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Doing Life Together

god-1772560_1920Sitting in church Sunday, listening to the sermon reminded me of the best selling books on Killing Lincoln and Kennedy. The sermon had nothing to do with those books, rather the Scripture we read made me think about writing a book called, Killing Idols.

Now, I am  not about talking little statues. Rather, the kind of idols that Colossians 3 talks about–sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires and covetousness–a list that makes most of us a little uncomfortable when we read it.

Would Killing Idols be a best seller? Doubtful, because most of us like to entertain those idols, at least a little.

Colossians 3:5 begins with the directive, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…” and then the list from above follows. Whoa… Apostle Paul, those are strong words. He tells us to put to death those things that tempt us to form an idol. And that can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Otherwise, we end up trying to manage and regulate our idols. We may even come to worship them more than God.

The Apostle Paul wants us to go beyond sin maintenance and actually destroy the sin that is in us by repentance and partnering with the Holy Spirit. If we don’t kill the idols of our heart, they will eventually kill us! When we were made new creations by Christ, he gave us the power to defeat our sinful nature. He did this on the cross. He who had no sin, became sin so we could be the righteousness of Christ. We are the righteousness of God capable of putting sin to death because of Christ in us.

So ask yourself, are you putting anything above God? If so, that is an idol and you’re worshiping it. Do you resemble more of your old sin nature than  Christ who indwells you? Then your attention and focus are on that sin nature; that’s worship. Sin creeps into your life with a little compromise here and there; a little pornography, a little envy and coveting, a little impurity, giving in to temptation and finally succumbing to sin. Stop worshiping those idols; put them to death!

Then Paul tells us to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Does this list describe you? I certainly need work on this! But here is the good news. As we allow the work of Christ to dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:14), He makes us look more and more like Him. He becomes our focus and our object of worship. That’s the antidote to idol worship: GOD WORSHIP. Put Him above everything else.

So put to death those idols and walk as one who is chosen by God, holy and beloved. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord, giving thanks to the Father through Him.” Give up the idol and worship the One who created you.

 

freerider-498473_1920Is there a positive side of stress or a way to make stress work for you? We all know the negative side of stress-sleeplessness, weight gain, restlessness, forgetfulness, and in the worst cases, heart problems.

But positive stress can push you forward and help you master a scary thing.  Think about the time you faced that scary ski slope and pushed off at the top of the hill? You were stressed, a little terrified actually, but also invigorated and excited. The stress of a steep mountain made you take on a new challenge. The reason was because you perceived that stress to be positive. And when the perception of stress is positive, it can excite, energize and make you more alert. In fact, you can thrive on stress that is perceived to be positive and challenges you to grow.
As your body begins to feel the signs of stress–heart racing, nervous, sweaty palms, etc., think of those signs as your body’s way of preparing you to meet the challenge of something new. If your attitude is, “I’m getting ready to face the challenging thing” versus, “Oh no, I can’t do this” you will be using stress in a positive way.

How you react to the stress matters. Now if the stress controls you and stays with you for a long time, this is when you begin to get into trouble. So the way you think of the stress will help you overcome it.

First don’t be afraid of new challenges and things that are a bit uncomfortable. Tell yourself, it’s normal to feel fear, anxiety or even panic for a moment. Recognize this,  but imagine yourself tackling it and working through it. Keep going forward and tell yourself, “I can handle this. It is no big deal!”

When you face a stressful situation, make sure you don’t expect yourself to face it perfectly. Give yourself some grace and a little room to falter or even fail the first time. Simply breath and try again. Most people overcome stress by facing it head on and learning that they can work through it.

So stare down that mountain, take a deep breath, tell yourself you can do it, use your stress response to push off the top of the mountain and take charge. At the bottom of the hill (stress), you will look back and say, “That wasn’t so bad!”

sleepWhitney decided to meet with a life coach to help her assess the way she handles stress. Her life is busy and full of constant change. Change is stressful, even when it is positive. Whitney knows that stress can wreak havoc on a person’s mental, spiritual and physical health if he or she has not developed healthy ways to cope. Here are four lifestyle questions the coach asked in order to assess the physical dimension of Whitney’s ability to cope with change and stress:

  1. Does she have effective ways of relaxing? Relaxation isn’t something a person does once a year on a cruise to the Bahamas (although this can’t hurt). Relaxation should be a regular, practiced part of life. Even God rested on the seventh day! We all need down time, especially in the middle of change. Therefore, it is important to identify ways to relax and rejuvenate the body and mind. Relaxation keeps stress from building up and provides an avenue for releasing physical tension. In Whitney’s case, she was asked to generate several ways to relax and then practice them when she began to feel overwhelmed by changes related to stress. For example, Whitney would put on her ear buds and listen to worship music, play piano, take a warm soothing bath, light a fragrant candle, read a book, etc. She would pay special attention to tension in her physical body and practice deep breathing and muscle relaxation.
  2.  Does she regularly exercise? The benefits of exercise are enormous yet many of us fail to make it a priority. Exercise not only reduces muscle tension and frustration, but also provides a host of physical improvements. Exercise helps control weight, health conditions and diseases, improves mood, boosts energy, improves sleep and positively impacts a person’s sex life.
  3. Does she eat sensibly? Under stress, people tend to forego good nutrition, grab what is convenient and eat poorly. Whitney was no exception. She was skipping meals, eating fast food, eating while doing other things, drinking too much caffeine, and eating mostly processed foods. Poor nutrition and eating habits made her feel tired and irritable. Her goal was to improve her eating habits by adding fresh fruits and vegetables, reduce processed food, decrease caffeine intake (can trigger anxiety) and reduce salt intake in order to improve her energy, nutrition and staying power. She also committed to eating only at her table and taking time to enjoy her meal. The difference in her mood was noticeable after a week.
  4. Does she get enough sleep? So many people have terrible sleep habits, leaving them tired during the day and unable to sleep soundly at night. Whitney needed to go to bed at a regular time and establish a regular sleep and waking pattern. This led to discussions of how to wind down a few hours before bed and sleep hygiene. She was advised to use the sleep hygiene guidelines provided by the National Sleep Foundation. These guidelines cover the person’s personal habits, the sleep environment and ways he or she readies for bed. The person can then problem-solve ways to improve sleep hygiene like not exercising before bed, changing uncomfortable pillows, darkening the room, etc.

If you want to set the stage for healthy stress coping, begin with a quick assessment of your physical lifestyle. Making changes in these four areas can improve your coping immediately. When we are relaxed, exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep, it is amazing how much better the every day stress of life is handled.

 

First let me say, how sorry I am for the people in that Texas church who were shot and killed. The pain of loss must be so great right now for their families and friends.

At the time of this writing, there is very little information. I, like many of you, looked at several news outlets to see the details of the shooting. While I am horrified by the shooting, I am also repulsed by the comments of so many people on several news sites I read. They are mean, insensitive and speak to a lack of decency.

Here is one person’s comment of many that made my stomach turn:

“Dumb religious people. All you needed to do was not go to some building to hum in tongues to your imaginary friend and you’d still be alive. “

What kind of person says such things when innocent people have been killed? Shame on you and others who chimed in with equally mean and insensitive comments. This is a time to grieve and mourn and to offer compassion and  sympathy to people who have lost members of their families.

Yes, I am upset. Upset that another shooting took the lives of innocent people, upset that people use these events for political agendas, but even more upset at the hardness of heart displayed by so many–precisely the reason we go to church–to not become this person who can’t find the decency to be nice when loss is felt.

May God help us because He is the only one who can change hearts.