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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CAN YOU LET GO?

I tend to keep my mind focused on anxieties like worries, concerns, and fears.  I actively hold on to them till they become a part of me.  They are like familiar friends.  It seems like to worry is my natural default.  However, Jesus told me not to worry.

Jesus has recently asked me, “Can you let go of these things and give them to me?”  His question definitely presented a challenge, yet it was very instructive.  I thought these worries, concerns, and fears were my responsibility.  I didn’t ask for them, yet somehow I felt it was my job to wrestle with them.  Jesus’ question led me to understand that I was not supposed to hold on to them.  How freeing to realize that I could just let go and give them to him.  I did, at least for the moment, let go.  I wanted to keep that feeling of freedom forever, but alas it was fleeting.  I found myself grabbing all these anxieties right back. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that letting go is a spiritual and emotional battle, but I now know that the battle is worth it.  When I let go, my joy returns, and I become pleasant to others.  My heart desires to be kind and generous, but these anxieties hinder and distract me.  So I grasp that letting go is not a moment in time fix, but it requires a continual action of surrender and trust.  Only in Jesus can I find the strength to do this.  In him I can let go.

Reposted from September 2016

KEEP COMPANY WITH GOD

A few weeks ago I borrowed a phrase from Psalm 37.  I was looking through the Bible for another scripture when these words caught my eye, “Keep company with God” (Verse 4in The Message). I was immediately inspired by this statement.    To “Keep company…” is personal and informal, and it leads to the idea that I’m hanging out with God.  Like Adam walking in the garden next to God and chatting about the day.  I love it.  The rest of verse 4 reads, “get in on the best.”  Keeping company with God gets us in on the best.

I read all of Psalm 37 today, and I particularly like verses 5-9 as an insight into what is the best.  They read,

Open up before God, keep nothing back; he’ll do whatever needs to be done:  He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.  Quiet down before God, be prayerful before him.  Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top.  Bridle your anger, trash your wrath, cool your pipes – it only makes things worse.  Before long the crooks will be bankrupt; God – investors will soon own the store.

 

Keeping company with God will make life more peaceful and less fretful.  He will lift us up and give us a great future which includes eternal life.  Isn’t that the best?

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.

SURRENDER

What does the word surrender say to you?  Give up? Turn over control?  Quit?  This is not a word we humans like very much especially the turn over control part.  Quitter, coward, weakling these are a few of the words we used to label ones who surrender.  When a criminal surrenders to the police it usually means going to jail.  A defeated army that surrenders is at the mercy of the conquering army.  History contains a number of examples of the results of surrendering.  Unfortunately, humans’ surrendering to humans doesn’t always work out very well for the ones who surrender.  Surrendering is at best a risky business when we talk of surrendering to each other.  Surrendering to God is a different business.

God invites us to surrender, but he never demands it.  He promises that if we do surrender to him he will improve our lives.  In this case surrendering might not be so bad.

Jesus offers:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

 

I can personally attest that surrendering to Jesus is as he says.  I was in the pit of despair some time ago feeling useless and lost.  I finally sat down on a rock and said to God, “I can’t leave this rock without you.”  I surrendered.  From that moment my life changed.  I am now useful, happy, and at peace in my soul.  The longer I stay with him the more I realize these promises.  And, he also has promised me eternal life.  In my case surrendering has proven to be a good choice.

Meditate on the above scripture, and hear Jesus calling to you.  Find new life in Jesus our savior.

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.

ULTIMATE POWER

Our Pastor has been speaking on the temptation of Jesus. The story of the temptation is found in Luke chapter 4 verses 1-13.  There are so many wonderful lessons to be learned from these verses, but I have been intrigued by the way Jesus handled his ultimate power.

When I think of ultimate power, Superman, Mighty Mouse, and other imaginary super heroes come to mind. However there is really only one who has super powers and that is God himself. 

In the story of the temptation, the devil tempted Jesus to use his power randomly for his self-gratification.  Jesus refused. The only use of power that Jesus displayed on earth was for one purpose.  That purpose was to lead mankind from the kingdom of darkness to God’s eternal kingdom.  Jesus was the only human who could handle that kind of power without abusing it.

So I asked myself, what would I do with ultimate power?  Horror was my first response.  I’m glad this is not an option.  From a history teacher’s perspective, I have studied what humans do with limited power, and none have exercised their power solely for the benefit of others.  Most have used power to control and abuse others.  No one other than Jesus can be trusted with ultimate power.

I find great joy when I think of the restraint Jesus showed as he walked the earth.  Jesus as God has ultimate power.  He used it for our good when he was here, and he is still using it for our good. 

On a personal note, I know I can trust Jesus to use his power for my good.