Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What! Me Worry?

 I adapted this post from a sermon I preached back in November.

 The old sea captain was quizzing a new crew member to see how he’d do at sea.
“What steps would you take if a sudden storm came up on the starboard?” he asked the young man.
“Well, sir,” said the crew member, I’d throw out an anchor, sir.”
“What would you do if another storm sprang up aft?”
“I’d throw out another anchor, sir.”
“But, what if a third storm sprang up forward?”
“I’d throw out another anchor, sir.”
“Just a minute, son,” said the captain. “Where in the world are you getting all these anchors?”
“Well, sir. I’m getting them from the same place you’re getting all your 

  The Bible tells us this world is filled with storms. The Bible is filled with stories of the storms that many of the great men and women of faith encountered in their lives. It matters not if you’re reading of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Samuel, Esther and others, each and every man and woman of faith encountered at least one crisis of faith.
Even Jesus warned us repeatedly that life wouldn’t be easy for those who follow Him.

BUT after having told us all that, the Bible tells us there is ONE thing we must not do.

Jesus is with us in the midst of the storms the one thing we shouldn’t do is worry. He said “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" Matthew 6:25

Jesus said: don’t worry about your life.
Don’t worry about where having enough to eat.
Don’t worry about having good enough clothes to wear.

And other Scriptures say almost exactly the same thing:

Psalm 55:22 tells us "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall."
Psalm 62:8 declares: "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge."

And in the New Testament we’re told the same thing:
Paul wrote: "Do not be anxious for anything..." Philippians 4:6
And Peter wrote: "Cast all your anxiety on him" I Peter 5:7

So, I’m not supposed to worry.
I’m not supposed to be anxious.

But I do get anxious. I do worry.
But, why?
Why do I get anxious?
Why do I worry?

Well, you could offer all kinds of reasons:
• I don’t have a job.
• I don’t have much money.
• I have a boatload of debt.
• I’m going through a divorce.
• My family’s falling apart.
And the list could go on and on and on...

But Bible tells me: In the midst of those difficulties in my life I’m not supposed to worry.

  Well, great!
I feel better already!
I mean, if I’d only know I shouldn’t be worrying, it would have been all better by now
If I just wouldn’t be anxious life would be smooth sailing.
If I didn’t worry all my problems would be solved.

Is that way it works?

No… it doesn’t work that way does it?
Just because I decide not to worry doesn’t mean my troubles pack up and disappear.
NOT worrying doesn’t SOLVE my problems.

So then, why does God say that I shouldn’t be anxious or filled with worry if that doesn’t really solve anything?

Well, the first thing we need to do here is go back to our original question:
Why do I worry?
Why do I get anxious?

Well, the answer’s very simple actually
I get anxious because something has happened that I can’t control. I don’t have the money, I don’t have the resources, I don’t have the ability, I don’t have the time...
You name it, I ain’t got it.

Essentially, the reason I worry is because there’s a problem and I can’t do anything about it.
I can’t change it!
I can’t fix it!
I can’t do a single thing to alter my situation!

So, I worry because I have a problem I can’t fix.
But does worrying help me fix the problem?
Jesus said “no”
He asks "Can any of you - by worrying - add a single hour to your life?"
Well, the answer, of course, is NO!
Worrying can’t change that because worry doesn’t fix anything.

AND SO what Jesus is saying is this: worrying is worthless.
When your back is up against the wall... worrying is a worthless emotion.
It doesn’t change anything... it’s a worthless reaction to my problems.

In fact – worrying is worse than worthless.
Worry NOT ONLY doesn’t change what you’re facing it just makes everything I DO face worse.

Corrie Ten Boom said:
“Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow
It empties today of its strength.”

In fact, worry NOT ONLY robs today of its strength, when worry takes over my thinking it robs ME... physically.

  Dr. Charles Mayo himself observed:
"Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from doubt."

  Worry is NOT the solution to our problems.

Now Jesus said: “... do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Each day has troubles.
Even as a Christian you can’t avoid those troubles.
But worry doesn’t help us... it hurts us.
And SO we need to get it off our plate, we need to get it out of our minds, we need to remove it from our considerations. And we need to do that immediately if not sooner.

So, one of the reasons we worry is because there’s a situation we can’t control.

I hate to say it... but worrying is faith issue.
And I say “I hate to say this” because I’ve been known to worry. To be anxious.

But right in the middle of His teaching on doubt Jesus says:
”Oh Jerry of little faith.”
No… that’s not what He said. He said “Oh you of little faith.”
But He may as well have said my name… and your name… and your name.

He could have said “Jerry don’t you know? Don’t you understand “the PAGANS run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Mt 6:30&32

You see – WORRY is a faith issue.
Worry is when I put more faith in my problems than I do in God’s promises.
Let’s repeat that:
Worry is when I put more faith in my problems than I do in God’s promises.

That’s why so many Scriptures stress looking on God in the midst of our difficulties:
Psalm 55:22 declares "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall."
Psalm 62:8 declares: "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge."
And Peter writes in I Peter 5:7: "Cast all your anxiety on him for He cares for you." 7

You see, God is the doctor for my doubt. God is the antidote for my anxiety. He’s the fix for my lack of faith. And the Bible tells me that over and over and over again.

So if that’s true (and it is) how do I lay hold of God in the midst of my doubt & fears

Well 1st, Jesus says, it’s a question of what you look at.
"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23

If I focus on doubt and fear and anxiety and worry my eyes grow so dark that my whole body gets FULL of darkness. That doubt and fear will so invade my soul that I won’t be able to see anything else.

So Jesus says: focus your eyes in the somewhere else.
“LOOK at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26

"SEE how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6:29

Look at the birds.
Look at the lilies of the field.
When you and I get bogged down with doubt, we need to look around for God... pay attention to what He’s ALREADY done

That’s what Philippians 4 tells us:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Rejoice in the LORD always and peace of God will guard my heart and mind?
What am I supposed to rejoice in?

Well, Paul goes on to say “...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me— put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

I need to think on the things God’s has already done.
The things that are: True, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable.
And when I rejoice in those things that God has done THEN the peace of God will be with ME. Worry will be beaten back/ anxiety will disappear. And I will replace doubt and fear with the peace of God.

If we Remember, Rejoice and Give thanks, THEN the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

So the first thing I can do to combat worry in my life is to change my focus from my problems to His Promises.

Then Jesus tells me a 2nd thing I can do:
Right in the middle of his discourse on doubt and faith, Jesus says this
”But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

What does it mean to SEEK something?
It means to hunt for it, search diligently.

  Those of you who wear  glasses.  Have you ever misplaced the You knew  roughly where they were – they were in your house somewhere, and you  knew that because you can’t drive without them. You searched everywhere for those glasses… which was fairly difficult since YOU CAN’T SEE MUCH WITHOUT THEM.
You eventually found them, but the process of searching for them was a little unnerving. You desperately wanted to find them.

In the same way, Jesus is saying we need to desperately want to find God’s Kingdom and His righteousness in our lives. It needs to be THE highest priority in our lives. And Jesus says that when we do that – He’ll reward us.
That’s a common theme for things that important to God.
We seek, He rewards.

Hebrews 11:6 says “... without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that HE REWARDS those who earnestly seek him.”

In order to please God I must believe not only that He’s out there somewhere. That He exists and I can’t see Him. In order to please God I have to have a faith that says He’s there and He’s willing to reward me if I earnestly seek Him.

So how can I seek Him and His Kingdom and His righteousness?
Well, one way is to tithe
In tithing I am seeking first - not MY kingdom – but His.
In tithing I’m putting my money where my faith is... and I expect God to reward me.
In tithing I am investing in the things that are important to God.

And that’s exactly what God says in Malachi 3:10 said would happen if I tithe: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not THROW OPEN THE FLOODGATES OF HEAVEN and POUR OUT SO MUCH BLESSING that you will not have room enough for it.”

We seek, He rewards.

Another way of seeking God and His kingdom and righteousness is in giving to others. Proverbs19:17 “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.”

When I help the poor and the needy with my time and resources I have invested in God’s Kingdom and His Righteousness. And notice what God says he’ll do?
We seek – He’ll reward.

And that’s just a couple of ways you can SEEK first His Kingdom and His righteousness.

One last thing: In Matthew 6:32 Jesus said “... your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”
1. He knows what you need
2. He knows whether you need food, or clothing... or something else.

Sometimes, food and clothing isn’t really what we need. Sometimes what we need is something else entirely.

  A young man who wasn’t very religious once lost his job, and he grew more and more desperate about his situation, until at last he went to see an old preacher that he knew.
He stood by the door and poured out his heart to the preacher... and then he angrily shouted "I’ve begged and begged God to say something to help me, preacher. Why doesn’t God answer?"

The old preacher, who was sitting across the room, spoke a reply so quiet the young man was unable to make it out. The young man stepped across the room.
"What did you say?" he asked.
The preacher repeated himself, again in a soft tone. So the young man moved closer until he was leaning on the preacher’s chair.

"Sorry," he said. "I still didn’t hear you."
With their heads bent together, the old preacher spoke once more.
"God sometimes whispers," he said, "so we will move closer to hear him."


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Some Christmas Facts?

Christmas In The Old Testament

(The life of Jesus as told through the Old Testament. Written roughly 700 years before His birth)
God spoke and said, "O Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)

A Star shall come out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17).

Behold! The virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)"

And the world rejoiced and cried out, "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace! (Isaiah 9:6)

Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:4-6).

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied."
Then God declared, "By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong. Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 10-12)."

Why a Virgin Birth?

Every Christmas season our thoughts turn to the birth of Christ and to his mother, Mary. To some extent, we all take the nativity for granted. But why was Jesus born of a virgin? One answer, of course, is to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14: "Behold the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
But that's more descriptive than causal: why was it necessary in the first place? There are, of course, many profound theological issues inherent in the virgin birth. One way to view this issue is to address one of the problems it solves.
The Problem
God announced very early that His plan for redemption involved the Messiah being brought forth from the tribe of Judah1, and specifically from the line of David2. The succession of subsequent kings proved to be, with only a few exceptions, a dismal chain. As the succeeding kings of Judah went from bad to worse, we eventually encounter Jeconiah (also known as Jehoiachin), upon whom God pronounces a " blood curse" : "Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah."(Jeremiah 22:30)
This curse created a rather grim and perplexing paradox: the Messiah had to come from the royal line, yet now there was a "blood curse" on that very line of descent! (I always visualize a celebration in the councils of Satan on that day. But then I imagine God turning to His angels, saying, "Watch this one!")
The Solution
The answer emerges in the differing genealogies of Jesus Christ recorded in the gospels. Matthew, as a Levi, focuses his gospel on the Messiahship of Jesus and presents Him as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Thus, Matthew traces the legal line from Abraham (as any Jew would) through David, then through Solomon (the . royal. line) to Joseph, the legal father of Jesus3.
On the other hand, Luke, as a physician, focuses on the humanity of Jesus and presents Him as the Son of Man. Luke traces the blood line from Adam (the first Man) through to David -- and his genealogy from Abraham through David is identical to Matthew's. But then after David, Luke departs from the path taken by Matthew and traces the family tree through another son of David (the second surviving son of Bathsheba), Nathan, down through Heli, the father of Mary, the mother of Jesus4.
One should also note the exception to the law which permitted inheritance through the daughter if no sons were available and she married within her tribe5.
The daughters of Zelophehad had petitioned Moses for a special exception, which was granted when they entered the land under Joshua.
I believe it was C.I. Scofield who first noted that the claims of Christ rely upon this peculiar exception granted to the family of Zelo-phehad in the Torah. Heli, Mary's father, apparently had no sons, and Mary married within the tribe of Judah. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, of the house and lineage of David and carrying legal title to the line, but without the blood curse of Jeconiah. [I believe that every detail in the Torah -- and the entire Bible -- has a direct link to Jesus Christ. "The volume of the book is written of me." (Psalm 40:7) [For a more detailed discussion, watch for our new book, Cosmic Codes -- Hidden Messages from the Edge of Eternity, presently in publication.]
Earlier Glimpse
This was no afterthought or post facto remedy, of course. It was first announced in the Garden of Eden when God declared war on Satan: " I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."(Genesis 3:15)
The "Seed of the Woman" thus becomes one of the prophetic titles of the Messiah. This biological contradiction is the first hint -- in the early chapters of Genesis -- of the virgin birth.
John also presents a genealogy, of sorts, of the Pre-Existent One in the first three verses of his gospel6. The Prophet Micah also highlights this: " But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."(Micah 5:2)

Christmas Questions & Answers

Probably not. In Luke 2:1-5 we learn that Joseph and Mary were traveling to Bethlehem to register for a census (Rome wanted to know how many people there were so they would know how much was owed to them in taxes). It would be foolish to have so many people travel in the wintertime. The widely held belief is that Jesus was born in the spring, summer or early fall at the latest because the shepherds were more likely to be out in the fields that time of year.
So why is Christmas on December 25th? In 336 AD the church decided to celebrate Jesus' birth on December 25th to offset the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.

In Micah 5:2, we find a prophecy that tells us the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. If we go to the book of Ruth we find the connection between Jesus and Bethlehem. We discover that the Messianic line (Jesus' earthly family tree) began in Bethlehem. Ruth and her husband Boaz began the line when they had a child named Obed who was David's grandfather.
There is a very old tradition that says that Ruth and Boaz began their family in the exact same location that Jesus was born some 1100 years later and the fields of Ruth 2 are the same fields the angels visited the shepherds in Luke 2. Another interesting connection is found in the meaning of Bethlehem. Bethlehem means "house of bread". An appropriate name for Jesus' birthplace because He referred to Himself as "the bread of life" (John 6:35).

The Magi (or Wise Men) were a priesthood of the Medes (known today as the Kurds). They were said to have great religious knowledge and held much political power. But how did they know Jesus was born? In Daniel 5:11 we read that Daniel was made Chief of the Magi. Daniel, no stranger to prophecy, must have taught about the coming of the Messiah.
Because of their high standing and the fact they were traveling into Roman occupied territory, they were certain to have been escorted by many armed guards. This is why Matthew 2:3 says that Herod and all Jerusalem were troubled when they heard the Magi were looking for the true King of the Jews. Herod held that title and it was feared that this was an attempt to overthrow Roman rule! (Matthew 2:1-12).
Their visit led to Herod ordering all male children two years old and under killed (Matt. 2:16-18). He had hoped that Jesus would be among the dead. The Magi presented Jesus with three gifts. Gold, which represented His Kingship, frankincense was a spice used in priestly duties and points to Jesus as our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), and myrrh, an embalming ointment which anticipated His death. Together these gifts present a picture of the Savior: The King (gold) who is Holy (frankincense) and who came to be a Sacrifice for our sins (myrrh).

There are all sorts of ideas about what the star the Magi saw really was in Matthew 2:2. Some have said it was a comet, others have said it was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.

Luke 2:8-15 tells the beautiful story of the angels telling the shepherds about the birth of Jesus. Shepherds were not very high up on the social scale. But while they were not well thought of by men, in the eyes of God they were very special. So special that He sent a multitude of angels to invite them to come and worship His Son. The shepherds were important because they showed that Jesus was a gift to all of us, regardless of who we are.
As we read the accounts of the birth of Jesus we find the Magi -- powerful and respected standing beside the shepherds -- weak and lowly and all were bowing down worshiping the newborn King. All were equal in His sight. And good tidings of great joy were -- and still are today -- for all people.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Following Christ Is More Than Just A Feeling.

   Following Christ is more than feeling.  It is more than an exciting time at church.  It is more than feeling better when you say amen. Its is more than having chills, thrills, and spiritual spills. Following Christ is more than having our names on a roll and even knowing that we're going to heaven.

     Following Christ is more than doing spiritual things. It is more than what we say. It is more than what we do.  Following Christ is not just an event.  It is a journey, a relationship, it is a process, it is purposeful, productive, and provocative.  It is a life filled with problems, promises, people, and potential.  B ut it's definitely more than a feeling!

    In the past few years I have been processing some things, walking in new places, developing new relationships and learning some things. I must admit it hasn't been the easiest process I've been through.  There are days when God is silent. Moments when I am complacent without meaning to be.  Days when my feeler doesn't feel anything, but my knower knows that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be.  I know that I will do exactly what God intends me to do. It just might take some time for me to get there.

   Perhaps it's an age thing with me.  I consider myself a passionate, progressive, aggressive person. I am rock solid on my convictions and  my dreams.  Only I will choose the hill I die on.  I will fight to the death or at least the enabling  of  those things I know are right. But as I age I'm not so interested in the short race.  I'm looking toward the marathon.  I'm  hoping to create and develop things that last  Something that will leave a legacy.  So I'm learning to push past the pain, the lack of feeling at times, and move in faith toward the things and places I know I'm supposed to go.
Just thinking out loud!