Feeling less than someone else? Good news!

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You aren’t less than, inferior to, or worth less than anyone you have ever met face to face. The truth is, all have sinned. All are not good enough. All do not deserve their blessings. All deserve to die for our sins and to burn in Hell for eternity. All can escape God’s wrath only by the blood of the Lamb who took the punishment we deserved.

And on top of that, if we accept Christ, God adopts us as his own beloved children and makes us citizens of Heaven. That is amazing grace, and a secure promise to stand on. Nonetheless, let’s remain humbly aware we have not earned what we have freely received, lest we fall into prideful self-righteousness and withhold grace from others who need it.

We ourselves can stand by grace alone, clothed in Christ’s righteousness. And that goes for everyone else. I sense so many of us are hurting while blaming others for our own heart’s self-condemnation. Our feelings are our property and our responsibility. No one else is to blame for how we feel about ourselves. (Dr. Henry Cloud, Boundaries)

Let’s stop trying to justify ourselves, stop trying to prove ourselves, stop trying to earn blessings, accept we never can, and rest in Christ’s finished work on the cross, by which God’s children all freely receive God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.

[tweetthis]Feeling less than someone else? Good news![/tweetthis]

Comfort for Anxiety, please, hold the guilt trip.

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photo credit: Big Grey Mare Tree Planted By The Water via photopin (license)

Meditating on God’s word is an effective way to counter lies both from our own anxious minds and spiritual attacks. When tempted, Christ himself defeated Satan by countering with what it was written in the Bible. I am a student of the practice, not a teacher. And please continue any medical treatment you are on, but I’ll share what I’m learning with you.

The basics are to recognize our emotional states, identify the lies influencing us, and pick verses that effectively contradict them. When it is the devil, say it loud, with authority, and he will back down if there is no other factors at play.

When it is physical brokenness or our own wounded hearts, that is another story. Christian Meditation still can calm our minds and soothe our heart, but you have to repeat your chosen text many times, really chew on it to get it worked down into the hurting places where God is working.

In selecting texts, many of us tend to go to a concordance named Google, who reports back its top-ranked online lists of verses. “Bible on Anxiety” turns up some excellent websites. That said, nigh any list of Bible verses on anxiety includes verses with some variant of “Don’t be anxious.” For our purposes, that may not be the best choice.

In the proper context, “don’t be afraid” is a soothing reassurance. But “don’t be anxious” typically is a command, and the law tends to provoke anxiety, not relieve it. Now, if you commanding yourself to not be anxious a thousand times or so does relieve your anxiety, great. If it only heaps a guilt trip on you and makes you feel condemned, though, please skip that one.

So what does work?

First, read the most infamous verse in context. It begins Paul’s recipe for defeating anxiety. The full passage is far more helpful. However, it is not a text to meditate on, it is instructions for countering anxiety, which includes instructions on meditation. It doesn’t have to be God’s word, though God’s word is most powerful. An effective Christian meditation is “whatever” is in line with Biblical truth and is good, just, honorable, pure, and lovely. It can even be a visual from God’s word and/or of the good things of God’s creation. One image from the Word that I find helpful is of a tree planted by water, with its roots plunging right down into the stream. Secure in God’s steadfast love.

Second, get specific. What exactly are you anxious about? What provokes it? When it isn’t strictly chemical, persistent fears often arise from negative core beliefs about ourselves and others. A negative core belief is a false belief your heart harbors even when your conscious mind knows it is a lie. This subconscious fear will still influence you so long as it remains buried in your heart. It can backfire to answer your own heart the way you should answer the devil. As a wounded heart feels things, anything said in a harsh tone is speaking death. To speak life, swap out strong rebukes for a gentle, loving tone as you counter old lies with the corresponding truth about your identity in Christ.

Third, don’t rush yourself past the stage of identifying the lies your heart is holding onto to avoid “speaking death.” God can still hear you “speaking death” in your heart. It is still manifesting in your life. Face it. Admit it out loud. It is okay. You must grab hold of it to get it out. What to be wary of is latching onto it only to wallow in it. Meditation, speaking life, is more effective if we first identify the lies embedded like thorns, confess them to the Lord, and get him to remove them.

Fourth, sometimes God says no to removing such thorns in the flesh. That no is nothing to be ashamed of; it happens even to the best of us, namely the Apostle Paul himself. What God did through Paul was phenomenal, yet the man was never able to overcome the shame that had him declaring himself “the worst of sinners” over his actions before he was a Christian, despite his own teachings on the grace of God. There are times when God has a reason for our struggle, such as making his strength perfect through our weakness; in some cases, God is using our very weakness to strengthen us in his power.

Finally, here are seven Bible passages that work well as verses to meditate on to combat various kinds of anxiety. At least they comfort me and the Facebook friends who answered my short survey. Feel free to shorten these as needed, but read them in context the first time. The exact wording isn’t vital for meditation purposes, so long as it reflects the Bible’s intent and meaning.

Psalm 62 Meditation: God is my rock and my salvation, my fortress. God is a refuge for me.

2 Timothy 1:5-12 Meditation: God has given me a spirit of power, a spirit of love, and a spirit of self-control (which promotes the sound mind some translations mention.)

Matthew 19:23-29 Meditation: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Isaiah 26:3 Meditation:”You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 41:5-13 Meditation: The Lord is with us and he is our God. He will strengthen us. He will help us. He will uphold us by his righteous right hand. (From Isaiah 41:10)

Psalm 139 Meditation: God knit me together in my mother’s womb. Praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, including myself. (Bonus prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart. Show me what grieves you. Lead me in the way everlasting.)

2 Cor. 4. 7-10 Meditation: I am afflicted (or hard pressed) but not crushed. I am perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken. I am struck down but not destroyed.

Psalm 4:8 (ESV) “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (This meditation is perfect for anxiety at bedtime.)

Again, you can’t breeze through this. You have to chew on the truth; sustain focus on the verse or the Bible-based meditation for several minutes at least. Try pairing it with instrumental worship music, relaxing nature sounds, or visualizing the beauty of God’s creation. Also, keep your breathing slow, deep, and rhythmic, as if you are breathing in the truth of God’s word. Feel free to let me know what works for you and which verses are your favorites. Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus!

[bctt tweet=””Comfort for #Anxiety, please, hold the guilt trip.” #ChristianMeditation #BiblicalMeditation” username=”@andreajgraham”]

Hope at a Dead End

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Gentle Reader, please share this with a friend that this could speak to. This is for the brother or sister whose gotten bad news about their career, health, or a family matter.

You feel stuck at a dead end, watching dreams crumble in the midst of the daily grind. Maybe pain and fear binds you, keeps you stuck in less than all you could be. Maybe you’ve pushed ahead in your goals as far as physical limits will allow. Maybe it’s not simply the voice of our own emotions screaming “you’ll never win.” Maybe a human authority is telling you that the odds are against you and they’re not ever getting any better.

There are no guarantees in this life. God doesn’t owe us anything, least of all miracles. “God works all things for our good.” But not all things in life are good. “God is for us, so who can be against us?” Yet we won’t win every battle. At some point, God is going to let us lose a battle with death itself. If we remain in the faith, God does turn even the ultimate loss of death into our ultimate victory, eternal life with Christ. Remembering that can help us face the prospect of painful losses with hope and fight on.

The nature of faith is uncertainty. God is faithful to God’s word. If the Bible says God promised to do it, God will do it. Yet many promises are conditional on us acting by faith. And applying the Bible’s promises to specific situations isn’t always easy. And it can be even more challenging to hear the voice of the Lord clearly. We need a humble awareness our heart’s strong desires can cause us to misunderstand. I pray God changes our hearts from desiring what isn’t God’s will to desiring what is God’s will.

But at your dead end, remember we serve the God who led Israel out of Egypt, straight into a dead end.

[tweetthis]At your dead end, remember we serve the God who led Israel out of Egypt, straight into a dead end.[/tweetthis]

Picture it. The Red Sea before the Children of Israel, and the armies of Egypt behind them. Trapped. Impossible to go forward into freedom. Impossible to escape the master bent on dragging them back into slavery. Yet God commanded Moses: “Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” (Exodus 14:15b-16)

By faith, Moses obeyed the Lord, and the sea parted. By faith, the children of Israel went forward.

God overcame Israel’s dead end.

I can’t guarantee the desire of your heart is in line with God’s. I can’t guarantee your goals and plans are indeed the Lord’s plans. Still, when you come to closed doors that are unlikely to open, knock. Pray. Let God lead you to the best of your knowledge and discernment. And knock on the closed doors you encounter.

God can move mountains. God can give you favor and blessing beyond measure. If it is God’s will, knock, and the door will be opened. If it doesn’t open, it only means that specific door wasn’t right at that specific time. Keep trying other doors until God changes your heart or shows you another path. Or takes you home forever.

Don’t assume an open door is God’s will, either. Not everyone who opens a door when you knock is acting in accord with God’s will.

So let’s act by faith, aware of our natural limits, and aware of what God can do if God pleases to do it. Let’s weep and cry aloud as needed. Let’s praise and lift our hands in worship and sincere thanksgiving as the Spirit moves in us. Let’s pray carefully about the opportunities that do come to make sure they are God’s will.

But I believe the “dead end” in your life isn’t the end. One way or another, in this life or the next, God has so much more for you.

[tweetthis]Hope at a Dead End #overcome “If God is for us, who can be against us?”[/tweetthis]

Shoes

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The  shoes pictures above arrived just before Christmas but they were not a Christmas present. They do, however, have something in common with John the Baptist.

The reason I received the shoes goes back to October. I was walk/running at the City of Trees Half-Marathon.  It was the first of four half-marathons in the Run 4 Heaven’s Gate, to raise money for HIV/AIDS orphans in India.

My primary reason for doing that many runs is to raise money for the kids , but whenever I’m competing in anything, I want to do my best. Let’s be honest for a second. I am a plodding and lumbering man whose best wouldn’t impress many hardcore runners, but to my credit, I wasn’t as slow as I was when I started out years before.  I did one half-marathon in July just for fun and clocked in at under 4 hours and was very proud of myself and I intended to do the same in City of Trees.

I started out doing very well for me, but the second half of the race was a lot of getting passed as my leg began to protest around Mile 10 that they were not fans of this whole running thing. Despite getting slowed down, I still had to finish under 4 hours, and then I took a slight wrong down the finish line. I was corrected and back on course in less than a minute. I finished in four hours…and three seconds. I was so annoyed with myself. My teammates were all wonderfully supportive and while I was glad to have finished, I was annoyed at myself though I said little about it.

However, as I was sitting there, eating my after-race snack, a lady came up to me who had been one of the top finishers and told me she was from out of town and gave me a $25 gift certificate to the local running store. Another man gave me a certificate for a new pair of running shoes from La Sportiva saying he was also not from around here.  I found this odd because it was a mail-in certificate so he didn’t have to be from Boise.  If he were a travelling runner, he might have his own preferred shoes he buys and not want to mess with another brand. Regardless, I didn’t press the point, not wanting to look gift shoes in the mouth.

It occurred to me that if I’d finished half an hour earlier like I had wanted, I probably would not have been around to receive these generous gifts. I would have ate my snacks, waited for the last few of our runners to come in and then gone home. While I hadn’t achieved what I’d wanted and finished later than I would have liked, I’d arrived in perfect time to receive an unexpected blessing.

The Bible is full of people who waited long and hard for God’s  blessing. Consider the case of Elizabeth, who probably married Zechariah while she was a teenager. She doubtless was ready for a baby to come within a year or two of their marriage.  Yet, the years past and then became decades. She saw her friends and family have children and grandchildren while she had none. However, God  had  a special blessing for her.  She would be the mother of John of whom Our Lord would proclaim, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”  (Matthew 11:11).

God’s blessing to Elizabeth is an encouragement to all of us who see others  being blessed and wonder if we’ve missed it. We wonder if God will ever do anything in our lives or if he has forgotten us. We can rest assured that God will work in our lives according to his timing. It will not be in the same way as he has worked in the lives of others, but will surprise and maybe amaze us.

[tweetthis]Faith lessons from a pair of shoes by Adam Graham[/tweetthis]

Be Bold, Be Brave

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Eleven years ago, my friend Brandi Swindell lost her election for City Council in Boise. She faced a tough election and was hit with both barrels and attacked by vile people. She got volunteers who worked hard for her with great determination. She lost by a lot more than I would have imagined. It was depressing. Her enemies celebrated and mocked. But God…

God had just begun to work in her life. She founded Stanton Health Care in Boise and that ministry touches the lives and hearts of women and their children throughout the Treasure Valley. Stanton Boise moved its office next door to Boise’s Planned Parenthood and is in the progress of building a life-affirming clinic in Meridian. They are, to borrow a phrase from Steve Camp, “lighting their candles on the front porch of Hell.” And, not only that, there are Stanton clinics being established around the world through God working through his people.

I wasn’t able to attend the Tenth Stanton gala this Friday, but I saw pictures and I thought of that November so many years ago and the amazing faithfulness of God. Some of my friends are running for office and some will lose. And there is the big election. [Note from Andrea: which this blog will not discuss at any length aside from spiritual concerns it raises.]

Elections have consequences, let there be no doubt of that. However, win or lose, God is not done with us. And no matter how bad the election results are, they cannot stop the goodness of God, the work he is doing through his people, and the common grace He gives to all mankind. The worst of tyrants who have tried have only been short lived like an eclipse that blocks the sun for but a moment before the the light begins to break through.

No matter how disheartening an election’s results might be, take heart that God is at work in the world. No matter the disappointment for us personally or for our countries, we should remember the words of the Prophet Jeremiah who, in the midst of the destroyed City of Jerusalem, wrote, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.”

Whatever happens this Election Day be assured that the plans and purposes of God will prevail in your life and for the nation.

[tweetthis]Whatever today holds, be assured the plans and purposes of God will prevail in your life.[/tweetthis]

On a hopefully somewhat light-hearted note, consider this advice from the British franchise Doctor Who’s lead role, the Twelth Doctor:
necessaryevil[tweetthis]”At least try to do better than ‘evil.'” –The twelfth Doctor pic.twitter.com/zgbMeA6Fr5 [/tweetthis]