Monthly Archives: August 2010

Fulfill your purpose

Matthew 10: 27-28

What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.  Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  NIV

I’m still thinking about the Ten Commandments, and whether they are reminders not to worry.  This morning, I went to Exodus 20 and read through the list … but the task seems a bit daunting and the thinking a bit deep for a holiday week, so I went back to Matthew where the reminders are more straightforward … yet no less important.

The Message translates verse 28, “Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies.  There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.  Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life — body and soul — in his hands.” MSG

One of the first principles I learned about marketing is this — if you don’t define your message, someone else will define it for you.

As Christians, we’ve been given everything we need to mount a very effective communication campaign.  We have a compelling topic, a real human interest story and a very powerful call to action.

But, how often do we remain silent in situations where we should be delivering our message?  How often do worries about what other people will think cause us to remain silent?

This verse succinctly states that we shouldn’t worry about what others think … our real worry should be over our ability to fulfill God’s purpose for us here on earth.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Fear, Matthew, New Testament, Worry

Follow the rules

Genesis 3:10

He said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked.  And I hid.” NIV

A friend sent me this verse several days ago with this question … is it significant that fear was first introduced as a result of man’s sin?

I think that the answer is “yes.”

Prior to the fall, there was nothing to worry about … Adam’s and Eve’s basic needs were met, one could argue that all of their needs were met … they were in communion with God.

It was after they disobeyed that they became worried and fearful about facing God.

After they disobeyed …

This got me thinking more about reminders not to worry that God has left for us.  I am wondering if each of the ten commandments might be a reminder, as well as the golden rule … if we kept them, all of them, how much less worried would we be?

That’s something I will think about today.

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Filed under Fear, Genesis, Old Testament, Worry

One day, everyone will know

Matthew 10:26

“So do not be afraid of them.  There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” NIV

As I read through the tenth chapter of Matthew to gain a feel for the context in which this reminder is given, I found several more reminders not to worry.  My NIV Bible titles this chapter, “Jesus sends out the the twelve,” and it is clear that Christ is telling them many things that they will need to know to effectively carry the gospel forward.

Jesus is preparing them for the persecution they will surely face.  The Message translates this verse, “Don’t be intimidated.  Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are.” MSG

As I think more about this verse, I realize that its concepts are quite deep.  Christ’s coming was foretold for centuries, yet, when he arrived, many did not recognize Him, and still today there are those who deny that He was the Messiah.

My sense is that the majority of the world is not anxiously anticipating His second coming.  Instead, people are going about their daily lives, with their own worries and their own frustrations.

I know from experience that sometimes you have to live through something, even if it is something that you have been anxiously anticipating, to really understand it.

I remember being in first grade.  That entire year, I couldn’t help watching the second graders.  They seemed so grown up, they had it all figured out … and I wanted to be one of them.

On the first morning of second grade, I was beyond excited.  I couldn’t wait to get to school, because now I was going to be a SECOND GRADER.

When I entered Mrs. T’s room, I was shocked.  There in the little desks were many of the kids that I had known the year before … FIRST GRADERS here in the second-grade classroom.  And then, I got it.

I remember being both devastated and embarrassed at the same time … how could I have been so stupid not to understand that everyone would move up and that the elusive second graders, would now be in third grade?

Such a simple concept, and yet, I didn’t get it until I personally experienced it.

It’s the same with Christ.  It’s a simple concept really.  We are all sinners and separated from the glory of God.  A sacrifice is required for our redemption.  God sent His son as that perfect sacrifice.  If we recognize that we are sinners and that we deserve to die for our sins, and if we confess our sins and accept the gift of His death in our place, we will receive eternal life and we will live with Him for all eternity.

This morning, a little boy who is dear to me will be baptized as a public symbol that he has come to this recognition and has accepted Christ as his savior.

I am so thankful that he has had this realization … he knows how things really are.  One day, everyone will know.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Are you the source of another’s worry?

Matthew 1:20

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”  NIV

Mary, the mother of Jesus has popped up pregnant before her wedding night.  Joseph, the man to whom she is betrothed, knows that he is not the father of the child, and so his assumption is that the woman who is to be his wife  has betrayed him.  How devastating!  Joseph must have suffered horribly from the time he got the news until the point when he was visited by the angel of the Lord.

Not only is he likely worried about what she’s done to their relationship, I think he must also be thinking, “What will other people think?  What will my family think?”

The scripture says that he “did not want to expose her to public disgrace,” instead, he planned to quietly get out of the marriage.

The Message translates this verse, “While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream.  God’s angel spoke in the dream: ‘Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married.  Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit conceived.  God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant.'” MSG

The angel directs that Mary’s son should be called Jesus, and Joseph follows the angel’s instructions — all of them.

I heard a sermon last Christmas that put the next few months in a whole new light for me.

Joseph marries Mary … he trusts her and he trusts the guidance he has received from the angel.

But, together they must face the disapproval of his family.  “What will other people think?” is a question that produces a good deal of worry, and in Joseph and Mary’s case, that worry was very real.

Last Christmas, the pastor pointed out the clues that are there in the story of Mary and  Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.

In Luke 2, we are told that Caesar decrees that everyone needs to go back to their home town to be taxed … it was the first census.  Mary boards a donkey and she and Joseph set off for Bethlehem.  When they arrive, there is no room for them at the inn, but a kindly innkeeper offers them shelter in his barn, where Jesus is born.

Many times in my life, I’ve been thankful for the innkeeper.  And, I’ve always loved the manger scene that is a special part of every Christmas pageant.

But this year, the pastor helped me see the story differently.

Everyone had to go to their own town to be taxed.

Every relative Joseph had must have been in Bethlehem.  If all of your relatives were in one place, wouldn’t you have a party?  Or, at least some sort of gathering?  And, if two more showed up, even if all your beds were full, wouldn’t you offer them the couch or the at least the screen porch?

But, Joseph and Mary had no parties to attend … no relatives to stay with.  Was this because of the wrath of his family?

One of our greatest sources of worry here on earth is how we are treated by others.  God sent his son to redeem our sins … God is the final judge, not man.  We are not called to judge each other, but to serve each other and to show God’s love to one another.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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It’s good news. Keep a firm grip on it.

Zechariah 8:13

As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, so will I save you and you will be a blessing.  Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong. NIV

This verse is interesting when you bump it up against Zephaniah 3:20 — “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.”

The Message translates Zechariah 8:13, ” You’ve gotten a reputation as a bad-news people, you people of Judah and Israel, but I’m coming to save you.  From now on, you’re the good news people.  Don’t be afraid, keep a firm grip on what I’m doing.” MSG

When I was a new Christian, so I was nine or ten, my dad got a new Bible.  It was called, “Good News for Modern Man,” and it was the cutest Bible I had ever seen.  It was very compact, with a smooth black cover, that had the title embossed in lovely orange-gold letters, and the edges of the pages were dyed to match that embossing.  It was only the New Testament, which was, of course, the genesis of its title, and, also what made it so petite.

I remember thinking that since I was a new Christian, I should read the whole Bible, and that starting in the New Testament would be a good idea, and that it would be especially fun to read that cute little Bible.

So, I asked my dad if I could borrow it, and I dug right in … to Matthew.  I didn’t get very far.  Matthew starts out with “so and so begat so and so …” on and on, establishing the entire lineage of Christ.  Such good news!  Christ came to fulfill all the prophesies of God!  But, as a kid,  I didn’t get that.  I remember trying a couple of times to stay focused enough to make it through that first chapter, and then giving up in frustration and returning the cute little Bible to my father.

But, the fact that I could not absorb it does not change the message … God sent His son.  That’s good news!

Keep a firm grip on what I’m doing …

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending a retreat where a very talented young minister led a series of sessions for the children of our church.  In one memorable session, he asked the oldest girl, Elizabeth, to join him at the front of the room.  He sat Elizabeth on a tall stool, and he gave her his Bible to hold in her left hand.

He then asked her to hold up her right hand, with all her fingers extended and her palm facing the audience.   He told the children that he would give them a mnemonic for studying God’s word.  First, he pointed to Elizabeth’s thumb, and he said that stood for hearing God’s word … as we do in sermons.  Then, he pointed to her index finger, and he said that stood for reading God’s word, as we do when we look up individual verses.

Next, he asked Elizabeth to hold up the Bible, using only her thumb and her index finger.  He began to make another point, but, in the midst of it, he surprised all of us by moving swiftly and knocking the Bible out of Elizabeth’s hand.  He noted how easy it was to do.  The point was not lost on Elizabeth, nor on anyone else in the room.

He went on to describe the rest of Elizabeth’s fingers.  In addition to hearing the word, and reading it, we must study it, meditate on it and pray over it.  Now, he gave her the Bible again and asked her to hold it using all of her fingers.  The visual here was precious.  Elizabeth is a tall, athletic, competitive 12-year old, and the teacher was, well, not.  Needless to say, he couldn’t have gotten that Bible away from that kid … not that day.

It’s good news.  Keep a firm grip on it.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Old Testament, Worry, Zechariah

He lives!

Haggai 2: 4&5

“But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,” declares the Lord.  “Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak the high priest.   Be strong, all you people of the land,” declares the Lord, “and work. For I am with you,” declares the Lord Almighty.  “This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt.  And my Spirit remains among you.  Do not fear.” NIV

This is a pretty effective recipe to banish worry:

Be strong.  Work.  Remember God’s promises.  Know that God is with you.  Don’t fear.

I love the way The Message translates these two verses:  “So get to work, Zerubbabel!” — God is speaking.  “Get to work, Joshua son of Jehozadak — high priest!”  “Get to work, all you people!” — God is speaking.  “Yes, get to work!  For I am with you.”  The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is speaking!  “Put into action the word I covenanted with you when you left Egypt.   I’m living and breathing among you right now.  Don’t be timid.  Don’t hold back.” MSG

There is work to be done here.  I serve the living God.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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God wins

Zephaniah 3:19

At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered.  I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame.  NIV

This passage in Zephaniah is rich with reminders not to worry.

God promises to deal with our oppressors …

Miriam defines “oppress” as “to crush or burden by use of power or authority.”  I have dealt with many people in my life who have felt oppressed.  I have certainly felt oppressed myself.  Here, God reminds us that He will deal with those who oppress others … in His own time, and in His perfect way.  We will never know what is going on in another person’s life such that they feel the need to make ours more challenging, but, God knows.

He will rescue the lame …

This one is a very special reminder to me.

Physical challenges are funny things.  Yesterday, or perhaps it was the day before, I heard a snippet of a radio story.  A man was speaking about climbing a particularly challenging mountain, and he was detailing the perils of one of the passes that had to be traversed to get to the top.  I thought to myself, “why on earth would anyone ever want to do such a thing?”  As I thought about it more this morning, it occurs to me that physical challenges may be a necessary part of our life here.  If you are not blessed with them at birth such that you are physically challenged by what others might accomplish with ease, perhaps a certain percentage of people must seek them by pushing the limits of their endurance.

I’m wondering if we all want that feeling of being rescued, of escaping a terrible peril.  Perhaps, while I am assured that my rescue will come in time, others must seek that experience here and now.

I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame …

There’s no reason to spend time worrying … in the end, all injustices will be set right.  My mother often says, when faced with a challenge, “That’s ok … I know what happens.  I’ve read the end of the book, and I know who wins.”

I do, too.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Fear, Old Testament, Worry, Zephaniah

You’ve carried it long enough

Zephaniah 3:18

The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you;  they are a burden and a reproach to you.  NIV

I don’t know much about the feasts that were celebrated by Israel.  I do know that there were many of them and that each had special significance.  I also know that they have significance in foretelling the second coming … that’s about it.

But, it was when I looked at this verse in The Message that I realized it holds yet another reminder not to worry.  “The accumulated sorrows of your exile will dissipate.  I, your God, will get rid of them for you.  You’ve carried those burdens long enough.” MSG

The accumulated sorrows of your exile … I love that.

Throughout my life, my relationship to God has ebbed and flowed.  God is the same, yesterday, today and always, but I have not always walked as close to Him as I should have.  In those times of self-imposed exile, I accumulated quite a basket of sorrows.  It is easy to do as this verse suggests, and to shoulder those burdens each morning.

But, God reminds me here that I don’t have to carry them.  In fact, I’ve carried them long enough.

So, today I will set down that basket of worries, once and for all.  I will unpack each one, and give it to God.

Today is a new day.

As I empty out my basket, I know that the temptation will be great to fill it with new worries, or even to put the old ones back in.  The trick will be to leave the basket sitting there and to walk away.  I don’t have to carry it … or any worries.  I am a redeemed child of God.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Fret, Old Testament, sorrow, Worry, Zephaniah

Why worry about the rest?

Luke 12: 25 & 26

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why worry about the rest? NIV

Well, here I am at the half-way point in my project.  This is reminder 183.  I have already found 182, and I have 182 left to find.

As I look back over the last six months, I am nothing less than amazed.

At the beginning of 2010, my mother, my sister and I each independently came to the conclusion that this was a year that we would each need to trust God.  As we began this year, and even in February, when I began this project, none of us could really see what that meant.  Now, as Fall approaches, we are all trusting God for what comes next.

And, I’m a different person than I was when I began this project.  Gradually, I’m learning the lesson that Jesus so eloquently expresses here.  Worry isn’t helpful, it doesn’t change anything, and it just upsets and distracts me from what I need to be doing.

So, today, I am trusting God.

As my sister’s children start school today in a new place, I am trusting God that they will love their teachers and that they will find new friends quickly.  As I work to complete two projects for the clients of my new little business, I am trusting God that the work will be of value and that more clients and more work will come.  As my mom calls the doctor to take the next steps in learning about what is making her sick, I am trusting God that the specialist will be wise and caring and will immediately understand her problem, and will be able to provide answers and solutions.

Today, I am trusting God. Why worry about the rest?

That’s what I’ll think about today.


Filed under Luke, New Testament, Trust, Worry

The trouble is, troubles bring trouble

Zephaniah 3:15

The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy.  The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. NIV

As I began my second day looking at reminders not to worry in the book of Zephaniah, I realized that I don’t know much about the history of this book.  The explanation in my NIV Bible says that the name, “Zephaniah,” means “The Lord hides (or protects).”  It goes on to say that Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah, and that he was a person “of considerable social standing in Judah … a fourth-generation descendant of King Hezekiah.”

The book, it says, could have been written about 630 B.C., about 70 years, more than two generations, after the book of Isaiah.

630 B.C. — I struggle to grasp how long ago that was.

I love this verse … it portends the coming of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Through Him, my punishment has been taken away, the power of my enemies has been thwarted, the Holy Spirit indwells me, and I have nothing to fear or to worry about.

And yet, sometimes I still do … worry, that is.

Our next-door neighbor has a six-toed, calico cat.  Her name is Trouble and, up until this Spring, Trouble was the most friendly, outgoing cat I had ever met.  She would come up to me, anyone actually, on the sidewalk in front of her house and, if you stopped to speak to her, she would wind herself in and out of your ankles and purr quite loudly.  Many times, people would come to visit at our house and would ask, “Do you want me to let your cat in?”  Because Trouble had greeted them at our door.

Earlier this year, Trouble disappeared.  I assumed that she had been hit by a car or taken home by a stranger who couldn’t resist her charms, but, when I spoke to her owner, I learned the real story.  Trouble was horribly injured by someone, the vet thinks, who kicked her.  The owner spent a pretty penny getting Trouble put back together, and then the cat had to stay inside in the basement in a collar for many weeks while she healed.  I didn’t see her again until a few weeks ago.

She jumped up on the brick wall that separates our houses.  I was sitting outside and exclaimed in delight when she made her appearance … Trouble and I have always been good friends.  But, when she saw me, she was immediately frightened, and jumped back down into her own yard.  As she left, I could see that she had lost most of her gorgeous tail since the Spring.

This morning, my husband and I were sitting outside having coffee when Trouble again jumped up on the wall.  I talked soothingly to her as I approached, and she let me pet her face as she stood on the wall, but, she did not jump down to greet me like the old days.  I sat back down to see what she would do next.

As she worked her way along the wall, she got to a low part where my azaleas are planted.  They are bordered with lariope, which has gotten quite tall, since it is the end of summer.  Trouble jumped into the azaleas, and then worked her way along crouched behind the lariope like a lion on a hunt … but she wasn’t hunting anything, she was hiding herself.

I remarked to my husband that it made me sad that Trouble was so different.  “Do you remember how outgoing she used to be?” I asked, “And now,” I said, “she is so cautious!”

“Sometimes life does that to you,” he wisely said.

He’s right.

We all start out as children, like Trouble, open to and welcoming of new people and new experiences.  But, along the way, as we get beaten up by life — some as much as Trouble, some less — we gradually pull away and hide behind our own little hedges of lariope.

If Christ is not a part of the picture prior to that hurt, the ability for Him to be a part of it afterward becomes, I think, more difficult, because people are less trusting.

Today, I will think about how I can bridge that hedge for people that I know are hurting … those who have been beaten up by life and who don’t have Christ or the assurance that this verse offers.

That’s a lot to think about today.


Filed under Old Testament, Trouble, Worry, Zephaniah