Not a Worry-Wart

As we continue to look at the life of Christ, one thing has stood out to me – in other words, slammed me on the forehead with a 2-by-4 – about His life in contrast to my life.

Christ’s life had a lot of stressful things but zero worry. My life has relatively small stressful things but A LOT of worry.

I’ve always been a worry-wart. I hate anything dangerous – roller-coasters, roller-skating, rolling down a hill, basically anything that involves rolling (or really anything that involves moving quickly). Basically, I’m super boring (ask my wife). Why? Because I am so easily stressed and worry about everything.

Recently, I had one of my “freak out” moments when I realized how many projects I have going on, how fast some are coming up, and how crazy my life will be from now until Christmas Day. I immediately sent gifs to my wife expressing my exhaustion and stress (this is actually a very good response to stress – look up funny “tired” gifs. You will not be disappointed!).

But when I look at the life of Christ, I am amazed at how calm, cool, and collected He always was.

Mark 4:35 – 5:43

Take this one passage for instance. Christ has so many potentially stressful moments…and yet He did not freak out! He did not worry!

  • On a small boat in a crazy storm with water pouring in, the disciples are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Meanwhile, Christ is sleeping. When He wakes up, He calmly calms the whole storm.
  • He gets off the boat and is met with a crazy deranged demoniac who runs up to Him – this guy couldn’t be bound with chains and is seriously freaky. But Jesus calmly addresses him and casts out a whole LEGION of demons from him! In fact, Jesus was so powerfully calm, that He FREAKS OUT the townspeople who ask Him to leave.
  • When He gets back to the other side, He goes to heal a sick girl. He finds out she dies but does not stress. And He asks the father not to freak out either. Instead, He walks into her room and raises her from the dead – even death itself doesn’t worry Him!

Of course, Christ does show emotion – anger and concern. But He never strays into sinful stress and worry. He is calm – why? Because He is the Son of God of course! And He is in the hands of His Father, who He trusts. He calls us all to live like Him in Matthew 6:25-34.

“Tomorrow’s got its own issues – don’t sweat about it! You’ve got enough to deal with today – or rather, your Father will care for it all today too!”

Such a life! Such peace! Such calm! Oh, how I long to obey these commands and live like my Savior! Not so stressed but so, so surrendered to God’s will and care.

Well, He’s told us how to live like this. Not only in Matthew 6…

Psalm 37

This is a great Psalm. Unlike Matthew 6, which is about stressful stuff, this Psalm is about something even more stressful – enemies who are prospering while you suffer. If we can live calm in the face of that, then we can live calm in the face of work projects and other daily issues.

What does the Psalmist call us to do. He says “fret not” and gives commands to do instead:

  • Trust in the Lord (vs. 3) – that’s a simple one.
  • Do good (vs. 3) – not so simple. Stress and worry often stop us from doing the things we should do, thus complicating the issue. Instead, keep doing the good you know to do.
  • Delight in God (vs. 4) – even when there’s nothing to delight in at work, home, or school.
  • Commit your way to God (vs. 5) – I love this one. The word means “roll off” to the Lord. What a beautiful picture! Stressed? Roll that onto God – He can handle it!
  • Be still before God and wait patiently (vs. 7) – not easy for a worrier!

And what will God do for such people? He WILL ACT (vs. 5-6). The wicked won’t last (vs. 2). Trust Him – He’s got this!

Felix Felicis

I’ve been listening to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and it’s at my favorite part – Harry drinks the famous “felix felicis” potion that makes someone immensely lucky for a few hours. Harry describes feeling a sense of calm and confidence, like nothing could harm or touch him. Wow, I want that potion! But alas, I did not get an OWL in the subject!

But that is exactly the feeling Christ demonstrated – a godly confidence and calm. And Christ calls us to that same mindset.

So freak out thou not, as my professor used to say. God is in-control. We can live with calm and confidence.

Souls with Stories: How to View the People around You

the bible trending

Trending Topic: #FixMyLife

You’re in Richlands, Virginia—a poor, rural town near West Virginia, squeezed into the soggy cracks of the Appalachian Mountains. For some reason, you’ve wandered into a trailer park—perhaps you’re knocking on doors and sharing the Gospel. You walk up to an especially-run-down trailer. The siding—what little is left of it—is falling out, exposing rotting wood and insulation. You’re worried you’re going to break down the door when you knock on it. The whole structure seems to be sagging—and inside, you can’t help but assume the lives of its occupants are sagging as well, sliding ever closer to utter ruin and hopelessness.

The door opens to confirm your hypothesis. There’s a lady who seems to be about middle-aged—but her haggard face and graying hair suggest that she’s either older or has been through a lot. You hear two young kids yelling inside. A brief glimpse of the interior shows a man lying on a ragged couch, drooling and holding a beer bottle. There’s smashed glass all around—and the lady shows signs of bruises and cuts.

debi thomas crying

You would assume this lady has had a hard life. That she grew up in a rough home, never got off the ground, got attached to an abusive husband, and is struggling to make ends-meet. Maybe she has an addiction problem. Or is just flat-out lazy and unmotivated. Well, some of that is true—except this lady did get off the ground. Quite far, actually.

A bronze metalist at the Olympic Games in Calgary in 1988. The first African-American athlete to win a metal at the Winter Games. A legendary figure-skater—history-making, talented, beloved by fans and her country. Not only that, but graduated as a pre-med student at Stanford. She went on to medical school and became an orthopedic surgeon, beginning a practice in that miner’s town of Richlands. Her name is Debi Thomas.

But then she lost everything. She got two divorces. She lost custody of her only son. She lost her practice and is completely broke. Unemployed. Living with her alcoholic (with anger-management issues) fiancé and his two children in a bed-bug-infested trailer. Her story started trending this week, since it was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network in a show entitled “Fix My Life” with life coach Iyanla Vanzant.

Looks can be deceiving. It’s so easy to judge someone based on outward characteristics. If you didn’t know this story and stumbled upon Debi, you would probably not have a very good impression of her. She lives in the “ghetto.” She has “problems.”

“She stinks—she’s a wreck—she needs therapy. Stay away from me. Not my problem…”

I have a problem with saying people “are not my problem.” I tend to get so easily annoyed at others. Upset at what I perceive as social awkwardness, annoying habits, or downright ungodly lifestyles. There’s a lot of people in this world that get on my nerves. That disgust me. That I just wish would leave me alone—or I would never have to meet! People on the streets of downtown who ask me for money—filthy people. People at college who always have to state their opinions—irritating people. People who interrupt, misunderstand, falsely accuse, annoy, burden, and otherwise seem to me to be an entire waste of time. People who have problems!

But I AM THE ONE WHO HAS THE PROBLEM!

I am not seeing people as Christ sees them. I’ve been so convicted of this recently. I see people as obstacles to avoid. But then I hear their story—stories of hard childhoods, abusive or nonexistent parents, a lack of funds, divorce, scandal, and false accusations. Everyone has a story! I have learned that lesson thousands of times—because I forget it so easily! I judge people—but then I hear their stories and feel bad. Oops. I misjudged them. I was too harsh. I didn’t know you went through all that! But then I go right back to seeing them—and all the rest of the mass of humanity—as just obstacles.

Christ did not see people that way—even when they were literally obstacles in His path. Mark 5 records my favorite miracle. Christ was approached by an important guy—Jairus, ruler of a synagogue. He asked Jesus to come and heal his daughter. And Jesus said yes. But on the way, some random woman—an unimportant, defiled woman—had the audacity to get in His way to touch His garment. How rude! What an obstacle! Jesus had to stop going to meet the urgent need of an important person to find out who dared to touch Him! Then He reprimanded her sharply and continued on His way, feeling so incredibly annoyed.

Oh wait. That’s not how the story goes! He asks who touched Him, and the woman comes and falls before Him, telling Him the truth. “It was me—I touched you! So sorry! I know you’re busy, but I just hoped I could, you know—”

Jesus doesn’t look annoyed. He gives a look of kindness and compassion. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

You see, Jesus knew this woman’s story. He knew she had struggled for twelve years with an internal bleeding. She had tried to find healing—only to be made worse under all the physicians’ best treatments. Worse yet, she had spent all her money in the process! Her last hope was to try to touch the garment of the healer. And all it took was one touch—and a bit of faith!

Jesus responded the same way with everyone He came in contact with. He didn’t flinch at the leper—but touched him! He didn’t get annoyed when five thousand (plus) people interrupted His vacation—He fed them! He didn’t get repulsed by a Samaritan adulteress—He shared the Gospel with her! He didn’t accuse the man born blind of sin—He gave him sight! He didn’t pull His feet away from the harlot who washed them—He forgave her! He didn’t criticize the paralytic for his roof-destroying antics—He sent him out walking! The examples are endless!

Now, Jesus did have an advantage—He was omniscient and knew all their stories. He knew every ounce of their pain. He felt their suffering—and would die for it!

But we still don’t have an excuse. Sure, we may not know that homeless person’s story. They could be a con. They could be a lazy alcoholic. But we won’t know until we ask! Sure, we don’t know why that person is so annoying. They may just be jerks! But we won’t know until we ask! And we might be surprised at what we hear…

Everyone has a story. Even Jesus. His ignominious, “illegitimate” birth. His poor upbringing. His obscure heritage. If you had met Jesus as a carpenter in Nazareth, would you have perceived Him as just an obstacle? I fear that I probably would’ve!

But if we change our perspectives—if we see these people as souls not stress factors—then we can take up the mind of the Savior. The compassion of Christ. And that will make a difference in how we perceive the obstacles—er, rather the SOULS—we come in contact with every day.

Next time you’re at the front door of a trailer, think to yourself: this could be the home of an Olympic metalist. Better yet, this is the home of a soul for whom Christ died.

-M@

Hogwash

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Jesus Changed the Possessed—not the Pig-Herders (Mark 5:1-20).

            Some animals just refuse to be tamed. We had one dog growing up—just one. That’s all it took to ruin our family’s history with dogs. She was a hunting dog, bred to chase down fowl in the wilds of the Appalachians…and we named her Cupcake. It seems we had picked the wrong breed to make a family pet. Cupcake was as hyperactive as a Junior-Higher on Mountain Dew. She would jump all over guests and would chew through every leash we tried. Eventually, we got a chain. That seemed to hold her.

Well, in our story today, it’s not an animal that’s untamed. It’s not a dog that needs to be chained up. It’s a person. But you’d hardly be able to tell from first glance. In fact, you’d probably think this was some type of evil creature haunting your movie—a real-life Gollum. Mangy. Wild. And his home address is 108 Tombstone Drive. He lives in the cemetery—his roommate is a corpse. And he doesn’t use Febreze.

Nor can he be tamed. The people around him tried. Apparently, he was quite the public nuisance—so they tried to tie him up. Like an untrained dog, they used everything they could think of to strap this guy into his tomb-house. Tied his hands and feet with chains. But he ripped those off with more strength than Samson. No one in all the land could tie this guy up, much less tame him.

He was the stuff of children’s nightmares. At night, while trying to go to sleep, they would hear his loud, constant wailing coming from the tomb outside town. It would start low and then grow louder and louder. “Why is he making all that noise, Mommy?!” the children would ask, hiding further and further under the covers.

“I don’t know,” the parent would answer. But she knew full well why he was wailing. He was cutting himself in deep, bloody gashes with the sharpest stones he could find. Every night it was the same. Cutting. Gashing. Ripping his flesh to shreds. Wailing constantly. It was a wonder he had any blood left.

No one had the strength to subdue this guy—and no one wanted to try.

Well, except One Person. The Changemaker. It seemed the Master wanted to take a vacation…to the local cemetery on the other side of the sea. He had to do His Father’s work—which now included changing the life of the untamable.

As they got out of the boat, His disciples probably panicked. They started darting around for the nearest sword—or knife—anything to save them from this incoming monster! The Gerasenes sure had quite the welcoming committee! For here, running to meet Jesus was that untamable man. The disciples probably hid in fright at this scary sight. But Jesus stood calmly. The untamed ran wildly toward Him…then stopped. And fell on his face before the Changemaker.

“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God!? I adjure you by God, do not torment me—”

He hissed and groveled at his feet. But Jesus stopped him mid-sentence with a booming voice:

“Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

A demon. Who else but the forces of darkness could create such havoc? Then, Jesus decided to ask an odd question:

“What’s your name?”

What, was this some type of formal introduction? “Hi, I’m Jesus—what’s your name? Nice to meet you!” No, Jesus was revealing the truth of this man’s condition for all around to see. The untamable replied:

“My name is Legion, for we are many.”

And he wasn’t talking in the royal “we.” Talk about shudders. I’m freaked out just thinking about it! But Jesus does not get freaked out. Just His Presence pushes back the darkness…and makes them run scared. This legion—4,000 to 6,000 demons—was no match for the Son of the Most High God. The demons surrendered before Jesus even started. They knew His power—He was the One Who cast them out of Heaven. And now He was going to cast them out of the untamable man. So they looked for some small sliver of escape. Some way to get out of total annihilation—restriction in the abyss, where demons are chained up for eternity. They glanced around and found the perfect animal for demon possession—no, not cats. Pigs. They ask to be cast into the pigs. Talk about pitiful. All these guys can think of to escape to is…hogs!

So Jesus let them. And out, out, out they went from the poor man and in, in, into the pigs. Then down, down, down went the pigs into the sea, sea, sea. Sounds like a good children’s song, right? A great way to bring joy to young toddlers is to teach them a song about two thousand demon-possessed pigs drowning in the sea. Then, for snack, you can have bacon…but I digress.

The pig-herders were not happy. I think they got what was coming to them. First of all, pigs are unclean for Jewish people to eat—so why were they herding them? Second, why would you herd pigs so close to this untamable crazy man? Keep this lesson in mind next time you’re herding pigs. Well, anyway, these herders ran to the nearby villages and told this crazy story. And it went viral. #pigdrowningAD30

A whole host of people came out to see if it was true. And what they found was that untamable man—the man who kept them up at night by wailing…the one who attacked them when they tried to chain him up…the one who not even the bravest warrior would dare attack…THAT untamable man was now sitting with clothes on.

Whoa—sitting!? This guy had never been seen standing still, much less sitting. But here he was, sitting at the feet of some Teacher…in his right mind—more than could be said for a lot of us on a Monday morning!

You’d think they’d be happy. No more public nuisance. No more loud wailing. No more broken chains. But no, these people were not rejoicing with the man—they were deadly afraid. Of what? Of Jesus. Of His power. He had tamed the untamable. But worse yet, He had destroyed the two thousand pigs! This Man was obviously too much for them. He caused too much havoc. All they could focus on was the pigs—loss of income. They refused to rejoice with the man, and instead got worried about this Man disrupting their lives—changing everything they thought was normal. So they asked Him to leave. And Jesus did. If they didn’t want His life-changing power, He would not force it on them. He turned to get into the boat. But so did the tamed man.

Jesus stopped him. That man’s place was not following Jesus around—he had twelve guys for that already. No, he would be much more useful to the Changemaker there in Gadara. As a living, walking, tamed testimony to Christ’s power.

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

And so he did. The untamable became unstoppable with the Gospel.

But how does this incredible story connect with us? Well, often I think we are too much like the pig-herders. We hear of Jesus’ great work in other parts of the world—or even right in our area. How He changed drunkards and harlots to become believers. And instead of rejoicing with them we become side-tracked by lesser issues. We have our own “pigs” that we are upset about. We get mad that they’re getting all the attention. That they don’t do things like we want. That there will be too many weird people in the church. That these new converts might make our church too “different.” What’s more, we get jealous of their “more exciting” testimony. That’s a bunch of hogwash!

Every sinner is untamable—including you! Like that man, we all were ravenous in our rebellion to God—cutting ourselves with the stones of sexuality and wailing in our worldliness. We all were untamable freaks before Christ. But then He changed us. For some of us, the change was less sudden and drastic since we grew up in a Christian home. But the fact remains that we were all changed.

So let’s get excited! Let’s be bold in our proclamation of what Christ has done in us—how He changed us from untamable to unstoppable. And let’s be thrilled when sinners are changed into saints. Let the hogs be hogwash! Cling to the Changemaker.

-M@