Monthly Archives: July 2010

They’re just rumors

Jeremiah 51:46

Do not lose heart or be afraid when rumors are heard in the land; one rumor comes this year, another the next, rumors of violence in the land and of ruler against ruler.  NIV

Several people I know have just stopped watching the news on TV.  It seems to them, and I can certainly see their point, that the media have tremendous power, and that much of what is contained in these shows is designed to preserve that power through gaining ratings.

It is not clear to me that simple, just the facts ma’am, reporting exists anymore.  Perhaps it is not exciting enough for us.

In any case, the current situation absolutely contributes to us experiencing what is described in these verses in Jeremiah.  The news and the rumors are upsetting, and they can cause us to lose heart.

This chapter is speaking about the fall of Babylon.  I am certain that this is prophecy, but, I don’t know enough about it to know if Babylon already has fallen, or, if this is telling of things that still are to come.

Either way, I find these verses helpful.  Perhaps, instead of flipping on the news this morning while I have my breakfast, I’ll just eat in peaceful quiet and listen to the birds singing in my garden.

That will be a good way to start today.

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You’ll sleep better

Proverbs 3:21-24

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight, they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.  Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble, when you lie down, you will not be afraid, when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.  NIV

This morning, I woke up with Proverbs 3:5-6 rolling around in my head.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” NIV

That verse has long been one of my favorites, and it is one that I looked at in the first two weeks of this project.   This morning, I went back to Proverbs 3, and read it through start to finish.  I had already found two reminders in that chapter, and this morning, here is a third.

“Dear Friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life; don’t for a minute lose sight of them.” MSG  That’s really quite true.  When we’re thinking clearly and employing common sense, we are much less likely to worry.  And, apparently, we sleep better, “You’ll take afternoon naps without a worry, you’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep.” MSG  That verse makes me smile … it seems just like an advertisement from an informercial.

Even though I’m amused by the wording of that verse, I can see that this is also absolutely true.  The lack of worry does make for a much better night’s sleep.

If I am trusting God with all my heart, if I am acknowledging him in everything that I do, if I am thinking clearly and employing common sense, I can’t be worrying.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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No-one can make you

Deuteronomy 1: 28-29

“Where can we go?  Our brothers have made us lose heart.  They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky.  We even saw the Anakites there.'”  Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them.  The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes,” NIV

So, this morning I went to the word “lose” in my NIV concordance and began searching for the phrase “lose heart” in the NIV.  Here I am back in Deuteronomy with Moses and the people.  Again, the story is being told of their fateful decision not to enter the promised land.

The most interesting phrase to me in these two verses is, “our brothers made us lose heart.”  The Message says, “our brothers took all the wind out of our sails.”

Now, I’ve certainly felt like that.  I’ve had more than a few parades rained on by folks who did not share my enthusiasm, but, can someone else actually MAKE us lose heart or worry?  I don’t think so.  I think that worry is a decision that we make when we are faced with evidence, any evidence, or maybe, as I think of it, perhaps no evidence at all … Worry is what happens when, among other things, we convince ourselves that the goal is beyond our grasp.  Other people can contribute to our predisposition to worry.  I worked for a woman once who delighted in saying and doing things that would cause me to react with worry … it was a game to her, and I was not mature enough to see it.

Look at what happened when the Israelites allowed someone else’s thoughts, perceptions and opinions to affect their courage and their actions.  They had to spend 40 years wandering in the desert, and, only those who had remained faithful (just one, I think or maybe two) were permitted to enter the promised land.

I don’t want to be someone who allows someone else to “make” me worry.  I want to think and act out of the assurance that the one true God, who goes before me, and beside me, and under me and over me and behind me will fight for me.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Approach your worries as challenges to be conquered

1 Samuel 17:32

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine, your servant will go and fight him.” NIV

This morning, I went back to Bible Gateway.com.  This time,  I searched the New Living Translation for the word, “worry,” and verses appeared that did not show up on the first page of the same search in The Message.  This is all very interesting to me.  This morning’s exercise led me to the phrase, “lose heart,” in the NIV, and I can see that this combination of words appears several times in the NIV translation.  I will add “lose heart,” to my list of word searches.

I love this verse.

I love this whole story.  David is a young boy, and feels invincible.  He boasts of the ability to complete what everyone else believes is an impossible task, and, his faith in God and in his own abilities is so strong, that it never occurs to him that he will fail.  When he is victorious later in the story, I always find myself thinking, “Good for David!”

A little boy who is very dear to me has this kind of confidence.  The last time I spent time with him, he was still young enough not to have been buffeted by the world, which he still saw as his to conquer.  His father is a hunter, and the little boy has hunted for as long as he can remember.  Like David, he has great confidence in his skills and in himself, and he believes that Jesus loves him dearly (which He does) and that he can accomplish anything.

Were we all like that at one point?  When does that change?  And, how much of a tie is there between the invincibility of our youth and the verses that call us to be like children?

Both Mark and Luke record Christ saying about children, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

For children of a certain age, and who are blessed to live in stable situations, each day can be a new adventure.  They don’t seem to see the worry, instead they see the rush of conquering a challenge.

I’ll think more about that today.

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The Holy Spirit will remind you

John 14:26-27

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  NIV

Christ provides a beautiful reminder here.  The hearts of the disciples were no doubt troubled because they didn’t understand all that Jesus was telling them.  He was speaking of leaving them and God’s entire plan had not yet been made clear to them.

I love how Jesus describes the Holy Spirit here, “The Friend, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything clear to you.  He will remind you of all the things I have told you.” MSG

I don’t believe that I have ever focused on that.  I’m not certain that I consciously recognized that one of the key roles of the Holy Spirit is to remind us of the teachings of Christ.

That’s pretty powerful … and certainly a reminder not to worry.

I’ll have to think about that today.

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Filed under Faith, Fear, John, New Testament, Worry

Walk forward in faith

Ruth 2:8

So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter listen to me.  Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here.  Stay here with my servant girls.  Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls.  I have told the men not to touch you.  And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jar the men have filled.” NIV

This morning, I decided to test my theory that there were many more reminders to find in the books of the Bible that I have already visited than those that I found on my first pass through using the “fear not” list.  I went back to Bible Gateway.com and typed in “worry,” and chose The Message translation.  Since The Message is a fairly recent translation, my theory is that it will call worry what we call it, and not “taking thought,” or something else as earlier versions of the Bible have done.

Based on a cursory look, I think that this will be a very effective way to find some of the remaining reminders.  For instance, had I merely read the chapter of Ruth in the NIV, I might have recognized this as a reminder not to worry, but, The Message makes it very clear.  Verse nine says, “Watch where they are harvesting and follow them.  And don’t worry about a thing; I’ve given orders to my servants not to harass you.” MSG

As I picture myself as Ruth, hearing these words, I can see what a relief they would be.  Ruth has been in a harrowing time of transition.  Her husband has died, and she has left the place that she was living and the people from whom she is descended to follow and care for her mother-in-law.  She and Naomi are without a man to head their household, which was an extremely difficult position.

As I look at these verses, it strikes me that, with just a few sentences, Boaz is providing for Ruth’s most basic needs: food, water and safety.

I am certain that these words brought a wave of relief over her and, no doubt, banished whatever worries she might have been experiencing about gaining the necessities of life.

Naomi was faithful.  Ruth followed her example.  If we will step out on faith, God will honor that.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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No worries, our shepherd is in charge

Jeremiah 23: 3 & 4

“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.  I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,”  declares the LORD. NIV

I have finally finished all of the “fear nots” in Isaiah and I’m moving on to Jeremiah.  I am confident that there are more reminders not to worry in Isaiah, but I’ll need to find them using different word searches.  The “fear not” list is not exhaustive, nor is it 365 verses in length.  Still, as I said at the beginning, even if there are not 365 reminders not to worry in the Bible, I will benefit immensely from this exercise.

I love these verses.  They remind me of the 23rd Psalm, which is one of my favorites and one that I spent a few weeks studying early last year.  During that study, I learned a great deal about sheep and about shepherds, and the beauty of the imagery of Christ being our shepherd and us his sheep.

But, my favorite sheep lesson was one my sister taught me.  We were in her truck in a part of the world where animals are not revered as they are in the U.S.  There was a little flock of four-legged animals at the side of the road … no fence, no pen, just a bunch of little animals standing there on their own.

I said, “They are so cute!  What are they?”  She responded that some of them were sheep and some of them were goats.  I asked her how to tell the difference and she said, “Well, there are some physical differences I think in their ears and and their legs, but, (my brother-in-law) says that the best way to tell is that the goats have sense enough to get out of the way of the truck!”

I love that!

On their own, sheep get into all kinds of trouble, they are near sighted and top-heavy and vulnerable to pests.  They are completely dependent on their shepherd to ensure their safety and their well being.  When God describes me as a sheep and Christ as my shepherd He is indicating that this is the kind of relationship that He intends us to have.

I don’t have to worry.  My shepherd is in charge.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Our foundation will endure

Isaiah 54: 14

In righteousness you will be established:  Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear.  Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. NIV

In my Bible, this chapter is called, “The Future Glory of Zion.”  It is a series of promises from God to his people, and it contains at least two reminders not to worry.  The first, Isaiah 54:4, is one that I found early in the project.  This is the second.

In the verses immediately preceding this one, God talks about building.  Verse 11 says, “I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires.” I love that.

When I think about these verses through the lens of the verse I looked at  yesterday … I can see that there is something here to learn.

I am pretty certain that the rock on which my friends’ house is built is granite.  In the last several years, granite seems to have increased dramatically in value, as everyone and his brother was out redoing their kitchens and bathrooms.  I’ve personally walked through warehouses of the stuff and been shown a dizzying array of colors and patterns.  But, prior to the last several years, I have to believe that most people looked at granite like I did, as just, well, rock.  Sapphires on the other hand are stones that have been valued in our culture for a very long time.

God will build our foundation of something that all can see has real value … Jesus Christ.

When I looked up “righteousness” in my Hebrew to English dictionary, I was pleased to learn that one of its definitions is “salvation.”   I looked up “be established,” and it means, “to put in place, make secure.”

In righteousness I will be established … I am put in place and made secure through my salvation.

I love that image.

My grandmother’s house is gone.  I don’t know exactly what happened to it, because she died when I was young.  I remember visiting her there, but, we lived several states away so, the exact circumstances of the house’s demise are a mystery to me.

However, the foundation is still there.  Years ago, my husband and I visited the town.  I found the foundation, and walked all around it … like a kid would walk on a wall.  Not all of the square that was the house is visible above ground.  Some of it has been covered by dirt and undergrowth, but, as I walked, I could see that all of it was still in place.  I can remember where all of the rooms were located, and, as I walked, I saw the house as it had been when I was young.

The house did not stand.  But the thing about foundations is that they are solid, and often the things that impact stuff above ground does not affect them (tornadoes, hurricanes, bulldozers).

The worries of this world are like those forces … but, my life is planted on a foundation that is completely solid.

I am firmly set in place atop a gorgeous, precious, immovable rock.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Faith, Isaiah, Old Testament, Trust, Worry

Our Rock cannot be rolled

Isaiah 44:8

“Do not tremble, do not be afraid.  Did I not foretell it long ago?  You are my witnesses.  Is there any God besides me?  No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” NIV

For the last few days, I’ve been skipping around the Bible a bit.  I left the “fear not” list and went back to Psalm 119, and then hopped over into the New Testament.  Now, I’m back to the list of “fear nots” in my King James concordance, and back in Isaiah.  This verse comes later in the chapter that I began several days ago.

God is speaking here.  The Message translates this verse, “Don’t be afraid and don’t worry:  Haven’t I always kept you informed, told you what was going on?  You are my eyewitnesses:  Have you ever come across a God, a real God, other than me?  There’s no Rock like me that I know of.” MSG

The capitalization of the word “Rock” drew my eye.  When I looked it up in the Hebrew to English dictionary, it is defined, “a title of God, with a focus of stability, and possibly as a place of security and safety.”

In Matthew 16:18, Christ tells Peter, “and on this rock, I will build my church.”  No capitalization here, and it is a different word.  Here, “rock” means “a bedrock, rocky crack, or other large rock formation, in contrast to individual stones; with a focus that is a suitable, solid foundation.”

I have some friends who built a house on a rock.  For years, he had sketched and dreamed of building an octagonal house with multiple levels.  He and his wife searched and searched for the perfect spot, and, when they told me the story of buying their property, he said that he knew when he saw the rock, that this was the plot of land for them.

There are pictures of the house under construction.  They built most of it themselves, and, to begin, he drove a large stake in the ground.  He then measured everything from that stake as a reference point.

The house is a thing of wonder.  I can’t count how many levels there are … each room is pie shaped, some are comprised of multiple pie pieces, and some have pie pieces on more than one level.  Once, she sent me to fetch something in a storage room.  When I opened the door, there was the unfinished rock under the house, the way some people have a dirt crawl space.  I was amazed.

It strikes me that that their house is the perfect metaphor for my life with Christ, and this verse points that out for me.

God is the rock on which my life is built … He is my place of safety and security.  When I made the decision to accept Christ as my savior, a stake was driven in that rock, and everything in my life radiates from that point.  Christ must be evident in my life, in the same way that the rock still shows as the foundation of my friends’ house.

The rock their house is built on has been there for a very long time … I suspect that it had been scraped smooth by a glacier at some point.

My Rock has always been, and always, always will be.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Plant faith and do things to make it grow!

Mark 4:40

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?” NIV

This is the story of a furious storm that comes up when Jesus and the disciples are all in a boat.  According to verse 38, Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.  The boat, meanwhile, was taking on water.  Verse 37 says that it was almost swamped.

I love what the disciples say when they wake him up in verse 38, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

I totally understand why they are so snippy.

Presumably, the disciples have been working to solve the problem on their own.  They’ve likely tried to steer the boat appropriately, they’ve done all the textbook things to the mast, and, now, have probably begun to bail water, and to see the situation as hopeless.  It is at that point that they finally get to the place where they think they might ask Jesus for help.  When they do, their attitude appears to be that they feel slighted … as if Jesus should have been helping them all along instead of sleeping.

The disciples have it backwards.

They shift to faith only after their efforts have failed.

For us to live a truly victorious, worry-free life, our efforts must stem from our faith.  I don’t think that the placement of this story in the book of Mark is coincidental.  It immediately follows Jesus’s description of the Kingdom of God.  Verses 31 and 32 say, “It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” NIV

Others of the gospels record Jesus comparing a little faith to a mustard seed.

If the seed of faith is planted in my life, through the Holy Spirit, and if I will fertilize it with study and with prayer and with practice, it will grow so large that it will overshadow everything else about my life.

That’s the kind of believer that I want to be.  I don’t want to be a worrier, or to find myself the recipient of Jesus’s words in verse 40, “Why are you such a coward?  Don’t you have any faith at all?” MSG

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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