Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Faith Driven by Mike DeCamp

What motivates you in your faith?  Most of you reading this article attend church regularly.  Why?  What keeps you coming?  What drives you?

For some it could be obligation.  They feel an obligation to their family, to their parents, to their spouse, or even to God.  That obligation motivates them to come on Sunday mornings.  That person comes in, sits in a pew, and checks off an attendance box in his or her mind.  “Hey, I was there,” they claim.  “What more do you want?”

It could be habit.  They’ve always attended and see no reason to stop now.  “My family is here.  I’ve always come.  I’m just used to being here.  What else would I do?”

Could it be guilt avoidance?  You don’t want to feel bad inside, and coming to church soothes the conscience.  A couple of aspirin deadens the leftover effects of Saturday night, and a little worship cleanses the mind of that ache in the heart. 

I know for me, in my earliest years, I simply loved God and I wanted to be pleasing to him.  So, I came to church despite my inherent desire to sleep in.  Later, it was about relationships.  My friends were there, and I liked spending time with my friends.

Whatever the reason, most of you reading this come to worship nearly every week.  Week after week after week.

And, I want you to really take a few minutes to consider your motivation.

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.  We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

After starting so well in my early years by loving God and loving my friends, my motivation to attend and participate began to wane later on.  I found myself losing my desire to serve.  I wanted to blend into the crowds and become anonymous.  I went through a period where I didn’t want to do anything but go through the motions.  Frankly, sometimes I still struggle with that desire to fade into the background.  We probably all battle it from time to time.

I have a problem, however.

The problem is that the only way I can successfully fade into the background and be an anonymous member is to let my faith decline.  Why?  Because faith runs counter to anonymous Christianity.  Faith produces work.  It makes you serve.  Faith kicks you in the pants and tells you to volunteer.  If it is real, you can’t sit on it.  You cannot ignore it.  The only way to deny faith its response it to deny it a home in your heart—to sear it with the hot iron of selfish desire.

I have another problem.

I can’t sit back and be idle here at Southeastern because I love God and I love his family.  Love is an obstacle to idleness because it prompts labor.  Love is a poke in the side to keep me going.  If I truly love God and love his family, that love prods me to serve.  I must be involved.  To deny the labor that love demands is to excise it from your priorities.  Or, to misplace that love on other things.

My last problem is hope.

Since I know of the hope of my eternal life in Christ and the promise of residing in the presence of the glory of God, I know that I cannot simply quit.  I must endure.  I must revive myself when my spirit is weary, and I must do what one of my old mentors used to say:  “Keep on keepin’ on.”

Occasionally, I need to remind myself of David’s prayer in Psalm 51:12.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.

Now, let me ask you again.  What is your motivation?  Is it faith, love, and hope?  Or is it something else.

Week after week, we have opportunities to serve posted in our bulletin, and week after week no one steps up.  We need singers on the praise team, but no one wants to make the commitment.  We need people to lock and unlock the doors, but we don’t want to come in a little early or stay a little late to take care of that simple need.  We need people to change the sign, but that might mean coming in on some day other than Sunday.  We need teachers for our children, but they are a lot of work. 

Every ministry needs help.  Do we really need to track you down and beg you to serve? 

Do you have the faith that will move you to step into one of these roles?  Do you have the love to prompt you to labor?  Do you know the hope that keeps you going when you get weary?

Folks, if you love God and you love this church, step out and step up.  Put your faith into action.  There are a few among us who have been volunteering all along, and some of them are tired.  They need your help.  They need your support.

If we all work together, we can do amazing things as a church.  However, it does require faith, hope, and love. 

And, the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:13b

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Future of Anxiety by Greg York

The Future of Anxiety  


Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,

   whose trust is the Lord.

They shall be like a tree planted by water,

   sending out its roots by the stream.

It shall not fear when heat comes,

   and its leaves shall stay green;

in the year of drought it is not anxious,

   and it does not cease to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17.7-8


How high is your “anxiety quotient” these days?


These are anxious times, no? There’s so much to be anxious about: What if Trump wins? What if Hillary wins? What if I keep running out of money before I run out of month? What if I don’t have enough saved up to retire on? What if I don’t get a job that pays me enough to pay off my student loans in a reasonable timeframe? What if my job is “outsourced”? What if people find out about that really stupid thing I did/said? What if things keep heading like they are; what kind of world will my children and grandchildren have to live in? What if my health fails? What if…what if…what if…


On the one hand, we might be tempted to just dismiss all this anxiety as unrealistic and perhaps even ungodly: “Why, a lot of these things we are anxious about will never happen. And, besides, God tells us not to worry.” There’s truth there, certainly, but also, truth to tell, bad things, confusing things, troubling things, difficult things do happen in a broken world. There are things that happen to us in life that will produce anxiety. (Notice in the reading from Jeremiah above, the year of drought does come!)


So, is Peter just adding to our load of (anxious) guilt when he famously says, “Cast all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5.7)?


Anxiety is an emotional response to those bad, confusing, troubling, difficult things that can happen in life. And we’ve been created for such emotional responses. What matters is what we do with that emotion, with that anxiety. Will it run our lives or will we manage our anxiety?


How does a Christ-follower manage anxiety?


First, pray.


I know, it sounds like a “duh” thing to say, it’s the “correct” answer, the “holy” answer. But I wish I could get back all of the sleep I’ve lost over the years because I was anxiously turning something over and over again in my mind, hours upon hours before I commit myself to praying about the anxiety-producing matter.


Let me be clear, prayer in this case is not just, cannot be just, “Here’s what I want you to do, God; now, sic ‘em!” God is not like the Pepsi machine in the Fellowship Hall, where you just put in your money and get the very drink you desire. Rather, the prayer that I have in mind, the prayer that (if I’d only learn!) is most effective in quelling my anxiety is one in which I just say, “God, forgive me for trying to run my life on my own. Help me to see what I need to do to honor you in this situation. Help me to see past this anxiety that’s blocking my view of you and everything else. Help me to let go of my need to have an answer right this minute. Help me to just live into what you can do with this.”



Second, share the burden.


I’m not very good at being transparent and sharing my anxieties with trusted others. So, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone else here. Here’s where I am on this right now. I know this is the right thing to do, and I know that others’ perspectives are crucial in helping us manage our anxieties at times. I don’t do that well. But what I do now find myself doing is just talking about whatever it is that’s triggering anxiety with someone I trust. Not necessarily a dedicated conversation. In fact, I usually try to be a bit casual about it all (“Yeah, I’ve been concerned about X lately…”). I have found that just talking about it, not looking for answers, but just admitting to the anxiety, takes away its ability to overwhelm and control me. And maybe with time I’ll even get better at transparency.

Third, “remember” the future (God’s future).


Anxiety tries to block our sense of the future, our trust that, with God, the best is always (this side of eternity) yet to come. Paul writes these words in Philippians 4.6: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. But do you remember the words right before that, the words right at the end of v. 5? The Lord is near. Eschatological words, words that remind us that Jesus is coming to set it all straight in the end. Regardless of how deep a shadow anxiety casts, God has guaranteed the future.


Part of the cultural newsreel of my generation is the image of then-Alabama Governor George Wallace standing in the doorway of the administration building at the University of Alabama in 1963 to prevent two black students from enrolling. But in the end, due to an intervention by the Kennedy administration, Vivian Malone and James Hood were enrolled. But that’s not the end of the story. The harassment and pressure on Malone and Hood was staggering and intense. A bomb was set off near Malone’s dorm at one point. Hood soon transferred out. But Malone stayed on and in 1965 became the first black person to graduate from the University of Alabama. She went on to a distinguished career in public service. After her death in 2005, someone who knew her made this statement about her: “She had a way of casting herself into the future in order to endure the present and it created a remarkable calmness about her.”


What if in my anxious moments I learned to cast myself into the future, into God’s future? What if I could but remember that this momentary anxiety does not mean that God’s future is not real and is not (for certain!) on the way?


May God grant that no matter what happens in the world writ large or in our own personal worlds writ small that we will embody his calm and calming presence in a world filled with anxiety.


"You have made us for yourself, O Lord,

and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."

— Augustine of Hippo, Confessions 1.1