Some have described the 21st century as the ‘age of anxiety’. People worry about many different things. In the Lord’s prayer we come to an interesting statement” “give us this day our daily bread”, a statement which many in the Western world do not seem to take seriously. When was the last time you were anxious because you wondered if there would be food for you to eat? Have you ever prayed that God would provide for your next meal? However we need to understand this prayer is not simply about what we are going to eat but that the statement is inclusive of all the basic necessities of life, including those things that cause us to worry.
The apostle Paul wrote “don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything; tell God your needs.” (Philippians 4:6) So instead of worrying ask God for help. Worry is simply an attempt on our part to control the uncontrollable. And what is out of God’s control? Nothing!
So it is important for us to remember God’s resources. Paul wrote “God will supply all that you need from his glorious resources in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) Remember he states God will supply all we need but He will not supply all we desire. As a parent we do not give our children everything they ask for because it is not in their best interest. How much more does our heavenly Father know the needs that are truly significant and thus in His wisdom there will be times when he does not give us what we request. That is because He is always looking out for our best interests.
So today, give to God all those issues that cause you to worry and become anxious. If you focus on your relationship with God you look beyond your circumstances to the one who is in control of all things. When you know this to be the creator of heaven and earth you realize you are in good hands.
In the prayer that Jesus taught we read “hallowed be your name”? The Hebrews attached great significance to one’s name because a name represented a person’s nature. There is no one name that describes all of God’s attributes let me share with you a couple of the names of God that you can think about during the day.
In Genesis we discover that one of the names of God is Jehovah Jireh, meaning ‘God my Provider’. God had called Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to see if Abraham would trust God. Just before Isaac’s life was to be sacrificed God told Abraham not to take the life of his son but to take a ram that was caught in the bushes and offer this animal as the sacrifice. Abraham trusting God did not know how all of this was going to work out but he believed God would provide. The apostle Paul writing from a prison cell in Rome declared “God will supply all that you need from his glorious resources in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 19) As you contemplate your situation you may not know how things will work out. What do you need from God? How can He be your ‘Jehovah Jireh’?
The second name that God reveal about Himself is Jehovah Shalom “God my Peace.” The nation of Israel was experiencing great stress as the Midianites were constantly harassing them and stealing their food. They were desperate and God raised up a leader, a young man named Gideon. However Gideon was very insecure and did not see himself as a leader who would deliver the nation from their oppressors. When God approached Gideon , Gideon built an altar and declared “The Lord is my Peace” (Jehovah Shalom) As he encountered the enemy he remember this name of God and was given great assurance in spite of his insecurities.
Perhaps today you are overwhelmed by life’s circumstances and need to experience God’s peace. Jesus said “the peace I give you isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives you. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) Take God at His word and trust Him with the circumstances of your life.
Over the next few weeks I would like to share some thoughts on the Prayer of Jesus so that your prayer life can be enhanced.
Jesus said “This is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven.” I recognize that the term ‘father’ conjures up many different images. Some fathers made life very difficult for members of their household, in fact some would say life around dad was “hell on earth.”
But Jesus tells us to refer to God as ‘Father’. So what are some of his characteristics? Let me suggest four that you might consider.
a. He is a caring father. God wants you to know you are loved and cared for by Him. The Psalmist wrote “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who honour Him.” (Ps. 104:13) The apostle Peter gives us the assurance that God is concerned about everything in your life. “Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” (1Pet.5:7)
b. He is a consistent father. In other words God is dependable, He can be counted on. He does not act one way and then change His mind and act another way. Even if there are times when we are inconsistent God is not. Paul wrote “Even if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown himself.” (2Tim. 2:13)
c. He is available as a father. There are many who have never experienced the closeness of a father because he was never there, or perhaps he might have been there but was emotionally absent and never seemed to understand what you were going through. The psalmist wrote “The Lord is near to all who call on Him” and “He is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
d. He is a capable father. In other words there is nothing beyond His ability or resources. When kids are young they expect their dad can fix anything, know everything and has unlimited resources. As we get older our perceptions change. However our Father in Heaven promises to meet all of our needs. Paul wrote “God is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of-infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” (Eph. 3:20)
As you pray remember your Father in heaven is caring, consistent, available and capable.
As we live out our days most of us want to be remembered for something. We want to leave a legacy. For some they will write books, others might build impressive buildings or give a major financial gift to an organization. Many believe they will leave a legacy through their children, perhaps something of us will live on through our kids.
How do we leave a lasting legacy? Is there any guarantee that we will be remembered?
Books written today will soon be out of date, buildings will eventually be demolished to make way for bigger and better ones and we soon realize how transient success is. A few years ago Bob Buford a very successful businessman wrote the book “Half Time: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance.” Married at 22 he spent the next 10-15 years consumed by work and by his early 40’s he decided to make a shift. Work was beginning to lose its grip on his life and he made the shift from ‘success to significance’. He realized success was no longer his goal in life but significance was the new focal point.
Jesus asked “What good is it for a person to gain the whole world and forfeit their soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul?” (Mk.8: 36-37) when you shift the focus of your life from “what can I get out of life” to “what can I give” you move from success to significance. People who simply live for themselves have a very small world. Jesus went on to say “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for me and the gospel will save it.” (Mk.8:35) As you give your life away you will discover significance and there is no greater cause in the world than doing what God put you on earth to do. Jesus defined this as simply ‘following him’. As you follow him day by day you are doing what you were shaped to do. And when that happens it will be evident that not only is your life significant but the legacy you leave will touch the lives of succeeding generations in way that Jesus did not only in his generation but in the generations to come..
It is a great way to live.
It is estimated people spend about 40% of their life at work .Some love their work, some hate their work and some do not feel very fulfilled at work. Take a moment and think about your work. If you could do something else would you? If you did not have to work would you? Do you see your work as part of God’s plan to accomplish a number of goals in your life?
The apostle Paul wrote “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord not for people.” (Col. 3:23) If you think about work it is not always easy, because there are pressures to get the work done and unexpectantly a problem develops, or you discover that some of your co -workers are difficult to work with and you are frustrated.
When problems arise at work, and they will, remember that God can use these circumstances to develop your character. Paul wrote “When we run into problems and trials they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character and helps us trust God more each time.” (Rm.5:3-4) So when you encounter problems at work don’t ask “why is this happening to me?” rather ask “God, what do you want me to learn from this?” It is all part of God’s character formation process..
At work there will be people who are difficult, irritating and annoying. Possibly you do not even like them. However God is using these people to help you grow spiritually. Think about the different types of difficult people; they can be demanding, dishonest, disagreeable, defensive and even demeaning. How will you deal with these folks? Paul writes “If it is possible as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Rm.12:18) The more you respond to these people in the manner that Christ would respond, the more you will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. This is the goal of our life.
Is this easy? No! So surrender each day and each task into the hands of God asking him to work in and through you. When you do you will discover that work takes on a different perspective.
It is common for all of us to continually define the relationships we are in. Jesus repeatedly asked people to make a decision about their relationship with him. He very simply said “Come and follow me.”
One day while visiting the home of Mary and Martha, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus while he was teaching. It was more than a reference to her physical posture. In that culture to ‘sit at someone’s feet’ was a statement that you chose to be a disciple of a Rabbi. To make someone your Rabbi was a choice to be with him and you wanted to learn as much as possible from him.
The late Dallas Willard professor of philosophy at USC stated there was a Rabbinic expression “May you be covered by the dust of your Rabbi.” In other words you followed this person so closely their dust would cover you.
Jesus desires that we follow him so closely we are ‘covered by his dust’. Mary made that choice; she wanted to be with Jesus no matter what else was going on around her.
What choice have you made? Each of us need to need to respond to Jesus invitation to “come and follow him.” Are you following so closely that you are ‘covered by the dust of the Rabbi’?
On warm summer evenings it is wonderful to sit outside late at night, stare into the evening sky and look at all the stars that twinkle against the dark backdrop of night. The Psalmist wrote “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speck and night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-20)
As I think about this I am aware that God desires to be with us and to make his presence known to us in so many different ways.
I read a story about a man on a flight who opened his lap top and the screen saver revealed a picture of his little boy. The person sitting next to him asked who the child was and for the next few minutes he talked constantly about his son. Then he said “I could look at this picture 100 times a day.” The other passenger inquired how long he had been away from home and his little boy. The man responded “Since yesterday.” He simply wanted to be with his son.
That is the desire of God. He wants to be with us. Look at the biblical record. In Genesis we are told that God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Enoch was described as a man who walked with God. When the nation of Israel was on a 40 year trek to the Promised Land they had a cloud to follow by day and a pillar of fire at night to remind them of God’s presence. When God came to earth in the person of Jesus he was called Immanuel (God with Us).
Though we have heard all of this many times, there may be a gap between the intellectual awareness of God’s presence and the actual experience of God’s presence. The late Dallas Willard tells the story that when his mother died when he was a young boy, there were nights when he felt very sad and lonely. He would climb into his father’s bed, but he was restless and would ask his father “Is you face turned toward me?” His father would answer “Yes, you are not alone, I am with you.” Only then could he go to sleep.
Do you know that God is with you? His face is turned toward you. Today as you enter various situations keep in mind you are not alone, God is present.
Each year in the United States there is a special holiday called Martin Luther King Day, which commemorates the work of this man who fought for the rights of every person in spite of great odds. Perhaps he is best remembered for his speech “I have a dream.”
Do you ever dream about the ways God could use your life? The story of Joshua, chosen by God to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land following the death of Moses, reveals important principles that will enable us to dream about the various ways God can use us.
The first thing Joshua had to do was to let go of doubt. Doubt can be one of the greatest struggles we face as we seek to understand how God can use us. Joshua wondered how he could lead such a group of people. It was an incredible challenge. God spoke to Joshua “Be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) If God has called you to a task, He will equip you with all the resources you will need.
The second thing Joshua had to do was to continually lean on the Lord. To lean on the Lord means that he would learn to depend upon God in all situations. God told him “No one will be able to defeat you all your life. Just as I was with Moses so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forget you.” (Joshua 1:5) As long as Joshua depended on God he was able to accomplish what seemed to be the impossible.
The third thing Joshua had to do was to step out in faith. It is not enough to articulate our faith we need to act on it. Nikki’s logo “Just Do It” resonates with the life of faith.
What is God calling you to do? Fight the fear, recognize His presence with you and then just do it!
A good text to focus on this week is Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge he and he will direct your paths.”
In the book of Wisdom the author, often referred to as “The Teacher” or The Philosopher” has much to say about trying to make a name for oneself. His words written thousands of years ago still ring true in today’s culture. Many people are trying to make their mark or make a name for themselves by what they do or by what they have accomplished.
“The Philosopher” writing from the perspective of one who looks at life in terms of what is temporal, states “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired: I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labour. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had achieved, everything was meaning less, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun… So I hated life, because the work that is done is grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2: 10-11) When you read these words it leaves you feeling depressed.
Yet for many people this is an exact statement of their life. They work hard, put in long hours and are rewarded for all they do. However it will not last forever. This “Philosopher” tried everything. He tried to find meaning in pleasure and denied himself nothing. When this was not satisfying he tried to find meaning in his work and all of his accomplishments but in the end this did not bring the satisfaction he was seeking. In fact he states that when it comes time to die all you have accumulated will be given to someone else.
Jesus said don’t invest in that which is temporal but in that which is eternal. He summarized this by saying “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you.” In other words seek the reign and rule of God in your life above everything else and then you will have the right perspective and know how to invest your life wisely.
Take some time today to examine your life. Ask yourself “What is really important in life?” “Am I investing my life in that which will last forever or in that which is temporal?” Make sure you are not chasing the wind.
A delivery truck had the company slogan “You can always count on us” emblazoned on the side panel. However a sceptical grafitti artist sprayed over the slogan the words “Oh Really?”
There are times when we question the dependability and reliability of others. We know commitment can be low and we wonder what has happened to dependability. When we think of friendship we believe that a true friend is someone who knows all about us, who loves us as we are and that we can depend on their faithfulness regardless of our ups or downs, our successes or failures. However such loyalty takes commitment that will last.
A woman who will be remembered as one of the most loyal people in history is Ruth. The story begins with the family of Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons living in Judah where there was a severe famine. Conditions worsened to the point that they packed up everything they had and moved to the country of Moab to start a new life. While living there, the two sons married women from Moab and life seemed to be much better for everyone.
Then disaster struck. Elimeleck and his two sons died and Naomi was left with no means of support. She decided to return to her homeland where conditions had improved and where she would receive some help. Her daughters in law wanted to return with her but she was adamant they remain with their families and try to rebuild their lives with the hope they would one day remarry. One daughter in law Orpah agreed but the other daughter in law Ruth refused to leave Naomi and said to her “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die I will die and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me ever so severely if anything but death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1: 16-17)
What powerful words! Naomi realized Ruth was committed and stopped urging her to return to Moab. As the two women returned to Judah, God blessed their lives and to this day Ruth is recognized as a woman who can be counted on.
Take some time to think about your relationships. Are you a person that others can count on? Can God count on you? When you make a promised do you follow through? Words are not enough we need to be people who are committed to doing what we said we would do.