'Be anxious for nothing..." ~Philippians 4:6

Friday, August 18, 2017


Scholar and theologian Matthew Henry asked, “What can be a stronger motive against sin, than the love of Christ? Shall we sin against so much goodness, and such love?”

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, 6:1-4 he asked, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin, still live in it? Or, do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that, as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”  

Jewish leaders of his day were appalled, and demanded that the apostle Paul explain himself! They wanted to know if his philosophy of being saved by God’s grace, as opposed to merely following of the Law of Moses, was tantamount to a pass to living a sinful life. They wanted to know if the Jesus he preached about encouraged followers to live any old kind of way, so that more and more grace could be extended toward them.  
Paul was clear that the response to God’s grace was certainly not to live as wildly as possible.  He asked, “Should we continue in sin so that grace can abound?” Paul’s emphatic answer was “God forbid!” The thought of taking advantage of God’s grace isn’t a welcomed one in the mind of one to whom great love has been demonstrated. The characteristic that marks the life of someone who professes Christ is not defiant and rebellious, but obedient and compliant.  God's faithful promises to us are much more powerful and effective at annihilating sin, than our fickle promises to God. Matthew Henry wrote, “Sin may struggle in a real believer, and create him a great deal of trouble, but it shall not have dominion; it may vex him, but it shall not rule over him”
So many believe it is impossible for human beings to change; impossible to let go of words, actions, and behaviors that are not pleasing to the Lord, and that’s simply not true. The Bible says that we can do all things through Christ. Just the thought of that should give us great strength, hope and assurance.
For anyone who has experienced the love of God and his grace, it is impossible not to acknowledge what needs to change. We know what needs to go altogether, and make a conscious decision to turn from deliberately offending God. The answer to Paul’s question, “shall we who died to sin continue live in it” is “No way!
Those who are “baptized into Christ Jesus” by pledging allegiance to him, having faith in him, and accepting him as Lord of our lives are forever linked not only with him, but with His death and resurrection. Basking in wrongdoing is no longer an option. We are symbolically and spiritually “buried” with Christ and then “resurrected”-- raised with him, to “walk in newness of life”
I like this definition of the word “new”: “already existing, but seen, experienced or acquired for the first time.” No matter how old we are; no matter how old our mistakes are, in Christ we can start again! Perhaps for us, every day is a new opportunity for a do-over, but we have to remember that it is the finished work of Christ that matters most. He did the work. We don’t have to add or embellish just take advantage of the help God offers and the grace he has freely given.
We have a new lease on life when we embrace God's promises. We love God, his word, his promises, his commandments and gratefully acknowledge that we are conformed to His image. We are new creatures, and have new hearts, minds, conversation, standards, goals, views, presents and futures.  
Baptism is a powerful sacrament. It is also a visible indication of a person’s desire to experience new life. By the same baptism which publicly ushers us into Christ’s death, we are also ushered into his burial.  To leave a deceased body unburied is the height of humiliation. It was necessary and fitting for Jesus after "dying for our sins according to the Scriptures, to descend into hell. It was the final, humiliating part of the plan of salvation. It was the last link to the life he gave for all mankind, and so we, by virtue of being "buried with Him by our baptism into His death," also disassociate ourselves from our own, old, unredeemed, sinful state.
If our old nature, our old state, now dead and buried with Christ, was completely sinful, the new nature requires a holy life. Each time we have even the slightest inclination to return to anything that threatened separation from God; anything that we know was wrong, caused us pain, stress, grief, and shame, we make a mockery of being alive with Christ to newness of life.
Baptism teaches the necessity of dying to sin; dying to ungodly and unholy lives, and of rising to walk with God in newness of life. The “old” man, is crucified with Christ. Even in a broken, wounded state, it still struggles for attention, control and fights for life, but anything that is not pleasing to our holy God has got to go. We have grace. We have faith. We live for Christ and experience great joy as we serve him. The Bible says “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, and all things are become new”. Notice those two verbs in the same sentence—“are” and “become”.  Is it possible to be something, and begin to be something at the same time? Yes! Being and becoming new creations in Christ—that’s our desire. It is ongoing, and it looks good on us!
Father, we thank you that you didn’t just abandon us; give up on us and leave us without the will to want to be and do better.  We thank you for the gift and opportunity to be new creations in Christ. Thank you that all things are become new. Thank you for loving us enough to forgive, and for the capacity to be conformed to your image. Thank you for knowing all about us, and still wanting fellowship with us.  Thank you for reminding us in your word that we are no longer under law, but under grace. Thank you for the assurance that we can bear temptation. Thank you for loving, saving, redeeming and having compassion toward us.  Like David we ask you to “Establish our footsteps in Your word” . Help us to never, ever take your grace for granted. We thank you for your presence, guidance, wisdom and faithfulness, and your promise to never leave or forsake us as we walk in newness of life.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Someone in my county government thought it would be a good idea if trash was picked up once per week. I guess it was a revenue-saving measure, but it amazes me what ends up on the chopping block when it’s time to save money—the stuff that people actually need.
No one bothered to ask the community how decreasing trash removal would work for everyone in a place where raccoons, opossum, deer, and trash cans with insecure lids were everywhere. Now, we have new, larger trash bins, akin to the existing recycle bins, to hold (hopefully) what has accumulated from Tuesday to Tuesday. If you miss those trucks, though, shame on ya. They won't be coming again on Friday like they used to.

Every day, decisions are made that will affect others and those decisions are based on what someone thinks, believes, and knows. Although their intentions may be as good as gold, how close are the decision makers to what is actually going on? How often is it proven that decision makers are woefully out of touch? Will they be affected by the decision, or are they just eager to implement it without considering the consequences?

I read that there are three major types of theories of decision-making:
1. normative theories which inform us how a reasonable, mature, rational person should behave
    2. descriptive theories that describe and embody how individuals of any ilk do behave, and
    3. descriptive theories that instruct us how to behave based on our own cognitive, physical, or personal  limitations. 

    There’s a concept that exists and is studied in Psychology called “subjective desirability”. It’s what is commonly known as  preferences.  Our individual preferences, whether they are born out of heredity, tradition, education, or socialization, are a big part of our decision-making process. Our personal preferences come into play even when we’re making decisions for other people. That can be sticky and tricky. When tasked with making decisions for others, to avoid conflict, accusations of  insensitivity, spite, bias, unfairness or being woefully uncaring and disconnected, we have to ask ourselves,

       1.Whose best interests are being considered?  Mine or             theirs?
2. Do I know enough about the people involved or the situation to make a sound decision?
3. Have I considered asking for input from the people who will be impacted by the decision I make, or do I not respect them enough to even ask?
4. Am I on a power trip? Do I care about the outcome and impact of my decision?
5. Am I seeking the maximum benefit for all, or being a selfish jerk or bully?
6. Am I making wise decisions or imposing hardship upon others while I enjoy satisfaction and comfort?
7. Is it about the good of the organization, group, or project, or do I just want my way?

I cannot make decisions for you without knowing how it’s going to affect everything concerning you. I can't turn a blind eye. I have to care. If I can't, or won't be righteous about it, perhaps I'm not the one who should have the final say. The decisions I make for you will determine everything from whether I’m actually in touch with you, or even if I like you! I can’t be so consumed with what I want, or what I think is right, normal or reasonable, that I ignore your needs. 

There is a very good book written by Gary Chapman titled The Five Love Languages. One  premise Chapman explores is that we tend to love people the way we want to based on our needs, and not how they need to be loved. We figure that people ought to be happy with the way we treat them, what we do for them, and the decisions we make. We get mad, offended and perplexed when they aren't, but do we bother to learn them enough to make sure our efforts aren't a waste of time for ourselves and a disappointment to the people we are serving, helping, governing, leading, or sharing space with? Do we really care about how others feel or what they really need, or do we operate with our own agendas and impose what we think is best for them and demand that they like it? We can have the best intentions where another person is concerned and still be all wrong in our decisions concerning them.
Again, that’s where caring comes in. We have to care how the decisions we make are going to impact people. What’s best, good, or preferable for me may not be what’s best for you—and I have to esteem you enough to acknowledge that.
A lack of empathy characterizes those decisions that fail to take into account the well-being of others. If I want to be happy, what on Earth makes me think others don’t want the same?
The “too bad” that I declare to someone else won’t sound good when I hear it when I least want to. When making decisions for other people, the first thing to be remembered is simple: They’re people and they matter.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017


I don't know a single soul in North Korea, and I don't think anyone there knows me. I've never been there, but I'm sure that like me, there are people who are just trying to make it each day; take care of their responsibilities; attend to the needs of their families; stay out of trouble; do what they can to be of assistance, and offer encouragement to others. Now it seems we are one covfefe away from disaster, and we haven't even met.

The president said "...best not..." Wow. Just...wow. 
If that didn't remind me of my late Aunt Lillian...only she used to say "bet' not"...and when she said it, we knew she wasn't playing...which would make all that tough-apocalyptic-Hollywood-type-talk I heard on the news today a little unnerving-- if not, of course for Philippians 4:6-7. I guess if there was something to be anxious about, nuclear war would be right at the top of the list, but my favorite passage of scripture reads, "Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus." 

"Nothing, Lord?" I asked Him. "Really? Okay, then. Nothing it is".

My other end of the day favorite is Psalm 4:8." I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."

I like that--safety that is--but still, I just find it fascinating anytime people who could do something about a situation; who could bring calm; who could just at least quash madness, confusion, and controversy with one move or one word, decide not to. Maybe they know something that everyone else doesn't. Maybe they don't care. Maybe they're following orders. Maybe there's a bigger picture, that I can't see, that makes all of the ridiculousness necessary. Maybe I shouldn't even have an expectation of, or desire consistent peace and love, and happy, happy joy joy. Maybe that's not realistic. Maybe I've forgotten that this isn't Heaven, and should remember that "this, too shall pass".

I guess our nations leaders are just going to sit back and watch this sideshow play out with the rest of us. It certainly has proved to be fodder for comedians everywhere. It would be entertaining and even hilarious if not for the fact that it's not a show. 

I wonder what the family members of leaders are saying to them. I imagine some of them screaming, "Can't you do something?" Are their sheepish replies, "You'd think so, huh? But my hands are tied."...or is it that many of their hands are dirty?

Sometimes I wish certain world leaders would just stop professing to speak for everyone, and just admit that they don't really care about the welfare of the average Joe.  
Warmongers. Bullies. Narcissists. Ugh. I wish there was a law that demanded that some world leaders don boxing gloves, climb into a boxing ring, duke it out, and stop allowing their loose lips, arrogance, pride, ignorance, hatred, and lack of discipline to cause so much suffering to the innocent people they say they represent. So many leaders are good at making enemies out of people who have no interest in war. Why won't the cowards just stop instigating and posturing and fight among themselves, and leave the rest of the world in peace?
A person's  unresolved issues really do show up and show out when they're handed a little power. But then, in so many nations, the "king" who the people have ruling over them, is the king they asked for, wanted, and chose. When the king starts wiling out and demonstrating he has no integrity or loyalty to anyone, it's too late for a do-over. 

So what's left to do? 1 Timothy 2:1-3 presents a challenge. Paul's letter probably challenged poor Timothy, too when he read it. After all, the king who Paul admonished him to pray for, was none other than that peculiar Nero. Nevertheless, he wrote, "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” 

I like peace and quiet. Soooo, maybe it's time to pray for that guy in spite of how we feel; in spite of how desperately many would love to see him stripped of his authority; in spite of how much we miss not being lied to, embarrassed, and dumbfounded EVERY time we turn on the news. I know I'm tired of cringing every day. 

Prayer it is...: )

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Theologian, Matthew Henry wrote:  “Time is a talent given us by God, and it is misspent and lost when not employed according to his design. If we have lost our time heretofore, we must double our diligence for the future.”

We’ve been taught that a day is divided into 24 hours. Math is not my ministry, but technically, a day consists of 23hrs, 56 minutes, 4 and nine-tenths of a second. Those 366-day-having leap years account for the missing 3 minutes and 55.9 or so seconds, but one thing is sure—we can’t get any of that time back once it’s gone. 
What each day provides, are new opportunities. Among those is to be of service—not for applause, compensation, or out of a competitive spirit, but because it’s just the right, beneficial, or nice thing to do.

We invest time on a regular basis, but it’s usually at the conclusion of a matter that we evaluate whether the time was well spent. It’s usually when we feel we have wasted time and are angry, hurt, or disappointed about what seems like unappreciated effort, affection, or resources, that we become more thoughtful and diligent about using time more wisely in the future.

So what do we do with all of our valuable, but fleeting time? It's not going to wait. It’s certainly going to be used up, whether we harness it for good or not, so why not seize it, as opposed to watching it fly by? When we do decide we’re going to give of our time, what activities and people become priorities, and what, or who do we decide to remove from our schedules?

I thought about a Thomas Dorsey composition called "Today" that I used to hear sung in church when I was younger. The lyrics are: 

“Have I given anything today?
Have I helped some needy soul along the way?
From the dawn ‘til setting Sun
Have I wounded anyone?
Shall I weep for what I’ve done today?”

Sometimes we weep for what we weren’t able to do, and lament that we don't have more time. If we’re honest, we do have free time, and we could be of greater service if we would only make reasonable, realistic choices, avoid procrastinating, and manage our time more efficiently. We are often overwhelmed as we cram more and more into our days, sometimes out of habit, other times because it’s just how we were taught, or emergencies, demands, or even our personalities drive us to volunteer. Sometimes we have to remind and assure ourselves that we can’t be everywhere, and that’s okay. Sure. You want to go and help, but if all you want to do when you get there is find a corner and take a nap, what’s the point? If you have to be hopped up on an energy drink to function, how present, authentic and clearheaded will you be? If you’re looking at your watch or the clock more than you're focusing on the task at hand, do you think maybe you should have left that particular task to someone else?

Today, there is an expectation of immediacy. Patience has really taken a hit! There was a time when if you phoned someone and they weren’t at home, you had to wait for them to get home, hear the message you left, and call you back. Now, everyone assumes that everyone else is glued to cell phones. People get testy when you don’t answer right away! The assumption is not that you weren’t home, or were otherwise occupied, but that you’re ignoring them! What if your phone was off? What if your battery died? What if you were in the bathroom? What if you decided to take a media break to spend time attending to all of the things you’ve neglected?
With the advent of social media, we can pretty much keep tabs on the people in our lives, and see in real time how their time is spent—and for some people, based on your online presence, whether or not you should be able to fit in more time for them. Many accuse others of being on Facebook all day long, but then, how do they know if they aren’t right there with them? Sometimes people are upset with you because you didn’t cancel your plans in order to help them move, attend to their event, finish their assignment, pick them up, drop something off, babysit, prepare a dish, or pinch hit for them. There really are people in your life who behave as if you work for them! They’ve decided that what you have to do isn’t as important as what they want you to do. They constantly blow up your phone and act as if you’re on their time, and should be at their beck and call. Perhaps, that's because you always have been. You’ve always put yourself on the back burner. You allowed people to guilt you into giving up time you really couldn’t spare at the moment. Answering the call of someone else, then left you with a pile of things on your backed-up to-do list. 
Remember, we teach people how to treat us. If you’re the person who always says “yes” to everyone, be prepared to be tired all the time, and be prepared for an interrogation the day you decide to reclaim your time and say, “No.”  Have you noticed when you say "yes" that no one ever asks “Why?” or “Why not?” Your “no” is a problem to the people who have never had the privilege of hearing it.

Your responsibilities on your job and to your family are one thing. Priorities matter. What we can’t allow others to do is become micro-managers of our time, and determine what we will, won’t, or should be able to do, based on their estimation of what’s on your plate.  The most qualified person to determine how much spare time you have is you. You’re the only one who can be honest with yourself about it. We’re the custodians of our own free time, and whether we spend it in idle activity or contributing to something affirming, productive, and positive, is up to us. Our very lives are made up of blocks of time. It stands to reason that how we choose spend our time is a good indicator of how we spend our lives.

Are we happily working, building, helping, creating, serving, earning, teaching, fixing, solving, learning or just busy? When we choose to, are we fully giving the things and people in our lives our time, or could we just as well replace ourselves with a rock, and it would have the same effect? Are we really present and engaged, or just sharing the same space with others? Are we aware of how our inattentiveness is affecting those around us, or are we just content to argue, “They ought to be glad I’m even here”? Would it be better if we just told others--without apology, “You know what?  I can’t do that right now. I can’t be there. I’m swamped today, but I know I can fit that in tomorrow”. I think others would appreciate it if we’d be more candid about how much time we can give, rather than to commit to something and then display an attitude that indicates we’re distracted, uncommitted, not listening, preoccupied, bored, rushing through, or we’d rather be somewhere else, doing something else. 

Knowing our limitations is so important. Listening to our bodies is, too. We can be so consumed with sowing time into so many things that we burn ourselves out, and are no good to any of the people or organizations we say we love and want to support. It’s important to know when to say "yes" and when to say "no", and not be manipulated into putting more onto our plates that they can hold. Why be busy doing something and miserable at the same time? I think 2 Corinthians 9:7 can apply to how we use our time. It says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  
When you are spent and burned out, and feeling as if your time is being hijacked, how cheerful can you be? Isaiah 55:2 asks, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” When you’ve assumed the issues, cares, responsibilities, problems, assignments, and chores of others, how do you feel-- encouraged and fulfilled, or bitter and exhausted? When you decide to take from the time you have been allotted to meet the needs or wants of others, how much time does that leave for you to mind your own affairs? Does it matter? You can’t feel very good about what you have sown into the lives of others, if the result is your own weariness, lack, illness, stress, or the neglect of your own household. It is honorable to be of assistance to others, to take time out of your schedule to attend to something that doesn’t directly benefit you, but you cannot be effective if your heart, mind, soul and strength have been stretched to their limits. 
Proverbs 11:25 says  “The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters, will himself , be watered”. I don’t think that is merely a monetary reference. Sometimes, the time you invest is more beneficial than the check you write, or credit card you swipe. No one expects you to give and give, and neglect yourself and your own interests, and never be refreshed. At funerals, everyone looks down and comments about how natural the deceased looks, and how helpful and kind they were, and as soon as it's over, whatever it was that they did will be done by someone else--or even two or three people. Don’t even put the kind of pressure on yourself that affects your health and well-being. There's nothing spiritual about that. 

Sowing and reaping is not only a financial principle. The time you share means something. Too often relationships are lost, particularly between parents and children because people don’t see the value of sowing time. Sometimes we feel we’re overwhelmed and tend to throw money at an issue that would better be solved by our activity, attention, and presence. Have you ever visited a sick person and asked what they needed and they said that your presence was enough? That it was just nice to sit and talk? That you really didn’t have to do anything else? Time is a valuable thing, and should never be minimized.  Sowing time is all about balance, exercising wisdom, good judgment and discernment. 2 Corinthians 8:12 says, “For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have”.
Giving of your time, particularly to worthy causes, is a good thing, but sowing time, just like sowing talent and treasure, shouldn’t be shared out of compulsion or duress, but out of your own free will—and you also have to determine what’s worthy, necessary, and important, and what isn’t. What will constitute the best use of your presence and skill set, and what won’t?  Every task that we set out to do, desire to do, or take on is not for us. We have to know when to respectfully pass on some assignments when we know we haven’t set aside time to do them well. 
God has given us all those, approximately, 24 hours. There is enough for ourselves, and if we are mindful, there is also time for others—and we want that time to be meaningful and well spent.

You may feel overwhelmed now just thinking about all that you think you have to do today. Just stop. Breathe. Yes. There are things that happen unexpectedly that alter our schedules, but even in those moments, how we give of ourselves matters.  Matthew Henry wrote: “Wherever we are, we may find good work to do, if we have but hearts to do it”.
The Pulpit Commentary of Ecclesiastes 11:2 says, “Do not let your ignorance of the future and the inscrutability, (or mystery) of God's dealings lead you to indolence and apathy; do your appointed work; be active and diligent in your calling.” That means “morning and evening—early and late; when young and when old; in sunshine and under clouds, whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might”.
It's so good to know that your effort is not in vain and your time has not been wasted.  “Good is to be done at all times, as opportunity offers, throughout the whole of life, and in all conditions and circumstances." 
There’s certainly enough time for well-doing if we make a conscious effort—and that includes making time to be good to ourselves. 
Don’t forget that you, too, are good ground.