5 Mindsets to Suffocate Your Fears

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Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. 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 4:4-7]

With so much going on in our lives, with our loved ones and our country, there is much to be fearful of. It seems like the only thing that is not unprecedented right now is the anxiety many people are experiencing daily. 

Here are five mindsets to starve your fears: 

1. Look at life like it’s a railroad track, not peaks and valleys.

One of the self-inflicted ways we harm our attitude and perspective on how things are going is by putting our life in good seasons and bad seasons. We talk about mountains and valleys. It unconsciously affects our emotional outlook of whether or not we have a happy mood (good season, mountain peak) or a negative mood (bad season, valley). 

When we believe we’re in a valley season, we neglect to appreciate the good in our lives. 
When we believe we’re in a peak season, we become unaware that a trial is on its way toward us.

Rather than looking at what is happening in us, to us and around us as highs and lows, we need to look at life like it’s a railroad track. Railroad tracks have two sides to them heading in a parallel direction. 

Instead of seeing life as a series of good seasons and bad seasons, our perspective should be that good and bad are happening congruently at the same time. There is always something to be thankful for and there is always a difficulty to be working through. Keep one eye on each side of the tracks.

Having the discipline to see the good track with our view of things alongside the bad will take away the oxygen for anxiety and fear to breathe. Thank God for the good, trust Him when it’s scary.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! [Philippians 4:4]

2. Decision-making needs to come from the rudder, not the sails. 

Anger, out of fear, is the emotion we have when we can’t control the things we want to control. 

Pride, out of insecurity, is the emotion we have when we’re excited about how our lives are going. 

Too many of our decisions are coming immediately from our emotions, and the majority of those impulsive choices are damaging our relationships and the reputation we want those watching our lives to have of us. 

Our emotions are more like the sail of a boat than they are like the rudder. We feel fear, we feel anxiety, we feel out of control and we react right away, like sails do when the wind hits. 

When the pressured storms of life hit, instead of permitting our emotions to drive us where we go, we need to let reasonableness and wisdom direct our responses to what is going on. Instead of our decisions being the sails taking us immediately where the wind goes, they need to be viewed as the rudder of a ship: steady, secure, even-keel, stable. 

Being considerate of how our words and actions will be viewed by God and others allows the rudder of faith to drive our lives rather than the sails of emotion. 

Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. [Philippians 4:5]

3. When fear is felt, make the Indiana Jones switch from panic to prayer. 

Remember watching the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones desired to take a small golden statue? If he just took the statue, an ancient alarm system would trigger a huge boulder to roll over him and make him Flat Stanley. 

To trick the alarm system, with steady hands he quickly takes the golden statue and then replaces it with a bag of sand (which, I don’t know why he thought the weight would be the same as gold is so much more dense than sand is) – but the quick switch is what I want us to focus on. 

The second that panic is felt, we need to switch it to prayer. 

When fear is felt, our heart races and becomes heavy as gold. Our mind flies through all of the hypothetical possible dangers of what could or could not happen. We become paralyzed and miss out on the adventurous, joyful life God has in store for us. 

Whether the fear felt is real, or whether it’s a lie, it needs to be switched out and prayer needs to be done immediately so the large boulder of anxiety doesn’t flatten our faith in Jesus. 

Freaking out is not a fruit of the Spirit. 
Non-Christians freak out. 
Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit.
Christians pray and trust God.  

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. [Philippians 4:6]

4. Treat prayer like ordering from a fancy menu: be specific. 

My tastebuds are not fans of three ingredients: onions, mushrooms and coconut. When I take my wife out on a date to a fancy restaurant, the majority of the meals have the three ingredients I don’t love. 

When I order, I have to be specific on what I want and what I don’t want. 

Let’s say a waiter came to my table at a nice restaurant and asked me, What would you like? How weird would it be if I just said: Food. I want food. The waiter can serve me better the more specific I am – AND – I can enjoy the experience better the more specific I am. 

When praying to God, we need to be very specific. Being specific doesn’t invite God to know what we want, He knows what we want before we even ask, but what it does is it allows us to see the specific ways God will answer our prayers the more we drill down what we want exactly. 

Also, Scripture teaches us that we don’t get because we don’t ask. The more generic we are in our prayers the more vague of a timeline the answers will arrive. 

I don’t want us to treat God like He’s a genie, but sometimes the specific desires of our hearts needs to be laid out in articulate, exact requests. 

When fear rises up, replace it with prayer. Specific prayer. Tell God exactly what you need.

Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. [Philippians 4:6]

5. Finding God’s peace means being in God’s presence.

Anxiety, worry, depression and fear are not from God. If those emotions are reigning in our hearts and minds, God’s presence will feel far away.

Our God has the ultimate goal to guard our emotional life like a soldier. 

Sometimes during nights where we can’t sleep and our minds are full of fear, sometimes during moments in the day when we feel shaken due to what’s going on that we can’t control – we need to acknowledge the presence of God – out loud. 

Simply saying, I refuse to be afraid. I welcome You, Lord, I welcome Your Spirit, I welcome Your truth, I welcome Your power right now in this room, in my heart, in my mind, for my future. 

And then being in the presence of God, you will find the peace of God. 

Light drives our darkness.
Truth drives out lies.
Perfect drives out fear.  

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 4:7]

This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Balancing Work and Rest Post-Pandemic

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So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-2 / NLT)

Most evenings in our households while putting our young daughters to bed this is what the routine looks like: pajamas on, teeth brushed, hug mommy goodnight, have daddy read a fictional book and a chapter from their children’s Bible, then, prayer and kisses (and then they have the endless excuses to stay up like: I’m hungry, I’m not sleepy, I’m itchy, my tongue hurts, I’m afraid of that fly I saw earlier outside, etc). 

The other night for their children’s Bible time we read the creation account where God the Creator creates the world in six days. 

To their numerous amount of questions I was explaining everything God had done in the Creation week to my  daughters. I’m saying, God did this. God then did this. God then brought the animals. God then made Adam and Eve. 

One of the girls takes the children’s Bible from me and puts it under her sheets as if she was tucking in her own child to sleep. She looks at me and says, God needs to go to nap time.

She doesn’t comprehend it yet, but God doesn’t rest on Saturday because He was beat. God worked and accomplished so much, but He the reason He rests on Day 7 wasn’t because He was all plumb-tuckered out. 

God didn’t wear himself out to the point He needed to go to Florida for some R & R. He wasn’t like, “Oh, man! I pulled a hamstring. I got calluses. Whoo, making the goats, that was exhausting. I’m not as young as I used to be.

But what God did, God finished his work, and then He rested.

The point of rest is this: To enjoy life.

Did you know that? 

The point of resting is to enjoy life. So many people work and don’t enjoy life. 

I know people who work really hard to get a boat and don’t go boating.
I know people who work really hard to get a car and never go for a drive.
I know people who work very hard to have a vacation property and don’t vacation.
I know people that got married and don’t go out on dates.
I know people that have kids and don’t hang out with them. 

It’s because they keep working. They can’t stop. They won’t stop until they completely crash and harm what is good in their lives. This is why we have rates of burnout and anxiety and depression, because people just keep going until they absolutely come undone. 

What God is saying is this, “Work hard for most of the week. Work hard, do work that honors me, make things good and very good. But then, take your day off. Sleep, rest, enjoy. Don’t just work all the time.

I am concerned about what life is going to look like post-Covid-19 for some of you because still, after all of this time seeing how things are out of our control, you think everything is up to you and you have to work constantly and you’re fraying yourself, you’re going to come undone and you’re missing moments with your loved ones. 

When I moved to Brooklyn, NY right out of college, during my time there I didn’t take a day off. I had three jobs. I slept 4-6 hours a night. I burned myself totally out. I was frustrated and angry and easily agitated. I was not as pleasant to my friends, or my roommates and I treated the girl I was dating at the time in a disrespectful way. I can’t blame that on anyone. That was absolutely my sin that I needed to repent of.

And it was all due to not resting. 

The point of rest is to enjoy life and when I refuse to rest I harm the good life I’ve been given. 

It’s the person who hasn’t slept and is stressed out and freaked out and angry and agitated and then their productivity suffers. Those who don’t rest well, don’t work well.

It’s the person who works hard and well, and then rests and plays hard and well, and then goes back to work that has this rhythm in their life. 

I have parented two toddlers in my history of being a dad. Toddlers play hard, they work hard and they sleep hard. Toddlers have rhythm. It’s how we’re created. If they get off that rhythm, the ugly side comes out. 

Adults aren’t much different. 

The subtle thing behind people who work too much is this: If you don’t take a day off, and if you don’t take a nap, and if you don’t cease from your work to enjoy what God has given you and what you’ve done by his good grace, then you are demonstrating to the world that you don’t trust God. 

(you might want to read the above paragraph again, slowly)

Those who work too much, too late in the day, at night and on the weekends when their family is around, checking their phone all vacation, they’re saying, If I don’t work, it all falls apart because God’s not sovereign and he doesn’t hold things together.

If we don’t take time to worship and we don’t take time to rest, we don’t take time to love, we’re being terrible followers of Jesus. We’re sending out very mixed messages about God to our loved ones and to the world, This is the God who’s sovereign, but I have to keep everything under control.

But, the person who works hard, takes time day off seriously, enjoys their family and their friends and enjoys their hobbies – those are people who live better lives and longer lives. They leave a legacy that is more productive. We should rest. 

Don’t feel guilty about resting, it’s biblical. 

I can think of two types of people who have the hardest time having a Sabbath and a rhythm of rest. 

(1) The Self-Employed and (2) The Mother

Those who are self-employed struggle to rest and find boundaries in their schedule because they don’t have a boss, and they just keep working. And mothers, because on the weekends, their kids are still there. Motherhood never ends (in a good but exhausting way). 

No matter the case, when some type of normalcy begins to occur, it’s going to be important for those of you who have fast-paced lives make sure that you still Sabbath, that you get your date night if you’re married. That you get time with family and friends. That you make time for a Bible study. That you make time for prayer. That you can put the phone down. 

People can get real legalistic about Sabbath, they ask really detailed questions like, What constitutes as work – if I mow the lawn or bake a cake? Or if a go for a walk, is that work? Am I sinning against God? 

If you want to go for a walk and that’s restful for you and you enjoy the Lord, it’s a nice day, go for a walk. If for you it’s restful to take a nap, take a nap. If it’s restful for you to be out in your garden, then go work in your garden. If it’s restful for you to have people over and to have a big meal and to enjoy your family and friends, then enjoy yourself and have people over.

Let’s not argue too much about the Sabbath. It’s a gift that God gives for us to have joy and rest. And that’s why some people argue over the day. Well, is it Saturday, is it Sunday, is it this, or is it that? Paul says in Romans 14, it’s whatever. If Tuesday’s your day off, Sabbath on Tuesday. If your job forces you to work Sunday, and Wednesday’s your day off, enjoy Wednesday.

Some people have this picture of God, that when God tells us to do something, it’s bad, and we need to be defiant. I’m telling y’all, when God tells us to do something, it’s good. When I looked at my toddler daughter, and noticed, Whoa, Mr. Hyde is back in your personality. Toddler, go take a nap, that’s because I love her. I want her day to go well. I know what it’s going to look like if she doesn’t rest.

I know what my life will look like if they didn’t rest.

God’s just like that. God’s a good Dad, who looks at us and says, “You need to rest today. You need to just read and pray and hang out. It’s a nice day, go for a drive. Go for a walk. Go for a bike ride. Take a deep breath of fresh air. It’s a nice warm winter day. I’ve given you the whole world – get out of your cubicle, go enjoy a little bit of it. Go play some golf. Go read a book. Take your preacher out to Chili’s with you.” 

Alen Cohen says, “There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” 

We have been given the gift of rest and time with God and with loved ones for a couple months now. All I’m inviting you to do is discipline yourselves to, when you go back into life once the restrictions lift, is to keep rest in your week. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

 

When You Can’t Do Life On Your Own Anymore

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Do you want to make a positive influence on your relationships? 

Do you want to improve each room you walk into? 

Do you want to get through a difficult time in an honoring way as others are watching you suffer? 

It’s embedded in my worldview that these people believe they can do it, but only with the help of God. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Put fear and timidity on one side. Those aren’t from God.

Place power and love and discipline on the other side. Those are from God. 

Which means, every time you have chosen to endure, or rely on this inner strength to get through something, each time you’ve loved or have felt love, each time you’ve stay focused to do what was needed, all of that is from God. God gives us a spirit of power and love and self-discipline. 

Which means that fear and timidity, these aren’t from God. Any anxiety, worrying, afraid to live, afraid to get through it, afraid of failure, depressed, not from God. 

Being insecure and anxious is what will happen if we just believe that we can do it on our own. We will harm our relationships over time if we continue to buy into the delusion that all we have to do is pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and go after another day. 

We need God’s help.

I’ll give two examples of each side when it comes to parenting. This crosses over with how you lead employees during the week or how you are with friends, how you react to stressful circumstances.  

I get to be a father of two daughters, age 8 and age 5 currently. 

EXAMPLE ONE

One morning, I’m getting the girls ready for the day, trying to keep them focused on the following: outfits, shoes, teeth brushed, hair somewhat presentable, somewhat disheveled only a father’s touch can provide. 

They’re sitting at the kitchen island, time is short before the school buss arrives, so I throw together a Carnation mix with milk for breakfast. With a straw. No lid on either cup. 

Right when you just read the words, no lid, every mother reading knows where this is going.

Every mother is thinking, Oh, you gotta put a lid on it. 

I know that now. 

Izzy, our five year old, knocks her cup over accidentally, it hits the floor, and makes a mess. You would’ve thought a cow was murdered in our kitchen. There was milk everywhere. 

I let anger out on Izzy until the alligator tears started to form in her eyes.  

Hold that memory. 

EXAMPLE TWO

A few days later I’ve set a mug of coffee on the end of our sofa and Izzy comes flying in the family room. She’s at this stage where no matter where she is or who’s around her, she’s doing a cartwheel. 

She flies into the family room, does a cartwheel and accidentally knocks over my mug with her feet. Coffee goes everywhere, mug falls onto the wooden floor and shatters instantly. 

This time I’m calm. I’m chill. 

I make sure she’s okay. I ask her to stay away from the broken ceramic pieces. I gently remind her to watch for her surroundings when she’s in Simone Biles mode. I apologize to her for leaving my mug on the sofa. 

Okay, compare the two instances. When she knocked over the milk in the morning, and I let my anger out, that instilled fear and timidity in her. My ripple effect was negative. 

When she knocked over the coffee off the sofa, I let gentleness out due to self-discipline. She felt that love. 

What’s the difference?

It was reflecting on 2 Timothy 1:7 over and over throughout the day.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

In the morning, when Izzy spilled the milk on the floor and I spilled my emotions on her, I hadn’t gotten up early to pray for God to guide me during my day. I hadn’t thought about needing God’s power for energy, or God’s love for others, or God’s discipline to help me love on my girls that morning. 

I relied on my own strength and impatience came out. 

But when the coffee spilled off the sofa, I was able to respond with gentleness and humility because I had been praying 2 Timothy 1:7 throughout the day (in fact, my wife had written the verse on our mirror in her beautiful, large hand-writing as a reminder for both of us to lean on the Lord and not on ourselves). 

Lord, please, in all of my conversations, give me Your power so I have the energy to deal with what comes. Give me Your love so people around me feel it. Give me Your discipline as my own so the old Zach doesn’t come out, but the likeness of Your Son does. 

This works in parenting. It works in dating. It works in marriage. It works when you are around your employees, neighbors, friends. 

It keeps our relationships from viewing us as bipolar. Jekyll one day, Hyde the next. 

It keeps the people around us at home or at work from wondering which version of ourselves they’re going to get no matter what the day holds. 

If you believe you can do life on your own, without God’s help, the ripple effect you will have on those closet to you will be fear and timidity. People will be afraid to be around you, they will walk on egg shells, you’ll have extreme mood swings, they’ll be anxious and scared and eventually depressed.

But, if you rely on God daily, in prayer, people around you will see and feel your example of love, and power and focus and they will want the same. 

Even if you don’t have a high view of God, or of the Bible, try it out. 

It’s got to be daily consistently, over a long haul of time. 

What hurts is that Izzy is going to remember me getting irate over the milk spilling more than she will remember me being gentle and concerned for her when the coffee spilled a couple days later. – 

I need to do it daily so she sees me as the latter half of this 2 Timothy 1:7 and doesn’t feel the first part. 

If you work, reflect in the car on the way home, God, I’ve had a long day. I need You to give me Your strength, Your love, Your discipline for me to love my family the best I can tonight. 

In the morning before school or work or the day of errands, God, I don’t know what will come today, but You do. Please give me Your power and love and discipline to honor You and love on others and be an example. 

During a crisis in your life or in the home, you need God’s power to get through it faithfully, God’s love to give you identity that no matter what happens, you are still loved by Him. You need God’s discipline because in trials, if we don’t rely on God in prayer, we get sad and lazy and melancholy and lay around and have no energy and our loved ones see us as that. 

You can do this with the help of others and with God’s help.

We want to change lives, we want to improve relationships, we want to make a difference, we want to leave a legacy, but you need God’s empowerment daily to do it. 

And you need the help of others to also remind you that you need God’s help. 

Most people, when they wake up, they feel rushed and allow life to happen to them and then they react to it and they just want to make it through the day. 

Most people don’t wake up praying to rely on God for the day. 

Most people don’t wake up acknowledging that what they do for that day builds their legacy. 

Most people don’t wake up feeling like a world-changer. 

But, what if you believed daily that with who you are created to be, and with the help of others around you, and with the help of God, you could change the lives of others for the better? 

I believe you can.

5 years into our marriage. Whitney and I found out that we were infertile after desperately wanting a child. That was a harsh realization. 

My father died of cancer six years ago. That was tough. 

I have sin in my past that cost me security and friendships and reputation. The consequences still weigh heavy. 

There are little stresses piled up on me and my family every day. Life pressures down on us. 

All of the trials, all of the worrying, I cannot do it on my own. I cannot have a positive influence on those around me and get through difficult seasons on my own will power. 

I need you and I need God’s help. You need people to help you. So open up to someone. You need God’s help, so pray to Him throughout the day. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z