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Phil. 4:4-7 Revisited

12 Jan

 4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Be careful for nothing!  We want to be free of cares and not full of cares.  I’m carefree as a _____________.  How would you fill in the blank?  Are you carefree as a barn swallow or carefree as a man on his way to debtor’s prison??  When we deal with the topic of worry, we need to revisit Phil. 4:4-7 often.

Chuck Swindoll writes, in his book, Getting Through the Tough Stuff:  Immediately we discover a four-word command that could be rendered, literally, “Stop worrying about anything!”  The word translated “anxious” comes from the Greek verb merimnao, meaning “to be divided or distracted.”  In Latin the same word is translated anxius, which carries the added nuance of choking or strangling.  The word also appears in German as wurgen, from which we derive our English word worry.  The tough stuff of anxiety threatens to strangle the life out of us, leaving us asphyxiated by fear and gasping for hope.

These worries are like some sort of weed choking the life out of us and the only instrument that is effective to cut these weeds away is the Word of God.  God can carry away our strangling worries, but we need to give them to Him.  Thus:  Worry not; pray instead.

Carefree in His Care

8 Jan

Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.  Luke 12:24 Msg.

Today Mike and I went to the pool at my school and as we swam swallows dipped into the pool for drink.  It was delightful.  They swooped down like bullets and grabbed sips on the fly.  They were carefree in the care of God.

Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.  1 Peter 5:7 Msg.

The King James version of 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”   We should throw our cares–our anxieties and distractions–on Him, our God who is powerful enough to DO something about them.  Instead, we’re often like little kids who insist on being “all grown up” and carrying our own burdens rather than giving them to the Burden-bearer.

Do you have any to cast His way today?

2 Days ’til Christmas

23 Dec

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.Daniel 7:13,14

We’ve discussed often how our worries are a sign of our distrust of God and how as we move from distrust to trust in different areas of our lives the worries melt away.  This is not a condemning thought, but it should make us take a good look at our struggles with worry to identify where we are trusting other sources over God.  This is a fluid issue in our lives.

True confessions time.  It’s always been easy for me to trust God with money.  When I was a new Christian, God showed me a few examples of his provision and I’ve been able to rest in that area until recently.  My monthly medicine bills are quite large–even here in a 3rd world country where the meds are quite a bit cheaper than in the states–but we have great insurance through my job.  You’re probably thinking, well of course it’s easy for you to trust God for money.  The point is that to go back to the states I’d need to trust God for all that, and the enemy keeps whispering to me that it will never work:  You’ll NEVER live near your grandchildren because there are no jobs in Florida and even if you got jobs your pre-existing conditions probably wouldn’t be covered and even if they were the deductible would be too much . . .”  You get the idea.  I’m having trouble trusting God as my provider.

I’m reading a great book called Running Scared by Edward T. Welch and he had an eye-opening thought for me about faith:

In the kingdom of God, the King has made extravagant promises to us–promises of protection, liberation, and peace.  We respond with our allegiance, which we typically call faith or trust.  The essence of faith is not that we trust without evidence but that we choose sides:  In whom do we trust?  Our allegiance to the kingdom of God is nurtured by the very words of God, especially as they are spoken by King Jesus, and it is demonstrated in our obedience.  And since God’s laws are a systematic expression of his character, we become more like the King when we keep his laws.

Jesus.  King of Kings.  Lord of Lords.

Selah.  Stop and think about that.

3 Stages of Faith: Stage 2 — Faith in Faith Dismantled

29 Nov

The problem with what I call bartering faith or conditional faith and what the author of The Jesus of Suburbia, Mike Erre, calls “faith in faith” is that it is an immature faith.  For our faith to become mature, we need to stop relying on a bartering system with God and begin to rely on God himself in order to enter into true faith-rest.

In order to achieve a mature faith–in which we walk fearlessly KNOWING that God always knows what’s best for us–we need to have our works righteousness system dismantled.  And God so lovingly does that for us so we can grow.  We need to follow in Job’s footsteps and say, Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. (Job 13:15a)

God purposely introduces paradox, mystery, tension, and suffering into Job’s life in order to dismantle the religious system Job had set up.  Everything Job had hoped to gain through his religious performance (what we are calling “faith in faith”) was lost.

God sometimes, it seems, lets our systems crash, not because we’ve done something wrong but because he has something better for us.  — The Jesus of Suburbia pp. 127-128

I know many people who are casualties at this stage of faith development.  People who think they do not deserve suffering because they are good Christians and go to church  and perhaps even tithe.  People who turn away from growth because they like the simple bartering system.  (i.e. I give God something; He gives me something.)  God does not want to barter with us, He wants us to trust Him for who He is not what He gives.  He is not Santa Claus leaving coal or gifts in the stocking hung by the mantlepiece.  When our “faith in faith” systems crash, it gives us the opportunity to seek Him, to gaze at Him, to grow in Him.  To trust, not fear.

3 Stages of Faith: Stage 1 — Faith in Faith

27 Nov

A while back I mentioned that I was reading the book, The Jesus of Suburbia by Mike Erre.  I set it down for awhile and picked it back up yesterday.  I love the premise of this book:  that God is HUGE, mysterious, and paradoxically knowable–although far from predictable.

As I’ve studied the subject of fear, I’ve come to believe that the antidote for fear is faith.  Mr. Erre proposes three stages of faith as illustrated in the book of Job.  The first stage is demonstrated in Job 1:1-5:

1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.  4 His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

We see several important points in these verses:

1.  Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil,

2.  Job was rich,

3.  Job offered sacrifices for his children just in case they had sinned.

“We see throughout the book that the predominant paradign for understanding God was this:  If you do good things, God will reward and protect you.  If you do bad things, you will suffer and be punished. . . . [Job’s] faith wasn’t in God yet; it was in his own ability to please God through his religious activity.  His faith rested in his religious his religious performance.  That was why he sacrificed to God on behalf of his children. . . .There is no joy or peace in this kind of faith because whether or not we receive God’s blessing ultimately rests on us.  We have to get everything just right.” — The God of Suburbia p. 125, 126

Bartering faith.  Erre calls it having faith in faith.  If I do this, God will do that. For this to function, we have to be always scanning our behavior.  Am I praying enough?  Reading my Bible enough?  Am I loving my neighbor as myself?  The whole thing comes down to a question of motive:  Am I praying because I want to communicate with my Lord or because I want blessings?  Am I reading my Bible because I have a vital need to hear from Jesus or because I want to be rewarded for my faithfulness?  Am I bringing my neighbor cookies because I want to be seen as loving or because the love of God is flowing through me?  Sometimes we don’t even know our own motives.  Faith in faith will not deliver us from fear, worry, or anxiety.  In the end it makes us more anxious because it’s all about us!

From Surviving to Thriving

19 Nov

I’m reading an absorbing book that I found in a used bookstore:  Out of Control-Finding Peace for the Physically Exhausted and Spiritually Strung Out by Ben Young & Dr. Samuel Adams.  Can you identify?  I can.  The thesis of the book is that we’re called to ”  live freely and lightly.”

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30

We live in a world where we are continually busy and often stressed out by our multi-tasking, our overflowing schedules, and our continual electronic connectedness.  Even our vacations can be activity intense! When we overdo it without spiritual rest and refreshment, the predictable result is worry and anxiety.  To ” live freely and lightly,” we need to cut out some of the negative, anxiety-inducing stresses in our lives, and also deliberately develop positives–like handing over the reins to Jesus (and stop trying to be in control all the time) and also focus on intimate time with Him.

Cut to the Core

14 Nov

Spirit vs. Flesh

But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).  Galatians 5:16 Amp.

I don’t know where I got this chart, but I wrote it in my Bible and it seems appropriate to meditate on today as I reflect on how many fears, anxieties, and worries result from living in the flesh. 

Life in the Flesh                                                                    Life in the Spirit

My will be done.                   ← Core Attitude→          Thy will be done.

I expect good things.             ←Core Hope→              I expect to become like Jesus.

I will do it.                                ←Core Strategy→          I trust God.

I must get it right.             ← Core Experience→       I celebrate God’s glory.

I live to be blessed.               ←Core Passion→           I live to know Christ.

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. Galatians 5:16 Message

Roll Your Work

31 Oct

Roll your work upon the Lord

Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed. Proverbs 16:3

The scientific definition of work is Work=Force x Distance. For example: we apply force to a wheelbarrow and it moves in the direction we push it in.  My definition of work is anything that makes you sweat–metaphorically or physically. 

We are to roll our work (sometimes translated as burdens) onto the Lord.  What is a heavy weight for us is a feather to Him.  We do this knowing the incredible love he has for us.  When we do this (and don’t fear and worry make us sweat?) our thoughts become aligned with His and become firm.  The more we do it, the firmer they become.  Here’s to rolling and firming!  (Please imagine the clink of coffee cups in a toast right now.)

From Tumulated to Stable

29 Oct

Seek to know Jesus

OK, I admit it.  I’ve fallen in love with the word tumulated.  I’d never even heard of it before I began studying Psalm 42.  My American Dictionary of the English Language says that tumult means:  The commotion, disturbance or agitation of a multitude, usually accompanied with great noise, uproar and confusion of voices.  Isn’t that how we feel when our soul is disturbed?  Tumulated? 

We recently had to make a decision whether to stay here in Guayaquil for the school year 2011-2012.  The deadline to decide was last Friday.  I was definitely tumulated in the week leading up to the decision.  I listened to many voices inside me:  the voices of our church; the voices from another church that had asked Mike to work with them; the voices of my children, grandchildren, and siblings; the voices of my job; and the voice of my tiredness. 

The morning before we decided, God’s peace washed over us both.  We were in agreement.  We would commit to another school year beyond this one, which commits us to another joyful year with the church in Guayaquil. 

I yearn to be stable, though, and not tumulated.  I yearn not to be tossed to and fro by the waves of life.  I yearn to walk gracefully through times of decision.  So many times God has proved himself.  I don’t know why I continue to tumulate.

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Eph. 4:11-16 NKJ

It seems to me that the road to stability would be:

  • Learn from wonderful men and women of God;
  • Come to know Jesus; and
  • Grow in Christ becoming an edifying part of His Body.

Today I challenge myself to receive, grow, know Christ, and edify others. 

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind [tumulating].  James 1:6

When Tumulated, Pant for The Lord

27 Oct

As a bee pants for the nectar...

We looked the other day at Psalm 42: 5,7,8 and discovered the amazing word tumulated, the literal meaning of having a disturbance in our souls.  Tumulated is related to the turbulance, tumult, and tossing of the sea.  When tumulated we often develop a thirst for God, a thirst we don’t quench.

A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek;
I want to drink God,
deep draughts of God.
I’m thirsty for God-alive.–Ps. 42:1-2 Msg.

You know how when you are super-thirsty and you finally get a drink you guzzle it like there’s no tomorrow?  Sometimes I’ve felt that thirst build up through my school day and I don’t take the time to respond to it.  Don’t we get just that thirsty for God sometimes?  Even though it is easy to slake the thirst–because God is always there–sometimes we just let ourselves get thirstier and thirstier until we finally turn to Him and gulp down the living water of His Word and of His presence.

Have you been running through your life lately as a deer runs through the woods?  Are you building up a thirst?  Open up to the Psalms and guzzle.  That’s what I’m doing today.