Archive for September, 2022

W. H. Auden, the British-American poet, once labeled the day in which we live “The Age of Anxiety.” The word anxiety literally means “to be pulled apart.” It would be difficult to find a more accurate description of what worry and anxiety does to a person: it pulls us apart.

Dr. Charles Mayo, one of the founders of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said, “Worry affects circulation, the heart, the glands, and the whole nervous system. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but I have known many who died from worry.” According to Joe Graedon, author of “The Aspirin Handbook,” “Americans pop 80 million aspirin tablets every single day – 29 billion per year –  a figure that works out to 117 aspirin tablets annually for every man, woman and child in the country.”

What do we worry about? You name it and we worry about it. Big things, middle-sized things, little things, even non-existent things. We worry about things that happened yesterday. We even worry about things that may never happen. You cannot improve the quality of your life by worrying, but you can foul it up big time. Worry will not change your grade in school or make you more beautiful or handsome. You cannot change what is already an established fact.

Anxiety is a universal problem, but some people seem to enjoy the experience. They are miserable and want everyone around them to be miserable also. The end result of worrying is that we can guarantee the end result that we fear may happen – insomnia, fatigue, neurosis, and eventually an emotional breakdown. Earl Riney, in church management, expressed the same thoughts in a humorous way: “Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime, and too sleepy to worry at night.” It is not wise to take tomorrow to bed with you when you retire at night.

It has been said that two out of every three persons have emotional problems. Any time you are with two other people, evaluate them. If they seem totally normal to you, guess which one of the three has emotional problems.

We should never worry about the past, for it cannot be changed. Nor should we borrow trouble from our tomorrows. Thomas Carlyle was right when he said, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly in the future, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” An old idiom expresses it this way: “Life is hard by the yard, but by the inch it’s a cinch.”

The right way to deal with worry and anxiety is to have a deep, vibrant, and growing faith in God. Jesus said that we should start by setting productive priorities. Decide what is important, what is most important, and what is unimportant. Meaningful living does not have to consist of an overabundance of things. Live one day at a time.

You may ask, “But how can I do that?” Just follow the recommendations found in I Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Charles F. Deems, in Epigram, beautifully expresses the truth found in these two verses:

            “The world is wide

            In time and tide,

            And God is guide.

            Then do not hurry.

            That man is blest

            Who does his best

            And leaves the rest,

            Then do not worry.”


Read Full Post »

In the window of a shoemaker’s shop in Northern England several years ago a pair of shoes was placed on display that was almost a yard long. It would either take someone with a distorted sense of humor or else a king-sized “under-standing” to even contemplate putting that much leather on and walking away.

The cobbler had made the shoes himself. On a little card beside them were these words: “Yours for nothing – if you can wear them.” So far as I know, no one ever showed up with feet big enough to lay claim to those shoes. If someone had, it would have been the first time in history when two feet equaled two yards.

One of the obvious lessons we can learn from the cobbler’s creation is that God is always handing a pair of large empty shoes to each of us with the hope that we will be willing to try to fill them and wear them. He has a specific purpose for every person in the world, a purpose which no other person can fill. Every church across America has what is usually called a Nominating Committee.

The responsibility of a church Nominating Committee is to choose and recommend individuals to fill every position in the church organization. If your church does not have such a committee, it certainly needs one. It is possible that you will sooner or later be asked to assume a specific position of service as a Sunday School teacher, member of an important committee, deacon, choir member, youth leader, nursery worker, etc. Finding members of the church to fill pairs of empty shoes is extremely important. It can determine whether or not your church succeeds in carrying out its mission.

God will never ask you to wear another person’s shoes. However, He does ask each of us to wear shoes which He has designed for us individually. Some of the empty shoes you are asked to fill may seem larger than you think you can and should wear. Fortunately, God measures faithfulness not on the size of our feet, but on the size of our willingness to discover His will and do it in our daily lives.

If the Nominating Committee of your church shows you a pair of empty shoes, examine them carefully. Before you turn them down by saying, “They are far too large for me to wear,” talk to God about it. Listen to what He has to say.  He just possibly may say to you, “Is your faith big enough to wear them for my glory? If your faith is big enough to put them on you will learn that I will walk with you and fill your heart with joy.”

You will put them on and wear them if you follow the advice in this beautiful poem by Christina Rossetti:

             “What can I give Him?

               Poor as I am?

            If I were a shepherd

               I would bring Him a lamb;

            If I were a wise man

               I would do my part—

            Yet what can I give Him,

               Give Him my heart.”

Read Full Post »

The last four verses of the Gospel of Luke describe Christ’s last meeting in the flesh with His 11 disciples (Judas was no longer with them). They were meeting together in Jerusalem to discuss the events of recent days – Christ’s trial and crucifixion, His resurrection, and the fact that He had commissioned them to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Suddenly Jesus appeared among them.

It wasn’t long before Jesus asked them to go on a walk with Him. They walked along the old Jerusalem streets, out the gate and past the Garden of Gethsemane to the top of the Mount of Olives. At this point they asked Jesus if He was going to begin soon to set up His kingdom on the earth. As their eyes were focused on Him, they undoubtedly had no idea that He was about to tell them goodbye.

Back behind them was Gethsemane where He had agonized in prayer the night before He was crucified. Beyond Gethsemane was the city wall that surrounded Jerusalem, and on the little knoll nearby was Calvary. With fresh memories of all that had happened in recent days, they heard Jesus say, “Tarry in Jerusalem and pray, and you shall receive power, and you shall be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and throughout the entire world.” Suddenly Jesus was lifted from the ground and began to ascend toward heaven until a cloud hid Him from their sight (Acts1:9)

They continued gazing, held spellbound by the sight, thinking perhaps they would possibly be able to see Jesus again. Two men in white apparel suddenly appeared in their midst and said to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into the heavens? This Jesus who was received into heaven will come back in like manner.” Have you ever tried to imagine the joy that must have filled the heart of Jesus at that moment? He had finished training His disciples to carry the story of God’s love to people living in every nation throughout the earth. He had successfully completed His mission – and He was going home!

The two men in white apparel give us the key to Christ’s ascension. Jesus will remain with the Father until the next great step in God’s redemptive plan. At a time of God’s own choosing Christ will return to fully complete the Father’s great love plan for mankind and for the earth. Jesus, knowing that He was about to leave His disciples, led them to the Mount of Olives where His ascension would take place.

In 1973 when I was in Israel, I stood very near to the spot on the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven. My heart was overflowing with joy as I realized that Jesus didn’t just go home. He is coming back again! Fannie Crosby, who wrote so many wonderful hymns Christians have sung through the years, captured the joy of looking forward to that great future day in her poem entitled, “He is coming:”

Christ is coming, our loving Savior,
Blessed Lamb that was slain;
In the glory of God the Father,
On the earth He shall reign.

He shall gather His chosen people,
Who are called by His Name;
And the ransomed of every nation,
For His own He shall claim.

Read Full Post »

What is your perspective on money? What were the messages you heard about money and how to use it wisely and properly when you were growing up? How much time does money occupy in your thoughts and in your family’s conversations? Your attitude toward money – the importance you attach to it and how it should be used – says more about you and about your priorities than you may realize.

You may be surprised at how much the Bible has to say about money. For example, there are about 500 verses in the Bible that mention prayer, but there are over 2,300 on how to properly handle money and possessions. Jesus summed up what a person’s attitude about money should ideally be in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

The word “serve” as used in this verse means “to be a slave to, literally or figuratively, voluntarily or involuntarily.” It is not a question of advisability, for that would be a priority choice. It is not a question of accountability, for that would be a moral choice. Rather, it is a matter of impossibility. No person can serve more than one master. To serve God with exclusive devotion is to give money secondary importance. The same is true in reverse if getting, having and using money is the most important thing in our lives.

It is sad, but true, that far too often our world revolves around who has money and how it is used. Millions of poor people have the illusion that having lots of money would make them happy. Benjamin Franklin understood that this was not true, for he said, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, money makes one.”

Money, of course, is not bad in and of itself. It is necessary to have money to be able to purchase the things we need: food, shelter, health, education, security, etc. Money is only bad when it is used improperly to achieve selfish ends. It will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation; a passport to everywhere but heaven.

George Lorimer once said, “It is good to have money and the things money can buy, but it is good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money cannot buy.” Those who haven’t learned that yet have as their goal the getting of more and more money. They lie for it and die for it. They curse it and save it. They spend it and lend it. They use it and are used by it. They work all their lives to accumulate as much of it as they can, only to learn later that they can’t take it with them when they die.

Several years ago, radio station WXOX in Chicago asked their listeners this question, “What is the most outrageous thing you would do for $10,000 cash?” It attracted more than 6,000 responses. The eventual winner was Jay Gwaltney of Zionsville, Ind., who said he would consume an 11-foot birch sapling – leaves, roots, bark and all. For the highly unusual dining event, he donned a tuxedo and dined at a table set elegantly with china, sterling, candles and a rose vase.

Armed with pruning shears, the Indiana State University sophomore began chomping from the top of the tree and worked his way, branch by branch, to the roots. His only condiment was French dressing. The culinary feat took 18 hours over a period of three days. When it was all over, Gwaltney complained of an upset stomach. Evidently the bark was worse than his bite.

Read Full Post »

God’s Word tells us: “There are six things the Lord hates: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19). In early Christian history the wording changed on the things God hates, and they were referred to as the Seven Deadly Sins: envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth and wrath.

If early Christian leaders had added an eighth deadly sin, I would nominate gossip. As a Christian minister since 1951, I have seen the devastating effect that gossip has had within the body of Christ. Gossip can be very cunning, for Satan has a slick marketing trick that he uses to influence church members. He leads us to call gossip by euphemisms like “sharing our concerns” or “venting to a brother or sister.” Euphemisms make gossip sound much less dangerous.

Church members who gossip often try to remain anonymous when they pass along what they consider juicy information about a fellow church member. It doesn’t have to be true. For example, a lady in my hometown often visited her neighbors early in the morning for the purpose of spreading the latest gossip. She would end her conversation by saying, “For God’s sake don’t tell a soul what I’ve told you.” She wanted to tell everybody herself!

There are several specific mentions of gossip in scripture. Three Old Testament highlights are as follows:

  • Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people” (Leviticus 19:16).
  • They visit me as if they were my friends, but all the while they gather gossip, and when they leave, they spread it everywhere” (Psalm 41:6).
  • “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

The apostle Paul showed how seriously he considered gossip when he included it among this unattractive menu of sins: “Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip” (Romans 1:29). Those who gossip probably never realized that God’s Word lumps gossip in with hate, murder and deception. No follower of Jesus should ever give gossip a place to live. Why is this true? “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops” (Proverbs 26:20).

God is not glorified when a Christian imagines things and spreads idle chatter about a fellow Christian, for it both grieves the Holy Spirit and causes the one who is talked about to experience emotional pain. In the New Testament James is brutally honest in describing the impact of gossip: “The tongue is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).

If you have been guilty of passing along hurtful information about a fellow Christian, you need to repent and receive the gift of a new heart that acts in accordance to the love and law of God. This new heart can only come from God. He has said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees” (Ezekiel 36:26).

A good practice for Christians to follow before passing along information about a fellow Christian that has the potential to be controversial or cause distress is to ask these five questions: (1) Is it true? (2) Is it helpful? (3) Is it inspiring? (4) Is it necessary? (5) Is it kind? If what we are about to say does not pass these five tests, we should keep our mouth shut. To do this will both keep us from dishonoring Christ and creating disharmony in the body of Christ.

Read Full Post »