Tag Archives: anxiety

Summer of Love

Read Matthew 22:1-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away” (Luke 15:7 NLT)!

Summer has always been a time I have looked forward to. As a child and teenager, summer meant that I was not in school and was free to stay up later than I could during the school year. As an adult, I long for Spring and Summer because those are the happiest times of the year for me. Let me reword that. I long for Spring and Summer because, during those seasons, I am the least depressed.

I am someone who has battled depression and anxiety my entire teenage and adult life. Perhaps I had it earlier than that; however, that is when I became aware of it. My depression and axiety are not gone during the Spring and Summer, heavens no. They’re both very much there; however, the warmth of Spring and the summer sun help to brighten my mood and make my days better than they are during the Fall and Winter.

It turns out that I not only do I have depression and anxiety, but I also have what is known as Season Affect Disorder (SAD), which is depressive disorder where the shorter days and lack of sunlight causes depression. For me, when Fall and Winter approach and the days get darker quicker, that causes my depression to be worse than it otherwise is.

So, as was aforementioned, I have always looked forward to Summer and it is durinng the summer that I get creative and have fun, especially in ministry. One such example of this is the current worship series that I am in the midst of, entitled, Summer of Love. During this series, we have explored what it means to be a part of God’s Kingdom. We learned about what it means to be loving friends, a loving community and even a loving family as a way of witnessing to the love of God as well as inviting more people into God’s Kingdom.

Pastor Todd “warming up” for Sunday Worship!

With a title such as Summer of Love, I had to do something fun and creative and, as far as I could see it, I could only really choose one theme: 60’s Hippies! I was going to decorate the santuary up like it were Woodstock minus some of the inappropriate elements. That means our sanctuary was beautified (in my humble opinion) by tie dye tapestries, wallflowers, peace signs and LAVA LAMPS! YES! We purchased two lava lamps and had them a-flowing during worship. As for me, check out the picture above and the one here as well. I was dressed like a hippie.

It has been maximum fun; however, it also has been a living testimony to the vibrant presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Reflecting on my own life and my own personal struggles, I must say that we can live our lives in a perpetual Summer of Love with the help of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is possible and God wants that for you and I.

How, you might ask? Well, by placing our faith and trust in Christ who promised we would never be left alone no matter where in the world we are! No matter your situation, no matter what season in life you are in (literal or metaphorical), Christ is with you and LOVES you. God has placed loving friends, community, and family around you. If you find that you are lacking those things, dig deep to see where they are in your life and also be open to God leading you to those things.

Once you realize God’s love for you, that’s HIGH that is hard to kill and certainly hard to contain. You will want to share that LOVE with others in ways that make them realize their inherent value in God. That is what God calls us to in Christ…to a perpetual summer of love where we are free to express that LOVE as creatively and joyfully we wish to! Friends, God has invited you to a never ending PARTY…who’s ready to join? See ya there!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“All we are saying is give [love] a chance.” – John Lennon, altered by Todd Lattig

PRAYER
Lord, help me to grow in your love so that I might bring others into your Kingdom. Amen.

The Sermon, part 21: Anxiety

Read Matthew 6:25-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT)

bigstock-business-concept-53939776Today’s passage often gets read as a friendly suggestion by Jesus to those gathered around him. After all, Jesus cared for his followers and for people in general, right? He didn’t want to see them all stressed out and worried about what they will or won’t have. So, in concern of people’s stress-levels and heart health, Jesus was telling people that they should live an anxiety-free life, right?

What’s more, sermons on this text are often crafted around the notion of faith. If you trust God, you’ll have nothing to be anxious about. If you trust that God will provide for you, and if you seek first God’s Kingdom, God will give you what your heart desires. Many a “prosperity Gospel” message have come straight from today’s passage. Christ wants you to trust and have faith in God, and then God will bless you in ways immeasurable.

Unfortunately, both of the above paragraphs miss the mark. First, Jesus was not a self-help teacher who was instructing people on ways to reduce their stress. That is a very 21st century way of understanding the Gospel. There was plenty to be anxious of in Jesus’ day, and Jesus himself was not immune to it. In Gethsemane, Jesus was so anxious about his imminent crucifixion that he began to sweat blood. This is a medical condition called Hemtridosis, in which extreme physical and/or emotional stress cause capillary blood vessels to rupture and literally bleed out of one’s pours. Sounds, like a stress free and fun time, right?

This may all seem a bit facetious, but the reality is that we often interpret Jesus as if he was some sort of self-help guru who wanted nothing more than to teach you how to, as Joel Osteen puts it, “live your best life now.” To go with more Joel Osteen book titles, just for the fun of it, Jesus is not teaching you that “you can, you will,” nor is he teaching you that “it’s your time” to “break out” and “make wise choices” in your life. Think about it, conventionally speaking, was it wise for Jesus to resist the religious and world leaders of his time, or to roam the wilderness with a ragtag bunch of hooligans he called disciples? Was it wise to hang out with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners? Was it wise to flip the money-changing tables in the Temple? Was it wise to befriend Judas, and was the crucifixion Jesus’ “break out” moment?

It’s time for Christians to understand that the Gospel is not about worldly, prosperity, but about God’s justice and the establishment of God’s kingdom.  It is also time to realize that Jesus’ words against anxiety were not a friendly suggestion aimed at making us live longer and more productive lives; rather, they are a prohibition against anxiety itself. This prohibition is not just for the rich who worry about their worldly possessions and the loss of things that they have, it is also a prohibition for the poor who worry about the things they don’t have.

What’s more, it is important to stress that Jesus is not addressing people who have anxiety disorders. People who suffer from such anxiety need loving support, counseling and healing presence, not condemnation by self-righteous bigots and holy rollers. Jesus’ prohibition is not against people who suffer psychologically in ways they cannot help; rather, he is talking about the kind of anxiety that is produced by the fear of losing what one has or the desire to have more. This is not just directed at individuals, but also at the church. I can’t tell you how many times I seen local church’s, as well as the global church, worry about what the future holds, fiscally speaking. Whether we are talking about individuals, or the church, what we worry about becomes what we worship. The object of our anxiety becomes our idol, consuming all our attention and energy.

Whether one has plenty or little, Jesus is telling his disciples not to be caught up in the anxieties of material loss or gain. To do so betrays a lack of trust in God who provides us with everything we’ll ever need. It also takes us away from what our true purpose is, to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love God with our whole being. It takes us away from our true purpose of seeking out the Kingdom of Heaven, and the seeking out (and even fighting for) God’s justice (aka righteousness) in the world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” – Rev. Charles Spurgeon

PRAYER
Lord, help me to trust that you supply and equip me with all that I need. Amen.

ALWAYS

Read Mark 4:35-41

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Cast all your anxiety on [God], because [God] cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Jesus-calms-the-seaFor anyone who has been living in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States, you know what kind of a winter this has been. From Arctic Vortex temperatures to tons of snow, ice and sleet, this winter has not let up and it doesn’t look like it is going to anytime soon. Depending on who you are and weather or not you like winter will tell how exactly you are handling this; however, for those of us who have to brave the elements in order to go to work, or to go to conferences, or to go anywhere, all of this weather can be quite a bit stressful and intimidating.

And the stress isn’t just related to our own travels. My wife works an hour away from where I live. She is a registered nurse and has to go to work regardless of the weather. People’s lives depend on nurses showing up and performing their duties. I know that in winter storms, I get particularly stressed out when she is driving to or from work. There are a lot of unknowns and uncertainties. Will she make it to work okay? Will she make it home okay? What happens if she gets stranded somewhere on the road? What happens if she crashes and dies? How will I ever even begin to explain that to my children? What will my life be like if that were to happen?

The worries and the fears can certainly add up in such situations. Now, some might call me a worry wort, some might say that I’m making a big deal out of nothing; however, there are also a good many people who went out in storms, died and never came home. That reality exists, and the possibility of it happening to anyone of us is also a reality. So, for those of us who do get stressed out, know that you are not crazy for being worried. It is a natural reaction to stressful and unsettling stimuli, to get clinical about it.

With that said, what good does all of that fear do? Is it saving your’s or your spouse’s or your children’s or your parent’s lives? Is it ridding you of the situation? Is it helping you to remain focused and calm? Is it lifting you up and providing you with clear and rational thought? Of course, the answer to all of those questions would be no. When fear spirals out of control, it can paralyze us and leave us in an even worse state than the actual circumstances we find ourselves facing.

Jesus understood the meaning of fear and, without a shadow of a doubt, he certainly was stressed and fearful of the many circumstances befalling him. Yet, he also was a person of profound trust. He was a person that was able to give everything, including his fears, to God. Did that take away his fears? Did that take away his stress? Did that relieve him of his circumstances? Nope! But what it did do was give him the peace and the courage he needed to face his fears, to face his stress, and to face his circumstances.

God is asking you to place your faith in the power that God has to get you through your circumstances. Notice I did not say around or beneath them. But God can and WILL get you through them. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, KJV). Remember, that God is ALWAYS with you. And since God is with you, what do you have to fear? So, fear not for God will see you through any and every storm that comes your way.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Leave it there, leave it there, take your burden to the Lord and leave it there. If you trust and never doubt, he will surely bring you out; take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.” – the refrain from Charles Albert Tindley’s hymn, “Leave It There”.

PRAYER

Lord, I put my trust and my faith in you. I take my fears and anxieties and give them all to you. Give me strength. Amen.