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Religious Reflections

Changing times, challenging times

Pastor Karen Helsel

At a Seattle restaurant, I recently overheard two American businessmen seated near us, discussing the problems at their company. I was a little startled to hear this statement: "Nirvana for me would be to have 17 engineers working on the projects we have going!"

In other parts of the country, the phrase would be, "That would be heaven!"

Travel and communications have made our small world even smaller. Thoughts and traditions, religions and cultures, languages and arts are more fluid than ever.

Years ago a "missionary" was someone who got on a ship for a long journey, and remained in the field about seven years before their first home-coming. Today the mission field is truly wherever Christians live. Muslims, Hindus, Unificationists, Scientologists, Sikhs, Jews - all of us are thrown together - right where we are!

It is in this melting pot of humanity that Christians are called to live and share the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Writer and author, Jill Briscoe, said recently, "All people are looking for the same things: Peace of mind and heart, and purpose and meaning in life." She went on to say that we may look in many different places, by a variety of means, but the goal is basically the same for everyone.

These are stressful times. People face uncertainties because of war. Homeland Security keeps us on edge with continued "imminent" threats of the next terrorist attack on U.S. soil. AIDS is spreading like wildfire through Africa and Asia, and is striking more and more in our own back yard. Because of the shrinking globe, SARS and other infectious diseases are likely to spread to our country. Drugs and violence strike our local communities on a regular basis. It's enough to make us lose sleep!

We would do well to turn to the Word of God through the psalmist, David. Many people say, 'Who will show us better times?' Let the smile of your face shine on us, Lord. You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and wine. I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe. (Psalm 4:6-8 NLT).

How do we obtain that kind of peace? How do we allow God's smile to comfort us? The prophet Isaiah said of God, You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. (Isaiah 26:4-5).

The focus of our minds and our hearts will determine our level of peace. When we focus on the turmoil and terror around us, serenity eludes us. When, however, we fix our gaze on the Lord Jesus Christ, His life and teachings, and on His love that compelled Him to sacrifice His life for our sins, the tumult around us will fade. Struggles will not go away, but our focus will be secure on the One who can weather every stormy situation of life!

Whatever your situation, why not change your focus?

- Pastor Karen Helsel of the Sunnyside Church of God, North Avenue.

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