Monthly Archives: May 2011

Renewing Your Mind – Pt. 3


Part 3 of 3

If you have not read Part 1 OR Part 2 of “Renewing Your Mind,” it would be good to go back and start at the beginning.

We ended the last installment with the question unanswered of how do you get your mind renewed. That’s where we’ll pick up here.

Because I write from a Christian perspective, where spirit is as important as mind and body, the steps I will recommend for renewing your mind have a “spirit” base. You have to start at step one and settle the question of what it means to become a genuine Christian: this involves confession and repentance of sin, acknowledgment that Jesus took the penalty of your sins upon Himself on the cross, and an invitation to the Lord to take up residence in you via His Holy Spirit. Applying the principles I recommend becomes a combination of your will (spirit) and God’s Holy Spirit working together.

After settling the first step, renewal of the mind begins in earnest. I have found the following steps to be absolutely necessary as the process of mind-renewal begins and continues to develop throughout your Christian growth experience. God is constantly working on the renewal of my thought habits, and through that, the transformation of my life and character.

1.  Practice the presence of God

If you are a true follower of Christ, a regenerated child of God, the Holy Spirit lives in you.  There is nowhere you can go, nothing you can do where you don’t take Him and where He is not involved in your actions.  Always respond knowing that He sees, hears and enables; He’s in it with you.

Is. 41:10 Fear not for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

2.  Practice “God thoughts”.  You have to see what the Lord thinks about the things going on around you. Remember that His “thoughts are higher than your thoughts”.

What does God’s word say about you (his child); personal relationships; use of money; treatment of the poor, the sick and the elderly; social justice; use of your tongue; control of your thought life; marriage and divorce; lawsuits; tithing; caring for elderly parents or children?

3.    Spend time enjoying His presence.

Develop a quiet time of prayer, scripture meditation and reflection.  Include a time of listening to God.  Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.”

4.   Learn to say “NO to thoughts that come from the enemy or from the old nature.  Nip them in the bud, because thoughts precede actions. Use Scripture to turn those thoughts off, such as:

  • Accusing thoughts about past sins – I John 1:9 “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Negative thoughts about others – Satan is the “accuser of the brethren”.  (Rev. 12:10) I will not co-operate with him.
  • Worry or anxious thoughts – Phil. 4:6-8  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally . . .  whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (NIV)

Conclusion

In keeping with Romans 12:1-2 that we looked at in part 2 of this series: after you present your body as a living sacrifice, after you break out of the pattern of this world, after you cooperate with the Lord in the process of renewing your mind . . .

Rom. 12:2  “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Do any of you have plans to hurt your children?  Neither does God have plans to hurt you.  He has a good, pleasing and perfect will for your life. And part of that includes transforming your character.

What does the transformed life look like?  Read the rest of Romans chapter 12 to find out.

Overcoming negative, self-destructive thinking is very important.  Learning to recognize the lies you have believed from your past is a part of the transformation that God wants to bring about in your life

Dumber than Dumb

Victor Soriento was 16 years old and in high school, when his adviser strongly suggested that he drop out of school because he was “dumber than dumb.”  She felt he would be doing everyone a favor.  For the next 16 years Victor held 76 different jobs trying to scrape together an existence. At age 33 he was seeking employment at his 77th job, when the human resource director asked Victor if he had ever taken an IQ exam.  Victor said, “No.” So the resource director had him take the IQ test.  The test results revealed the truth about Victor:  he had an IQ of 161.  In one simple moment, he went from being called an idiot to being labeled “genius.”  Later in Victor’s life, Associated Press wrote a 3-column article on his brilliant research in laser surgery.  The truth is always so important!  When Victor found out the truth about himself and believed it, he had a renewal of the mind, and it changed his life.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

A renewed mind means a new way of seeing:

  • A new view of God
  • A new view of yourself
    • Your identity
    • Your circumstances
    • Your potential
    • Your purpose in life
  • A new view of the world around you
    • People
    • Events

I can assure you that if you stay in the process, your whole world will look different, your life will take on new meaning and your relationship with the Lord will be both life changing and life sustaining. What have you got to lose? Nothing worth keeping.

QUESTIONS: Which of the steps listed have you taken recently?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Advertisements

Renewing Your Mind – Part 2


Part 2 of 3

In part 1 of this article we looked at some of the reasons we may be on the merry-go-round of busyness, stress and futility. We know we need a change – but how do we get there?

It all starts in the thought-life; “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he”. So how do we get our thought-life under control? And whose control? For the Christian, “self-control” is not “self” at all, but a fruit of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7)

Is. 26:3  You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you (Living Bible)

The book of Romans in the New Testament has some interesting things to say about the process of renewing your mind. Let’s take a look.

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Living sacrifices – In Old Testament and even in NT times, pagan religions required human sacrifices to appease the gods.  Or, as in extreme Muslim cults today, people sacrifice themselves to their god through suicide missions in hopes of reward.  But God does not want us to kill ourselves for Him or for any cause – He wants us to live for Him – that’s really harder to do.

He does not say “offer your time or your gifts or your money,” but offer your bodies as living sacrifices.  That means

    1. what we put into our bodies,
    2. what we put on our bodies,
    3. where we go in our bodies,
    4. what we do with our bodies must be in keeping with a “holy lifestyle”.  Holy means set apart to God, with the object of pleasing God, not others, not ourselves.

How do you treat your body?  I spend time exercising, try to eat healthy things and attempt to get from 7 to 8 hours sleep a night. I’m careful where I go, how I spend my time, what I watch on TV or read, what kind of music I listen to – what I’m feeding my spirit. I even try to stay away from negative thinking and speaking people.

Treating our body as the dwelling place of God, does not only have physical ramifications, but according to Romans 12: 1 it is “your spiritual act of worship

When you present your body as a “living sacrifice” to God, worship becomes daily and not just something we do in a church service on Sunday morning.

Rom. 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world . . .”

Have you made a piece of clothing? You probably used a pattern and cut around it to form what you saw on the picture on the cover of the pattern.

There are patterns of this world that we should not conform to, among which are the following:

    1. taking care of #1 – in the sense of putting yourself first
    2. doing what feels good, rather than what is good
    3. doing what’s right for you – without considering others
    4. using people to get where you want and what you want
    5. measuring success by material possessions
    6. taking part in questionable activities, such as sex toy parties
    7. use of crude language
    8. being afraid to talk about your faith
    9. looking down on people of different race or social level
    10. having your kids lie for you when you don’t want to take a phone call
    11. and many others

“. . . but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

“Transform” means to markedly change the form or appearance of, or to change the nature, function or condition of something.

It is the same Greek word which is translated in Mt.17:2-8, speaking of the Jesus on the mountain being “transfigured” before the disciples.  Transfigure means: 1. to alter the figure or appearance radically,  or 2. to exalt or glorify.

You cannot change your actions until you change the way you view things.  As your thinking changes, your responses and reactions change.

How do you get your mind renewed? We’ll look at that in the third–and final–installment of “Renewing Your Mind”.

In the meantime, consider what it means that the way a person thinks determines what he/she becomes.

QUESTION: What do you see from your own life to support or refute that statement?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Renewing Your Mind Part 1


Part 1 of 3

Are you part of the stressed-out generation; too busy to enjoy life? We survive on TV dinners and fast foods.  We take sleeping pills to get to sleep and drink caffeine to wake up.  We run from the time we get up until we fall into bed at night exhausted.

The things that cause anxiety, mental confusion, worry, fear, frustration, hopelessness and disappointment are common to our times.  We treat our symptoms with antidepressants, stimulants, sleeping pills, relaxants, stress relievers, and pain pills.

We don’t need more pills as much as we need power –

God’s power – to transform us.

We don’t need a change in circumstance, as much as a new mindset,

a new viewpoint.

When I was a little girl growing up in Franconia, VA, we always went to the 4th of July parade. Often I could not see what was going on because of the crowd. But my dad was 6’ 2” tall and would lift me up onto his shoulders. The view from up there was a lot different than the view from the ground.

When life starts to spin out of control, we need a new perspective, we need to see things from God’s point of view.

Is. 55:8-9:   “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (NIV)

We need ask our Heavenly Father to hoist us up onto His shoulders, so we can see things as He sees them.

Often, in order to get better perspective of how God sees things, we need a clearer view of God himself – who He is, His awesomeness, His power and His love. There are many snapshots displaying God’s character in the Scriptures – both Old and New Testaments.   It was Jesus who said, “When you have seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” We get to know more about God’s character, His desires, His love for us and we begin to see things differently.

What are some signs that you have need of a new perspective?

Are you having any of these problems:

  • Sluggish spirit – slow to respond to God
  • Unable to receive spiritual input
  • Troubled by worry or anxious thoughts
  • Lack of rest in your spirit
  • Lack of joy and peace in your life

One of three things is possibly the cause:

1. You do not yet have a real relationship with God.

You may believe there is a God, you may attend church regularly, you may consider yourself religious, moral, even good, but you have no sense of a personal connection with God. You actually have a dead spirit.

Some verses of Scripture that may be helpful:

Eph. 2:1 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins . . ..” (NIV)

 However, your “dead” spirit can be brought to life:

Eph. 2:4-5 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ . . . (NKJV)

Rom. 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (NIV)

2. You are a true believer, but are walking in known disobedience to God. You have not yet done the last thing He told you to do or stop doing, such as:

a. to get things right with someone you have hurt

b. to forgive someone who has hurt you

c. to end a wrong relationship – adultery, homosexuality, unmarried sex,

or separating yourself from someone from whose influence God has told you remove yourself

d. to let go of “things”

e. to reach out to someone you consider beneath you

f. to let go of some church or civic duty or job that hinders your marriage or your family life

g. to get off the computer or out of that chat room that consumes your time or where temptation looms like a giant.

3. You are a true follower of Christ, but have hit hard times and are “hanging in there by the skin of your teeth” and  desperately need a renewal of your mind and spirit.

If you are miserable to live with and out of sorts and negative, God is not the problem, neither are those around you. It may be that you don’t have a problem, you are the problem.

If you are in relationship with God the Father, if you are walking in obedience to His instructions and directions for your life, if you are earnestly wanting to experience renewed spiritual vibrancy, God will meet you there in the midst of your current challenges. He says, “draw near to me and I will draw near to you”.

In the meantime consider, do you really want to get off the merry-go-round?  We’ll look at how to do that in the next installment as we deal with “Renewing Your Mind – Pt. 2”.

©2011, Marcy Alves

Computer World


We are living in a computer world – which can be very helpful or very exasperating.

I get totally frustrated when my computer bogs down, responds slowly, won’t do what I am telling it to do (though my husband tells me it does exactly what I tell it to do, I’m sure it overrides my commands), sends me error messages, or totally freezes up.  When it won’t respond at all I have to shut it down and reboot the system.  Sometimes I have to close down one program because another program won’t work efficiently while it’s still open – they aren’t compatible for some reason.  I sometimes dump an old file, only to find out later that I dumped the revision instead of the original.

We have self-repair programs and virus scans and fire walls and security programs.  Sometimes files get contaminated and need “the doctor”. When things go wrong,  I usually get my husband involved, because he has a much better understanding of computer function than I do.  I call out for help and he comes into my office and says, “Let me have the chair.  Let me into the computer.”  And he does his thing.

Occasionally even David can’t figure out what to do so he calls technical support.  If even their expert trouble-shooting does not fix the problem, they refer us to the manufacturer who gives us a ship-back code and we return the hard-drive for repair or replacement.

As wonderful as some of the newer computers are, they seem to need continual up-grades and they are obsolete in 3 to 5 years. Such is the world of computers.

Do you realize that under our cranium lies the most complex computer ever created? The human brain is amazing!  It’s the highest of the created order.  There are centers in the brain which control every action of the human body, involuntary and voluntary.

Damage to the brain affects the functioning of the rest of the body:

  • Mobility
  • Speech
  • Physical sensation
  • Sight
  • Muscle control
  • Fine motor skills
  • Internal organ function
  • Perception of the external world around us
  • Ability to respond to external stimuli

Unlike the mechanical computer, we not only process pre-programmed data, we compare it with new data and we analyze it.  Then we do something else, we “intuit” and imagine and come up with new ideas that were not already programmed into our data base.

I received an email a few years ago that contained a paragraph about the wonders of the human brain. It was written with almost every word misspelled. Only the first and last letters of each word were in the right place and the rest of the letters were scrambled. Yet, I could read and the paragraph with complete understanding. (The only pre-requisite for reading the paragraph was the ability to read correctly spelled words.)  The ability of the human brain to rearrange the misplaced letters is fascinating. We truly are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:1).

Our built-in computer also can get sluggish, does not respond to stimulus, throws up error signals when old data collides with new data, freezes up, and occasionally shuts down.  We frequently need defragging, rebooting, virus control, and technical support. And sometimes the technical advice from friends or other support people just isn’t enough – as helpful as they can be, they don’t know our “insides” well enough to come up with the right solution.

Sometimes I have to go back to my manufacturer and say, “God, my Maker, help!! I need a fresh start.  Please take over.  Defrag me, remove my mental viruses, clean the registry of my old life that conflict with the upgrade your Holy Spirit installed when He regenerated me.  I am overwhelmed, I feel like I need a ‘reboot’ or I’ll ‘shut down.’  I just can’t process what is going on in my life right now.”

And just as my husband comes to the rescue with my computer problems, God says, “I’m right here and ready to help.  Move over and give me the chair, let me into your computer. Let my words override your mental confusion. Let me change your thought patterns, your perspective. Let my truths sink into your being – because when “you know the truth . . . the truth will set you free.”

He who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” keeps His word. You can’t beat that extended warranty anywhere.

So, do you have any current repair needs: defragging, cleaning out of unhelpful data, removal of viruses, de-cluttering – or do you need a whole new hard drive? Entrust yourself to God. You are His specialty.

ANYONE BEEN THERE?

© 2011, Marcy Alves

What, Me Worry? Or Why Pray When You Can Worry? – Pt. 3


Part 3 of 3

How do you keep God’s peace in your life in those times when your human nature tells you that you need to worry? Everything seems to be falling apart around you? Someone you love is dying? You’ve been jobless for months and the bills are mounting with no reserve? Your dinner burned because of an unexpected protracted phone call from a high pressure collection agency? Your new puppy just chewed your new pair of shoes? You daughter just joined the National Guard.

Here are some practical suggestions that really work:

      1.  Learn to function from a base of trust in God

Isa. 26:3   “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on you, because he trusts in you.”

If you’ve read my blog series on “Real Faith”, you know that you can’t have faith unless you trust God.

I recently was visiting in the local hospital with the mother of a very sick young woman and spoke with a nurse (a believer) who is a friend of that family. I asked her if she saw many miracles on the surgical wing of the hospital where she works. The nurse, who is from Liberia, said: “No. What I see here in the US is that people put much more faith in the doctors than they do in God. So, they don’t see many miracles.”

We’ve got to choose to put our trust in the One who has credentials that surpass any specialized, educated, experienced, highly respected medical professional; the One who is responsible for providing the earth with the “stuff” out of which all medical treatments are derived.

      2.  ”Turn negative, peace disrupting thoughts over to God

2Cor. 10:4-5   The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Once my husband, David, and I were house-sitting for some friends who owned a bed & breakfast, horse ranch.  Our first day there I looked out the window and saw the horses on the front lawn instead of in the corral where they belonged.  We went outside and tried unsuccessfully to chase them into the fenced-in area.  Then my husband got a bright  idea.  He went into the barn and returned with a bucket of feed and a rope.  One by one he approached the horses with the bucket; as they lowered their heads to eat the grain, David slipped the rope around their necks, one at a time, and led each one back to the corral.  This is a good picture to keep in mind when thinking of what it means to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.  Picture each thought as a run-away horse being lead by a rope to Jesus – hand the rope over into His able hands.

      3.  Learn to turn to God in prayer on a regular basis,

Phil. 4:6   Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.   7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

How’s your prayer life? It’s interesting how we are often prone to talk to everyone else about our problems and needs, but not to the One who can do something about them.

There once was a woman who wrote to me that her mother had a certain mental condition, which tendency can be genetically transmitted to offspring. She and her brother were worried that they might develop the same condition. I shared the Philippians passage with her and it gave her great encouragement. God has promised that when we “present our requests” to Him – with thanksgiving, He will guard our “minds”. Awesome!

      4.  Practice the presence of God.

Alexander MacClaren once said, “Peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of God.”  More Gathered Gold, pg. 219

An elderly Christian was asked by some young believers what his secret of tranquility was.  They asked him, “Don’t the temptations [to worry] that bother us come knocking at the door of your heart anymore?”  He answered:  “The temptations that trouble you do come knocking, but I answer:  ‘The place is already occupied.’”

We need to learn to  trust in God and remain in constant communication with Him so that we know that we are not alone in our situation.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago I came home a little numbed by the experience. I was not distraught or fearful or totally overwhelmed. I was puzzled about the reason for it. I don’t believe any experience we have in this life, good or bad, is a wasted experience.

When we returned home from the hospital after that diagnosis I retreated to my favorite prayer spot and entered the presence of my heavenly Father. There was such peace there. I presented my questions to my Lord: “How? Why? What now?”. He gave me several words – which have sustained me for these three years: 1. “This experience is not just for you – I will use it in others’ lives.” 2. “Don’t be afraid.” 3. “Wait on me.” 4. “Trust me.”

I can only rest in those words from God by practicing His presence daily. And when negative, peace disruptive things come into my life – in self-defense, I run into the protection of His arms, and put my trust in Him, who is still on His throne.

May our Father bless you and take you out of a place of worry into the place of peace, as He leads you beside still waters and restores your soul.

©2011, Marcy Alves

What, Me Worry? Or Why Pray, When You Can Worry? – Pt. 2


Part 2 of 3

Click here to read Part 1

Several years ago a friend shared with us that his photography business had just lost a significant account. My husband expressed his concern with something like, “I’m so sorry. Will you be okay?” To which our friend replied, “David, it’s just money.”

It would be good if more of us would have that attitude towards our financial losses or lack of desired supply.

Many of the things we worry about involve money:  jobs, bills, children’s education, caring for elderly parents, etc.  Money problems are common to us all.  Everyone has money problems – rich and poor.  You either don’t have enough, or you try to protect what you have, or you don’t know what to do with what you have. Jesus gives us some needful instruction regarding this time consuming and mentally troubling topic.

Matt. 6:24-34   “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.   25  “Therefore,   [when you see a ‘therefore’ find out what it’s there for] I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?   26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?   27 Who of you by worrying  can add a single hour to his life?  28  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.   29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.   30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?   31 So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’   32 For the pagans run after all these things, [the Jews to whom Christ was talking understood pagans to be those who followed false gods] and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.   34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  (italics and emphasis ,mine)

Worrying about financial things is like serving another god – Mammon.  Jesus said it, I’m only quoting it:  “You cannot serve both God and Money.   Therefore  I tell you, do not worry about your life, . . .”  What we are subtly saying by our worry is, “God can’t be trusted with the details of my life.  Things happen in my life that are out of God’s control — my circumstances are bigger than He is.”

Like many people today, my husband and I often have more bills than money at the end of the month.  One winter day some time ago, we received a particularly large electric bill.  (At that time we were living in a house that used electric heat .) I knew that I should leave the bill for my husband to open,  but I wanted to see how much our energy conserving methods had saved us that month.  When I opened the bill it was much larger than expected and I began to panic.  “God, where are you?” I cried.  “How are we going to pay this bill?”  And I began to spiral into depression within minutes.

It was then the Lord asked me, “Marcy, how did you feel 5 minutes ago?”  “I felt fine,” I answered him with an accusing edge in my voice.  Then He said to me, “Go back to five minutes ago.  I haven’t changed since then.”

What happened?  I got my eyes on my inability and off of God’s ability.   That’s where worry starts.  We forget we have a heavenly Father who loves us and is able to care for us.

Said the robin to the sparrow,  “I would really like to know,

Why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so.”

Said the sparrow to the robin, “I think that it must be,

They have no Heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.  (unknown)

How do we keep God’s peace in our lives in those times when our human nature tells us we need to worry?  Next installment we’ll look at some practical suggestions that really work.

In the meantime, consider this: is all your worrying making a difference? Do you know that there is a Heavenly Father who cares for you? Or have you just forgotten?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Avenging Our Enemy?


I apologize to my readers, this is a long blog article and the content different than most of my blogs. Please bear with me and read to the end – I don’t want to do this in two parts. Thank you.

With news of the recent demise of long-time #1 radical terrorist, Osama Bin Laden and speculation about what may or may not result from the act of taking him out of the picture, both public and social media have been pervaded with opinions about whether or not the United States had a right to cross national borders to eradicate the long time enemy of the free world.

I’m sure we don’t have to restate here the long record of Ben Laden’s personally directed acts of aggression against the USA in particular over the years, nor the terrorist training camps under his tutelage, direction and encouragement.

Some people feel our Navy seals had no right to go into Pakistan without express permission to deal with this radical terrorist. Others feel it was okay to go in, but that Bin Laden should not have been killed, especially since he was not armed. Some have expressed the notion that they would have rather seen him “rot in jail”. (While I don’t know how many U.S. citizens would have become hostages in barter attempts for his release had he been captured alive and imprisoned, that’s an understandable human response.)

Ironically, several people have been invoking the “Christian love” angle (Jesus did say to love our enemies and pray for those who dispitefully use us) as a reason Bin Laden should not have been killed. They say that since we are a “Christian nation” we should be following the Bible. I take issue with that line of thinking for several reasons.

But before I go into that, it’s important to actually know what the Bible teaches about such matters.

In a Facebook dialogue that referenced “actions consistent with” the Bible there were two important issues that surfaced:

1. That the “God of the Old Testament” is somehow a different God than the one Jesus reveals in the New Testament.

Sorry, but it’s the same God – just another side of Him that we are exposed to in a brighter light in the NT.

My husband often shares about his grandfather who was a police officer in Ludlow, MA. His grandfather lived near David’s parents and would often come home for lunch. David would wait for him on the stone wall that edged the yard the family shared with granddad. As a little boy, David was excited to wait for his grandfather, who always treated him kindly – placing his police hat on David’s head and asking him if he had been a good boy – sharing lunch with him, etc. Later, as a young man,  David discovered that his kind grandfather was one of the toughest cops in the precinct – sometimes brutal with law-breakers. Two sides . . . same man. Perceptions of Sam Brown differed depending upon whether you were a law-breaker or a family member.

Often God is portrayed as angry and vengeful in the OT, but if you look carefully, you will also see a God of love there. In the NT, in Jesus the”love” side is easier to see. That’s the side the “family” sees.

2. The issue of Biblical ignorance: When I mentioned a teaching from the book of Romans, one dialogue participant thought it was in the Old Testament. Many of us argue that our beliefs are from the Bible, God’s Word, but we don’t take the time to find out what it really says. We can’t even find our way around in it.

I stated earlier in this missive that I take issue with the idea that the U. S. is a “Christian nation” and with the debate over what the military should have done with Bin Laden. Here are some of my reasons for taking issue:

First, we are not a “Christian nation”. Didn’t our own President announce that in his acceptance speech – or sometime shortly thereafter? You just have to look around to see overwhelming evidence to support this perspective. Our government is not run on truly Christian principles. For example, the abortion debate, defining when a baby is a human, homosexual issues, assisted suicide, roadblocks to free expression of religious beliefs in public places, secularization of education, etc.

Second, God gave the government – whether secular or Christian – the right to bear the sword against evil doers. Paul’s epistle to the Roman believers was written at a time when a pagan, secular government was in control. After exhorting the believers (in Romans 12:17-21) to not repay evil with evil, to do what is right in the sight of all men, to be at peace with everyone, and to not take their own revenge, Paul then restated Jesus’ teaching about how believers should treat their personal enemies – feeding them and giving them drink.

Yet Paul gives the following instruction to the Christians, just after, in Rom. 13:1-5:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.”  (NIV)

And third, the issue of crossing the border of a sovereign state to deal with Bin Laden, without informing the government of that sovereign state (Pakistan) is a moot point; it has long been the stance of the U.S. government that anyone who harbors terrorists will be treated as a terrorist – you don’t tell terrorists what your military plans are. Pakistan has been accepting the generosity of the USA, yet scorning us by offering asylum (officially or unofficially, it matters not so long as someone in authority knew about it) to a world-recognized terrorist. You just can’t buy real friendship anymore.

Aside: And how is it that we are giving billions away to impoverished countries, yet we are trillions in debt? I think we are borrowing from other countries who are not giving their money away to help others, nor would they do so. Something is wrong with this picture.

Human government will never be able to solve the human problem of sin, nor control the mechanisms of the real enemy – whose chief purposes are to kill, to steal and to destroy.

And even Christian love will never solve the problem of terrorism, a religion fueled by hatred, the greed of the human heart, hatred, bitterness, revenge, or abuse of individuals or specific genders.

Are we as Christians to use what influence we still have in a democracy to influence our governments policies and laws? Yes. We are to be salt and light. But . . .

There will never be a perfect government until the Lord Jesus returns to the earth – humans can’t do it without the royal reign of Christ – no matter how loving we are. Until Satan and his angels are destroyed in the lake of fire, the earth will not be at peace. As my husband pointed out in a recent post, entitled “Bin Laden’s Death: Mission Behind the Mission, the real warfare is in the heavenlies – what’s happening on earth is just a shadow of the “real world”.

Thanks for reading and considering another “viewpoint”. Feel free to share with me some of your thoughts – but a little shorter than mine, please. 🙂

©2011, Marcy Alves

What, Me Worry? Or Why Pray, When You Can Worry? – Pt.1


Part 1 of 3

As Mad Magazine’s  freckle-faced,  elephant-eared, toothy smiled Alfred E. Newman used to say: “What, me worry?” This sentiment should be the watchword of Christians today, but all too often our lives proclaim, “Why pray, when you can worry?”  For many Christians worry is a bothersome, but normal part of living on terra firma.  After all, who doesn’t worry about bills, health, kids or taxes now and then?

I heard about a woman who worried from sun-up to sun-down.  She worried about the weather, how to pay for college (for her 1 and 3 year olds), what to have for Christmas dinner (this began just after Labor Day) and who her husband would marry if she died before he did.  One day she popped in at her neighbor’s house for a cup of coffee and the normal worry lines were nowhere to be seen.  Her mystified friend asked her wasn’t she concerned that it might (or might not) rain that day.  The woman replied that she had no longer any need to worry.  Her friend asked what brought about this state of grace and the perpetual worrier explained that her dear husband had hired someone to worry for her.  The hired man worried about the house, the grocery bill, the Christmas dinner, college for the kids, etc.

“If he does all that worrying, you must have to pay him a lot,” her neighbor ventured.

“Yes, about forty-thousand dollars a year,”  the converted worrier answered.

“Well!” exclaimed her friend.  “How in the world are you going to pay for that?!”

Smiling sweetly, the former worrier sipped her coffee, took a second Danish and said, “That’s his worry.”

Most of us can’t afford to hire someone to worry for us.  So we do it for ourselves. And for some of us, it’s a fulltime job.

The majority of our worries are about things over which we have no control.  One man charted his worries and discovered that 40% of them were about things that never happened; 30% were about past decisions that he couldn’t unmake, 12% dealt with other people’s criticisms of him; and 10% were worries about his health.  He concluded that only 8% were really legitimate.

How much of your worries are “legitimate”?  If you were asked to chart what you worried about one year, or six months, or even a month ago today?  Could you even remember what it was?

The word “worry” is derived from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “to strangle or to choke”. It reminds us of what Jesus said in Mark 4:18-19 about some who hear the word, but. . . “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”  Worry makes God’s word unfruitful in your life; it literally strangles the word.

Vance Havner said, “Worry is like a rocking chair, it’ll give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.”

Besides using up lots of time and energy in an unproductive manner, worry produces many adverse effects.

First, worry affects you physically:  worry is a physical stress which, among other things, breaks down resistance to disease, interferes with restful sleep, diseases the nervous system, promotes hair loss in men and in women, and raises cholesterol levels in the blood.

The Bible tells us in  Ps. 31:9-10 some things stress (for instance, worry) does to the body:  “Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.   10 My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.”

Second, worry, affects you emotionally:  Prov. 12:25   An anxious heart weighs a man down, . . .”  Worry makes your spirit feel heavy hearted.

Third,  worry affects you spiritually:  It is sin.  Phil. 4:6 says,   “Do not be anxious about anything . . .”   These words are in the imperative; it’s a command.  The Scripture does not say, “If you can, don’t be anxious”,  or “Don’t be anxious, unless you can’t help it”.

One woman excused her sin by saying, “It must help to worry, because the things I worry about never happen.”

Worry and faith are mutually exclusive.  When you are worrying, you are not trusting God.  When you are trusting God, you are not worrying.

There’s more to come on this topic in future blogs. But in the meantime, think about the things you tend to worry about. Has worry solved any of them for you?

 

©2011, Marcy Alves

%d bloggers like this: