Monthly Archives: October 2015

Worry’s Antidote

Do you have a solution for worry? 

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he tells us not to worry about our lives – what we are to eat, drink or wear.  As God provides food for the birds and décor for the flowers, he will surely provide for us.  He then says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and “all these things will be given to you as well.”  (Mt. 6:33)

The variety and subject of our worry is almost endless.  We can worry about our health, jobs, the well-being of loved ones, and what people think of us.  It is not uncommon to worry about all the preparations for a wedding or other big event, only to see them take place with our later wondering what all the worry was about.  I worry about how long it will take to get through security lines when flying, so I have made it a practice in recent years to get to the airport far earlier than may be necessary.

Peter Kreeft in his book, After Virtue, reverses Jesus’ statement about seeking the kingdom.  “Unless we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these things will not be added to us.”  If we are not seeking God, we are in effect separating ourselves from him, which means we are relying solely on ourselves.  God is not then present to assist or backup our efforts.  “Doing it my way” may sound good for a popular song, but it is unlikely to result in our being part of God’s kingdom with the accompanying benefits of his wisdom, counsel, truth, courage, faith, hope and love. 

While God expects us to do our part in providing for our daily lives, he is absolutely scrupulous about respecting our freedom to choose in seeking or not seeking to be a part of his kingdom.  When I look back on the greatest opportunities for worry in my life, I thank God that he was present so I was not relying solely on my own resources when our youngest daughter underwent open heart surgery at age four.  I thank God that I was not relying only on my own pro and con list when making a major job decision impacting our family.

Seeking God’s kingdom along with his guidance and assistance requires faith, detachment and contentment.  We need faith in his love for us, trust in his provision, and hope in an outcome that often has eternal ramifications.  We need detachment from trying to control the timing, means and outcome to the solutions for our worry.  We need contentment in willingly submitting to God’s way instead of “my way.”   

When Martha complained to Jesus about Mary not helping her in the preparations for Jesus’ visit, Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better.” (Luke 10:41-42)  Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to him.

Spending time at Jesus’ feet and listening to him is the best antidote for worry.

How Are We to Love God?

When the teachers of the law asked Jesus what was the most important commandment, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

Jesus is describing how broad, deep and complete our love of God should be. It should include heart, soul, mind and strength.

With our heart and soul, we love God with our non-physical or eternal nature – that part of our inner being that uniquely reflects who we are as an individual person and creation of God.   

With our mind, we love God with our physical or present nature – our intellect, thought, reason and will.  With our strength, we love God with our actions supported by determination and perseverance.

To help us understand how to love an unseen God, Jesus gives a human illustration in what he describes as the second commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love of self, or survival, is one of the first laws of nature.  It is instinct.  We don’t even have to think about it.  The love Jesus is calling us to embrace, however, is to overcome the instinct of putting self first.  This is of course consistent with what he said earlier to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

So how do we love like this?  John says, “We love because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19)  The God of all creation loved us so much that he became one of us and then submitted to a tortuous death for our sake.  This kind of love involves humility, obedience, and self-sacrifice to the Father’s will.

We see this kind of love in soldiers who literally lay down their lives for one another in combat.  We see it in parents who sacrifice in the care and provision for their children.  We see it in a spouse who provides continuous, daily care to a terminally ill loved one. 

We can also see this kind of love in the marketplace.  In the 2008 economic downturn, a friend who owns a building supply company in Phoenix refused to lay off any of his employees even though it resulted in having to operate at a loss for some period of time.  His love and concern for his long-time faithful employees overrode the need to operate a business at a profit for what he hoped would be a short-term cyclical retreat in the economy.

Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength starts with the little things. Let them become a habit, and we start to love God as Jesus commands.     

God’s Breath

Are you a daily reader of the Word?

St. Paul, in a letter to his disciple, Timothy, says, All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16)

All scripture in the Bible is from God, confirmed by his son, Jesus Christ, and validated over time by the Church fathers.  Scripture instructs us about life, existence, truth and all that is important.

For many years I have made scripture a part of my daily prayer time with the Lord at the start of the day.  After experiencing a renewal of the Holy Spirit in my life thirty-eight years ago this October, I had an intense desire to read the Bible.  I immediately started to read it from cover to cover as I commuted on the trains in and out of New York City each day.  As with many people who have experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the words literally leapt off the page.

Psalm 119, which is the longest of the psalms, spends its entire length extolling all that God’s word is and does for us. 

  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (v.105)
  • “Your statutes are my heritage forever.” (v. 111)
  • “All your commands are trustworthy.” (v. 86)
  • “Great peace have they who love your law.” (v. 165)
  • “Your statutes…are my counselors.” (v. 24)

Proverbs says “Every word of God is flawless.” (v. 30:5) Paul says, “For the word of God is living.” (Heb. 4:12)  James exhorts us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (v. 1:22) Finally, the Gospel of John tells us that all of God’s word became flesh in the person of Jesus and dwelt among us. 

Want to know about Jesus and to know him personally? Read scripture and you will know who he is.  Read scripture and meet him personally.  He tells us he is standing outside the door of our hearts knocking, waiting for us to invite him in.

God’s promise is to dwell in us if we invite him in.  “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)  Imagine that!  The God and creator of all that exists, wants to make his home in us!  It’s all in the Good Book.

Wherever we may be with God’s word in our daily life, God says, “Go deeper!”

How to Control Our Desire for Recognition

Do you desire to be recognized and honored?

Even though Jesus admonishes us that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled,” many of us struggle with the desire to be recognized and honored.  While I may try to act humble, there is an unspoken desire for recognition that has been a weakness in my character for most of my life.

This can manifest itself in various ways – becoming angry over perceived slights, experiencing jealousy over another’s success, allowing ambition to crowd out other priorities in our lives, to name just a few. There was a time early in my career as an attorney for a large international oil company when I allowed the desire to move up the corporate ladder to short change the responsibilities to my family.  Fortunately, the Lord opened my eyes to this reality and gave me the grace to bring better balance to both family and work.

Still, I quietly desire more recognition for things I write, say and do.  St. Gregory of Nyssa said we should “openly despise the accolades of the world and reject all earthly glory.” He suggested seeking God’s will instead of our own as a true act of humility and self-denial.

St. Paul has one of the best statements about seeking recognition.  He says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  He then goes on to make one of the more eloquent statements in all of scripture when he declares that our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, “Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant.” (Philippians 2:3, 6-7)

If Jesus, the Son of God, did not seek recognition for who he was, why should we?  Confident in his relationship with the Father, he was content with the family who raised him, his likely carpenter apprenticeship to his earthly father and the evolving revelation of his call by God to teach, to witness and eventually to sacrifice his life in a tortuous death for the rest of us.

St. Paul said he learned to be content with whatever the circumstances, “whether living in plenty or want,” because he could “do everything through who him gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:11-13)  We, too, should seek to be content without regard to recognition or honor, seeking God’s will instead of our own in all things.

Who do you seek to please – the people in your life or God?  Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt. 6:33)