HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah 

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 19, 2017)

It was a perfect end to a busy week. I had accomplished everything on my agenda, which is rare. Now it was time to head home and catch up on some well-needed family time. My face was smiling, my shoulders were relaxed, my mind was clear, my steps were unhurried, and I was humming Old Satch, “What a Wonderful World.” Then it happened. In a matter of seconds, the smile vanished, the shoulders became tense, the mind turned muddy, the swag was gone, and I think I began humming Old Hank, “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry.” The family time was nothing like I had envisioned. If truth be told, it was a rather miserable weekend. You ask, “What brought such sudden and miserable change?” Well, I ran into a toxic person. You know the type who pushes you into Bunyan’s Slough of Despond, the fictional bog in which a person sinks under the weight of sin, guilt, shame, and discouragement. Have you ever been a victim of a toxic person? Let me share with you how to handle them:

First, recognize them for who they are. Toxic people come in all types. Dr. Travis Bradberry (double PhD in Clinical and Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence 2.0) identifies 10 kinds of toxic people: The Gossip, The Temperamental, The Victim, The Self-Absorbed, The Envious, The Manipulator, The Dementor, The Twisted, The Judgmental, and The Arrogant. Most of these designations are self-explanatory except for maybe the Dementor and the Twisted. The former are the kind who suck the life out of the room by their negativity and pessimism and the latter are out to hurt you, make you feel bad, or get something from you. Bradberry warns, “toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs…Toxic people don’t just make you miserable—they’re really hard on your brain.”

Next, always be prepared to face toxic people. To think that we can avoid them completely is unrealistic and naïve. They might be in the family, neighborhood, workplace, or social organizations (even church!). Trying to ignore them or keep them at arm’s length will only aggravate the situation and attempting to mirror their behavior will only lead to disaster. Instead, learn their behavior patterns and establish the appropriate emotional boundaries in your mind. Don’t get smug like me and stumble into a bad weekend. Also, avoid any toxic song, show, movie, book, or event in your life. Such things only add unnecessary toxicity to your life.

What if the damage has been done? Many years ago I allowed a toxic person to steal my joy. It took a toll on my health, family, and spiritual life. God in his mercy sent a mature person into my life who immediately recognized my distress. He pointedly asked, “Do you want this toxin out of your system?” At first I pretended to be fine and then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride. This godly person told me that he too struggled with it and he found help in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44 “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” He said, “Start praying that God would bless this person who has been toxic in your life. Pray for the next 20 days for physical, spiritual, and financial blessing in their life. Be aware that the first time you pray that it will be impossible to mouth those words. Do it again the next day and you might feel sick to your stomach but don’t stop. Eventually, it will become easier and easier. Then, there will come a day when you will pray and actually find yourself praying sincerely as if for a friend. Somewhere towards the end of the 20 days, you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you are free. The toxin has cleared out of your system.” Guess what! It actually worked!

Ultimately, sin is the toxin and only the grace of God through Jesus Christ can heal your life. Give it a try today.

REST A WHILE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

REST A WHILE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on June 24, 2017)

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:31)

Summer is here. Those who can are taking every opportunity to get away to the lake, beach, mountains, or some place other than home. But will they truly rest? Most don’t. Many complain on returning that they need a vacation to recuperate from their vacation! Then there are those who are staying home and getting caught up on all the unfinished projects. No rest for the weary. I confess that I fall into the latter category. I enjoy work! It energizes me. It bothers me to see able-bodied people being lazy.

So who is better? The ones who get away or the ones who keep going? Neither, because both are still failing to rest. Here’s why:

God’s idea of rest is to cease from labor. In the Book of Genesis he set the pattern for us. After creating the world and everything in it in six days, he rested on the seventh day, and even blessed and sanctified it as a Day of Rest. Of course, God didn’t need to rest. “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4) He did it to remind us that without adequate rest we will fail to function to the level of our abilities and even fall apart. As the old Greco-Roman saying goes, “If you keep your bow tightly strung at all times, it will quickly break, but if you let it rest, it will be ready to use whenever you need it.” True rest is complete cessation of work.

While it is obvious that those who stay home and keep working are failing to follow God’s mandate, it is not as apparent but many who are getting away are also just as guilty. The culprit is our world of hyper-connectivity. It’s no secret that technology has changed our world radically in the past decade or so, in some ways to our detriment. I’m not advocating abandoning our smart phones or deleting our social media accounts. We’re way past the exit ramp. What I am suggesting is taking breaks from our statuses and stories and allowing our minds to rest. Constantly checking and scrolling through updates is just disguised labor. Just like Jesus and his disciples were constantly bombarded by people coming and going, we too have people dropping in every moment, albeit behind a touch screen.

So, whether you get away or stay home, truly rest. If you’re on the beach or the lake, post pictures of how amazing it is to be you! But then put it away. Enjoy nature, God’s natural relaxant. Take the time to connect with the loved ones near you, especially the young. They’re not as addicted to social media as you may think. In the absence of genuine, fun, and meaningful interactions with the adults in their lives, they have defaulted to poor but enticing substitutes. I fear that if we don’t break our addiction, we’re headed towards a relationship precipice that will be much worse than Harry Chapin ever imagined in “Cat’s in the Cradle.”

By the way, don’t neglect the more essential spiritual rest which only Christ can provide, as he said – “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Steer Your Thoughts by Pastor Abidan Shah

STEER YOUR THOUGHTS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

steeryourthoughtsIntroduction: This is our 5th message in our series “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” and this one is called “STEER YOUR THOUGHTS.”

Matthew 6   25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Bridge: Would you agree that worry is the result of unguided thoughts? Think about it – what happens to children who are left to themselves without proper guidance and discipline? They become monsters. So also our thoughts, if they are left to themselves without proper facts and supervision, they become monsters.

Background of the passage: So far in this series, which began in verse 19, Jesus told us that to deal with worry we have to change our thoughts: change our thoughts about wealth – “Don’t hoard but share”; change our thoughts about other people’s success – “Don’t let your eye be evil but good”; and change our thoughts about who controls your life – “Don’t have two masters. Only Christ.” But all that was to lead us to this section. To get to the heart of worry, we have to change what we fundamentally think about our relationship with God.

Question: What do you believe about God? Do you believe that He cares for your needs? Do you believe that He is a good Father who cares for His children? Do you believe He is a sovereign God who has the best in store for us? Are you saved? Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son…how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

So how do you steer your thoughts?

I. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT LIFE. 

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.”

Background: When Jesus made that statement, He was not advocating some vagrant life, with no responsibilities. Neither was He suggesting some monastic life, all detached and otherworldly. Instead, He was teaching His listeners how to have the proper perspective on the daily necessities of life. Think about Jesus’ listeners. Most of them were the common people from first century Palestine. For food, they had to depend on the rainfall and even if they had adequate rainfall, insects, locusts, and wild fire could destroy their crops. For water, they had to rely on wells and springs but what if there was a drought? For clothes, the poor people generally wore woolen garments. At the most they would have one change of clothing but what if there was a fire? By the way, this is how most of the world still lives at this very moment, just day to day.

Jesus was not telling them not to plan for their lives. He was only telling them not to be overcome by “merimnaw.” It’s a Greek word for “worry” that’s much more than daily care. It is “paralyzing anxiety.” We find it used in Psalm 55 in the LXX where David is describing a time of deep trouble and anxiety in his life. In verse 22 he says, “Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you.” The word for burden is “merimnaw”. The only way He could rid himself of this paralyzing anxiety is by casting it on God. We could substitute that word here. Jesus was saying – “Do not be burdened about your life.”

Question: Are you burdened about your life? Are you living under this paralyzed anxiety? With the election year upon us, many are wondering what’s going to happen. Is there going to be another financial crisis? Will we lose our jobs, our homes? Will we be able to meet our daily needs? What’s going to happen to our children, our grandchildren?

What is Jesus’ solution? “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Seems like an odd response but think about it for a moment – “Is not life more than our basic necessities?” Animals live only for their daily necessities, minus clothing. We human beings were created for things far greater. We were created in the image of God and with the ability to relate with Him. We were given the gift to create new things and solve problems and improve our standard of life. We were created with godly attributes of love and justice so we could help those who are weak and abused. We were created with a sense of purpose in life so we could go out and build God’s kingdom. One verse that comes to mind is Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Application: What do you think about your life? Do you look beyond your daily necessities? Have you ever stopped and asked God – “Why did you create me?” “What would you have me to do in this world?” Most human beings will never ask that question. Have you? Are you living this life of paralyzed anxiety? Stop asking, “Are we going to make it?” and start asking, “What am I made for?” It’s only when your mind is on greater things that you can deal with the lesser concerns of life.

II. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR SELF.

26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Israel Raven 1

Israel Raven 1 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Here Jesus appeals to nature to make a very important point. God didn’t just create this world and leave it to fend for itself. He’s not just the Creator of life but He’s also the Sustainer of life. It’s like in our culture today – “Any man can be a father but a dad is someone who sticks around to take responsibility and provide care after conception.” By the way, Luke in his gospel is even more specific about Jesus’ words and he identifies the birds as ravens. These were unclean birds but God cares for them too. The conclusion Jesus draws is “Are you not of more value than they?”

Israel Raven 2

Israel Raven 2 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

If that wasn’t enough, Jesus gives another illustration from nature. By the way, one of the best cures for anxiety and worry is nature. People think that rest and relaxation is watching TV or going shopping or working in the yard or playing golf. All those things are fine but that’s just substituting one activity for another. True rest is when you actually sleep and true relaxation is when you stop all activity and allow your body to return to zero. Spending time in nature will do that for you more than anything else.

Israel Raven 3

Israel Raven 3 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Israel Raven 4

Israel Raven 4 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Listen to verse 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Again, the point is that if God cares for the less desirable and less worthy things in creation, will He not care for the crown of His creation? This may be hard for some of us to understand. We’re living in a world where every effort is made to neutralize any distinction between the creation and us. I love animals and we need to treat them with kindness and compassion. Having said that, there is a world of difference between animals and us. Please don’t blur the lines that God has drawn. God made everything by the word of His mouth but He created us by His own hands. Yes – He gave them life but only we are made in His image. We are of far more value than animals and plants.

Question: Do you know how valuable you are to God? Psalm 8 says, 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 All sheep and oxen—Even the beasts of the field, 8 The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea… Psalm 139:14 says, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” This is biblical self-esteem.

Application: How is your biblical self-esteem? There’s a difference between self-esteem and biblical self-esteem. Self-esteem only asks – “What do you think of your self?” Biblical self-esteem asks – “What do you think God thinks of you?” Do you believe He cares for your daily needs? Do you believe that He has the best in store for you? Do you believe that He won’t abandon you?

III. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT BEING A BELIEVER. 

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek.

Background: The biblical concept of God as our Father is without parallel in other religions. Sometimes I hear people from other religions trying to claim it but they are forcing their view on their religious texts and making them say something they’re not. It’s only in the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) and Judeo-Christian writings that we find the belief that God is the Heavenly Father of His people and as their Heavenly Father He provides for them and protects them. Since Gentiles or unbelievers don’t truly believe that God is their Father, it affects how they live their daily lives. They are vexed with worries and anxieties. They are burdened with paralyzing fears over daily necessities of life. They are out there fending for themselves, trying to survive.

Question: Are you constantly living in worries and anxieties? Then you are living more like Gentiles and unbelievers, than as the people of God.

So how should you live? “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” The Greek word for “seek” is “zeteo” and in this context it has the idea of “eagerly seek.” Meaning: Eagerly seek after what God is doing in your life and in this world. Submit to His will and purpose. Join Him in building His kingdom and spreading His righteousness in your life and in the world. As you work for Him, He will take care of you.

Invitation: Whose kingdom are you building? Yours or God’s. If it’s yours, then you will labor and sweat and worry and panic. If it’s God’s, then, as you work for Him, He will take care of you. Are you working for Him? Are you saved? Do you belong to Him?

Allegiance to One by Pastor Abidan Shah

ALLEGIANCE TO ONE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

allegiancetoone

Introduction: This morning we are in part 4 of our series on Anxiety called “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” and today’s message is titled “ALLEGIANCE TO ONE.”

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Overall Background: As I was preparing for this sermon, I’ll be honest with you, I was tempted to skip over it or just lump it with the next passage and move on. Usually, I even check to see what great preachers have said on a passage but very few actually preached on it. But, the more I studied it and the more I prayed over it, the more I realized that the Holy Spirit was calling me to preach on it. There’s something in this sermon not just for those struggling with worry and anxiety but also for every believer in Jesus Christ.

Here’s the gist of the message: No one is totally free. Everyone has a master. We were designed by God to serve Him. But, if we don’t serve Him, we will serve someone or something in our lives. Furthermore, we cannot serve Him and also serve someone or something else. “No one can serve two masters.” But, if we do serve Christ (the image of the invisible God) and Christ alone, He promises to exchange our chains and shackles for a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. He promises to upgrade our status from servants to friends and He will do something for us that no religion or movement will ever do – He will actually come down to serve us!

All that we will see in a moment but here’s the question – Is Christ the Master of your life? If not, who is? Is it a person? Is it money? Is it a habit? Is it a bad experience? Come to Christ and He will set you free. Are you sharing your allegiance to Christ with someone else? What does this have to do with worry and anxiety? They are simply the symptoms of a divided life. Again, we’re not talking about anxiety attacks and panic attacks but common worry. Are you saved? If not, then today is the day.

3 things are critical to understand this message:

I. A MASTERLESS LIFE IS A DELUSION. 

“No one can serve two masters…”

Background: If you read that statement carefully, there’s something that Jesus is taking for granted – “Everyone has a master. You just can’t have two.” You often hear people say – “No ones gonna tell me how to live my life. I am a free person. I can do whatever I want.” Not true. God never designed us to be masterless. He designed us to serve Him. The word for “Master” is the Greek word “kurios” which we find over 8000 times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX). Over 6120 of those are for “Yahweh,” the name for God and over 425 are for “Adonia,” another name for God. The idea of God as our Master is throughout the Old Testament. It goes all the way back to Genesis 2:8 “The LORD God (Master) planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.” What was his job? It was not to loaf around the garden, lie down, and eat grapes but “tend and keep” the garden. Both Adam and Eve failed in their assignment and stole from their Master. The point is that right from the start, God’s relationship with us was a Master-Servant relationship. I don’t have time to go through every reference of God as our Master in the Old Testament. Let me just give a couple:

  • When God sent Moses to Pharaoh, what did He tell him to say? Exodus 4   22 “…Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serveThe word for “serve” in both Hebrew and the Greek translation is more than just worship. “Latreo” has the idea of a hired servant. God did not say – “Pharaoh, set the people free so they can do whatever they want to do” but “set them free so they can go back to working for me.”
  • Then God warned them that if they didn’t serve Him, they would serve their enemies. Deuteronomy 28:48 “therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.”
  • For time’s sake, let’s jump over to Malachi 1:6 where God says to His people – “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts.”

Here’s the point: Human beings were never designed to be unaccountably free. God designed us to serve Him and He warned us – if we didn’t serve Him, we would serve someone or something. What’s happening in America today? People want freedom for freedom’s sake. The cry of the hour is “I can do whatever I want. You can’t tell me how to live.” What’s the result? Just the way God told His people Israel – “If you won’t serve me, you will serve your enemies.” People all around us are in bondage to sin, to addiction, to immorality, to fears, to doubts, and to the Devil himself.

But there’s something very important that we need to understand – When Jesus came, the title of God as Master (kurios) was applied to Him. Here are a couple of examples:

  • When Satan tried to tempt Jesus, He quoted the Old Testament and said in Matthew 4:7 “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”
  • When people gave Him false devotion, He warned them in Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
  • I can go on and on but Paul sums up the belief of the early church in Philippians 2 10 “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Application: The question is not “Is God your Master?” but “Is Jesus your Master?” Romans 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

II. A DIVIDED LIFE IS A DISASTER.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.”

Background: Let me clarify – This verse is not against working two part time jobs or doing a double major in college. What Jesus is saying is – Don’t straddle the fence. Don’t vacillate between serving God one day and serving the world the next. Don’t be wishy washy with one day all “Jesus Jesus” and the next day “full of the Devil.” Make up your mind. If you don’t, then you’ll either hate Christ and love the world or you will long for the world and grudgingly follow Christ. I know some Christians like that and they’re guilt ridden, conflicted, and a poor testimony for Christ. In essence, their life is a disaster.

Jesus goes on to add – “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon is an Aramaic word for money and property. By the way, there was no god named Mammon back then. Jesus was simply personifying money to point out that money is like a living breathing master who constantly demands our time and devotion. Isn’t that true? For just a little more, people will do anything. Please don’t misunderstand – Making money is not evil. God is not against you being successful. He is not anti-rich. In fact, I know many godly people who are very successful. Having said that, I don’t know why but money has always been and will always try to compete for your time and devotion to God.

Here’s a question: Right this moment, is Christ first in your life or is Money first in your life? Do you seek after Him just as much as you seek after the Almighty Dollar? Again, please don’t misunderstand – I know there are times we have to work extended hours and our spiritual life seems to be on the fly. All of us go through those busy seasons in life but if your season has turned into our status quo, you’re serving two Masters.

How does all this connect with anxiety and worry? They are simply symptoms of a divided life. Again, I’m not talking about anxiety attacks and panic attacks. But stress in a Christian’s life is a by-product of divided loyalty, when we’re trying to please God and also someone or something else. Paul says in Romans 14:8 “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” We may have earthly masters but ultimately only Christ is our Master.

Application: How is your life? Are you sharing your allegiance to Christ with someone else? Is it the Almighty Dollar? How is your walk with God right this moment?

III. A SERVANT’S LIFE IS THE DESTINATION.

Background: For this last point, I want us to step back from the immediate context of Matthew 6:24 and look at the bigger picture, the fuller meaning. What happens when we come to Jesus and give Him our sole allegiance? Listen to Matthew 11 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Meaning: When Christ becomes your Master, He exchanges your life of chains and shackles for a life of true freedom and joyful service. But there’s more – only Christ is that master that once you give Him your total allegiance, He renegotiates your contract and upgrades your status. John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. Meaning: When you serve Jesus as your Master, He doesn’t leave you outside slaving in the cold or the heat for Him but invites you in to be His friend. A Master may keep some things secret from his servant but there are no secrets between friends. But there’s even more – He also changes His status from the Master to the servant.

Christ Washing the Apostles Feet by Dirck Van Baburen

Christ Washing the Apostles Feet by Dirck Van Baburen

Jesus demonstrated this on the night when He was betrayed. If you remember, there was an argument among the disciples as to who was the greatest among them. Jesus being God in flesh knew about their discussion and their thoughts. So before the Feast of the Passover, He stood up from the table, took a towel and a basin full of water, and began to wash the feet of His disciples. Imagine the stunned look on their faces. No one spoke a word but Peter in John 13   6 “Lord, are You washing my feet?…8 …You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Peter’s typical response – “Wash me all over.” Jesus told him that wasn’t the point and when He was done He sat down and listen to what he said – 12 “…Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example…16 …I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master…17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. And Luke adds in 22:27 “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”

This is true biblical Christianity. What is being propagated and disseminated in many churches is a Christianity that says, “I am the best and I deserve the best. God better bless me.” Is it any wonder that the world remains unimpressed and unmoved by us? To the contrary, I believe that we have something that no religion or movement can ever replicate – We have a God who comes down to serve us and then tells us to go do the same. What will happen if we do that in our homes, our marriages, our churches, and our communities?

Is Jesus your Savior? Is He your Master? I Corinthians 12:3 “…no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

Pure Motives, Clear Life

PURE MOTIVES, CLEAR LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

CLEAR MOTIVES PURE LIFE (1)Introduction: Today we are in part 3 of our series on worry and anxiety from the Sermon on the Mount called “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” and today’s message is titled – “PURE MOTIVES, CLEAR LIFE.”

Matthew 6   22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Overall Background: On first reading, the passage we just read seems to be out of context. It’s as if Jesus lost his train of thought and instead of talking about worry and anxiety, He got distracted and went off on some tangent about the lamp and the eye. But, when we study this passage carefully, we realize that Jesus did not lose His train of thought. He did not go off on some rabbit chase. In fact, He was very much on the subject of worry and anxiety. Here’s what Jesus was saying: Daily we are bombarded with messages and stimulus. If our eye is good, which means our focus is on God and on the right priorities and our motives are pure, then we will let only light go inside of us. If our eye is evil, which means our focus is on the things of this world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, then we will allow darkness to enter in. What does this have to do with worry and anxiety? Worry and anxiety are simply symptoms of the darkness down below. (Keep in mind – I’m not referring to anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Go back and listen to the first sermon.) But common worry and anxiety are a manifestation of what’s happening deep below. To cure what is in here, you have to purify your eyes, your focus, and your motives. To do that you need the Holy Spirit of God to apply the Word of God and give you the same focus and the same motives as the Son of God, who was always full of light. He was never worried and never anxious at any point in His life on earth.

Question: Do you struggle with worry and anxiety? How is your eye, your focus? How are your motives? How do you handle the stimulus that comes your way each moment? Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Without the Holy Spirit in your life, your motives will remain questionable. There can be no divine light in your life. By the way, even Christians, unless you are submitting daily to the Word of God and the Spirit of God, you will also be full of darkness.

There are 3 questions that we will answer in order to understand this passage:

I. WHAT IS THE LAMP OF THE BODY?

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…”

Background: “The lamp of the body” is a very strange statement. The only way we can make any sense of it is by looking for other places where Jesus talked about the lamp. We don’t have to go very far because he talks about it in this very Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5   14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Also, the parallel passage in Luke 11 clarifies it some more – 33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye.

The light that is in us is the presence of God. It is the holiness of God. It is the nature of God. It is the only good that is there in this dark sinful world. When our lights are bright, they radiate out and impact those around us. Jesus tells us not to hide this light. It results in good works. It leads lost people to glorify the Father in heaven. It is not hidden by circumstances.

Illustration: On a mission trip to the Yucatan Jungle in Mexico we were invited to go by the home of an elderly couple by their son. The man was one time pastor of a church in the village but too sick and aged to do much now. We walked in and saw this couple lying in their bed. The son asked if we would sing and so we sang in English and our local partners sang in Spanish. Before the chorus was finished, they were sitting up in their bed and singing with us. The glow had returned!

Question: How is your glow this morning? Is it shining brightly? Is it shining dimly? Or is it out? Has the light ever been lit in your life? John talks about how to have this light all throughout his gospel:

John 1   4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

John 8:12   Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 12:46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.

Have you ever received Jesus, the light of the world, in your life?

II. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EYE?

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…”

Background: This is one of the hardest verses in the Bible. Scholars have debated back and forth over the significance of the eye in this passage. We all know that the eye is more than the organ that enables us to see what is around us. Ever since ancient times it was believed that our eyes also reflect what is inside of us. As someone said, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Cicero (Roman philosopher and orator who lived 50 years before Christ) said, “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter.” You can fake a smile and pretend all is well but your eyes will betray what’s really going on inside. Sometimes you can even tell if a person is friendly or mean, generous or greedy just by looking into their eyes. If you face a scary situation or an exciting situation, your pupils will begin to dilate involuntarily. Scientists have even discovered that the eyes can “reveal the presence of broader disorders like heart disease, stroke threats, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.” (The Economist, July 2015)

All that is true but that’s not what Jesus is saying here. Listen again to verse 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…” It’s not “the eye is the mirror of the soul.” The direction of light flow is outside in and not inside out. The eye sheds light inward and directs the decisions we make with our bodies. We may have trouble understanding this but Jewish people in the time of Jesus did not, especially when He said in verse 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Let me give you a couple of examples. In Deuteronomy 15 God had given explicit commands to His people to release their indebted brother in the seventh year, the Year of Release. God knew the human nature and so listen to verse 9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you.” Here the person sees his poor brother in bondage and instead of rejoicing that his year of release has come, he has a cruel and wicked thought in his heart. If I let him go, I’ll have to be out there sweating in the heat. I can’t do that. Now his eye has become evil, his motives are no longer pure and sin has entered in. Another example from Proverbs 28:22 “A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.”

Parable of the laborers in the Vineyard - Bernhard Keil

Parable of the laborers in the Vineyard by Bernhard Keil

Here a person sees riches and instead of praying, “God, what is your purpose? Guide me. Help me to keep you first,” he just chases after money. Now his eye has become evil, his motives are no longer pure and greed has set in. In Matthew 20 Jesus Himself uses the phrase “evil eye” in his parable of the landowner who hired laborers at different hours of the day and when time came to pay them, he paid 1 denarius to all of them. The ones who came early complained about not getting more than the ones who came at the eleventh hour. Listen to what the landowner said to them, 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ Here the early workers seeing that they didn’t get any more, instead of rejoicing over getting their due wage, they complained about those who came at the eleventh hour and call the landowner unfair. Now their eyes have become evil and the sin of ingratitude has set in.

Illustration: Many years ago Nicole and I went to the SBC annual meeting. We were having a wonderful time. Different people came to the stage and preached and gave reports. Then, this one man came to the stage. He wasn’t much older than me. He spoke and people clapped. Just then a small thought went through my mind – “Why him and not me?” The convention was over and we toured the state. As we were headed home, Nicole asked me – “Is something wrong?” I answered – “No” but I knew that wasn’t true. It took several days for me to finally listen to the Holy Spirit. I had allowed the sin of envy to enter in me and bring darkness. I had to repent and the light returned.

“Your focus and your motives direct what enters in you. If they are pure and sincere and set upon the things of God, you will allow God’s light to flow through you but if they are evil and wicked, you will be full of darkness and sin and despair.”

Question: What is your first response to the good and the evil around you? What have you allowed inside that has brought darkness in your life? What is blocking God’s light in your life? Have you ever asked God to purify your motives?

III. WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WORRY AND ANXIETY?

22 “…If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.

Background: Greek word that Jesus used for “good.” It’s actually the word a`plouj, which translates “single.” It has the idea of purity and sincerity. James uses it in its adverbial form in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all sincerely and without reproach…” Meaning: When God gives you wisdom, He doesn’t have any ulterior motives. Paul uses it in its noun form in Romans 12:8 where he tells the Christians in Rome to give but give with sincerity…” Meaning: Don’t have ulterior motives in your giving. So when Jesus says in verse 22 “…If therefore your eye is single,” what He’s really saying is “If your eye is pure or sincere, then your whole body will be full of light…” In other words, if your motives are pure, it will only bring light inside.

Illustration: It attacks the best of us. Billy Graham in his book on the Beatitudes talks about in his early days he would see two people having a great time or laughing and he would feel that it had to do with him or “why wasn’t he included?” He repented of that.

Here’s the point: Worry and Anxiety are a by-product of darkness. The only way to counteract is when the stimulus comes, let the Holy Spirit guide your response. He will make your motives pure and sincere. In turn, what goes in will be light and not darkness. Then what come out will be joy and gratitude not worry and anxiety.

23 “…If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” This can be taken in 2 different ways – Either, if being saved, you’ve allowed darkness to come in, how awful is that darkness inside of you? Or, if being saved, you’ve allowed darkness to come in, how awful must the darkness be in the lost world. Either way, turn on the light!

Are you struggling with worry and anxiety? Ask the Holy Spirit to purify your motives and let the light of Christ flow through you. Are you saved? Invite Christ to be your light today.

Gain by Giving Away by Pastor Abidan Shah

GAIN BY GIVING AWAY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

gainbygivingawayIntroduction: We’re in our series called “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is giving us life principles on how to deal with anxiety and worry. Today’s message is titled – “GAIN BY GIVING AWAY.”

Matthew 6   19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Overall Background: The passage we just read has been misunderstood quite often. Some people think that in this passage Jesus was getting on to the rich who lay up treasures on earth. Others think that He was warning against having material things in life instead of heavenly things. Still others think that He was really talking about the unpredictability of life where moth, rust, and thieves come unannounced and destroy and steal. To understand what this passage is really about, we have to understand it in its context. When we keep reading, we realize that Jesus was building His argument leading up to verse 25 where He says, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life…” In other words, “I am saying all this to you so that you may learn how not to worry in life.”

Here’s the point of this message: Worry or Anxiety has nothing to do with your bank balance. It has to do with attitude of your heart. When your heart is in hoarding and guarding what you have, worry and anxiety will follow. When your heart is in letting go, sharing and helping the less fortunate, then there is assurance and peace and joy.

The question this morning is not “How much money you have?” but “What is the status of your heart?” Are you struggling with worry and anxiety? Are you hoarding or are you sharing? In which bank are you making deposits? The earthly or the heavenly? The earthly will fail but the heavenly will give eternal dividends. There’s never a run on that bank. Are you saved? You’ll have only a partial understanding of today’s message unless the Holy Spirit helps you. Only those who know Christ have the Spirit.

To understand today’s message, we have to understand 3 things.

I. WHAT IS THE HEART? 

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Background: The Greek word for heart is “cardia” from which we get our English words cardiologist, cardiogram, or cardiac arrest. Since the time of Homer, the heart came to represent the seat of our emotions and our mental faculties, to some extent. But in the Hebrew Bible and especially the Greek translation (LXX), the word “cardia” had a much deeper meaning. It meant our emotions, mind, inner life, will, and the very center of being a human. In fact, it is found over 900 times in the LXX. Here are some examples:

  • Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Meaning: Love God from your essence and not just your outward actions.
  • Exodus 7:13 “And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.” Meaning: He made up his mind to disobey God.
  • Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Meaning: God, cleanse from the inside out.
  • Psalm 27 David says, 13 “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. 14 Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart…” Meaning: If you trust God, He will strengthen your will and your perspective on life.

So also in the New Testament:

  • Matthew 15:19 Jesus says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Meaning: The source of sin is inside of us not outside.
  • Romans 5:5 Paul says, “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Meaning: God begins His work deep within our being.

Here’s the point: The heart is the indefinable, indescribable inner life, and the center of our personality. It’s what makes us who we are. It’s the location of God’s work and interaction with us. Our heart can be either full of God and set on the things of God or it can be full of self and set on things of this world. Your heart is who you are.

Application: Where is your heart? Is it full of Christ? Or, is it full of sin? If you haven’t received Christ as your Savior, you are full of sin. The solution is given in Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Meaning: Believe in Jesus inwardly and not just outwardly. Let Him come into your life.

II. HOW DO YOU STORE UP TREASURE IN HEAVEN? 

20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Background: People have all kinds of ideas as to how to store up treasures in heaven – doing things for God, studying the Bible, praying more, serving in church, and winning the lost. None of these things are wrong and we should be doing them but that’s not what Jesus meant when He told us to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. To understand what He meant, we need to compare the parallel passages in Luke that give us some additional information. Luke 12  33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In other words, to store up treasures in heaven, you need to help the poor and the needy. Don’t hoard your money but help the less fortunate and you will start making deposits in the heavenly bank.

Why didn’t Matthew include this clarification by Jesus in his gospel? Because he was writing to a predominantly Jewish audience who already knew this principle. In an apocryphal work known by Ben Sira, which was written two centuries before Christ, it says in Sirach 29   Help a poor man for the commandment’s sake, and because of his need do not send him away empty. 10 Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost. 11 Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold. So also in Tobit, another apocryphal work written two centuries before Christ, it says in Tobit 4 9 So you will be laying up a good treasure for yourself against the day of necessity. 10 For charity delivers from death and keeps you from entering the darkness; 11 and for all who practice it charity is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High. Please don’t misunderstand – these are not scriptures, but they help us understand how the people in the time of Jesus understood “storing up treasures in heaven.”

Christ and Rich young ruler by Heinrich Hofmann

Christ and Rich young ruler by Heinrich Hofmann

In Matthew 19 Jesus explained this very clearly. Do you remember when the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked Him how to have eternal life? Jesus told him to keep the commandments. To which he replied, “Already done it since I was a kid. What’s next?” Mark says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. Meaning: He had compassion on him and said in 21 “…If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, (Mark adds take up your cross) follow Me.” The point is this – giving what you have to help those less fortunate than yourself and needy is storing up treasures in heaven.

By the way, Paul says the same thing to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6   17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Application: What is your attitude towards what you have? Are you hoarding it or are you sharing it? Let me clarify – sharing it does not mean that you go around throwing your money indiscreetly to anyone or everyone; sharing does not mean that you don’t plan and budget for your own life, family, and future. It simply means that you are willing to become the hands of Jesus.

III. WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WORRY AND ANXIETY?

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;

Background: Just like in our world today, imported fabrics were very expensive in the ancient world, especially woollen clothes that had been processed to look bright white or dyed purple. So also silk was like gold in the time of the Romans. But just like today, moth larvae could get into the closet and destroy those expensive clothes. But it was not just clothes but also scrolls, books, and title deeds could be destroyed. How about “rust?” The Greek word is “brosis” which is not really about rust or corrosion but a better translation would be “eaters.” It was a reference to plagues of insects or birds destroying crops and pastures and eating food that was stored away. Then come thieves that break in and steal.

For e.g. I have talked to people who had their home broken into. I asked them how they felt. They felt violated, unsafe, paranoid, anxious, afraid, and the list goes on and on.

What Jesus is saying is – “You can either hoard it and hang on to it and the subtle criminals of life can steal it from under your noses or you can give it to help the less fortunate and put it in the heavenly account where moths, eaters, and thieves cant reach. The choice is yours.” James says the same thing in James 5   1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.

To deal with worry and anxiety, put your wealth where no one can touch it. Not only that but it’s a bank that has eternal dividends. “There’s no U-haul behind a hearse but you can UPS it. “Unending Possession Sharing.”

Illustration: Many people don’t know but John Wesley was a very rich man. We only think of him as a godly man, travelling on horseback, founder of Methodism. He made a lot of money from the books and the hymns that he wrote. When he died, he had only 28 pounds to his name. What many people don’t realize is that he gave all his money away, at one time, as much as 40,000 pounds. Let me ask you – “Did he die rich or poor?”

By the way, this is not just about money but knowledge and love and everything.

Application: Are you struggling with worry and anxiety? How much are you giving and sharing with those who are in need and those who are less fortunate than yourself? Are you saved

Putting Anxiety to Work Part 1 by Pastor Abidan Shah

PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

puttinganxietytowork

Introduction: This morning we’re starting a brand new series from the Sermon on the Mount called “Putting Anxiety to Work.” So many have messaged me and told me how much they’re looking forward to this series! I am looking forward to it as well!

Matthew 6   31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Overall Background: We’ve come to the section in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about anxiety. In fact, between verses 25-34, 6 times He uses the Greek word merimnaw, which can be translated as anxiety, worry, or care. The fact that Jesus used the word so many times implies that He was talking about something more than just casual concern. All of us have those but the repetition tells us that He had something deeper in mind. It’s also interesting to me that Jesus talked more about anxiety or worry in His sermon than He did about prayer. Could it be that it was a big issue for people back then? We will see more on that in a few minutes but here’s a question: If Jesus unabashedly discussed this subject, why is the church so reluctant to talk about it? Did you know that according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million Americans or 18% of the population suffers from clinical anxiety disorder? According to surveys by Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 6.8 million Americans or 3.1% of the population suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), 6 million or 2.7% struggle with Panic Disorder, 15 million or 6.8% struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder, 19 million or 8.7% struggle with Specific Phobias, 7.7 million or 3.5% struggle with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the list goes on. According to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2006, each year Americans lose altogether 321 million days of work due to anxiety and depression, which ends up costing the economy $50 billion each year. By the way, women more than men face anxiety and 1 out of 8 children are affected by it as well. I can go on and on but the question is why aren’t we speaking on this subject when people and loved ones all around us are struggling? Jesus did!

Question: Are you facing anxiety of some form in your life? Do you know someone who is struggling with it? How do you view anxiety? Do you view it as something that can just be shaken off? Do you view it as a result of some sin? Let me give you my approach in these messages – Much of what the Bible condemns is “worry anxiety,” which is more than casual concerns but not what we know today as “anxiety disorders.” In fact, it is hard to find “anxiety disorders” in the Bible but there are many powerful and life-changing principles in God’s Word, especially the Sermon on the Mount, which can help us deal with those anxieties. In fact, many ideas that are being sold in self-help books and bestsellers are actually found in the most distilled and pure form in the Bible. It’s like buried treasure in your backyard waiting to be found! But before we start digging, let me say a couple of things upfront – First, some anxiety problems do require antianxiety medications and tranquilizers. That’s not a sin but medication alone will not solve your problems; second, this is not a psychology class on anxiety. My purpose is to help you have a balanced biblical perspective that will enable you to live Christ-honoring, joyful, and productive lives.

Before we begin, let me ask you – “Are you saved?” Do you know Christ as your Savior?

Today’s message is the introduction to this series with several important questions:

I. WHAT IS ANXIETY? 

To understand it, we need to distinguish it from 2 other words: worry and stress. People often confuse them. Let’s look at each of them:

Worry – It is more than casual concern. It comes from the Old Germanic word “wurgen,” which meant, “to strangle.” Later in Middle English it took on the meaning of “seize by the throat.” At its core, worrying is refusing to trust God and trying to live independently of Him. It’s a sin. The Bible repeatedly condemns it. In His parable of the Sower or soils, Jesus said in Matthew 13:22 “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” The same Greek word merimnaw is used but the idea is one of “worry.” So also I Peter 5:7 “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” The Greek word switches from merimnaw to melei, which has the idea that “God takes interest in you.”

Stress – There are many ways experts define stress but the best definition that I’ve come across is that “Stress is any situation where a person feels that they don’t have the adequate resources to deal with their circumstances.” The situation may be physical threat like death or emotional threat like divorce or breakups or financial threats like deadlines or bottom lines. Life is full of stressful situations, especially in our world today. Did you know that it was back in 1983 that the phrase “stressed out” entered our vocabulary? And would you agree that life is more stressful today than it was 30 years ago? Dr. Archibald Hart in his book The Anxiety Cure” says, “Human beings were designed for camel travel, but most people are now acting like supersonic jets.”

Now comes Anxiety – Again, many definitions are out there but the most balanced one I have found is by Dr. Archibald Hart (Senior professor of psychology, dean emeritus at Fuller Theological Seminary, a licensed psychologist, etc.) – “Anxiety is a disease of stress.” He goes on to say – “It is clearly the consequence of too much stress acting on your highly vulnerable brain chemistry. And if you have inherited a weakness in your brain’s chemistry, you will have a much lower threshold for tolerating anxiety than others.” He even gives this formula – “High adrenaline, caused by overextension and stress, depletes the brain’s natural tranquilizers and sets the stage for high anxiety.” What are the brain’s natural tranquilizers? God has so designed us that when we face stress, there are natural tranquilizers in our brains, brain chemicals known as “neurotransmitters” that keep us sane in the face of stresses in life. Some people call them the “happy messengers” – Serotonin, Noradrenaline, and Dopamine. Stress depletes our natural tranquilizers. In essence, anxiety is not that something bad has entered the brain. It’s actually something good is now absent from the brain or it’s running low. By the way, it usually affects the tough people.

II. WHAT IS ANXIETY DISORDER?

Now, please don’t walk out and start telling people that you have an anxiety disorder and you need some medication. Most people don’t. Let me clarify a few things again:

  • Anger is not anxiety disorder. You are facing a threatening situation and you go on the attack. It may be wrong, depending on the situation, but that’s not anxiety. Sometimes the Bible tells us as in Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry, and do not sin” and then in Ephesians 4:31 tells us “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you…”
  • Fear is not anxiety disorder. You are facing a threatening situation and you retreat. That’s normal. In fact, some fear is actually commanded. Psalm 34:9 “Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.”
  • Panic is not anxiety disorder. Panic attack is a body’s smoke alarm that is warning you that something is not right. What does it feel like? According to the American Psychiatric Association 1994, typical symptoms include “pounding heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, dispersonalization, numbness, tingling, chills, or hot flashes.” Some of you have shared with me that it feels as if you are having a heart attack or going crazy. Your brain is trying to tell you that have too much stress in your life. It’s time to take some actions and make some significant life changes. When does it become a disorder? When they are recurrent, unexpected, and you become preoccupied with them and start making significant changes in your lifestyle.

There are other types of Anxiety Disorders like “event specific,” “phobia induced,” “ruminative or focused attention,” or “generalized anxiety.” As I mentioned earlier, this is not a psychology class. My purpose is to simply introduce this subject and educate the church.

III. WHERE DOES THE CHURCH COME IN? 

For anxiety disorder, you will need professional help. You may need medication to bring the natural tranquilizers back to their proper level but that’s not enough. This is where the church body is vital. There are 2 other ways that the church can help –

  1. Connecting with others facing similar struggles. Communication with others who have similar convictions and have gone through similar struggles helps. We are planning on starting something like this soon. Let me know if you are interested.
  2. Biblical Preaching: Even though the Bible doesn’t talk about “anxiety disorders,” it has much to say about how to reduce stress and start living a balanced life. The reason I chose to do this series is because in His Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us how to do this. In Matthew 6:21 He says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, ask yourself – “what is driving you?” Is money driving you? It will drive you mad. Money is not evil. It’s a great servant but a horrible master. Matthew 6:22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Is there darkness inside, then it’s time to check the windows of your souls. Matthew 6:24“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other…” How many things are controlling your life? Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? When was the last time you took time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation?

I can go on and on. The point is this – preaching brings these truths to the minds and the hearts of the people. Let me say something here – Sometimes people have a very dismissive attitude towards preaching. We don’t need any more preaching. It’s about connecting with each other in small settings and then going out there and doing ministry. I guess the Holy Spirit made a mistake in telling us that preaching is important.

Mark 3:14 “Then He (Jesus) appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach…”

Acts 8:4   Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.

Ephesians 3:8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

Romans 10 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

“Well…the preacher has to say that. That’s his bread and butter.” Not true. This is God’s appointed means by which He speaks to His people. This does not take away from personal bible study or small groups (we have Clearview Circles and you should join them). Preaching is the way He has chosen to speak through earthen vessels. This is the hour when my best counseling takes place.

Are you saved? Are you ready for the life God wants you to live?

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