Be Anxious in Nothing

“…But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” Phil. 4:6-7, 19

What an awesome promise this is from God for those who trust in Him!  If you’ve been alive for the last 3 1/2 years you know that the world has experienced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Millions of people across the world lost their investments and savings, corporations and small businesses alike folded, and the value of our currency plummeted.  For many, it seemed the collapse of the world economy was right around the corner.  Despair was the pervasive attitude, especially in the United States, the most preeminent and wealthiest country on the map.  In this country, we get so bent out of shape over financial matters such as not being able to afford the remodeling of our kitchen, purchasing the newest HD LCD 3D, anything with a D, television, sending our kids to college, that we often forget to consider how well-off we really are and how much we have been blessed.  Not only are we blessed with great wealth in this country, we are also blessed to live in the most prominent and powerful nation in the world.  If you want proof of this, check this out.  If you’ve ever travelled out of the country, say to France, for vacation and you wanted to call your friends or family members back home in Maryland you would have had to dial a country extension code before you dial the number.  The country code for the United States is “+1”.  We are #1, the first, the most powerful, the most preeminent and important.  We say “God bless the USA!” like He hasn’t done that every day in lavish excess for the last 400 years!  We are extremely blessed by God to live in a country that has experienced the blessings of God for so long, not just in financial matters, but also in political and civil freedoms.

However, we take these blessings for granted every single day.  We find ourselves every day presuming on God’s grace to continue to bless us just because we woke up that day and are hard working 9-5.  Job was a man who we could learn a lesson from if we take our blessing for granted.  Job had an abundance of possessions in every sense of the word.  He was truly blessed by God with riches, possessions, family, friends, etc…until Satan asked for God’s permission to tempt Job to sin against God by taking away his blessings.  Satan’s premise was that Job would curse God if he lost the things he loved so God gave Satan the permission to take away but not to touch a hair on Job’s head.  I assume that many of us under these same circumstances would indeed begin to question and grumble against God and even worse, curse Him when our sons were killed, our house destroyed, and all of our assets lost.  I know I would certainly be angry, confused, doubtful of God, and feeling faithless.  But Job, like Paul, “suffered the loss of all things” but his faith in God never wavered and welcomed the sufferings of Satan because he knew that though Satan had malicious intentions, God’s intentions were glorious because Job’s faith was strengthened and purified when it went through the furnace of affliction.

Job’s trust and faith in God’s glorious purposes caused him to never doubt the love and care of God in his life.  So also we should trust and believe when we come upon troubles in our own lives.  As mentioned before the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:8, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, the I may gain Christ.”  Also, Romans 5:4 tells us about suffering, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance 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.”  Hope is the foundation of faith, and faith is rooted in trust.  So we can conclude that to have hope is to trust as well.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul tells us that we should be anxious in nothing.  If trust in God is what Paul is calling us to in this passage, then the opposite of that trust is anxiety.  Anxiety is stress that is brought about by certain fears in our life, usually relating to loss.  You can be anxious over the fear of loosing your job, your spouse, your money, your possessions, anything that you claim to own you can be anxious about loosing it.  Not to mention the fact that all things in the world belong to God and they are gifts to us to be stewarded wisely; we “own” many possessions.  Paul is calling us to live a life without fear.  In a world filled with sin and uncertainty there is A LOT to fear!  The only thing we are called to fear in this world is God.  Jesus says we should fear the One who is able to save and also to destroy.

But for those of us who have faith and hope in Christ we have the “shalom” of God bestowed upon our lives.  Shalom is the world that is translated into “peace” in verse 7 and it has a very strong meaning of total and complete peace with God, the likes of the peace that exists between the members of the Trinity.  Total, complete, and unending peace that is perfect and eternal.  This peace results in love and we certainly trust those who we love.  So this God whom we have access to in Christ Jesus is most worthy of our complete trust!  That means that when sufferings, trials, financial crisis, and pain comes our way we can trust in the God who loves us and the God whom we also love to not only carry us through whatever we may experience, but to make us the better for it as well.  Now we may not ever experience full restoration of material wealth and possessions but we will certain experience a restoration of faith, love, and grace in our lives as a result of being momentarily afflicted.  The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has promised to guide us through the fires of life and to bring us out more deeply in love with Him and ever more amazed at His grace!  So with confidence we can draw near to God in our moment of distress and cast all our cares upon Him because He cares for us!  Also remembering the faithfulness of God in the past and recounting His goodness and grace.  The remedy for anxiety and fear in this life is trust in Jesus Christ and rejoicing in thanksgiving.  And when we rejoice in goodness and mercy of God we will with unending love sing the words immortalized in this hymn by Robert Robinson:

Come Thou fount of every blessing

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace

Streams of mercy never ceasing

Call for songs of loudest praise!

Teach me some melodious sonnet

Sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the Name I’m fixed upon it

Name of Thy redeeming love!

Hitherto Thy love has blessed

Thou hast brought me to this place

And I know Thy hand will bring me

Safely home by Thy good grace

Jesus when me when a stranger

Wandr’ing from the fold of God

He to rescue me from danger

Interposed His precious blood!

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This is scary

In my research, I came across an article from Newsweek from 2008.  It’s a little old, but the ideas it contains are still fresh.  I was deeply disturbed reading it because it suggests that the Bible actually supports same-sex marriage and that the Biblical literalists have been getting it wrong the whole time!  I would suggest that you read it to get a sense of, if you oppose same-sex marriage because of the claims of the Bible, what you’re up against.

http://www.newsweek.com/2008/12/05/our-mutual-joy.html

So much to say

This is going to be short because it is not possible for me to contain everything I want to say in a blog, or a news article for that matter.  If you’ve been following the news in Maryland the last couple days you’ve no doubt heard that the state Senate has been debating on the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Bill”, now called just the “Civil Marriage Protection Bill”.  The bill, if passed, will legalize same sex marriage in the state of Maryland and afford to gay couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.  I’m currently doing a little research and will be back with more, much, much more hopefully later on today.  Stay tuned!

Wise words from Master Yoda

“The fear of loss is a pathway to the dark side.  Attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed that is…train yourself to let go of everything you fear to loose”

Those words spoken by Yoda a long time ago can relate to many things in life.  I am choosing to apply them to money today.  Money is something we all love for various reasons and purposes.  But God tells us to be free from the love of money.  Why?  How?  That is why the sermon series we are in at church is so helpful!  Hopefully these questions will be answered and God will change the hearts of hundreds of people!

How often do we need the reminder to be free of the love of money?  A lot!  I must say thank you to Pastor Don for bringing us the Word as it relates to loving money and all of its repercussions.  Being a college grad without a full-time job, money is something that is scarce and in high demand.  Thankfully my living expenses aren’t too high right now since I still live at home for next to nothing in terms of rent.  However, my part-time job at the grocery store is barely cutting it to pay my monthly expenses and I have pretty much no opportunity to save anything.  This causes me to be anxious about my future, my immediate future because it’s sometimes uncertain if I’ll be able to pay for my car insurance and monthly payments but God is always gracious and generous with me and provides for my needs whether its extra hours at work or extra time to pay the bill.  God has been faithful so far yet I still find myself stressing out at the end of the month.  I have a desire to make more money, not necessarily to get rich and accumulate a vast amount of possessions, but to be secure in my finances and to live comfortably.

I believe God is using this period of low income to teach my faithfulness and good stewardship.  I’m always reminded of the verse when Jesus says to the disciples that the poor woman who gave one denarii was more faithful than the rich man who gave 10% of his income because she was faithful with her extremely small wealth, while the rich man felt generous when he only gave a small portion of his large income.  Jesus also promises us that if we are faithful with a little we will also be faithful with a large amount.  Likewise, if we are unfaithful with a little, we will be unfaithful with a large amount.  I think the reason I get anxious when the bills are due is because I love my money too much.  I don’t like letting go of it because it makes me feel secure.  I also fear debt.  Since I operate on such a small budget I fear the concept of loans and debt because you add to the amount of money you must fork over each month.  God has definitely been at work in my heart to cure this lack of trust in His provision for my finances.  Since graduation almost a year ago I’ve been slowly but surely learning little lessons on trusting in God like becoming more faithful with tithing, not out of necessity, but out of a genuinely generous heart.

Realizing that money is a gift from God that we are to use wisely and generously has been a huge step for me in the last couple months and especially since we started the Money series at church.  By God’s grace I hope to arrive at a place where I am free from loving money and fearing not having enough so that my trust in God is greater and my security is in Him and His salvation, not little pieces of paper.

The Pride Test

From Mark Driscoll’s sermon on Luke 14:7-11 on the Parable of the Wedding Feast:

  1. Do you long for a lot of attention?
  2. Do you become jealous or critical of people who succeed?
  3. Do you always have to win?
  4. Do you have a pattern of lying?
  5. Do you have a hard time acknowledging you were wrong?
  6. Do you have a lot of conflicts with other people?
  7. Do you cut in line at the store, freeway, airport, etc…?
  8. Do you get upset when other people don’t honor your achievements?
  9. Do you tend more toward an attitude of entitlement or thankfulness?
  10. Do you honestly feel you are a good person and superior to others?

Each question you answered “Yes” to is 1 point.

If you scored 1-10 points, you are proud.

If you scored 0 points, you are very proud!

Pride is the opposite of humility.  We either start with pride and end with humiliation or we start with humility and end with exaltation.

The remedy for pride is Jesus.  Jesus was the most humble person to ever live and we can learn so much from His life to change the way we live ours.

 

Judge Not

After care group last night and the sermon from church 3 weeks ago I have come to the conclusion that I judge people way too harshly.  Deep, I know!  You say, “Wow Tim, it must have taken you a lot of soul-searching and meditation to figure that out!” with a heavy helping of sarcasm, but even after we heard the sermon in church I was still convinced that it was something that other people struggled with.  Only after care group last night did I really come to grips with the truth that I judge other people harshly as well.

There are numerous passages in the Bible about not passing judgments on others, many of them I know from memory.  These would include, “Do not judge others lest you yourself be judged”, “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves”, “Let not the one who eats, pass judgment on the one who abstains”, etc…  My own blindness to my sin leads me to think that I’m better than everyone because I don’t struggle with sinfully judging others.  The irony is that by having that mindset I am being prideful and looking down on others because they are somehow weaker than me, which turns out to be sinfully judging them.  What a mess I am!  All I can say is thank you Holy Spirit for revealing my sin to me and showing me how wicked I am!  The good news is that there is a Savior who died for all of that prideful wickedness!

Jesus was the only person who ever lived who was not worthy of being sinfully judged, yet He was the  most sinfully judged person to have ever lived.  Everyone else before or after Jesus has been sinfully judged and although the judging is sinful, there is most likely a sin that the judged person committed that in some way warranted the judging.  Jesus, on the other hand, never sinned.  So His being judged was never warranted.  When he cast out demons the religious (evil) people said He was the prince of demons.  When He healed on the Sabbath they said He was sinning.  When He taught about the Kingdom they said He had a demon Himself.  Jesus was always the target of gossip and slander and sinfully judging by people who thought they had it all figured out.  But they missed the point (and it was hidden from them) that Jesus was God and that He alone is the only one who is permitted to judge.  Yet when Jesus was the subject of gossip, slander, judgments, yes He rebuked them, but He also showed them mercy and was even silent sometimes.  Isaiah 53:7 says about Jesus, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth”.

The example of Jesus is what my life needs to look more like.  Never did He pass a sinful judgment on His friends or His enemies even when they accused Him of blasphemy.  He loved them and gave them chances to repent because He does not wish that any should perish, but come to eternal life.  My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would teach me to view sinful judging the way Jesus does and that I would rather choose to love people instead of pass judgments when that is not my role.  Teach my love instead of criticism, compassion instead of self-righteousness, and mercy instead of hardness of heart.

I’m not a nerd…OK, yeah I am!

As a follow-up on my last post (which was almost a week ago now); the topic of the use of technology in the church is a very interesting and broad one.  I recently just finished reading Vintage Church by Mark Driscoll which was very educating and inspiring on the whole subject of ecclesiology.  But in specific, there were two chapters I was very interested in reading.  One was about multi-site churches and the other on how a church can utilize technology effectively.  A few of the main points from these chapters were:  1) that technology is a gift from God 2) technology can and should be used to accomplish and enhance the mission of the church 3) it is not a one-size-fits-all model that works for every church, different churches require different levels of use and different kinds of technology.

For example, Mark’s church is very large and has 11 different campus in the Pacific Northwest.  They use live video to broadcast his sermons from the main campus every Sunday which are viewed live at the other campuses or recorded to be played at a later service.  Obviously if your church is not multi-site you don’t need a video feed of your sermons.  But every church now has a need for sermon audio in the least.  The available technology used by the church should allow people (members and non-members) to freely consume the church’s resources such as sermon audio, sermon notes, and transcripts if necessary.  The church is called to be generous with its resources and should not charge for a sermon download to avoid being seen as greedy.  Since the main responsibility of the church on Sunday is the preaching of the Word it should be made available to everyone who needs it, whether members who missed because of serving in children’s ministry or illness, or newcomers who want to make an informed decision about visiting your church, or non-believers who simply want to hear God’s Word.

I could go on forever on this topic, but I will limit it to one more paragraph :0.  Another aspect of a church’s use of technology would be its online presence.  Does your church have a website?  Is it easy to find and use?  Is it visually pleasing?  Is the gospel and the church’s mission clearly presented?  Will you take advantage of social media such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, The City, etc….  The main objective of having an online presence for your church is to reach as many people for Jesus as possible and to give a new dimension to community for the members of the church.  Having an online presence, and a strong one at that, will help a church reach those people who might be out of their geographic area (future residents, troops overseas, missionaries, etc…).  The best way to approach the use of the Internet is to make it as much as possible an extension of the life of the church.  In the church we have the preaching of the Word, many and various ministries, counseling, leadership training, prayer requests, fellowship, and more.  All of these aspects of church life should be as present as possible in the church’s use of the Internet.

For example, Mark Driscoll’s church uses a program called The City to bring church life online.  A member at the church actually designed it and implemented it and has since sold it to the Christian publishing company Zondervan. The City functions as a Christian version of Facebook, where church members are able to communicate with each other, lead and coordinate ministries, submit prayer requests, buy and sell goods and services, and even search for jobs in a password-protected environment.  Many churches across the country have implemented The City at their own churches as well.

In summary, technology is a vast and limitless topic where something new is always on the horizon that can make our lives easier or better.  The church’s job is to take these things that God has given, which man has twisted and perverted, and redeem them for the use of God’s kingdom and the Church’s mission.  At the end of the day, our use of technology must be evaluated by the points from above, 1) Are we using technology in our church to glorify God or conform to the world? and 2) Are we using technology by God’s grace and the best of our ability to enhance the mission of our church to reach more people for Jesus?  When we do these things we will see a church that is more in love with Jesus and as a result, reaching the culture for Jesus, thus bringing glory to God.  In the church age we are constantly on a mission for the fame and renown of Jesus Christ and we accomplish that by loving Jesus and being faithful witnesses to the lost and being good stewards of the gifts which God has bestowed to us.