Tag Archive | Jesus

Jesus on Anxiety

We all worry. We all struggle with anxious hearts. 

Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 are helpful. Listen to what Jesus 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. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look 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? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But 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? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:25-34).

Jesus is talking to poor people. Some of them are subsistence farmers. They hope each day to have enough food to make it to the next day. The people Jesus is talking to have no running water in their homes and no toilets. They have no refrigerators and no supermarkets. They have no health care. Their welfare and even their lives depend on whether or not they get the right amount of rain. 

We have many “cares of the world” (Matt. 13:22) and we have to build bigger houses for our “abundance of possesions” (Lk. 12:15). We have many things to think and fret about.[1] So, sometimes it’s hard to see how what Jesus says applies to us. Yet, the truth is, if the first recipients of Jesus’ words were called not to be anxious, how much more does it apply to us?! 

This passage applies to us. The problem is we often fail to understand Jesus’ first point and so it’s downhill from there for us. 

1. First Jesus makes a point by asking a question: isn’t life more than ______________? (v. 25)

The way we answer this question tells us a lot about where our hearts are and how much help we will get from this passage. If our life is all about stuff then we have to fret and be anxious. Because we have to protect our stuff! It is of absolute importance. 

2. Jesus tells us to look at the ravens (Lk. 12:24).

Why?

Well, do you know what a raven is? They are rather nasty. Ravens were listed as unclean animals in the Old Testament (Lev. 11:15; Deut. 14:14). Ravens are trash birds. And they’re like the only bad animal in “Winnie the Pooh.” So, what’s Jesus’ point? He is saying God takes care of ravens. Ravens! He’s going to take care of you! Don’t be anxious. God will provide.

3. Jesus tells us about the benefits of anxiety: Nothing. Anxiety adds… nothing. It doesn’t help at all. (v. 27)

4. Jesus tells us to look around to see the lilies and wildflowers. Who takes care of the wildflowers? No one. Well, that’s kinda right but kinda really wrong. No human takes care of the wildflowers. God does! God beautifully dresses wildflowers. They don’t worry. God takes care of them. We should trust God, He is capable.

5. Jesus tells us that we should be different from those who don’t know God. We shouldn’t worry and ask: “Will I have what I need to wear?” Why? Because we have a Father in heaven. We have a very capable Father. Through Jesus, God is our Dad.

Wow.

So, we should trust that our heavenly Father will provide for all our needs (v. 32). And He will know what our needs truly are. 

Of course, if we read this and we don’t trust our heavenly Father then it comes down to us. We must fret and fear and plan. We have every reason to be anxious. If we think we are lord of the universe and king of the domain then we must be always on patrol. We must protect our stuff, even if it means no sleep. 

6. Jesus tells us there is something better to seek.[2] Something that can’t make us fearful because nothing can touch it. Jesus’ Kingdom cannot be shaken. And it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Lk. 12:32). That is good news for the weary. 

7. Jesus tells us to be where we’re at. Today’s troubles are sufficient. Let’s be where we are today and do what God has called us to today. And let’s trust Him for tomorrow. 

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (v. 34). 

Verses to Instill Faith and Fight Fear

As we wrestle to fight against anxiety let’s fight our fear with faith. Here are some verses that have helped fuel my faith: 
 
“We can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Heb. 13:6).
 
“My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:2).
 
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
 
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Ps. 55:22).
 
“Even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Is. 46:4).
 
“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen
a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for Him” (Is. 64:4).

 

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[1] “A worrier is storing ‘treasure’ in the wrong place. If what you most value can be taken away or destroyed, then you set yourself up for anxiety” (David Powlison, “’Don’t Worry,’” 58).

[2] Edward T. Welch says, “Whatever is most important is the thing that rules us” (Edward T. Welch, Running Scared, 198). He goes on to say, “Do the opinions of other people control you? What you love and value is showing. You love reputation, love, respect, adoration” (Ibid., 199). 

Why should I believe the Bible? (pt 7)

We have already looked at many reasons why we can believe the Bible. Yet, there are still many more. Here we briefly look at the Bible being trustworthy because it is… 

Prophetic

The Bible contains all sorts of fulfilled prophecies (see e.g. “The Prophecy of Daniel 8”), particularly about Jesus. These attest to the Bible’s uniqueness, truthfulness, and authority.

“Whatever one may think of the authority of and the message presented in the book we call the Bible, there is a world-wide agreement that in more ways than one it is the most remarkable volume that has ever been produced in these some five thousand years of writing on the part of the human race.

It is the only volume ever produced by man, or a group of men, in which is to be found a large body of prophecies relating to individual nations, to Israel, to all the peoples of the earth, to certain cities, and to the coming of One who was to be the Messiah. The ancient world had many different devices for determining the future, known as divination, but not in the entire gamut of Greek and Latin literature, even though they use the words prophet and prophecy, can we find any real specific prophecy of a great historic event to come in the distant future, nor any prophecy of a Savior to arise in the human race…”[1]

Read More…

The Christ of the Cosmos

The heavens scream out and tell us of God’s surpassing worth (Ps. 19:1; Rom. 1:20). God’s glory is beyond our comprehension. For example, do you know how far away the closest star is (besides the sun)? It is approximately 4 light-years away. A light-year is the length that light travels in one year. Light travels 186,000 miles per second and there are 31,536,000 seconds in a year. A light year is really far. One light year is almost 6 trillion (6,000,000,000,000) miles! So, it takes four years for the light from the closest star to get to us.

The universe is also vast beyond comprehension. Hugh Ross said, “Somewhere around 50 billion trillion stars make their home in the observable universe.” That is impossible to conceive. “A comparison may make it more comprehensible: if that same number of dimes were packed together as densely as possible and piled 1,500 feet high (as high as some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers), they would cover the entire North American continent.”

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Jesus and Jihad (part two)

Jesus and Jihad

I talked to a Muslim friend recently that said Islam and Christianity are ninety-six percent the same. I strongly disagree with him and believe most informed Muslims would as well. There is an irrevocable difference between Christianity and Islam. Some Christian missionaries go and die if need be, whereas some Muslim “missionaries” go and kill if need be. This is because Jesus died and said take up your crosses whereas Muhammad killed and said take up your swords. Jesus promises salvation through justification; Muhammad claims it comes through jihad. 

It is important to understand that Jesus (Isa in the Qur’an) is quite prominent in the Qur’an and is held to be a prophet. The Qur’an assumes that its readers will have a working knowledge of Jesus and His teaching (cf. Surah 2:136; 4:29; 5:46). Islam even teaches that Jesus will return and carry out justice and “break the cross.”[1] However, there is a very large contrast between what the Qur’an teaches about religious use of violence and what Jesus teaches on violence. So, let’s look at what Jesus has to say about violence.

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Jesus and Jihad (part one)

Introduction

Islam has many expressions. It is not monolithic. We are wrong if we think we understand Muslims because we have met one or read the Qur’an. That is a simplistic and false understanding. “Islam is a dynamic and varied religious tradition.”[1] In the same way, if you have met a Christian and read the New Testament, for example, that does not mean that you understand Christianity. “The range of contemporary Muslim religiosity varies tremendously. One of the reasons for this is that people understand and ‘use’ religion in a variety of ways; that is true whether we are dealing with Islam or Christianity or any other religion.”[2]

As Christians have different beliefs regarding certain doctrines, Muslims have different beliefs as well. Christianity has many expressions, liberal and fundamental and various particular denominations. In this post (and in part two), we will explore the Islamic understanding of jihad and contrast it with Christianity. Our first observation is to realize the multifaceted nature of our exploration.

Many Expressions of Islam

As we have briefly seen, not all Muslims are the same and not all Muslims understand jihad in the same way. So, some Muslims emphasize the more peaceful passages (e.g. surah 5:32; 2:256; Allah is also repeatedly said to be “most gracious, most merciful”) and that the Qur’an seems to teach to not begin the fight (2:190; 22:39). However, others believe that those who have not confessed Allah and his prophet have already essentially made war with Muslims and should be subjugated.[3] Some Muslims are strict adherents to Islam and some are secular. Muslims are not homogeneous. (For example, we see two very different narrative accounts in Nabeel Qureshi’s, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and Mosab Hassan Yousef’s, Son of Hamas). In fact, “not all Muslims believe that the Qurʾān is the literal and inerrant word of God, nor do all of them believe that Islam requires strict conformity to all the religious and moral precepts in the Qurʾān.”[4] We could group Muslims into three broad groups: secular Muslims, traditional Muslims, and fundamentalist Muslims.

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All-Gender Bathrooms, Prosperity, Love, & the Question of Kingdom

Our discussion here should not be limited to bathrooms. It’s not just a problem of bathroom signs and who comes in those bathroom doors. The problem is not just political. If we leave it there we miss the heart of the issue and we fail to care about hearts.

It’s a matter of concern for people and prosperity. It’s a matter of love. And yes it’s a matter of truth. But I feel and fear that the latter has received the emphasis. And it sounds kind of like a noisy gong. 

Prosperity

How is this issue related to prosperity? As we think about all-gender restrooms we need to consider the matter from the perspective of love for neighbor and not just moralism or concern for ourselves or even our kids. We need to look at Jesus as the standard of how we interact with people. We should desire to represent Him in this conversation. Not the Andy Griffith Show.

We should have a concern for our neighbors, whether monogamous, transgender, all-gender, because they are fellow human beings created in the image of God. And we don’t want them to miss out on the good design that God gave. 

Thus the issue at hand is an issue of prosperity. How do humans prosper and flourish? How and what were we created for? What leads to our ultimate prosperity? What is our ultimate good?

Obviously, what blurs the issue is many believe we weren’t created and we thus have no ultimate purpose. Yet, if God did say in the beginning “it is good” and intends the world to function in a certain way then we shouldn’t want others to miss out on the good God intended even as we realize the world is broken (physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc.). If, however, many of our neighbors our right, if God is not there and He is silent, then it doesn’t matter. Let us eat and drink, let us gloat and indulge in gluttony, let us define our own identity, let us do what we want for tomorrow we die.

But, if as I believe, God did create the world in a certain way, to function according to to certain physical and moral laws then this conversation matters. It matters not just for me, my family, and those that have my same worldview. It matters for all people. It is a matter of being inlined with the laws of the universe, ever as much as we must account for the laws of gravity. 

Yet, if we are Christians having this conversations with others, no matter who those others are, we must not be prideful. We must have the conversation in humility and love. We must have it knowing that all of creation groans with longing for redemption. We are all broken. We all struggle (Rosaria Butterfield’s words are helpful).

Love and Concern for People

As we think of and discuss this issue we shouldn’t do it detached from real people. Real people that have real struggles. We should not demonize other people, no matter who those people are. I don’t think Jesus would have done that even if they were putting up new signs on the restrooms at schools. I think Jesus would have seen the masses as blind sheep without a shepherd.

My reading of Scripture leads me to think Jesus would have loved and reached out in love to all people even transgender people (cf. Matt. 23:37). What people still need today is a shepherd, the Shepherd. A loving Shepherd that will lead His sheep to truth. 

We must imitate the Good Shepherd. We must love our neighbors even as we disagree with our neighbors. We must be motivated out of love and not out of fear.

How can we who have been loved so much not reach out with love to others?! Are we in a position to judge? Have we removed our log when we reach for another’s speck (cf. Matt. 7:1-6)?

The Kingdom Question

“Hypothetically” if a certain potitical leader did things that didn’t line up with biblical morality and said things like “What is truth?” I don’t think Jesus would have lambasted the political establishment. I think He would have remembered and perhaps reminded us that as Christians our Kingdom is not here. We should not expect it to be (cf. Jn. 18:33ff).

Are you thinking more about the Andy Griffith Show and what our world should be like? Or are you looking at Jesus and what He acted like? Are you expecting to build your kingdom here or are you looking to Christ’s coming Kingdom?*

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*Of course, we should not have an uninvolved escapist mentality. We should hold to our biblically informed views (see Politics?). 

Our Missionary God and Our Mission

God incarnated Himself. Became poor, despised. God is the ultimate missionary. He Himself who is the good news, brought good news.

If we are going to be “missional,” i.e. intentionally evangelistic, we must focus on and learn from God the Great Missionary. God’s love is unrelenting and displayed through a vast array of means. It is tangible. It cares. It comes to us. It gives. God’s love is present, active, premeditated.

God’s mission is not disconnected from who He is but expressive of who He is. God’s character, in Christ, literally bled out. God’s missionary heart is not forced but fundamental. God is a God who calls, reaches, and loves the unloving; and He always has been.

We cannot expect our hearts to overflow with missional love unless we meditate on God’s love that we see expressed through the Scriptures. For the good news of Christ to overflow out of our hearts it must daily be in our hearts as good news. We don’t want the gospel and a life of love to be forced, we want it to be so natural that it pours out. We don’t just need our actions to change, we need our character to change. We need to be different. We need to care in ways that we don’t care. We want to intentionally share, not mainly because we have to but because we want to.

We must regularly challenge ourselves by the active nature of mission. God did something. He was not passive. He came. He had a plan (since before the foundation of the world) and He executed it. It cost Him but He carried it out. He opened wide His arms and welcomed in the unloving and hateful world as He hung stretched out on the tree.

We too must be active. We too must enter the world in tangible and intentional ways. We must have a plan and execute it; even if it costs us.

We are ambassadors for Christ, God makes His appeal through us. God speaks through us! So we must implore people on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).

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