The Anxiety of Spiritual Forgetfulness

Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?
And do you not remember?

(Mark 8:18)

Why do we get so anxious about things?

Seriously, we stress, we panic, we fuss, we fret, over everything. We act as though the rising of the sun and the setting of the same depend upon our ability to get things done in a timely and orderly manner. When one thing starts to get out of our grasp, we freak out like the world is going to end. (And by “we,” I mean ME.) The Psalmist said it this way, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me” (Psalm 43:5).

I think the reason why we get this way, the reason I get this way, is forgetfulness.  It’s not that I forget that there is a God, I just forget that God’s promises, God’s power, God’s grace applies to every situation.  The rest of that verse from the Psalms says, “Why are you cast down… Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”  Being reminded of God’s salvation, of our hope in Him – there is no better cure for anxiety, stress, and panic.  “Be still and know that I am God” – that’s what God says to the panicky, the anxious, the worried.  Perhaps today we could write it:

Keep Calm
Carry On
God’s in Control

We need to be reminded of this. Frequently.

Let me illustrate this briefly.  As you all know I have accepted a new pastoral call, and will be moving to South Dakota soon.  Knowing that selling a house in a small town can sometimes take months, we put our house on the market in mid-February, hoping that we’d be able to sell it just before we needed to move.

We just sold our house in 1 week. We put a sign in the yard on a Monday, by Sunday we had a contract. We live in a small community in NW Iowa, so selling a house that quickly and for the price we wanted is pretty much unheard of, one might say, miraculous.  We were ecstatic.

But how did I respond?  I immediately began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to find a house to move into in our new community.  The market there doesn’t have too many listings, especially for a family of 6, within our price range.  I panicked.  What if we don’t find a house? How far will I have to commute? Will my family be homeless?

Wow!  Didn’t God just do something amazing? Did He not just show us His mighty hand? Won’t God, cannot God, do it again?

The Good News is, I’m not alone in this spiritual forgetfulness.

The Israelites, less than a week after walking through the Red Sea, complained that they couldn’t find water, and worried that God would let them die (Ex. 15:22-25).  Elijah, having just conquered 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, immediately ran into the wilderness and asked to die when Jezebel threatened to kill him (1 Kings 18-19). The disciples, having just witnessed Christ feeding 4000 people, started arguing amongst themselves because they forgot to bring along any bread (Mark 8:14-21).  They were in the boat with the One who had just fed 4,000 people; and yet they were worried because they forgot to bring along any bread!

I think that this is the fundamental reason why we stress, fret, and worry. We forget what God has done. We think that our problems are greater that God’s vision, our troubles are too much for Him to bear. We worry that God might just not be watching, might just not be able…

Oh weary heart, full of care, has God not shown His grace to be sufficient to meet your every need?  Has God not proven His faithfulness, time and again?  Has God not promised that “though weeping may tarry for the night, joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5)? Has God not promised to be your salvation, and that for those who love God all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28).

We need to remember, we need to be reminded, we need to keep this before us at all times.  Maybe that’s why Paul, in his encouragement to Timothy said, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (2 Tim 2:8). We need to constantly remember that He is risen, He is alive, He rules and reigns over us and for us, He holds all things in His hands.  All our anxious cares subside in the strength of His everlasting arms.

Why are you anxious, oh my soul? Why so disturbed? Hope in God, for He is your salvation.  He is your God!

Soli Deo Gloria

The Lord your God is With You

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

I have served for the last 14 years as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), nine of those years as the pastor of the Memorial Presbyterian Church in Cherokee, IA.  Through these years of service I have faithfully proclaimed the Word of God, and have tried to work for Biblical Reformation and Renewal within the larger denomination.  Ever since my ordination, though, I have continued to feel a growing division between the clear teaching of Scripture and the decisions and actions of the denomination.  I have struggled to maintain faithfulness as one called to be a minister of Word and Sacrament while pledging to further the “peace, unity, and purity of the Church.”

Four years ago, when the denomination’s position on the standards for ordained ministry were changed to allow for the ordination of practicing homosexuals, I began prayerfully studying what my future in ministry would look like. The action regarding a “redefinition of marriage” at the most recent General Assembly further confirmed that it was time for me to look elsewhere.

And so it is with joy that I can share that I have  been offered the opportunity to serve as the pastor of Ebeneezer Presbyterian Church in Lennox, SD, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, which a distinctively Reformed and Presbyterian body with whom I am in agreement in matters of faith and practice.

I have nothing but the greatest respect appreciation for those churches that I have been fortunate to serve these past 14 years.  They have taught me what it means to be a pastor – to prayerfully teach and apply the word of God so that all might know Christ and be encouraged and strengthened in their walk with Him.

Over time, I have come to understand that my primary calling is to be faithful to God, and ultimately this move from one denomination to another is my attempt to be faithful.  It is a difficult decision because it does mean uprooting my family, taking some risks financially, and stepping out on faith in a new ministry.  And yet I know that I can go forward boldly, courageously, because the Lord is with me, and He is my shield and my strength.  I go forward knowing that “He who calls me is faithful” (1 Thess 5:24), even when my faith waivers and my doubts rise.  I go forward knowing that the One who has brought about such good work in the church so far, He is faithful to complete it.

I thank my congregation here in Cherokee for their support, their prayers, and their encouragement over the years.  I want to assure you, I will continue to give thanks to God for you in all my prayers.  In the coming months as I prepare to leave, I hope and pray that we can celebrate all that the Lord has done in our ministry together, as we also prepare a strong foundation for the next chapter in your ministry. Keep loving and caring for one another, and remain steadfast in your faithfulness to the Lord

Grace and Peace