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?

THE NARROW GATE

Jesus died on the cross to pay the debt we owed for our sins.  He rose from the grave to demonstrate the new and eternal life he had purchased for us.  The cross is our place of entry into God’s eternal Kingdom.  It is the gate that Jesus prepared for us. We can come to God by no other path.  Salvation is found only at the cross. Our old life is left at the foot of the cross, and there we enter into our new life in Christ Jesus.

In the story of the Good Shepherd found in John chapter 10,   Jesus refers to believers as the sheep.  He makes it very clear that he is the gate for the sheep to enter.  He says, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep (verse 7).”  Many have looked for other ways, but the only way is through Jesus.

In John 10:17-18 (The Message) Jesus explains:

This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life.  And so I am free to take it up again.  No one takes it from me.  I lay it down of my own free will.  I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again.  I received this authority personally from my Father.”

God the Father gave Jesus the authority to redeem us.  No one else has been given this authority.  He alone is our redeemer.  Yes, the gate is narrow, but it leads to redemption and eternal life.

CLOSER TO JESUS

Years ago my wife and I attended a couples Sunday school class.  A lesson from that class was illustrated by a triangle.  The three points of the triangle represented the wife, the husband and Jesus.  As the husband and wife moved up the triangle closer to Jesus, they became closer to each other.

I remember this teaching because I’ve found it to be true, and it works for other analogies.  For instance, if I want to be more effective in ministry I need to grow closer to Jesus.  The closer I get to Him the more useful I become.  This presents the question, “How do I get closer to Jesus?”

I have discovered that focusing on being a better person is not the way.  When I focus on being a better person, I’m basically focusing on me.  I’m looking inward.  The key is looking beyond me to Jesus.  Growing closer to Jesus happens when I keep company with Him.  I am a better husband, father, teacher, and person while my eyes are on Jesus. 

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!   

NEW LIFE

In the dark of night,

Filled with deep despair,

I sit here all alone.

I need to be rescued,

But who is there to rescue me?

 

Many of us represent God’s compassion by helping to rescue lost souls.  After all we are God’s ambassadors. Yet every lost soul needs to reconcile with God.  So to truly rescue the lost, we need to bring them to Christ Jesus.  Our comfort and encouragement are helpful, but only at the foot of the cross can they find new life.