Worry?

You know how something that is so obvious can also be something profound? Here is one of those things:

God isn’t worried about anything.

God has concerns.

God is a compassionate God.

But, God doesn’t worry about anything.

 

So, here is an amazing question.

If God isn’t worried about anything, then why should I worry?

Worry will not help. Importantly, worry will not help me make decisions. Why? Too much worry can’t help me make decisions.

When we are highly stressed our brains don’t work correctly.

Consider this. According to brain research, when we worry, or are overwhelmed by other negative emotions like anger or shame, our brain disengages. We literally aren’t able to figure out solutions that may be helpful because our brain isn’t in a processing mode.

And the other thing that happens is we can’t engage with God. The part of our brain that sees things through God’s eyes is clouded over.

Because the solution to whatever is bothering us needs insight from God and needs good thinking, worrying becomes a barrier.

What does that say about making decisions out of fear?

Anxious people make poor decisions.

We see this in our families. We see this at work. We also see how misguided we are when we choose to use language to increase the anxiety level of those around us on purpose. In brain research, there is a term for this. Anxiety-producing behavior. In Christian faith we have a term for this, too. Iniquity. A deformity of how we communicate.

We see this all the time in government and politics, as well. We make decisions that are based on the least amount of good thinking possible. Any actions we take which are attempting to increase anxiety and worry, any anxiety-producing behavior we exhibit, the less likely anything good will come out of it. Listen to the language of politics and government. It is based on hysteria and crisis. The more of this panic we feel, the less likely our brains will be engaged.

It’s not by accident that some of the poorest decision making possible comes out of efforts to increase the anxiety level of the people around you. In fact, when we use the big negative emotions of fear, anger, or shame to support our cause, we guarantee poor thinking and poor decisions will be the result.

If we follow Jesus, we don’t need to get caught up in this. Faith is confidence that with God, everything is going to be fine in the end.

God isn’t worried about this.

So why should we worry? We don’t need anxiety, we need trust.

ME

What is worrying you lately? How might you make progress?

Listener

But being a good listener is hard. I know, God designed us mainly for listening. The old saying goes, That’s why we have two ears and only one mouth.

Yet, to be a really good listener it is not the ears as much as it is the eyes that give a sign of what is really being said. The eyes are the main way we learn and the main way we listen. From the beginning when mommy and baby’s eyes connect, this is how we show someone we care and are glad to be with them.

But, there are other times when you are a good listener and someone says you aren’t listening to them. This happens to us when we are listening closely, but the person says we aren’t listening to them, and what they really mean is, “You don’t agree with me.”

Listening is how we relate to each other and make progress in relationship. In order to have joy in our lives and to learn to love like God loves, it takes making progress in our relationships with others.

Listening is also a way to connect someone to the love of God. When God joins us in this Gospel listening, he gives us insight in what is being communicated, and how God might respond through us.

We are given the same opportunity as Jesus to invite the Holy Spirit into our listening.

Matthew 12:25

Now, Jesus supernaturally perceived their thoughts and motives…”

Mark 2:8

Jesus supernaturally perceived their thoughts…

Luke 6:8

Jesus, knowing their every thought…

Luke 11:17

Jesus, well aware of their every thought…

Acts 15:8

God, who knows the hearts of every person, confirmed this when he gave them the Holy Spirit, just like he has given the Spirit to us.

When we are in conversation with others, we get to listen like Jesus listened. Of course, for Jesus, this often starts with questions.

Who do you say I am?

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?

What do you want me to do for you?

It’s interesting when we think of Jesus with all the answers. Actually, he didn’t just spout out wisdom, Jesus asks a lot of questions.

He is interested in what is being said and how it might be joined with God’s story.

We can listen the same way. With the supernatural insight of the Holy Spirit working through us.

Listen

Why do you think that so many of us are such poor listeners?

My problem is not if I am a good listener when you mean, “am I  processing what you are saying?” I hear exactly what you are saying, but there are times it doesn’t look like it with body language and eye contact. Especially if I am in a social setting. Then, I can hear all the conversations around me and can tell you what everyone else is saying, too! So, I’ve learned to focus on eye contact and body language to be sure my attention is being received as attention.

I have gotten much better at paying attention because I have to listen closely in order to understand our grandchildren. Sometimes, I actually am reading lips to get the phrase.

You don’t want to miss, “I have to go pee pee” or worse, “My stomach hurts” which is code language for “I have to go more than just pee pee!”

But, we do have a hard time listening. Some of us are scanners in social situations. What’s a scanner. We’re having a conversation with someone and when we are doing the talking they are looking around as if saying, “There is a better conversation opportunity over out there somewhere.”

Or you have the famous, “my cell phone is ringing. “ I am in conversation with you and my cell phone rings and so I naturally stop listening to you and answer the phone. Like because it is a miniature computer and it is demanding my immediate attention, it is more important than my in-person face-to-face conversation.

No, if it is that important. They will call back.

Thursday, my friend and I were watching a video on brain skills and learning and how important it is to connect to someone face to face, live, in person, and how important it is to be focused in listening and then his phone rings and he answers it!

I just started laughing!

ME

When are you best at listening?

IMG_8830Being God’s son I have Identity, Authority and Power. You see, if I am God’s son, then I am the son of the King and I have his royal authority to bless his creation, and God gives me the power to do just that. Be a blessing as God works through me.

But, that’s not what I heard growing up. Well-meaning Christians failed me again.

You see, I got to the stories of Jesus but I was misinformed. I was told how great Jesus was and all the amazing things he did through miracles and such, how his prays were answered, but no one once told me I ought to expect to see some of these same things in my own life.

No one told me that the things of heaven are available today. No one told me it’s not about dying and going to heaven, it’s about living and having heaven break in here on earth from time to time.

Jesus was human. Not a little bit human, or “pretend” human, he was human. God comes as Jesus and he empties himself of his divine nature. So, all those things we hear about in the Bible that Jesus did are done by someone who is simply walking closer with God, but he is no different than you or me in his makeup. It is not impossible for us to do the things Jesus did if we follow God like he followed God. Jesus said it himself.

He said, you will do greater things than I did…

And God has showed up in power in countless people’s lives in miraculous ways and we might miss it completely. We may be ignorant of the history of God’s people since the time of Jesus, or we might not want to believe this because it “isn’t happening to me.” We say, “O, that’s just Jesus, or that’s his disciples, I can’t be used by God to bring healing, or forgive my enemies like he did and such.”

But that’s exactly what we can do! We are part of the rescue and restoration.

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I grew up on the stories of God and his people. From my own parents and grandparents, my teachers at church, they would all tell me these amazing stories about the great heroes like Abraham or Isaac or Jacob or Moses or King David…with the moral of the story being if you can be like them, you too, will shine.

But, as I got older, I read the Bible for myself, and I read about these same guys again, andI saw how they are all broken and petty and vindictive, and not larger than life perfect heroes at all.

Abraham slept with his wife’s servant so he could have a son to carry on his family history, his wife Sarah encourages this, because neither one of them trusted God to come through.

But God does come through and they have a son Isaac who plays such favorites between his twin sons Jacob and Esau, Abraham loves Esau best. So, Rachel his wife gets mad and favors Jacob and he became a momma’s boy and together they trick Isaac into giving Jacob the family inheritance even though it belongs to Esau.This almost caused the story of God’s people destroying each other.

Then when Jacob had his own kids, he didn’t learn a thing about playing favorites from his own disastrous life. He decides to play favorites with his son Joseph, having him tattle on his older brothers, like a spy. Not surprising this doesn’t go well, and again God’s chosen servant nearly destroys God’s promised inheritance with sibling jealousy.

Finally, Moses clears things up and eventually leads the people to the promised land. But he starts thinking he has the power to do things on his own and so starts acting like God. He suffers the consequences of this sin and doesn’t even get to finish his journey and enter the promised land himself.

And don’t get me started with David the greatest King. Amazing model of faith and also a creeper who just happens to see a woman naked, wants to sleep with her, so he has her husband knocked off like a mafia don, and then he marries her and they don’t live happily ever after.

Again and again the real Bible shows real people and again and again. But, if we are told these stories as if everyone is great and wonderful, big heroes we miss the whole point. People are not God and whenever we try to run our own lives things eventually turn out in disaster. Only God is great and wonderful and only God is worthy of our trust in him. And God can take anything the brokenness and pain we cause ourselves or what happens to us and make good come out in the end.

It is God who is great and wonderful. God’s love never fails.

If you actually honestly read the Bible, God really only seems to work through brokenness.

ME

Do you have times you try to do things without considering God is with you? Think about it…

Creation

From the beginning, God is putting his trust in people. We may continue to let God down, but God doesn’t give up. And you know what, a remnant, a small group of people have always come to God, broken and receptive and God has always shown up. No more is this more true than Jesus, who took all the promises of God to his people Israel, and fulfilled them himself. Now all people can come to God through Jesus and the path we take may vary, but it is the same journey.

This journey is repeated again and again. In God’s Big Story and the stories of all of us created by him.

Creation, where we come into relationship with our loving God.

Fall, where the brokenness of our world rears up through our own actions in life or the things that happen to us.

Redemption or Rescue, where God who is faithful and never leaves us and brings us through any trials we face, picking up our broken pieces and molding us again as we become stronger through our weakness.

Restoration where God continues to work through us as we are receptive to him, and we find ourselves in the remarkable position of working with God as he works through us and blesses and restores his creation.

Creation, Fall, Rescue, and Restoration becomes the pattern of our story in the midst of God’s Big Story.

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How do people usually use the Bible?

For me, the most important thing about our identity is this. We are children of God. I am God’s son. You are God’s daughter.

And we are created to be like our Father. In fact we are created in his image.

We can hear the words of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit talking about us at creation.

“Let us make man, both male and female, in our image to be like us.”

We get to have the same relationship as God in the Trinity. Enjoying life together, serving each other, always treating each other with love and respect.

God invites us into the same relationship he has in the Trinity for eternity. A life of joy, where we are glad to be with each other, a life of love, working for the good of each other, and a life of peace, where we live in complete sufficiency.

Every person you have ever met has this same invitation. Even though we rebel against God and our image gets cloudy, we do not despair. God is in the rescue and restore business. It is God’s desire to rescue and restore us, and Jesus comes to the world to begin this process so all of creation, including you and me, can be who God created us to be.

I like to say it this way.

“I am God’s son (daughter) deserving of love and respect, and God is using me to change the world.”

How do we change the world?

Let us make make mankind in or image, to be like us, so that they may have responsibility over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.

We are created in God’s image and share his identity in order to share his authority and with authority he gives us the power to be able to do what he is telling us to do. 

Because we share God’s identity we share his authority and with the authority God gives us power to do what he wants done.

How do we know what he wants done?

We stay in relationship with him.

Adam and Eve had an amazing opportunity in their lives. They got to hang out with God in the Garden.

To be that close to God is his intention for all of us.

Well, we know how Adam and Eve’s story went. They rebelled. And all of creation changed. This rebellion continues. People don’t want God in their lives.

And if you don’t want God in your life, he will honor that request. God doesn’t force anyone to enter his story. Forced love isn’t love. God allows us to be lost.

But, God doesn’t give up.

If you seek God, he will find you.

You can be his son, his daughter, now. You can have the authority of your Father to transform the world around you. You can have the power to actually do this. Joining God in his cause to rescue and restore.

B54205FD-AF5A-477E-B44C-89C38FA8EE45

“Let’s introduce ourselves…” 

We do this when we are with people we don’t know.

There is a chance if you are a man you will mention what you do for a living first, and if you are a woman you will talk about your family. When responding to this question I always try to speak of my family first. Got to keep people on there toes. 

But, these kind of questions, we call them icebreakers are meant to get a conversation going. When you think of it, It’s about telling a story about yourself. Once I was asked a question that really zeroes in on the story.

Where were you born and what’s happened since? 

But, it’s true isn’t it? We live in story. All of us have been shaped by a dominant story in our lives. For a Christian, our dominant story, the story that can shape our lives and give us our identity is the story of God told through the Bible. It this is our dominant story, what would our lives be like?

If the story of God isn’t our dominant story, we may be following a false narrative. We may be swayed by our culture, the brokenness in our lives, or we may give in to the lies that make up what those “in the know”, the so called “experts” tell us who we are. 

White Privilege?

Person of Color?

Oppressed people?

Oppressors?

That’s how you define who someone is? Not God. God has one term for those whose identity is not defined by him. 

Foolish. 

So let’s get rid of the nonsense of defining ourselves any other way than how God defines us, shall we? Sorry, experts, you don’t get to define me. Only God does.

 

You see what we believe about God, what he is like and what he thinks about us, ultimately determines what we believe about ourselves. How the world works. 

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On Maundy Thursday evening Jesus continues the week of paradox. He tells his disciples to prepare a passover meal. They do this, but there is no host. So they have no servants there to wash their dirty feet. When you eat in Bible days you lay around on cushions on the floor. You are nose to toes, as it were. And since your feet are filthy from the dust, you don’t to be eating with someones feet in your face.

No on jumps up to volunteer to wash feet like a servant would do. Then Jesus, the King of the Universe gets up puts on his foot-washing uniform and washes everyone’s feet himself. The master takes on the role of the servant. And then he says,

“Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord. You speak accurately, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

So, Jesus turns the whole world upside down, again. There are to be no masters only those who serve each other.

ME

What does washing the feet of others tell you about Jesus?

glass-items-3264827_1280Palm Sunday starts off Holy Week which is a week of paradox.

When ancient armies vanquished their enemies they would come back to their capital city with all the treasure they could carry. It was like a big parade.

In Rome, when the conquering heroes came back the parade has a name. It is called the “Roman Triumph.”

This would include people to be made slaves and finally the last take all the treasure from the foreign land they conquered, including people to be made slaves and the last person to be dragged in would be the vanquished King. He would be on display for all the jeer, and then they publicly execute the King for all to see.

But with Jesus, God does the opposite.

As Paul writes in Colossians 2,

God made you alive together with Jesus,  joyously and freely putting you on the right path. 14 He blotted out the handwriting that was against us, opposing us with its legal demands. He took it right out of the way, by nailing it to the cross. 15 He stripped the rulers and authorities of their armor, and displayed them contemptuously to public view, celebrating his triumph over them in him.

This is what happens when God turns Good Friday into Easter Sunday.  The great paradox. Out of great weakness comes ultimate power. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, yet.

So, here comes Jesus riding into Jerusalem first. We know things won’t go well for him this week. He is called the King Israel, but what kind of a king?

Instead of a chariot or a war horse, he is riding on the back of a small donkey like a peasant. He is showing no signs of military might as he walks into town. His army is a bunch of people waving palm branches. Not much of a weapon against a spear or a sword. But this army of Jesus is mainly made up of people following him since they saw him raise Lazarus from the dead. Why use a sword or spear when you have the power to raise the dead.

So, Jesus, the conquering King, comes into town without an army, bearing no treasures, just who is he?

ME

The people who follow Jesus don’t know what they are doing, but Jesus does. Think on this.