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Matthew 6:25-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

This is the way the cookie crumbles when it comes to NOT WORRYING:

We stop worrying by trusting in God.

Have you ever noticed that as we worry, we generally feel responsible for anything that’s happening? We tend to see this as a result of being negligent in one or more areas of our lives. Because we didn’t prepare enough, didn’t plan enough, and didn’t care enough, we now have to go into emergency mode to get ourselves out of a tricky or even desperate situation. If for instance there’s not enough money to pay our bills, now we’re obsessing about how to come up with more money.  If we’re sick, we think it’s entirely our responsibility to seek out medical treatment and to come up with some solutions.

Not worrying in situations like these seems irresponsible; however, this is exactly where faith leads us, and the secret lies in the heart of the matter: our attitude towards God and what He means to us. Here are a few common approaches that will lead us into being a worry wart if we’re not careful:

  • God is my emergency break – Or: Help yourself so help you God: With this kind of attitude God is supposed to come through for us only in emergency situations, things we deem to not have any control over: for instance our house burns down, we get involved in an accident, or we’re on our deathbed. This kind of approach is prime real estate for becoming a worry wart, since we think we’re responsible for everything except what is considered an “act of God”. Good luck with that approach! Problem is that we’re really unfamiliar with God’s caring nature since we think we’re entirely in charge. We also don’t know how to let go and let God do His thing. God will not impose His help if we don’t let Him. So with this approach we’re pretty much on our own. Even the emergency break might not be working so well, since God is no emergency break.
  • God is my crutch: We need Him only in areas we feel weak, however, in areas we feel pretty proficient we tend to go solo. No need to trust in God in the area of our expertise, right? We feel we’ve got this! Really? What if we hit the wall in the so-called area of our expertise? Now we worry that we’re incompetent. God is no crutch. God is God, and we are His children. We’re supposed to do things together with Him as a lifestyle, not as a last resort.
  • God is my excuse: I don’t want to work or take any risks, so I take on a rather passive role in my life choices. Everything now is up to God. If things don’t work out, it’s definitely God’s fault. We get into the habit of blaming God for all the bad things and probably don’t give Him enough credit for the good things (or maybe we take the good things for granted). This consumer approach – God has to take care of me – obviously does not work because God is no microwave. He wants His children to grow up, explore the world and bear fruit. This does not happen with a lazy attitude. While this attitude seems to be the most trusting – since we expect everything from God – it is really the least trusting. We don’t dare God by not taking steps of faith. We don’t trust that God has our back so we don’t venture out.

Psalm 119:114 says, “You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope”.

David’s prayer says it all. Because we know that God never leaves us nor forsakes us, we plunge into the adventure called “life on earth”; we expect good things to follow us all the days of our life – regardless the circumstances, and especially in less than favorable circumstances. We trust Him no matter what happens. And most of all: WE DON’T WORRY.

This is a very healthy and responsible lifestyle. Try it, you’ll be surprised!

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Salt and light need to spread out, otherwise it’s no good at all!

While in the outdoors focused light can quickly develop into a devastating wildfire, salt landscapes are generally known to be entirely sterile. The Salar de Uyuini near the crest of the Andes is a prominent example. The world’s largest salt flat, an area of 4,086 square miles situated in southwest Bolivia, is virtually devoid of any wildlife or vegetation.

Keeping in mind that Jesus compares children of God with salt and light, we need to avoid checking out of this world to solely keep to our Christian tribes; we’ll quickly realize that spiritually the same will happen: Isolated faith groups “safely” tucked away  from the outside world will eventually develop into barren deserts with no growth and no fruit at all. Isolated, they represent grey and grim death instead of hustling and bustling life. And nothing could be further away from the truth, from representing God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth and the Lord of Life.

Revealing God’s mysteries and uncovering His unfathomable love happens as we mingle with the crowd without being swept away by it. Tempted by our personal hang-ups, nobody can claim that we can’t be manipulated and that we’re not tempted by anything anymore.  As long as we’re human and alive on this planet we’re tempted. However, that does not mean we evacuate from here. What we need to do is not to give way to temptation!

Without a robust immune system called “faith” this lifestyle of mingling and overcoming temptation is incredibly difficult if not impossible – and this is where Jesus comes in. Jesus is absolutely unafraid. He goes to the ends of the earth to save a single soul. Our role is to follow Him and be that tangible person that reaches out and is a blessing around here.

So, here’s to the secret of spreading light and salt to make this world a better place – and to point to an even better world to come!

“I see You lifted high
You reign forevermore
I know You also live
With the broken and the poor
I want to see You Jesus
Behind the prison doors
The desperate finding mercy
And the hopeless finding hope”         Brenda Janz

 

 

Romans 10:17: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

Before communication comes listening, otherwise two parties are just blaring sounds at each other. A communication meltdown happens when either party is no longer paying attention to one another. We call that the death of any relationship when this situation arises and continues on an ongoing basis.

Death of relationships is sad, very sad. Gathering the broken pieces of a dead relationship and resurrect a friendship is exactly what God has been pursuing with mankind – by addressing the world with His words and actions. Paying attention to His communication efforts is crucial. We watch God’s body language as we look up to His Son Jesus; and listening to His still small voice we receive His Word. That’s fundamentally what faith is all about. Faith is resurrecting communication with God and restoring a lost family relationship – we are all children of the Most High who have initially lost touch with Heaven, although we can find Him if we’re open and willing to listen. Listening, we will find God and discover that we’re found in Him.

Matthew 4:4: “But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

John’s jubilee towards the end of his book of Revelation is famous and source of comfort for the tormented.  Heaven is a good place. Heavenly features to look forward to are God’s loving presence, His overwhelming joy and peace and the absence of human sorrow and pain.

However, does this mean that there is no pain in heaven? What about God’s pain of losing His creatures due to their free will? Since we don’t have to choose Him (God being no dictator) pain is inevitable, because apparently there will always be creatures opposing the Eternal One. They will be harvesting ongoing pain, and consequently, God will go through the parental pain of not being able to help them. If God is in pain, how can we be oblivious to that when we’re right there, in heaven, the place God calls His home? Don’t we share both His joy and pain, especially as we get closer to Him?

Personally, I think Heaven would be one-dimensional if we had it any other way. Joy has more depth to it if we are unafraid of pain and embrace the undesirable feeling of sadness.

Pain can take our breath away and can plunge us into depression and hopelessness if we are not careful. The best way to navigate through the throws of pain is to share it. The worst part of being in pain is if we think we are alone in this. That, quite frankly, is a lie. If nobody can understand your kind of pain, God certainly can.

The reality, however, is – no kind of pain is really that unusual. People can normally relate. You don’t have to go very far to find out that other people find themselves in similar situations as you. When pain bears the fruit of empathy it will create community. If nothing makes sense in pain, this always will: Your particular kind of pain will equip you to be the best friend you can be to the person going through similar challenges.

We are made for one another. God has created us not only to beat loneliness but to make life a whole lot richer.

Here it is, plain and simple written in the skies: Money does not make us rich. Relationships do!

“Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you”

Songwriters: Christopher Anthony John Martin / Guy Rupert Berryman / Jonathan Mark Buckland / William Champion

Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus is many things. Besides being Lord of the universe He is also a friend who sticks closer than a brother; He is a shepherd tending to His sheep; He is a high-priest forever; He is the rainbow in the clouds, the bright morning star, the hope for the nations, the King who goes to bat for His people, the sacrificial lamb, and the list goes on and on. The reason we write and talk about these truths is God’s tireless communication.

Have you ever tried to communicate with someone who does not speak your language? It can get very frustrating trying to communicate when words fail us. God has been in the business of translating His thoughts into human language ever since we left the Garden of Eden. God has become an expert interpreter because He yearns to connect with his beloved creatures, people He made in His image. We are His loved ones.

If you know somebody who lost a person to Alzheimer’s disease, you probably know how painful it is to lose connection with a loved one when communication ceases. In a manner of speaking we all are battling severe memory loss by forgetting where we came from. We all come from God. And God uses His finest efforts to communicate this particular truth to us. Understanding the truth is like the break of dawn with the Sun rising in our hearts; God will be happiest to know we have received His message. His highest hope is for us to understand that He loves us dearly.

“If you could read my mind love
What a tale my thoughts could tell”       Gordon Lightfoot

Jeremiah 17:9-10: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”

If you are exhibiting any number of strange symptoms that don’t go away but get exceedingly worse, what is more depressing – to find a doctor and get a diagnosis or to ignore the symptoms as best as you can even as they begin to worsen? Living with a debilitating disease without a name is probably much more frustrating than getting a diagnosis and knowing what you are up against.

Essentially, that’s what Jeremiah did when he wrote his book assessing the human condition. His diagnosis of the human heart in a nutshell (Jeremiah 17:9):

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things”

Don’t we all like to think otherwise? Don’t we like to think of ourselves as humane and caring? Sure, we know there are bad apples out there, but saying that humanity in general is in such bad shape seems to be a depressing assessment – or isn’t it?

While Jeremiah’s diagnosis may sound bad, he simply gives us an honest evaluation. At the same time, He doesn’t leave us stranded with a hard-to-swallow diagnosis. Here is the good news: God wants to completely renew our hearts. Ezekiel wrote (Ezekiel 36:26):

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”

While it’s unhealthy to stick our heads in the sand and avoid a diagnosis just because it sounds horrible, it’s far better to face disturbing news and discover the hope God has for you and me.

Receiving a new heart from God, our inner being wakes up to a whole new world. We hear His voice, we experience His love. Can you imagine? Are you ready to be amazed?

“Sometimes it amazes me
How strong the power of love can be
Sometimes you just take my breath away” Eva Cassidy

Romans 12:15: “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”

About happiness we read in the book of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 7:14):

“Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.”

This indicates two things:

  • Wealth and possessions do not necessarily promote happiness;
  • Happiness is a gift from God;

Gifts are supposed to be unconditional – at least God’s gifts are, otherwise it’s not a gift but a bribe. The nature of God’s gifts: they are genuine. God is real and so are His gifts. While we encounter fake love and fake joy on too many occasions, God’s gifts are the real McCoy – a joy that’s deep, a hope that endures, and a love that lasts.

On that note (the love note that is), delving into the Bible I found 686 references to the word “love”, compared to around 20 findings of the word “happy”. This goes to show that pursuing the love theme comes first with happiness being more of a side effect of walking with God.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans we surmise that happiness is a thing to be shared – without ignoring people going through hard times. (Romans 12:15):

“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”

As Jesus multiplied the bread and fish an unnamed boy offered to share, so our joy multiplies when we share our happiness with other people. It might be a paradox, and yet it’s true. Who wants to celebrate a party of one? Who wants to rejoice alone about a victory won? It is almost grotesque to imagine a lone happy person. Happiness is meant to be experienced together and then it multiplies, on the other hand shared sorrow alleviates our soul and makes our pain a little less hard to bear.

So share your time, your gifts, your affections and you’ll be amazed. It’s almost like magic. You’d be surprised how everything multiplies. You suddenly have more time, more gifts to give, more love to share. And watch out – happiness might be just around your corner!

“Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do”   Pharrell Williams