Worry and Its Cures

First Sunday of Advent
Scripture: St. Matthew 6:25-34

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary reads,
“worry: to think about problems or fears : to feel or show fear and concern because you think that something bad has happened or could happen.” As we enter into the scripture today, it sounds familiar, for the text appears like what I shared last week from Luke.

Except today our thrust is not personal possessions; it is about our worried state of mind.

If we are honest with ourselves, we should all admit that we worry about certain things.
Jesus relates several different arguments and defenses against worrying.

In verse 25, He points out that we are not to worry about our lives, stating, “If God gives us life, He will attend to our needs.” We are to trust Him.

He goes a step further, stating that if the birds of the air who neither gather nor store up in abundance their food to eat and we are much more than the birds of the air, God will surely feed us also.

Now this does not mean that we are to set back and expect God to send manna from heaven daily to feed us. Rather, we should trust Him as our God and our God-given ability to prepare for ourselves nourishment for the body.

A Jewish rabbi wrote these words:

“I have never seen a deer drying figs for food. Nor a lion as a porter. Or a fox as a merchant. Yet, they are nourished by their Lord without worry.”

Jesus states that any worry is useless. It could mean that no man or woman can add a cubit to their life. A cubit is 18 inches. Then Jesus saw the flowers of the earth and spoke about them as one who loved their beauty.

He said that the blooms on the hillside of the landscape are beautiful today and gone tomorrow. Yet even Solomon in all his glory was not as beautiful as one of those flowers.

He goes on to advance a very fundamental argument against worry. Worry, He states, is a characteristic of a heathen, someone who is abandoned, who has abandoned God and God’s love.

Worry, then, is essentially distrust in God and the nature of God’s grace.

Such distrust is understandably in a heathen’s mind and heart. They are unaware of God’s actions and what He can do.

That is beyond comprehension for one who believes in God and addresses God as “Father.”

Lastly, Jesus says that worry can be defeated. We can acquire the art of living one day at a time. “Do not worry over tomorrow’s evil, for you know not what today brings forth. Perhaps tomorrow you will not be alive and you will have worried for a world that shall not be yours. Each day is lived as it comes. Each task is done as it appears. Then the sum of all days is found to be good.”

Jesus’ advice about worry is to not worry. Just handle the demands of each day as they come without worrying about the unknown future.

If we center down our worrying about a tomorrow that might not come for us, we rob ourselves of the multitude of blessings that God offers and gives us daily.


An Abundance of Possessions

Last Sunday of Pentecost/Thanksgiving Sunday
Scripture: St. Luke 12:15-31

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, we should be thankful and praise the Lord for all our earthly blessings, including the spiritual blessings that He offers to each and everyone.

Many are in great need for even the things we have to just survive. Jesus said to his disciples and to you and me, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

Scripture tells us of the rich farmer who had a great problem. The crops and his fields had produced such an abundance of grain that when it was all gathered in he would have no room for it in his barn. Then he reasoned with himself. He decided to tear down his small barn and build much larger one. Then he would have all the storage he needed, allowing him to sit back and enjoy life.

But Jesus threw him a curve ball, warning that his life was almost over. He asked His disciples (and you and me) who would get the fruits of his labors and his worry? Who would reap his great harvest?

Earthly possessions are like a great sandcastle built on the shores of the sea. When the high tide come in and the water flows over it, it will be destroyed! When the sea recedes at low tide, there will be no evidence that it even existed.

I saw and witnessed a human tragedy. A man told me that he live on the wrong side of the tracks. Life was rough and they had very very little. Though a miracle of God, he was able to get a good education and earned a degree in business. He became a wealthy businessman during the oil boom in Alaska and had a large company with many employees. They repaired and sold equipment needed to produce oil. He build a large beautiful home on a bluff overlooking cook inlet near Kenia River Peninsula. He remarked more than once in my presence that he was a self-made man. That he deserved everything he had, but all his earthly possessions came at a tremendous price.

He was a failure as a husband and father of two sons. His wife told me that she would divorce him instantly if it were not for the two boys. In her state of mind, she started drinking. She was having a tremendous problem with alcohol. The boys were in high school and excellent in sports and academics; they were also hooked on drugs. Family life was shot! They had plenty of material goods, but she was the only one who occasionally came to church.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, what are you and I really thankful for?

I pray we are thankful for much more that a large family gathering with a table piled high with a large turkey in the middle of the table, mash and sweet potatoes, all sorts of vegetables and fruits, a large assortment of pastries, and pumpkin pie piled high with cool whip. While it’s a special time with family and friends, the real reason we should celebrate Thanksgiving is to thank and bless our Lord for His divine presence in our lives!

I recall that a few years ago as I prayed over our Thanksgivings dinner – perhaps praying a little longer than I should – as I paused just momentarily one of my young grandsons said, “Amen!”  The whole laughed and that ended my prayer and the family started filling their plates.

Who did you invite to share your Thanksgiving dinner with? There is a knock on your door. There is a stranger. He looks like he hadn’t changed clothes or shaved for weeks. He says, “I am hungry and cold. Could I possibly get something to eat?”

In your shock of seeing him, you thought, “Wait a moment.” And then you make him a brown bag. He thanks you, turns, and is gone.

In my state of mind after this real encounter, I remembered Hebrews 13:2 saying, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

What do you thing would happen if we had invited him in to sit at the table? Let us pray!
Happy Thanksgiving from Pastor P. and Judy!

The End of the Age

25th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 13:1-8

Seeing a beautiful building, Jesus’ disciples said, “Teacher, see that stone building. How wonderful it is!”

Jesus replied, “You see that great building, but the day will come when not one stone of it will rest upon another.” They were looking at the temple that King Herod was building, one of the wonders of the world at that time. He began the construction in 20-19 BC on top of Mount Moriah. It was still not finished when Jesus looked at it in this passage.

Instead of leveling the mountaintop, Herod had a massive masonry work to enclose it on a huge platform. It had stone pillars 40 feet long, 12 feet high, and 18 feet wide held the structure up. And it had a marvelous bridge with arches built 41 and 1/2 feet tall to reach it.

We now have a glimpse of the shock and dismay of the disciples as they looked at this huge construction. They heard Jesus statements about it, that it would crumble and leave not one stone upon another. Here Jesus forecasts the awful terror at the siege that will lead to the final fall of Jerusalem. This is an insight into the last days before he comes a second time.

From scripture it is my understanding that during that period of time it will be a holocaust that will make Hitler’s terror look like a picnic in the park! Christians will experience tremendous persecution with terrible sufferings and deaths. It would be a great blessing if we were already in the heavenly kingdom by that time.

At a time when a pastor preached hellfire and damnation and asking the Lord to come quickly, A teenage Christian stated while at the alter when praying, “Please don’t come now.” Her spirit cried out, “I want to grow up, finish high school, and graduate. I want to learn to drive a car. I want to go to college. I want to be kissed by a handsome boy, fall in love, get married, and have children. Please Lord, don’t come now.”

The urgency of the gospel is not to scare or frighten anyone; rather, it is a warning because we don’t know when Jesus will return. We do know He said He would return. Jesus tells us that even He doesn’t know the day or the hour of His return. Only the Father in heaven know when that will happen. We get so wrapped up with this life, that we put the Lord’s return on the back burner of our lives.

If we don’t make our plans to be with Him, which is a precious gift He offers to all who will confess and believe in Him, when He comes He won’t come for us. Often we are like a child who has been warned not to touch the hot burner on the stove for fear we will get burned. Like a child, we put off making amends for our eternal life with the lord.

If we fail to make amends, the outcome will be a tragic event in our lives, robbing ourselves of the perfect eternal life that He has offered each and everyone who believes in Him, confesses their sins, and accepts His offer of the eternal, abundant life.

The pathway to eternal life is available. Life is much like a 2 lane highway. Which road are you traveling? The road of the world or the road that leads to the heavenly kingdom?

Let us pray.

The Widow's Gift

24th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 12:41-44

Thoughout his ministy, Jesus calls to our attention those on the margin of society, those who have gone unnoticed:

  • the poor
  • the blind
  • the lame
  • the beggar
  • the leper
  • the military personnel
  • the widows
These are some of the people on the margin of our society today, those who are excluded and looked down upon or simply ignored.

We enter the scriptures as Jesus is sitting and watching the crowd as the temple offering is being gathered. Between the court of the Gentiles and the court of women was the gate called Beautiful. Jesus had gone there to sit quietly and restful after the arguments and the tension at the court of the Gentiles. The court of the women was nearby.

There were 13 collection boxes called the trumpets because of their shape.  Each was for a special gift to buy corn, wine, or anything needed to buy for the sacrifice. Many people threw in large quantities of coins for the offering. There came a poor widow who put in all she had: 2 copper coins valued at about 1/16 of a cent.

Jesus, seeing her gift said, “She gave more than all the rest had put into the coffer.”

Here is a lesson in giving: real giving must be sacrificial. It is never the amount of the gift, but the sacrifice one offers in giving the gift. There are few people who will offer a real sacrifice to the Lord in supporting his work. Giving that is real has a certain recklessness in it. The widow might have kept one of her coins.  It was not much but something she probably needed badly. She gave everything she had.

There is a great symbolic truth here. It is our personal tragedy that we don’t trust the Lord to be part of our activity. It is a strange and lovely thing that the widow in the New Testament is who Jesus hands down to history as a pattern of sacrificial generosity.

When we put ourselves totally at Jesus’ disposal, we can not imagine what might transpire in our lives and in his church. We have not matured from giving only what is left of our resources because we use them to maintain ourselves and our comfortable lifestyles. We are happy to offer the Lord what is left over of our resources, including time, talent, and income.

In looking in depth at my own life and actions I am appalled of how little I actually give in sacrificial giving.

When I looked at my personal property, I found 5-6 TVs, more clothes in my closets and dressers than I can wear in a month, cupboards, and freezers full and bulging with food.

While Judy and I do support our Lord with our tithes of all resources that come into our house, that is not sacrificial giving. That is only what we are obligated to give. Sacrificial giving is when we do without a multitude of our desires and wishes and support the work of the Lord with those resources.

That is the first step in sacrificial giving.  While it may be a small step it is a step in the right direction, I don’t see much sacrificial giving in my life.

I am challenging myself and you to continue giving our obligations to the Lord, our 10%, and then begin to go a second and third mile in sacrificial giving for the lords work in our lives, our community and our world, and becoming a joyful and faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May we all pray about our sacrificial giving unto our Lord.

Let us pray.

The Great Commandment

23rd Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 12:28-34

There was no love lost between the experts of the law and Jesus. The task of these experts of the law and the Sadducees was to interpret the law and to see that each rule and regulation was followed the letter of that law.

When the scribe came to Jesus with his question, which was often a matter of great debate, he was trying to trip Jesus up by the way he answered. This debate had gone on ever since Moses had received them on Mount Sinai. He had received 613 laws according to tradition. 365 were according to the days of the sun year, and 248 accorded to the generations of man.

David came and reduced the 613 to 11 in Psalms 11. Isaiah came and reduced the 11 to 6 in Isaiah 32:18. Micah came and reduced the 6 to 3 in Micah 6:8. Isaiah then brought the 3 to 2 in Isaiah 66:1. Finally in Habakkuk 2:1, the 2 were reduced to 1 with these words: “The just shall live by faith.”

We can see by the actions of the rabbinic ingenuity, that the law interpreters tried to contain and expand the laws of Judaism over the years. When the expert of the law in today’s passage came questioning Jesus, the issue of the law was still a hot issue in Jewish debate and discussion.

Here Jesus takes the 2 great commandments and puts them together. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, oh Lord! Thy Lord is one Lord.”

The Jewish law Shema is a statement in which each service in the synagogue worship service begins even today. There are 3 statements of the Shema, which is contained in a small leather box that each devoted Jew would wear around their neck or on their wrist. The statements are contained in a small circular box that is attached to the door of every Jewish household door. Here is where Jesus stated a tremendous need in each of our lives: We are to love the Lord our God with our whole being, heart, body, soul, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

It is so easy to make our worship service as a thing we do on Sunday morning within the confines of the church building, instead of an action we do constantly and daily in our lives. We need to be reminded that worship and service unto our Lord should be 24 hours a day each and every day.

We are to be concerned not only about ourselves, our family, and our friends, but also our neighbors and people around the world. We must love the neighbor as Jesus loves each of us, because His great Spirit must dwell in each of us. We should never think of them and/or us for Jesus’ blood was shed on calvary’s cross for all our sins.

Over the years we have separated ourselves from one another. We have

  • the haves and have-nots.
  • the educated and non-educated.
  • blue-collar and white-collar worker classes.
  • the pigment in our skin.
  • the nations we live in.
  • names and denominations of churches we attend.
If we don’t seek to be one in Christ, we are no better than the heathen who does not seek a relationship with the Lord. We have become so comfortable with ourselves and our relationship with the Lord that we don’t seek to reach out to those who don’t know Him.

May we seek to turn a new leaf in our life, searching and seeking that all others will love the Lord our God as their God? When was the last time you reached out to share your faith with someone outside your family circle or your church community?

Let us pray.