Dear Friends of Oak Tree Ministries –

Few of us fully anticipated a month ago what we are experiencing now. I don’t want to take time today to rehash all we already know … but I want to say that in the midst of all the changes God is still very close. I’ve seen it in online worship services (remember when we used to make fun of “TV preachers?”), I’ve seen in my own house as I’ve nestled in with Papa God, I’ve seen it in the online sessions I’ve been doing the last few weeks. In fact, some of the most powerful ministry sessions I’ve had in the last year or so have been in the last couple of weeks over the phone or over a video link. And I’m grateful!

Most of the time with these updates I share testimonies. Today I want to share some thoughts that often come up in the middle of ministry sessions.

For those struggling with anxiety and fear right now, there’s a passage that most of us know that I believe has been mostly used badly in the church. It’s Philippians 4:6-7.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

The badly used version is “Stop it! God says ‘Don’t’ so just stop it.” And we’re made to feel that we’re somehow condemned if we’re anxious or even afraid. Someone quotes it at us and moves on.

But what if instead of a command, it’s saying “Here’s the way out?” What if it’s meant to be a roadmap to peace? And I believe that’s exactly what it is.

Two things to do … first, be honest with God about what you are experiencing. Pray. Tell Him about it. He’s listening!

And second … practice giving thanks. It may be unrelated things you are thankful for, but tell God about those too! Thankful for your family and loved ones? Tell Him! Thankful for a beautiful spring day outside? Tell Him! Spend time in giving thanks.

Literally, giving thanks release neurochemistry that helps us with long-term positive emotions. God knew what He was talking about when He had Paul write those words. Scientists now tell us that giving thanks for even 5 minutes releases those things in our bodies and changes the trajectory of our emotions. We know spiritually that God is giving us peace.

The Psalmist wrote it in Psalm 100 … (The Passion Translation)

1 Lift up a great shout of joy to the Lord!
Go ahead and do it – everyone, everywhere!
2 As you serve him, be glad and worship him.
Sing your way into his presence with joy!
3 And realize what this really means –
we have the privilege of worshiping the Lord our God.
For he is our Creator and we belong to him.
We are the people of his pasture.
4 You can pass through his open gates with the password of praise.
Come right into his presence with thanksgiving.
Come bring your thank offering to him
and affectionately bless his beautiful name!
5 For the Lord is always good and ready to receive you.
He’s so loving that it will amaze you –
so kind that it will astound you!
And he is famous for his faithfulness toward all.
Everyone knows our God can be trusted,
for he keeps his promises to every generation.

There is soooo much there for us! “Sing your way into his presence with joy!” “You can pass through his open gates with the password of praise. Come right into his presence with thanksgiving.”

Peace. Joy. His presence. It doesn’t get better than that! Practice thanksgiving.

Know that we’re praying for you. And we appreciate your prayers for us.

Beth and Jen are in Redding with AJ and the grandkids, now caring for them and helping them with distance learning while AJ works at his “essential services” job repairing vehicles. I’m holding down the fort here and working from home with online appointments.

God’s got this all. He’s got all of us! Give Him thanks!

Bill Irwin
Oak Tree Ministries
410 Beatrice Ct., Ste. A
Brentwood, CA 94513