Do Not Be Anxious

In the final 10 verses of Matthew 6, Jesus tells us three different times, “Do not be anxious.”

He must really mean it if He says it that many times. 

Yes, He truly wants His followers to live without anxiety and worry over the circumstances of their lives.

Let’s take a closer look at what Jesus says. The first occurrence of this command says,

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.

Matthew 6:25a

The words are plain and simple—don’t worry. 

However, we need to go back and look at the verses immediately before this one because of the word “Therefore.” Whenever we see this word, we need to see what it is said just before it.

Verse 24 says, 

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

In my opinion, this is one of the most important verses in the Bible, especially for those of us who have been taught that more is better and that having a well-paying career is what defines success. 

This verse shows us that we need to put God in His proper place in our lives. He must be #1—above everything else, including money and career.

When we make God the most important thing in our lives, then we can be assured verse 25 will be true for us—we can live life without worry and anxiety.

God will feed us and clothe us, just as he does the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. We are much more important to Him than they are, so He will surely take care of us, just as He does them. 

The next command not to worry comes just a few verses down:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?

Matt. 6:31

Once again, Jesus tells us not to worry ourselves unnecessarily over having enough to eat or drink. He even goes on to tell us in verse 32 that God already knows we need these things.

He will supply us because He wants us to have the necessities of life. He says that the people who don’t know God spend their time chasing after these things and worrying about them. 

As believers in Christ, we can be assured that God will supply our needs. That’s not to say that things will always be easy, as life is not always fun, but we can trust that God is taking care of us.

Finally, in verse 34 Jesus tells us for the final time not to worry:

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

There’s that word “therefore” again, so we must back up a verse to find out what is stated there.

Verse 33 says,

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Each day, God will supply our needs for that day. We must simply live out our faith one day at a time, trusting God for His provision.

So, to ensure that God will look after our needs, we need to work to advance His kingdom and strive to live a righteous life that honors Him. 

Of course, no one can live a completely righteous life. The whole reason that Jesus died for us was to make us righteous in the Father’s eyes—we’re unable to achieve this on our own. 

We’re imperfect humans at best. However, that is a topic for another time.

In this important chapter, we have learned what to do to have our needs met and to live anxiety-free and worry-free lives:

  1. Put God in the highest place in our lives—over money, career, and even our own families.
  2. Seek God’s kingdom first, doing His work here on earth and trying to live our lives according to His commands and guidance.

While some may say this is an oversimplification of a complex theological discussion, I disagree.

I believe the Bible was written so that even a small child can understand it. After all, later on in Matthew, Jesus says,

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matt. 18:3

It’s up to us to forget about all the “extras” that we tend to add to the Gospel, and approach it with the simple faith of a child. 

Trust God. Obey God. Make Him the most important thing in your life. Then, you’ll have everything you need and you won’t have reason to worry. 

You will have placed your life right where it needs to be—in His strong hands.

One Day Closer to Jesus

If there’s one thing that believers in Jesus should have, it’s hope. Romans 15:13 tells us, 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

If we have Jesus, we also have the Holy Spirit. That means we should have plenty of hope in our lives. 

That doesn’t mean that every day is going to be all roses. After all, Jesus tells his disciples in John 16:33, 

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

These words should give every believer hope.

If you’re having a rough day, just remember that nothing is greater than Jesus and the hope we have in Him.

In fact, each day we live, is one day we’re closer to seeing Jesus face-to-face. 

Either through the rapture or by our own passing, if we’ve accepted Christ into our lives, today we’re that much closer to living with Him forever. 

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel a whole lot better about everything that’s going on in my life and in the world right now. It’s a crazy time to be alive.

Just think, there are a finite number of days until we meet Jesus—it could be one day or 10,000 days, but there are only so many of them.

However, after we’re joined with Jesus, we have all eternity to look forward to, fellowshiping and worshipping Him. There will be NO END to those days.

The question is, have you accepted Jesus into your life? If you haven’t, then there’s no better time to do it than now. 

Tomorrow may be too late.

Why Should We Follow Jesus?

The question has been asked, What is the point in being a follower of Jesus?

It is a valid question and deserves a good answer. 

After all, who is this Jesus who came along 2000 years ago? Recorded history tells us that He showed up thousands of years after people had already been worshipping God.

This is a hard question, to be sure. For the answer, we must turn to the Bible, which is the inspired word of God. 

The Bible is not a single book, but actually 66 books written over a period of approximately 1500 years by around 40 different authors.

Let’s take a look at John 14:6-7 for the answer to our question. 

As it happens, Jesus was answering a question from one of His disciples about following Him.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

These are bold words, but if we’re serious about seeking God and serving him, we must take them to heart. 

If there truly is just one way to God—and Jesus is it— then we must become one of His followers.

To do otherwise is to risk our eternal destiny. If we’re wrong, then we’ve lost nothing. But if we’re right, then we stand to gain much. I’ve written about this before in another post.

Just a few verses before the ones above, Jesus says,

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

John 14:3

Jesus wants us with Him. He already has a place picked out in Heaven for every one of His believers.

And just so he’s clear and there’s no confusion—with some 4300 different religions in the world by one estimate—He tells us exactly how to get to God, and it’s through Him.

So, what do we need to do to become a follower of Jesus?

First of all, we must understand our need for Him. 

Romans 3:23 tells us,

For all [emphasis mine] have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23 explains the penalty for our sins as well as our reward for following Jesus: 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 10:9 tells us how to accept Jesus into our lives and be forgiven of our sins:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The final step is crucial. Find a good, Bible-believing church and tell the pastor that you have accepted Jesus into your life. Ask to be baptized and begin attending the church.

In Acts 2:38, Peter the apostle says,

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

While baptism itself does not save you, it does represent our death and rebirth in Jesus. Likewise, church attendance is not mandatory for salvation, but Christians go to church to worship God and associate with other believers.

So, to answer our original question about following Jesus…

Jesus is our pathway to God. He is the only way to be forgiven of our sins, become reconciled with the Father, and experience eternal life with Him.

For me, that’s reason enough. What about you?

Is Sin Holding You Back?

Some of us (myself included) really need to sit down and take a hard look at our lives. 

The reason? Sin that we’ve been holding on to. For many of us, we choose to keep committing the same sin or sins over and over, even though we know they’re wrong.

It could be something as seemingly innocent as passing along gossip, or it could be something worse. Even though in God’s eyes, sin is sin.

The problem is, God can’t bless us fully whenever we’re knowingly and willfully sinning against Him. He would love to unlock his full blessings on our lives, but our stubborn hearts are too rebellious to handle what He would give to us.

Instead, we have to settle for a second-best kind of existence, where we’re only receiving part of what God would have for us.

What’s more, we often blame God when we’re in this situation. I know, because I’ve done it far too often myself.

We wonder why we don’t feel God moving in our lives and wonder why things aren’t going better for us in one or more areas of our lives.

The reason is that we are hurting ourselves by holding onto sin.

That’s why we must look deeply into our lives—our habits, our interactions with others, our attitude toward God, and just our daily lives in general. If we do, we may find the source of many of our problems.

Is there a sin that you struggle with over and over?

Maybe you’re cold-hearted toward your spouse when you should instead be a helpmate to them.

Are you being dishonest at work and not putting in a full effort for your employer?

Are you being wasteful with your money and not tithing and giving offerings?

It could be anything. The thing is to be aware of this besetting sin and wipe it out of your life so that you can grow closer to God.

The closer we are to Him, the more He can bless our lives to do His work here on earth.

When we are doing the work He has planned in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10), we’ll be happier, our lives will be fuller and richer, and we’ll be less tempted to sin.

Trust God—There’s Nothing to It But to Do It

Sometimes we just have to trust God, then act. It’s that simple. 

In his book, Everybody Always, Bob Goff has a chapter titled “Land the Plane.” He describes at length how he and his son Adam take turns landing and then taking off in their Beaver seaplane. The runway is a small lake surrounded with trees and rocks with barely enough room to either land or take off, and they had never tried it before the day described in this chapter.

Bob manages to land the plane and they come to a stop. Then he jumps out of the pilot’s seat and tells his 18-year-old son to take off and fly them out of there. With much hesitation, Adam fastens himself into the pilot’s seat and proceeds to maneuver them off the lake and over the trees. 

Bob then tells Adam to take his turn at landing the plane. Again, with hesitation, Adam turns the plane around and settles it on the lake like a pro. 

The point is this: sometimes we need to trust God and take action before we’re able to hear God give us further instructions. We may already know what to do, but just haven’t been doing it. God may be waiting on us while we think we’re waiting on Him.

Bob Goff’s story helps us understand that we may never feel 100 percent comfortable with the action we know we need to take. We may never feel like we’re completely prepared to take the next step.

But that’s OK. We need to put our faith in God and go ahead and do what He has already whispered to us to do.

Bob and his son could have put off trying to land the plane that day, feeling that they hadn’t researched the location enough or didn’t have sufficient skills to land, much less have the room needed to lift off again.

But they didn’t. Both of the guys probably said a prayer (audible or not) before the first landing. In the end, however, it came down to trusting God and taking action. 

Does that mean that you’ll always be successful? Of course not—at least not in the short run. In the long run, if you’re following God’s guidance, taking action, and listening to Him speak to you, you will succeed. 

He wants us to be successful in our endeavors, so long as they are what He has called us to do. He’ll tell us what He wants us to do if we take time to listen to His whispers. 

Then, all we have to do is follow His calling by doing what He tells us to do. 

We’ll see much more success in our life if we simply trust God, then act.

Exercise Your Faith Daily

When it comes to faith, sometimes you just have to do it. Exercise your faith, that is. 

There may be times when we don’t feel like trusting God or believing the promises that are found in the Bible.

But that doesn’t give us an excuse to be lazy in our faith. 

After all, there are many things in life that we don’t feel like doing but we do them anyway.

Take work, for example. If we didn’t have to roll out of bed every morning and head into the office (or make our way to the assembly line, or hit the road), we probably wouldn’t do it. 

We have to work, however, because we need money to pay for food, housing, clothes, etc.

We should view acting in faith the exact same way. 

Treat faith just as you would food and water—we need it to survive. And we should be exercising our faith so that it gets stronger and deeper.

The more we use our faith, the more deeply rooted it becomes.

Our faith will become more valuable to us the stronger it is. 

So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire.

1 Peter 1:7a

Not that faith is all about what we can get out of it. Rather, faith is a representation of our relationship with God. 

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Heb. 11:6

So, if we live our lives in a manner that’s pleasing to God, seeking Him and striving to deepen our relationship with Him, we can be confident that our faith will grow and our lives will be more enriched.

And it all starts by simply “just doing it.” Big faith always starts out small. Not many of us have super duper faith that is so deep that there is no room for growth.

But, if we take the little faith we have and use it every day to trust God, it will grow.

Focus on the promises of God—there are loads of them found in the Bible.    

For example, this is one of my favorite verses:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths

Prov. 3:5-6

Or,

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

James 1:5

These are just two of the hundreds of promises God has made to us. He is waiting for us to step out in faith and lean on Him. 

So, go ahead and put your faith in the Almighty Creator of the Universe, even if you don’t feel like it. 

You can’t go wrong doing so.

Choose the One True Pathway to God

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Gal. 5:4

Many of us who call ourselves Christians are simply not living like it. That’s the only way to put it. We’re doing our best to live a so-called Christian life by saying the right things, doing the right things, going to church, and even serving others. 

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these things. We’re called to live a life as holy as possible once we have invited Christ into our lives.

However, these things don’t make us Christians. We are completely unable to save ourselves through our actions. 

It is only through the blood of Jesus that we can claim salvation and freedom. When He died on the cross and then rose from the dead three days later, he laid the groundwork for our salvation. 

We must remember this when we’re going about our daily activities. We’re going to sin—that much is for sure. 

But we must also be certain that no amount of good deeds can ever help us get to Heaven. We’re not going to be closer to God the better we behave. 

In fact, if we’ve accepted Christ as our Savior, we’re as close to the Father as we can get. We’re brothers and sisters of Jesus and children of God.

Just because I donate money to a Christian organization or volunteer my time at a non-profit doesn’t mean that I’m earning brownie points with God.

Everything was already settled when I asked Jesus into my life. I can live confidently in that fact for the rest of my life. 

So, the next time I’m feeling good about something I’ve done—and maybe a little prideful about it—I need to stop and thank God for my salvation in Christ. 

I know it is only through His grace that I am saved and it isn’t as a result of any actions I’ve taken.

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

Gal. 6:15

All the glory goes to Him and I am thankful that He loves me enough that He sent His son to die for my salvation.

This salvation is for you as well. If you have not accepted Christ as your Savior and received forgiveness for your sins, there’s no better time to do it than now.

Invite Him into your heart and become justified in the Father’s eyes through Christ. It will be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Be Happier By Avoiding Life in Crisis Mode

Are you operating in crisis mode? If so, you’re most likely being short-sighted about important decisions you make every day in your life. 

It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of wrong thinking. When you’re only focused on trying to keep from going under, you’re neglecting the big picture of your life. 

While it’s good to be present and focused on the here and now, if you’re not also planning for the future, you can shortchange yourself and your life by your actions. 

For example, it’s easy to make wrong decisions about money when you “declare an emergency” on your finances. You may get so caught up in trying to find the money to pay the electric bill that you borrow the money you’ve got set aside for something else.

crisis

It’s also easy to fall short in our obedience to God.

If we view the end of each workday as having survived yet another crisis, it can be easy to pick up vices such as drinking, smoking, and other bad habits. After all, we deserve to let off a little steam after going through such a hard day, right?

If every day is a crisis, then we never get around to truly planning for the future—we’re too focused on merely surviving.

We end up cheating ourselves and those around us out of the fruits that come from setting and achieving long-term goals.

So, how do we avoid this trap? We have to become masters at planning simultaneously for short-term and long-term goals. 

If we’re truly in a crisis, we have to manage it diligently while also planning for the future. That may mean we need to become more creative with our problem solving and not throw all our mental energy into merely making it through another day. 

That may mean that we need to stop throughout the day and consciously tell ourselves to think long-term—to bring to mind the bigger goals in our life and not live for just the here-and-now.

The last thing we want to do is wake up one day and realize that we’ve wasted our whole lives putting out one fire after another—and never taking time to put in solid effort toward worthwhile life goals. 

survival

I’m very guilty of having done that. So much of my adult life has been spent trying to contain all the apparent crises, that I’ve often neglected working toward bigger goals. 

Yes, I regret that tremendously. However, there’s nothing I can do about it now, except to change how I live my life from this moment forward. 

That’s all that any of us can do. We certainly can’t change the past, and the future isn’t here yet. All we really have is this tiny slice of time that we call the present—right now. 

What we do with this moment is the only thing we have control over. 

At first glance, it may seem like I’m contradicting myself from what I said above. But, I’m actually not. 

The trick is to make the most of the present so that you build toward the future, all the while learning from the mistakes of the past without dwelling on your shortcomings.

And just because we use the present in the best way we know how, doesn’t mean that everything is going to work out how we want it to. It may or it may not. 

But if we put in our best effort, we will always have that to fall back on. Knowing we did our best is really all that any of us can ever hope for.  

And, who knows? One day we may look up and see that we’ve achieved the goal we’ve been working toward for so long. That would be a wonderful feeling indeed. 

Forget about merely trying to survive. Instead, focus on thriving in whatever environment you’re in. Don’t worry about finding the perfect job or the perfect mate — or the perfect anything for that matter. 

You’re not perfect, so why should anything in your life be perfect? Make the best out of your circumstances, whatever they may be. Learn how to be content in any situation, as Paul tells us to do in Philippians 4:11.

Rely on God and trust that he will reward your efforts. The outcome may not always look like you expect it to, but don’t fret. It may actually be better than you had expected. God has the power to do that, and He loves giving good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11).

So, don’t operate in crisis mode. Instead live life to the fullest every moment of each day.

Thinking About Eternity

He has put eternity into man’s heart.

Ecc. 3:11b

Most of us at one time or another have wondered what it would be like to live forever. As the above passage tells us, God has planted the idea of eternity into our hearts. 

Yet, eternity is something that we as humans can hardly even begin to comprehend.

 Even if we live a long, full life, we can at best hope to be on this earth for a scant 100 years. That is nowhere near eternity.

In fact, our minds have no way of understanding what it is like to live forever. 

eternity

God gives us enough interest in eternity so that we can hope for it, although it is something we’ll never begin to understand until we reach Heaven and spend forever with the Lord. 

Eternal life is promised to those of us who have trusted our souls to the Lord Jesus. Without Him, we will face eternal separation from our creator. 

You see, we’ll exist forever one way or another, either being forever alive and in the presence of God, or enduring eternal destruction and separation in Hell without any hope of reconciliation with God.

The choice is ours how we want to spend eternity. 

Once we die, our decision has been made—there are no “do-overs.” We don’t get to go back and rethink our decision because at that point it’s too late; our fate is sealed. 

Think about it—we have the choice whether we get to live with God and worship Him for all eternity. 

We can live in Paradise with the God of the Universe or suffer in separation and agony without Him forever. 

There’s really no decision when you think about it. 

Even if you’re not totally convinced that Heaven and Hell are real places and that there is a loving God who wants us to live with Him forever, logically you have nothing to lose by choosing to make Jesus your savior. 

If Christians are wrong and you are right, you’ll simply cease to exist when life leaves your body.

However, if you’re wrong and Christians are right, you have all eternity to lose. And that’s a whole lot for a very, very long time. 

If you’ve never made the decision to let Jesus into your life, there’s no better time to do it than right now. 

Pray to Jesus, asking Him to forgive your sins where you’ve fallen short (because we all have) and letting him become Lord of your life. 

Proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God, then connect with a Bible-believing church where you can get baptized and begin the journey of learning more about what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Heaven

Then, the answer of where you’ll spend eternity will be settled. You can rest easy knowing that you’ll live forever with God. 

We don’t know many specifics about what eternity in Heaven will be like, but we can be certain that the experience will be far better than anything we can imagine. 

So, don’t just wonder about eternity. Make plans to secure your place with God by accepting Jesus as your savior today.

The American Dream – Is It God’s Will?

Freedom…that’s what’s at the heart of the American dream. As Americans, we’re granted the opportunity to pursue our desires. We have the liberty to live where we want to live, to work where we choose, to drive the kind of car we want, and to buy the latest fashions and walk around in style. Compared to many countries around the world, Americans have it pretty easy.

In fact, society actually compels us to pursue our freedoms. It’s practically un-American if we don’t demand our freedom and our rights to do as we please and live how we want (so long as we’re within the law, of course). 

However, is the American dream really God’s will? Does He support the great push for the individual freedoms that we’re guaranteed under our constitution? These are difficult questions to answer for sure. 

The essence of the American dream is rooted more in the rights of the individual than it is for the good of the whole. We are taught from a young age that it is our right in this country to be able to live as we so choose. It’s all about liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

However, you find a different kind of freedom mentioned in the Bible. We’re told that by becoming Christians, we’re then free from sin. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” 

Sin is what enslaves us, and by accepting Christ into our lives, we break free from the shackles of sin and death. 

This is a far different idea of freedom than what the average American spends their days dreaming about. While there is nothing inherently wrong with aspiring to live one’s life as you want, God tells us that true freedom is only found in Jesus, and that His freedom will make us alive again.

In thinking about the Biblical idea of freedom, we have to take into consideration the idea of strengthening the church (the body of Christ) through our actions.

Rather than living solely to better ourselves and to amass as many belongings as possible during our lifetime, the Bible instructs us to love others, help others, and build up the body of Christ. 

A few verses later in the same chapter of Galatians we are told, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

So, the freedom that we’ve gained through Christ is to be used to help our fellow man—not just for enriching our own lives. 

How often do we stop to think about our lives in these terms? Do we really take into account the welfare of our neighbors and value it as highly as we value our own freedom to live as we want?

I have a hard enough time grasping the whole concept of freedom in Christ, let alone figuring out how to use it to build up my next-door neighbor. Yet, that is exactly what we’re called to do as believers in Christ.

The goal is to lift up those around us, so that we’re all better off than we would have been otherwise. When we spend all our resources on ourselves, we end up contrary to the will of God, and quite often lonely and empty in the process. 

I’m talking largely to myself here, because I have been guilty of far too much self-focus for much of my life. If all I do is see how many toys I can buy, I’m not really accomplishing anything with the resources that God has entrusted to me.

Those around me, as well as myself, would be better off if I instead used my time, energy, and other resources to spread the word about the freedom found in Christ. 

That is true, Jesus-style freedom.