Facing the squeeze of anxiety.

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4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

Conflict produces anxiety in most of us. Whether we are simply uneasy about a relationship, struggling with having disappointed another person, dealing with feeling out of place in a social setting, unsure of our performance on a test, or facing raw hostility  — anxiety alerts us: this is important. So if it is important — talk with God about it.

Paul gives exhortations in verses 4-9 in the context of a larger call for peacemaking between two conflicted leaders, Euodia and Syntyche, who were part of the Philippian church. Even peacemaking makes most of us a bit nervous. So no matter what side of a conflict you are on or if you are entering into conflicted relationships the anxiety there can choke your best intentions.

Each of the exhortations in these verses disrupts a product of anxiety.

Anxiety robs us of joy, so rejoice. However, the Apostle Paul directs us in to the Presence of Jesus to find matters of rejoicing in the Gospel. (vs. 4.)

Anxiety dampens our consideration of others and creates self-centredness, so consider the Lord’s closeness.  Notice how Paul reminds us of the closeness of Jesus and calls us into a considerate, reasonable, gentle approach towards others. (vs. 5)  Jesus is at hand, close, not far. He is Immanuel, God with us. He is keeping an eye on us and our lives, thoughts, actions, and attitudes are not unobserved by Him.

Anxiety paralyses us by limiting our access to the resources available to us, so Paul directs us to pray. (vs 6-7) When we pray we are accessing the abundant, unlimited, generous God who has shown himself through Christ Jesus. When we are making our requests known to God, we are giving voice to what has stirred up our anxiety and we are simultaneously entering into the peace of God. Even though the circumstances may not yet have changed — we are being changed.

Anxiety clouds our thinking, fixates on the negative, and creates a stingy story line, so think about… I love how Paul directs the believers to regulate their thinking. (vs 8-9) When in conflict, the storylines we create about others and ourselves are most likely to not be characterized by what is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. Jesus provides us with much that is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise in the Gospel and in Creation, so we are exhorted to discipline our thinking into those things and realities. Why? Our thinking will be expanded beyond the shrink wrap effect of anxiety and into the abundance of God.

To anticipate the next time you face the squeeze of anxiety you may find it beneficial to print out this text and keep it around where you may be drawn by the Spirit into these life-giving processes and into life provided by the God of peace.

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The Folly of Collecting Wise Sayings

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1 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

2To know wisdom and instruction,

to understand words of insight,

3to receive instruction in wise dealing,

in righteousness, justice, and equity;

4to give prudence to the simple,

knowledge and discretion to the youth—

5Let the wise hear and increase in learning,

and the one who understands obtain guidance,

6to understand a proverb and a saying,

the words of the wise and their riddles.

7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:1-7

 

I enjoy proverbs and enjoy reading collections of proverbs from a variety of cultures. I’ve been making my way through a collection of proverbs and sayings from Haiti.

Here’s one from Hidden Meanings, the Truth and Secret in Haiti’s Creole Proverbs by Wally R. Turnbull:

Figi ki vann nan credo se pa li ki ranmase kob la.

The face that sells on credit is not the one that collects the debt.

Meaning: One changes personalities when collecting a debt.

 

So true.

There is a problem or danger for the collector of wise sayings and its noted in the first chapter of The Proverbs in the Bible. As a collection of wise sayings from a variety of authors within Israel’s wisdom literature much of the work is attributed to Solomon. Solomon is aware that simply knowing proverbs and having them in your head is not enough. Wisdom is relational; its a mix of knowledge: content and observations about relationships in life. Solomon contends that the first relationship to  establish wisdom as a “knowingness” in our lives is a relationship with God.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

So you could collect and memorize all the sayings, but if you live without the  fear of the Lord you will lack knowledge.

The fear of the Lord.

What is it?

An abiding and disturbing sense.

An abiding sense of the bigness, mysteriousness, “I will not be controlled by you-ness” of God?

An abiding sense of being seen, known, examined by, measured by, cared for, and even loved by God?

An abiding sense that God does not miss a thing about us?

An abiding sense that God enters into relationship with us?

An abiding sense that God is God an I am not.

Collecting proverbs will never provide the fear of the Lord. However, the Bible’s Proverbs contend that people who have an abiding and disturbing sense of God will love, treasure, and apply wisdom.

More than meets the eye.

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1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-3

Your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Of this I’m sure: there is no end to the many demands competing for the allegiance of our attention, affections, and thinking. When we anchor our identity in Christ He works to bring the way think and act into alignment with Him. He is the King on the throne of God… and we are with Him.

We live like undercover agents—seeking to act and live according to Jesus’ generous grace shown to us. What we are is not always recognizable. Jesus knows all about. Even those closest to him didn’t recognize our Heavenly Father. (See John 14)

But, even though on occasion when what we are is not apparent to others and even to ourselves, Paul affirms this reality: our lives are hidden with Christ in God. There’s more to you than meets the eye! We have been brought into His communion and there is nothing in this world that can change our destiny. When Christ appears, when our faith is made sight, we will be with Him displaying His glory.

So go ahead, get out there and take a risk at loving, at trying something new, at beginning a new adventure with Jesus, or at picking up where you left off or fell down last time. There is no failure that will invalidate who you are in Christ. Your life is hidden with Christ in God.

The growing up struggle… in Christ.

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27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:27-29

Growing up! There is so much that goes into it growing up. In our journey to maturity most of us experience the childhood, teen, and adulthood journey to maturity. It goes like this: dependence, independence, interdependence. To be a mature adult is to be a person who is able to carry their own load and to share their load and the load of others in relationships of interdependence. Yes, maturity in Christ does that for us relationally with other people as we develop good boundaries and learn to love well.

However, maturity in Christ does NOT venture away from dependence on God. Rather,  maturity in Christ is the struggle to move by way of repentance toward God and into belief on Jesus Christ our Lord so we can be fully IN the communion of God through the grace of Jesus. Paul says he labours and agonizes for Christ-ian maturity. Disciple-makers yearn for Christ-like maturity in the lives of the people with whom God has connected them.

Our hyper-individualism in the West definitely works against us sometimes when it comes to maturing as a Christian. We act like “spirituality” is a simple individual pursuit. But that would be counter to the ways of Jesus. While there is much for the individual to do there is also much that we will never “become” in Christ if we are not sharing the venture in the community of believers called church.

I’m so glad through the years that God has blessed me with men and women who followed Jesus and invested their lives in my growth. Someday, well even today, I believe you can be this kind of person “labouring-for-maturity-in-Christ-person” to another growing follower of Jesus!

Jesus is not an absentee landlord.

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15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

 

Jesus holds it all together. Not only were all things created through Him and for Him, but He also remains connected and part of life — Jesus holds it all together. He is not an absentee landlord. This man Jesus who is the image of the invisible God, precedes Creation and now holds it all together! This is a magnificent declaration of Jesus’ supreme importance to life.

When I feel as if everything is falling apart — Jesus is holding it together. When I wonder if death and destruction is winning — I must remember that death has been defeated through Christ. These powers arrayed against the knowledge of God and the glory of God in creation, in people, and in the church have nothing on Him.

The universe is personal. It is personally connected to Jesus, yet it is a distinct reality. You and I can study all that is created as an entity separate from God — but the declaration of Scripture is that in the mind of God all things were created for Christ Jesus.

Jesus is supreme. Our lives, are held together by Jesus. Glory! to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, is to engage personally with the One who made you and knows you.