I have recently developed a new appreciation for the Psalms. I am not one that enjoys poetry; I prefer historical accounts and factual information (I know; what a nerd!). However, after joining a weekly prayer meeting with a group of pastors in town, I have grown to see that the Psalms are not to be read like most of the other books; instead of reading for information, the Psalms are meant to be read to “hear”. We often call the Bible “the Word of God”, but rarely do we treat it like God is speaking to us. That is how I have learned to read this set of poems and songs, and I’d encourage you to try it.
In Psalm 23, God tells us that He is our shepherd, guiding us along life’s difficult paths towards green pastures and waters of rest. Although most of us don’t know what it’s like to be a sheep herder, what is obvious is that shepherds care for their flocks. They make sure that their flock has water, food, and shelter; they make sure that their flock is at peace and protected from danger. This is what God does for us as our shepherd; he provides, protects, and allows us to enjoy rest.
In a time when anxiety is higher than it has ever been, and people are worried about all sorts of different issues, this Psalm should speak to every single one of us and be an encouragement. We don’t need to worry, like Jesus says (Matthew 6:34); God has us and will take care of what we need. He allows us to rest in peace when we are in His presence, safe from the difficulties that surround us. The only requirement we have is to follow Him and stay close to Him, because when we are with the Great Shepherd, nothing can harm us.
Our Father is calling to you today; calling you to come before Him and calling you to rest. Enjoy this wonderful, merciful gift now, knowing that He has everything taken care of.
If you haven’t yet, reread Psalm 23 specifically looking for what God is speaking to you about Himself.
Is God promising to remove all scary, bad things from your life if you follow Him (see especially verses 4 & 5)? What does He offer to remedy anxiety and worry even in the midst of dark shadows and enemies?
How have you already benefited by having God as your shepherd? Is anything required from you to remain part of His flock?
Have you ever wondered what your purpose is? Why are you here? What am I suppose to accomplish in this lifetime?
I think it’s pretty simple yet we make it so complicated sometimes, or at least I do.
Do Not Be Anxious
 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
I am blessed because I rarely worry about what I am going to eat or what I am going to wear. If Jesus is telling his disciples not to worry about their essential needs, I highly doubt I should be worried about what others may think concerning the kind of car I drive, the shoes I wear, the house I live in, or even if I’m going to have enough money saved so I retire in 30 years, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is value in planning ahead and being wise with your money, but if you do it at the expense of being less generous, spending less time with family and friends, and most importantly getting so consumed that you forget about your relationship with God. It’s all in vain and meaningless.
 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
This sums up how we ought to live and where our priorities should lie. Seeking the Kingdom isn’t always the easiest decision in the moment, but it is always the best decision. Seeking the kingdom isn’t always the best financial decision in the moment, but it’s always the best financial choice in the end. Seeking the kingdom won’t always give you everything you think you need and want now, but it will give you everything you thought you wanted and needed and so much more when the Kingdom is revealed.
I challenge you and myself to see how we can make a real difference for the coming kingdom now, and how we can store up treasure in heaven where no thief can steal and no moth can destroy!
 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Is there a time when you where anxious about something? How else could you have reacted?
What are some ways to seek the Kingdom? How will you personally seek the Kingdom today?
I think that Martha gets a bit of a bad rap. Today she might even be what we call a “Karen.” It’s easy to read this last little portion of Luke 10 and think, “Well, better not be her,” and move on. But the thing is, most of us do have a little bit of Martha in us. We all have tasks that need accomplishing, people to take care of, and work to do. And all these things, while completely worthy of our time and dedication, can all too easily become a distraction from a relationship with Christ.
I don’t know about you, but different days I find myself relating to different sisters from this story. Fortunately for us, either way works out, because you either have the affirmation to keep being a Mary, or a gentle nudge that you’re being too Martha. Jesus broke cultural expectations in this story, encouraging his followers to stop and be present, rather than allowing work and responsibilities, however noble, to be a distraction from what really matters. The Bible tells us that we are to be anxious for nothing.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
Even when our anxieties are totally justified, we are not to become anxious, but instead find rest in God’s overwhelming peace. He is here for us, always, all we need to do is be with Him.
Is your approach to a relationship with God and His son more like Mary’s, or Martha’s?
Do you ever find yourself getting so caught up in working for Christ that you forget to just be with him?
On days when you feel yourself drowning in work and overwhelmed with tasks, what can you do to remind yourself to pause, and refocus your day on God? How can you do this during the Christmas season?
Though I’ve always struggled with anxiety, I can trace a lot of my childhood anxiety back to one source: the 5 o’clock news. I dreaded the hour-and-a-half each evening that my Dad would sit down in his recliner and turn on the television to hear the journalists report the sad and scary happenings of the day. I grew up near Dayton, Ohio, which has several times been on the “ten most dangerous cities (of its size) in the USA” list, so there were a lot of terrifying updates about local robberies and murders, not to mention domestic and global catastrophes, such as the Persian Gulf War and the Oklahoma City bombing. My tender heart had great difficulty accepting such chaos and pain in the world.
Then as a sophomore in college, I witnessed a hit-and-run, a robbery gone awry that resulted in the vehicular homicide of a sweet man, beloved in his community. I was forced to relive that terrible day many times over the next several years as a prime subpoenaed witness, until a series of unfortunate mishaps with the trials resulted in the guilty suspects being released with a clean record. I was aghast that the lawyers could be so slimy as to defend people who were clearly guilty of theft and murder, and that such evil could exist in the first place.
With all the terrible things in the world today, it causes me to wonder, how much worse could it actually have been back in Genesis 6 when God felt he needed to start again with godly people on Earth?
The world became corrupt again after Noah, and the wickedness in human hearts has continued for millenia. Paul warned Timothy, starting in verse 2, that in the final days, “people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Paul reminds Timothy to stay away from such people. That list sure sounds like the tendencies of a lot of people in this world and on the news today… and if I’m being completely honest, it sounds a lot like me at times too, when I lose my Christ-focus. I, too, have been “such people.” I am a sinner saved by grace, and I need to humbly remember how Jesus has saved me. I also need to be careful when I am in the world, to not be of it; it is important to not be influenced by people who are doing evil things, or I might sway to become a part of the sin and be pulled away from my relationship with God. Yes, we need to share the love of Jesus with everyone, but also have boundaries in those relationships.
Sometimes new Christians think that following Jesus should be The Easy Life, but the Bible is very clear that we will have difficulties as followers of Jesus. In verse 12, Paul promises that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Jesus himself said that we will have trouble, but he has overcome the world! (John 16:33). So Paul reminds Timothy two verses later to keep focused on what he has learned, keep the legacy of faith alive. By focusing on what we knew in the good times, we can have the strength to make it through the difficult times.
Then in verse 16, he reminds Timothy that the scripture is a guidebook for life, a manual for living. By following the God-breathed scriptures, we can have the training and correction we need to be ready to do good work for him, and (I would add) to fight any battle that we might face: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” I believe that is true today as well. The scriptures have survived for thousands of years because God wanted us to have them as a roadmap for our journey in this life, His special guidance through which He still speaks to us.
I’ll never forget how I beamed with pride as I sat in the front seat of our old red Dodge Omni hatchback, filled to the brim with camping supplies for our family’s annual vacation to the Hocking Hills KOA campground, with the Rand McNally road atlas sprawled over my 10-year-old lap. I was my Dad’s “navigator”; I had the very important job of following the criss-cross lines on the map (which my Dad had conveniently highlighted prior to our departure) to help us arrive at our vacation destination, leading the way for the rest of the clan in the car behind us. Until I was a young adult, I believed I was a good navigator. However, when my husband Dan and I got married and began to go on trips together (before smartphones were commonplace and while GPS car systems were still out of our price range), I realized that a modern Ferdinand Magellan I was not. As a directionally-challenged individual, my mis-reading of maps led us on many, shall we say, unplanned adventures. (Now, we reminisce about those frustrating adventures with a half-smile as we thank God for the invention of Google Maps and data plans.) It turns out that I wasn’t the navigator at all; my Dad had already highlighted the route and knew where he was going. He gave me the map and taught me how to read it at a basic level, but ultimately he was leading us the whole time. Likewise, God has given us a map (the Bible), and He shows us the best way to live. But we need to read His word, study His “map” and seek His ways for our lives through prayer and wise counsel. Then we will be better equipped to do His work.
As a Christian, we are guaranteed persecution in this life. Think and pray about ways that you can prepare yourself to face those trials.
In what practical ways can you encourage and support other Believers who are facing trials?
Look back on your life. How have you felt God’s leading through prayer and His word? How do you sense Him leading you today? (It’s a great idea to keep a journal of God’s faithfulness and answered prayers, which you can read again during difficult times!)
Our minds wander. We can’t help it. Our brain is processing hundreds or even thousands of stimuli a minute through our fantastic five senses. In the midst of a great conversation, a beautifully delivered sermon, the most engaging of lessons, or important advice, we can be interrupted by a stimulus that snowballs into full-blown distraction. It begins with the slightest tinge of pain, a quick movement entering peripherals, a muted rapping, a whiff of a smoke, or an unexpected bitter flavor rolling across our tongue. Our mind goes into troubleshooting mode. It begins to play out all of the possible threads to a perceived threat and searches for the worst case scenario, so it can prepare the nervous system to react. We place much trust in our senses but in turn, we create narratives that do not exist in order to protect our bodies from ill-perceived observation.
When we allow the responses to take over, we are experiencing, on some level, psychosis. The lines between what is fact and fiction begin to blur. We begin to believe lies and have adulterated perceptions. We begin to live in the dark and the undesirable. We begin to worship terrible and disgraceful moments we have self-induced. We think about such things, and replay them over and over again, fiction becoming “our” truth. I know it because I have been there. On my darkest days, I contort and twist every action into a gospel of fear, pain, and anxiety. Wandering minds, when not properly anchored to Christ, can be our undoing. First, and foremost, if we are in this place, we must pray for God to guard our hearts and quiet our minds.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” 1 Philippians 4:7-9
Don’t take the bait. Don’t respond to the stimulus. Instead, plant your feet even deeper into the foundation of Jesus Christ and stay. Dwell here, rent free. What is true? You are first and foremost loved by God. The Creator of the heavens and the earth is the Creator of your very life. You declare God with your very existence because he has fearfully and wonderfully made YOU (Psalm 139:14). What is pure? The blood of Christ has sanctified you. While there may be sin in your life, you are washed white as snow through repentance. There is no sin greater than the Lamb of God’s sacrifice. (Romans 3:23-24) What is noble? You have an inheritance that makes you a royal priesthood. You are from an adopted bloodline that will reign alongside Christ. (Revelation 5:10) What is lovely? How beautiful are your feet when you bring Good News, proclaiming that your God reigns and brings living peace in the midst of the tumult of life (Isaiah 52:7) What is admirable? You have not laid your eyes on Jesus, and therefore, you are greatly blessed for your belief (John 20:29) What is excellent and worthy of praise? On my worst days, God confronts me. He loves and comforts me. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He doesn’t take His promises from me. I can walk through the darkest valley. Hit rock bottom. And guess who’s there? My God. (Psalm 23) He doesn’t see me for my shortcomings. He loves the faithful, but equally loves the prodigal (Luke 15:22-24). He is the shepherd to the ninety-nine and the one (Matt 18:12). Do not be deceived by your senses or your wanderings. Let your mind dwell only on these things.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
When has being led by your thoughts and feelings and senses led you into a troubled place? Do you often tend toward anxious thoughts? What has helped you in the past?
How do you rate at bringing every situation before God in prayer and petition and with thanksgiving?
What do you let your mind dwell on?
What does the world say is the secret to peace? What does God say?
There are so many great nuggets in Proverbs 3, each of which could have a devotion centered on it. Some of these include:
Proverbs 3:3, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you…”
Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:9, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.”
Proverbs 3:11-12, “.. do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
Proverbs 3:27, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.”
Proverbs 3:33, “The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.”
Today, I’d like to focus on Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
It’s easy to praise and thank God when things are going well. And when life is sailing along smoothly, its hard to even think about having to trust in (rely on) God. But when times get rough, that’s when the rubber meets the road for our faith.
So what does it mean to trust in God when you face financial hardships? When you’ve lost a loved one? When you face serious health problems? When life seems to just stink? When you’re dying?
1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
I know from personal experience that it is easy to, “Cast my anxiety on Him” by crying out to God, telling him all my problems, asking Him to solve them, and asking Him to give me peace. I also know it’s hard to not pick up those problems again and try to shoulder them myself.
In other words, this passage is easy to acknowledge as right, but very hard to really put into practice.
Jesus passed along some wisdom about how to accomplish this in Matthew 6:24-34. This section starts with Jesus telling us not to worry about our lives, what we’re going to eat, or wear, or anything else. And the reason he gave was: God knows what you need, and will take care of you. Instead, Jesus gave us something else to focus on in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
So the trick to not focusing on our problems is to instead focus on God’s promises. In Revelation 21:4, we’re told that in the Kingdom of God, God himself ‘… 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.”
Think about the Kingdom of God and the conditions there. Obsess over it. Long for it. Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and then live your life in such a way as to be in God’s kingdom.
I have learned from personal experience that the closer we draw to God during our tough times, the more he seems to lift us up and help us through – in situations where it seems we couldn’t have gotten through on our own.
And while we’re talking about problems, have you ever thought that God may allow problems in our lives to help us focus more on Him and his kingdom? Romans 8:22-23 says,” We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
So, while you’re experiencing loss and pain, focus on God and on his kingdom. Long for it. Draw close to God. In doing this, you will learn to trust in the Lord with all your heart. And then He will direct your life.
How has God shown Himself to be trustworthy so far – in the Bible? In the lives of people you know? In your own life?
How does remembering God’s promises help get you through tough times?
What does it mean to you to not have to rely on your own understanding?
Would you like to be known as a person who puts their trust in God? How can you work towards increasing your trust in God?
Finances, relationships, life decisions like which college or what job will fit you best, what people think of you or your family, pandemics, what your test result will be (covid test, spelling test, pregnancy test, SAT test, etc…), who will play with you at recess, the health of your parent, your child, your grandparent, your pet or yourself, how you will pay your bills, if your clothes are fashionable, global warming, flights and travel plans (or the lack thereof), government instability, natural disasters, and the list goes on. And on. And on.
There is a lot we can worry about. And the last two years hasn’t helped our worry levels. Anxiety is on the rise across all ages, but hitting young people especially hard. How can we help protect ourselves and our kids from the damage done by worry?
Worry does not change what will happen or what has already happened. (Though so often we waste much time worrying about what never happens at all.)
Worry does not change how well or how poorly we will respond to what does happen.
Worry does steal our thankfulness.
Worry does make us feel bad – and has a proven strong link to depression.
Worry does strip our focus off of God and His goodness and love and righteousness.
Can we agree that worry isn’t helpful? That we will be better off spending as little time as possible stuck in a worry cycle? So what do we do when we catch ourselves (or one dear to us) catching a ride on the worry train?
Yesterday I read a suggestion to limit yourself to a specific 5-15 minutes a day to worry. If you catch yourself worrying any other time of the day tell yourself it is not the time to worry now, but you will do that at the prescribed worry time (say, 6:10-6:20 pm). Interesting idea I have not tried yet.
But, I can tell you what HAS worked for me, and my family and friends, over and over again. Three times in the last three days I have heard and experienced the overwhelming power of turning to God in His Scriptures to combat our worry and anxiety.
A dear friend was worried about a new job possibility that appeared to be a closing door. She wisely decided to put a hold on her worried thoughts and instead took the time to write out her Bible passage for the day which happened to be about new beginnings. And when she was done – the phone rang with some positive information about the job.
My husband was stuck in a hotel overseas concerned about not receiving a negative covid test result so he could begin work he had been sent to do. It appeared there was nothing to do but wait and worry. Until, he decided to use the time instead to do the last 2 days of Bible reading and devotions. When he was done – the email came with the negative results and he got to work.
I was struggling with a decision that was weighing heavily on me for the past two months. But Monday was my deadline. I needed to contact my boss to let them know if I was going to pursue a job opportunity with them or not. I was worried about making the best decision and what it would mean for me and my family and those I would (or wouldn’t) encounter at work. I was struggling to know what I wanted..and what God wanted. Early Monday morning I was preparing the devotion on John the Baptist from Matthew 3 but wanted to check on some background information so turned to Luke 1. And, there was my answer as clear as could be, repeated twice in Luke 1:41-44. The letter has been written and peace has been growing while the worry has been wiped away. God sent the answer to my worry when I was in His Word. I know I didn’t give a lot of details, but ask me later and I can fill in the rest of the story but the important part is that in God’s Word the worry disappeared.
It sounds almost like magic. But, it’s not. It’s God at work. And God at work beats me at worry any day! And it happens again and again. My son has a great story about finding peace in his college decision when he was faithful in his Bible reading. Two generations earlier my mom has a similar story of the same peace discovered in scripture regarding a previously worrisome huge move and new job for her young family.
Often the answer and peace doesn’t come the same day. When our youngest was in elementary school she struggled with worry – especially at night. She would lie in bed long past bedtime thinking of what might go wrong the next day or the next year. Together we created some posters of Philippians 4:4-9 and stuck them to the wall by her bed. Here’s verses 4-7, but you might want to look up 8-9 as well and you can make a beautiful poster for your bedside, too.
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It didn’t happen overnight, but she read and re-read those words every night. She put those Scriptures deep into her memory and into her heart. She turned to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving. Under those circumstances worry had no chance to thrive. Over time her worry shrank and her peace grew and she slept soundly. She still does.
There is a lot we CAN worry about. And the worry can mess with our mind, diminish our health, steal our sleep, damage our relationships and take us deeper into depression and further away from God’s will for us. Or, we can SEEK HIM. Open the Bible He’s given to you where He reveals Himself and His answers for life and peace. Seek Him in prayer, just as Jesus taught. We can rest in peace knowing God is at work. He is feeding the birds. He is growing the lilies of the field. He is supplying answers. He is giving peace. That doesn’t mean that every day will be easy and no troubles will come. It just means that God is still there in those trials. He still has a plan. He still loves. He still guides. He still provides. He is still right. He still has a Kingdom like no other coming around the bend. Seek Him, His Kingdom, His righteousness. Rest easy knowing it’s gonna be alright. God is at work so I don’t have to worry.
Reflection and Discussion Questions
What did you used to worry about that you don’t worry about any more? What changed? Are you worried about something now? Do you think you will also be worried about it next year? 10 years from now? In the Kingdom? How could seeking God’s kingdom help take care of a worry problem?
Describe an environment in which worry grows. Describe an environment in which worry can not thrive. Which environment do you want to live in? What steps can you include today to start changing your daily schedule and environment to reduce worry?
Philippians 4:4-9 says prayer helps replace anxiety. In Matthew 6 the Lord’s Prayer, fasting, and teaching on our treasures all accompany Jesus’ teaching on worry. What can we learn about prayer from these passages? What pieces do you see in the Lord’s Prayer? Any aspects of Jesus’ prayer that you feel your prayer life could use more of? If so, practice adding those into your prayers today.
How can you use the lessons of prayer and not worrying to help someone else today? Who?
I have a lot of thoughts and emotions swirling in my head after the death of George Floyd and all the events surrounding it afterward. There is a lot to dig into and talk about, but I am going to keep this devotion simple by sharing some very pertinent verses from our reading in Proverbs today.
Proverbs 10:12 starts out by saying that hatred stirs up conflict. Well, that has certainly been proven true. If you want to dig to the core of this whole problem, racism, you will find hatred there. People have chosen to hate someone based on the color of their skin. Some of this hate is intense, and unfortunately leads to death at times, but there are also many people that carry with them a milder form of hate that still makes the problem worse even though it may not be so blatant.
So how should we combat hatred? The second part of verse 12 says that love covers over all wrongs. Love is what is needed to make this situation better. Considering everything that has happened, you might not be feeling that right now. There is a lot of anger out there, and it is ok to get angry sometimes. Some things are worth getting angry over. However, that anger can’t last. It will ruin you and those around you if you hold on to anger for too long. There have been many wrongs through the years that can’t be undone, but love can cover those wrongs, and forgiveness needs to be part of that love. The wrongs can be forgotten with forgiveness and love.
You have a choice to make. Are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution? Proverbs 12:18 states, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” You can speak harshly and blame people for their wrongdoings. You might even be accurate about what you are saying, but if your tone is cruel and insensitive, it is like piercing them with a sword. A wise person’s words are softer, gentler, loving, and empathetic, which brings healing.
I think it is safe to say that most people have been feeling anxiety over what has been happening. The first part of Proverbs 12:25 says that anxiety weighs down the heart. I’m sure many of you have experienced that during these trying times lately. The good news is that there is a cure for your heart. The second part of verse 25 says a kind word cheers it up. Again, you can choose to speak harshly to others about what they have done wrong and make the wounds worse, or you can say something kind to help make their heart glad.
Proverbs 12:20 goes one step further by saying those who promote peace have joy. Peace feels so good and it is what most of us strive for. If you can promote peace, even in very small ways, it will bring joy to your heart. The only thing that will completely end racism is the return of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we should just give up until then. I encourage you to make this world a better place one person at a time. You can’t solve this whole problem by yourself, but you can make it better by being a light to the individuals you come into contact with in your daily life.
I am not saying we all need to pretend nothing happened and try to live happily ever after. There are many conversations that need to take place and changes need to occur. I am saying that we need to embrace the wise words from scripture and go into those conversations with love, not with hate boiling on the inside. You also need to search your own heart to see if there is any hatred there, no matter how strong or mild it may be, and rid your heart of that hatred. Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.
Imagine that you are an Israelite that has been taking in all the words of your leader Moses. You have listened as he has given your history. You have committed to love God with all your heart, soul and strength. You have determined to follow the commands, decrees and laws that the Lord directed Moses to teach you. Soon it will be time to enter the land and possess it. You have heeded the warnings of idol worship. You have envisioned this good land flowing with milk and honey. Moses told you of all the good things that wait inside the land, but your mind also fills with doubt. You must face the nations that are physically stronger than you are. As you lie in bed, your mind races over what lies before you. It is then that you remember what else was said. “If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers.” You decide this is in the LORD’s hands, you settle in, smile and go to sleep.
We are sometimes faced with the same dilemmas that the Israelites faced. We live in an uncertain world. We daily experience the results of this fallen world-war, pain, sickness, … We can easily become anxious and worried. But God also provided us with a great teacher who gave us instruction. Jesus Christ told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Our Heavenly Father and His Son are with us. They are aware of our situation. We may have to face difficult and uncertain circumstances, but they are with us as we go through them. We are certain of this, if we are faithful to them, they will always be with us.
Just like the Israelites we will set our minds on the words of God. We will remember that we live on “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Even in our chaotic world, we should observe the commands of the Lord our God, walk in obedience to Him and revere Him because the Lord our God is bringing us to a good land. This land where righteousness dwells will reside in a new heaven and new earth.
How often do you think about tomorrow? What is it that you think of? Are you hoping for certain things to happen, praying for a specific outcome? Are you dreaming of what might be?
The implication from James 3:13-14 and 4:13-15 as well as Matthew 6:34 is that tomorrow is promised to no one. Ecclesiastes 9:11 tells us that time and chance happen to everyone. With billions of people each doing their own thing for their own reasons it is easy to see how true that last statement is. So we truly cannot boast about tomorrow for we do not even know if it will come to us and if it does, what it will bring.
We are to prepare for tomorrow, but not presume it. When we dream of tomorrow we may find ourselves imagining our own plans being better than God’s. Additionally, thinking to the future is more often than not the primary source of our anxieties. So again I say, prepare for tomorrow but always trust in our incredible God’s will. If He has called you to Him it is to succeed in His will, not to fail in it.
Of the 27 verses of the 27th Proverb, 16 deal directly with relationships (2-6, 9-11, 13-18, 21-22). It is telling of the importance of relationships to our amazing God. He places the greatest emphasis on our relationship with Him and one another all through the Scriptures.
The three points on relationships that this chapter of proverbs focuses on is a humble heart, the sting of honesty, and the destructiveness of things left hidden.
If there is something that you are really good at you are probably accustomed to receiving praise for it. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that we need to remember not to let it go to our head. If you let it, it can inflate our ego. A brilliant writer receives critical acclaim but it is likely that their talent was developed and nurtured by their parents, numerous teachers, and peers. The passion to do what they do is fueled by hundreds of authors that have come before them. Likewise a superstar athlete has family, teachers, coaches, trainers, teammates and even their competition to thank for honing their abilities. As you can see there is nothing that we do that we could honestly boast about. Everything we do and are capable of comes from others guiding us and believing in us. Ultimately this is all traced back to our LORD and Creator. In His image we are strong and creative. We are intelligent and powerful because of Him.
The second point made in this proverb deals with the pain of honesty and how good it can be for us. It can hurt when someone tells you, “You sing horribly!” Well, not so much for me because I already know that. But you get the picture. When someone tells you in such a point blank manner or preferably in a more caring way a truth that you need to hear that is for your benefit. Sometimes it is an honest remark about something we said or how we acted that we know was not right. We need to be called out from time to time over our words and actions. This is what the Bible calls a rebuke, a correction of what we do and say.
One of the honest expressions this passage speaks of is anger. Anger can be cruel, to the one who is angry as well as the one at which the anger is directed. But a sudden outburst of anger may allow us to clear the air. It can move us into a place of reconciliation and forgiveness so that healing can begin. The point is that open and honest communication is not always nice and polite. Sometimes it is not possible to be honest in a demure, quiet way. There are times when honesty hurts. Actually, most of the time honesty hurts. But can we truly grow and mature if everyone around us is sugar-coating and shielding us from the reality of a situation?
The third and final point I took from this proverb goes hand-in-hand with honest communication, burying things away. I mentioned the point of anger and the author continues by asking the rhetorical question, “Who can stand before jealousy?” Jealousy, envy, and the like are like smoldering embers. The heat is held inside, never dying down and ready in an instant to ignite at the first opportunity. They are not easily vented or burned out. While anger may subside soon after being released, jealousy and envy grow stronger the longer they are held. They feed off of our relationships, slowly burning them away to nothing. Be careful of what you hold inside for this is the very reason we have the expression, burning bridges.
There is so much more within this wonderful passage that we could have covered. The significance of being in this moment and trusting God for what may come as well as the importance of relationships is what really stuck out to me. So remember, not only do we owe God but many others for all that we are capable of. Honesty hurts but, when coupled with compassion, is helpful. And finally, be careful what you hold hidden inside for it can destroy your relationships and do great harm to you as well. We were created to be in relationship with God. Our Savior, Jesus, spoke of how vital our relationships are. He simplified the incredibly convoluted system of 613 laws that man had in place to two – love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. The heart of these is relationships. Never forget that.