Monthly Archives: August 2010

He is mighty to save

Zephaniah 3:20

On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.  The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.  NIV

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I learned the books of the Bible.  I remember the classroom where my Sunday School met, and I remember the sword drills.  While I can’t remember exactly how old I was, I know that I was less then nine.  When I was nine we changed churches … and I didn’t have that classroom anymore.

I remember practicing the order of the books for hours.  I can remember practicing outside and walking through our house, and watching myself in the mirror as I proudly held my Bible and came up with verses for myself to look up as quickly as possible.

When I got to the section of the list that holds Zephaniah, I remember being so thankful, because it rhymed, and, because it was the end.  “Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi … Done!”  Our teacher had started us learning the New Testament books, so, once we finished the Old Testament, the task was complete.

But in all the years since those memorable sword drills, no one has ever asked me to look up a verse in Zephaniah.

So, this morning, when I found a verse in Zephaniah there in the “fear” listing of my King James concordance, I was pretty pleased.  Finally, it would be useful to know where Zephaniah is.

This is a beautiful, beautiful verse.  I love the phrase, “He is mighty to save,” which is part of the chorus of one of my favorite praise songs.

But, more than that, I love the imagery here.

When I am truly worried or distraught about an issue, I do feel limp.  I remember the last cross-country trip I made to see my friend before she died.  When I  left, I knew that I would not see her again on this side of heaven.  I got on the plane with many things to do … I had been gone from work and had a bag of activities that needed attention.  Instead, I sat on the plane from her town to the big city where I laid over and just watched the engine and the wing flaps.  My hands were limp.

I wish that at that moment, I had read the book of Zephaniah.  Now, more than a year later, I find these verses so comforting, and so true!  God does delight in me, in all of us.  He has quieted me with His love.  And now, I am able to join Him in rejoicing in the gift that is my life.

He IS mighty to save.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Old Testament, Zephaniah

Be glad and rejoice!

Joel 2:21

Be not afraid, O land; be glad and rejoice.  Surely the Lord has done great things. NIV

He surely has!

I love this verse.  Instead of worrying and fretting, we are called to be glad.  God has it all in hand.  He has done great things, and He will continue to do them.

No worries.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Joel, Old Testament

A short reminder

Luke 23:43

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” NIV

I have a busy day ahead of me.  As I was driving home late last night, I planned this morning.  I briefly considered whether I would have time for my quiet time this morning.  When the alarm went off, as I was thanking God for the opportunities that today holds, I thought … “I need a short verse this morning God.”

With no time to go through two concordances, I went straight to Bible Gateway.com.  As I perused the listings of the word, “worry,” in The Message, the length of this verse caught my eye.

And then when I read it … I was overwhelmed.

This is, indeed, a short verse and an obvious reminder not to worry.  The Message translates it, “He said, ‘Don’t worry.  I will.  Today you will join me in paradise.'”MSG

These are among the last words my savior spoke before dying on the cross.  “Don’t worry.” How powerful!

As he reassured the thief dying next to him of his future, so he reassures me.  There is nothing to fear.  Should this be my last day here, or whatever my last day will be, on that day, I will be with HIM in paradise.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Fear, Luke, New Testament, Worry

In God’s justice system, the people are represented by one, perfect advocate

Psalm 40: 12&13

For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.  They are more than the hairs of my heard, and my heart fails within me.  Be pleased, O Lord, to save me; O Lord come quickly to help me. NIV

I found these verses by plugging “heavy heart” into Bible Gateway.com and choosing The Message version of the Bible.

Here the writer, presumably David, is overcome with the worry that is associated with guilt.  The Message translates verse 12, “When troubles ganged up on me, a mob of sins past counting, I was so swamped by guilt I couldn’t see my way clear.  More guilt in my heart than hair on my head, so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.” MSG

Guilt certainly causes a good deal of worry … and a lot of drama.  Just think about the prime-time TV line up … from The Closer, to CSI in all its forms, to what is it — 20 years? — of Law and Order … guilt is a popular plot line.

I’m wondering if one of the reasons for the rising popularity of these shows is that they allow folks to escape their own guilt for an hour, while they watch other people — who have, no doubt, done much worse things than the watcher  — get what they deserve.

But, David had it right.  The answer doesn’t come in soothing yourself by telling yourself that what you’ve done isn’t really all that bad … the answer comes in taking it — all of it — to God.

The miracle of Christianity is not only the gift of eternal life, but also, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 NIV

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Heavy Heart, Old Testament, Psalms, Worry

You’re not in this alone!

Numbers 11:14

I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. NIV

This morning, as I went upstairs to find my Project Bible, it occurred to me that having a “heavy heart” is a synonym for worry.  So, I grabbed my NIV concordance and looked up the word, “heavy.”  This verse was very near the top of that list.

I’m back in the story of Moses.  He already has lead the people out of Egypt.  At this point, while Moses does not say his heart is heavy, a heavy burden is clearly worrying and upsetting him.  In the prior verses (10b-13), he complains to God. “Moses was troubled.  He asked the Lord, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on your servant?  What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?  Did I conceive all these people?  Did I give them birth?  Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers?  Where can I get meat for all these people?  They keep wailing to me, “Give us meat to eat!” ‘ “NIV

He is so stressed out that he nearly gives up.  In verse 15, he says to God, “If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now.” NIV

How many times have we felt this way?  We take on a task.  The task seems doable, and the goal seems worthy.  But, as we get into it, as we peel back the layers of what is to be done, the task is more complex than originally anticipated … the goal sometimes becoming frustratingly unattainable.

God’s answer is brilliant.  Of course, He’s God.  He tells Moses to share the burden.  He directs that 70 people be brought to the tent of meeting.

SEVENTY!

Moses has been carrying this burden alone.  When he tells God that it is too much, God spreads the burden broadly.  He chose 70 people to do the work that one man had been carrying alone.  If I have my math right, that’s a 7,000 percent increase.

There’s a lot that we can learn here.  Goals, no matter how worthy, are hard to achieve … sometimes unachievable.  People and their various points of view can complicate matters exponentially.  Big burdens are not to be borne by a small percentage of God’s family, but rather by a number proportionate to the task.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Numbers, Old Testament, Trouble, Worry

It’s none of your business

Job 36:17

But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; judgement and justice have taken hold of you.  NIV

So, here’s another reminder not to worry.  I found it in the New Living translation, which says, “But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged.  Don’t worry, judgment and justice will be upheld.” NLT

As I think about it, this verse ties to yesterday’s:  A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. Psalm 34:19 NIV

There have certainly been times in my life when I’ve worried about the seeming unfairness of things.  At those times, when people that I knew were good and loving were undergoing hard knocks, and others (who were not so nice) were experiencing tremendous gain, I’ve been guilty of “being laden with the judgement due the wicked.”

The truth is, it’s none of my business.  My business is my life, my relationship to God and my ability to help others.

I continue to take comfort in Psalm 34:19.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Job, Old Testament, Worry

We can only see the back

Psalm 34:19

A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. NIV

So true.

As I’ve traversed the ups and downs of my life, some of the sweetest times have also been those that, at the time, seemed the darkest.  It was at those times, that I drew closest to my heavenly father.

My mother’s mother died when I was very young.  She enjoyed working with her hands, sewing, quilting and embroidering.  Growing up, we had tons of quilts in the house.  In fact, I was a teenager before I knew that you could buy one in a store.  I thought everyone’s grandmother would have filled their homes with colorful quilts.  I can remember being sick and being wrapped up in them … such a comfort.

When she died, my mom and my uncles asked me if there was anything of hers that I would like to have.  I asked for her sewing machine.  I think that this might have surprised my parents, but, they put it in the car and we hauled it home.  I can remember how excited I was as my dad plugged it in at our house.  As I looked at it in wonder, it was a gorgeous shade of pink, my dad, the engineer was trying to figure out how it worked.  My mom had never used one.

There was an instruction book, but the machine had been made in an Asian country, and my father could not read it.  He went next door and asked the neighbor for her help.  She came and threaded it up and showed me how to work the peddle, and a lifetime of pleasure opened up for me.

My fifth grade teacher taught me to embroider. I loved it.  Then there was my cross-stitching phase, when everyone I knew got something cross-stiched for Christmas.  I learned to knit, and made Christmas stockings for my entire extended family with their names worked into the top of each stocking.

Throughout my life, as I would share my works in progress with my mother, she would always be very supportive and encouraging, but she would predictably always say one thing, “Let me see the back.”

As I would show her my work, she would always turn it over in her hands and reminisce on how proud my grandmother always was of the back of her work.  I have learned it to be true, that if you will be mindful of keeping the back of your work as neat as possible, the end product will look much crisper.

Let me see the back.

We all have our own image of God and the role he plays in our lives.  One of my perspectives is of God as a master craftsman.  His will is a massive project, and my life is just one tiny little piece of it.  As he works his perfect plan, he brings together dark and light to achieve the effect.  As I look back over my life, I can see some of the pattern, and I am always thankful when the pieces fall into place and I can understand some of what I’ve gone through and how it has been helpful in later phases of my life.

But, I don’t have the whole picture … I’m too close to it.  While I love to be snuggled in a quilt, you can’t appreciate it’s full beauty unless you stand back from it … and the further you get away from it, the more beautiful it becomes.

As I live my life here on earth, I can only see a small portion of the back side of God’s project.  The problems in my life, I see as the dark shades that are necessary to provide contrast.  The biggest thorniest problems are the knots and tangles that are necessary on the backside of any piece of handiwork.

But, when I enter heaven, I will finally understand the beauty of the front side of God’s work.

For now, I’ll keep looking at the back and I will take comfort in this verse.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Old Testament, Psalms, Trouble, Worry

It’s not worth it

I Kings 21:7

Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel?  Get up and eat!  Cheer up.  I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” NIV

One of the things that makes this project challenging, and interesting at the same time, is that the word “worry” does not appear, even once, in the King James version of the Bible.  All the same stories are there, of course, as translated from the original Greek and Hebrew, but, it appears to me that at the turn of the 16th century in England, the word “worry” was not in as wide a use as it is today.

I checked that out on the Web, and found one source, “The Word Detective,” that claims that the use of the word worry in the context of “to make or to be consistently anxious,” came into being in the early 1800s.  The site also says, and this is fascinating to me, that the original meaning of the word in Old English was “to strangle.”  I need to ponder that one.

In the meantime, this morning, I decided to look at the New Living Translation, expecting, correctly, that it would have translated some words to the word “worry” that other versions have not.  That’s where I found this verse.  The NLT translates this verse, “Are you the king of Israel or not?” Jezebel demanded. “Get up and eat something, and don’t worry about it. I’ll get you Naboth’s vineyard!” NLT

As I read the whole story of King Ahab, it seemed to me that he wasn’t worried, as much as he was just plain spoiled.

Ahab sets his heart on a vineyard that is close to his castle.  He thinks it will make a lovely vegetable garden.  He goes to the vineyard’s owner, Naboth, and asks him to give the land to the king.  In return, Ahab promises Naboth a better vineyard, or, he tells him, he will gladly pay for the land.

Naboth declines the king’s offer.  “Not on your life!” he says in verse 3, “So help me God, I’d never sell the family farm to you!” MSG

King Ahab goes back to the castle, which is right next door to the vineyard.  Verse 4 says, “he went to bed, stuffed his face in his pillow, and refused to eat.” MSG

He hasn’t gotten what he wanted, and he’s been insulted in the process.  He is the king of Israel, and, one of his subjects, instead of gladly granting his wish, has had the nerve to stand up to him.

What happens next is fascinating.

Jezebel comes in, delivers her speech, and then arranges for Naboth to be publicly maligned and stoned to death.  After he is dead, she goes to the king and tells him that the vineyard is now conveniently available.  Verse 16 says, “The minute Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he set out for the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, and claimed it for his own.”  MSG.

No remorse, no “What have you done?!?”  He just goes out to the vineyard, and, presumably begins planning where he’ll put the tomatoes.

The rest of the story is long and complicated, and doesn’t end well for Ahab’s family.  Very sad.

Ahab wants something.  There is a barrier.  He is completely distressed by the barrier.  It seems to him that life is not worth living if the barrier cannot be bridged.  Perhaps, he even feels “strangled” by his unfulfilled want.  Ultimately, he and his wife take matters into their own hands and break down the barrier in order to achieve the goal, paying no mind to the hurt they inflict in the process.  The goal is achieved, and, as you read on, life still is not really worth living for Ahab.

This is a pretty effective lesson.  Whatever it is that we’re worried about, or that we think we want, isn’t worth it.  Our ultimate goal here needs to be to serve God, to commune with Him and to do His work.  We shouldn’t waste our time pining after what someone else has, or something that we think we want.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Anxious, I Kings, Old Testament, Worry

Banish it

Ecclesiastes 11:10

So then, banish anxiety from your heart, and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless. NIV

This verse comes at the end of a beautiful passage in Ecclesiastes.  As I began to think about this verse, I began wondering about the writer.  I thought that I remembered that Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes.

My NIV bible confirms that this is a possibility, although, apparently, there is some disagreement about who the author actually is.  If Solomon wrote it, the book is older than some people think it is.

Either way, I found the introductory passage  in my NIV Bible so interesting.  It says, “Theme and Message:  Life not centered on God is purposeless and meaningless.  Without him, nothing else can satisfy (2:25).  With him, all of life and his other good gifts are to be gratefully received and used and enjoyed to the full (2:26; 11:8)  The book contains the philosophical and theological reflections of an old man, most of whose life was meaningless because he had not himself relied on God.”

He had not relied on God.  So sad.

As I put this verse in that context, I wonder, what is the writer suggesting we do to banish that anxiety from our heart?  To stop worrying?

I’ve learned through this project that the only true antidote to worry is to fully trust in God. To rely on Him him wholly.  To know beyond knowing that He has a plan for my life, and while I cannot see it, I must continue walking through it with faith and hope moment by moment.

The Message translates this verse, “Live footloose and fancy free — you won’t be young forever.  Youth lasts about as long as smoke.” MSG

So interesting.  The implication here is that we really have no worries as long as we are young … the real worries, he seems to be saying, come when your body begins to fail you.

How much, I wonder, is his perspective colored by a lack of reliance on God?  To me, it would seem just the opposite … as you enter old age, with the pleasant memories of a life well lived behind you, with a history of serving others as Jesus’s hands and feet here on earth, you draw closer to the ultimate reward — eternity with God.

I’ll have to think more about that today.

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Filed under Anxious, Ecclesiastes, Old Testament, Worry

It’s catching!

Deuteronomy 20:8

Then the officers shall add, “Is any man afraid or fainthearted?  Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too.” NIV

This is a great reminder not to worry … don’t do it because it is infectious!

As I read this verse this morning, the phrase, “misery loves company” came to mind.  When I Googled that phrase, I found that it means pretty much what I thought it did … people who are unhappy want to be around other unhappy people.

But, and this was news to me, apparently, if unhappy people encounter happy people, they will do things to bring them down.

While I had honestly never thought of it that way,  I can see that this is true for worriers.  If I’m worried about something, and someone that I know or love is not, I often have the erroneous perspective that they would share my worry if they just had all the “facts” that I have.  But my “facts” are often (read always) colored by my own perspective … which isn’t always a balanced one.

One of my dearest friends said something so powerful to me this week.  She said, “now, clean your lenses,” and go back and look at this again.  She was right.  I was looking at the issue through a perspective crowded with stress and worry.  Having worn eyeglasses for as long as I can remember, her precious advice provided a mental picture that will stick with me.

In this chapter of Deuteronomy, the people are being given instructions on what to do before going into battle.  If one of the warriors is worried or afraid, he should be sent home so that others won’t become disheartened, too.

This makes a lot of sense to me.

My attitude, good or bad, has an impact on those around me.  I need to think about how to apply this guidance to my own life and to situations that I’m facing.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under Deuteronomy, Fear, Old Testament, Worry