Jesus Takes Worry Seriously – And Gives Us Powerful Truth To Fight It (Part 2)

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Jesus wants you to overcome the temptation to worry.

In Monday’s post we looked at Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:25-27.  Today we’ll look at verses 28 – 33

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (28-30)

Wild flowers, don’t “toil or spin” – they do nothing to provide for themselves. Yet God is so lavish and overflowing that he clothes wild flowers with splendor and beauty that all Solomon’s royal seamstresses couldn’t imitate. Field flowers are “grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven” – grass doesn’t last and is of little value. Yet God clothes “grass” with incredible beauty. Will he not much more clothe you, whom he made in his own image, you who have an immortal soul? If God so lavish adorns wildflowers, will he not clothe his own children? What kind of mother would spend hours and hours working in her garden and then neglect to clothe her children? Why do we have such “little faith”?

Next Jesus says when we are anxious about our worldly provision, we think and act like Gentiles – unbelievers.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (31-33)

Gentiles worry because they have no guarantees of food and provision. Gentiles have no God to provide for them. But we have a heavenly Father who knows what we need, and cares deeply about us.

Now Jesus tells us where to focus our thoughts and energy: on the kingdom of God and his righteousness. These are we should seek first. Here’s what should occupy our thoughts and energy: loving and serving Jesus, seeking to obey his kingly rule, seeking to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, by which God has declared us righteous.

Finally Jesus says each day has enough “trouble” to keep us occupied.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (34)

Tomorrow is going to happen one way or another anyway, and we can’t do a thing about it. So focus on today. Seek the kingdom today. Have faith; don’t be of little faith. Have faith that God who provides for sparrows and clothes wild flowers with splendor will be far more lavish with you as his child. Don’t think and act like Gentiles who have no God who loves and provides for them. Act like the child of your heavenly Father who knows your every single need and cares about you.

Don’t be anxious; trust your Father.

I’ll Fly Away To Glory…Oh Wait, Maybe Not

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The world seems pretty crappy lately. I mean, granted, the world always has lots of bad things going on, but it seems like lately things have been…worse, perhaps? ISIS is on a campaign to destroy, maim, kill, and torture. Videos of beheadings are circulating on the Internet. Ebola, that awful, organ melting disease, is spreading in Africa. A man in Dallas is in critical condition after contracting the disease. Same-sex marriage is gaining widespread approval throughout the United States, and the world abroad. And, to top it all off, there will be a blood moon lunar eclipse (no joke) tomorrow night, which will most likely cause John Hagee’s head to explode.

In one sense, this barrage of non-stop bad news can have a good effect on us: it reminds us that this world, in its current condition, is not our home. Times like these remind us of those good ol’ hymns which talking about flying away to glory and crossing over the river Jordan and standing in that Promised Land. And, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with longing for heaven. Paul said it was better to depart and be with Christ. Heaven is a good place.

But what we so often miss, is that the Bible doesn’t speak primarily of Christians escaping this world. Heaven is not primarily a sanctuary which isolates us from the evil creation. Rather, heaven is a waiting place – a stop along the journey. Our true, ultimate, final hope is actually firmly rooted in the created world.

In his book Surprised By Hope, N.T. Wright makes the following, profound statement:

At no point in the gospels or Acts does anyone say anything remotely like, “Jesus has gone into heaven, so let’s be sure we can follow him.” They say, rather, “Jesus is in heaven, ruling the whole world, and he will one day return to make that rule complete.”

Yes, we will follow Jesus to heaven after we die. We will fly away to glory. But we won’t stay there.

Yes, we will follow Jesus to heaven after we die. We will fly away to glory. But we won’t stay there. Our ruling, reigning, conquering King will return to set all things right. He will return with the sword of justice and the balm of mercy. Men and women who perpetrate violence, pornography, sex trafficking, drug addiction, hypocrisy, stealing, sexual immorality, and every other evil, will stand before the King of Kings and receive their due sentence. The final judgment, which we can tend to view as a terribly frightening thing (which it will be…sort of), is actually a very wonderful thing. Again, to quote N.T. Wright:

We need to remind ourselves that throughout the Bible, not least in the Psalms, God’s coming judgment is a good thing, something to be celebrated, longed for, yearned over. It causes people to shout for joy and the trees of the field to clap their hands. In a world of systematic injustice, bullying, violence, arrogance, and oppression, the thought that there might come a day when the wicked are firmly put in their place and the poor and weak are given their due is the best news there can be. Faced with a world in rebellion, a world full of exploitation and wickedness, a good God must be a God of judgment.

ISIS will be no more. Ebola will be a vague, distant memory. There will be no more sorrow, sadness, wickedness, or heartache. Our God is returning, not to destroy the earth, but to remake and renew the earth. When God created the earth, he said it was good, and he still believes it is good. To go to heaven is a good thing. To have God bring heaven to down to earth is an even better thing.

Will we fly away to glory? Yes. When we die we will immediately be in the presence of the Lord, and that will be a wonderful thing. But something even better awaits us. The glory of God will descend upon the earth, and it will renew everything it touches.

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:2-4 ESV)

NOTE: When it comes to reading N.T. Wright, he’s got great stuff to say on the resurrection and really wonky stuff to say regarding justification. Let the reader understand.

Do You Need Proof That Jesus Takes Worry Very Seriously? Look No Further…

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Jesus had a lot to say about worry.

He came into an unstable and unpredictable world. He lived in an agricultural society where one summer’s drought could wipe out crops for the winter. He hung out with fishermen, who might fish all night long and catch nothing to sell or bring home to family. And Jesus knew the human heart and the temptations presented by the cares of this life. So he gave his disciples some excellent instruction on worry in Matthew 6.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (25)

First Jesus says God gave us our human life and our bodies without us even asking. Human life and our physical bodies are incredibly valuable. Our life is much more valuable than the food we put on the table; our body far more valuable than the shirt we put on. If God gave us life, which is so very valuable, will he not give us food, which is of far lesser value? If God gave us these bodies which are fearfully and wonderfully made, will he not give us clothes to cover them? And even further, if God has given us eternal life, will he not provide for our temporal life?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (26)

Jesus reminds us that God faithfully provides for dumb animals. Birds don’t sow or reap or store their food in barns – and they don’t fret about whether they’ll have enough for tomorrow or to get through the winter. Yet God feeds them. And Jesus tells us that humans, the crown of God’s creation, the only creatures made in God’s image, are of much more value than birds. If God provides for birds, then surely he’ll provide for those he made in his own image. Furthermore, will not God especially provide for those he bought with the blood of his Son?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (27)

Worry does absolutely no good. It won’t bring in money, food or clothing. Worry only has negative results: it chokes the word of God and distracts us from God. It is unbelief, the opposite of faith. And it leads to more fear and anxiety. And the different scenarios we play out in our minds can’t prevent a single thing from happening. And besides that, most of the things we spend so much time fretting about won’t happen anyway.

To sum up:

  • Your life and body are far more valuable than any food you eat or clothing you wear.  If God gave you life and fearfully created your body, he’ll provide food for that life and covering for that body.
  • God provides for birds who don’t know enough to plant, reap and store up for winter.  Humans created in God’s image are far more valuable than birds, so he will certainly provide for us.
  • Worry can’t do a thing.  I won’t bring in a penny.  It can’t put a crust of bread on the table or add 5 minutes to our lives. 

So don’t worry, trust your heavenly Father who cares for you.

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More to come on Wednesday…

photo by Roshawn Watson roshawnwatson.com

The Lecrae Phenomenon, The Left Behind Reboot, and the Entertainment Dilemma. A New Happy Rant!

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It’s Saturday. The weekend. You need something to pick you up. To fire you up. To excite you. You need another episode of The Happy Rant! In this episode, we talk about:

  • Why Christians are so wigged out about Lecrae’s recent climb to the top of the Billboard charts.
  • What to make of the new Left Behind reboot, featuring good ol’ Nic Cage.
  • How far are we allowed to go when it comes to tv shows and movies and music.

You know what to do.

Can A Christian Lovingly Use The Slippery Slope Argument?

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“That’s a slippery slope.” Have you ever heard that phrase used in an argument before? A slippery-slope argument is one in which it’s assumed that holding Position A leads inevitably to Position B, then Position C, then to D, and on down the line. The assumption is that no one wants to hold Positions B, C, and D, so therefore Position A is discredited. Usually the person holding to Position A responds that the slippery slope argument is a way to obscure the issue by smuggling in other topics, while the Slipper Sloper thinks his logical links are unassailable.

It’s worth thinking about the slippery slope argument because it’s in the headlines a lot these days in connection with debates on same-sex marriage and gender/transgender issues. Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that legalizing it would start the slippery slope towards crossing other sexual boundaries such as polygamy, pedophilia, or incest. The other side responds by saying the slippery slope argument is nonsense and an attempt to make anyone supporting same-sex marriage look bad. So my question is: can a Christian use the slippery-slope argument? And if so, how do we do it in a way that honors the commands to love our neighbor, and to be quick to hear, slow to speak?

I’m going to suggest two answers to that question, especially with regards to gender and sexuality debates. But first, in the interest of full disclosure, let me state where I stand. I think legalizing same-sex marriage would be wrong from a Scriptural standpoint and would ultimately be very harmful to our society. I also think the slippery slope argument has considerable force in this debate. (See the recent headlines about incest laws in Germany and polygamy laws in Utah.) But I’m also convinced that in this discussion, as in any other, those biblical commands still apply. So how can we love our neighbors while disagreeing with them?

Don’t assume that this person accepts Position B because they believe in Position A.

This is simply an application of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” You’ve probably had, or at least heard, someone say, “Oh, you’re a Christian, you guys believe ______” with the blank filled in with an outright distortion of Christianity that neither you nor anyone you know actually believes. You would like that person to actually ask you what you believe rather than write you off as ignorant, bigoted, or outdated based on a false assumption about what Christians are like. We owe that same respect to anyone we disagree with. You might be convinced it’s a slippery slope between A and B, but don’t assume the person you’re talking to sees it exactly as you do. Which leads to my second suggestion:

Ask the person to explain why they believe Position A doesn’t lead to Position B.

Questions are always better than assumptions. Use them. “In my mind there are implications to what you’re saying that trouble me. Could you help me understand if I’m hearing you correctly?” Or: “If you believe _______, what are your thoughts about ___________?” Two things might happen. One, you may find there are valid ways to hold Position A and not Position B that you haven’t thought of. Honesty and respect require – actually, let’s rephrase that: our Lord requires – that we consider those possibilities. Two, you may discover that the person you’re talking to hasn’t actually thought through the implications of their belief. That’s not the time to do a victory dance and pound your chest for having won the argument – not if our goal is to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Instead, this is the time to gently ask the person to reconsider their beliefs, and then give them time and space to do so.

Beliefs have implications. There are slippery slopes that need to be recognized and, with love and compassion, exposed. But any debate or argument brings its own slippery slope: slipping away from love, compassion, and a desire to help people see their need for Jesus towards a miry pit of arrogance, poor listening, and hard hearts. Don’t slip down that slope!

Photo by John Haslam