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”]

From Broken to Set-Apart

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When I began meal planning, I bought an awesome set of 32oz BPA-Free deli containers to store freezer meals in. Initially, I made them peel-off labels with contents and dates. After several months, the novelty wore off, and my inattentive-type ADD declared my labeling system was too complicated. I surrendered to my weak flesh and fell into just shoving the leftovers in the freezer without labels. When not labeling stored food led to irritating problems, I got out my Sharpie and wrote on one tub, thinking it’d be permanent. To my delight, it washed off, after all. Victory, an efficient labeling system that accommodates ADD! (Note: using a Sharpie is the right way to label leftovers. I had made it too complicated.)

Anyway, awhile back, I bought a new dish drying rack that lacked a silverware compartment. I missed that feature and decided to make a silverware drying tub. So I took one of my deli containers and poked holes in the bottom with a sharp knife, pictured above. Presto, the wet silverware goes in, and the water drains out the bottom.

Recently, the Holy Spirit nudged me about that tub. If it could think, it would conclude it is broken and useless, but it isn’t. It’s been set apart by its owner for a specific purpose.

Of course, we’re not really talking about my hacked deli container. When we have a condition like ADD, we feel broken and may even fear we’re useless. But God uses our brokenness to set us apart for him.

Quick caveat—I have put other deli containers to use as tools to organize my kitchen stuff. I have pierced none of my kitchen stuff holders. Yet they are just as set apart. You don’t have to be “broken” to be separated to God for a specific purpose.

Still, our brokenness is useful to God. If we seek to stop surrendering to it and let God use it to teach us to depend on his power. As 2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV) says, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

[tweetthis]“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2Cor.12:10 [/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]Feeling broken and useless? Be encouraged. God can use our brokenness to set us apart for him.[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]From Broken to #SetApart: What a Christian homemaker with #ADD learned from a deli container.[/tweetthis]


Affiliate links are included for your convenience, in case my enthusiasm for these nifty tubs is contagious.

Extraordinary

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Why settle for being normal, when you can be extraordinary

You are unique. So is everyone else. So being unique isn’t special.
If you are breathing, you are at least a little evil (flawed and imperfect.) So is everyone else. That makes you normal. Welcome to the club.
You are at least a little good. Some are so evil, they use even their good qualities for evil. So the more you grow up into the wisdom, purity, goodness, and righteousness Christ offers to us all for free, the more special you are.

So the most special people are gray-haired, physically failing, or otherwise at death’s door because they’re crossing the finish line of faith. They’ve traveled a hard, narrow road that few find, let alone finish.

That’s extraordinary.
Why settle for being normal, when you can be extraordinary?

[tweetthis]Why settle for being normal, when you can be extraordinary?[/tweetthis]

The God who Sees me, Strengthens me

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27 Jacob, why do you say, and Israel, why do you assert: “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my claim is ignored by my God”? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. 29 He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. (Today’s Reading is from Isaiah 40, HCSB)

At times, it feels like we are all alone and that no one sees our ways and what we’re doing, that there is no justice if we are wronged and no consequence if we cut corners ourselves. Here we are both comforted and warned that God is an everlasting God. He is great and mighty and he created and rules the whole Earth. No corner of it is beyond his reach or his authority. His understanding is unlimited–he sees all, he knows all. He sees the whole picture. He never grows faint and weary, he never falls asleep on the job.

We may not understand why God allows suffering, we may be tired and in pain, men may not do justice on this Earth, but God will in eternity, and he stands ready to strengthen the weary and the powerless to go on and to do right. No matter where we are or what is going on, He is on the job and ready to provide what we need to make it through the day.

Lord, we thank you for being so awesome. Strengthen us this day to believe you are what  you say in your word. Increase our trust in you. I pray we would remember in the hour of temptation that you are watching and you do see and that you are there to give us what we need to stay the course in you. Open our minds, to understand more of reality and see a bit more clearly, as you do.  Imprint your image on our hearts and transform our thinking to be more like yours. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.