Go Rest High On That Mountain (Part 3)

“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. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV). This passage we are focusing our attention on is very clear: Jesus does not want me to be anxious. Now, that’s the negative way of stating the main point of this passage. There is a positive way. Jesus says, “Seek first God’s kingdom” (v. 33).  In other words, when you think about your life or your food or your clothes or your spouse, don’t fret about them. Instead make God the king in that affair and in that moment, and hand over the situation to his kingly power and do his righteous will with the confidence that he will work for you and meet all your needs. To seek the kingship of God first in every affair and every moment of life is a thrilling way to live. It’s full of freedom and peace and joy and adventure. It’s also full of hardship, but it’s worth it all. If you believe in the kingship of your heavenly Father, you do not need to be anxious about anything. So, now let’s begin with the specifics; let’s look at some of the reasons why. I see at least eight reasons Jesus gives in this passage why we should not be anxious. The first is “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on” (v. 25). Food and clothing are essentials, aren’t they? We certainly believe they are. Indeed, to lose either would mean we would lose some pleasures. Food tastes good. It is pleasurable to eat; and, we would lose some human praise and admiring glances if we didn’t have nice clothes. Of course we know that we would lose long life if we had no food at all or weren’t protected from the cold with warm clothes. So we get anxious about food and clothing because we don’t want to lose physical pleasures or human praise or length of life.   And to this Jesus responds: if you are gripped by anxiety over these things, you have lost sight of the greatness of life. Life was not given primarily for physical pleasures, but...

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Go Rest High On That Mountain (Part 2)

“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. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV). Jesus spoke these words of our reading precisely for you; they are intended to help you overcome whatever is making you anxious today. I suppose I chose this text for the next few devotionals because of the thoughts that came to me recently when I went to the Pharmacy to pick up a prescription. As those of you who have Medicare and the requisite supplementary insurance know, there is a deductible required at the beginning of each calendar year. For Mary and I, we were informed ours had risen a bit this year. It is now $410.00 per person. No problem. It’s just the cost of retaining our health; and, after all, a few dollars more to meet the deductible won’t break us. Well, I guess I was startled back to reality when I went to pick up one of my prescriptions and given the bill. I guess I should’ve known. It is not a generic. That’s not available yet. However, when the technician said, “That will be $409.00, I was a bit shaken. Since I didn’t have a heart attack at that moment, I was able to later reflect that at least I have now met my deductible for the year! But my struggle with anxiety is not just at the beginning of the year insurance deductibles. I can be anxious as a result of many circumstances beyond my control. I’m going to blame it on some weird quirk in my personality, or maybe some remnant of imbalanced parental upbringing. After all, that’s easier than thinking it could be because there is sin in my mind and heart every day. Whatever the reason, it is a very real experience that I hate and have to deal with every day. But I know it’s not just my problem. We all find ourselves in that predicament at some point. We all need this word from the Lord Jesus to remind us that his kingship is not built on the anxiety of his people. He has made himself king over us for the very opposite purpose, namely, to take away our anxiety. In my own life the sheer statement from...

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Go Rest High On That Mountain (Part 1)

“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. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV). Sometimes I just get in the mood to go to my computer and pull up various country songs from The Grand Ole Opry. It seems to clear my head and focus my mind when I find circumstances challenging. Today was one of those days when I needed a little focus. One of the first videos to pop up was “Go Rest High on that Mountain” with Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, and Ricky Skaggs do the vocals. It’s not much of a secret that song is one of my favorites. I hope you’ll take a few minutes and click on the link. You can find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwFiWCUkk4M. There are some people in positions of authority or power who find it very effective to keep their people in a state of constant anxiety. They reason that if the people are anxious about their life, and worry about where their next meal is coming from, then perhaps they will be more willing to do more work. They reason that anxiety keeps them in their place. Fear makes their position firm. But one of the greatest things about Jesus is that he does not want his people to be anxious. The main point of today’s text is that God does not secure his position by cultivating anxiety. On the contrary, the aim of God’s kingdom is to free us from anxiety. God doesn’t need to keep us anxious in order to establish his power and superiority. Instead, he exalts his power and superiority by working to take away our anxiety. If you are born again his will for you this morning is that you not be anxious about anything, but that you enjoy deep serenity and peace and security. He gives us real rest both today and forever. There is a day coming when I can “go rest high on that mountain.” And, that thought clears my head and focuses my mind. We’re going to be looking at that more in the coming days. Perhaps it’s merely because I need it. Perhaps you do as well. My prayer is that you will find the tools and the means to be at...

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My Little Faith (Part 2)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:5-10 ESV). We return to yesterday’s reading so that we may learn Jesus’ second secret to growing a strong, vibrant faith. In the latter part of this passage he tells them that when they have done all they are commanded to do, they are still radically dependent on grace. Jesus gives an illustration. You might want to read it again (verses 7–10). The gist of it is that the owner of a slave does not become a debtor to the slave no matter how much work the slave does. The meaning is that God is never our debtor. Listen to the final verse: “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” We are always his debtor. And we will never be able to pay this debt, nor are we ever meant to. We will always be dependent on grace. We will never work our way up out of debt to a place where God is in our debt. “Who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” (cf. Romans 11:35). When he says that the owner does not “thank” the slave, the idiom for “thank” is provocative. I think the idea is that “thanks” is a response to grace. The reason the owner does not thank the slave is that the servant is not giving the owner more than what the owner deserves. He is not treating the owner with grace. Grace is being treated better than you deserve. So it is with us in relation to God. We never treat God with grace. We never give him more than he deserves. Which means that he never owes us thanks. God never says “Thank you” to us. Instead he is always giving us more than what we deserve, and we are always owing him thanks. So the lesson for us is that when we have done all we should do, when we have solved all our pastoral care problems and fixed the attitudes of all our people and mobilized the most missions and loved the poor and saved marriages and reared godly children and boldly proclaimed Christ God owes us no thanks. Instead we will at that moment relate to him as debtors to grace just as we do now. This is a great encouragement to faith because it means that God is just as free to bless us before we get our act together as he is after. Since we are “unworthy” slaves before we have done what we should, and “unworthy” slaves afterwards as well, it is only grace that would prompt God to help us. Therefore he is free to help us before and after. This is...

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My Little Faith (Part 1)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:5-10 ESV). In our reading the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. I find myself often in the same position. I intellectually know the answers; however, applying them often requires more faith than I seem to have. Luke recalls how Jesus helped them with their seeming lack of faith. Both of these speak truth into their minds and souls. So, today and tomorrow we’ll examine each of them in the hope that it will help you develop even more strength in your faith too. First, he strengthens our faith by telling us that the crucial issue in accomplishing great things not the quantity of our faith, but the power of God. He says, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” By referring to the tiny mustard seed after being asked about increased faith, he deflects attention away from the quantity of faith to the object of faith. God moves mulberry trees. And it does not depend decisively on the quantity of our faith, but on his power and wisdom and love. In knowing this we are helped not to worry about our faith and are inspired to trust God’s free initiative and power. Often we are confused with the admonition that we need to know more information. If I just knew more theology; or, if I knew the original languages of the Bible; or perhaps, if I could have more experience, then I could really believe. After all, doesn’t strength come from a good plan? And, doesn’t a good plan come from knowing all the pertinent information related to that decision? If I really knew the future, I could be strong in the present, right? NO! That’s simply wrong-headed. We don’t need to know the future because we can know the One who does.  Knowing the One who does know the future we can also know that He only has our good in mind for every circumstance we may experience. Now my faith, my belief in those unseen things becomes easy to both possess and apply. Tomorrow is no step for a stepper; and, we walk with the greatest “stepper” of...

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What Am I Going To Do?

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21 ESV). Have you ever really given much thought to why we struggle so much with unfounded fear? Our reading today simply says we don’t need to. It points to at least four things that we are prone to fear. First, in verse 4 Jesus says, “I tell you, friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.” So it implies that we are prone to fear death, especially death by persecution. Death is not a thing to fear for the child of God. Second, in verse 11 Jesus says, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious how or what you are to answer or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” So Jesus implies that we are prone to fear public shame. We are prone to be anxious about what others will think of us if we don’t have the right thing to say. Our culture is built on the prized position of peer acceptance. The only acceptance that makes an eternal difference is that which we have already received in Christ. Third, in verse 22 Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat nor about your body, what you shall put on.” So he implies that we are prone to worry about whether our basic physical needs will be met, food and drink and clothing and shelter. The truth is that death is not the worst thing, hell is. And God will keep you out of hell and care for you with detailed tenderness. He says the hairs of your head are all numbered. Jesus also tells us that the Holy Spirit will teach you what to say in an hour of public testing. You will not be left alone. And, last Jesus reminds us that our Father knows our daily needs and is far more inclined to give you what you need than he is to feed the ravens and clothe the lilies, but look how he takes care of them! So Jesus does not want us to fear. That is great news! There is now no fear of death, no fear of public shame, no fear of poverty and want. He wants us to see that God is the kind of God whose people do not need to...

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