Worry is like a volleyball.
When problems come, we need to take the worry, give it a good whack and send it off. When the volleyball comes our way, if we grab it and hold on to it our team loses the point. In the same way, if we hold on to our worries and meditate on them, we lose the point of it all and head toward defeat.
Rather, when we see that worry come back at us full speed, we must raise our hands and with all our strength send it flying.
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (Matthew 6:27 ESV)
“It’s not FAIR!”
How many times we who are parents have heard these words from our children! As much as we try, they still find inequity, and they can be quick to let us know.
Not only children, but adults can also be prone to voice the same complaint. Using more mature terminology, of course, but just reading the news we find an abundance of discontent due to people’s perception of injustice done to them. Righteous or not, many causes are fueled by people’s feelings of entitlement. We have rights, you know!
The process of human maturity is simply our learning that we are not the center of the universe. A baby is born with no consciousness of others’ needs. As we grow physically, hopefully we will also mature emotionally and socially. Some children progress rapidly in their ability to respond to the needs of others, but unfortunately many adults have a hard time leaving selfishness behind.
I used to think that true maturity and unselfishness would be to accept the fact that life isn’t fair, and be able to bear a reasonable amount of unfairness toward us without acting out like a two-year-old. But I can see now that maturity goes a step further; “not fair” does have a place in our unselfish vocabulary.
- It’s not fair that I have so much comfort when others around me have so little.
- It’s not fair that children should be deprived of their childhood and education to help support their families.
- It’s not fair that young girls suffer abuse that changes the course of their lives by becoming adolescent mothers.
- It’s not fair that I should enjoy a right relationship with God when others have not even had the opportunity to meet Him.
And the list goes on.
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the needy. Open your mouth, judge righteousness, and defend the poor and needy. (Prov. 31:8-9)
True maturity and unselfishness is more than just turning the other cheek when we are wronged. May we grow in willingness to sacrifice some of our comfort to bring comfort to others.
But the path of the righteous ones is like the light of dawn, leading and shining until the day is full. (Proverbs 4:18)
I was praying this morning with my eyes closed as the sun was rising. Even with my eyes closed I could sense the brightness of the sun, but for a brief moment that light was interrupted. I knew without having seen it that a bird had flown by.
The thought came to me, isn’t that just like life? How could a bird, so small in comparison, block the immensity of the sun? It was because the bird was so close to me. The situations in our lives can be so close to us that they block our view of God, casting their shadow on us for a moment.
But what about those longer periods of darkness, when the night comes upon our soul without even the reflection of the moon to give us light? At those times we need to remember that even the whole earth, which stands between us and the sun, is absolutely tiny in comparison to the immensity of the sun.
The darkness is nothing more than the earth’s shadow on us, and the same turning that brought us into the shadow will also take us back into the light. Our faith is the conviction that the sun shines even if we can’t see it, and that faith combined with patience will enable us to endure without losing our hope.
“I don’t go to church for the people. I only go for the Word of God!”
Somehow when my friend made that statement the other night in my home group it troubled me. She sounded so pleased that her motives were correct; she was sure that her priorities were in order.
I know what she was referring to; she has been hurt by people gossiping and judging one another in church meetings. She meant that she doesn’t go for appearance, or to make an impression on others. As she elaborated on her comment, I could see that she often goes in spite of the other people there.
However, I couldn’t help but think about what Word of God says about our reasons for meeting together. The principles in that same Word (that she was making her only priority in congregating) mention many other reasons than just listening to preaching. (Actually, I have found that when preaching is mentioned in the New Testament, it generally refers to sharing the Gospel outside of the believers’ meetings!)
- And let us continue to consider how to motivate one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another even more as you see the day of the Lord coming nearer. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- …be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:18-19)
- Then how is it, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be for building up. (1 Corinthians 14:26)
- And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you also are called in one body, and be thankful.
Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:15-16)
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t include good, solid Bible teaching in our priorities for meeting together. Certainly God desires to unify and build us up as a body through the teaching of His Word. But I have found that many people who put that reason on top of the list do so because they have not developed the habit of digging into God’s Word on their own at home. I can understand that if a person didn’t eat at home they would be starved for a good spiritual meal once a week! But God’s best is for us to seek Him daily, and from the overflow of what He speaks to us we can build each other up when we gather together.
What has your experience been?
How can we encourage people to build each other up?
That which is impossible for God. Possible for men?
Oops! You may think that I got a bit confused with quoting Luke 18:27 –
“And he (Jesus) said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’ “
But no, I meant it exactly the way I put it.
Think about it… is anything impossible for God? The quick answer would be no – He can do anything. But while it is true that He has all power, He cannot do anything contrary to His character. So we could make a list of things that He cannot do:
- God cannot lie.
- God cannot cheat.
- God cannot be unfaithful.
- God cannot be fooled.
- God cannot fail.
And the list could go on. You may notice that people can do all those things. And they do.
But our problems begin when we make God in our image. That often happens when a person has had a father or other authority figure that has done the things listed above. It is too easy to define God in terms of people that we have known, that we can see. Rather, we need to spend time getting to know Him personally so that we may be transformed into His image.
I find great comfort in considering the things that are impossible for God. Each of His impossibilities cancels one of my impossibilities. When I feel trapped with no way out – I have reached the end of my own ability – He is strong. He is faithful. He is true. He loves me and will rescue me without failing.
When it is impossible for me to be strong, it is impossible for Him to be weak; and He infuses His strength into me.
Which of God’s impossibilities has been a source of strength for you?
I teach a weekly Bible Study at a safe house for women. We have been studying lately about general Bible literacy; understanding how the Bible is laid out, the categories of books and their names. Just learning the order of the books in the New Testament has been a big challenge for most of them.
In keeping with the season, last week I brought up the subject of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Although all but one of them claimed to have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, their knowledge about these events and their significance was very sketchy. They didn’t know that Jesus descended before He ascended, that He took upon Himself the sin of humanity. They weren’t sure who crucified Him, or for what reason. They had very little knowledge about the time Jesus spent with his disciples between the resurrection and His ascending to heaven.
I feel that I have an important responsibility to help them understand truths like these. But sometimes I really wonder how widespread this lack of knowledge is? Are we assuming that people know basic truths just because we are so familiar with them? Could this lack lead to a loss of faith later on when times get tough and they don’t have the assurance of their salvation?
I think these questions are important. I would not want to be guilty of teaching a lot of doctrines of details, or just interesting facts and stories. At this stage they need the “pure milk of the word” ( Peter 2:2) so that they can “grow up to salvation.”
Certainly our personal relationship and fellowship with God is more important than our knowledge about Him, but I am convinced that what we know will profoundly affect that fellowship. We are so privileged to have free access to His Word to help us build that relationship so strong that it will stand any test.
- Have you encountered similar situations?
- How have you dealt with them?
- How can we encourage people to strengthen their core beliefs?
I enjoy my plants. In past years I have had (some enormous) vegetable gardens and even done some landscaping. Now that I am living in an apartment, my own garden has been reduced to a patio full of containers, but it is still great therapy for me to get out and work with them.
It’s easy for me to understand why Jesus kept referring to plants to illustrate spiritual truths. I frequently learn principles about the Kingdom of God while I am planting, pruning, pulling weeds, or harvesting. One of my greatest gardening pleasures is propagating the plants I have (and I have to admit my patio is getting quite full!).
From my experience, I have found basically three ways that I can get more plants from the ones I have:
- Planting their seeds (intentionally or voluntarily)
- Taking cuttings and rooting them
- Dividing and transplanting
The other day when I was on the patio with muddy hands planting dozens of aloe vera babies (I could go into business, seriously!) it dawned on me how these methods also apply to discipleship in the Kingdom of God:
- Seeds: An idea takes root in us and grows. It begins as something so small that we often don’t notice, but grows so large that we must investigate, follow, dedicate ourselves to it. Sometimes it is sown intentionally, or it can seem like chance – although in God there are no coincidences. A seed can be a book, a teaching, a relationship, or even just a comment.
- Cuttings: There are times when God will sever us from what is familiar, and insert us into new surroundings. Roots will grow and talents will develop in ways that we might never have imagined before, and instead of just being a part of something already established we find ourselves at the center of something new. Our influence in other people causes the work to branch out and grow.
- Dividing: In the security of community, new life buds and grows alongside those already established in the faith. Through nurturing relationships these young sprouts develop strength and purpose. They will often grow to the point that they will need more space in order to be healthy, and will repeat this pattern in their relationships with others who are new in the faith.
However it happens, the result is growth. Personal growth, community growth, Kingdom growth.
Have you seen these principles at work in you or in those around you?
What other factors have caused you to grow and change?