Psalms 119:12 | Everything is Awesome…

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The Bible. To the unfamiliar it is a dusty old book, it is written in a language of thee and thou that is hard to understand. To those that were raised in church and had a bad experience with unrepentant people who should not have been in leadership positions the Bible might be familiar, but not understood. Maybe it is only an acquaintance, but not something absorbed. Worse still maybe it is viewed just as a collection of fairy tells and parables, but of no real value in the world of technology and science. Maybe for some of you, Lord be merciful, it is a book that you hate and want nothing to do with. Perception is a type of reality for those of you that identify with the above descriptions. If that is your reality then I have a request. In fact I would plead with you to give the Bible a chance. I beg of you see what God’s Word says for itself, not what others have said about it. Eternity is at stake if what the Bible wants to communicate is true. In short the Bible is an awesome, mind blowing, love letter from the Creator of the universe to the crown of His creation you and me.

The Bible is not a single book. The mainline protestant Bible is a collection of 66 books that were written over a period of 2,000 years. Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek are the languages that make up the 66 books. Even more interestingly there are 40 authors who wrote from three different continents. Considering the diversity in people, geography, and the time spans it is even more amazing that the Bible is a consistent narrative from the Creation in Genesis, to the end of times in Revelations to make it seem as if it is a single book. There is nothing like the Bible anywhere else on Earth. It is a unique work that has been translated into over 2,000 languages and has been printed more than any other book in history. This book claims to be the Words of God the Creator and it is a knowledge base that deserves first hand attention from each individual.

None of the above facts are a surprise to me knowing that the same God capable of creating the universe is also capable of creating a masterpiece of communication to his children so that we can know who he is, what we have done to His Creation, and what He has done to restore us to Himself.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Psalms 119:9-16 ESV

This Psalmist sings about the excitement he has for the Words of God and the desire he has to memorize, meditate, and live life according to what he finds there. Is it possible to love the words of a book so much? Is the Creator God so spectacular that life can be found within the pages of what this God has plainly communicated? I can only ask, and plead that you see for yourself.

God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds. You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries. Psalm 19:10 MSG

In Psalm 19 the author communicates how valuable and how desirable the Bible is to those that spend time exploring its depths. It is better than a diamond set between emeralds, meaning that the Word of God is more valuable than stacks of cash and even more beautiful than the most stunning jewelry. The author goes even further when he tells us that God’s Word is sweeter and more nourishing than even the most perfect fruit we could lay eyes on. When one goes to look at the original Hebrew for the translation “God’s Word is better” we find a Hebrew word that is used to communicate “Desire” in the most raw and personal way. What is it that you desire most in life? Money, Sex, Relationships, Treasure, Power, or Fame? Whatever you desire the Psalmist is saying that God’s Word is better, God’s Word is more fulfilling, and that God’s Word is more than all you could ever want. This song writer is saying that he would give up wealth, fame, luxury for the words of God. Will you take time to see what this book has to say? Could it really be that awesome? Would you set your preconceptions aside to read it for yourself?

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 ESV

If there was something that God did not know, or if there was something that God needed to learn then He would no longer be God. As Creator of everything including the laws of nature God is Awesome. Everything he tells us is Awesome. He has perfect wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. His knowledge of human nature is perfect, and His knowledge of you, my friend, is perfect. Seek him out for wisdom. Read his word, the Bible, for understanding. Trust me you will be amazed at the content and depth of His Words.

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! Hebrews 12:25 NLT

In the narrative of the Bible, God’s Words, He tells us that men and women from the beginning have been in rebellion refusing to listen, or be involved with God. We have broken His laws and have lied, stolen from, and killed our brothers and sisters. Our very nature wants to run and hide from the Bible, because it is God’s Word. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, has told us that he came to earth to seek and save the lost. I am the lost and in need of saving. Jesus is my salvation and it is his words that have been communicated in this collection of 66 books, written over a period of 2,000 years. The Author of Hebrews warns us to not reject these words from Heaven, from Jesus, who is God the Creator. The Bible is Awesome, because its author is awesome. Please take some time to see what God himself wants to say to you.

1 Corinthians 16:2 | Tithes, Gifts, and Offerings Oh! My!

The United States as a country that consistently ranks at the top of the list of most generous countries and rightfully so since America is also one of the most wealthy countries in the world. Americans give freely for all kinds of causes and plights the world over.

The city of Corinth was an economic hub and a wealthy city so it should be expected then that this church would be called upon to support their brothers and sisters in other less prosperous areas like Jerusalem. Christians in Israel when the church was founded faced an enormous personal cost to conversion. They could be removed from the Jewish Synagogue as well as from the marketplace. The other Churches had an obligation to support their fellow church members. Paul at the end of his letter to the Corinthians organizes a fundraiser and envoy to present the donation to the hurting members of the fellow church.

Regarding the relief offering for poor Christians that is being collected, you get the same instructions I gave the churches in Galatia. Every Sunday each of you make an offering and put it in safekeeping. Be as generous as you can. When I get there you’ll have it ready, and I won’t have to make a special appeal. Then after I arrive, I’ll write letters authorizing whomever you delegate, and send them off to Jerusalem to deliver your gift. If you think it best that I go along, I’ll be glad to travel with them. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 MSG

So what is the obligation of a believer in regard to “being as generous” as one can? I will first speak on perspective when giving and then follow up by defining tithes and offerings.

Offerings are gifts that an individual decides to give that are completely personal between themselves and God. Rick Warren a pastor of a large church wrote a bestselling book. This book made him rich. So between himself and God he felt led to do something bold. He paid his church back every dollar of salary he had ever taken and then decided that he only wanted or needed to keep 10% of the income from his book sales. Rick Warren in effect gave away more than 90% of his income. There is no law, rule, expectation, or biblical mandate that he do such a thing but he meets the challenge of Paul to be as generous as one can be. But most importantly he did this with humbleness, gratefulness, and joy. It was not imposed on him and he did not do this out of some sense of duty. He did it simply because he wanted to do it. While that is an extreme example there are many everyday people who give generously in this way but keep quiet because it is a personal offering between them and God.

7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV

The second thing we must know about the collection Paul was asking for is that this was an offering above and beyond the individual’s duty to support the local church. Typically in current Christian culture this support is called a tithe and it is the first 10% given to the church to support the local community of believers. So how is the tithe different than a gift and offering? The Tithe is an Old Testament law that demanded 10% of the first fruit of, income, crop, or cattle. God asked for the first and best of whatever was earned. (God is right to ask for this since it is by his grace and mercy that there is any crop at all. Giving back in this way is a formal way to honor and acknowledge that God is in control of all things)

“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. Leviticus 27:30 ESV

The tithe was given to the priestly cast of the Jewish community and so today Christian Churches operate in similar fashion by asking for a tithe that would be given to the local church where a believer has membership. The tithe is in that regard the first phase of giving within the church. Anything above the tithe would be a gift and offering. Rick Warren arrived at his 90% give away number by calling it a reverse tithe. He “tithed” 90% and kept 10% for himself.

Now shockingly there is nowhere in the New Testament that prescribes a church to collect or receive a tithe. Ultimately like a gift this is between the believer and God. A mainstream biblically based Church will not deny membership and fellowship to someone who does not give.

In regard to giving, the tithe is a normal and accepted starting point, but ultimately that amount is based on ability and the relationship that the individual has with God. God wants that gift given freely and out of love toward him. Jesus expected and encouraged his followers to be generous to everyone around them.

38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 ESV

1 Corinthians 1:1 | Christ Only Always

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I teach at a local church on Sunday mornings each week and I have a rule in my class that answers to questions must be real not the “church” answer. By church answer I mean that I don’t want the class to answer what they think everyone would expect to hear in church but to answer the question in real honest terms the way we would see it in life outside the church. The church answer to a question I specifically don’t want is “Jesus”. Jesus could almost literally be the answer to most any question one might get at church. The running joke in my class is that if no one has an answer or no one wants to answer the hard question because it is a little to real and close to home then I get the church answer “Jesus”.  The class laughs because it is most likely the right answer but not the answer we usually live life by.

Barclay in his commentary for 1 Corinthians notes that in the first 10 verses Paul uses Jesus, Christ, or some combination of those names 10 times. The Corinthians were divided and they were struggling internally. So Paul is trying to get their attention with that intro. Church hear Paul… the solution, the answer, the resolution, and everything you need is Jesus. Why can’t we as people who call ourselves followers of Christ turn to Him first, consistently, and always?

This reminds me of a hymn Have Thine On Way, Lord. Where the final verse of the final stanza concludes with Christ only, always, living in me.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Church, why not turn to Christ always and only? I grew up in a large denomination that I still love. God has called me to serve in a non-denominational church and I am good with that because Christ only, always. A friend once told me to major on the majors and minor on the minors. Meaning that the organization of the church is not something to argue over (the minors). Let people be where God has called them, but where division should occur is where Christ stands on what is right and wrong like the trinity, sexual ethics, and hell (the majors). What a challenge Paul put before this early church. Here are those first 10 verses calling out Christ only, always.

1 Corinthians 1 ESV

  1. Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
  2. To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
  3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
  5. that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—
  6. even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—
  7. so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
  8. who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  9. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  10. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Exodus 2:12 | Unforgiving Social Media

I am continually shocked at what people will post online to social media. The most frightful however is when others post recordings of someone else’s out of control bad behavior. I tell my kids that they should conduct themselves with the assumption that someone is always watching and always recording because in this current world with cameras everywhere is it true. Sometimes our posts will get us fired from jobs or will cause embarrassment to family or community. The Bible tells us that what we speak out loud reveals what is in our heart. Sometimes that evil and bad behavior we try to keep a lid on gets out. I pray no one is recording me at that moment or I think myself clever with a post that is actually self-sabotage. It seems we think we are clever in our sins and Moses who was raised up in the shrewdness of Egypt thought so as well. What is true then is true now. Nothing is hidden forever. What we have done will be exposed.

12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Exodus 2:12 NIV

Moses wanted to be a hero to his people and so he saw an opportunity. He knew it was wrong as evidenced by the evaluation that no one was looking (except for the Hebrew he was rescuing) and the deed was done. This Hebrew that was being beaten by the Egyptian promptly told a few people who told a few people and by the next day everyone in Egypt knew what Moses had done.  

13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. 14 Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. Proverbs 28:13-14 ESV

Moses had not thought through his vigilantism. Murder was in his heart and out of the heart comes the overflow. Consequences are hard. Moses had to flee Egypt and all he had known because of this sin. In the wilderness Moses contents himself to a new life outside of the power and strength of Egypt. I wonder if it will ever be possible for society to walk away from the evil of social media? Many will be forced into that wilderness after the pitch fork mob of cancel culture comes to get them. The casualties on both the left and right are growing.

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalms 103:10-13 ESV

Moses deserved what happened. Cold blooded murder is chilling but God is compassionate and restores what is broken. Whatever our sins for those that fear God can put their future lives and their current trust in his perfect hands. God will heal what is broken. God will love the unlovable. He is full of grace and mercy.

Ask Jesus for forgiveness. Speak to him in plain language. That is what real prayer looks like. Talking to him and believing he is in control in spite of our rebellion.

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9 ESV

Psalms 33:15 | Complete Perfection

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What is the greatest thing you have ever created? It is an interesting question because there are so many ways to answer the question. I am not an artisan or an engineer so my physical creations are not all that great. I am happy with some of the things I have built, but great is not a word I would use. I like to write but those creations are a work in progress. My children are a great creation, the greatest, but biology is more involved in that creation than the work of my mind and hands. Oddly what does jump out as an answer is one of the early software development efforts I was assigned. I was given a task to modify the check printing software of the company to be able to print checks in French Canadian. Building logic to write out any number like “one hundred fifty-two” in French with all the nuance of that language on the payment line was something I was excited to create.

How does God answer this question about the greatest thing you have ever created? Would he pick a particular animal? What galaxy or star would be his greatest? What about the unseen beauty of the structure of DNA or the atomic level? My creation was just a replication of something that already existed. God creates from nothing out of nothing and the amazing functionality and beauty of his creation is a depth I can’t express.

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. Genesis 1:24 ESV

My software creation was confirming to an expected standard using an existing tool. Check writing has fixed rules of right and wrong. God on the other hand speaks animals into creation and he created the rules of right and wrong at the same time while using no tools other than his mighty word. God’s creation is not only perfect but consistent according to his plans for his creation.

So, what is God’s greatest Creation? For a being that is perfect I would think that whatever was planned first is the greatest. God tells us what was planned first from the very start.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:15-16 ESV

Paul in this verse is talking about Jesus. Jesus is the firstborn and through him God creates everything. More than that God also uses this greatest creation to reconcile mankind unto himself. What we broke about the creation with our free will already had a fix in place. It is amazing that God knew in advance that Jesus would be needed to complete creation and so he was created first. Jesus is the greatest creation and he is the completion of creation.

My awesome software creation is broken but I had no idea. My changes were ultimately a waste of time. Only after I was complete did I realize that it would have been acceptable to simply place the number “152” on the payment line. The tables and lines of code I had in place with all the French words and sequences were not even needed. Worse yet 20 years later that code is obsolete and not even being used anymore.

Jesus suffers no such waste. His death on the cross completes the creation plan with the rules of our being and through him we have purpose. God has set right and wrong in our being. God is actively involved in all our lives from the beginning of time to the end time.

13 The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; 14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, 15 he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. Psalms 33:13-15 ESV

God knows everything. He knows our hearts. He knows our selfishness. He knows our every thought. The Palmist writes he “fashions the hearts” of us all. The Palmist also writes that our every day is known by God.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalms 139:14;16 ESV

He has formed you. He has involved himself in the life he has given. He has created the perfect reconciliation and the perfect purpose for life if we surrender it all back to him. Thank him as Father, Creator, and King. Give him all that is his to begin with. Christ only always.

1 Samuel 2:25 | Intercede for Me

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I have made mistakes and hurt people. I cringe when some of those events come to mind. What happens when make mistakes are made that reach the court system? The idea of getting wrapped up in court or dealing with police would cause me enough stress that panic attacks would not be far behind. So when I read news reports like the recent one that an elderly nun, Sister Catherine Rose, while in court dealing with a lawsuit collapsed and died I immediately think of the frustration and the anxiety of that situation contributed to this sad news. The court case is regarding a property dispute in that the nuns wanted to sell their property to a particular individual but Katy Perry, the famed pop star, also wanted to purchase the property. Before fighting for my rights in anything when it comes to judgment of a court I would want to take measure of the cost and make sure I was well represented. This nun spent her last moments in court and her death is now sadly linked with Katy Perry and Perry must live with the result. As intimidating as man-made laws and courts might be I have a greater fear and that is standing before the God of Creation and being left to represent myself on my own merits.

Eli a priest of God for the nation of Israel had a problem with his sons. His evil sons were breaking laws of men and God for their own selfish gain. These sons were abusing the people they should have been serving. Eli pointed out a problem and truth that they refused to understand.

25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” 1 Samuel 2:25a ESV

Eli’s question is profound. We have arbiters, mediators, and peace makers who might broker restitution between men but who is qualified and who is strong enough to broker reconciliation between God and man? Eli’s protégé Samuel years later answers the question that Eli proposed. Samuel had become the priest and leader of Israel when the rebellious people came to him seeking God’s mercy.

5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah. 1 Samuel 7:5-6 NIV

Eli asked who could intercede between man and God. Samuel answers the question with action. As priest and leader between the people and God he could intercede and he could bridge that gap. Samuel is a great defense attorney navigating the perfect justice of God. Samuel tapped into God’s mercy just as Moses had done generations before.

7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. Numbers 21:7 ESV

This kind of intercessory prayer seems to have been lost in the generations between Moses and Samuel. Eli the previous priest asked the question, but had no answer and it does not appear that he knew how to intercede for even his own children. God knowing that people are limited put into motion a plan to create the perfect unlimited priest. A priest that would not die or be limited by space and time. God provided for mankind a priest that could be perfect representation to all people at all moments.

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:22-25 ESV

Jesus always lives, Jesus continues to live making intercession for anyone ready to accept his gift. Notice when Moses and Samuel interceded for the people it was an act that started by the people asking for help and submitting to the authority that Moses and Samuel represented. Jesus does not just represent that authority. He is that authority and he ready to intercede for anyone who calls on his name and that is God’s perfect gift to creation.

Isaiah 26:7 | Level Paths

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I enjoy hiking on mountain trails in search of new views or waterfalls. Just being out to get exercise with family in tow is part of the most important activities of life. I pray my children will fondly look back on these times and will desire to explore God’s creation when they come into their own. After miles of up and down on technical terrain one of the most enjoyable places of a hike is a level area of soft ground covered in pine. Usually this calm level area might be near a winding stream with plenty of smooth rocks to hold and throw. This section of the trail is perfect for a break and a place of rest to enjoy on an otherwise difficult trail.

I find that hiking is a wonderful analogy to life. Both are a journey. Both are more difficult if we try to forge our own path. Both contain beauty. And both are unknown as to what the journey or the destination will reveal to our own eyes. Until I walk the path and arrive at the destination I don’t really know what will be experienced. Even if I have a map or a guide the journey is still unique to my experience. Life is this way also. On this journey of life, the Bible tells us that God has a path for each person and he has made available a light for that path through his Word the Bible.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 ESV

But he has done even more than provide a light and direction on the path. He can be active to a life that is surrendered to his direction.

The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. Isaiah 26:7 ESV

He makes “level” the way. God levels the path of the righteous and I think about those level soft sections of trail where the switch backs and difficulty are put on hold. Where one can walk comfortably and revel in the glory of the trees. This is the kind of path that God makes for the righteous.

Now this begs the question who are the righteous that God has given a lamp and a level path? Especially if an attempt at righteousness for many is a burden of work and journey of its own.

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray. Proverbs 5:21-23 ESV

Am I righteous? Have I done enough good things or prepared enough for the trail ahead? God knows that I have not. God knows my thoughts. He knows my ways and they are not his ways. He has seen all my selfish thoughts. He has seen all my evil done in secret.

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. Romans 3:10-11 ESV

Never could I be found righteous before his perfect standards. So, God provided a solution so that his plans for me will be accomplished. God has made those who are called by his name righteous. Not by works or by effort but by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God knows we fall short of his perfect standards so he came to earth in the form of a man and lived a perfect life on our behalf. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. God lowered himself to be part of his creation. To save his creation.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law … the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. Romans 3:20-22 ESV

Righteousness is given to all who put their trust and faith in Jesus. For those that accept what Jesus has done God is then free set them on a path that brings them home as his children. Dear reader now is the moment of grace to accept Christ and submit to his desire and plans for your life. God calls to you as a loving father calls his children home.

Does a level and lighted path mean that life becomes easy? Well no it does not. This life is full of consequences many of them our own doing. There is a promise that I hang on as I daily put my trust in God. Daily as I want to submit and honor him. That promise is that the righteousness given to me through Christ allows me to get back up every time I fall short of where I should be.

for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. Proverbs 24:17 NIV

This proverb tells us the righteous will fall but get back up. But those that reject God will stumble in that day of judgement. But note that the righteous do not get back up on their own. It says that even if they fall seven times they rise. Seven is the number of God and stands for perfection. It is through God’s perfection, through Jesus Christ and the perfect life he lived that those who are called by his name will rise again and continue on the journey to find rest in God.

Worry vs. Anxiety

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Some of the literal translations of the Bible do not do not contain the word “worry” anywhere in the contents. Search a KJV or ESV Bible for the word worry and it will not be found. Many people think that the Bible tells us not to worry because God is in control. While it is true to a degree it is not true in the way we might think. Dictionary.com defines worry as “to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts” and that sounds awful. The Bible does use a similar word, “anxiety”, that many people use interchangeably with “worry” in every day speech. In fact many of the newer translations use “worry” and “anxiety” interchangeably. The KJV does not use the newer words “worry” or “anxiety” but uses older words like “Be careful for nothing” or in Christian speak one might say they “cast their cares to God”. But in modern language worry and anxiety have taken over the conversation. Anxiety is the primary word used by the ESV when it translates the Greek μεριμνάω (me-rēm-nä’-ō). This Greek word, μεριμνάω, means “to be anxious or to be troubled with cares”.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

I do not think of myself as a worrier. Crazy scenarios like bears attacking me in my sleep while camping might pop in my mind but then I just shrug my shoulders and go back to sleep. My wife on the other hand worries about all kinds of plausible ill-fated scenarios while camping. Moms by nature are known for their ability to worry. Is that a bad thing to be concerned about the pitfalls of life and want to avoid them? I don’t think so and I doubt God would want his people to not worry about clear and present dangers. The greatest danger of all that every person alive should worry about is where they stand with God. If you are not saved by Christ then you should be gravely worried.

I may not worry about much but I am anxious. I have been an anxious person my entire life. My anxiety is in full force when it comes to interactions (like parties) with people. The nervousness of it all wears me out. Dictionary.com defines anxious as “full of mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of danger or misfortune”. Reasonable worries might be used in a productive way to keep one safe. Anxiety however is full on mental trouble that may be crippling in any productive life. Psychology Today has a great article that breaks down the difference between Worry and Anxiety. Here are two key points.

“If you’re concerned about getting fired because you did really poorly on a project, you’re worried. If you’re concerned about getting fired because your boss didn’t ask about your child’s piano recital, you’re anxious.”

“Worry tends to be more focused on thoughts in our heads, while anxiety is more visceral in that we feel it throughout our bodies.”

That last one really hits home for me. My anxiety around people impacts me physically. On occasion I have a duty that requires that I speak publicly. The last time this was required my anxiety got the better of me and while practicing the presentation my blood pressure spiked so high that I went into a full headache and nose bleed while practicing my first run through (I know that sounds crazy but it is true). The energy I need to get on stage and speak to a crowd is consuming of all my physical and mental energy. The insanity of this is that logically I know that I am prepared, capable, and encouraged to present. Why my body reacts with such stress is beyond me.

The question then dear reader is your life full of worry or anxiety? How much do the cares and troubles of this world paralyze your life? Hopefully we are all fortunate that worry is limited to practical and productive problem solving in a sin cursed world. While I do live an anxious life (at one time even writing this blog in front of the world would have been too much for me) I prayerfully live that life in submission to God’s desires for me. I serve him and if he wants me on a stage speaking before a crowd then I will summon courage not from myself but from Christ.

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Luke 12:22-25 ESV

The reality is that anxiety does not add to life but takes away hours and days. Jesus speaking to the disciples tells them not to be anxious in serving him. If they can learn to trust him and draw strength from him for the basics like food and clothing then the they can trust him with power that changes lives.

26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Luke 12:26 ESV

It is natural and normal to worry about practical issues that are right in front of you. But take to heart the words of Paul and submit your cares and anxiety to Christ. Bring him everything. Nothing is too small or too trivial for God provides even our daily bread.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

1 Corinthians 13:1 | Gift’s are for God’s Glory

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I have taken many kinds of strength profiles, and career assessment tools over the years. There are two that stand out. The first is the one I took through the high school. What stood out in this skills assessment that was given to all of the students were the results. It provided job and career ideas related to the category one fit within. I remember this because one of the job suggestions was Mineralogist. I was the only person that got this recommendation. I did not even know how to get into this field or what it would involve. It is certainly not something that any high school person I knew wanted to grow up to be. The second profile test that I remember was in college. The pastor of my church was taking the smaller Wednesday night crowed through a biblically based spiritual gifts assessment and to my surprise “teacher” was on the top of the list. At that time teacher was the last job that made up my passions. I showed the results to the pastor and told him the test was broken. Every person is given skills and gifts. The science behind tests like these can be informative about our personality and what we might be good at and bad at in life. Both of those tests were not wrong in their suggestions even if I was unaware of my own self at that time. We all have gifts and skills the question is to what end will we use these gifts?

In some Church cultures, there is a powerful desire to speak in tongues or speak prophecy. These miraculous type gifts are elevated to a high standing and become a mark of someone who has attained significant favor from God. While these gifts are included in the Biblical narrative and may be true in contemporary society the real question I want to know is to what end are these gifts sought and used? Paul clearly states that the Holy Spirit gives gifts for the good of the Body of Christ so that the Church will be equipped to carry out God’s will.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV

Whatever gifts the Spirit has given whoever God has created an individual to be then in turn Christians must not be proud about that strength and one should not seek visible gifts for status or control. Just a few lines later Paul gets specific to warn the Corinthians about the role of these gifts.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV

Those who are saved and part of the body have a purpose in the Church. The Holy Spirit will gives a desire and skill to accomplish that roll. These gifts work together to accomplish God’s plans. When people attempt to use them in the strength of man or for a selfish purpose then how does God get the glory for what is accomplished? Lecrae in his song Chase That speaks of the worst type of sin and that is the sin of selfish ambition while claiming to do it for God.

[the Devil] lies to us all, told Adam he could ball
“why you following God when you can go get it all?”
I tell you what’s better, or better yet worse.
chasing your own glory while doing the Lord’s work,
so holla if it hurts, but we were made for greater
our greatest satisfaction is making His name famous

The mark of someone serving God is Love. They have a love for God and a love for their fellow man.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV

Love makes the gift useful. Service inside the body with Faith, Hope, and most importantly Love is used by God for His purpose. Do you love God? Are you broken to love others more than yourself? If so then go and obey what God has placed on your heart for His Glory.

* Revised and Edited. Originally published on Human Effort May 2014.

Isaiah 5:20 | Here I am! Send Me.

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If God is the same today as he was yesterday then he is constant never changing. If God changed something from wrong to right then he would not be God and he would not be perfect. God can’t change and God will not change.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19 ESV

The consistency of God is a blessing because the rules are set. The goal posts are not moving. The anger of sports fans when the officials are inconsistent is real and justified. Much of political discourse boils down to pointing out the person on the other side that did the same immoral behavior without consequence. Everyone wants consistent rules to play by and God is the perfect law giver and sustainer of those rules in life.

There are people who want to bend the rules to benefit themselves. This raw selfishness is the stuff of life and it takes ugly form in injustice. Those in power pull the ladder up after themselves. They pass rules that prevent others from the benefits of wealth they themselves enjoy. Politicians rig the system in favor of certain elites. Dictators take from the innocent to give to those with blood on their hands. In Israel before exile Isaiah warned the leaders that God would not tolerate breaking the rules.

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! Isaiah 5:21-23 ESV

Justice is a hot topic today. Supporting a business because of their social justice cause is popular and makes one feel good about themselves. Asking people to affirm the life styles of others is a fashionable way to root out bigotry and a wonderful way to make sure everyone knows what side of humanity one lives. The most current craze in this trend are teens and pre-teens who are telling the world they are not male or female, straight or gay, in their gender and sexual orientation (see Miley Cyrus being “pansexual”).

 In his book, the Benedict Option, Rod Dreher quotes from a poster to his blog “There’s nothing like having your twelve-year-old come home from school and start ticking off which of her classmates are bi, the reader said, “I told my daughter it was statistically impossible for there to be that many bisexual students in her class, and that for most girls – and they were all girls – seventh grade was entirely too early to make pronouncements on their sexuality. In return, I got a lot of babble about gender being fluid and nonbinary.” This is what children are being taught is true and they are aware of the shaming of anyone who does not celebrate the new norms.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 ESV

When I was younger the argument was “I was born this way”. Today such limiting options are not sustainable because everyone wants to be included in the celebration of the movement. Now born this way is irrelevant. Gender and sexual preference are “fluid” moving in whatever direction society wants it to move. God however has set boundaries and rules. Isaiah warned the people of his time “Woe to those” who break and bend the set rules of God the creator. Life lived contrary to God’s perfect law is not sustainable.

What is the “Woe” that Isaiah was warning about? What are the ramifications of ignoring God’s perfect plan? In Isaiah’s day, the woe was an incoming army that would destroy society. Israel as a nation was destroyed ending the rules they had set for themselves. It is hard to sustain rebellion against God when life becomes only about survival and death.

24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. 26 He will raise a signal for nations far away, and whistle for them from the ends of the earth; and behold, quickly, speedily they come! Isaiah 5:24-26 ESV

While that fate was pronounced on the nation of Israel in those generations what does such a “Woe” mean to the contemporary reader? First read into this a “Woe” on all the nations vs trying to tie it back to America. While God certainly could have America ruled by some other nation let the reader take a larger view of God’s intentions toward human kind of today. Second how does this Woe stand in relation to the revelation of Jesus Christ? In verse 24 above it states they have “rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One”. If the people and the society reject God and his Holy One, Christ, then what more can be done? Shall the game be continued to be played by these rules? Shall the creation say to the Creator “No more of you”? Christ has come to give life but if the people only want death then maybe his return is imminent.

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:36-39 ESV

No more armies from a faraway land will be needed to restore a lawless society. Christ himself will come like a flood sweeping away the disorder and the sin that has overcome societies. Third and finally in this “Woe” is the commission of those who are saved by Christ.

5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:5-8 ESV

Reader know that you can have the guilt and the rebellion atoned for in Christ. God himself will restore people who are currently breaking every rule. Real life and relationship with the Creator is possible, real, and wonderful. God is calling “Whom shall I send” who will live truth over lies, right over wrong, and sweet over bitter? I pray the answer be “Here I am! Send me.”