Monthly Archives: March 2010

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  NIV

This is part of a speech that Moses gave to the people of Israel after they had wandered for 40 years in the desert.  Moses knows that he won’t be going with them into the promised land, instead, Joshua will lead the people.

“Them,” in this verse refers to their enemies.  As I remember the story, the Israelites had actually reached the promised land 40 years earlier, but, the scouts they sent into the land came back and told them that the land was inhabited by a whole bunch of people that the Israelites could never hope to conquer.

Now they’re back for the second time, and Moses tells them not to worry about their enemies … they need only to trust in God.

Forty years is a long time to wait for a do-over.  When I think about the parents in my life, they tend to encourage their children to try again immediately upon failing at a task.  There is a lot of wisdom in that.  If you try again immediately, you can immediately utilize what you learned about what caused you to fail initially.  If, for instance, you fell off the bike because you turned the handlebars too quickly and you lost your balance, you can try again, and learn the tolerance that you and the bike have for how quickly those handlebars can be turned.  There is little more that you can learn about what caused you to fall or what will keep you from falling by sitting on the sidewalk, worrying about getting back on the bike.  But sometimes, the thought of getting back on the bike, or the horse, or whatever threw you, is intimidating.

There is a lot of wisdom in this verse.  We don’t have to rely on ourselves and our own imperfect understanding of the circumstances.  Instead, we should, “Be strong.  Take courage.  Don’t be intimidated.  Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you.  He’s right there with you, He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” The Message

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Matthew 13:22

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. NIV

I’m still working my way through the listings of the word, “worry,” in my concordance. This parable of the sower comes up again and again. The phrase that strikes me this morning is “the deceitfulness of wealth.”

Last night, I saw the movie “Slum Dog Millionaire.” I was struck by the living conditions, or lack of them, that the characters endured.

I’ve visited a third-world country, one where poverty is rampant and people are literally starving. And yet, I met people there who had true joy, and who were spreading the word and making a difference for the kingdom. They weren’t worried about their circumstances, and they weren’t distracted by their possessions.

As I look around at my life and my surroundings, I can see the deceitfulness of wealth … When one is afforded the comforts of this world, it is easy to lose sight of the reason we are here — to fellowship with God — and of the important mission we have been given — to make a difference for Him.

Today, I’m praying that I will be alert to the things that threaten to choke my fruitfulness, and that God will show me where and how I can best bear fruit.

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Luke 10:41-42

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” NIV

I love this story.  Mary and Martha are sisters.  Martha has opened her house to Jesus and his disciples.  As a good hostess, she has a ton of work to do.  Her sister, Mary, however, isn’t helping.  Instead, Mary is sitting at Jesus’s feet listening to what he’s saying.

Mary is living in the moment, and communing with her Lord and Savior.

Martha is busying herself with worldly distractions, and then, she get’s angry with her sister and goes to Jesus to complain.  In the verse just before this, Martha says, “don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me?  Tell her to lend me a hand.” The Message

The Lord’s reply is timeless … he lovingly tells her that she is wrong and that Mary has it right.

A good friend once told me that the Bible is a book of examples left for us to follow.  I want to follow Mary’s example … today and always.

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I Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. NIV

What a beautiful, beautiful verse.

What a privilege.  What an honor.

The creator of the universe cares for me.

When I used the Greek to English dictionary in my concordance to look up the word “cares,” in this verse, I was surprised by its definition, “to trouble; to concern.”  Curiously, those same words appear in the definition for “anxiety.”

Candidly, I never pictured God as being troubled over me.  I’ve always pictured Him as calm, never surprised, never grieved.  But, as I think about it, I think that there are verses that say he is grieved sometimes … I should look those up. As I typed that, I thought, “well, you have a concordance right there … do it!” And, sure enough, the Lord appears to be grieved in several instances.

He is all an all-knowing God.  He knows everything I’ve done and everything I will do, and yet, He still cares.  That’s pretty powerful.  I am so thankful to have that knowledge today.

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II Corinthians 10:4-5

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. NIV

Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ … I love that.

To worry is to be disobedient.  The Bible says over and over again not to do it … and yet, I still do.  But, these verses say that I have weapons at my disposal that have the power to demolish strongholds.

Through prayer, through trusting God, who has, in fact overcome the world, I can get past this worry stronghold … I can more than get past it, I banish it.

I’m praying about that today.

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Jeremiah 17:7-8

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” NIV

I am so thankful for this verse today.

I am so thankful that God laid this project on my heart.

This time that I am spending each morning, searching His word on the subject of worry, is helping me in ways that I could never have imagined. I am going through a transition in my life, one that began a few weeks after I started this project, one over which I would have worried myself to death.

But, God knew the transition was coming. And, God knows His children. I’m a pretty goal oriented person. If I set a goal, and especially if I am accountable for the outcome, I am the kind of person who will keep at it, no matter what.

In this case — oh the wisdom of God! — the goal was to spend time each day looking for reminders not to worry. I am amazed at all of the ways that God spoke to me about this challenge, in perfect timing.

First, I saw the movie, “The Book of Eli.” If you have not seen it, I will not spoil it for you. It is terribly violent, but, I, and the friends I saw it with, left the theater humbled by how little of the Bible we had committed to memory.

Second, in church that next week or so, our worship leader asked the congregation to call out verses they had memorized. Again, I was convicted. I knew a few verses by heart, but, I did not know where many of them were in the Bible.

Third, I heard an amazing speech by Beth Moore, in which she exhorted us — all of her listeners — to “Get in God’s Word!” every day.

Fourth, I heard several times this last year that the Bible contains 365 reminders not to worry — and I knew that worry was something with which I struggled mightily.

And finally, I saw just the first part of the movie, “Julie and Julia.” If you’ve seen it, you’ll know that Julie’s husband sets up a blog for her, and he makes it look really easy.

So, I began. I sat down at my computer, built my blog in about 17 minutes, and started this project.

God uses all manner of ways to speak to His children. Since I wasn’t spending conscious time in His word each day, He used other means to get through to me.

But now, that He has me where I should be, in His word each day, listening for His voice and His guidance, He is unfolding treasure after treasure for me.

This verse tops that list. When I looked at it in The Message, I read the verses that precede it, as well: “Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight. He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows. But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers — never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.” The Message

I am trusting God today.

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Filed under Jeremiah, Old Testament, Worry

I Samuel 9:5

When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.” NIV

Well, I’ve often heard that if God is teaching you something, you’ll hear it again and again from a variety of sources.  Apparently, there is something else here about these donkeys that is important.  I picked this verse at random from the list of “worry” verses, not realizing that those donkeys would still be being worried over.

So, I went back to the beginning of the story.

The donkeys belong to a man named Kish, who is described as a Benjamite, and a man of standing.  Benjamin was the youngest of Jacob’s sons, the second son, I think, of his beloved Rachel.  I haven’t read far enough along, but I’m thinking that Saul is likely King Saul.  So, Saul’s dad was a worrier.  I can relate.

The interesting thing to me about this verse is that Saul cares that his dad is worried, and he very well understands the worry addiction.  Saul is sent off on a fruitless hunt (he is not the one who finds the donkeys), and, when he realizes that he’s been gone a while, he recognizes that this will start a whole new cycle of worry for his father.

Kish, in the meantime, has likely gone through an entire gamut of emotions … multiple times by now.  He’s been angry, he’s contemplated other people making use of his prized donkeys, he’s pictured them falling down a well and bleeting for help with no-one to hear them.  When he doesn’t hear from Saul, he no doubt worries that the kid got lost, or that some other horrible fate has befallen him.

Worry is like that.  It is a never-ending cycle.  It will consume your thoughts and your time, until you are unable to be any earthly good to anyone.

Sometimes I wonder why particular stories are in the Bible.  I wonder why, for instance, these lost donkeys are left on record for us.  I wonder if it is because God knows that many of us, like Kish, are worriers.  I want to think more about what I can learn from Kish and his donkeys today.

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I Samuel 9:20

As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found.  And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father’s family? NIV

When I found this verse in I Samuel, by looking up one of the listings of the word “worry” in my concordance, I laughed out loud.  “While this may technically qualify as one of the 365 reminders not to worry for which I am searching,” I thought, “this one isn’t really helpful.”

But, as I thought more deeply about it, perhaps there is something here that I can learn from … I have spent many hours in my life worrying about things that I’ve lost.  In fact, some of the things that I remember most vividly are things that I lost in childhood … a little purple block that completed a set of blocks; a ring that I won at a carnival and then lost on the playground.  I can remember laying awake at night, thinking of ways to find that ring.  The playground was made of sand, and, I thought, if I could get a big enough sieve, I could sift through all that sand and find that ring.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost other things, things of much more value.  I’ve worried over them, too.

This verse says not to worry about the things that you’ve lost, and, I think that’s good advice.

Further, as I looked at this verse in another translation, it says, “And by the way, your lost donkeys — the ones you’ve been hunting for the last three days — have been found, so don’t worry about them.  At this moment, Israel’s future is in your hands.”  The Message

So, I think this verse is perhaps saying, “Stop looking back!  God has things for you to accomplish — get on with them.”

I am pretty thankful that I found this verse today.

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Luke 8:14-15

The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.  But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.  NIV

As I’m working my way through the “worry” listings in my concordance, I came to this one.  I knew that, in the Bible, each of four disciples tells the story of Christ from their own perspective, and that therefore you see a lot of the same stories repeated in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  But, this is the second time in about three weeks that I’ve come across the parable of the sower.

Now, prior to starting this project, I could have told you the parable of the sower.  I probably could have even recited the four kinds of seed … I’ve been in church all of my life.  I, like most people, have always reacted to the story in this way … “I want to be the seed that grows up in good ground!”  But, wanting to be the seed that grows on good ground, and taking the steps to BE the seed that goes on good ground, I’m learning, are two very different things.

I confess that I had not previously contemplated this story deeply.   What little thought I did give to it though, was focused on where the seed FELL.  It fell on rocky ground … it fell on the path … etc.  I think I saw this as pretty much a random act, and, I saw myself as the seed — I wanted to fall into a nice, hospitable environment.

But, I’m the GROUND.

I’m taking a landscaping class.  It lasts for two hours, once a week.  A couple of weeks ago, I kid you not, we spent two solid hours talking about the ground … preparing the ground, mulching, etc.  For two hours!  My friend and I laughed and laughed afterwards that we had signed up for this class hoping to learn about how to better landscape our yards, and we had spent two hours just discussing dirt.

Thank God!  Thank God, that I’ve learned that dirt can be altered, it can be enriched, it can be made to produce much better fruit!  The seed, the Word of God, is the same … yesterday, today and tomorrow.

“But, the seed in the good earth — these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there’s a harvest.”  The Message

I want to be good dirt.  I will seize the Word of God, and hold on — no matter what!

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Filed under Luke, New Testament, Worry

Matthew 6:31-33

So do not worry saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  NIV

So, I’m pretty sure that this passage in Matthew is part of what is called the Sermon on the Mount.  The book of Matthew goes on for pages with Christ providing practical advice on how to live a Godly life.  “Do Not Worry,” is a subheading, along with, in my bible, “The Beatitudes,” “Love for Enemies,” “Giving to the Needy,” “Fasting,” “Treasures in Heaven,” “Judging Others,” “The Narrow and Wide Gates,” “A Tree and Its Fruit,” and “The Wise and Foolish Builders.”

It is very interesting to me that “Do Not Worry” is the only command among these many subheadings.

As I think about the elements over which these verses say that I should not be worrying, they seem to me to correspond to the bottom rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  As I remember it, Maslow hypothesized that we as humans could not move up the hierarchy and/or exhibit unselfish behaviors until our basic needs — food, water, shelter, clothing — were met.

Yet, Christ calls us to abandon worrying over these basic needs and to rest in the assurance that our heavenly father knows that we need them.  Instead, we are to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God, and THEN we will be provided with the necessities of life.

It is upside down from Maslow’s thinking.  And, the verse says that — it says that “the pagans run after these things.” As a Christian, I am called to live differently.

Today, I will adhere to the guidance in this passage — “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.  Don’t worry about missing out.  You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” The Message

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Filed under Matthew, New Testament, Worry