and have led others through it. Jim’s workshop was titled: Unmasking Addictions: Determining the Primary Cause of Enslaving Behaviors.

The workshop description is as follows:

The battle over underlying cause(s) of addiction continues to rage today. Are addictions determined by moral choices or by neurobiological, hereditary, and environmental influences? God’s sufficient Word roots the final cause in the fallen human heart and provides the proper interpretation for today’s scientific findings. Surprisingly, many secular researchers and practitioners have arrived at causes that reflect what God has already told us in His Word. Those same evidence-based voices counter current popular beliefs (i.e. “Once a drunk, always a drunk,” “You are always in recovery,” etc.)

What Jim seems to mean by this is that due to God’s common grace, secular and often non-spiritual researchers and therapists have discovered that genetic theories, metabolic theories, conditioning theories and adaptation theories, regardless of observations made, do not place the weight of responsibility upon the human heart but they recognize that something is amiss.

What this means to the believer, even an addicted one is that he or she can make choices that align with God’s expectations for His creatures..

Jim provided written evidence (quotes) from the secular sources to make his point. He added that although these researchers counter the prevailing myths their use of psychological terminology do not imply his personal endorsement. In other words many of the experts recognize the problem but fall way short of realizing the answers that are found only in Christ and His Word.

Jim has built on Changed Into His Image with a discipleship curriculum titled Freedom that Lasts. He reports success with it and when I asked him how it compares to the popular Celebrate Recovery he simply responded by saying that Celebrate Recovery is just another 12 step program (something that I’ve heard from other biblical addiction counselors.) and that Freedom That Lasts is not.

I intend to research Freedom that Lasts more. Jim’s website is http://www.freedomthatlasts.com/store

The other sessions my wife and attended that had the most impact were led by Dr. Daniel Berger II. His two-part session description reads as follows:

Most people today believe that psychoactive substances and psychotherapies are proven remedies for mental and behavioral problems categorized in the DSM-V as mental illnesses. Biological psychiatrists in particular and society in general are convinced not only that psychiatric disorders are biological diseases, but also that psychoactive drugs are agents that will fix genetics variances, supplying missing chemicals, and correct brain dysfunctions. In other words, mind-controlling drugs are believed to be medicines that require dependence in order to restore the mind\psyche\soul. But what does Scripture say about attempting to treat the soul with mind-controlling substances?  These sessions will look at what is actually taking place in psychopharmacology from both Biblical and psychiatric perspectives.

It’s beyond the purpose of a blog to chronicle the boatload of information that was downloaded in Dr. Berger’s two sessions. Sufficient to say, I can’t say I’ve seen so much research listed and footnoted like Dr. Berger has done in order to make his point. Impressive is the word.

His central point, in addition to the Bible has the answers, is that top-gun secular researchers and psychiatrists (often non-Christians) know that mind-controlling drugs and the current construct of mental illness is not a solution and that the system is broken. Berger is quick to note that at the clinical level its pretty much business as usual-an alarming contradiction!

Dr. Berger has written a five-volume set of books titled Mental Illness, short volumes that emphasis a different aspect of the issue(s). I am about midway through the first volume and am impressed with Dr. Berger’s research and how he uses the “top-gun experts” own words to illustrate their own lack of confidence in the current construct of mental illness.  Frankly, this makes me sad to realize that the experts know something of the truth because of God’s common grace.  At the “does it matter level” it doesn’t seem to matter because the clinicians and doctors continue to prescribe mind-altering drugs to fix spiritual heart issues. Dr. Berger pointed out this inconsistency in his lectures.

In addition to the five volume set, Dr. Berger has written Teaching a Child to Pay Attention and The Truth About ADHD. His website is drdanielberger.com

I wish to thank the IABC for an excellent conference and Life Fellowship for the wonderful hospitality. I’d like to encourage my readers to check out the IABC at iabc.net as well as Jim Berg’s website and Dr. Berger’s.

The Heart of Domestic Abuse {Book Review}

The Heart of Domestic Abuse by Chris Moles

I first heard Chris Moles speak on domestic abuse in Lafayette, IN at Faith Baptist Church during a training conference for the ACBC (Association of Christian Biblical Counselors) an organization, which I’m a certified member.

His opening remarks regarding the presence (or even prevalence) of domestic abuse among professing evangelicals took me back to a time early in my ministry when I suggested to my Sr. Pastor that something seemed amiss in a particular family. He replied that I would not want to know half of what went on in the church.

Chris’ comments about domestic abuse in the church line up with what that pastor said. Domestic abuse is not something most pastors want to deal with or even think they are qualified to deal with even if they wanted to.

Therefore, Chris’ book is a needed resource to the church so that awareness is raised about this devastating sin. Chris does more than raise awareness; he provides the biblical tools to deal with abuse.

The book’s content is as follows:

Chapter 1: The Heart of the Matter
Chapter 2: Behaving Badly
Chapter 3: Motives Matter
Chapter 4: Self-worship, Pride, and the Heart of Abuse
Chapter 5: Beliefs
Chapter 6: Power Plays

The first six chapters set the profile of the domestic abuser. The next five chapters serve as a blueprint on how to counsel an abuser. A case study is part of each chapter as Chris gives a real life example of both the profile of an abuser as well as the heart change that is necessary to stop the violence and convert a man to loving his wife as Christ loves the church.

Chapter 7: Good News for a Troubling Subject
Chapter 8: Hope for the Violent Man
Chapter 9: The Mind of Christ: An Alternative to a Violent Heart
Chapter 10: Wanting Something More
Chapter 11: A Call to Authenticity

Five helpful appendixes follow:

  1. Select Scripture References that Speak to Abuse
  2. Behavior Inventory
  3. Advocate Questionnaire
  4. Church Discipline and Abuse
  5. Teen Dating Violence

Chris’ methodology is familiar to any biblical counselor as he stresses the importance of heart change rather than behavioral modification. The book is rich in Scripture-based diagrams, explanations and the use of specific passages.

Chris is a pastor in West Virginia but also works as a certified batterer intervention group facilitator, contributor and instructor with state agencies and local criminal corrections.

I am sure that Chris’ book will be popular in any church that practices biblical counseling and where the pastor(s) are not afraid to counsel their own people.

Chris Moles Website    http://www.chrismoles.org

A Show Worth Watching

Last week, there was a special showing of Is Genesis History? in movie theaters.  I became aware of it rather late so my ability to encourage people to watch it was quite limited.  However, Kim and I did go and found it to be very well done in every way.  If I had one complaint it would be that they tried to cover too much in the two hours.  But, in reality, it also caused me to realize that there are several avenues of further study that I can now pursue.

All of this to say, the response was quite good for the movie and the producers are going to have two more presentations of it in early March.  I would like to strongly urge you to consider watching this movie.  It is rather vogue right now in the Church to dismiss the early chapters (1-11) as something less than historical or true and its effects is felt even in Missio Dei Fellowship.  Regardless of your position on these early chapters, it is worth your time and mind to go and watch it.  You can go to their site to find a theater near you.

One point to consider, they encourage only those twelve and older to watch the show.  I would say that unless your twelve year old is used to thinking and listening carefully on more technical issues that you raise that age to around fifteen or sixteen.  There is a lot of data given and a lot of points made so don’t think this is just entertainment.  It is a shot across the bow of the teachings that abound in our schools and, sadly, even in our churches.

Parenting the Old Fashioned Way

A few years ago I was taking my then 3-year-old grandson down to the lake to fish. A man approached me from our condo association and struck up a conversation that went on for about twenty minutes. My grandson patiently sat down on the grass and uttered not a word other than to say hello to the man and tell him his name. At the end of our conversation the man commented on my grandson’s patience. I replied that he was being trained to not interrupt and to wait patiently until the adults were finished talking. The man marveled that it was even possible to train a three-year-child patience and to not interrupt.

Sadly, the man’s comment reflected what many parent’s seem to believe today about parenting. Instead of devising a methodology of child discipline parents today seem to gravitate to psychology or screaming to get their children to obey.

All that and more came to mind as I discovered an ad in the July 27th, 1918 issue of The Literary Digest. The ad is titled, Mistakes Parents Make-How to Avoid Them.

The ad encourages parents to send a coupon  in order to receive a free 24 page book titled New Methods in Child Training by Professor Ray C. Beery.

From what I could Google, I discovered that Professor Beery was part of a group called the Parent’s Association. I also discovered via Amazon that some, if not all of Beery’s books on parenting are still available in reprint form. The twenty-four page free offer which appeared in many magazines and newspapers of the time was obviously designed to get parents to order and pay for the larger volumes which totaled four in number.

The intriguing part of the ad that was designed to “hook” the parent is titled, “Do you know how…”

  1. …to instruct children in the delicate matters of sex?
  2. …to always obtain cheerful obedience?
  3. …to correct mistakes of early training?
  4. …to keep child from crying?
  5. …to develop initiative in child?
  6. …to teach child instantly to comply with command, “Don’t touch”?
  7. …to suppress temper in children without punishment?
  8. …to succeed with child of any age without display of authority?
  9. …to discourage the “Why” habit in regard to commands?
  10. …to prevent quarrelling and fighting?
  11. …to cure impertinence? Discourtesy? Vulgarity?
  12. …to remove fear of darkness? Fear of thunder and lighting? Fear of harmless animals?
  13. …to encourage child to talk?
  14. …to teach punctuality? Perseverance? Carefulness?
  15. …to overcome obstinacy?
  16. …to cultivate mental cultivation?
  17. …to teach honesty and truthfulness?

Judging from the ad and the reprint book descriptions on Amazon it seems clear that Professor Beery and the Parent’s Association wished to help parents develop moral character in children.

It’s easy to see that the items on the above list are biblically derived.  Professor Beery believes a child can be trained out of a bad habit or behavior. In fact, Professor Beery blames the parents if they are not.

    “When a child is straightforward, obedient and willing—when it is courageous, generous, and fine in every way, it is that way because the parents made it so. And the reverse is equally true. When a child is untruthful, selfish and disobedient, it is not the fault of the child but of the parent.”

The ad has some limitations from a Christian perspective although it should be pointed out the author doesn’t claim to come from a Christian perspective. I think most people of the time would simply have assumed he was coming from a Christian perspective.

Nevertheless, the first limitation is the absence of the gospel as the motivation for the necessary inner change. God changes us from the inside out. Beery’s principles stress behavioral change that is certainly vital in parenting small children (who do not yet understand the gospel) but less effective in teens who may simply conform to stay out of trouble.

The second limitation that I’d comment on is that while I do believe parents are to blame for not training a child,  I’d hasten to add that children are responsible for their own sin and that of course is related to the gospel. Professor Beery simply believes that if parents are diligent and intentional in their parenting chances are good the children will turn out responsible. Perhaps he had Proverbs 22:6 in mind.

Recently our Senior Pastor taught extensively on parenting and biblically derived principles to be used in child training. The series harkens back to a time when most parents would have assumed a Christian approach to parenting.

The series can be found here under The Drama of Parenting…

Why Marriage Fails

I am writing this on the occasion of my wife’s and mine 42nd wedding anniversary.

By today’s standards we married quite young.  She was 19 and I was barely 21.

We have one son and daughter-in-law and three precious grandchildren.  God has blessed us beyond measure, yet at one point in our marriage we nearly divorced.

The circumstances that led up to the “almost divorce” are largely irrelevant because they amounted to the single most important reason marriages fail, that of self-centeredness.

Because we both were self-centered, there was plenty of sin where I sinned against her and she against me. Sin complicates everything and we learned that the hard way.

At the time, we would not have called it sin. We knew of God, but we did not know God simply because we had not been born again (John 3:3-8). I doubt either of us thought we’d ever fight, much less contemplate divorce, and the pre-marital counseling we had (in the church in which we married) simply wasn’t realistic nor did it prepare us for much of anything.

14095972_10208989877137463_3172001838895308492_nSo, why did we stay together?

I would say the first thing was recognizing we took vows, the traditional kind; you know, the good times, bad times, sickness and in health kind of vows.

Somehow, even though we did not know God, those vows mattered and we grasped, perhaps vaguely that divorce was somehow wrong. We see it now as God’s grace working in our lives even though we did not know him in a personal, applicable way.

The crisis of considering divorce was actually another sign of God’s intervening grace working in our lives because it led us to him.

There came a time through various means that we both realized we had been born again. We also began to realize being born again meant much more than salvation and it had a bearing on our marriage and parenting. We began to understand that the gospel is of first importance and (1 Cor. 15:3) that it has application beyond salvation.

For the first time it mattered what God’s Word said about sin, marriage, children, finances, conflict, sex, and most importantly, worship. We learned, not all at once, that you cannot worship yourself and worship God at the same time.

If you worship yourself, you are bound to be self-centered and be all about your needs, your wants, and your desires. If you worship the God of the Bible, you will be more concerned about what He wants and what He says in his Word about what your priorities should be. You will, if you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, obey God even when you do not feel like it.

When God and his Word become central in a marriage the worship of self is weakened, though not fully destroyed this side of heaven. When the worship of self is weakened the worship of God is strengthened, as is the marriage relationship, because now what God says in His Word is more important than my needs, wants, and desires.  It’s not any more complicated than that and this leads to a marriage that can be relatively conflict free and even happy.

Christian marriages fail and marriage counseling fails because either one partner or both can never quite get over their self-centered worship disorder.

I’m happy to say, today, that I am grateful to God for the crisis He brought my wife and I, because it led us to him and a very happy marriage even after 42 years.

Don’t Be a Wackaroo

Have you ever been so angry you threw something against a wall or smashed it on the floor?

Sadly, I have and most of you probably have as well.

It’s a human problem that dates back to the days of Cain and Abel. Cain was so jealous and angry with Abel that he killed him, probably with a rock or club to the head.

Some of you may be saying there is a big difference between smashing something against a wall and killing someone.

You would be right; there is a big difference…in consequence.

Both outbursts are types of violence. In the first case, the violence is acted out on an inanimate object and in the second case, violence is acted out on a human being.

What the two types of violence have in common is that the same emotion drives both actions. The emotion is anger or wrath.

Anger is also energy. The anger takes hold; sometimes suddenly and the energy explodes in an unthinking way. The emotion and energy attached to it serves to tear something or someone up.

The process was called venting and still is.

Back in 1941 psychologists recognized what anger was and rationalized that is was better to release the energy of anger by tearing up an object rather than a person.

Some clever marketer back in 1941 recognized there probably was money to be made off of anger and, so, invented the Wackaroo (pictured below from Life Magazine, 1941).

img006img007

The Wackaroo was a plaster cast in the shape of a human head with two little hands where the ears would be. The idea was to grab the Wackaroo when angry and smash it against something. In this way the energy of anger is released or vented and the person calms down. It was far better to smash the Wackaroo than a piece of fine China. It sold for 50 cents. For someone with an anger problem it could probably get expensive!

Ponder this for a moment. The Wackaroo is shaped like a human head. Perhaps if Cain had a Wackaroo he would not have smashed Abel’s head in with a rock or club.

Venting anger is the best the world has to offer. There is a certain pragmatic logic to smashing a plaster cast rather than a piece of fine China or, worse yet, a human being.

Psychology usually omits God and ignores the human heart condition that leads to sin. There are desires within the human heart that trigger violence. They usually revolve around not getting what we want or getting something we don’t want.

The last time I remember smashing something in anger I threw a clipboard that in turn smashed a coffee pot that belonged to my first shift co-worker. My outburst was tied to the fact I resented that I had to do some work the first shift didn’t get to.

I didn’t want to do the work and wanted to sit on my butt instead. What controlled the outburst was what I’ll call the idol of laziness.

Here’s what the episode looked like in detail.

  1. My desire was to sit on my butt rather than work. (This is what I wanted.)
  2. I resented the fact I had to do something left over from the first shift. (This is what I didn’t want.)
  3. The combination of not getting what I wanted (sit on my butt) and getting something I didn’t want (a little extra work) resulted in an explosion of anger-an action of violence taken out on a coffee pot.

The Bible never tells us to vent our anger. It tells us to put off our anger, and you don’t put anger off by venting or smashing a Wackaroo or coffee pot.

Consider this….

For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. (Col. 3:6-8, NASB)

“These things” refers to the preceding verses.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Col. 3:1-5, NASB)

The apostle Paul was aware of our human condition; even the human condition that has been changed by being in Christ.

Paul is saying you now belong to Christ so set your mind on heavenly things (renewed thinking) because Christ is supposed to be our life. The old selfish self has died so we need to consider (reckon) all the things that amount to idolatry dead as well.

After identifying “these things,” he reminds us that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (those not in Christ) and that we, too, were just like them. Then Paul says to put aside those things that belong to the old nature.

When I smashed that coffee pot I renewed my mind by confessing my anger to God. Second, I confessed to the gentleman who owned the coffee pot and purchased a new one for him.

Then I had to deal with the heart issue of idolatry. I named it laziness and committed myself to avoid such outbursts in the future by repenting of the idolatry, recognizing that laziness was in competition to Jesus as to whom or what would rule my life.

Friends, the Scriptures never tell us to vent our anger by smashing a Wackaroo of any type. The Scriptures encourage us to put aside the old nature and service to idols and put on the mind of Christ instead.

It’s not only a better way; it’s the best way to honor our Lord and Savior.

Do Not Worry

tumblr_mxzps1v6d11r0un19o1_1280Three times in 10 verses Jesus tells us not to worry. (Matt. 6:25-34)

So, why do I worry from time to time and what do I worry about?

Furthermore, if Jesus tells me not to worry, then I have to believe there is a way to avoid it.

First, let’s define the kind of worry Jesus is speaking of.

Worry is synonymous with anxiety.

An online dictionary defines anxiety like this: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

From this definition we can make some observations.

  1. Worry or anxiety is defined as a feeling (emotion) that makes a person nervous or uneasy.
  2. According to the definition a person experiences nervousness when then think about an immanent event or something that has an uncertain outcome.

Ok, so, what do I worry about, or what am I thinking about when I experience the emotion of anxiety?

In late 2012, my wife was diagnosed with lymphoma. We both experienced anxiety to a greater or lesser degree because it was difficult not to think about the diagnoses and we were obviously uncertain as to what the outcome would be.

Her treatment was successful although there is no guarantee with this type of cancer that it won’t come back.

When I think about it now, the question that pops into my mind is, “what if it comes back?” The more I think about it and the more I think about the possibility of life without my dear wife the more anxious I get.

Yet, Jesus tells me not to worry.

There is more than one reaction I can have to that command.

  1. I can get angry. How dare Jesus command me not to get angry because I’m concerned with my wife and the possibility of life without her?
  2. I can seek medical attention because the anxiousness seems chronic meaning I must have some sort of disorder.
  3. I can look at the rest of Jesus’ teaching on the subject to discover how not to worry.

Reaction #1 indicates a lack of submission to Jesus. I may not articulate my anger toward him, but by being angry with others who give me biblical counsel, I indicate I’m really angry with God. Bad plan.

Reaction #2 holds some promise if my goal is to simply feel better. Perhaps some medication will do the trick and I’ll no longer think about lymphoma and the possibility of losing my wife. After all, if I have a medical disorder, a chemical imbalance of some sort, then correcting it with meds is simple common sense.

Reaction #3 is a bit of a challenge because it seems to fly in the face of a normal human reaction (#1) and medicine (#2). Nevertheless, I’m a Christian and I do want to follow Jesus, so I’ll study what he has to say on the subject.

Since I’ve decided to study what Jesus had to say about worry I looked at the context of his words in Matthew 6:25-34.

The passage is roughly in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and the thrust of the sermon is how to live in the kingdom now. In other words, how is a Christian characterized in the kingdom of God and how should they live in the kingdom now?

This realization leads me to understand that when Jesus gave the teaching on worry there was no such thing as a medical disorder for anxiety.

Instead, there was a total reliance on God and his sovereignty in all situations.

This is made clear in how Jesus taught his disciples to pray:

9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]’ (Matt. 6:9-13, NASB)

Verse 10 is pertinent to my worry. It declares that God is at work and His kingdom (has come) and will continue to come. God is in control for he is absolutely sovereign. Furthermore, His will be done on earth just as it is in heaven.

This is a reminder to me that we live in a sin cursed world and as a result we suffer. We suffer because of our own stupidity and sin and we suffer because others sin against us, and sometimes we suffer simply because everything breaks down including our bodies.

I have come to realize that my wife’s cancer diagnosis was God’s will. I further realize that if it returns then that is his will as well.

I can reject that and get angry with God (and others), or I can humbly accept that God is Holy (perfect); sovereign (He can do what he wants for his purposes) and rejoice in the fact that my wife received Christ and belongs to Him, and thus if cancer takes her she will be with Christ forever.

There is more, but right away I see my thinking changing. Verse 11 hammers home the point we are dependent on God for everything including our daily bread and thus every day we live is a gift from him.

My study of Matthew 6 reveals that verses 25-34 are set up by verses 19-24.

After Jesus tells his disciples not to store up earthly treasures he says:

“…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 (NASB95)

This verse is sometimes called the treasure principle. What do I treasure most? What I treasure most will direct my life. If my treasure is something other than Jesus then that treasure will dominate my thinking and my emotions.

In verse 24 Jesus gives the example of wealth as a person’s master.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:24 (NASB95)

The prior verses (verses 22-23) indicate that which I focus on, think about, worry about is that which will dominate me. Wealth is Jesus’ example and symbolic of  our quest for security. Yet, Jesus makes it quite clear that our love for wealth means it is our master (idol) and not him!

That is a scary thought especially as we realize that idolatry can take other forms.

For example, my love for my wife can be greater than my love for Jesus. I can make her an idol in my worry about her. I can treasure what she means to me and what she has meant to me more than I treasure Jesus and my salvation found in him!

By the same token, I can elevate my son and his family (wife and g’kids) to a position of idolatry.

For example, I worry about the kind of world my grandkids are growing up in-a world that increasingly anti-Christian and anti-gospel. I can treasure them more than I treasure Jesus as I give way to a hundred “what if” type of scenarios in my mind.

In verse 25 Jesus says “for this reason” and that is a reference that goes back to verse 24 about which master will control my thoughts. Will it be some sort of idol or will it be Jesus and Scripture as a whole?

For this reason-don’t worry…because worry accomplishes nothing (vs 27) and it won’t add a single day to my life or my wife’s life or my son and his family’s lives.

Again, God is in control and absolutely sovereign. The only question is whether or not will I trust him even “IF” my wife’s cancer comes back or something happens to my son and his family?

Job, who lost everything including his family told his less than helpful friends, even though he slay me yet do I hope in Him (Job 13:15). How can my attitude be anything less?

As I further study the passage, I come to realize that in my worry I’m not thinking theologically. What I am doing is reacting emotionally to the things I fear; loss of family-indeed an emotional train wreck if I give in.

When Jesus says, “do not worry” I believe this to be a gentle rebuke-a pastoral rebuke from my Savior who loves me and understands my human weaknesses and is sympathetic. (Heb. 4:15)

Jesus wants me to repent from a me-centric view of life to a God-centric view of life. (Matt. 6:33)

Jesus assures me that God will take care of my needs (according to His will, Matt. 6:10 and not necessarily my desires) and then points to my essential problem when I worry-a lack of faith (vs 30b).

When I see Jesus reminding me of my main problem I imagine him looking at me in the eye, perhaps with his hand on my shoulder and as he says I have little faith he encourages me to have more faith in him and our Father in heaven. The only question is, will I hear his voice and listen to his counsel?

In other words, Jesus forces us to look at him in our anxieties. He reminds us that he came to take care of our biggest problem and that he will eventually restore all of creation and reverse the curse that causes cancer and fills the world with every kind of danger.

Jesus is right. My faith is weak. I need to strengthen it. My worries and anxieties are opportunities to do so and the only way I can do that is to train my mind to think theologically when I’m reacting emotionally to the things I fear the most.

Two links to helpful sermons on the subject of worry and anxiety on Sermon Audio:

Jesus’ Remedy for Worry & Anxiety

Treasure & Anxiety

The Proactive Parent

Two weeks ago, in one of my sermons in the series on parenting, I noted the need for a parent to be proactive.  My point was simple, yet not so simple; if you are going to be raising your children as a Christian you must “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).  That means you must have a plan.

The command, “bring up,” is a present imperative.   It is not something you relegate to others, but rather; as the parent you take upon yourself.  It is your responsibility.  To shift that blame to others is simply to show that you had no real plan or goal in your parenting.

I came across an article a few weeks ago that I thought was helpful toward this need to be proactive.  It is a secular piece but it is a good one.  It speaks to how one couple began to examine their goal, which was to eat dinner with their children — something that was not actually happening despite good intentions.

To resolve this they began to ask “Five Whys” and the end result was consistent dinners!  They began by identifying the problem, not eating with the kids.  Then they began to ask why.  Here are the Five Whys:

  • Why that [the problem] was true.
  • Why are we getting home so late?
  • Why had we ignored all those tasks?
  • Why were we arriving at work right before our first meetings, rather than earlier in the day?
  • Why were we leaving the house later than we planned?

The key was the first question.  Then all they had to do was be honest and ask the next four questions.

Now to you, the parent.  What are the areas that you are seeing deficiencies in the training and disciplining your children?  Write each problem down and then, over coffee or whatever, start to ask the whys.  You will quickly begin to see where things need to be adjusted and just as quickly you will be able to develop a plan.  Try it!

You can read the whole article here.

Pharaoh or Cyrus? The Cure for Unrighteous Anger & Anxiety

Our pastor one recent Sunday made reference to social media and the presidential primaries of this year.

He pointed out that many evangelical Christians seem to have placed all their hopes on one of the candidates.

His goal was the remind our church that no matter who wins, our hope must be in Christ. No matter who wins the presidential election, we will always be let down because sin-flawed people are running the country.

He also said we need to be good citizens and vote in the primary for the person who best represents our values. In other words we should do what we can, but do not stress over the results of the election. [Read more…]