Middle Names

My middle name is Jane. Not real exciting, but it goes well with Rhonda. And Tarzan.

 

I’m usually just called Rhonda, but have been called Rhonda Jane by a few people. And as a child, when I was not minding very well, all three names would sometimes come out of my mother’s mouth in order to get my attention. It usually worked.

 

However, for a long time, my REAL middle name was “Worry.” You know what I mean. Like someone who says “Football” is his middle name, meaning he “eats, sleeps, and breathes football.”

 

That’s how I was with “Worry.” I remember waking every morning and enjoying peace for a few seconds—until whatever item was currently on top of my “worry list” popped into my brain. And if nothing showed up, I would quickly think back to what I went to bed worrying about. Soon my “worrier” would shift into overdrive and I was stuck in fear for the rest of the day, wondering what was going to happen and how I was going to survive it.

 

Worry ruled my life. I spent a lot of time imagining future events turning out catastrophically for me. I talked about what I was worrying about. I continuously thought about what I was worried about.

 

Life was not fun.

 

Then I was confronted with truth. It happened in a Bible study I attended after college. I’m not sure how we ended up studying Philippians 4:6-7, but I know it was by God’s design.

 

The truth in those verses hit me square in the face. Suddenly I knew the worry that was ruling my life was not necessary. I didn’t have to continue living life like that. And these verses showed exactly how to stop worry in its tracks.

 

It was such a life-changer for me that I immediately memorized the passage and can still quote it today. I memorized the Living Bible (1970’s) version which is so clear. It says,

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can comprehend. His peace will keep your thoughts and your heart quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

 

It is literally a recipe for peace that I still use today.

 

The last several verses in Matthew 6 also talk about worry, going into detail about some of the major items we don’t need to worry about, like food and clothing. We’re told we don’t need to worry because our heavenly Father already knows what we need.

 

Instead of worrying, we’re told to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness first and “all these things will be given to you as well.” That’s a powerful promise. About as powerful as having a peace in your life so wonderful you can’t even comprehend it.

 

Both of these passages remind me of a triangle. We’re sitting in one ‘corner’ looking at the opposite corner that represents WHAT we’re lacking or WHAT we’re worried will happen. But what we need to do is look up—move our focus from WHAT to WHO. Pray about everything, tell God our needs, thank Him for His answers, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

 

In other words, we are to change our perspective by focusing on our relationship with God, on how good he is, how much He loves us, and how well He takes care of His children. Get our eyes off our problems and onto our Provider. Move our focus to the top of the triangle. And keep it there.

 

What’s your middle name?

 

If it’s “Worry,” you can change it. I can tell you from personal experience that life is much better as Rhonda Jane.

 

 

 

Matthew 6:25-34 New International Version (NIV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This Little Light of Mine

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 New International Version (NIV)

 

 

I’ve heard a few sermons about these verses in my lifetime. And in each message, the preacher talked about FOCUS.

 

Whatever you spend your time focused on will determine whether your life is full of light or full of darkness.

 

That’s a good word.

 

If you spend a lot of your waking hours focused on negativity—whether it involves the media or the people you spend time with—you’re going to have a lot of very negative thoughts, which will color your attitude, which dramatically affects your life.

 

On the other hand, if you spend your day focused on positivity—like communing with God and singing praises to Him and speaking into people’s lives in a positive way—you’re going to have very different thoughts, which will help you keep a good attitude, which will also dramatically affect your life. In a good way.

 

But I just learned of a different way to look at these verses.

 

The NIV has a couple of footnotes. Here’s what they say:

 

Matthew 6:22 The Greek for healthy here implies generous.

Matthew 6:23 The Greek for unhealthy here implies stingy.

 

Wow! I had no idea.

 

So what does that mean?

 

I’m not sure, but I think having “generous eyes” could mean having eyes that look for and see opportunities for generosity. Opportunities to invest resources in people and programs that further God’s Kingdom here on earth. Opportunities to share what God has entrusted to us with individuals who have a need we can fill. Opportunities to spend our life on a purpose more important and longer lasting than our brief time on earth.

 

“Generous eyes” could mean looking for and seeing the positive instead of the negative. The right instead of the wrong. Giving people the benefit of the doubt. Being generous with our love and grace and forgiveness—just like God is with us.

 

The opposite mindset—“stingy eyes”—could mean we look for and see opportunities for ‘stinginess.’ Opportunities to hoard our resources based on fearful predictions. Seeing the needs of people based on their failures and poor decisions. Seeing needs too big for us to fill as an excuse for walking away instead of investing what we can.

 

“Stingy eyes” could mean always looking for and seeing the negative, never the positive. All the wrong that’s happening and never the right. Jumping to conclusions based on appearances. Assuming we know people’s hearts and motives. Acting the exact opposite of how God acts toward us by being stingy with our love, grace and forgiveness.

 

Whichever way we apply these verses—focus or generous/stingy mindset—the results are life-changing.

 

We will either be full of light or we’ll be full of darkness.

 

And it’s our choice.

 

This little light of mine—I’m wanna let it shine. How about you?

Minimalism

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

 

 

Minimalism is becoming very popular. People are starting to choose to live in smaller houses with fewer clothes in their closets and opting to spend their money and energy on experiences rather than possessions.

 

I think it’s a wonderful trend. And I hope it lasts.

 

I have a feeling Jesus probably likes this trend, too, based on today’s verses.

 

In this passage, Jesus is encouraging His followers to not focus their lives on collecting things here on earth. Money. Possessions. Position. Power.

 

One of His reasons is because all of our earthly treasures can be gone in a moment. Money can be stolen or can disappear overnight in the stock market. Possessions can be destroyed instantly by fire, flood, or tornado. And position and power can easily be hijacked by a change in leadership, ownership, or in an election.

 

Nothing on earth is stable.

 

Everything in Heaven is eternal.

 

You do not have to worry about any of your heavenly treasures disappearing. Ever.

 

But that isn’t the main reason Jesus gives for focusing your efforts on accumulating heavenly versus earthly treasures.

 

Check out the last sentence. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

Jesus is always focused on your heart. Not on your outward appearance. Not on your bank account. Not on your reputation. Not on your past. Not on your behavior.

 

He wants your heart. He wants it because when He has your heart, it is safe, it is loved and cared for, and it overflows with His love onto everyone around you.

 

And Jesus knows that your heart is ‘owned’ by whatever you value the most. He wants that to be Him and His Kingdom. Not for selfish reasons, but because that is what will last. Forever. And He wants you with Him forever.

 

It is so easy to get caught up in continually going after more and bigger and better and newer. But Jesus warns us in these verses that your heart—the essence of who you are—is strongly connected to your treasures—what you focus most of your time, money and energy on.

 

You’ve probably heard a pastor say, “Show me your day-timer and your checkbook and I’ll tell you what you value the most.”

 

I think that’s essentially what Jesus is saying here.

 

 

  • What do you value above all else?
  • What story is being told by your day-timer and checkbook?
  • Where are you storing your most-valued treasures?

 

Must be Important

“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 (New Living Translation)

 

 

Three times in one chapter.

 

When something is repeated that often, I tend to pay attention to it. Especially when Jesus is the one doing the talking.

 

And this is the third time He’s said, “I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.”

 

The first time He was talking about blowing a trumpet when giving to the poor. The second time it was about standing on the street corner to pray. And this time He’s talking about looking like you haven’t bathed or eaten so everybody who sees you will know you’re fasting.

 

This chapter started off with a warning for us NOT to practice our righteousness (which apparently includes giving to the poor, praying, and fasting) in front of others in order to be seen by them. And if we do, we are told we will have no reward from our heavenly Father.

 

Jesus does not say we should never practice our righteousness in front of other people. That would be impossible.

 

What He’s focusing on here is our heart. He’s looking at our motives. Our “why.”

 

And He wants us to do the same.

 

We need to pay attention to the reasons we’re doing a good deed—no matter how ‘good’ the deed is.

 

  • Are we doing it for the attention we’ll receive from people we think are important?
  • Is it for the reputation we’re building in our community?
  • Are we trying to make up for something we did that was wrong?
  • Or are we doing it to earn God’s love and affection?

 

In God’s eyes, the “why” is apparently just as important as the “what.” Maybe even more so.

 

This passage says when you fast (notice it doesn’t say if you fast), you should not LOOK like you’re fasting. You should wash your hair, style it, put on make-up (ladies), and dress like you normally do. Also, your attitude and facial expressions shouldn’t give away the fact that you’re hungry (if it’s food you’re fasting).

 

Your goal should be that the only other people who know you’re fasting are (1) the people who live in your house and can’t help but see what you’re doing without and (2) any other people who are fasting with you. For example, a lot of couples fast together on a regular basis for their children, and a lot of churches fast corporately at the beginning of each year to seek God’s will.

 

Bottom line: If you discover your real motivation to fast is so you can look good in the eyes of your friends—and in your swimsuit—then don’t be expecting any heavenly reward.

 

God’s attention is focused on your heart and you can’t fool Him. He’s got X-ray vision.

Model Prayer Overview

We completed our focus on the individual verses in the model prayer last week.

 

But there are a few things about the prayer in general that I would like to mention.

 

Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned a lot about God and my relationship with Him: how big He is, how much He loves me, that He is always for me, and how good a Daddy He is to His children. It’s not that I didn’t know any of those things before now. They’ve just been made plain through the teaching I’ve been under—more plain than I’ve ever heard them explained before.

 

And that knowledge has radically changed my relationship with God. And I think that’s why this prayer struck me totally different this time than any other time I’ve studied it.

 

This time I noticed that the model prayer is very positive. It’s not focused on negative things going on, and the language itself is positive.

 

I noticed that there is no begging or pleading. At all. It’s almost as if the person praying trusts God to answer His prayer and do what’s best.

 

I also noticed there is no repetition. Apparently the person praying expects God to be listening.

 

I also noticed there is not one request presented that’s followed by “if it be thy will.” There is a positive affirmation about God’s kingdom coming and His will being done—but there’s no “if” anywhere to be found.

 

And I realized, as I studied this time, that my praying has changed over the last couple of years. I believe that has everything to do with the fact that my relationship with God has changed based on what I’ve been learning.

 

I now know He is my good Heavenly Daddy who wants the very best for me. He is always listening. And I can trust Him to answer my prayers. They may not be answered like I want them answered. And they may not be answered based on my timetable.

 

But God will always answer my prayers in a way that provides what is best for me.

 

Because He is GOD. And He is GOOD.

 

Amen.

God, Save Me!

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” – Matthew 6:13 NIV

This will be a short blog post because this is a pretty short verse.

And because I’m not sure I understand it very well.

Almost every version/translation of this verse says essentially the same thing, although a few use ‘testing’ in the place of ‘temptation’ and some end with ‘deliver us from evil’ instead of ‘the evil one.’

My problem is that we know from other places in scripture, and from our knowledge of His character, that God doesn’t tempt us. Which is what the first part of this sentence seems to be saying . . . “lead us not into temptation . . . .”

It would make more sense to me if this sentence in the prayer said, “God, lead me FAR AWAY from temptation and rescue me when I venture too close to it!”

That’s what I would like it to say.

And, to be honest, that’s how I pray some times. “God, save me from myself!” Because, if I’m honest, there are times when I know better but still get too close to things (relationships, activities, attitudes) I shouldn’t spend my valuable time, energy, and emotions on. Things that I know, based on my history, have a tendency to sidetrack me and pull my focus away from God and the path He wants me on.

While God doesn’t ever tempt us, He will occasionally lead us into a time of testing. If you haven’t experienced testing personally, I’m sure you know someone who has. And if you don’t, just check out the book of Job, or the story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac, or the story in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness immediately following his baptism to be tested by Satan.

While these times of testing can (and do) build our faith, I believe their primary purpose is to reveal the faith we already have. To show those around us that God is the focus and foundation of our life—and that He is worthy of all our praise and our trust.

Even when what He leads us to and through doesn’t make sense.

Kinda like this verse

Grace

rjfleming:

I’m spending some time away with family, so I decided to share this post about grace again. Because I always need it — even on vacation. Or maybe especially on vacation.

Originally posted on treasure seeker:

Do you remember the brilliant illustration using the jar, large rocks, gravel, sand, and water? If you need a refresher, here’s Stephen Covey’s retelling of the story. It’s a great life lesson about priorities and making sure you take care of the most important ones first.

Hold that thought. We’ll get back to it.

Have you ever noticed how frequently songwriters and poets and authors compare grace with water? I’ve heard it compared to a river, to an ocean, to rain. Yet when I did a search of the word ‘grace’ in the Bible, I couldn’t find it compared to water anywhere. I easily could have missed it. But I did notice a few times where it talked about grace flowing and overflowing, so I guess that’s probably why it’s been compared to water so often.

And I think grace is a lot like water. Think about it.

Water…

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