With back-to-back-to back major hurricanes, two major earthquakes in Mexico, North Korea testing missiles every other week, and a nuclear bomb recently, concerns about terrorism, ethnic and racial strife, famines, wars, etc., I was asked if God is trying to tell us something? My answer was No! God has already told us everything that we need to know. He already told us in His word the Bible. There’s nothing else we need to know. Now it’s is up to us to know and understand what He has already said, to believe it, and to do what He says we need to do.
Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV)11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
Psalm 119:105 (NKJV) Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Amos 3:7 (NKJV) Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
2 Peter 1:2-4 (NKJV)2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
We are tempted to look at the things that are happening today, especially the natural disasters, wars, terrorism, new illnesses, crime, government corruption, and other unnerving headlines as messages from God. When these things happen you even hear some Christians say “God must be trying to tell us something”. There was even a gospel song some years ago sung by Tata Vega in The Color Purple, Maybe God Is Trying To Tell You Something.
Again I say, God never tries to tell us anything. He’s already said it. He didn't say it in headlines but through Scripture. Headlines change God’s Word never changes.
Luke 21:29-33 (NKJV)29 Then He spoke to them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. (Bold mine)
We Christians often try to make Scripture fit the headlines, our imaginations, hopes, and dreams. That’s backward it should be the other way around the headlines, our imaginations, hope, and dreams should match Scripture.
2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (NKJV)4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (Bold mine)
When we try to make Scripture match headlines we end up writing new Scriptures with every new headline or vision. Those are our words not God’s words.
Deuteronomy 4:2 (NKJV)2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Deuteronomy 12:32 (NKJV)32 Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.
Revelation 22:18-19 (NKJV)18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
While thinking about this post I ran across something written by Philip Yancy, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. The piece that I read is “Where is God in Times of Tragedy” from his book The Question That Never Goes Away: Why? What Philip says is that it’s useless trying to figure out why things happen the way that they do. What we can do is to trust the only one who is control no matter what happens. He’s already told you that.
Where is God in Times of Tragedy?
by Philip Yancey, from The Question That Never Goes Away: Why?
The apostle Paul said about a healthy community, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” The Christian community, known worldwide by the symbol of a cross and by our regular partaking of a sacrament “in remembrance of Me,” should be able to make a unique contribution to those who suffer. Alas, as I have heard repeatedly, all too often “the church made it worse.”
When the Indonesian tsunami killed a quarter-million people on a sunny day in 2004, geologists blamed it on the rupture of an undersea mega-thrust on the sea floor, triggering the giant wave. Some televangelists credited it instead to God’s wrath against “pagan” nations in that region that had been persecuting Christians. Along the same line, one Christian leader traced the cause of the 2011 Japanese tsunami to the fact that “Japan is under control of the sun goddess.” When terrorists killed three thousand people by crashing airplanes into the World Trade Center, a prominent fundamentalist in Virginia blamed it on “the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way... I point the thing in their face and say, you helped this happen.”
When twenty children and six staff died at the hands of a shooter in Newtown, a well-known radio personality attributed it to God who has “allowed judgment to fall upon us” for accepting things like abortion and gay marriage. Another radio pastor/politician said that God “chose not to stop the slaughter of these young innocents” because “we are keeping God out of schools.”
Such extreme statements by self-appointed spokespersons get widespread press coverage. And after any major disaster you can go on the Internet and read a wide variety of theological justifications, all attempting — like Job’s friends? — to explain what happened as an expression of God’s plan. (“Consider now,” Eliphaz urged Job, “Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?” — unaware at that point that he was participating in a drama of refutation.) Theories ascribing disasters to God’s judgment end up sounding more like karma than providence.
Why do we continue to think that good and evil, pain and pleasure, are doled out according to our merit when the Book of Job teaches just the opposite?
Committed Calvinists strain to explain catastrophes, along with everything else, as an expression of God’s sovereign will. I follow their arguments with some sympathy, yet wonder why Jesus never used such reasoning with the suffering people He encountered. Never do I see Jesus lecturing people on the need to accept blindness or lameness as an expression of God’s secret will; rather, He healed them. He taught us to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven,” and directed us to work diligently toward that goal. Since we anticipate no wars, gun violence, terrorist acts, or natural disasters in Heaven — indeed, no tears or death — I choose to speak of God’s desire for humans on earth, leaving the intricacies of “God’s will” to the theologians. The aftermath of a catastrophe is probably the worst time to quote, “God is on the throne.”
Words, no matter how well-intentioned, may heap more pain on an already sad situation.
“There must be a reason,” we say when a family loses a job and sees their house go into foreclosure — yes, but what reason makes sense at such a time? “God doesn’t put on us more than we can bear” sounds hollow to someone at the breaking point. Kevin Costner’s movie The War includes a scene with another spiritual cliché. After a Vietnam veteran dies in a mining accident trying to save a friend’s life, his wife tries to comfort their son. “God needed him home,” she says. The son yells to sky: “Yeah, but I need him more than you do!” I prefer (and think more theologically correct) the reaction of the pastor at the funeral in Chicago, “Damn you, death!” If we are upset about the condition of this planet, I can only imagine how God feels.
Even a spiritual truth like “All things work together for good” can hit like a hammer blow if presented at the wrong time. Those who speak of suffering producing a greater good offer scant solace to ordinary people grieving their losses and wondering how to resume life. An angry woman recently wrote me about the “hijacking” of her mother’s funeral: “There were the missionaries who came up to me right after the service to tell me with a smile that ‘if one person accepted Christ during the service, then your mother’s death was worth it.’”
After the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, CNN interviewed a woman who survived the collapse of her nursing home. “I thank my guardian angels,” she said, an understandable sentiment. I could not help wondering, though, how that comment sounded to the families of those who had not survived. Then I came across the story of Joe Berti, who crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon just seconds before the first bomb went off. After several frantic hours trying to reunite with his family in the confusion, he flew home to Texas, where two days later on a business trip he witnessed the explosion of the fertilizer factory, a blast that rocked his car and rained debris around him.
Some called him the unluckiest man alive; some called him the luckiest. Berti’s wife had a wise and balanced reaction. “We’re grateful that God has been merciful to us,” she said. “We are just praying for the people who were so much less fortunate than we were.”
After spending time in Japan and Newtown, I have adopted a two-part test I keep in mind before offering counsel to a suffering person. First, I ask myself how these words would sound to a mother who kissed her daughter goodbye as she put her on the school bus and then later that day was called to identify her bloody body. Would my words bring comfort or compound the pain?
Then I ask myself what Jesus would say to that mother. Few theological explanations pass those tests. The only way I know to respond with comfort and healing, as Jesus did, is to fully embrace the mother’s grief and to assure her that God feels more grieved than she does. In the words of David Bentley Hart, who is a theologian, “When I see the death of a child, I do not see the face of God but the face of His enemy... and that rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, He will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes.”
In sum, I avoid trying to answer the Why? question because any attempt will inevitably fall short and may even rub salt in an open wound. As Jesus’ followers, we can instead offer a loving and sympathetic presence that may help bind wounds and heal a broken heart.
Thankfully, I have seen the church do just that. I went to Newtown at the invitation of a church that sent four counselors to the firehouse where anxious parents awaited news of their children’s fate and that has raised a large sum of money to provide ongoing counseling for the families. Since the tragedy, six mothers of slain children have begun participating in regular gatherings at that church, one of many that reached out to them.
In Japan I met teams from the Philippines, Germany, Singapore, and the U.S. involved in reconstruction. Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Samaritan’s Purse mobilized immediately after the earthquake and a year later were still sending crews to aid in recovery. Although the church in Japan represents only one percent of the population, Christian organizations took a lead in rebuilding efforts, and some Japanese churches became distribution centers for food and supplies. One church sheltered more than a thousand evacuees the first few months after the tsunami.
I met some of the retired contractors and construction workers who had signed on with Samaritan’s Purse to rebuild houses swept away by the tsunami. They were living in cramped communal housing and working long hours without pay. “We don’t proselytize,” one told me. “We don’t need to — the people know why we’re here. We’re simply followers of Jesus trying to live out His commands. Just before handing owners the key to their new home, we ask if we can pray a blessing on the house. So far no one has turned us down.” As a counterbalance to the list of seven deadly sins, the church in the Middle Ages came up with a list of seven works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the sick, ransom the captive, bury the dead. Every day a small army of relief workers and volunteers in Tohoku put into practice those works of mercy. Not all of us can serve on the front lines of mercy, however.
As I reminded the staff of my publisher in Tokyo the day I left, the church later came up with an additional list of spiritual works of mercy: to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offences willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead. The church in Japan, a tiny minority in a distressed nation, is endeavoring to practice those less-visible works as well.
John Marks, a producer for television’s 60 Minutes, went on a two-year quest to investigate evangelicals, the group he had grown up among and later rejected. He wrote a book about the quest called Reasons to Believe: One Man’s Journey Among the Evangelicals and the Faith He Left Behind. The church’s response to Hurricane Katrina turned the corner for him and became a key reason to believe. One Baptist church in Baton Rouge fed 16,000 people a day for weeks; another housed 700 homeless evacuees.
Years after the hurricane, and long after federal assistance had dried up, a network of churches in surrounding states was still sending regular teams to help rebuild houses. Most impressively to Marks, all these church efforts crossed racial lines and barriers in the Deep South. As one worker told him, “We had whites, blacks, Hispanics, Vietnamese, good old Cajun... We just tried to say, ‘hey, let’s help people. This is our state. We’ll let everybody else sort out that other stuff. We’ve got to cook some rice.’”
I would argue that this was a watershed moment in the history of American Christianity... nothing spoke more eloquently to believers, and to nonbelievers who were paying attention, than the success of a population of believing volunteers measured against the massive and near-total collapse of secular government efforts. The storm laid bare an unmistakable truth.
More and more Christians have decided that the only way to reconquer America is through service.
The faith no longer travels by the word. It moves by the deed.
Excerpted with permission from The Question That Never Goes Away: Why? by Philip Yancey, copyright Philip Yancey and SCCT. Published by Zondervan.
*To get your copy ofThe Question That Never Goes Away: Why? click or touch any highlighted link or go to the FTE Resources Page.
We hear over and over that we should be specific when we pray. Jesus told His disciples that they should be persistent and specific when they pray. In what we know as the Lord’s prayer Jesus could have said to pray, “bless us” or “help us.” But he didn’t. He said,
Matthew 6:11-13 (NKJV) Give us this day our daily bread.
That’s a specific request. To his first followers, bread was central to life. It was a staple. A necessity. So Jesus said, “Pray for bread.”
Here’s a specific request made to Jesus.
Luke 18:35-43 (NLT)35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road.36 When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening.37 They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by.38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him,41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.”43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.
Here the blind man, Bartimaeus was asking for mercy. That’s great and important, but it’s a very general request. Jesus could have had somebody give him some money, or food or any number of things which would have been acts of mercy. However Jesus asked him what he wanted specifically. He asked him “what do you want me to do for you”. Then Bartimaeus got specific. “I want to see”
Here is a specific request made by three times by Jesus.
Matthew 26:36-44 (NKJV)36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there."37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.38 Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me."39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."40 Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, "What? Could you not watch with Me one hour?41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done."43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. (Bold mine)
When we get specific in prayer we get all the other clutter out so that we can spell out and spill out what it is we really want to ask.
Being specific in prayer has several advantages. In “Prayer, Not Despair”, an excerpt, from his book Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado points out three benefits of being specific in prayer. To get a copy of the book click any of the Anxious for Nothing links or the image of the book after the blog post.
Prayer, Not Despair
by Max Lucado from Anxious for Nothing
Peace happens when people pray.
I like the story of the father who was teaching his three-year-old daughter the Lord’s Prayer. She would repeat the lines after him. Finally she decided to go solo. He listened with pride as she carefully enunciated each word, right up to the end of the prayer. “Lead us not into temptation,” she prayed, “but deliver us from e-mail.”
These days that seems like an appropriate request. God calls us to pray about everything. The terms prayer, supplication, and requests are similar but not identical. Prayer is a general devotion; the word includes worship and adoration. Supplication suggests humility. We are the supplicants in the sense that we make no demands; we simply offer humble requests. A request is exactly that — a specific petition. We tell God exactly what we want. We pray the particulars of our problems.
What Jesus said to the blind man, he says to us:
What do you want Me to do for you? — Luke 18:41 NIV
One would think the answer would be obvious. When a sightless man requests Jesus’ help, isn’t it apparent what he needs? Yet Jesus wanted to hear the man articulate his specific requests.
He wants the same from us. “Let your requests be made known to God.” When the wedding ran low on wine, Mary wasn’t content to say, “Help us, Jesus.” She was specific:
They have no more wine. — John 2:3 NIV
The needy man in Jesus’ parable requested,
Friend, lend me three loaves. — Luke 11:5 NIV
Not just “Give me something to eat” or “Can you help me out?” He made a specific request. Even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed specifically,
Take this cup from Me. — Luke 22:42 NIV
Why does this matter? I can think of three reasons.
“O Lord, God of my master, Abraham,” he prayed. “Please give me success today, and show unfailing love to my master, Abraham. See, I am standing here beside this spring, and the young women of the town are coming out to draw water. This is my request. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master.” — Genesis 24:12–14 NLT
Could the servant have been more detailed? He asked for success in his endeavor. He envisioned an exact dialogue, and then he stepped forth in faith. Scripture says,
Before he had finished speaking, Rebekah appeared. — Genesis 24:15 ISV
She said the words. The servant had an answered prayer. He saw God at work.
This is no endorsement of the demanding, conditional prayer that presumes to tell God what to do and when. Nor do I suggest that the power of prayer resides in chanting the right formula or quoting some secret code. Do not think for a moment that the power of prayer resides in the way we present it. God is not manipulated or impressed by our formulas or eloquence. But He is moved by the sincere request. After all, is He not our Father? As His children we honor Him when we tell him exactly what we need.
On my good days I begin my morning with a cup of coffee and a conversation with God. I look ahead into the day and make my requests. I am meeting with so-and-so at 10:00 a.m. Would You give me wisdom? This afternoon I need to finish my sermon. Would You please go ahead of me? Then if a sense of stress surfaces during the day, I remind myself, Oh, I gave this challenge to God earlier today. He has already taken responsibility for the situation. I can be grateful, not fretful.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:7 NIV
Casting is an intentional act to relocate an object. When the disciples prepared Jesus to ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, they “cast their garments upon the colt” (Luke 19:35 KJV). The crowd removed the garments off their backs and spread them in the path of Christ. Let this “throwing” be your first response to bad news. As you sense anxiety welling up inside you, cast it in the direction of Christ. Do so specifically and immediately.
I did a good job of “casting my problems” in a high school algebra class. My brain scans reveal a missing region marked by the sign “Intended for Algebra.” I can remember sitting in the class and staring at the textbook as if it were a novel written in Mandarin Chinese.
Fortunately I had a wonderful, patient teacher. He issued this invitation and stuck to it. “If you cannot solve a problem, come to me and I will help you.” I wore a trail into the floor between his desk and mine. Each time I had a question, I would approach his desk and remind him, “Remember how you promised you would help?” When he said yes, instant gratitude and relief kicked in. I still had the problem, mind you, but I had entrusted the problem to one who knew how to solve it.
Do the same. Take your problem to Christ and tell Him, “You said you would help me. Would You?”
The path to peace is paved with prayer.
Less consternation, more supplication. Fewer anxious thoughts, more prayer-filled thoughts. As you pray, the peace of God will guard your heart and mind. And, in the end, what could be better?
Excerpted with permission from Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
The writer of Psalm 143 was depressed. Because of his past actions his enemies and persecutors had done everything but taken his life. He admits his guilt as a sinner, and repents of his sins. He was now asking that God deliver him. He needed an immediate answer, and he believed that God would come to his aid before it was too late.
This should be our prayer whenever we face daunting circumstances no matter their origin. Our first cry for help should be to God who is the only one who can deliver a permanent solution. If where we are is our fault all we need to do is confess, ask forgiveness, know that God will forgive and deliver us. He has promised two things He will forgive and will never leave or forsake us.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
1 John 1:9 (NIV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
A Cry For Help
Psalm 143:1-12 )NIV) Lord , hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, Lord ; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord , for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For your name’s sake, Lord , preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.
Meals and food have always played a major role in the relationship between God and His people.
When God visited Abraham to tell him again that he and Sarah would have a child, and to also tell him that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham prepared a meal for his three guests.
Genesis 18:3-8 (NLT)3 “My lord,” he said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while.4 Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet.5 And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.” “All right,” they said. “Do as you have said.”6 So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.”7 Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it.8 When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees.
Before Isaac blessed Jacob (although his intention was to bless Esau) he asked him to prepare a meal.
Genesis 27:1-10 , 17-18, 25-27 (NLT)1 One day when Isaac was old and turning blind, he called for Esau, his older son, and said, “My son.” “Yes, Father?” Esau replied.2 “I am an old man now,” Isaac said, “and I don’t know when I may die.3 Take your bow and a quiver full of arrows, and go out into the open country to hunt some wild game for me.4 Prepare my favorite dish, and bring it here for me to eat. Then I will pronounce the blessing that belongs to you, my firstborn son, before I die.”5 But Rebekah overheard what Isaac had said to his son Esau. So when Esau left to hunt for the wild game,6 she said to her son Jacob, “Listen. I overheard your father say to Esau,7 ‘Bring me some wild game and prepare me a delicious meal. Then I will bless you in the LORD’s presence before I die.’8 Now, my son, listen to me. Do exactly as I tell you.9 Go out to the flocks, and bring me two fine young goats. I’ll use them to prepare your father’s favorite dish.10 Then take the food to your father so he can eat it and bless you before he dies.” 17 Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread.18 So Jacob took the food to his father. “My father?” he said. “Yes, my son,” Isaac answered. “Who are you—Esau or Jacob?”25 Then Isaac said, “Now, my son, bring me the wild game. Let me eat it, and then I will give you my blessing.” So Jacob took the food to his father, and Isaac ate it. He also drank the wine that Jacob served him. Then Isaac said to Jacob,26 “Please come a little closer and kiss me, my son.”27 So Jacob went over and kissed him. And when Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he was finally convinced, and he blessed his son. He said, “Ah! The smell of my son is like the smell of the outdoors, which the LORD has blessed!
Joseph ate with his brothers and later revealed himself to them.
Genesis 43:24-26 , 33-34, 45:1 (NLT)24 The manager then led the men into Joseph’s palace. He gave them water to wash their feet and provided food for their donkeys.25 They were told they would be eating there, so they prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon.26 When Joseph came home, they gave him the gifts they had brought him, then bowed low to the ground before him. 33 Joseph told each of his brothers where to sit, and to their amazement, he seated them according to age, from oldest to youngest.34 And Joseph filled their plates with food from his own table, giving Benjamin five times as much as he gave the others. So they feasted and drank freely with him. 1 Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was.
God gave Moses instructions for the meal the Israelites were to eat before leaving Egypt.
Exodus 12:1-13 (NLT)1 While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the LORD gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron:2 “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you.3 Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household.4 If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat.5 The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.6 “Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight.7 They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal.8 That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast.9 Do not eat any of the meat raw or boiled in water. The whole animal—including the head, legs, and internal organs—must be roasted over a fire.10 Do not leave any of it until the next morning. Burn whatever is not eaten before morning.11 “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the LORD’s Passover.12 On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD!13 But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.
The Mosaic law included rules on who was to eat the portions left from sacrifices, and the required feasts and festivals.
Exodus 12:1-5 (NLT)1 While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the LORD gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron:2 “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you.3 Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household.4 If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat.5 The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.
There were also instructions on which things not to eat. Leviticus 11
Jesus’ ministry included meals and food
During Jesus' ministry He ate with sinners and outcasts.
Matthew 9:10-13 (NLT)10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.”13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Mark 2:15-17 (NLT)15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Jesus fed thousands.
Matthew 14:19-21 (NLT)19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people.20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers.21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
Matthew 15:35-38 (NLT)35 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground.36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd.37 They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food.38 There were 4,000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children.
There’s the meal with His disciples the evening before His crucifixion that included what we now call the “Lord's Supper.
Mark 14:17-26 (NLT)17 In the evening Jesus arrived with the twelve disciples.18 As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.”19 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?”20 He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me.21 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”22 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”23 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.24 And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.25 I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
After Jesus’ resurrection He ate with His disciples.
Luke 24:35-43 (NLT) 35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said.37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt?39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.”40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,43 and he ate it as they watched.
The final meal in the Bible is the wedding banquet of Christ, and His bride, the Church.
Revelation 19:6-7 (NLT)6 Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: “Praise the LORD! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself.
And let’s not forget we love church potlucks and banquets today!
There are other many other references to food and eating, but there is one other one that I did not mention and it’s the meal David talks about in the 23rd Psalm.
Psalm 23:5 (NLT)5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
That meal is part of the YouVersion”Reading Plan, Like: A Journey Through Psalm 23, provided by Athens Church of Athens, GA. I want to share the devotion written about the meal prepared for you by God to be eaten in the midst of trials and tribulation. A meal overflowing with wonder, love, praise, joy, hope, and love.
A Meal In The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death
Picture your favorite actor, athlete, or celebrity.
What if you found out that they were coming to YOUR house in just a few days?
What would you do?
The house would be spotless. Candles lit in every room. The meal you have spent hours preparing sits ready on the table, and you yourself are overcome with joy and excitement, gushing at the thought of spending time with this person.
That is how God looks at us.
When we begin a growing relationship with Jesus, it’s like we become an honored guest at a banquet. During the days this was written, an honored guest would be anointed with a fragrant perfume and also given a cup full of choice—the royal treatment. Our enemies may pursue us and intend to destroy us, yet there is this safe table—already prepared, awaiting us.
Because of Jesus, we have an opportunity to sit at this table. His hand is seen in everything from first to last. The table is the Lord’s. The bread is His body; the wine is His blood. It's all a reminder of just how much He's for you. But not only has He prepared the table, but also the guests.
When we think of what we were and what we are- of what we deserved and of what we have received—it is with wonder, love, and praise that we say, “You prepare a table before me.” We have enemies, but they have not prevailed. We have fears, but they have no hold on us any longer. We can even love and forgive those enemies. And when we do face them, we face them without fear, because greater is He that is in us, than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
The future is bright with hope. The dark valley is behind us. The present table here points to the future table above, and Jesus is the sole provider of our overflowing cup.
So what if we began to live in this hope?
What if we began to live as an overflowing cup?
What does an overflowing cup do?
Picture yourself as an overflowing cup, spilling the joy, hope, and love of Jesus on everyone that bumps into you today.
The Bible tell us that the only person or thing that we should fear is God. In fact we are commanded to “Fear Not”.
Fear of God isn’t the emotion that usually comes to mind when we think of fear. That emotion is fright, which is a sudden intense feeling of fear. Synonyms of this type fear are fearfulness, terror, horror, alarm, panic, dread, trepidation, dismay, nervousness, apprehension, apprehensiveness, perturbation, and disquiet. The fear of God is a reverential respect of God’s power and glory. Fear of God is the result of His love for mankind and the grace that He has given to those who, in faith, believe on His Son, Jesus Christ.
Apart from this fear of God we are commanded to “fear not”. We are commanded to “fear not” because God has made promises to those who believe in Jesus. He’s promised to protect them, to provide for them, and to give them eternal life with Him.
Psalm 91:1-4 (NLT) 1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.2 This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT) 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
John 3:16 (NLT) “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 2:24-25 (NLT) 24 So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father.25 And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.
As I continue to look at fear and its debilitating effect on believers I will add posts to my series “Fear Not Is A Command”. In a devotion that I read recently by Dr. Charles Stanley I realized that fear in addition to being debilitating in itself, it also has side effects. In his devotion, Dr. Stanley identifies these side effects;
His conclusion is while fear is real that we should remember who God is and that He will never leave us or forsake us and that He will supply everything that we need.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV) Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV) Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Dr. Stanley’s complete devotion follows.
The Side Effects of Fear
(Editor's Note: the complete text of the referenced scripture was included by the Editor and not Dr. Stanley or In Touch Ministries)
Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV)25 "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Fear obviously produces anxiety, but it also creates chaos in our lives and even affects those around us.
Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.
Fear hinders us from becoming the people God wants us to be. When we are dominated by negative emotions, we cannot achieve the goals He has in mind for us. A lack of self-confidence stymies our belief in what the Lord can do with our lives.
Fear can drive people to destructive habits. To numb the pain of overbearing distress and foreboding, some turn to things like drugs and alcohol for artificial relief.
Fear steals peace and contentment. When we're always afraid, our life becomes centered on pessimism and gloom.
Fear creates doubt. God promises us an abundant life, but if we surrender instead to the chains of fear, our prayers won’t be worth very much.
What are you afraid of--loss, rejection, poverty, or death? Everybody will face such realities at some point. All you need to know is, God will never reject you. Whether you accept Him is your decision.
The Bible tells us that God will meet all our needs. He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass with the splendor of lilies. How much more, then, will He care for us, who are made in His image? Our only concern is to obey the heavenly Father and leave the consequences to Him.
Used with permission from In Touch Ministries, Inc. © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
For more from Dr. Charles Stanley go to our Resources Page.
There have been times in most of our lives where we felt that we were at the end of our rope. All hope was gone. We didn’t have the money to pay our rent or mortgage, plus buy food, or gas to get to work, even if we had a job. The future was bleak. There was nobody we could call on. This was it...the end. The only thing that we could do was to fall on our face and cry out to God in desperation. “God if you don’t help I can’t go on. If you don’t help I won’t survive. Please help me.”
That’s not the prayer that we like to pray. We like the prayers when we are thanking God for all that He’s done for us. The prayer where we are asking God to bless our friends and families. The prayer that we pray everyday following the pattern of the Lord’s prayer; “Give us this day our daily bread, etc. etc. No, this time it’s a prayer of desperation because we’re in trouble and and have nowhere to turn. We’ve reached the point where we are sick and tired of the situation we’re in. Tired of being in need, or sick, or confused, or anxious, or afraid We’ve reached the bottom of the barrell.
We know that we’re not alone because we hear of the trials and tribulations of other believers but those are their trials and tribulations these are ours. We go to the Psalms and read of the times that David pleaded for deliverance from his enemies sometimes even fearing death, but those were David’s times these are ours.
Then there’s the story of Hannah who was miserable because she had been unable to conceive. She had reached the point of desperation. On one trip to Jerusalem for one of the festivals Hannah in desperation prayed for a son. She was so desperate she said that if God blessed her with a son she would give him to God. After praying that desperate prayer Hannah became pregnant and the Prophet and last Judge of Israel was born to a woman who prior to that time was barren. Not only did Hannah conceive Samuel, who she did give to God, she had five more children, three more sons and two daughters.
1 Samuel 2:21 (NKJV) And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile the child Samuel grew before the LORD.
Hannah is an example to us that we should not let our current situation cause us to stop seeking God’s best for us. When we in our desperation cry out to God our desperation can become the first step in deliverance. Don’t let desperation become discouragement which is a trap of the enemy.
When you fall into the trap of discouragement, there is no joy or contentment, no matter what you do. It’s Satan’s, objective for you to question or to blame God for every discouraging thing that’s happening to you. He puts it in your mind that after all if God is all powerful He would keep those discouraging things from happening to you.
The circumstances that trigger disappointment may be unavoidable, but the way we respond is a choice. We can either let the disappointment overwhelm us or we can face the situation with courage and take it to the One who can help us through them. Remember He promised to never leave or forsake us. (Don’t Become Trapped By Discouragement)
Don’t be proud...cry out in desperation!
Jim Cymbaila, author and Pastor the Brooklyn Tabernacle tell the story of that prayer of desperation in his book Storm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live In
The Power of Desperate Prayer
Editor’s Note: The complete text of the referenced scriptures were added for emphasis by me
After the dark period described in the Old Testament book of Judges, Israel’s desperate situation began to turn around with the prayer of a woman named Hannah. She had had enough and decided she could not take it any longer.
Hannah was one of two wives married to a man named Elkanah. The other wife had children, but Hannah was barren. According to the Bible, Peninnah, the rival wife, would mock Hannah and make fun of her, “provoking her in order to irritate her” because “the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb”.
1 Samuel 1:2 (NKJV) And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
Day after day, year after year, Hannah was teased and taunted, mocked and ridiculed.
Every year Elkanah’s family went to the tabernacle of the Lord in Shiloh, which was the center of worship in Israel. There the family would offer sacrifices to the Lord. But that’s also when Peninnah’s taunting of Hannah increased, to the point where Hannah wept so hard she could no longer eat.
1 Samuel 1:3-8 (NKJV)3 This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.4 And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters.5 But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the LORD had closed her womb.6 And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the LORD had closed her womb.7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"
Each year this pattern repeated. Her husband, Elkanah, loved Hannah and gave her extra portions of the sacrifice, but that didn’t heal his wife’s pain. Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted?” he would ask Hannah. “Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
1 Samuel 1:8 (NKJV) Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"
Then one year, something snapped inside of Hannah, and she suddenly refused to endure the taunts of Peninnah and accept her childless status. Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up.
1 Samuel 1:9 (NKJV) So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD.
Hannah left the table and went to pray near the doorpost of the tabernacle. It was a moment with historic ramifications.
“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly”
1 Samuel 1:10 (NKJV) And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.
She didn’t recite mental prayers as we often do; her heart went out to the Lord. Amid the backslidden and even corrupt religious establishment of that day, we see a desperate, simple woman stirred to pray a prayer that will usher in a new day in Israel’s history. In her prayer she promised God that if he gave her a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord for as long as he lived. When she finished praying, she got something to eat, and her face was no longer downcast .
1 Samuel 1:18 (NKJV) And she said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
It was as if she knew something was about to change.
The next morning Elkanah’s family arose and worshiped God before they headed back home to Ramah. Once there, Elkanah made love to his wife as he had so often done before, but this time “the Lord remembered her”
1 Samuel 1:19 (NKJV) Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her.
Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.
Now, what was it that stirred Hannah to pray a prayer that changed the future of Israel?
Hannah could have chosen to live in denial. When Peninnah mocked her, she could have said, “Who cares? I’m not into kids. I don’t want to change diapers anyway!” But she didn’t. She faced the truth (as painful as it was), saying, “I want a baby, I want a son, I want to be fruitful.”
Hannah could have forgotten her heartache and just rejoiced in the fact that she was a child of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and a part of the covenant people of Israel. Or she could have looked at her situation and said, “I don’t have a child, so it must be God’s sovereign will that I don’t.”
But she didn’t do either of those things. Hannah’s story shows us that she did not deny her barrenness, but neither did she accept it. Her unique prayer became the channel that God both prompted and then used to turn the tide in Israel and bring much-needed blessing upon them. The lesson is clear for us today.
We must not silently accept our lack of fruitfulness and somehow justify it as God’s will for us.
Imagine if Hannah had said, “Well, I guess I’m not supposed to have a baby.”
No, as hard as it was, she honestly faced her circumstances and then desperately prayed for God to change them. What was in her mighty prayer that God could not ignore? None of us totally understands the power of prayer, but we know that Hannah’s prayer was powerful and effective, the kind James describes in his epistle.
James 5:16 (NKJV) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Yet if I had to guess, I would say it was both the heightened element of desperation coupled with deep faith in God. Hannah had no other place to turn. It was as if, in her great anguish and grief, she cried, “Make me fruitful, or I don’t want to go on.” She was at her end. “Give me a child or I will die!”
God heard Hannah’s weeping, and her prayer became the pathway to divine intervention. Furthermore, God wanted her story told in detail in the Bible, so future generations would recognize that Israel’s turnaround started with a lonely, heartbroken woman who just wanted to bear fruit.
Desperate and soul-stirring prayers like hers result in answers.
When God is sought in desperation, he responds.
Even in hopeless situations.
Excerpted from Storm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live In by Jim Cymbala, copyright Zondervan.
To purchase a copy of Storm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live In click or touch the links or images.
Recently, my Pastor has become very excited about Psalm 9 because of it’s praise to God for maintaining our position with and protection in Him.
This is the verse that that really gets him excited;
“For You have maintained my right and my cause; You sat on the throne judging in righteousness.“
The Hebrew word translated maintain is ʿāśâ. Various versions translate the word as “maintained”, “judged”, “upheld”, “gave approval”or “defended”. Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary says that ʿāśâ conveys the following images; to do or make, in the broadest sense and widest application (as follows) :- accomplish, advance, appoint, apt, be at, become, bear, bestow, bring forth, finish, fit, fly, follow, fulfill furnish, gather, get, go about, govern, grant, bring (come) to pass, perform, practice, prepare, procure, provide, put, requite, - Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.
No wonder he gets to excited!
The writer, David was confident, as we can be as well, that God takes care of everything for the righteous, including the judgement of our enemy, Satan, and everything he uses against us in spiritual warfare.
Praise For Destruction Of The Enemy
Psalm 9:1-20 (NKJV)1 I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.2 I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.3 When my enemies turn back, They shall fall and perish at Your presence.4 For You have maintained my right and my cause; You sat on the throne judging in righteousness.5 You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever.6 O enemy, destructions are finished forever! And you have destroyed cities; Even their memory has perished.7 But the LORD shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment.8 He shall judge the world in righteousness, And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble.10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.11 Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people.12 When He avenges blood, He remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the humble.13 Have mercy on me, O LORD! Consider my trouble from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death,14 That I may tell of all Your praise In the gates of the daughter of Zion. I will rejoice in Your salvation.15 The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made; In the net which they hid, their own foot is caught.16 The LORD is known by the judgment He executes; The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Meditation. Selah17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God.18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten; The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.19 Arise, O LORD, Do not let man prevail; Let the nations be judged in Your sight.20 Put them in fear, O LORD, That the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah
We think that if we worry about something we will be able somehow to reduce the chances of whatever we’re worrying about happening, or if it does happen it won’t be as bad as it would be if we didn’t worry about it. Pastor Peter Haas, founding pastor of Substance Church in Minneapolis shares some statistics about worry that might cause us to think differently. Read this from “Waiting without worry by Susie Larson.
“Research shows that only 8% of the things we worry about actually come to pass. Of the 8% of worries that come to pass, research shows that only 4% of those things are things we could control anyway.”
In the end, that worry simply doesn’t make sense.
“It doesn’t actually help us at all. This is why the psalmist can say that the righteous man will have no fear of bad news because his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. In the end, he will look in triumph at his foes.”
Psalm 112:6-8 (NLT) 6 Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered.7 They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the LORD to care for them.8 They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.
It’s not that bad things won’t happen in our lives, but we don’t have to fear the bad things that do happen.
“The righteous man will have no fear of bad news because he knows how it’s going to end. No matter what happens to us, in the end, we will look at our past in triumph. Of the 4% of worries that are beyond our control, even those that do happen, when I look back on those moments, they are the most profound moments of my life.”
Even when the worst-case scenario happens, Peter says that God has enabled him to look back at those trials and see His hand at work on the other side.
“They are simply great stories to encourage people that pain is temporary. No matter who you are out there, I just want to encourage you that pain is temporary. If we could just take that eternal perspective and allow the Holy Spirit to give us that council, it’s going to change how we see things. I just want to encourage everybody to hold on. What is going on in your life right now, what you’re worrying about is temporary and God is going to show himself strong.”
Don’t Worry God Is On Your Side
In his letter to the Christians in Rome Paul Romans is a letter of instruction touching upon those main truths of the Gospel that Paul felt were needed by those in Rome. In chapter eight of that letter Paul introduces the purpose of God for those loving who loved him.
Romans 8:28-30 (NLT)28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
Those who He called and made righteous He gave victory over all opposition because He is for us.
Romans 8:31-39 (NLT)31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Since God is for us we should not worry about anything. Paul summarizes these anythings into five areas. They are opposition, provision, accusation, condemnation, and separation.
In an article published on gwinnett.com. Jonathan Howes, Lead Pastor of Graystone Church, Loganville, Georgia tells us why we shouldn’t worry about these things. Here is the entire text of that article.
Never Worry About These 5 Things
In Romans 8:31-39 the Apostle Paul instructs Christians that God is for us, and he wants what is best for our lives. Through 5 rhetorical questions, the Apostle Paul reminds us of the incredible benefits of being on God’s team.
Since God is for us, we should never worry about these 5 things.
“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) If God is for us, we do not have to worry about opposition. If God is on our team, we win. If God is on our side, the enemy has no chance. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) The one who is in you, Jesus, is greater than the one in the world, Satan. Since God is on our side, we do not have to worry about opposition.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Since God gave us his only son, Jesus, He will graciously give us all things. Since God is for us, we do not have to worry about provision. God, our Heavenly Father, provides for all of his children. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33) Since God is on our side, we do not have to worry about accusation. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1) In God’s court of law, Satan is the prosecuting attorney, and he is always accusing us of doing wrong. But here’s the deal. Jesus is our defense attorney. He speaks to God the Father on our behalf. And God is the judge. It’s nice to have the defense attorney and the judge on our side. As Christians, we do not have to worry about accusations.
“Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—and is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34) The only person who can truly condemn us is Jesus. And he is for us. In fact, he died on the cross for our sins and is sitting at the right hand of God interceding for us. He is praying for us. He is speaking to the Father on our behalf. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1) We do not have to worry about being condemned, because “Jesus Christ died for our sins once and for all.” (1 Peter 3:18)
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) Once we place our faith in Jesus Christ there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Jesus. We have a close, personal relationship with Him that lasts for all eternity. In fact, eternal life is to know God through His Son, Jesus (John 17:3).
Once we come to know Jesus personally, God is for us! And if God is for us, who can be against us? Let’s thank Him today that we do not have to worry about these 5 things: opposition, provision, accusation, condemnation, and separation.
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Isaiah 41:10-14 (NLT) 10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.11 “See, all your angry enemies lie there, confused and humiliated. Anyone who opposes you will die and come to nothing.12 You will look in vain for those who tried to conquer you. Those who attack you will come to nothing.13 For I hold you by your right hand— I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.
14 Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob, don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the LORD, your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel.’
Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
DON'T WORRY BE HAPPY!
The God Of Compassion
In Psalm 146 the psalmist promises never ending praise to God. Don’t put all your trust in man no matter their position or title. Even the highest of among men (government or religions leaders) are not worthy of our confidence. If we put all of our trust in them we are sure to be disappointed. God Almighty is the only one worthy of our unending trust and praise.
This trust and praise based upon God's creation of the universe, his loving care of man, and the fact that He will reign forever. His leadership has no term of office and will never be terminated. He is the champion of the needy and the oppressed; He frees those bound by sin,; He opens the eye of the blind so that they can see their salvation; He protects the strangers (those who are not one of us); He cares for the widows and orphans those who need it most; and He frustrated the plans of the wicked they will not succeed forever their end is destruction.
For all these things we give God praise.
Never Ending Praise
Psalm 146:1-10 (NLT)1 Praise the LORD! Let all that I am praise the LORD.2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath.3 Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.4 When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them.5 But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God.6 He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever.7 He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The LORD frees the prisoners.8 The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are weighed down. The LORD loves the godly.9 The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.10 The LORD will reign forever. He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations. Praise the LORD!
1 Samuel 7:12 (NKJV) Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the LORD has helped us."
After the Israelites pulled off an upset victory over the Philistines, the prophet Samuel built an altar and named it Ebenezer, signifying that the Lord had helped them up to that point. He built the altar so that they would remember that it was God who helped them achieve the victory.
The altar was a way of saying to the people remember that “The God who did it before can do it again”.
The word “remember”, depending on the version of the Bible you are reading, is mentioned between 138 and 168 times which indicates that the Holy Spirit wants us to remember some things.
However we often forget, we lose sight, we lose hope, we lose faith. Maybe that’s why many in the Old Testament built altars to remind themselves and those who would come after them.
Genesis 8:20 (NKJV) Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Genesis 35:6-7 (NKJV) 6 So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him.7 And he built an altar there and called the place El Bethel, because there God appeared to him when he fled from the face of his brother.
Joshua 4:4-8 (NKJV) 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe;5 and Joshua said to them: "Cross over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel,6 that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, 'What do these stones mean to you?'7 Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever."8 And the children of Israel did so, just as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan, as the LORD had spoken to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them to the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.
We all need reminders that the God who got us here will get us there, wherever or whatever “there” is. You’ve need to surround yourself with those reminders so you don’t forget what God wants you to remember.
What Does God Want Us To Remember?
Psalm 103 tells us not to forget (remember) all the things that God has done for us.
Psalm 103:1-22 (NKJV) 1 Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,4 Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.6 The LORD executes righteousness And justice for all who are oppressed.7 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.13 As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children,18 To such as keep His covenant, And to those who remember His commandments to do them.19 The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.20 Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word.21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.22 Bless the LORD, all His works, In all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Remember He’s provided forgiveness and clean consciences.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV) 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Micah 7:19 (NKJV) 19 He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea. ( see Promises of God To Forgive Your Sin)
Remember He promised eternal life and hope in the midst trials tribulations and death.
1 John 2:24-25 (NKJV) 24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.25 And this is the promise that He has promised us--eternal life.
Titus 1:1-3 (NKJV)
1 Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness,2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,3 but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior; (see God’s Promise of Eternal Life)
Remember to always be thankful.
1 Chronicles 16:34 (NKJV) Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)16 Rejoice always,17 pray without ceasing,18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.Remember to Focus on Him not the circumstances.
Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Remember to trust Him
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths
Remember that you are never alone
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV) Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
Why Do We Need To Remember?
We need more Ebenezers
Life gets rough sometimes, and we forget where we’ve come from. An Ebenezer is a way of recognizing and celebrating the success God has given us along the way. We need things like post it notes with Bible verses, computer or cellphone wallpaper, refrigerator magnets, voice mail greetings, bookmarks, and other things to remind us that the Lord is our shepherd and that He will never leave us or forsake us. We need the company of other people who love the Lord, to encourage and remind us that we are not alone.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV)24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
We need Ebenezers
2 Peter 1:12-15 (NLT)12 Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught.13 And it is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live.14 For our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me that I must soon leave this earthly life,15 so I will work hard to make sure you always remember these things after I am gone.
Don’t forget to remember!
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.