Coming Catastrophes

despairI’ve heard it three times this past week:  “A major market crash is coming soon to a 2017 near you!!!”

OF course, there are multiple suggestions as to how to avoid said calamity:

“Be an entrepreneur”

“Invest in business”

“Buy gold and silver”

“Shore up your food supply”

“If you’re going to buy a house, buy now before rates rise.”

And, of course, all these suggestions assume you have a certain amount of capital to begin with. They all point you towards how to be self-sufficient. They point everywhere but God. 

Are these poor suggestions? No, but they require time. If a crash is imminent, you may not have time for the benefit of these efforts to be realized.

As someone who loves to read History (but is by no means an expert), I’ve come to the conclusion that disasters—natural and/or economic—do not play favorites. Certainly, the poor tend to suffer more than the rich during economic crises, but the rich are not unscathed. In fact, sometimes their devastation is far greater because they have further to fall than the rest of us. During natural disasters, the rich will die under a colapsing bridge or rising flood the same way a poor person will.

You really can’t take it with you, and you really aren’t an all-powerful, self-determining, demigod. 

It’s easy to hear apocalyptic predictions and panic—easier than falling off a log! It’s much harder to remember to lay your fears at the foot of God’s throne and go about your tasks with diligence.

Is a crash really coming?! What do I do!

For your first question—I haven’t the foggiest. I’m not God or an economic expert.

On the second question, I have a simple three-step process:

#1: Lay your fears before God.

Give thanks for all the times He has made provision for you and humbly ask Him to continue. Tell Him about “the impossibilities” and ask Him to grant you wisdom.

#2: Do The Next Right Thing

Be the best steward you can be today, in this moment, for you may not have tomorrow. Take care of your family, love your neighbor, and serve God. Do what is before you today and let go of your fear for tomorrow. To worry is to steal joy from today over what might not happen tomorrow.

#3: Take time to Remember

Do a quick search on “trust” in your Bible app and locate verses about God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Read them, pray them, and write them.

Once you’ve done that make a list of at least 3 times God has provided for you or answered your prayers. Have this list with you when you repeat step 1.

Do all three things and then repeat!

Prepare yourself for the evil day by giving yourself to God this day.

Is a crash is truly coming? I can’t honestly say. A nuclear bomb or a terrorist strike or a thoughtless driver could strike me tomorrow and I would have no way to prevent it. Don’t waste today’s energy fretting about tomorrow’s troubles. Leave your unpredictable future in the hands of our faithful God.

7 Ways to Be Properly Worried

mario-azzi-28007

Got a sinking feeling? Pesky premonitions? Just a little nervous? That’s nothing!

Here are seven sure-fire tips to fuel that anxiety. Continue reading

Read: Building Trust through the Word

prov1620

Trust is developed through time, testing and training.

Trusting in God can be challenging. Our God is an unseen God. Our senses are accosted daily with the challenges of the world. The threats we face are tangible. We see them, but we cannot physically see God. So, how on earth do we develop trust in something we cannot see?

As mentioned in the previous post, this is the regimen I recommend:
Read. Pray. Renew. Praise. Repeat.

In this post, we are going to focus on READ: devoting yourself to God’s Word… daily.

We read the news, the Internet, books, blogs, and Facebook nearly everyday…

Do you commit to reading the Bible everyday?

Building this habit isn’t easy. There are many demands placed on our time and even more distractions to occupy the mind.

One of the things I have found very helpful recently is listening to the bible. I can listen on the way to rehearsals, while I’m doing chores or when I can’t sleep at night. It is a good way to plug into the Word and tune out of the world. I currently use the YouVersion App on my iPhone and listen to the ESV. It’s free and you can take it anywhere without having to download CDs or mp3s. (By the way, this is not an affiliate link, just a suggestion!) You can check out their website to learn more.

Start with 5 minutes each day. Hebrews chapter 11 has 40 verses. For the ESV Hear the Word Audio Bible, it takes 5 minutes and 56 seconds to listen to the chapter. Some chapters don’t get up to 40 verses, so you could feasibly start with listening to one chapter per day while you wash dishes, drive to work, brush your hair or whatever.

Begin with your favorite book and then move on to another book. I often recommend Proverbs—there are 31 chapters, one for each day in a month.

Search for verses on trust. If you are feeling oppressed with anxiety, worry, doubt or fear, spend those 5 minutes looking up verses on trust. Use the concordance in the back of your Bible, the search function on your Bible App or go to a website like BibleHub or Bible Gateway and search there. You’ll be amazed how many verses in the bible deal with trust, fear, doubt and anxiety. If you have a second, stop by our Facebook page and share your favorite trust-related verses!

Read up on the heroes of faith. Abraham. Moses. Gideon. Elijah. The Apostles. They all had doubts. They all struggled as we do, and they learned to trust in the Lord. (We’ll be looking at them in future posts.) Reading the Bible demonstrates how God has taken care of his followers over and over again. Be on the lookout for these examples as you read/listen. He demonstrates His faithfulness, justice, mercy, unfailing love and trustworthiness from the beginning to the very end. He keeps His promises, even if people do not.

Reading daily will remind you to trust daily. Look for the promises God made to his people and their respective fulfillments. You will see that God can be trusted. Fortify your mind with these examples so that you can withstand the forces of anxiety and doubt. When fear and anxiety come, write down the scriptures about trust. Put the verses on your computer or phone wallpaper, your bathroom mirror, and your desk at work.

Memorize. Uh-oh. The dreaded ‘m’ word.

Cops have to memorize penal codes and vehicle codes.

Nurses memorize symptoms and medications.

People in these professions will tell you that they mainly commit to memory commonly used things. They know where to go to find the more obscure penal/vehicle codes or symptoms/remedies.

Living the life of a Christian is a 24-7 job. There’s things we need to commit to memory in order to function or we will fail. We also need to know where to find the answers to our questions. We only do that if we devote time to learning the Word.

If you are having trouble trusting, then it’s time to start memorizing verses to treat the problem.

Find a passage on trust and ask your friends, your spouse or even your kids to help you memorize it. Your kids might be impressed that you aren’t asking them to memorize, but that you are doing it yourself!

Commit yourself to trusting in the Lord through daily reading.

Tomorrow, we’ll go into the next part of training: Pray.

Building Trust in God

bridge-668985_1280

It takes time, testing and training to develop trust.

A couple months ago, I watched a series called “The Men Who Built America” and it covered the careers of Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and Ford. All sorts of lessons can be learned from these giants of industry, but I want to focus on Carnegie’s first daring project—the construction of the Eads Bridge in St. Louis, MO.

512px-Eads_Bridge_panorama_20090119
The Eads Bridge, Image from Wikimedia Commons by Kbh3rd

When Carnegie set out to undertake this project, his goal was to demonstrate the strength of steel. It was the first building project that used steel as its main material. Nothing like this had ever been done before. After the bridge was completed, they needed to demonstrate the strength of the bridge so people would actually use it. To build trust in the bridge—and consequently steel—John Robinson borrowed an elephant from a passing circus and led it across the newly constructed bridge. Later, 20 steam locomotives were driven back and forth across its length. The result of these “tests” was that people not only had trust in the soundness of the bridge, but now they trusted in the strength of steel as a building material. The long term result: Carnegie made a vast fortune in the production of steel. It was used in everything!

God is much stronger than steel, and yet so often it seems we place more trust in a solid bridge than we do God. Imagine driving up to an overpass on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. You see the structure—rebar and concrete—and you see the huge drop on either side. You slam on the breaks and come to a full and complete, non-California stop, taking deep calming breaths to slow the racing of your heart. Will today be the day the overpass fails? What if there’s an earthquake? What if a semi hits one of the supports? What if someone hits your vehicle and you careen over the side and plunge to your death? What if…?

If you’ve ever lived in a city, you know that coming to a stop on a busy freeway is the best way to cause a crash. It would be foolish to stop in the middle of traffic because you’re scared to drive on the overpass! And yet, what do we do when we face tests in life? Do we hit the breaks and hyperventilate? So often, we do! Why? Because we don’t trust God completely.

God is like a strong bridge, only no catastrophe or scheme of man can bring Him down. He’s proven Himself to be sturdy and reliable over and over again. Because we can’t see Him physically and because His plan doesn’t always make sense, we forget or we simply will not trust Him. We need to train our minds and hearts to Trust in the Lord, but how?

Here is my recommended training regimen: Read. Pray. Renew. Praise. Repeat.

Next up:  Phase One of training: Reading.

God be with you.

Misplaced Trust (Part 1)

uncertain riches

The root of worry is misplaced trust.

Last week, we talked about trusting in the Lord. It is much easier to say you trust in the Lord and much harder to actually do it.

Here in the prosperous land of the United States, many people have unwittingly placed their trust in their riches or the richness this country.

You might be thinking to yourself, “I’m not rich.” I’ll admit it. I’ve felt that way often. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: do I feel that way because I can’t have what I want or because I don’t have what I need? In our land of shiny happy people, with our abundance of iDevices, slick credit cards and convenience food, we don’t really lack for anything except contentment. Contentment isn’t the same as trust, but it is part of the equation. Lack of contentment is like root-rot. It eats away at the root of our trust in the Lord. We think we need more stuff and we worry about getting that stuff. We all trust in something whether consciously or subconsciously.

Let me throw out a few examples:

  • If there is a natural disaster, we trust the government to send aid and the insurance company to pay out (minus our deductible).
  • If we save diligently and invest wisely, we trust that our carefully crafted retirement plans along with social security will support us until we die.
  • If we lose our job, we trust in unemployment to float us until we get another job.

There are so many “safety nets” underneath us that we don’t feel very vulnerable to real suffering. Our lack of vulnerability has made us a society of people that trusts in the strength of our wealth and the security of our nets rather than the mercy of God.

Let me be clear: it is an excellent thing to be diligent with our resources and there is nothing evil about abundant blessings. Every good thing we have is a gift from God. Excellent stewardship is good. Saving is good. Planning is good. Preparing is good.

Placing trust in our own strength, our own skills and our own stores of wealth is not good.

As I was considering this idea, I sat down and did a quick search for what the Word of God says about riches. Here are a few of the passages I found:

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19, NKJV, emphasis mine

and,

He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like foliage. Proverbs 11:28, NKJV

lastly,

Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit. For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others. Psalm 49:5-10 ESV

I’d like you to consider Jesus’ parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:15-33. Most people focus on this parable as a warning against storing up treasure on earth. Consider with me how trust factors into this parable as well.

Jesus tells a parable of a rich man who had a land that produced abundantly. He had so much stuff that he didn’t have a place to store it all. (Does this sound familiar?) So, he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. He says to himself: “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘ (Luke 12:19 NASB) He gave no thanks to God for what he had and was congratulating himself on his accomplishments.

Now hear God’s response:

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20-21 NASB

So much for eating, drinking and being merry. He trusted in his health, thinking that he had many years left in him. He trusted that his goods would actually be there for many years. What a misplaced trust! Both his life and his riches could be stripped from him at anytime, and in this parable, they were—immediately. What is even more interesting is that Jesus doesn’t end his parable and move on to a different topic. He says:

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Luke 12:22-23 NKJV

Whenever you see a “therefore” in the bible, you need to back up and see what it is there for.

In this context, Jesus had just finished a parable on the futility of trusting in your riches. Now he gives them the moral of the story: do not worry! The root of worry is misplaced trust. In the case of the parable, trust was put in wealth and self. Both are subject to corruption and destruction. Jesus goes on:

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! Luke 12:24 ESV

Notice what Jesus points out. God takes care of the birds. If he takes care of that feeble creature, do you trust that he will take care of you? Jesus continues:

And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Luke 12:25-26 NASB

I have never considered the ability to extend your life a “little” thing. And yet, it’s a little thing to Jesus… and we can’t do it. We fancy ourselves geniuses. We have all this great technology. And yet, nobody has figured out how to add time to his or her life. We never know when our time is going to be up. Jesus concludes:

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! Luke 12:27-28 NASB

Jesus talks about 3 things: Food. Time. Clothing. We all worry about these things, don’t we? We all need to eat, most of us don’t want to wander around naked and I think to some degree we all want to live a long full life. What Jesus is saying to us is that we can’t guarantee these things. We cannot trust our money—it might be worthless tomorrow (Remember the Weimar Republic). We cannot trust our strength—it might fail at anytime. God is solid through all the changes in life. We need to trust in Him.

Yes, be a good steward. Yes, work to feed and clothe yourself and your family. But don’t put your reliance on your own strength and skill—both can fail you without warning. Rely on God to give you wisdom. Trust Him to provide for your needs and don’t think he has abandoned you when you cannot have your wants. Keep on trusting in the Lord, my friends.

In next week’s post, Lord willing, we will look at how we train ourselves to trust God.

~Elihu