Toxic Fears

This is the third and final post in the series about certain toxins that humanity is plagued with. In the last two posts I shared my journey of mind games and poor word usage that have not been profitable whatsoever. But through my struggles in these areas, I’ve grown and become more aware of how to focus my thoughts and use my words as a life-giving agent. Today’s post is all about my fear.

I’ve been afraid of not being able to provide for my family. There’s no way around it. It has terrified me at times that my children and wife will not have all that they need. I’m not talking about wants or the menial pleasures of life. I mean their needs. I’ve been afraid of losing my loved ones, especially since I’ve lost two people extremely close to me in the last six years. One of the greatest fears I’ve had to tackle is the fear of something bad happening to my kids. Growing up I can’t remember being afraid of anything. Since having a family of my own, the fears have crept in. It’s like the more you have, the more room there is for fear. Being on my own I was care-free. Now with a wife and three kids…not so much.

I’m also a believer that it doesn’t have to be so. A family doesn’t have to open the door for fear to rule in my heart. To each of my fears above, God has spoken words of affirmation and promise. God has reminded me that Hs is ultimately the one who has been and always will be the one providing for my family. He’s also comforted me through my loss so that I can rest in the life to come, not this temporary existence. Me, and my loved ones, are living for that life to come, not for this one. Death is only the beginning and He has numbered all of our days. As far as my children go, God’s love for them far exceeds my own. He’s watching over them. He’ll give me wisdom and I can rest in that God is sovereign over my kids’ lives.

In the end, in what ever area we fear the most is where we value the most and trust God the least. I need to value Him above all things and people. His mission needs to be my mission. His kingdom and righteousness should be my aim and the rest will fall into place.

As always, here are some verses that have helped me along my journey. I hope they can be a help to you. Remember, these are paraphrases and what I felt God speaking to me through His word. I would encourage you to look up the passages yourself to read them in context and their entirety.:

Isaiah 26:3-4 tells me to keep my mind and focus on God and that’s when I will experience peace.

Isaiah 41:8-13 says that God has done great things on my behalf as He did for Israel and He is the one who upholds me. Because of that, there is nothing I should be afraid of.

Philippians 4:6-9 says that through prayer, giving thanks, and staying focused on good things God’s peace will be with me.

2 Timothy 1:7 tells me that God’s Spirit is within me so I already have power and love and sound mind.

John 14:27 is Jesus’ promise that His peace has been given to me.

Psalm 23 is a beautiful picture of being in harmony with God which brings peace in all circumstances.

Luke 12:22-34 treasure the kingdom, trust the King, and tend to others. That’s the mission of peace.

In the grand scheme of things, the only reason I fear is when my faith is lacking and my short term memory lost kicks in. God has a flawless track record in my life. There is no reason to not trust Him. It’s really the consequences of living in a fallen and broken world that we fear. And it’s hard to imagine that great of love that can overcome it on our behalf. But that’s exactly what we have in Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, if you battle with fear, draw closer to Him. He is the calm in your storm, just as He has been in mine.

Toxic Words

The Bible is very clear on the point that what we say has a major impact on those we talk to both directly and indirectly. We can count on the fact that everything we say has the potential to shape someone in a big way. Somethings will get swept under the rug and forgotten. Others will stick in people’s minds like superglue, possibly for a lifetime. The other thing about it is, we don’t get to choose which words of ours stay with someone and which they let go of. All the more reason to be not just careful, but intentional.

I think most readers will be able to relate to this statement: most of the words that lead to regret are those spoken in frustration. Kids, a spouse, coworkers, family, and the like can all push us to a point where the flood gates of our mouths are loosed and the lava of unhelpful and poisonous speech come spewing forth. Sometimes instant guilt washes over us in these moments. Other times it takes until the unsettled emotions level out and our minds become rational once again. Whatever the case, the damage has been inflicted and at that point all we can do is release our pride and petition our victims for mercy and pray that God will clean up our mess.

Examples are always helpful so let me share some personal ones that God has taught me to change in my own life.

#1- Be careful of the labels you give to others. Names can be fun and playful, yet they can help someone develop and identity based on what others call them. For example, telling one of my children they are acting like a brat or a snot could possibly lead to them thinking that is how others view them. Or calling someone a jerk or that they’re being stupid can never be helpful. While their behavior seems to warrant such labels, the labels themselves can in no way benefit the hearer.

God’s response: if you’re going to ascribe a label to someone, make sure it is a good one that helps to reveal the person He made them to be. Labels can call someone up to greater things and should never be used to beat someone down.

#2- making unhelpful statements or asking pointless questions. When someone does something, it doesn’t make matters better to say, “how could you do that?” Or another one I’ve used many times with my children, “what were you thinking?” Embedded in the questions themselves is a subtle yet blasting indictment of shame.

God’s response: why not ask questions that will point them to me.

Because words are so powerful, it should be something we think about, and more importantly, pray about a lot. Call it walking on egg shells, or call it plain wisdom. The person who is careless with their words simply cares more about themselves and the expression of their own emotions than how they impact those around them. Here are some helpful verses and what God has taught me through them:

Proverbs 15:4, 16:24, 17:27, and 18:21 – words can bring life or death to someone. So speak life. (Awesome Toby Mac song). They can actually be a tree of life and bring healing to others.

Ephesians 4:29 – the only words that should come out of my mouth are those that are helpful to others.

Matthew 15:18-19 and Luke 6:45 – my words are a mirror of what is in my heart.

Colossians 4:6 – my words need to be full of grace.

Let’s be game changers with our words. No longer will frustration and inpatients dominate our speech. We can bring life and healing and so we shall!

Toxic Thoughts

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This world offers a lot of opportunities to add toxic things to our lives. From food to entertainment, we are faced with a barrage of choices. You don’t have to go far, often just the click of a remote or mouse, and your being filled with things that not only don’t benefit you, but can even tear away at you emotionally and spiritually. Over the next few posts, I’d like to share with you my journey through detoxing my life. A lot of what I will be sharing started three years ago when I went through a devotional on the youversion Bible app. While the journey to detoxify started way earlier, this devotion helped me to target areas of my life in a very specific way.

The mind is definitely the control center of our bodies. When it’s shorting out, the rest of us is out of whack too. I’ve experienced that far too often. That’s why this first post is all about the toxic thoughts I’ve had to battle with and how God has been helping me through it. I’m not going to share all of it but a few of the big struggles.

#1- I constantly battle with thinking that it is all up to me to provide for our family.

God’s response: I am the one that had and always will be your source of provision. The pressure is off.

#2- Thoughts of always needing to be productive with my time otherwise it’s a waste.

God’s response: some of the most productive time is spent at rest, and in prayer, and alone with me doing nothing but sitting at my feet.

#3- Feelings of being overwhelmed, exhausted, and stretched too thin.

God’s response: Let me renew you each day. Focus more of that energy on me. Do more of the things that bring you into my presence.

In reading my top three, it’s probably clear to you that my problems were all related. The object goal of my life was way out of order. I have always had to wade through having a scattered mind. I have ADHD so my mind is always in overdrive. That makes it difficult sometimes to slow down. I need to have a goal…a destination…to keep me zeroed in. Otherwise, I’m all over the place. My goals have been providing for my family, being the best husband and father I can be, doing the best at teaching and my business, and being there for others. I’m not saying that those are bad goals, but none of them deserve the top spot on my priority list. That was my biggest fault. I was, and sometimes still do, miss out on the biggest object goals of my life. Here are some verses that have helped me refocus and ones I still fall back on nearly every day. You might want to read the verses for yourself because I’m just sharing what they tell me about where I am in life.

Matthew 6:33 tells me that the object goal of life is pursuing His kingdom and His righteousness before all else. God is the one who then adds to all of our needs.

Matthew 11:28-30 says that the object goal of life is Christ. Learning from and following Him gives us rest from life’s heaviest burdens.

Psalm 18:31-32 tells me to look to God who will give me strength, direction, and place me where I need to be.

Psalm 62:1-2 encourages me to wait and stand firm in God knowing that He provides salvation and defends me.

Psalm 127:1-2 says that the object goal is to partner with God and what He is doing in this world, not to continually strive on my own. Then He prospers my way and gives me rest.

Isaiah 40:28-31 reminds me of where my strength and endurance comes from…a life focused on God.

The mind is a minefield that can easily spell disaster each day we wade through our thoughts. They fuel insecurities and motivations. As the saying goes, “as a man thinks, so he is.” What better to think about than God? What better to think about than His purpose in my life? He has to be where our minds go first and most often. That’s the best way to detoxify our minds.

Where does your thought life take you? How has God encouraged you? I’d love to hear your story. Please comment and share so we can all be encouraged. Cheers!