Overcoming fear and anxiety

What causes fear and anxiety?
In most cases, fear and anxiety are caused by a belief or set of beliefs. For example, if you’re in an airplane and the engines go out, fear is an understandable response. It’s based on the belief, “This plane might crash; I might die.”

Usually the beliefs that cause fear are faulty. For example, stepping into an elevator will make some people feel anxiety or even panic. Why? Because there is an underlying belief: “I’m permanently trapped; I’m going to die.” Are those beliefs based on reality? No. The person holding those faulty beliefs probably knows they are not true. But they feel true.

I call these beliefs that feel true “gut-level beliefs.”

How do you correct faulty gut-level beliefs?
All of us have faulty gut-level beliefs. And those beliefs came from somewhere. That somewhere is our life experiences. At some point in our lives, mostly in our childhood, we learn false lessons like: I’m worthless. I’m not worth protecting. It’s all my fault. There’s no hope. I’m not safe. And so on.

Experiences with Jesus can correct our faulty beliefs at a gut level.
Here’s the technique we’ve found to be effective: We focus on the feeling in order to identify the gut-level beliefs behind that feeling and the events that created those gut-level beliefs. Then we invite Jesus to offer whatever He has for us in that vulnerable place.

The result? Time after time, we’ve seen panic disappear, fear subside, anxiety lessen. It may take several encounters with Jesus, but it really does work.

Getting help
Sometimes you can do this on your own. More often you need help. Here in Madison, Steve Freitag of CrossCounsel.com or Kim Clough are trained to help, as are some Christian counselors. I teach the system behind this in my course, Spiritual Self Defense.

Best Bible Reading Plan is now online!

Hi

I am so excited.

For years I’ve been obsessing about how to make the Bible easier to read, more approachable, more accessible, more understandable. As a professional writer, I understand that most people are going to have a tough, tough time picking up the Bible, starting at Genesis, and plowing their way all the way through to Revelation.

That’s why I am so excited to announce a Bible reading plan that will get you through all 1,189 chapters of the Bible without getting you bogged down. But we’re not gonna take the Genesis through Revelation route. Instead, I’ll show you a whole different way to get every page read.

Here’s what I’ve done. I’ve arranged the Bible into seven sections, each one centered around a person:

1. Jesus, Author of Life
2. Paul, Transformed Leader
3. Moses, the Man Who Built a Nation
4. David, the Man After God’s Own heart
5. Solomon: Magnificence to Decline
6. Isaiah: A Towering Vision of God
7. Daniel: Rebuilding After Disaster

Each of these people will be the focus for seven weeks of reading. You’ll read an average of 91 verses a day—or around three chapters—sometimes more, sometimes less.

Less than a year! Keep up with it every day, and you’ll read the entire Bible in less than a year. Start today, and you’ll finish on December 27, 2018. Miss a day? No problem. Just pick it back up, and keep on trucking.

I’ve posted the whole plan online. You don’t need to sign up for anything or pay for anything. It’s all right here…

And could you do me a favor? If you know anyone who would like to read the entire Bible, could you pass this message on?

Many thanks!

Dwight

Practical things we can do to restore someone who has stumbled

So…what can we do to restore those who have stumbled?

There are a few things any of us can do.

We can listen. By listening, you’re letting someone know that they’re worth understanding, worth spending time with, worth the friendship. And by listening, you can help a person process what’s going on inside, helping them move from where they are, to where they could be.

Nonjudgmental listening can offer your friend a glimpse into the unconditional love of God. We all mess up. God knows this. Restoring us is just part of who God is and what God does.

We can validate. A few years ago a dear friend reluctantly admitted to me that he was having an adulterous affair. After he finished telling me about it, he said, “What do you think of me now?” I said, “I think you’re a guy looking for a solution just like all the rest of us.” On a deep level, we all are really the same. We’re all looking for love, respect, and understanding. Sometimes we all just get mixed up about where we’re gonna find that. We all do crazy things sometimes.

If the person you’re helping is struggling with a specific behavior, you can ask, “If you give up this behavior [or whatever], what do you lose? What does it feel like to think of this no longer being in your life?”

It may take a while for that person to find the answer to that question. But we don’t engage in sinful, unhealthy behavior unless we believe—at some level—that it helps us. If sin is a solution—and I think it is, then we gotta figure out what problem we’re trying to solve.

What you’re doing with that question is helping them identify the fear, abandonment, shame, confusion, hopelessness, invalidation, powerlessness or whatever that’s robbing them of the rich inner wealth that Jesus offers.

Once that’s out in the open, don’t argue with them. Don’t put them down for feeling what they feel. Don’t try to convince them not to be afraid, or ashamed, or lonely, or whatever. Don’t quote Bible verses at them. Just ask if they’d be willing to receive what Jesus has for them. If the answer is yes, then here’s a very simple prayer, “Jesus, what do You have for him/her?”

Is this a one-time fix, good forever? Usually not. You may need to do this not once, but many times. But, in the process, you give Jesus room to repair the damage in someone’s soul.

Sometimes you need to bring someone else into the process—someone with more training and expertise in this area. And that’s okay. Some people have the gifts, training, and experience to do what you don’t have the expertise to do. We all need each other.

But meanwhile, you can be a friend.

And never underestimate the value of that.

 

For further study: Galatians 5:1-5, John 8:1-11, 2 Timothy 2:23-26, John 21:15-19

This entire series is available as a pdf document here…

What restoration looks like

We’re working our way through the topic: How do you restore someone who has stumbled?

In a recent post, I asked a question about the woman caught in adultery from John 8:1-11. I asked: How and why did this woman change as a result of this incident?

Let me suggest an answer:

Fear—At the beginning of the incident, she had to be terrified. She was about to be publicly executed. No doubt, she believed she would soon stand before God with no way to defend her actions. That must have stirred up every kind of fear inside. But, by the time Jesus finished, she was at peace. Her heart rate was slowing down. She could catch her breath. She was safe.

Abandonment—At the beginning of the incident, she was all alone. It was her against the community, and the community against her. She was the sinner. They were the righteous. But as her accusers slowly started to walk away, something dawned on her. She wasn’t alone. She was in the company of fellow human beings. (Remember: “We all do crazy things sometimes.”)

Shame—Shame makes us want to hide, and sometimes we hide in our drug of choice—in this case, an adulterous affair. But in the end, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Shame was subsiding. Peace remained.

Hopelessness—In the beginning of the incident, there was no way out. She was trapped. At the end, Jesus opened a huge door to freedom, to peace, to reconciliation with God, to hope, to life.

Guilt—She was guilty. She broke the law of Moses, and she broke the law of God. But she ran into something greater than her guilt—God’s mercy, God’s grace. When she walked away, her guilt was gone. She had a fresh start.

I could probably go on and mention other ways her inner wealth was restored by Jesus, giving her new power to say no to the garbage dumpster food of sin, and say yes to a beautiful life provided by Christ. But I hope you’re getting the idea. Jesus didn’t restore her by yelling at her for messing up. He restored her by rebuilding the inside of her soul.

Next time: What can we do to help restore those who have stumbled?

This entire series is available as a pdf here…

Getting honest

We’re working our way through the topic: How do you restore someone who has stumbled?

Last time we raised the question: How do we tap into the rich inner wealth that is ours because of Jesus?

I’m going to suggest that we do the counter-intuitive thing: We look for what’s in the way. We look inside for things like fear, abandonment, shame, confusion, hopelessness, invalidation, powerlessness and feeling like garbage. As a rule, these feelings that indicate the presence of deep beliefs that rob us of the rich inner wealth that is meant to be ours. Unresolved anger, guilt, grief, hurt, and loss can also stand in the way.

What do we do with these things? We get honest about them. We get honest with ourselves and honest with God. We take these things to Jesus. We bring Jesus into our hurts. Jesus is and always has been the Prince of Peace. He knows how to make us okay. He knows how to fix what’s broken.

By the way, I haven’t forgotten about the post about the woman caught in adultery. I intend to get back to the John 8 passage. We’ll draw a string around all of this.

More next time…

This entire series is available as a pdf document here…

Rich and didn’t know it

We’re working our way through the topic: How do you restore someone who has stumbled?

A few years ago a private detective was hired to search for a homeless man. The homeless man didn’t know it, but he was actually wealthy. His brother had died, and left his entire fortune to this homeless man.

Here’s what jumps out at me from this story: We act from our identity. Who we think we are determines how we experience life. If we understand ourselves to be homeless, we might—depending on our support system—sleep in the streets and eat our meals from garbage dumpsters. If we are wealthy, and we understand ourselves to be wealthy, we dine on the finest foods. We don’t eat from the garbage bin.

This is pivotal. This changes everything. If we are going to restore other people, we need to understand this.

When we know who we are, we lose our desire to eat from the garbage dumpster of sin. The rich inner wealth that Jesus provides (John 10:10) means that we get what we need from a much better source.

But if we don’t know how to tap into that rich inner wealth, we become like that homeless man who didn’t know he was rich. We find our meals in the garbage dumpster of sin.

If we are going to restore those who stumble, we need to find a way to help them tap into the rich inner wealth that Jesus provides. How do we do that?

More next time…

This entire series is available as a pdf document here…

Caught!

We’re working our way through the topic: How do you restore someone who has stumbled?

I want to share a Bible passage with you, and then ask you a question. Here’s the passage:

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
John 8:1-11 NLT

Here’s my question: How and why did this woman change as a result of this incident?

Think about it. More next time.

This entire series is available as a pdf document here.

We all do crazy things sometimes

In Galatians 6:1 (NLT), we read, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.”

How do you do that? How do you restore someone?

Let me begin by identifying something that doesn’t work:

anger

I say this because years ago I discovered that a dear sister in the Lord had a problem with alcohol—a serious problem with alcohol. I was shocked. I was angry. I hated seeing what alcohol was doing to this person. It was destroying her life. I was angry—not so much at her, but at this thing that was tearing her life to pieces.

I was angry; she knew it; I made no attempt to hide it.

Do you know how she responded to my “righteous” anger?

She drank more. She got drunk more often. More than once, I had to call 911 because she was so drunk I didn’t think she would survive. I took her to the emergency room. I took her to detox. Horrible things happened in her life because of alcohol. I begged her to get help, but she refused. I spent hours and hours trying to help her, and I was rewarded with a string of profanities, and a request that I get out of her life.

Thank God I’m married to someone who has much more sense than I do because Kim took a very different tack. She listened. She empathized. She cared.

As I started learning from my wife, I gradually started changing my approach. One day Kim and I were sitting in this person’s living room, and she confessed to us, “I messed up.” She explained how she went on a binge the day before, and ended up horribly drunk.

“It’s okay,” I heard myself saying. “We all do crazy things sometimes.”

I don’t know if I can explain to you what happened at that moment, but something changed. We weren’t enemies any more. I felt that our relationship mended, that we were all now on the same team.

And I noticed that the more I took Kim’s approach, the more the drinking faded into the background. It didn’t disappear altogether, but it got much better.

I’d like to take a couple posts and talk about what it means to restore someone who has been overcome by a sin.

If you have any thought, comments, questions, please chime in.

What’s on your list?

What would your world look like if you could create it any way you want it? What would you have? Who would be in it? What would you do? And what would you be? I believe God gives us a certain amount of freedom to create our own world in partnership with Him. Some things we have control over; some things we don’t. With that in mind, here’s what’s on my list…

I want my wife to be healthy, happy, much loved. I want my kids to live beautiful, heaven-bound lives, fulfilling their potential, making their mark, loving and being loved.

Kim and I have a vision for the kind of home we want to live in for the rest of our lives. We don’t yet have the money to build it, but we want to find a way to make it possible.

I want the stuff I write about and talk about to reach the people it’s designed to help. That’s part of the reason I’ve created a web page of free giveaways. (It’s here.) I have thousands of pages of good stuff that I want to get into the hands of people who can use it. So finding a way to connect what I have to offer with the people who need it is a big, big priority for me.

How about you? What’s on your list?

It will all make sense

Being a good man, Joseph didn’t want to publicly disgrace Mary, so he was pondering how to break things off quietly. Matthew 1:19 DCP

As we unwrap the package of life, sometimes we panic, look for the receipt, and try to find a way to take it back to the store for refund or exchange.

Let’s face it: Sometimes God’s will doesn’t make any sense to us. We want smooth waters, but God sends a storm. Joseph was bewildered. He felt betrayed. His world was crashing down, and he was looking for a way out.

But we need to keep in mind that God’s will takes into account all the elements, even our bewilderment. Joseph here had the good sense not to make a public scene, and, in so doing, he left room for God to work.

God sees your confusion and mine. He knows that His ways often make no sense to us. Let the plan of God unfold—there is more to come, and it will all make sense in the end.

This is an excerpt from my latest book, A Beautiful Christmas. There’s a video that goes with the book that I think you’ll love. (Scroll down when you get to the page.)

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