A good Tuesday morning to all. A little groggy this morning because of slight allergy problems. It’s that time of year. I will report that Stephanie had one of her best days at school in a while, but the evening at home was a little strange. I think her stomach was a little upset though, either because of the increase in meds or because it’s very close to “that time of month.”
I wanted to give a brief overview of Sunday’s message in yesterday’s blog, but I have to hurry so much on Monday that I didn’t have time, so I’ll do it today. The message was called “We Will Not Forget What Really Matters,” and was the final of the series based off of the 9/11 anniversary. Joel started off with a “top ten” list of the top ten things that most worry Americans. Here they are, as he gave them.
1. Deficit out of control
3. Health care system at risk
4. Stubborn unemployment
6. Rogue nations such as North Korea, Iran, etc.
9. Housing Market
10. Political uncertainty
That’s probably a pretty accurate list, I would guess. All of this led him to the main thesis of this message. Seeking Christ is what really matters and seeking Christ leads to unshakable security.
The Scripture passage for the message was a very familiar one, but one worth returning to frequently. It was Matthew 6:25-34. The first point was “God is in control, so chill out!” He said that when he started writing that one, he first had it sounding all deeply theological, but finally just simplified it to that. I think that’s a great way to state it. If we could all remember that one thing every day, our lives would be a lot less stressful. We need to remember that our God has established what is called “covenantal” (that word just looks all kinds of wrong…) relationship with us. Joel also reminded us of a truth found in Psalm 109:21. But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! Everything that God does, he does for his own name’s sake. I may have alluded to this idea yesterday. God works for his own glory, not for ours. I know that sounds self-seeking and arrogant to some. But he’s the creator. And the creator has every right to do whatever he wants with his creation. And, ultimately, everything he does, in the “Big Picture,” is good for us. It may not seem like it at the moment (for example, 70 day of 100+ temperatures in north Texas this summer…), but it is. We have to remember that God is in control, so chill out!
Joel also quoted Proverbs 12:25, which says, Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Then he told us that many Christians live their lives as “practical atheists.” What that means is that we say that we believe that God is sovereign, but then we live a life of worry and anxiety over every little thing. Sad but true.
Point number two was that “Faith in God’s goodness separates us from unbelievers.” There may be a lot of times that our lives may not look much different from the lives of unbelievers, especially when we get caught up in the same pursuits, but there is one thing that, if we are true Christians, will separate us and that is our faith in his goodness. I would like to say that my faith in God’s goodness is unshakable. I would love to say that. But I’m not sure I would be honest. Most days it is. Most days, I will will proclaim to you that God’s goodness is true and firm. But every now and then, I doubt. There have been some times in the midst of Stephanie’s biggest meltdowns that I have come dangerously close to thinking God had abandoned us. But he didn’t! And he never will. I know that in the deepest part of my heart. My head might freak out and disagree sometimes, but, ultimately, my heart will win out. We need to stop doubting God’s ability to handle our lives!
The final point was from the last two verses of the passage, verses that have been quoted and sung for years. I’ve been singing Matthew 6:33 since I was a youth in church. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Of course, when I was a youth, we sang King James Version…it’s pretty much all we had. Yeah, I’m that old. My quotes are always English Standard Version, unless I say otherwise. Then verse 34, Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Those two verses make point three of the message, which was simply, “The secret to success.” Yes. It’s that simple. Or is it? Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. Don’t worry about self. Don’t worry about food, drink, clothes, and stuff. Seek God and his righteousness, and you will have all those other things. Ultimately, it’s not what matters, but who matters.
Today’s Bible readings:
Ephesians 4:1-16; 2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33; Proverbs 16:9-17
Paul begins Ephesians 4 with an admonition. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (vv. 1-3) Again, it’s important to point out that the “walk” he calls for is not to earn that calling. We not told to walk in such a way as to not lose our salvation. We are simply called to walk in a way that shows that we are Christians. And what does that walk look like? Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and eagerness to maintain unity. The next couple of verses have a bunch of “ones,” illustrating this need for unity. And basically, the rest of this passage is about unity, how we are one body and we are to grow together and mature. Let me say, though, that truth is never to be sacrificed for the sake of unity. There are many who would do that. Unity becomes the end, rather than a means to an end.
Verse 11 lists some of the “offices” that have been appointed for the purpose of equipping the saints. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. All for the single purpose of equipping the saints “for the work of ministry.” And what is the purpose of that ministry? … for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (vv. 12b-16) There are multiple points in this. One is that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are NOT supposed to do all the work! They are to equip the rest of us to do the work. Another is that we are supposed to mature in the faith, building up the body of Christ in love.
It’s been a while since we visited 2 Kings. In chapter 21, Manasseh, son of Hezekiah has become king in Judah. Hezekiah was a good king. Manasseh was an evil king. He pretty much undid everything that Hezekiah accomplished during his reign. In fact, it says that Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel. (v. 9) This made God very angry. Angry enough to say this: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. (vv. 12-13) When Manasseh died, his son Amon picked up where he left off. His servants conspired and assassinated him, but the people of the land put the servants to death. Josiah, Amon’s son became king at the ripe old age of eight!
The interesting thing is that 2 Chronicles includes some information about Manasseh that the writer of 2 Kings chose to leave out. After the Lord made the prophecies and Manasseh didn’t listen, God sent Assyria, which captured him and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. (vv. 12-13) The cynical side of me wants to say, “Sure, who wouldn’t??” But we have to note that God was “moved by his entreaty.” You see, God knows the heart, so God knows that Manasseh was not just “repenting” to get out of trouble, like we do most of the time. And the “proof in that pudding” (I still don’t really understand what that phrase means…I’ve never proven anything with pudding) was the actions of Manasseh when he returned. He took down all of the false altars that he had built. He restored the offerings to the Lord that he had previously forsaken. So even the most evil kings can repent and serve the Lord.
Proverbs 16:9 fits right in with the message from Sunday. The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. God is in control, so chill out!
In Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado gives two readings for the day. Morning and evening. I always read both readings in the morning, mainly because I kept forgetting to read the “evening” reading. Both of today’s are worthy of sharing, I think. The morning reading is called “God Knows What He’s Doing.” Seems to be a theme this week, huh? Max begins by stating that it’s easy to be thankful when God does what we want. “But God doesn’t always do what we want. Ask Job.” Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible. Many people feel that the story of Job even predates Abraham. I’m not smart enough to know about that. But what I know is that God allowed Satan to pretty much destroy Job’s life. Job went to God to plead his case. God answered. “Not with answers, but with questions. An ocean of questions…” Finally, Job responded with this: Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. (Job 42:3) He got the point. “God owes no one anything. No reasons. No explanations. Nothing. God is God. He knows what he is doing.” God is in control, so chill out!
The evening reading is called “God Goes With Us.” I don’t think I have ever seen a morning and evening reading go hand in hand so well together. In Genesis 28:15, God says, Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… Max says, “When God calls us into the deep valley of death, he will be with us.” God said to Moses, in Exodus 33:14, My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. God said to Jacob in Genesis 28:15, Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… God said to Joshua in Joshua 1:5, Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. God says all of these things to us. He knows what he is doing, and no matter where he leads us, he will be there with us.
Those are words to get you through the day!
Father, I praise you that you know what you are doing! Because I’m not sure what I’m doing, and a lot of times, I don’t know what you’re doing, either. But I have faith in your goodness; I have faith that you know what you are doing. I believe that you will never leave or forsake me, just like you promised your Old Testament people. You have made that promise even more sure by giving us Jesus and then providing our Helper in life, the Holy Spirit. I thank you for your constant presence in my life, Father! Help me to be more aware of it each day, each hour, each minute.
I need help to not worry. I know that the things our pastor said Sunday are true! My heart knows them. Most of the time my head knows them. But sometimes my head goes walkabout. It takes off on its own and forgets what the heart knows. So I need help to always know and believe that you are in control of all things and that there is absolutely no reason to worry or be anxious for anything! I’m working on that this week. You seem to be giving me some good lessons, too.
I pray for this day, Father. Stephanie is feeling a little “under the weather.” I think it’s mostly allergy-related. But she’s going to school today, and I pray she can make it through the day. I pray for Christi’s day today. And I pray for mine, as well. Let us have good work days today.
God is in control, so chill out!
Grace and peace, friends.