Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Does Stress Reveal?

What does stress reveal about us? Often we show our true character when we are in the pressure cooker of life--hurried,  worried, and buried under stress--and it isn't always a flattering picture.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

From Mountains to Molehills

Dorothea Lange, (George Eastman House)
 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life . . ."
Matthew 6:25

Read Matthew 6:25-34

Are you a “worry wart”? Worry plagues many of us. It ebbs and flows—overwhelming one moment and manageable the next. Worry is not a new problem. In Psalm 55 David says “I am worn out by my worries.” That is so true—worry is exhausting!

In Luke 10:38-42 we find Jesus visiting with Mary and Martha. Wrapped up in housework and cooking, Martha wants everything to be just right for Jesus. I can relate to that! Don’t we do the very same things when company comes to our house?

I remember distinctly the time our church invited a gospel group to sing at our morning worship service and our evening revival service. Members of the church were asked to host the various singers during the hours between the services. My husband Dick and I volunteered to bring home two of the fellows from the group. The day before their arrival I ran the sweeper, dusted the furniture and scrubbed the bathrooms. I nagged my husband and children till everything was hung up and put away. “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” Dick said. “No one will even notice!”

That Sunday during church, I mentally went over my “to do” list for the noon meal, planning every step from the moment Dick pronounced the benediction till we cleared the last dish from the table. During the offertory I decided I should make fruit salad as an extra side dish. I rushed home as soon as the last “Amen” was spoken and frantically diced fruits into a big bowl.

At lunch no one but Dick and I tasted the fruit salad. Dick took the guys for a walk in the woods while I cleared the table and did the dishes. They came back with mud on their shoes and pant legs, oblivious to my freshly vacuumed carpet and sparkling clean lineoleum.

I had cleaned, chopped and nagged for nothing. I missed a good message at church and ran my family ragged. No one even peeked into my nice clean bathroom! I could have served peanut butter sandwiches for lunch! I certainly didn’t get revived. Like Martha, I exhausted myself! Worry robbed me of blessings—just- - like- - Martha.

The Bible gives us the “antidote” for worry. If we want peace and freedom from worry, Philippians 4:6-7 says to pray about whatever it is that concerns us, and to give thanks. When we take the time we would usually spend going over and over a problem in our minds, and pray about it instead, we will find we no longer carry our burdens alone. And if we list what we are thankful for, we will realize that God has been and always will be faithful. Prayer and thanksgiving bring peace from God—peace that goes beyond understanding because it eases our worries in the midst of life’s challenges.

Anybody else need a little antidote for worry?

©2013 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Is Hell for Real?

There was once a rich man who wore expensive clothes and every day ate the best food. But a poor beggar named Lazarus was brought to the gate of the rich man’s house.

He was happy just to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. His body was covered with sores, and dogs kept coming up to lick them. The poor man died, and angels took him to the place of honor next to Abraham.

The rich man also died and was buried. He went to hell and was suffering terribly. When he looked up and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side, he said to Abraham, “Have pity on me! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and touch my tongue. I’m suffering terribly in this fire.”

Abraham answered, “My friend, remember that while you lived, you had everything good, and Lazarus had everything bad. Now he is happy, and you are in pain. And besides, there is a deep ditch between us, and no one from either side can cross over.”

But the rich man said, “Abraham, then please send Lazarus to my father’s home. Let him warn my five brothers, so they won’t come to this horrible place.”

Abraham answered, “Your brothers can read what Moses and the prophets[c] wrote. They should pay attention to that.”

Then the rich man said, “No, that’s not enough! If only someone from the dead would go to them, they would listen and turn to God.”

So Abraham said, “If they won’t pay attention to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even to someone who comes back from the dead.”         Luke 16:19-31

My pastor, who is also my husband, preached on the Rich Man and Lazarus. Parishioners will tell you, Dick rarely thinks along traditional lines--that's one of the many things I love about him! He always makes us examine our preconceived interpretations of God's Word and how we put them into practice. This week he spoke on Hell--and how to avoid it. Here are his five points from Sunday:
  1. Hell is a real place. Jesus believed in and spoke of Hell and he wasn't referring to a less-than-stellar experience here on earth or in this life.
  2. There are no second chances to believe once we die. Our choice to trust or not to trust in Jesus sacrifice for our sins is made while we are still alive.
  3. Points one and two should create an urgency within us to share the Gospel with others.
  4. What we DO doesn't send us to Hell; it is what we DON'T DO. The rich man wasn't in Hell because of his riches or what he did with them. He was in Hell because He failed to believe what God had said.
  5. Bad things can still happen to Christian people. The difference is that God is always with them. Lazarus died in his poverty, but never gave up on trusting God. In eternity Lazarus was rewarded for his faithfulness.
Several points were "Aha!" moments for me, but for some reason the realization that, although Lazarus was a believer, he was still poor and sickly, stuck with me. So many times we fall for the fallacy that true Christians are healthy, wealthy and wise. God's Word proves otherwise, which oddly comforts me. I guess because it says poverty, sickness, and bad breaks in life are not a result of a lack of faith on my part.

What fallacies about Hell have you held onto?


©2013 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Be Still and Know God's Will

Have Your own way, Lord!
Have Your own way.
You are the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Your will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
(Adelaide A. Pollard , 1907)

I often say I want God’s will for my life—and I mean it sincerely. But most times I am not still long enough to give God a chance to speak let alone learn His will. I list my requests and then jump right into doing whatever suits me best.

Do you ever find yourself following that same pattern—failing to wait and listen for God’s voice, then whining that about having no idea what God’s will is for various situations? How can God have His way when we are not “yielded and still”, as Adelaide Pollard put it?
"Be still, and know that I am God!”
Psalm 46:10

For God to have His way in our lives, we must allow Him to mold and shape us according to His plan. We are to be like clay in a potter’s hand.

Photo by Dani Sardà i Lizaran
Jeremiah learned about clay when God told him to go down to the potter’s house and watch him work. “So I went down to the potter's house. I saw him working at his wheel.  His hands shaped a pot out of clay. But he saw that something was wrong with it. So he formed it into another pot. He shaped it in the way that seemed best to him.” (Jeremiah 18:3-4)

Isaiah was also familiar with the work of the potter. “Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay. You are the potter. Your hands made all of us.” (Isaiah 64:8)

Potters will tell you the most important quality of clay is its plasticity. Plasticity refers to the ability of the clay to take and hold the form that the potter gives it. As God’s workmanship, are we yielding ourselves to Him by being still and listening for his guidance? Are we moldable in His hands? Can we join Hillsong as they sing,  "The Potter's Hand"?

Lord, help me to take the time to be still and yielded, pliable in Your loving hands. Amen.

©2013 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Clean Slate

photo from Vicki Caruana
“I’ve screwed up so many times. I wish I could just start over,” said the young man sitting across from me, holding his head in his hands.

At one time or another, many of us have yearned to rewind life and try it again. Past mistakes and failures rattle us, like the chains Marley dragged around with him in Dickens’, A Christmas Carol.

How happy I was to be able to share with the distraught young man that we CAN start over! In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul shares that those who give their lives to Christ become new creatures. Their old lives are gone; new life begins!

Paul’s words echo those of Jesus who said we must be born again spiritually--turn away from our sins and trust Jesus to forgive us and guide us. This new spiritual birth certainly sounds like a re-start to me.

Each New Year, people everywhere hope for a fresh beginning. With God, it is possible! Jesus can wipe the slate clean—not just on January 1, but every day! Have you asked Jesus to wash away every speck of your sin from the chalkboard of your life? He loves to do just that—and then clap the erasers!

©2013 Pamela D. Williams