Hand In Hand

There are times in life when one event, one action, or one experience can change the course of a person’s life. A change in perspective might occur. Priorities may be drastically altered. Decisions might be made in a changed understanding of what is important. Gene MacLellan thought that if a person simply placed their hand in the hand of Jesus, the course of their life would be deeply impacted. As you listen to the song which McLellan wrote, consider these questions:

1. Is your hand securely in the hand of Jesus or have you chosen to let go? (Jesus never lets go.)

2. When your hand is in the Lord’s, how do you see yourself; how do you see others?

3. Are you letting Jesus lead you by the hand or are you pulling back?

Contained and Controlled

Read Acts 7:44-50

When humanity decided to domesticate animals, a way to control the animals had to be devised early on. Cages, corals, stables and fences were brought into use. These attempts to limit the movement of the animals are still utilized in some form today. Once the animal’s ability to move was controlled, then behavior altering allowed for domestication. These methods, along with psychological methods, have also been utilized with humans. Confinement is a strong control technique.

The passage which we read from the Book of Acts speaks of building confinements. First we hear about a container for the Law. This container, built according to God’s specifications, allowed the Law of God to travel  with the Israelites. It is best known at the Ark of the Covenant and served as a visible sign of God’s presence and rule. Then we are reminded of the Temple which Solomon built, again as God specified. The Temple served as a gathering place for God’s people, a place to offer sacrifices and worship to God, and a visible reminder of God’s presence. The people also come to view these structures as a way to contain God and other people. Containment gives a sense of control.

It is important to keep in mind that the Ark and the Temple were not a need of God’s but a need for humanity. The words in Acts point this out to us. The words also attack the perception that humans could ever contain or control God. God is more expansive than anything conceived by humans. There is not any material or design which originates with humans because all originates  with God. There is no human power strong enough to contain or control God. Let us hear the words of Acts in order to keep a proper perspective.

No Worries

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 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! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Luke 12:22-31 (NIV)

In the late 1980s, reggae singer Bobby McFerrin released a song entitled, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” The tune is simple and the rhythms are energetic. The lyrics give a multitude of life situations which can cause stress and worry. One phrase reminds the listener that when we worry our troubles double. The solution is contained in a repetitive chorus of “don’t worry, be happy.” It is easy for the listener to start singing along unintentionally. A smile seems to naturally come across your face.

From Luke’s Gospel, we have Jesus lecturing his disciples to not worry. Jesus points out that the act of worrying adds nothing to a person’s life. He provides examples from nature to show that God provides all the true needs of creation. He concludes by telling his disciples to seek God’s kingdom because in so doing, a person will receive all which is needed.

This passage is as simple and straightforward as Bobby McFerrin’s song. The bump in the road is putting this advice into action. There is a natural sense of worry innate in all of us. There are some important steps to help us manage our natural worries.

First we must determine if we are dealing with a want or a need. There are a lot of wants which we have in our lives. A need is something which is necessary for our survival. An example may be the need for shelter. The want in this situation might be a 5500-square foot house with five bathrooms, an outdoor kitchen and a three stall garage.

Second, keep things in perspective. An expression which has gained some ground in society recently is, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” This saying reminds us of the importance of perspective. Is what is causing you to worry that important or life-altering enough to cause you to expend a large amount of time, energy, sleep and mental health? Can you even do anything about the situation? If not, then stop worrying.

Third step is trusting. Jesus would remind us that we need to trust that our God is big enough to sort everything out and provide all which we truly need. Do you have enough trust that God is big enough? Are you able to believe that God will always provide your needs if not always your wants?

A Foggy Perspective

For the first three mornings this week, our city has been enveloped in fog. My understanding is that this is pretty common during the winter months in Texas. The warm, humid air from the gulf comes up north and encounters the cooler air from the north which causes the fog to develop. Yesterday, as I was looking at the fog blanket outside our windows, I was drawn to the passage from 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

As I was pondering this verse, I began thinking about the perspective through which we view life, one another, and our Lord. Much like the fog of recent mornings, our perspective is not clear. We are not capable of knowing all but instead only a part of each item mentioned above. The promise is that there will be a time when I will see each in fullness but for now I have a fog over my sight which prevents me from seeing the whole.

My vision of my life is limited to the current and to the past. I can anticipate the future, just as I anticipate turns and intersections when driving a familiar path on a foggy morning. However, the certainty of my knowledge regarding my future is limited. Like the warnings on the morning news to take it slow and to give one’s self plenty of time to navigate through the fog, I must do the same as I move forward into my future.

The view which I have of others is also limited. I only see what that person allows me to see. I do not know their backstory unless they tell me it. The burdens carried by the person are only visible to me if they choose to share them with me. Caution is again vital when determining how I look at someone else. This reminds me that my judgment of them is impaired so be careful how I judge them.

As I look to the Lord, I also must acknowledge my vision is limited. I cannot comprehend the fullness of the Lord at this time. I see what has been revealed to me, and others, through Scripture, the account of Jesus’ life, and my ongoing relationship with the Lord. Anticipating the actions which the Lord will take, the way in which the Lord views the world and humanity, the abilities and power of the Lord is almost impossible based on what I know. I can only see the broadness of the Lord such as the complete focus on love, the endless times of forgiveness, and unconditional acceptance which is demonstrated and testified to over and over in the lives of myself and countless others.

Yet the promise mentioned in the verse from 1 Corinthians remains for all three of these. There will be a day when I will see my life in its fullness and my future will be fully understandable. My view of others will be complete when I am able to see the whole of the person and their life. The perspective which I have of the Lord will be whole as I stand in the full presence one day. But for now, I walk in the fog of my limits and I must be mindful to proceed with caution and take my time.