Why Worry?

I worry.  A lot.  I worry about being a good parent.  Being a good spouse.  Being a good business partner.  I worry about making enough money, maintaining job security, obtaining financial security.  I worry about my health, and my family’s health.  I worry about my son’s future and whether I have done enough to help place him on the right path.  I worry about my faith, my future and my relationship with God.

Tonight, I read Matthew chapter 6:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?   Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.  But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.   If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

Matthew 6:25-34

Do not worry about tomorrow.  That is a wonderful idea, isn’t it?  The Bible is filled with this idea.  But is it possible?  I struggle with this.   I want to be able to do this, but how?

This passage seems to provide an answer: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

We worry about things on earth — things the pagans seek.  Things that won’t matter in our eternal life.  God.  That is all we really need.  That is all we need to seek.  If we just focus on Him, what is there to worry about?  Oh, I want to seek you Lord!  I want to cast my worries aside and focus on you.

Our Father,

You are all powerful in heaven and on earth.  Hallowed be your name!  Let your Kingdom come.  I pray that your will be done on earth and that I let go and let you take control.   Give us this day our daily bread — and the acceptance to know that is all we need.  Help me not to worry about tomorrow’s bread and instead to just seek you.  Forgive me for the times I fail and the times I turn away from you.  And help me to forgive others who fail me.  Lead me away from temptation and when I stray, deliver me from evil, so that I may always return to you.

 

Made and Loved by God

Tonight’s passage is wonderful (and easy to understand):

For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for you would not fashion what you hate.  How could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?  But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Ruler and Lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!

Wisdom 11:24-12:1

God loves us.  He made us.  He created us.  By His will, we exist.  We are His. It is just that simple.

As I read this scripture over, it almost makes me say “well, duh — of course He loves us.”  I can feel my soul breathe a deep sigh of relief, because this passage makes it so simple and clear.  We all have a tag on our soul that says Made by God.  (Who needs a Made in the USA tag — we all bear the Made in Heaven stamp!)

And just when I think it cannot get any better, the very last clause blows me away: “for your imperishable spirit is in all things.”

I watch my son, the one little part of God’s creation that I had a hand in making and I can see part of me in him (some good and some not so good).  God made us.  And just like part of me is in my son, part of God is in each of us.  And that is all good!  God’s imperishable spirit is in all of us!  We need to let that part shine!

God,

I love you!  I am not worthy of your love, but I am so grateful to have it.  Let your Spirit  fill me and shine through me!

 

Buzzer Beater Hope

It has been a tough weekend for many on the basketball court (and many in the stands).  My own bracket has been completely destroyed.  There have been some heartbreaking losses — some in the final seconds of the game.  Of course, these losses are nothing compared to the many other losses that we suffer.

Tonight the Bible opened to Lamentations:

My life is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; My enduring hope, I said, has perished before the LORD.  The thought of my wretched homelessness is wormwood and poison; Remembering it over and over, my soul is downcast.  But this I will call to mind; therefore I will hope:

The LORD’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; They are renewed each morning—great is your faithfulness!

The LORD is my portion, I tell myself, therefore I will hope in him.  The LORD is good to those who trust in him, to the one that seeks him; It is good to hope in silence for the LORD’s deliverance.

Lamentations 3:17-26

The passages before this lamented on all of the suffering we experience.  We all suffer.  We all have loss.  Some small and fleeting, like a basketball game.  Some tragic and life altering.  This line struck me tonight: “Remembering it over and over, my soul is downcast.”

If we focus on our sufferings, there is no doubt that our souls will be downcast.  We need Hope.  In every situation, we need Hope.  In basketball sometimes a team’s last hope is a buzzer beater shot.  But there is only one Hope that can lift us, no matter what the situation, no matter what the suffering, no matter what the loss.  Hope in the Lord.  Hope in His deliverance.  Nothing on earth can match what the Lord provides.  Even when all seems lost, God always provides us with a buzzer beater —  we just need to trust in Him, seek Him.  We don’t have to make a half-court shot, we just need to turn to Him.  God’s love exceeds all of our expectations.  It is the true Cinderella story.  He takes what might seem downtrodden and  turns us into something beautiful.

He constantly takes us out of the darkness.  With every sunrise, we are renewed.  His compassion is not spent.  His mercy is never exhausted.  Therefore, I will Hope.

Lord,

I trust in you.  I put all of my sufferings, all of my pain and all of my loss in your hands.  Help me not to dwell on these things.  My hope is in you.  Help me to have enough strength to maintain Hope even in the darkest days.

 

Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks

Do you ever wonder what God is calling you to do?  I think about it constantly.  I know His plan is bigger than me.  I know He is calling me to do more.  But what is it He wants from me?  What is it He wants for me?

As I was racking my brain and struggling with what God wants me to do, I heard this verse on the radio:

We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all.  See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all.  Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophetic utterances.  Test everything; retain what is good.  Refrain from every kind of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-22

I love these lines: Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  

Maybe I am trying to think (and worry) too big.  Rejoice, Pray, Give thanks.  This is the will of God.  If I focus on these three things…  how could I be anything but happy?  How could I not be following God’s will?  No matter the circumstance, if I can rejoice at the goodness around me, the life God has given me, the love that God showers on me; if I can give thanks for everything I receive, every blessing I have, every moment that I enjoy; and if I can pray about everything else, I cannot help but think I will be satisfied.  I will be happy.  I will be living God’s will (even if I never accomplish anything else, even if I screw up along the way, even if the world is dark around me). Rejoice, Pray, Give thanks.  I can choose to find the good and rejoice.  I can choose to be thankful, instead of always wanting more.  I can focus my fears, my worries, my pain into prayer.

God,

I rejoice in your goodness!  Thank you for allowing me another day on this earth.  Thank you for blessing me with so much.  Help me to remember your love and your blessings, particularly when darkness tries to invade.  I pray for your help and your guidance.  On paper, this can seem so easy, but in life it can become so hard.

 

 

 

Are We in a Time of Persecution?

I remember, as a child, learning about the early Christians who were persecuted for their faith and nevertheless stood steadfast and strong in God.  I remember feeling jealous because the early Christians had the opportunity to show their faith in the face of persecution.  Growing up Catholic in a Catholic community, at a time when stores and businesses were still closed on Sundays, when religion appeared to be a part of everyone’s life and the country still appeared to trust in God, I thought the days of Christians being persecuted were long gone.  How wrong I was.  I am no longer jealous of the early Christians  because they had the opportunity to show their faith in the face of persecution (unfortunately, I think that opportunity is now more widely available), now I am jealous because the early Christians had the strength to remain strong in the face of persecution.

Tonight the Bible opened to Maccabees.  At the time, the Jews were being persecuted.  But one man, Mattathias stood strong:

The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to make them sacrifice.  Many of Israel joined them, but Mattathias and his sons drew together.  Then the officers of the king addressed Mattathias: “You are a leader, an honorable and great man in this city, supported by sons and kindred.  Come now, be the first to obey the king’s command, as all the Gentiles and Judeans and those who are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons shall be numbered among the King’s Friends, and you and your sons shall be honored with silver and gold and many gifts.”

But Mattathias answered in a loud voice: “Although all the Gentiles in the king’s realm obey him, so that they forsake the religion of their ancestors and consent to the king’s orders, yet I and my sons and my kindred will keep to the covenant of our ancestors.  Heaven forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments. We will not obey the words of the king by departing from our religion in the slightest degree.”

1 Maccabees 2:15-22

Throughout the ages, humans have been persecuted for following God.  Upon his death, Mattathias told his sons:

And so, consider this from generation to generation, that none who hope in Heaven shall fail in strength.

Do not fear the words of sinners, for their glory ends in corruption and worms.  Today exalted, tomorrow not to be found, they have returned to dust, their schemes have perished.

Children! be courageous and strong in keeping the law, for by it you shall be honored.

1 Maccabees 2:61-64

These words struck me: “Do not fear the words of sinners, for their glory ends in corruption and worms.  Today exalted, tomorrow not to be found, they have returned to dust, their schemes have perished.”   A little bit more powerful than the old sticks and stones saying.

If we believe in God…  If we hope in God and the promise of eternal life…  Why do we allow the words of sinners, or the pressure of their earthly glory to get to us?  When we do, we show our weakness, we show our doubt, we show our fear.  Do we doubt God’s promises?  Do we doubt God’s existence?  NO!  We can be strong knowing that no matter the persecution here on earth, no matter the hurtful words of sinners or earthly promises they may make, their glory is fleeting, and ends in corruption and worms.  Our glory is eternal (and worm-free).  Our glory is with God.

None who hope in heaven shall fail in strength.

God,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to show my faith in the face of persecution.  Help me to be strong in my faith.  Help me to be courageous and steadfast, whether I am surrounded by sinners or your faithful followers. Help me to cast my weakness, doubt and fear away, so that true knowledge can fill their place.  True knowledge of your love and your promise of everlasting life.

 

What is your Cornerstone?

Although it may not seem like it now, our country was built on a cornerstone of faith. Our declaration of independence references God 5 times.  George Washington said:

“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

 Thomas Jefferson said:

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?”

Where is our cornerstone now?  It is sometimes hard to see it among the mass shootings, abortions, sexual promiscuity and anti-Christian rhetoric that floods our country and our media.

God has laid the cornerstone for each of us.  It is up to us whether we allow ourselves to be built upon it:

Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander; like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk so that through it you may grow into salvation, for you have tasted that the Lord is good.  Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For it says in scripture:

“Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.”

1 Peter 2:1-6

God has laid a cornerstone.  And he has chosen each of us to lay our stones upon His foundation, to be built into a spiritual house.  He asks us to rid ourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander.  Why would we want to hold on to any of this?  Believe in Him and come to Him.  That is all He asks.  Believe in Him and Come to Him.  Make Him the cornerstone of your life.  Don’t we all need that?  Don’t we all need to re-center on what is important.  For even when we are rejected in this life, God calls us to Him.  He chooses us.

Lord,

You are my cornerstone.  Thank you for choosing me.  Thank you for providing me with the opportunity of another day to create something beautiful upon your foundation.  Guide me in your path.  Forgive me for the times that I have allowed malice, deceit, insincerity , envy or slander to enter my heart.  Fill my heart with your love.

 

 

 

Fear God — Fear Life Without Him

Today’s passage is a short one:

Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Proverbs 1:7

I generally do not like the passages in the Bible that advise us to fear God.  I think this is because I want to think of God as just the loving God.  The Father in the Prodigal Son story who welcomes us back with open arms.  When I read passages about fearing God, I think about God smiting and sending fire and brimstone.  And I don’t want to think about that (probably because I might deserve it sometimes).  Or maybe I don’t want to think about it because I don’t like the idea of being powerless to anyone else.  (and yet, of course, I am powerless, I am weak).  It bothers me that God seems to want us to fear Him.  I struggle with this.

So today’s passage has had me thinking all day.  “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”  We would be foolish not to want this.  But I am struggling because I don’t generally like things that I am afraid of.  And in general I fear evil or things that want to do me harm.

I spent a little time googling and found that some suggest that “fear” as used in the Bible includes awe, reverence, adoration, honor, worship, love and fear.  This makes me feel better.  This makes me think of the fear because we are in the presence of such an amazing, AWESOME power — not because we are afraid He will hurt us.  God doesn’t want to hurt us.  We hurt Him.  He doesn’t hurt us.

When I think of  fear in terms of someone we love, the fear is of losing that person.  Losing my spouse or my son is my greatest fear.  Perhaps this is the fear we need.  Fear of losing God.  Fear of being without Him.  Fear of disappointing or hurting Him.

Lord,

I love you.  I am in awe of you and afraid of what I do not know.  Help me to grow in your love.  I don’t want to be without you.

 

 

Janet’s Joy

Today, I went to a funeral service for Janet, the mother of a friend and a faithful servant to God.  I was lucky enough to meet Janet and to speak with her on a few occasions.   On one such occasion she shared her love of God with me and she shared this verse:

Yet even now—oracle of the LORD—return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.  Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment.

Joel 2:12-13

She shared this with me when I was questioning whether God was the God of the Old Testament (who often seems angry and maybe even mean) or the God of the New Testament (who seems to be all about love).  Janet cited this verse to assure me that God was the same throughout time — all about love.

Return to me with your whole heart, He tells us.  No matter what we have done.  No matter where we are.  God invites us to return to Him.  He tells us to rend our hearts, not our garments and return to Him.    Sometimes our hearts and minds are fixed on something other than God.  Rend your heart, fast, weep, mourn and return to God.  I think sometimes we are afraid to make the change necessary to return our hearts to God.   It needs to be a conscious decision.  We need to fast and cleanse our body, weep and cleanse our inner spirit, mourn and say goodbye to something in our life.  We change our heart, change our life and follow God.  And the good part is…  He will take us back.  He is gracious and merciful.  He is slow to anger.  Look around at the world.  He has lots to be angry with.  But He still loves us, all of us!  He is abounding in steadfast love.  That is my favorite part.  Abounding in steadfast love.  God is love (Old Testament or New Testament — He is love).

And He is constantly calling us to Him.

Janet’s body is now returning to God, but I believe her heart, her whole heart, has long been with God.

God,

Thank you for your abounding and steadfast love.  Show me how to share the same with others.  I am sorry for the times I turn away.  Help me to rend my heart.  Help me to return to you whenever I turn away.

(And God, thank you for Janet.  No matter her struggle she remained steadfast in you.  Welcome her into your kingdom.  We will miss her here, but know that she is finding everlasting joy in you.)

Repent

Lent will be here in just a couple of weeks.  Today, the Bible opened to a short and simple statement from Jesus:

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17

Repent.  I have heard that word since I was a child.  Particularly during Lent.  Repent.  For the first time, I looked up its definition.  Here is what my quick internet search revealed:

  • to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.
  • to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life
  • to feel regret or contrition
  • to change one’s mind
  • to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc.
  • to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent.

To feel or express sincere regret or remorse.  So first, I need to feel and express regret and remorse.  The regret part comes pretty easy for me.  I have lots of regrets.  The part I can probably work on is the sincere remorse, which I think is a little more than just regret.  To be sincerely sorry for my sin.  To be sincere, I have to really think about it.  I generally don’t like to think back on the things I do wrong and instead I just lump them into general categories and try to move on.  I don’t want to think about the things I do wrong.  I don’t want to think about sin, and particularly not about my sin!  As a result when I do think about my sins (often just briefly) or prepare for confession, the same sins come back to mind.  Perhaps because I have not truly repented — have not thought about them enough to have true, sincere remorse — and as a result have not allowed myself to be freed from them.

The other definitions are even harder.  Repent: To turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.  To feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better.  Its not enough to feel sorry  or to feel regret.  To repent, we really need to think about our sin — we cannot hide from it.  We need to think about what we have done wrong, so that we can have sincere remorse.  Without sincere remorse, how can I truly dedicate myself to amend my life, to change my life for the better.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.  It is time to repent.  Time to change our lives for the better.

Lord,

I am sincerely sorry for my sins.  Help me to dedicate myself to do better.

I saw God today

Well, the New England Patriots have made it into the Super Bowl once again.  This will be Tom Brady’s eighth Super Bowl appearance.  He has already won 5.  Some believe Brady may be the best quarterback ever to have played.  And some revere him as a football god.

As I watch the Vikings and Eagles battle it out to see who will play against the Patriots, the Bible opened to Romans:

The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness.  For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them.  Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.  As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.  While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.

Romans 1:18-23

How often do we exchange the glory of God for that of a mortal man?  It makes me wonder what the Nielsen ratings might be for attendance at church this morning as compared to the ratings of tonight’s playoff football games.  We idolize athletes, movie stars and whoever has the latest social media viral video.   We want to be like them.  We work hard for our own glory, our own reward.  We ignore the truth.

Since I was a child, I have wanted to be one of those who gets to see God.  And I am not talking about just seeing him when I die.   I want to see Him here on earth.  I have prayed for Him to reveal Himself to me.  What struck me in this passage is how foolish I have been.  We have the opportunity to see God everyday.  To witness His power and divinity.  To see the beauty in His creation.  To witness His design behind each of us.  God created Tom Brady, and George Clooney, and you, and me.  Each of us great in our own way, and each of us owing that greatness to our creator.  We see God everyday.  We just sometimes forget to recognize or acknowledge Him.  We become vain in our reasoning (see yesterday’s post on vanity).  We think it is all about us.

God,  Help me to recognize you in all of your creation, in the beauty of the sky as it meets the trees, the purity of the snow falling down, the majesty of the eagle, the amazing strengths and differences of the human creatures that you created in your likeness.  I am in awe when I watch some athletes, but I recognize that their gifts, just like my gifts, come from you alone.  I don’t need to be like them or be like anyone else.  I want to be like you.  I want to be like you made me to be.   You are amazing.  You are mighty and wonderful.  Thank you for your creation.  Thank you for making me.