DO NOT WORRY

In the Bible the word “worry” is always preceded by “do not” or “why do you”.  Jesus doesn’t want us to worry because it hinders our ability to live in the peace and freedom that He purchased for us.  He wants us to trust Him and not worry.  He speaks to this topic in Mathew 6:25-34.  Jesus explains that our focus should not be on what we will have to eat or what clothes we will wear but on the Father’s kingdom and His righteousness.  God is going to walk us through the problems of today, and He has already worked out what’s going to happen tomorrow.  Yes, there are difficulties and trials for today, but don’t miss the blessings of today by worrying about what might happen tomorrow.  As the word says, “… For tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough troubles of its own (Matthew 6:34).”

It is very difficult to give up worrying.  Worrying is a human coping mechanism.  Somehow by working things over and over in our minds, we feel like we have some control.  Yet as we work the process of worrying, we pay the high price of anxiety.  Anxiety does all kinds of damage to our physical and emotional well-being.  Jesus knows this.

How do we get beyond worry?  The Apostle Paul gives us solid directions.  In Philippians 4:4-7 (The Message) he writes:

Celebrate God all day, every day.  I mean revel in Him!  Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.  Help them see that the Master is about to arrive.  He could show up any minute!  Don’t fret or worry.  Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

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PRECIOUS LIFE

I have often made statements like, “I’m ready to go as soon as God calls me home,” or “I wish I could go to heaven right now.”  However, the result of a recent doctor visit brought home the reality that life as I know it could end.  The vague idea that life will end came crashing down on the certainty that life will end.  I saw the above statements as flippant and poorly thought out utterances. A new perspective has inundated my soul.  This life is precious and should be cherished.

God gave me life, and I have experienced the delights of his natural world.  Yes, there is both good and evil here, but I have never failed to explore and enjoy this world’s beauty.  My wife, children, extended family, and friends have afforded me a life full of joy and love.  Tragedies and losses have come my way, but they serve to round out the experience.  This world is all I know.  Everything that defines life to me has happened here in this temporal existence.

When I die, I will leave all of this and go to a new place that is beyond my experience. Someday, I will leave here to go to a new place – I can only imagine.  Life as I know it will be over.

Faith now comes to the foreground.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).  Even though I will be going to an unknown place, I can trust God with the unknown.

So I will not take this life for granted, or belie its importance, but I will cherish it as a precious gift from God himself.

UNDENIABLE LOVE

Last week I worked full days and had church and family activities that occupied my time. I had a very busy week.  However, through the activities of the week I was awakened to Jesus’ undeniable love.

Maundy Thursday our church family got together to share dinner and communion.  Jesus ate his last supper meal with the disciples, and then he initiated the symbolic practice of communion.  We wanted to share in that remembrance in a meaningful way.  We sat down together and participated in what Jesus did those many years ago.

Good Friday my wife and I went to a local church that provides the Stations of the Cross.  If you’re not familiar with this presentation, it is a walk through the various experiences of Jesus’ day of crucifixion.  At each station, you read the scriptures that pertain, and take time to pray and meditate.  We’ve done this for several years, and each time is different.  The Holy Spirit always leads us into another perspective of what Jesus went through on that day.

The effect of last week’s undertakings left me overwhelmed.  As I walked through the gruesome abuses that Jesus endured, I encountered undeniable love.  What led Jesus to the cross and what kept him there was simply love.  I cannot say anything more definitive. I can only say I have now felt his love more deeply and personally than ever before.  He loved us, and he died for us.

I close with this exclamation: I praise you and thank you Jesus for your love expressed so undeniably!   

THE END OF LIFE

I like to read in Ecclesiastes.  Perhaps it’s because this book seems to entreat the reality of daily life, or maybe it’s just my melancholy personality.  I recently read this passage in chapter 12 verses 3-7 from The Message:

In old age your body no longer serves you well.  Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen.  The shades are pulled down on the world.  You can’t come and go at will.  Things grind to a halt.  The hum of the household fades away.  You are wakened now by bird-song.  Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past.  Even a stroll down the road has its terrors.  Your hair turns apple-blossom white, adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body.  Yes, you’re well on your way to eternal rest, while your friends make plans for your funeral.  Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.  Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.  The body is put back in the same ground it came from.  The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.

I’d love to sit beside you as you read this, see your expressions, and hear your thoughts.  But, since we are not together, I’ll share some of my thoughts.  By all means, freely share your thoughts through the comments place below.

At first, I thought that this passage describes what is common to all of us who make it to old age.  There is a certain comradery in the shared experience.  Then I found almost sweetness to this delineation of the signs of old age.  The pressures and tensions of youth are gone.  I realize that my world will become smaller, as the concerns of the world at large become beyond me.

Rest will not be an option.  Pushing through won’t be possible.  Maybe in this limited state, I’ll simply sit back and appreciate God’s creation and visit with him undistracted by the urgent.

My conclusion is that old age is a part of life. To embrace it is wisdom.  There is no need to fight against the inevitable.  I like to think of old age as part of the transition into eternal life.  The pain and discomforts of my body are temporary.  I want to enjoy what I can of this life while I still have breath and be content that the future is beyond my greatest expectations.

GRATITUDE

During this time of giving and receiving gifts, we should remember the importance of gratitude.  Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation.  “I feel gratitude in my heart”.  It is a learned way of handling what we receive.  We teach our little ones to say thank you, but gratitude is not our natural bent.  We have to develop and exercise gratitude.

Being grateful is very important.  We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Giving thanks is a part of God’s will for us.  Recent studies by psychologists can tell you why this is God’s will.  Here are some of the results they’ve found:

It helps build relationships

Improves physical health

Improves mental health

Enhances empathy and reduces aggression

Improves sleep

Improves self-esteem

Increases mental strength

(Consult the below reference for more details.)

7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round,  http://www.Forbes.com, Amy Morin, 11-23-2014

Living our lives as people of gratitude not only fulfills God’s will for us, but as he intended, it affords us a happier, healthier way of living.  So let us be encouraged.  Develop and exercise this all important trait.

Merry Christmas!

THE TRAP OF INWARD FOCUS

We all have troubles that come our way; they are a part of life in this fallen world.  I tend to draw into myself when troubles arise.  I focus on solving the problem; I worry over the problem, and I lose sleep thinking about the problem.  If the problem is long term, I eventually fall into despair. Then I enter into that dark cavern of self-pity.  Once again, I have succumbed to the trap of inward focus.

You’d think I’d know better, but alas I find myself caught again.  In this state, I don’t pray for others, I’m not very kind, and I don’t have time for others. Inward focus makes me useless to those I love and not very pleasant to be around.  When I finally come to the end of myself, I cry out to the Lord, “Save me!”

The lord, in his patient and kind way, reminds me that I need to trust my troubles to him.  He redirects my focus to the needs of others, and I begin to look outward.  To my amazement, life becomes brighter, and my troubles become less important.  By putting my troubles in the hands of the only one who can do anything about them, the burden is lifted.  I can actually become a nice guy.

Will I fall into this trap again?  I hope not.  The “pit of despair” is not a nice place.

Psalm 42:5

Why are you down cast O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Note:

I found out that Praising God is the first step out of the trap.

THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH

Webster’s Dictionary defines meek:

1 Enduring injury with patience and without resentment – submissive – humble 

2 Deficient in spirit and courage

The first definition doesn’t convey the characteristics of weakness but of Christ likeness.  This definition speaks of the qualities Jesus displayed on the cross.  It is a Godly perspective.  The second definition imparts thoughts of weakness, timidity, and cowardice.  This is a worldly perspective.  Which of these will inherit the earth?

In 2 Corinthians chapter 10 the Apostle Paul responds to the to the Corinthians’ worldly interpretation of his meekness.  He uses a little sarcasm in verse 1 when he states: “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away!”  They had obviously accused him of being cowardly.  He goes on to let them know that his meek/humble approach to them was not out of weakness but out of caring for them.  He was trying to change their viewpoint from worldly to Godly.

I believe that the ones who endure the injuries of this world with patience and without resentment, who are submissive to Christ, and who humble themselves before their God will inherit the earth.  These are not weak people.  They are the ones who have been overwhelmed by the love of Christ, and from their humble thankfulness give that love to others regardless of the cost.  This takes strength and courage.