Finding God in Our Anxiety by Kristan Torres

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“There are times in our lives when our peace is based simply on our own ignorance.  But when we are awakened to the realities of life, true inner peace is impossible unless it is received from Jesus.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (1935).

I love this quote, because I believe it captures so well the true condition we are in, while living our earthly lives.  I’ve written it down and carried it with me in working with clients since first starting out as a therapist a decade ago.

Anxiety is real and common. 

We have all experienced forms of anxiety; some more than others.  For some people it’s a nuisance, for others it causes distress, while for others it can be debilitating.

But what does the Bible have to say about anxiety?  Let’s look at the Psalms. 

Psalm 94:19 (ESV): “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

In this translation, the word “cares” is used, however in other translations, the word is “anxiety” or “anxious thoughts.” The Psalmist is describing that he experiences times where he has many anxious thoughts.

Do you relate?  I believe that we all can relate to times when our cares, anxieties, worries are many.

The verse goes onto describe that God’s “consolations cheer my soul”.  What does this mean?  Consolation means comfort after a loss or disappointment and in some other translations, the word “cheer” is instead, “delight”.

I like what Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers (1897) explains: “Delight.—Literally, stroke, and so soothe. The Hebrew word is used in Isaiah 66:11 of a mother quieting her child with the breast, and in Jeremiah 16:7 of the cup of consolation given to mourners at funerals.”

What a beautiful picture this is of God’s comfort for us during times of anxiety.  God comforts and soothes us.  I wonder how many of us pray for God to comfort and soothe us when we are anxious? I’m not even sure that I had thought of needing comfort and soothing while feeling anxious – I think I’ve mostly prayed that it would just go away.  I’m sure you relate.

But maybe, God’s not going to take the anxiety away.  Maybe, our experience of anxiety, and reaching out to God for help, gives Him the opportunity to comfort and soothe us, as a good mother would her child who is upset.

God desires intimacy and closeness with us. Why wouldn’t He use the experience of anxiety to draw us close to Him?

Let’s now look at Psalm 112:7 (ESV): “He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.”

How many of us experience anxiety as the fear of “bad news” coming our way – whether real or imagined?  The reality is, we will have both.  Bad news will come our way eventually; there will be emergency situations we weren’t necessarily expecting.  There will be loss of things, positions, health, and of important people in our lives… on this earth.

But there will also be the imaginings of bad news; things that aren’t at all real that come to our minds.  And in this verse, the “bad news” that is described here includes both the real and the imagined.

The Psalmist goes on to describe that his heart is firm – immovable – because he is trusting in the Lord and in His love and grace “which is sufficient for him even in the worst of times” (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, 1748-63).

When we call to mind God’s love for us, it strengthens us.  So, what are our worries when compared to the love of God?

And here’s the trick or lie of anxiety – it has a big bark with no bite – the big bark is because it involves your mind and physical sensations in your body; nervousness, digestive upset, panic, and more. Because we can feel it so strongly – we think – it must be real!  But much of anxiety is not.  It’s really a lot of “what ifs.”

Think about the movie version of the Wizard of Oz. Everyone in the land of Oz feared the great and powerful wizard.  Dorothy and her friends endured so much to get to the wizard so that they could beg him to give them what they needed.

They finally arrived and fearfully approach – the loud voice, the smoke, the fire, the video of the strange looking man – he was as they imagined him to be – scary!  But then something happens, and the giant “wizard” breaks down.  Come to find out, it’s just an old man hiding behind the curtain, trying desperately to get his machine working again.  This, the scared old man, is all that much of anxiety is. Impotent, with no ability to actually help us.  All bark, no bite.

But our God on the other hand, is very real. And He is so much greater than any anxiety we could ever have.  Remembering how big our God is in comparison to how small and powerless our imagination is helps put things in their proper perspective, bringing calm to the storm.


An important note:  If your experience of anxiety feels out of control or is disrupting your ability to function in your daily life, you probably need professional help. It will be okay and we’ll walk you through it.  That’s what therapists are here for!  Feel free to reach out to me through http://hope-sessions.com and if I can’t help you, I would be glad to help you get to someone who can.


Join us for our next event: God & Depression

Depression is a problem that many live with on a daily basis. It can hinder relationships, cause health issues, and cause even the most routine activities to feel overwhelming. 

Whether you or someone you care about suffers from depression, we invite you to join us for an evening where you will hear from licensed Mental Health Counselor, Kristan Torres, on the subject of GOD & DEPRESSION. 

Kristan will discuss the topic of depression from a biblical standpoint. Her insight into this subject will both encourage and challenge you as she shares how GOD is able to help us, speak to us, and address our depression in practical ways.

Appetizers and drinks will be provided.

This event is FREE, but RSVP is required as space is limited.

Register Here


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Fasting 101: What Is Fasting?

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What is fasting and what is the purpose? This is the first of a four-part series committed to answering those questions courtesy of Coastal Chapel.

HUNGER FOR GOD

Fasting is a spiritual discipline. Simply put, it means not eating. Instead of using mealtime for food, you use it to spend time with God. Some fasts last for one meal, one day, multiple days, or even weeks. Fasting may begin at sunrise and end at sunset or extend 24 hours per day. There are many ways and reasons to fast, but the basic idea is to set aside the time you would usually spend eating and focus that time on God instead, praying, reading the Bible, and worshiping.

When you’re fasting, you’re likely to feel hunger pangs. Allow those to serve as reminders that you are hungry to know Jesus and that you rely on him for every need. When you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to deepen your understanding and experience of Jesus in everyday life. You might pray something like, “Father, you are my daily bread. You are my comforter, my redeemer, my provider. My life is hidden in Christ. What more do I need?”

WHAT ABOUT MY MEDIUM HOT, QUAD, GRANDE, SOY, SKINNY, CARMEL MACHIATTO UPSIDE DOWN?

A normal biblical fast is to avoid food, but not water. However, you have a great deal of freedom as you fast. Some people avoid everything but water. Others focus solely on not eating and instead drink whatever they want.

Whatever your plan, make sure to consult with your doctor to ensure you are medically fit enough for a fast, and get tips from your doctor on how to fast safely. There are a number of reasons a traditional fast may not be a viable option for you. These reasons range from stage of life to pregnancy to medical conditions to eating disorders and everything in between. Most people are capable of fasting without compromising their health, but if that’s not the case for you, don’t be discouraged! You can fast in other ways. One option is to eat less than normal rather than not at all. You could fast from coffee or give up the foods you enjoy most, eating only simple, plain foods. This type of fasting is commonly called a “Daniel Fast,” referring to the story of Daniel in the Old Testament when he and his friends abstained from eating meat and consumed only vegetables and water (see Daniel 1:12).

While the majority of people are able to fast from food, if you are unable to fast from food, you could consider abstaining from certain activities instead. Though this is technically not a biblical fast, people have abstained from television, Facebook, music, golf—all sorts of things. The idea is to use the time you would normally spend on the activities you love to focus on the Lord instead, praying, reading the Bible, and worshiping God.

BUT WHY IS THE FOOD GONE?

Okay, so you’re told you should fast, that it’s a good spiritual discipline, and that it doesn’t necessarily require food. But fasting does emphasize food and it’s preferable if you are physically able to abstain from eating. Why?

There is a mystery to fasting and part of the reason we do it as Christians is simply because God wants us to. Jesus expects his disciples to fast (Matt. 6:16) and obeying God, even when it seems weird, is always a good idea.

The physical implication of fasting is that it directly impacts one of our most basic needs as humans. God has built us into a physical world with physical needs, and the physical world directly impacts the spiritual. By staying away from food and focusing our attention on God, we shut our bodies up, strengthen our soul in God, and put into action our dependence on him. He provides us with life. Food is the way he chooses to do so, but he is the source and can very well sustain us without food, water, or any of the physical necessities of life.

We do not discount the value of the body or consider the physical world bad. Fasting serves many purposes, one of which is to remind our minds, spirits, and bodies who and what we worship: God himself.

ONE FAST, MANY FASTERS

You can fast with other believers as well. If it will help you overcome any fear you might have of fasting, ask another believer to join you. Biblically, there are instances of corporate fasting where entire nations fasted together (Esther 4; Ezra 8). So feel free to fast together and pray for one another. Our church-wide fast will lend itself to this opportunity because there’s a good chance the people around you will be fasting at the same time.



Join Us As We Fast & Pray…

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The Nitty-Gritty How-To Guide On Fasting

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What is fasting and what is the purpose? This is the fourth of a four-part series committed to answering those questions courtesy of Coastal Chapel.

NOT ONE FAST TO RULE THEM ALL

ONCE YOU HAVE YOUR PURPOSE, PLAN OUT YOUR FAST. PEOPLE HAVE BEEN FASTING FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS IN ALL DIFFERENT WAYS.

Once you know your purposes for fasting (the ultimate purpose and immediate purposes), consider your health. Consult your doctor, and if it’s time for a checkup, get in there. Fasting can aggravate medical conditions, and you don’t want to find that out the hard way. A few reasons you may not be able to fast safely include a myriad of health concerns from anemia to anorexia to heart disease to pregnancy to nursing—there are many legitimate reasons to not fast.

If fasting from food is not a reality for you, pray about what God wants you to do. He knows your limitations and won’t be disappointed. If you are unable to fast, you might consider partaking in another form of spiritual discipline, abstaining from technology, entertainment, music, a hobby—the list is endless. But the important part is your motive! Use the time you would normally spend eating/snowboarding/Facebooking/whatever, and spend it with Jesus.

THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF FASTING COULD TEACH US SOMETHING

There isn’t one particular formula for fasting. It’s a personal decision. How you fast, how long you fast, and what you fast from are all individual choices, none of which are as important as your reason for fasting. God doesn’t command everyone to go 40 days without food. Ask him what he would have you do and start slowly. Avoid jumping into an extended fast without building up to it first.

In the Bible, we find several types of fasts. The partial fast is illustrated by Daniel, who abstained from the best foods and chose to eat vegetables and drink water instead. You could opt for a similar plan.

An absolute fast means not eating or drinking anything at all. Paul fasted absolutely for three days. Moses did the same for 40 days, but following suit would be so extreme that you should not copy Moses unless you are absolutely sure God has called you to do so. Don’t worry! If God wants you to do something this extreme, he knows how to make it so clear to you that there is no room for uncertainty.

The most common fast involves not eating any sort of food, but drinking plenty of water and juice. Ideally, juice your own fruits and vegetables or drink 100% juice. Beware of caffeine and sugar, as they will have stronger effects without any solid food in your system.

Ultimately, pray, pick the one that seems best, and think about your motives. God won’t be impressed if your fast is more difficult. He’s already fully pleased with you because of Jesus, so fast in whichever way you choose and praise God that you don’t have to earn his favor through misery!

PLAN AHEAD

It’s tempting to have your own personal Mardi Gras, eating every one of your favorite foods just before starting your fast. While culturally popular, this makes fasting more difficult. It’s better to wean yourself off of food slowly. So plan ahead, as this will mean changing your diet during the days leading up to your fast.

Also consider the point of fasting: spending time with Jesus.  Remember, the point of fasting isn’t just to be hungry; it’s to take the time you would normally spend eating and use it to focus on God.

BREAKFAST VS. BREAKING YOUR FAST

When your fast ends, it’s very important to reintroduce food slowly. Avoid the six-course dinner or the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. Your body will have responded and adjusted to life without food fairly quickly. Suddenly shoveling in normal food will not end well. Start simply, with plain vegetables or broth. Take your time and eat small quantities. Just like you led into the fast slowly, come out of it slowly.

EYE ON THE PRIZE

Fasting isn’t a burden or a requirement for belonging to God. It’s a gift that helps you to know and run alongside your heavenly father. Going without food is a reminder that cuts straight to one of our most basic needs.

If you’ve never fasted before, be courageous, give it a go, and expect great things. Fasting is an act of faith, and faith pleases God.


Join Us As We Fast & Pray…

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What Fasting Is and Is Not

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What is fasting and what is the purpose? This is the third of a four-part series committed to answering those questions courtesy of Coastal Chapel.

FASTING IS AN AWESOME GIFT. AND LIKE ALL AWESOME GIFTS, IT CAN BE MISCONSTRUED IN A WAY THAT LEAVES US BITTERLY DISAPPOINTED.

Now that we know what fasting is and why we fast, let’s consider what it is not.

GOD DOESN’T OWE YOU

Fasting is not a manipulation tactic or a way to earn points with God. Fasting doesn’t make you more holy or acceptable to God. Christ Jesus alone has made us holy. Instead, by practicing a fast and other spiritual disciplines, we are asking for grace just like we did when we prayed for salvation. We didn’t save ourselves. We received God’s gift to us. So in fasting, we don’t transform ourselves; we receive the grace that transforms us (1 Pet. 1:13–14).

THIS ISN’T TO IMPRESS YOUR MOM

Fasting is not an endurance test and, like anything else, can be done in pride for the praise of men (Luke 18:9-14). Self-righteousness is a signpost on the road to hell. That’s the reason we must clarify our purpose for fasting—to avoid ego-tripping. Jesus warned us (Matt 6:16-18) not to make our fasting a public service announcement in order to get attention. If you’re tempted to look at your contrite spirituality and get smug about fasting, remember that even the ability to fast is yours by grace alone and without Jesus (John 15:4-5) you couldn’t even do that much.

NOT AN END IN ITSELF

Fasting is not some religious formality to check off the list. Some believers, out of a feeling of duty, will participate in the 40 days of Lent by giving up something easy, but their sacrifice becomes a mere annoyance which they are glad to drop by the time Easter Sunday comes. Without a purpose beyond “It’s Lent,” a religious approach to fasting falls far, far short of the awesomeness God wove into the fabric of fasting.

IT DOESN’T IMPRESS GOD

Fasting doesn’t force God to be more attentive or give us quicker answers. We don’t tell God, “We’re fasting now. That’s our part; now you do your part” (Isa. 58). No matter what we do, God will perform all his holy will. So fasting isn’t our effort to twist God’s arm. It’s our response of pressing into him like it says in Joel 2: “rend your hearts and not your garments.” Fasting is one way that we express our surrender and honest petition before God.

Finally, be careful to differentiate between aligning your heart with God (what fasting does) and getting closer to God (what fasting does not). Jesus alone brings you, spotless, into God’s presence. If you belong to Jesus, fasting basically makes you more aware of where you already are.



Join Us As We Fast & Pray…

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Why Do We Fast?

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What is fasting and what is the purpose? This is the second of a four-part series committed to answering those questions courtesy of Coastal Chapel.

THE PURPOSE OF FASTING IS ULTIMATELY GOD HIMSELF. THERE ARE MANY REASONS TO UNDERTAKE A FAST, BUT THE BOTTOM LINE FOR THEM ALL IS TO ALIGN YOUR HEART DIRECTLY WITH HIM.

Think of that as the big picture. The small picture, the immediate purpose for a fast, can vary. So the first step for any kind of fast is to declare our immediate purpose. Fasting can’t be done casually, because there isn’t any spiritual benefit in simply not eating. Going through the motions just makes us hungry, but genuine, purposeful fasting is a powerful discipline for the disciple of Jesus and can play a part in literally transforming your life.

To help us define a godly purpose for fasting, Donald Whitney gives us these 10 reasons:

  1. To strengthen prayer

  2. To seek God’s guidance

  3. To express grief

  4. To seek deliverance or protection

  5. To express repentance and return to God

  6. To humble oneself before God

  7. To express concern for the work of God

  8. To minister to the needs of others

  9. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God

  10. To express love and worship to God

 

Throughout the Bible, we see people fast for a variety of reasons:

  1. To be like Jesus (Matt. 4:1–17; Luke 4:1–13)

  2. To obtain spiritual purity (Isa. 58:5–7)

  3. To repent from sins (See Jon. 3:8; Neh. 1:4, 9:1–3; 1 Sam. 14:24)

  4. To influence God (2 Sam. 12:16–23)

  5. To mourn for the dead (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:12)

  6. To request God’s help in times of crisis and calamity (Ezra 8:21–23; Neh. 1:4–11)

  7. To strengthen prayer (Matt. 17:21; Mark 9:17–29; Acts 10:30; 1 Cor. 7:5)

 

None of these purposes amounts to twisting God’s arm to do what we want. Who can do that? God is not a genie who will grant us whatever we wish. He is a good father who is working out his sovereign will. Our reasons for fasting are for our own humility. By denying ourselves for a time, we provoke ourselves to rely more on God Almighty. It isn’t about changing God; it’s about changing us. In fasting:

  1. We pray more intently

  2. We become more receptive to God’s guidance

  3. We lean more on Scripture to hear his voice

  4. We demonstrate our grief and honest repentance

  5. We physically declare that we need God to survive

  6. We learn to sense spiritual reality more than the physical world

  7. We prepare to love others better than ourselves

 

Lastly, fasting helps us to remember the true source of our utmost joy. Most people would agree that food is a good thing. If you’re unable to fast but chose to abstain from something else, such as a hobby or technology or entertainment, those can also be good things. All good things come from God, but the human heart is inclined to worship God’s gifts rather than God himself. Fasting helps our hearts to look past the good gift to the good God, who blesses us despite ourselves.

I DON’T REALLY FEEL LIKE IT

Even if fasting makes sense, you may not feel like you need it right now. But think of fasting as similar to praise and worship. Oftentimes joy overflows in songs of praise, but more often singing leads us into joy. We sing first and that brings us to a place of thankfulness and joy. Likewise, when our souls overflow with godly emotions and repentance, we may be led to fasting, but far more often we need to choose to fast in order to be humbled and to fight our pride by rejecting the ways we so often cope with our feelings. It’s the proactive approach.



Join Us As We Fast & Pray…

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Volunteer Photo Essay | Photo Essay

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A Jealous God by Sue Stahl

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"You shall have no other gods before me. - You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” -Ex 20:3-6

I never really dwelt on this title of God and didn’t fully understand it.
Jealousy as I knew it didn’t seem to be a character I could associate with God.
Jealous people bear bad fruit. They are insecure, angry, envious. They want what someone else has. They will do foolish things to get what they want. They ruin relationships.
If anyone has felt the jealousy over a relationship where one has been rejected, cheated on, betrayed and ultimately replaced by another you can understand the strength of those feelings and may have seen some of the bad results of jealousy as mentioned above.

Through our recent church reading on Hosea I began to see God as a ‘jealous God’ but in a new light that would move my heart to say I am glad God has proclaimed Himself to be a ‘jealous God’.

Hosea is told by God ‘take a wife of harlotry’. (adultery, fornication, prostitution) (Hosea 1:2)
In reading Hosea, God parallels a defiled marriage relationship with the Israelites’ relationship to Him. (forsaking Him and following idolatrous practices) Relevant to the gospel is the parallel of Christ’s relationship to the church (his bride) and the same spirit of idolatry that is present today.
However, what stood out for me was God’s heart; the thread of His steadfast love throughout the story. Love is the motivation. His intense passion is for us to know Him and be known by Him. He is love and we are the object of that! The breadth and length and height and depth of that love He wants us to know! (Eph 3:18)
Wow, that is why God wants no other God’s before Him; no idols that we turn to instead of Him. His jealousy is our grace for He will let nothing separate us from His love.

In Hosea, the disciplines, punishments and consequences of forsaking God are evident which only seemed to make God’s steadfast love more profound.
This jealous God never stops pursuing us, never stops loving us. He stays in the details of our lives even when we are not in obedience. He stays to bring us back, to rescue, to redeem.

But they do not consider that I remember all their evil. Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face. -Hosea 7:2

And in the midst of it all with His alluring words and reminders, God’s thoughts towards us are revealed. His plans, His promises, His purposes will prevail. His steadfast love and faithfulness are unchanging. His jealousy has its cause.

pastYet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. - Hosea 11:3

present, "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. - Hosea 2:14

future. For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed, when I restore the fortunes of my people. - Hosea 6:11

Prayer:

Thank you Lord, that You are a jealous God. Let us respond to how great a love you have for us and help us to recognize and remove idols from our hidden places.

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. -1 John 5:21


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The Tree Lighting | Photo Essay

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Kids Fest 2018 (Photo Essay)

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God & Anxiety Event

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Last weekend, we were able to partner with Kristan Torres, a friend and licensed mental health therapist from Hope Christian Counseling in Boca Raton, to host a public event in our community called GOD & ANXIETY.


This was an event designed to encourage and inform people on the topic of anxiety from a Biblical standpoint. The evening focused on how GOD is able to help us, to speak to us, and to address our anxiety in practical ways. Ben Courson, director of Hope Generation, was also a guest speaker and shared some of his experiences with anxiety and how God has helped him in times of struggle.


You can listen to the audio or view the video of the presentation below. Please also feel free to share with anyone you think would be encouraged by the message!


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