So, how do we break free from this bondage to the what-if fears that entangle us and control us?  It begins with a choice.  We must choose where we will place our faith.  It will either be in the what-ifs or it will be in God and God alone.  Only when we choose to place our faith firmly and solely in God do we have an opportunity to break free from our bondage to these toxic fears.
     One step we can take to make this possible is to seek God on a regular basis.  What steps can you take today to seek God and begin to make that a habit of your life?

Read Isaiah 26:1-11



     So, how do we deal with these "what if" fears that besiege us and control us?  We can't ignore them.  We can't run from them.  In fact, the answer isn't even to simply take them on face to face.  The key to dealing with the fears is not about the fears at all.  Rather, it's all about God.
     In order to face our "what if" fears and deal with them once and for all, we simply seek God.  That was the problem all along.  The fears had the attention that belonged to God.  The Answer: Seek Him.  Place your eyes on him (not the fear).  Put you full trust in him (not the fear).  Let Him consume you and control you(not the fear).

Read Psalm 34



     Everyone knows that in any good 12-Step Program, they will tell you that the first step is acknowledging there is a problem.  That's not just true for 12-Step Programs.  That's true for all of life.  Whether you're a drug addict, an alcoholic or a fear-aholic, the process is the same.
     In order to face the "what-ifs" of fear, we must acknowledge they exist, put a name to them and choose to take some action to do something about them.  That something involves letting go of our faith in the fear and choosing, rather, to place our face in God rather than the what-if.
     What are the things that are keeping you form acknowledging your fears and choosing to place your faith, not in your fear, but in your God?

Read Psalm 56



     I realize, that for some of you that question is a little too broad.  If you have to give a complete answer, you could go on and on and on...  For some of you, the better question might be, "What DON'T you fear?"  Well, try to answer the question anyway.  "What do you fear?"  Or at least, "What do you fear the MOST?".  
     Why?  Because what you fear reveals a lot about you.  Two things in particular:
     1.  What you fear reveals what you value most
     2.  What you fear reveals where you trust God the least
     Those two truths may sting a little bit to hear, but it in no way diminishes their truth or accuracy.       Today, you may want to meditate on those two truths.  You may want to take stock of what you say you value most, as opposed to what this new truth reveals to you.
    Also, you may want to grapple with the revelation about where you trust God the least.  It may not be the most comfortable revelation you've ever dealt with, but the "truth will set us free".  In this case, free to start on a path of trusting God in new and difficult ways.

Read Psalm 91



     You may have never considered this, but give it a try.   Fear is faith.  You may have thought of them as polar opposites, and indeed they are.  But, they also bear a striking resemblance.  Fear is faith...but misguided faith.  Fear is putting our trust, our beliefs, our faith in the wrong places...the wrong things.
     The strength of your faith is not determined by how much you believe, but by what you place your faith in.  Bottom Line:  It's not about you.  It's about the object of your faith.
     Fear is simply placing your trust..your the "what ifs" of life rather than the absolute of almighty God.  Most of our fears are focused on things that will never happen, or at least that, at best, may or may not happen.  To allow something that may or may not even happen to control our lives is irrational, at best.  There is no rational reason to allow our lives, here and now, to be controlled by something that may or may not ever happen, someday or never.  But, sadly, we do.
     Even people in the Bible struggled with fearing their own "what ifs".  One of those was Moses.  Today, read about Moses' "what if" fear, and how God gave him the strength to overcome it.

Read Exodus 4:1-17



     Fears fall into one of four basic categories:  Fear of Loss, Fear of Failure, Fear of Rejection and Fear of the Unknown.  If you struggle with fear, it is very likely that you are struggling with one or more of those categories.  Some struggle with them all.
     The purpose of fear is to paralyze you and keep you from ever experiencing God's best for you life.  Fear is like an invisible leash that Satan has around our neck.  As long as we're just kind of walking through life, not having much of an impact, not really going anywhere of any real consequence, not being much of a real threat to him and his plans, we're free to roam freely.  But, once we begin to have an impact for the Kingdom of God, once we begin truly walking by faith, once we become dissatisfied with walking and start running after God and his purposes for our life, fear is the leash that Satan uses to yank us back and regain control of us.
     In moments like these the issue becomes, "Will I give in to fear and go back to the safe life, walking by sight, or will I resist and keep walking by faith, even though it's harder now?"  This becomes a pivotal moment in our lives.  It's when we really have to choose.  Faith or Fear.  What's it going to be?  Which will rule my life?
     Remember, 1 Timothy tells us that "God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, and of love, and of self-discipline".  Decide today what you will walk by.

Read 2 Timothy 1



     It's really pretty simple.  We are told by God to live by alone.  However, the reality is that many of us, possibly most of us, live by fear.  Let's don't make this too complicated.  You can either live controlled by fear or you can live controlled by faith.  You get to choose, but it's simply one or the other.  If you're living by fear, you simply cannot live by faith.
     Furthermore, most of the fears that we live by are irrational fears...things that probably will never happen, that we've been given no evidence to believe are imminent, or even likely, but we choose to fear them just the same.  Rather than living by faith, we live by fear.
     Here's the most diabolical aspect of what we accept and excuse as normal...Fear controls us.  Fear paralyzes us.  Fear cripples us.  Fear limits us.  Fear robs our joy for life.  Fear makes faith impossible, and  "without faith it is impossible to please God".  Fear is no small deal.
     I want you to read about what God's Word has to say about toxic fears and how we should face them.

Read Psalm 27



     There is power in your words.  When we speak, something always happens, good or bad.  There is a cause and effect.  Therefore, we should be sure to speak life-giving words, not only to others, but also to our circumstances and to ourselves.  The toxic words we speak to ourselves can be some of the most dangerous words we speak.
    Today, recognize the power of your words before you speak them and allow God to control your words before they leave your lips.  Even more important to you, pause and allow God to have control over your words that you speak, but that never leave your lips.  Those inaudible words that you speak to yourself or your circumstances.  Don't speak toxicity into yourself or your circumstances.  Choose to speak life.  The difference in your life will amaze you.

Read Mark 11:12-25



     It seems in our society, toxic words rule the day.  Words that have the capacity to hurt and injure seem to make their way into conversations much easier than real life-giving words.  I believe that is part of our culture.  It's easier to speak a "cutting" word and get a laugh or strike out with "pointed" words when we're in an argument or when we want to make our point than it is to speak words that build up and give life.
     It's become second-nature to many of the point that we don't even realize its happening.
    Question is, how do we change our behavior, especially, when it's behavior that we don't even recognize or realize?
     Try this: Anytime you think something positive about someone else, speak it.  Big or small, whatever it is, speak it out.  May be awkward at first, but that's the sign that maybe speaking life-giving words is not a part of your nature.  Make this a rule and live by it.  It will help you become more comfortable speaking life-giving words in a world that's far too toxic.

Read Matthew 12:22-37



     When toxic words come our way, the key is to be sure not to internalize them, but to guard our hearts and to replace them.  Whether the words come from others, whispered from Satan or from yourself, guard your heart against toxic words, and, also, replace those words with life-giving words.
     One of the keys to life is returning life-giving words for toxic ones.  The natural response is to return evil for evil, toxic for toxic.  But, God is able to work powerfully when we return good for evil, life-giving for toxic.
     Why do you think we tend to speak more toxic words than life-giving words, even when we don't intend to?

Read James 3.



     Even as you strive to take control of your own tongue and put an end to the toxic words that often come out of our own mouths, you will still have to deal with the toxic words that are said to you.  So, how do you handle that?  What does God's Word have to say about that?  What is the answer for dealing with the powerful force of toxic words aimed at us?
    God's Word is straightforward in its prescription for dealing with this issue:  Guard your heart.  That can become one of those christianese terms that gets bantered around among Christ-followers to the point that it loses all its meaning.  So, what does it mean?  And, how do you go about doing it?
     Let's begin by reading what God has to say about the subject.  Always a good place to start.

Read Proverbs 4



     Words are powerful things.  We tend to overlook that.  I have a saying that my family, I'm pretty sure, has tired of over the years, "Words mean things".  My point is, don't say it unless you really mean it.  And, if you say it, don't think I've forgotten it  I'm assuming you are a person of your word and that if you said it, its as good as done.  Bottom line: Don't use words flippantly.  Think before you speak.  Because, "Words mean things".
     Words have the power to kill and words have the power to give life.  Throughout the book of Proverbs, Solomon often writes about the dangers and the life-giving abilities of words.  As a result, he encourages us to be aware of the types of words that we speak to others and the positive and negative affects they can have.
     Today, begin to practice that awareness and carefully choose whether to speak life-giving words or words that have the power to kill.

Read Proverbs 15



     Words can hurt.  Words can heal.  "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me"....BIG LIE.  In fact, the scars that words leave run much deeper, heal much slower and do much more damage than any sticks and stones would ever begin to think of.  They actually heal.  The wounds that words cause often never do.
     Words that hurt us and crush our spirits are the ones we call toxic words.  Toxic words are incredibly dangerous and powerful, not only when they are spoken to you, but also when you speak them to others.
     Over the next few days we will read from God's Word about the dangers of toxic words and the power of life-giving words.

Read Proverbs 12:11-23 and 18:21



Colossians 3 encourages us to set our minds on God and not on earthly things, which cause our toxic thoughts. One of the best ways to start focusing your thoughts on God is to spend more time with Him each day in prayer and in the reading of His Word. 

What are some specific toxic thoughts you need to change? What are some ways you can begin to make that change?

Read Colossians 3:1-17



     Hebrews 3 encourages us to fix our thoughts on Jesus.  However, that sounds really good in the theoretical, but the practical is an entirely different matter.  One thing that stands in our way and creates difficulty is the fact that so many toxic thoughts are at work trying to capture our thinking and attention away from Him.  They've got a head start.  And, usually, they have our attention, whether we know it or not.
     Our thought patterns are so easily influenced by such toxins as influences, relationships, and words.  Today, try to recognize them.  It's not that they haven't been there or that they're new.  They've been there all along.  We've just gotten used to them  We're anesthetized to there presence.  We don't even notice them.
     Today, try to recognize them.  That's the first step to Soul Detox.  Strive to block out and remove the toxic things polluting your life, and in their place, fix your thoughts on Jesus.  Fixing your thoughts on him is critical in filtering out all of the toxins in your life.
How different is your life when you focus your thoughts on what is true and good rather than on what is toxic?

Read Hebrews 3:1-6



     A toxic thought contains poisonous material that can cause sickness, and even death, if left undetected and not confronted.  One thing we have to do is develop the ability to identify toxic thoughts in our life and call them what they are.  Most times, they have been allowed to become part of our lives and we are so comfortable with them, that we fail to recognize the risk they pose.
     Next step: Learn to IDENTIFY them.  Then,and only then, is there hope for getting this poison out of our lives.

Read Romans 12:1-21



OK, So now you realize that toxic thoughts exists and that they are something YOU deal with.  So, what do you do?  Well, the next step in dealing with toxic thought patterns is to start battling against them.  But, how do you do that?  Where do you start and what do you battle with?  The best place to start is to replace the lies with the truth.  And, the best source of truth we have...the ultimate source, is God's Word. We have to replace toxic thoughts with God's truth, and we find God's truth in God's Word.

Why do you think it's easier to focus on toxic lies rather than God's truth?

Read Philippians 4: 1-13



When it comes to toxic thinking and toxic thought patterns that plague us, we see that these thought patterns fall into four basic categories: NEGATIVE, FEARFUL, DISCOUNTED and CRITICAL.  Chances are, you are struggling with one or more of these thought patterns right now.  You didn't choose it.  You didn't seek it out.  You don't even desire it.  Possibly, you don't even recognize it.  But, it's there.

Don't let these toxic thought patterns arrest you and consume you.  The deeper you allow them to take root in your life, the harder they will be to shake off.  Identify your area of toxic thoughts and reject them today.  No more, "This is just who I am" or "This is just the way God made me".  That's not only a cop-out, it's blatantly false.  REFUSE TO LIVE A LIE ANY LONGER!

Which types of toxic thoughts do you struggle with most?  What are some of the examples of your toxic thoughts.

Read Jeremiah 12:1-4



     To battle against your toxic thoughts, you must first identify them for what they really are.  Many times we skip this process and just assume that anything going on in our head must be there by our own choosing and must be based in some form of truth.
     Not only must we identify them for what they really are, but we must also reject them.  As 2 Corinthians tells us, the battle against our toxic thoughts is like no other.  It is not a physical battle, but rather is a spiritual battle that absolutely requires God's help in fighting.

     What are some of the causes of toxic thoughts in your life?

Read 2 Corinthians 10:1-6; Ephesians 6:10-20



     Contrary to popular opinion, we are not a body with a soul.  Rather, we are a soul with a body.  While the world rightly teaches us that sometimes we need to detox our bodies, sometimes its our souls that need it the most.  Let's take a while and see what's chipping away at our soul.

     Our thoughts really do count.  In fact, our thoughts determine what we become.  Unfortunately, most of us tend to be held captive by toxic thoughts, rather than focusing on God's truth,

     How have toxic thoughts negatively affected your life and relationships?

Read Proverbs 4



Paul writes, I want to know him and the power of his resurrection.."  Paul lays out everything he's done, everything he's tried, everything he has to claim for his hope and for hi own attempts at righteousness.  He clearly surpasses anything we have to put on our "list of good stuff to impress God".  But, he's honest.  None of it works.  None of it impressed God one bit.

Paul's hope is not in rehabilitation, but in transformation.  Not what he does for God, but what he allows God to do in him.  What God does through the power of the resurrection.  That's his hope.  That's my hope.  And.....I hope it's yours as well.

Read Philippians 3.



THE RESURRECTION.  HE IS ALIVE!  The stone is rolled away.  Confusion.  What's going on? Where have they taken him?  Who took him?  Why?  What does this mean?  Then, there he is.....ALIVE. The story and the glory of the resurrection.  But, even this can't last forever.  Jesus must leave.  What's the very last words he speaks to those who are his most beloved?  What are his final words to you and me.  As you read today, enjoy the glory of the story...but, like a laser beam, focus fast and hard on his final words.

Read Matthew 28.



It would be so much easier if we could just do what Pilate did...just wash away our guilt like we wash our hands.  "OK, I'm washing my hands of this.  I'm no longer responsible for anything".  How convenient.  You send the Savior of the world to the cross, to be beaten, mocked, emasculated, terrorized and brutalized...and with a little water, poof!  All guilt is magically gone!  His way of dealing with Jesus was to just not deal with him.

Sounds familiar.  "I'll just deal with Jesus by not dealing with him".  You have friends and co-workers and family members and, possibly, even you that deals with Jesus the same way.  You just don't deal with him.  He claims to be the way, the truth and the life.  He claims to be the only way to the Father.  He claims to be the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world.  

There's basically three choices we have with him.  We can determine he's either LUNATIC, LIAR or LORD.  But, ignoring him...washing our hands of him...just ignoring him...these simply are not options.

One thing about Jesus...HE CANNOT BE IGNORED.  He demands to be addressed.  He cannot be put off.  You cannot have no opinion of him.  You cannot wash your hands of him.  It's a choice that must be made.  And it's ramifications are life-altering and eternal.

Read Matthew 27.



Hatred and plots to kill him form the ones who were the religious leaders of the day.  Anointed as the ultimate act of sacrificial love.  Betrayal by one of his own inner circle.  Celebrating the Passover with the ones he has invested his life into, giving them insight into what is about to take place...even though it is doubtful as to their comprehension.  Confronting Peter.  Praying with his disciples....well, praying while his disciples slept.  Betrayed publicly with a kiss, really, a kiss?  And his arrest at the hands of the Roman soldiers.

This was all the beginning of the end, that would ultimately be the beginning of the beginning, for Jesus.  All for them.  All for me.  All for you.

Read Matthew 26.



What do you do when they kill your leader...the guy you thought was going to rule the world?  And he doesn't go out in a blaze of glory, but with hardly a whimper.  If they came for him, and were successful, what's next?  Well, cut off the head, then put your sights on getting rid of the body...his followers.  If they could do that to Jesus, what would they do to the rest of us?  I mean, he calmed the seas and cast out demons.  He raised the dead, for pete's sake!  If they could kill him, what chance do we stand against them?

So, the logical course of action...RUN!  Get out of Dodge!  Head for the hills!  Try to get into the Witness Protection Program.  Emmaus sounds good.  No one would think to look in Emmaus.

But, hey, we've got company.  Another traveler.  This dude is clueless.  He hasn't even heard about all the ruckus in Jerusalem.  What rock has he been under? We'll fill him in.  But, then, he starts filling us in.  Even though he seems to know nothing about the events of the day, he is able to explain why they happened from Genesis to Malachi.  Who IS  this guy?  All I know is...I don't want him to go.

Read Luke 24.



Imagine for a moment the emotional roller-coaster ride that must have been the last week of Jesus' life.  One day he's riding into Jerusalem on a donkey with throngs of people lining the streets shouting with joy, waving palm branches as he rides along the street.  It was a first century ticker-tape parade.  It was "Hail the conquering hero!".

Now, only days later, the shouts of joy have turned into jeers of "Give us Barabbas" and "Crucify him!".  How can something so right go so completely wrong so quickly?  How can homage turn to hatred overnight?  How must Jesus have felt, knowing it was these people he was going to the cross for?  He didn't have to.  He was choosing to willingly lay down his life for them.  He was willing to face the most horrific death possible for these people who were right now choosing a common criminal over him.  How do you go to the cross for these?

Nothing could take him to the cross but love.  Love for those who turned on him.  Love for those who hated him.  We must include ourselves in that unsavory group.  We weren't there to shout "Crucify him!", but we might as well have been.  It was for our sin he went to the cross.  Even when we lived as though he didn't exist...even when we didn't think we needed him...even when we were the self-proclaimed captains of our own destiny, living without regard to him, he went to the cross for us.  For me.  For you.

Read Luke 23.



     Try to put yourself in this situation: You're a woman.  You're all alone.  The only man who ever really loved you, not for what he could get from you,  but for yourself, for what he could give to you, for yourself.  He saw worth in you like no man ever had.  And you would have followed him to the ends of the earth.  But,  now he's dead, and your world has suddenly crashed in all around you.
     He wasn't even given a decent burial.  It was too late and everything happened so quickly  Now you've come to the tomb, early in the morning, hoping that someone will roll away the stone and allow you to at least make things right in death, since nothing will ever be right in life again,
     But, what you find is even more puzzling that his unexpected, horrific death.  The stone is already rolled away. Why?  ?What is this supposed to mean?  It wasn't enough that they murdered him for all the world to see.  Now they have to descecrate his body as well?  What have they done?  What do I do?  What does this mean?  The impossible has happened...the worst moment of my life has just gotten even worse.  Now what?

Read John 20.