Peace

john-14-27OK, so maybe I’m bragging a little, but a mom’s entitled. Right?

My son is an amazing dad, and to watch as his three little kids run to him for comfort blesses me beyond belief. Tears disappear as he cuddles and comforts, for in his arms they feel safe and loved; in his arms they have peace.

From an adult perspective, the traumas that send a child fleeing to a parent for comfort may seem very insignificant; but an ‘owie’, hurt feelings, sibling squabbles, a scary dream, anything that shatters his/her peaceful world seems as big a deal to them  as do the things that shatter ours.

As 2017 looms large on the horizon, there are certainly a lot of issues with which to be concerned. Whether our problems are personal, national, or international; there is much that would make us yearn for a place of rest and safety. Fortunately, such a place does exist, and we can rush headlong into the loving arms of our Father to be comforted just as readily as my grandchildren run to my son. Jesus understood this well, as He encouraged His disciples:

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 32-33)

About a hundred and fourteen years ago, Cleland B. McAfee wrote “Near to the Heart of God” from a place of personal grief and loss. Modeling Jesus, he also knew from Whom his strength came:

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
Refrain:
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God;
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

Over 2000 years ago, God was there for Jesus’ disciples; over a century ago He was there for Mr. McAfee; and He is still there for us today. May we all rest in His peace today, tomorrow, and throughout 2017.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Standing In Faith

Barbara ParkerAs we approach Christmas, many of us reach out to others a bit more than usual, perhaps re-connecting with people we haven’t been in touch with lately; perhaps finding ways to help those who are less fortunate; perhaps greeting total strangers with a, “Merry Christmas.” Also, as one year concludes and a new one approaches, we often find ourselves in a self-evaluation mode. We examine what have we accomplished as well as what should we do differently next year, and such a process is scriptural:

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5

I’d like to do a bit of both in this post that doubles as an announcement to the Standing In Faith group on LinkedIn and an invitation to join us, offering first a quick review of our group, and then sharing with old friends and new, the message of hope the Lord has given me.

The Standing In Faith discussion group began as a leap of faith on my part in March 2011. New to LinkedIn and not a big fan of social media, it was quite a surprise when the Lord impressed me to form the group, and from the very beginning He has had full ownership. This is not my group—it is His, and I’m simply His group manager. There have been several times that I’ve wanted to shut it down because it seemed as if it was going nowhere and accomplishing nothing, but His permission for that to happen was never given. Now, in retrospect, I am in awe of what He is doing, and I’m well aware that He is accomplishing His work through the group in ways that I will never be aware of this side of eternity, which is very exciting. Our growth during 2015 has been astounding, and there are new members every day from nations around the world. This is an international outreach such as I never could’ve imagined, and I welcome all of our new members and pray that the fellowship we have here will bless and encourage you in your Christian walk.

From the beginning, the Lord designed Standing In Faith around the passion He has given me for the Body of Christ to live by faith and to operate in unity, and our stated purpose is, “To encourage Christians to live by faith and not by sight, building each another up in the unity of faith that we share in Christ Jesus.”

With that purpose in mind, there are a couple of things about this group that may differ from other groups; things that don’t make us any better or worse, but just different. First is that the Lord has led me to accept everyone who requests membership without any pre-screening, just as He is willing to accept all who come to Him. Second, while we often discuss our differences of opinion, we do not enter into divisive debates or arguments, and no comments are allowed that denigrate the person or faith of another. This can pose a huge dilemma for me as the “referee”, and I must rely strictly on the Lord’s leadership regarding which discussions and comments to allow and which ones to deny, so I would appreciate your prayers for His wisdom in this regard, as well as your understanding and forgiveness if I make a mistake in judgment. I do not agree with everything that is posted here, nor will you, but instead of taking offense and arguing with every statement, please respond from a spirit of love that displays the grace and mercy of the Lord. We are not all “on the same page” doctrinally, but instead of allowing the enemy to separate us as has been done for centuries, we consciously choose to set our differences aside and focus on Jesus in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

As you may be aware, LinkedIn has recently re-designed much in regard to groups, and both the appearance and the function has been affected. Visually, it is easier to quickly scan through discussions, but it is also harder to get the full impact of a discussion without choosing the option for “more” in order to read the entire text of the comments. I would encourage everyone to dig deeper into the “more” of our discussions to get the full benefit of what each person has to say. Also, the space allotted for text has been diminished, so it is more important than ever to try to make a point succinctly.

Previously, the group was open and a request to join received automatic approval, but now every membership request comes to me first. As mentioned before, none are turned away, but any member’s contributions may still be designated for pre-approval if they are deemed to be divisive or off the topic of faith in Jesus; and any individual may be completely banned from the group at my discretion (this has only happened with 3 people whose obvious intent was disruption and destruction). Also, please be aware that with this new system, for reasons I certainly do not understand, LinkedIn is flagging as inappropriate many entries that are fully acceptable, so please be patient if your submission doesn’t appear immediately. I try to turn everything around within 24 hours or sooner, but occasionally that isn’t possible.

Please review the group rules since there have been a few changes to remain in alignment with LinkedIn’s way of doing things. Also, please remember that we do not focus on personal agendas, make political statements, or doctrinal positions; but we discuss the traditional Christian values of the majority. That said, it is difficult to completely avoid the political arena since it has such a huge impact on our lives, but our goal is to approach any such discussions with the intent of illuminating God’s truth and not man’s opinion.

Enough review, and on to our Hope! This morning, the Lord highlighted some phrases to me from Hebrews 3 that are relevant to Standing In Faith.

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession…[who] is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope…Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Our “today” is a day in which hearts have become hard throughout the world. Jesus warnings of end times events are occurring right before our eyes. His words (Matthew 24:4-14) resonate with what we see and hear daily:

“See that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

We are not to despair! Buried in a passage where many accentuate the negative, is one of the most promising phrases in scripture. “See that you are not alarmed,” isn’t just an impossible suggestion, for Jesus would never have advised something we cannot accomplish. In Him we have hope, He is our strength and our refuge, and we need not fear:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1

At Christmas we often hear people saying that Jesus is the reason for the season, and that’s true; but I’d take it a bit farther to declare that Jesus is the reason for every season in our lives. Our very existence here on earth is designed to bring honor and glory to Him, and the fact that we are here “today” is by His design, and He has a purpose for each of our lives.

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 139:16

So what does this have to do with Standing In Faith? Go back to the Hebrews passage from which the Lord spoke to me today, for this is the re-affirmation of our purpose:

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

May our Lord be with you all, may He bless and keep you throughout this and every season, and may He make you a blessing to others as you all are to me. Merry Christmas to all, along with my prayers and best wishes that in the year to come each person will find their strength in Him and will learn to stand in faith as never before. My prayer for each of us is from Hebrews 4:

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…Let us hold fast our confession…Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

 

 

He’s Kidding…Isn’t He?

ID-10083939    Television, Internet, newspapers—any media; take your pick, and it will be full of bad news—violence, dissention, hurricanes, fires, deception, scandals, unemployment, and more.  So, while only God himself knows exactly where we are in terms of the end times, we’re certainly far enough along for people to be overcome with negative emotions—disgust, hopelessness, anxiety, depression, worry, fear.  But, as He explained what end times would look like to the disciples, Jesus said that these things should not be frightening .

 “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.  “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:4-12)

    He must have been kidding!!! Could knowledge of such a dire future be comforting?  Yes, because it comes with His promise.

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:13-14)

    These days it can be hard to trust others because, somewhere along the way, deception and manipulation seem to have become acceptable behavior in order to achieve a goal.  Some might ask how we can trust what Jesus said?  How do we know that He was any different than our leaders today; that He was telling the truth?  What’s His track record?  Are we really supposed to believe that we don’t need to worry?  That doesn’t seem logical, or even possible! 

    Evidence that God’s word is true is overwhelming, and many volumes have been written documenting fulfilled prophecies and promises.  So let’s narrow it down and get specific regarding His track record with people who were told not to fear.  Is there proof that He came through for them—that He kept His word?

    Abram was already 75 years old when God told him to pack up, leave his home, and go to another country; all based on His promise that, “I will make of you a great nation.”  Years passed—difficult years—years of famine, fear, family friction, battle—years in which no heir of whom a great nation would come had been born.

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)

    Even more difficult and disappointing years passed before Isaac finally came along; and Abram, renamed Abraham, was 100 years old.  Yet, through all of the trials, he steadfastly chose to believe God and to continue on in faith.

    Isaac had grown up and married when there was another famine, and God showed up to restate the promise he’d made to Abraham.

And the Lord appeared to him and said, “… I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.  I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Genesis 26:2-5)

And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” (Genesis 26:24)

    Eventually Isaac’s son, Jacob, had his own encounter with God.

Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob!”  And he said, “Here I am.”  So He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there.  I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.” (Genesis 46:2-4)

    Fast forward to Joshua, just after Moses’ death.  Here he was, 80 years old and taking over the leadership of the Children of Israel, with years of battle ahead in order to seize the land of Canaan.  Talk about someone who could’ve been frightened!  There were giants in that land, and 40 years earlier all of the Israelites except Joshua and Caleb had been so scared that they’d refused to go forward, and ended up wandering around the desert until they all died and a younger-and-braver generation grew up.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-10)

[After Joshua’s death] the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them.  Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them.  They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so.  Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge.  For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. (Judges 2:16-18)

    And along came Gideon.  One day an angel showed up with the news that God was calling him to undertake the thankless task of leading this unrighteous bunch.

Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.”  But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” (Judges 6:22-23)

    And how about some prophets?  Jeremiah and Ezekiel were both commissioned by God to warn His hard-hearted people that they were headed for destruction—not a fun job, to say the least.

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; or to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:7-9)

And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. (Ezekiel 2:6)

    Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Joshua; Gideon; Jeremiah and Ezekiel; all were told by God to not be afraid in the face of tremendous trials.  Oh, but they were Bible heroes—they were special—right?  No, they were ordinary men, and the only thing that made them that made them any different than others is that they made a choice to believe that God’s would be faithful to His promises.  They all chose faith over fear.  They all understood the truth of words that had not yet even been written by Paul the Apostle…

… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5: 3-5)

    Still, they lived so long ago in Old Testament times—surely it’s different now.  No, not unless we choose to ignore Jesus, who repeatedly encouraged His followers, “Why are you so afraid?”  “Take courage.”  “Don’t be afraid.”  “Why did you doubt, you of little faith?”   “Do you still have no faith?  It is I—don’t be afraid.”

    So here we are, living in difficult, disheartening and even frightening times; and like those Old Testament believers, we have a choice.  We can choose to dwell in the mire of fear, or we can exercise our faith in God, for He can be trusted to keep His promises.

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

It’s Our Choice

IMG_1915

Heading north on the scenic 101, about an hour south of the Oregon border, the unsuspecting driver will suddenly encounter and traverse a coastal sandbar. On the left the restless, roaring Pacific Ocean; on the right, still and lush, Freshwater Lagoon; an astounding contrast of constant motion and thunderous noise versus quiet and peaceful serenity.

It’s a good analogy of the choice set before us as Christians. We can either jump headfirst into the hubbub of life where it takes all of our energy to just stay afloat; or we can choose to enter His rest and be free of doubt and fear, even as we move ahead, accomplishing much for the Kingdom of God. 

The incredible voice of Don Potter comes to mind, crooning the words of The End of Some Things:

“There is a promise I can still hear, that one day I might enter his rest…There will be rumors, there’s already war; there will be battles in the heavenlies.  Perilous times are coming our way; many will faint from anxiety…This may be the end of some things as we know it, but it’s not the end of me.”


The road ahead of us is clear.  Which will we choose?

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Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it…Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.  So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.  Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Hebrews 4:1, 6-11

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4: 4-7

Is God Big Enough?

The first week of nursing school and we were a little scared, excited, and hopeful—all at the same time.  Several of my new friends and I gathered around some seniors who would soon graduate and enter the workforce as registered nurses; hanging on every word, listening in awe as they spoke of diseases and treatments that were far beyond our comprehension.  Yet, even as we sat spellbound, longing for such wisdom, they began talking about how unprepared they felt to leave the safety net of our school and enter the world of nursing on their own.  But how could these smart, efficient women doubt themselves?  They seemed so knowledgeable and competent to our untrained minds.

Fast forward just a few short years, as my roommate and I were getting ready to go to our own graduation ceremony, sitting on our beds with those brilliant white caps in our hands—caps that for the first time ever were adorned with the black velvet stripe signifying that we were no longer just students but graduates of the LA County School of Nursing.  Our conversation mirrored that of those other seniors—we felt so unprepared; we didn’t know enough; we weren’t experienced enough; and what if we made a mistake that harmed someone?  Yes, we were excited, but at the same time overwhelmed—the responsibility just seemed too huge to contemplate.

Recently I came across my photo of a giant chair that is displayed in front of a home furnishings store somewhere in New England.  It reminded me of those old nursing school doubts, as well as the many challenges since, when life’s issues seemed beyond me; because as big as that chair is, I know that it’s still way too small for God.  He is sufficient to handle all that concerns me, as well as all that concerns everyone else in the world, without even lifting a finger.  Nothing is too big for Him.

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.  But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”  Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.  But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”  Mark 4:37-41

Yes, who can this be?  If He can calm an angry sea with a gentle command, surely He can calm the storms that threaten to wreak havoc in my life.  Surely He is big enough.  His name is Jesus.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.  Psalm 55:22a

Seek Him First

(This is an except from “I’m Still Standing,” a series of essays based on my journals during my encounter with breast cancer.)

Who would have thought so many would turn out to hear what this nondescript young man had to say?  What was it that stirred up so much interest—even among those who were sick and tired of hearing any discussion regarding politics or religion; or among those politically-correct individuals who sought to avoid controversy of any kind, preferring their “live and let live” philosophy that rejected any interference or judgment by others?  It certainly wasn’t his appearance.  He looked like any other 30-something guy; casually dressed in a way that didn’t make any sort of statement; and he didn’t have those movie-star-good-looks that the tabloids loved.  But there was something different about him.  Was it the humorous gleam in his eye?  Or the intriguing way he spoke in what seemed to be riddles?  Was it the way he seemed to be speaking directly to you when you were standing way in the back of a crowd?  No one seemed to be able to put a finger on it, but there was a certain charisma in his manner that divided people—they either loved him or hated him.  He was considered a dangerous terrorist who wanted to bring down the government to some, and a peace-loving pacifist to others.  So here they were—common everyday working people, stay-at-home-moms with their kids, reporters, clergy, politicians, celebrities and unknown businessmen—all gathered around and hanging on every word he spoke, just trying to figure him out.

He had a lot to say that day; touching on legal issues, personal accountability, lifestyles, and even the meaning of life.  Amazingly, the crowd remained quiet.  He was such a captivating speaker that they were literally speechless.  Then his manner seemed to change—for a moment he seemed genuinely puzzled as a new thought occurred to him.  “Why do you worry so much about things that really aren’t all that important?” he asked.  “You shouldn’t be so obsessed with your jobs, your finances, with how you’re going to afford to buy a house, with the cost of that new outfit or car or vacation, or even with where your next meal is coming from.  All you really need is faith in God because he knows what you need even before you do.  All you really have to do is look to him first and everything else in your life will fall into place.”  Oh boy—he’d done it now—if the crowd was just divided before it was polarized now.  Yet they remained quiet, almost mesmerized, as he continued speaking, with each person forming his own opinion of just who this guy was, and just how relevant were the things he had to say.

Such could be the scene should Jesus preach what has come to be known as The Sermon on the Mount in a public forum today.  And the simple truth he set down originally is as valid now as it was then, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34, NIV)

It’s so simple we miss it—no matter that it’s written over and over in God’s Word—we still miss it.  “Seek him first.”  It means just what it says.  It shouldn’t be a complicated or difficult-to-understand instruction.  After all, the concept of diligently seeking after something is not foreign to us.  If we desire the love and attention of another person we go after it with everything we’ve got—romantic dinners, gifts, doing all of the little things that would please the object of our affection.  Or, if it’s a career we want, we perform and perform and perform to keep the boss happy—late hours, heavy workloads, compromised ethics—we do whatever it takes to get that bigger check or promotion.  We understand these pursuits, but when the Lord says, “Seek me first,” we don’t seem to get it.  We don’t seem to understand we need to pursue him just as we would pursue anyone or anything else that’s important to us.

And what of his admonition not to worry about tomorrow?  After all, worry is such a normal part of life.  It’s so easy to do it.  Who among us doesn’t worry about something?  Aren’t we supposed to worry about our kids, our health, or our finances?  Aren’t we supposed to worry about threatening global issues like poverty or war?

As a teenager, I remember worrying about what would happen during the Cuban Missile Crisis and, a few years later, about Viet Nam.  For my parents it was World War II and the Korean War; for my grandparents, World War I.  And today, the terrorism and doomsday scenarios are worse than ever before, even in fictional accounts.  Have you ever watched 24, or read a Clancy or Ludlum novel?

Jesus is still the solution.  His word remains true—he doesn’t make false promises, and he promised that if we seek him first all of our needs will be supplied.  Therefore, worry should have no place to rest in our lives.

So why is something that sounds so simple so difficult to implement?  I believe it’s largely because Satan knows how to manipulate us, and worry is just another face of fear.  Life is hard, and we routinely face painful and difficult situations and/or decisions.  And when fear wears this disguise it often appears legitimate—sometimes even admirable.  It appears as concern for things that are our responsibility—the financial stability of our family, the well-being of our child, or issues regarding our health.  But when worry appears, fear has done its job.  Fear has turned our attention away from the simplicity of God’s command and focused it on the “what-ifs” of life.

Part of my own struggle to overcome worry is recounted in a journal entry:   How do I re-focus and get rid of worry?  It remains just as Jesus said—I must seek him first.  And, in order to do that, I must give him ownership of all of the things that concern me.  I must ask myself, “What is the worst-case scenario, and if it happened would God still be there for me?”  Yes!  As promised in Romans 8:38-39, nothing can separate me from his love.  So, it comes back around to wanting him more than anything else—it comes back to seeking him first.

But worry is accepted—even expected—as normal behavior, and I’ve been criticized for not being logical when I’ve refused to worry about certain things.  I’ve been accused of being unrealistic, irrational, or impractical.  I’ve been told that “the world just doesn’t work that way” or that I need to “get real.”   Others have tried to put me on a guilt trip for not worrying—surely they’re more well-adjusted than me because they worry about things that are important, and I’m being irresponsible if I refuse to do it too. But the ways of God are not understood by man’s logic, so I must come back to faith—I must trust what he’s said in his Word—I must live outside of worry because my God is bigger than any problem I face—he’s bigger than the cancer, he’s bigger than the chemotherapy, he’s bigger than the radiation.

This, then, is the foundation of my faith—God is real and his Word is true.  Jesus said it—I believe it—I must always seek him first.  My life is his and he is my refuge, my place of rest, my peace, and my hope.  He meets my every need.  What more could I want?

God’s Preserves

An abundance of blackberry vines grew wild and, as Mom was fixing dinner, we’d often run outside and pick enough so she could put together a quick cobbler for dessert.  And my Dad—oh, he was the king of the blackberry pickers.  Give him some buckets and some loaded vines and he’d fill them up in nothing flat while we “helped,” eating as many as we were picking.  Then the kitchen would smell delicious for days as my mother canned enough blackberry preserves to last until the following year.

One day as I was reading my Bible, a verse popped out as never before, Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints!  For the LORD preserves the faithful, and fully repays the proud person (Psalm 31:23)Before I’d always visualized the Lord throwing out a life preserver to save me, but now I realized that He was turning me into fruit-of-the-Spirit preserves; and I prayed that my life would become as flavorful as those wonderful blackberries of years ago.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

He shall abide before God forever.  Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him! Psalm 61:7)