I was asked to preach a message about fear. As I read Psalm 24, I saw, really, three sorts of fear with biblical remedies. Have a listen, or click the link below to view the Facebook Live video (with or without an account).
Are you a worrier?
One of the strange little things I remember from my childhood is the “worry stone”. It was a piece of polished white stone that had a concave indentation in it, that, I was told, one could rub one’s thumb in as a means of passing the time while worrying. (And Protestants complained about prayer beads?!) I’m sure it was just a gimmick someone created to make money selling to people who easily give in at knick-knack stores, but the fact that people bought these things suggests to me that worry may be a bigger part of life than we care to admit.
It always astounds me when I find people who love and serve Jesus who also worry. Jesus himself told us that worrying wouldn’t add a single day to our lives, or a single cubit to our height (depending on the translation you read). He was right. I’ve never seen anything significant accomplished through worry.
But what do we do instead? After all, if I tell someone not to worry, what is that person going to do in place of worry? King David had some good advice: “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears” (Psalm 34.4, NLT).
We are disinclined to unleash our burdens entirely. We can give our concerns to the Lord, and then almost immediately take them back…as if God can’t handle them. Cognitively, we know he can, but practically, we think we need to deal with them on our own. But when we give our concerns to God, we can leave them in his care, and not worry one bit.
The Canadian hymn writer, Joseph Scriven, had the idea right when he wrote
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged: take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness: take it to the Lord in prayer.
There is a better way to deal with concerns than to worry. Give them to the Lord.
Encouragement From The Word will return on July 7.
Have you taken time to laugh lately?
I don’t watch much television; I have enough drama in my life! But when I do watch TV, it’s either because I want to learn something or I want to laugh.
I read a lot, as you might imagine, and from time to time, I like to read something that will make me laugh. (There are certain volumes that make me chortle quite heartily, and I’m not allowed to read those in bed!)
I spend a lot of time with people whose stories are almost always sad, so I do my best to make time to spend with people who make me laugh. I did this just last week, spending a bit of time with a friend whom I don’t see all that often, but when I do, his stories invariably have me laughing almost to the point of tears.
As we encounter news stories, most of them are saddening, disheartening or plain old frightening. It can be depressing to engage in world affairs! But laughter is good for us physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.
The Bible says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17.22, NLT).
After all, just because we are disciples of Jesus doesn’t mean we can’t have fun! Take time to laugh today. You won’t regret it.
I’m going to make this short and to the point.
“Follow your heart,” the world says.
And sometimes, the church says it, too.
But what does the Bible say?
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17.9, NLT).
So pay more attention to your Bible than to your heart. Your Bible will point you to God.
Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking three times on the occasion of the 153rd anniversary of Côte des Neiges Presbyterian Church in Montreal. I suspect that, while I was there to provide spiritual encouragement to the church and to call the seekers to faith, I probably got more out of being among these people than they got from me. Let me tell you why.
In that congregation I saw a snapshot of the Kingdom of God, and it was beautiful.
The congregation is reflective of its neighbourhood in terms of its ethnic makeup, and there are people from – quite literally – all over the world who worship God in that community. To watch them in praise, and then in fellowship over meals, was truly a delight.
One incident that stood out for me involved a young Brazilian couple who had just moved to the city for school. Neither spoke English, but at least one of them spoke Spanish, and serendipitously, a Spanish-speaking woman in the congregation sat with them and translated the service after they wandered in for worship (intentionally seeking a Presbyterian church, since that is their background). Then, at lunch, she introduced them to the Pastor of the congregation, and he asked if they had any needs. His desire for these folks, along with welcoming them into the faith community, was to make sure that their physical needs were met – something this congregation has become known for, even among government social service agencies, which are often suspicious of churches.
The young Brazilian couple was then escorted into the church hall to enjoy a great meal, with 150 other people of all ages. And I’m assured that they will have been given a doggy-bag of leftovers, as happens with several people each week when the church sits down to a meal. For some in the congregation, that meal is their biggest of the week, and a highlight of their lives.
At both worship and meals, there were children roaming around, making sounds, and what did the church do? Nothing. Why? Because having children roam around, making sounds, is normal. We can rejoice when these things happen, because they are signs of life. It’s great to see a growing church in this day and age, and that one is growing!
Somehow, I suspect that when I enter the great marriage feast of the Lamb, it’s going to look a lot like Côte des Neiges Church. And that will be wonderful!
Why am I telling you this? The hope is to encourage you, that there are churches being effective in doing God’s work. I hope yours is one of them. When we visit other worshipping communities, we have the opportunity to learn things that will help us make our own churches into little snapshots of the Kingdom of God.
“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (Psalm 133.1, NRSV).