Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 14 -- Don't Worry, Be Holy

Matthew 6:19-34

In 1988 the song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" was popular. It was song of the year. My law school roommate watched MTV and, because he knew that song grated on me, would give me a less than sincere invitation to come watch my favorite video when it came on.

We have plenty of things to worry about. We can worry about our retirement investments plunging, we can worry about our jobs, we can worry about our health, we can worry about how safe our children are going to be, we can worry about terrorists. We can also worry about less important things. We can worry about what we're going to wear on a date, we can worry about what we're going to give Grandpa for Christmas, I can worry about whether Grandpa is going to get me another dickey for Christmas, we can worry about the weather, I can worry about whether the Duke Blue Devils are going to do well in the NCAA tournament this year.

Where does worry come from? For the most part, fear. Winston Churchill was reminded of the story of the old man on his deathbed who thought about all the trouble he had in his life, most of which never happened.

Jesus was pretty plainspoken about worry. DON'T!! What has worry ever done for you? It'll give you a bellyache. It'll keep you up nights. It'll paralyze you so you don't get anything done. But it won't do anything for you.

But while Jesus said "Don't worry," He didn't just follow up with "Be happy." I think the reason I didn't like that song was in the video you have all these people that are floating around with a completely empty head. I didn't like that and I still don't (even though I may appear that way from time to time).

God Loves You

I don't think Jesus ever got tired of telling people how much God loves them. He looked for all kinds of ways to tell us that. Here, he shows us how God takes care of the flowers and the birds. However, they weren't made in God's image. God didn't breathe life into them. God put them under our dominion. God didn't send His Son to die for them and yet He takes great care of them. How much more will He take care of someone He created in His own image, breathed life into, put in authority over the earth and sent His Son to die for?

The worrier can look around and see things to worry about. The person of faith looks at those same things and sees all kinds of things that scream out "GOD LOVES ME!!" You decide what your perspective will be.

Be Holy

After talking about possessions and worrying, Jesus gets into the heart of it all. "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will follow after you." Once we get the idea that pursuit of stuff is useless -- like chasing after the wind -- and pursuit of God's righteousness is lasting, we can find meaning in our lives.

I like to collect baseball cards. However, 75 years from now, they probably won't do me any good. If we put our investment into pursuing God's righteousness by making an effort to show love to people, etc., we'll see that investment still paying dividends hundreds of years from now. Jesus wasn't saying not to collect baseball cards or to have nice cars and houses. What Jesus was saying is that when we place our priorities on things that are of this world, we're going to find dissatisfaction. When we pursue God's righteousness, He says that "all these things" (what we will wear, what we will eat and even the desires He puts in our hearts) will follow along.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

December 7 -- Raising the Bar

The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most famous teachings Jesus ever did. However, if you examine what we've just read, I'm surprised anyone stayed around the way He really challenged them......and us. What we're going to see is that Jesus was raising the bar for anyone who thought they could just look at the 10 Commandments and be good. He raised the bar for anyone who would be born again with the Holy Spirit. I hope you stay around.


Light was one of the first things we see in the Bible. In fact, apart from heaven and earth, light was the first thing created and was the first thing spoken into existence. Light gives warmth, but the function Jesus talked about here had to do with enabling people to see.

We have natural light (the sun) and artificial light produced through light bulbs, etc. A light bulb by itself, however, is nothing, much like the believer who is not abiding in Christ. John 15:5 However, when the light bulb is inserted into a lamp, and the lamp plugged into a power source, the bulb will produce light. Likewise, we must make sure we're not only plugged into a power source, but that we're situated in such a place that the light can be seen. If I turn on a lamp, but put it in a closet and shut the door, I'm wasting electricity. What am I doing if I take the light God has given me and hide it somewhere.

This is why verse 16 is so important: Let your light so shine before me that they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. "Good works" are not the works that makes God love you, but simply those things that were prepared for you when you were saved. Ephesians 2:8-10 Here's the part that raises the bar. Don't do the right thing because it will cause people to accept you; Do the right thing because it'll make God look good to the world. Talk about something that will cause a civil war between flesh and spirit!

Difficult Challenges

Ask many people on the street about getting into heaven and you'll hear many (too many) justify themselves by saying they're good people that haven't killed anyone, haven't cheated on their spouses and so forth. We know that this type of justification through actions is doomed to failure because no one could keep the law except Jesus.

However, Jesus seemed to not make it easy. Going through life and failing to murder isn't enough; Jesus called people to not even being angry without cause. Jesus taught that not cheating on your spouse was a good thing, but He called people to not even allow yourself to lust after another. Finally, loving your neighbors is ordained by God, but Jesus reminds them that they're also to (gasp) love their enemies.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

November 30 -- "Peace, Be Still"

Mark 4:35-41

Jesus is preaching all day and in the evening the disciples take the boat across the sea. It's not clear whether the other boats along are part of a floatilla including others that follow Jesus or just some of those He was teaching that wanted to stay with Him. A storm blows up on the sea and threatens the boat. What do we learn from this event?

1. Make sure Jesus is in your boat.

We have a lot going on in our lives. If we’ve got so much going on that there’s no room for Jesus in our boat, it’s going to be more difficult for us to find Him in time of need. The disciples made sure Jesus was close by. There are things we do that crowd Jesus out of our boats. Examine your life and schedule to see if something needs to be thrown overboard or stowed on an accompanying boat so Jesus can be close to you.

2. Storms come at unexpected times.

At least 4 of the disciples were experienced fishermen, which meant they knew how to handle a boat in a storm. This was a fierce storm that hit suddenly and had experienced sailors asking a carpenter for help!

We can't prepare for everything, but we can be as wise as the disciples. When they felt overwhelmed by the storm, they rushed to Jesus. We should still do everything He's taught us to handle the storms of life, but we should also know when to run to Him.

The other thing about storms is that they come into our lives because we live in the world, we make bad choices or because Satan has an evil plan to harm us. We need to learn that we don't have to take any crap off the enemy. Just because a storm blows into our lives doesn't mean we have to take it. There is no storm that is greater than God's grace. Don't just sit there and take it. Approach God and ask for help! Don't take any crap off the Devil.

3. Jesus was dealing with fear more than wind.

After the wind and sea were still, Jesus looked at his disciples and said, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Jesus tied the two together. Fearfulness equalled a lack of faith. Conversely a strong faith will minimize fear.

Jesus also spoke what is translated as "Peace, Be still" when talking to the storm. The word translated as "peace" means "an involuntary stillness or inability to speak.” The word translated as “be still” means “muzzle” or “put to silence.” This is more than Jesus just saying “settle down.” The picture here is Jesus getting a hammerlock around fear, clamping His hand over its mouth and forcing it to stop talking. That fear was telling the disciples "You're going to die" and causing them to forget their faith and that was the real problem.

Fear does the same thing to us. It paralyzes us. It tells us lies that we buy into because we forget our faith. I think part of what Jesus was telling the disciples when he asked why they had little faith was "Why didn't you muzzle this fear?" There are times we need the comfort and peace of Jesus and other times that we need to take the faith and spiritual gifts that have been given us and shut up the fear in the storms that ride into our lives. The power of the Holy Spirit gives us this ability as a matter of right.

4. Jesus can calm storms today.

When did Jesus lose His power to make the wind and waves obey Him? When did Jesus lose His power to shut fear up? Perhaps the better question is when did God's people stop trusting Him to help in their everyday lives?

Several years ago my little girl had a stomach ache in the middle of the night. I groggily got up with her in the middle of the night and sat in the bathroom with her. She told me it hurt and she felt like she was going to vomit. This passage came to my spirit, so I got my Bible and read it to her. I asked her if her stomach was churning like the waves on this sea? Yes, she said. I then asked her if she'd like Jesus to say "Peace, Be still" to her belly. Yes, she said. We prayed and asked Jesus to say "Peace, Be still" to her belly. She still had a stomach ache and felt weak (I guess we didn't ask for enough), but she told me her stomach felt calmer and she wasn't going to throw up. She didn't.

God used that to show me something. We still ask Jesus to speak "Peace, Be still" for nausea, but also for other storms. You see, Jesus hasn't lost any power. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) We need to entrust Him to help us wth our storms.

I like the song below ("The Anchor Holds" by Ray Boltz). Watch it, realizing Jesus is the anchor to hold us steady through storms and our protector to throw fear in a headlock and shut it up.