Musings on Christianity 52

Musings on Christianity 52

How Do The Ten Commandments Fit In?

“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me an keep my commandments. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it, you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s (Exodus 20:1-17).’”

We finish our analysis of how Christians should act with the Mosaic (and it’s important to note it as such) covenant that most know as the Ten Commandments. Something we must acknowledge before hand. We live by grace, not by the law. The law condemns us, but grace brings life (2 Corinthians 3:6). 

I say that not to negate the law, but to remember that one could obey these commandments to the letter and still fail. Indeed, no mortal man has or can actually live by the letter (much less the spirit) of the law. 

The commandments start where every command starts, with the most important law. I spoke about loving God with all your mind, heart, spirit, and strength in a previous chapter. The next two commandments are really just deeper ways in which we show our love for God. If you loved your parents, you wouldn’t make new parents for yourself. If you love your parents, you wouldn’t take their names in vain. A God we love with our entire being is one we don’t try to cram into an idol, and we certainly don’t create for ourselves another god to worship when we already have the one, true God to serve. Ironically, God may be the only name so frequently taken in vain. None of my sons have ever said, “Matthew darn you!” None of my sons have ever used my name as a swear. I don’t imagine any of your children or loved ones have done it either. Indeed, when we speak ill of someone, and that person finds out, we immediately recognize we were in the wrong. 

Rather than jump down a rabbit hole trying to understand why people feel so free to use God’s name so flippantly, we must simply recognize that regardless of the reason we may be tempted to do it, we should not.

I’m going to skip over the fourth commandment for just a while because it demands a certain perspective.

The remaining five commandments are simply better ways to love your neighbor, which we discussed in another earlier chapter. We begin by honoring our father and our mother. Indeed God places our parents over us to serve as a representation of the relationship we share with God. Several segments of the Bible (1 Corinthians comes to mind as well as Ephesians) expressed the representative nature of the family in that the father is the head, the wife is the church, and the children are to be trained. 

To honor our parents is to honor our God. One may quickly argue some parents are not worthy of such honor. My own biological father was one such parent. But this brings to mind the same paradox we face whenever we encounter temptation. We humans want to live in a world where our obedience to the law is somehow predicated on everyone else also obeying the law. From the time we were children, we proclaim, “But everyone else is doing it,” or “But this is the reason I am the exception to this rule.” There are no conditions to the laws.  I am not asserting that we should break one command even if our father and mother tell us to. My parents could never have ordered me to kill any more than I could honor them by doing something so deplorable. 

Are some of you remembering how God ordered Joshua to kill? God ordered several deaths of all sorts. Please remember, dear readers, that God is a perfect, holy being. It is his right to judge. Indeed only He could judge rightly who is to live and who is to die, who is to have eternity in Heaven, and who is to have eternity in Hell.

What about war and the military? I can understand one asking this, and it ties to the next commandment we must look at.

I took great detail to talk about murder, but I must address the spirit of this law to show just what murder looks like in the eyes of God.

“‘You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:21-22).’”

While no one ever disputes it’s wrong for one man to shoot another, we must look to the words of Christ to realize that a man who becomes angry at another is in fact guilty of that same crime. Please don’t be ridiculous. I am not saying a person should shoot whoever he is mad at because he is guilty of the crime anyway. Rather I am saying that a man with anger in his heart (a man like me), is in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Such a person as I must seek to change because we can not love our neighbors if we harbor anger in our hearts. That anger isn’t about the person. I assert that anger is quite usually far more about the person feeling the emotion than it is about what the other did. Indeed, if one were to articulate what they wanted to say, they would have to say, “He made me angry!” 

First, to say such a thing gives that person authority to change how you feel. Oddly, we cry out our right to feel and think whatever we want while, in the same breath, we give up that right by allowing what others do to change those feelings. If this paragraph has helped you see the paradox, I urge you to reflect on why you feel the emotion of anger. What were you denied, and is it really worth killing over? What was taken from you? Is it really worth killing over? 

There are circumstances where one may absolutely say it is worth killing over. But then we place ourselves on the throne of judgement. While I wish anyone wronged justice, I would not meet that justice out myself. 

The key to obeying this command demands one search his own heart and ask himself what is most important. For a Christian, this must be God. This means that one of what I may dare to say is only out of a few righteous forms of anger comes when proper worship of our God, the most important being in our lives, is threatened. I should be much more angry about a policy that denies me time to study the word than I am at my wife for wanting to talk to me about her day when I’m trying to read any other book. The letter of this law is obvious, but the spirt of the law is critical to understanding the value of love. Note the remainder of the verse. This same paragraph shows us how to address that issue righteously because Christ knows that we become angry. The commandment then offers the grace in that we can reconcile with our loved ones to save one another. So we should. 

But now I must come back to what I previously mentioned about the military. As one who served in the United States, I have always affirmed that I am not a killer. Perhaps I am unique in that viewpoint, but since I am the one writing this book, that unique perspective counts. You see, I never said I was a killer. I saw myself as a defender. I defended my brothers in arms. I defended my country. I never sought to kill. I never sought to harm. Many I served with felt similarly, at least to a degree. Luckily, I never had to kill. But I do not see the act of defense as an act of murder. To protect someone else is not to strike down one in anger, as Christ went on to explain. To protect is just that. There are other dangers in this path, but we are not in a nation that demands we serve in the military. Indeed, even in our military there are ways to serve that don’t require one to make the choice to kill or not to kill. I only offer my perception as one who served his country. Would I have killed in the like of duty? Yes, because I believe in the mission I was ordered to perform. Do those who oppose us feel equally committed under a similar belief? Perhaps. I this regard, I must joyfully seek the guidance of the panel.

The seventh commandment again is obvious on the surface and has deeper meaning.

“‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).’”

While I wouldn’t make this a statement where women can wear what they wish however they wish, I would say that a man who’s eye is drawn to a woman with lustful eyes is wrong. This works in the same way for women and men. A person may notice someone is attractive. However, when you stare or long for that person, you become guilty. I say again, modest dress is a consideration one makes to help one who may be tempted avoid such things, but the tempted must be resisted even a willing tempter. Do not ever fall victim to the idea that the temptation is responsible. When we succumb to sin, whatever the reason, however strong the temptation, we are to blame, and only us. 

The final three commandments then continue to offer actions we can avoid that will help us be more loving to our neighbor. Indeed, I would affirm that the tenth commandment is critical even though it is placed last. Indeed who commits adultery but the one who covets someone else’s spouse? Why would one steal if he didn’t first covent what another had. I affirm that if one could focus on being content with what he has, no matter how little, he would avoid a great many other sins.

At present, that’s very easy for me to say, and I admit it. I’m not a millionaire, nor do I have such wealth that I can be foolish with my money and not fall into debt. However, I have more than a homeless man and maybe more than some other working husbands. So if you read this and think, “It’s easy for him to say be happy with what you have when he has all he could want,” I must, in my current circumstances, agree. 

However, I’ve previously written about need and want. I think anyone can look at others and see what they have. But why? What reason does one have to look at another’s possessions or life if not for the strict purpose of being covetous over what someone has that he doesn’t or even covetous over what he has because others might want it? 

Please remember what we should always be seeking.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).”

If rather than looking at what we do have or lamenting what we do not have, we instead look to serve and honor the God who created all things, we will be well. I am not promising prosperity. I’m also not declaring a socialist planet where people only have the very least of what they need. I’m simply stating that we will first have the most important thing: the promise of eternal life in God’s abundant kingdom.  After this, on this planet, we can trust that, at the very least, God will care for our needs. 

Now we return to the fourth commandment and what it implies. 

When this chapter began, I had to remind people that this was part of the Mosaic covenant. I had to do that to explain why this commandment is no longer enforced and others still stand. 

I must first explain the purpose. You see, while the first three commandments reign supreme as the most essential because we must love God above all, and the bottom five commandments stand firm because we must love our neighbor as ourselves, the fourth commandment is actually for ourselves. It is the one commandment that was put in place for the individual. It was not placed there for others to deny. Nor was it established as a way to honor God. Indeed to work to serve God honors him, so doing nothing for a day only allows us rest, rest God showed is good to take, rest God allowed us to have in the same way that he had it. 

How can I say such a bold thing? Christ told us.

“And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not the man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).’”

Indeed, if one truly wishes to observe The Sabbath for the Glory of God, then good for him (a very personal paraphrase of Romans 14:5-9).

What I first stress is that The Sabbath was put in place to provide people a chance to rest, but we are not obligated to observe the Sabbath anymore because Christ fulfilled the covenant of Moses so that we might now live in His new and better covenant. 

Does this create a paradox? Not in my estimation.  In every covenant there were rules put in place for specific reasons that were accounted for in future covenants. Adam only had (from one point of view) one command. He certainly wasn’t given The Ten Commandments. There were reasons. You see, Adam was innocent, completely unaware of right and wrong. Indeed, pointing those things out would have made him aware. Once the fruit of the tree was consumed and Adam’s eyes were opened, that knowledge required further guidance. But we still didn’t receive the Ten Commandments for thousands of years. 

The only law that never changes is the original law to love God and obey him, indeed obedience is a demonstration of love and trust. Adam disobeyed, and so the curse fell on man. That disobedience was corrected not by any act of sinful man, but by the obedience of Christ, who died, as was His duty from the Father, and was raised again. 

But Christ serves as our example and the Spirt serves as our redeemed conscience. So we follow the example and commands of Christ because we hold fast to his promises. This means we still love the LORD our God and our neighbor as ourselves. This also means that we take the measures listed in The Ten Commandments to help guide us to do so. As for the day of rest? We may set it aside, but we are no longer commanded to do so. Neither should we judge the one who sets it aside for the glory of God. The explanation takes us back to what I said earlier. God didn’t establish that command as a form of honoring Him. He graciously gave us that command to provide for our rest. 

We may teach our sons to go to bed at 9 p.m. We do so to teach them good habits (I am here speaking about my own sons). However, my oldest already knows that I will no longer uphold that rule when he turns 16. I trained him to work and rest as is wise, but I did so not for my glory, but so that he had rest and energy to do what he must. He may need to work. He may even choose to stay up late to do something he knows needs to get done. He’s not dishonoring me by staying up to finish his homework or the dishes. 

This concludes the analysis of the laws that are either more well known or seen to be more important from my own human perspective. I must conclude by once again stating that one who honors God above all and loves his neighbor will instinctively conform to the lesser laws. For any seeking to honor God and be loving to his fellow man will do well.

In the next (and last) chapter, I will address that which every Christian must know.

For our panel: Is a person who serves in the military guilty of murder if he kills in the line of duty? Why or why not? How would you explain Christ as the fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant? Are there other commandments I haven’t addressed in the previous few chapters that must be addressed?

Musings on Christianity 35

Musings on Christianity 35

What Holds Some People Back?

What is Heaven like? I’m actually reading a book about that right now. Oddly enough, you can read several accounts on near death experiences, but the Bible should be viewed as the authority on Heaven. This isn’t actually a chapter about Heaven. It’s just a question I want readers to ponder. If you’re like I was when I was younger, you pictured a world where you only did the things you liked doing here on Earth. Maybe Heaven is where you do nothing but watch football. Maybe Heaven is just a never ending feast with all your friends and family. Maybe Heaven is a giant party. None of those theories about Heaven are anywhere near correct, but I’m building to a point, so please bare with me.

While this isn’t a chapter about Heaven, I will tell you one thing I know without any reservation. Whatever you imagine Heaven is, Heaven is greater. The problem is that humans only know this broken, sinful Earth. Sure, there are fun things on Earth. But when we become fixated on the things of this world and start imagining Heaven as anything like this place, we’re not giving Heaven enough credit.

Imagine the best day of your life to this date. Imagine the happiest you’ve ever been. One second of Heaven will make that day seem worthless by comparison.

So why, then, would anyone not want to go to Heaven? Why, then, would anyone not seek the path to such a place?

The things that hold people back from believing are often tied to the pleasures of this Earth. God, our loving Father who gives us such wonderful things, blessed this world with so many wonderful things. One thing I feel happens though is that we start to see the gifts as God rather than the God who made the things we enjoy so much.

These gifts, which in and of themselves may not be sinful, become idols, which makes the action sinful. I’ve mentioned previously that anything you’re willing to sin to obtain or sin because you don’t get is an idol. One should look at their lives and consider those things. Time is a wonderful thing, and I struggle mightily with “my time.” The second I consider it mine, I’ve placed myself and the thing on which I want to spend my time on God’s throne.

These idols hold us back from the Kingdom because we’ve made that activity or action the ideal in our mind. However, Heaven is so much greater than anything you could do here on Earth. This is why Christians should be fixated on getting there. Maybe rather than imagine Heaven as a place where we can only do things we do here, we should imagine Heaven as a place where no matter how fun what we’re doing right now is, being in Heaven will be that much better.

Another thing that holds people back is money. Of course we want good things. Of course we want to provide for our family and ensure we have a comfortable retirement. It’s not sinful to have money. What is sinful is to make money God. God, who created the heavens and the earth; God, who created the world and the fullness therein, doesn’t need money. When you’re with him, you won’t either. His very presence and person is light and joy.

The concept of wealth is something I wonder about sometimes. Why do we need money? To buy stuff. What stuff? Food. People can plant food and raise animals for food. Sure, you’d have to buy the animals, but it could be done. This world has done an amazing job of convincing us that we “need” so many things. When you think about it though, humans don’t really need a lot to survive. Yet the quality of that survival is dependent upon amenities that span beyond survival. Sure, feed me some slop, shelter me from the elements, and provide me water, and I will continue to exist. However, we thrive as we have more.

So we’ve developed the thought that money is the need when money was literally invented as an exchange for the goods we actually need to sustain ourselves or thrive. Even in this world, money isn’t the need. At best, money is the means by which we obtain those needs. But Biblically, that’s not the way it really works. The way we obtain our needs is seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness. If we do these things, our Father, who is in Heaven, will add to us all these other things (Matthew 6:33).

How will God provide? He’s God! He’ll do it however he wants. But if he can arrange for the survival of wild animals and plants, he can absolutely ensure the survival of the race he created last, humanity, who are worth so much more than birds and plants.

So is money really sinful? Not in and of itself. Solomon was the wealthiest, wisest man of all time. Daniel was a king. Joseph was second only to Pharaoh in Egypt. These are all saints. None of them were perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they had good times. They also had bad times. David was chased throughout Israel. He had to live in caves and beg priests for food (1 Samuel). Joseph was sold into slavery and then thrown into prison (Genesis). Solomon wrote an entire book of the Bible speaking about how he’d gone chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes).

It’s hard for people with money to enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:23).

I’m of the opinion that this is true because we start to worship the money rather than the God who blessed us with such wealth to begin with.

One who sees the kingdom of Heaven rightly, as so much better than all the wealth of the earth, wouldn’t covet that money so much.

That doesn’t mean we should be foolish or unwise with the money God entrusted to us. It just means we need to remember that this, too, is a gift from God, and we should worship the creator, not the creation.

It’s hard for me not to think about money sometimes. I have to remind myself that it’s not money I need, it’s God, the creator of all things who can give me everything I need. Like anyone, I work hard to earn a living. I aspire to earn more as an author. I wish I could send my sons to a Christian school. I want to pay cash for college for my sons. I never want to be in debt again. The trick is focusing on God rather than money.

There is a trick to being content in all situations (Philippians 4:11-13). It’s being focused on God.

We get held back because we blind ourselves with the things of this world. If our hard times become an opportunity to glorify God and seek Him and be grateful to Him for all He does, all will be well. If in our abundance we praise God and use what he entrusted to us to do His will, all will be well.

Maybe we think Heaven isn’t so great because some people we love won’t be there. Have you ever heard the phrase, “All my friends are in Hell”?

This one baffles me as a person. I’ve been through some hard times. And while the people we love can help us through these times, that doesn’t make them any less hard does it? Think about the Holocaust. Let’s imagine Hell as an eternal Holocaust (it isn’t; it’s so much worse, but it’s the closest analogy I know on this earth). If I promised you that every person you ever even liked a little bit would be there, would you really want to go there? Is there any amount of friends and family being beside you that would make such a horrid existence something you’d willingly go to?

Wouldn’t you instead do everything in your power to avoid such a fate and help those you love to do the same? Welcome to evangelism!

There isn’t a single person on this earth, no matter what he or she may have done to me, who I’d wish to experience that sort of thing. Sure, I’ve been angry and wanted justice or even vengeance, but even just based on the two or so books I’ve read about the Holocaust, I wouldn’t put anyone through that.

Instead, I want to go to Heaven. I want to go there so much I’m willing to give whatever I have to. But what we must give isn’t a sacrifice or offering. Instead, we must accept Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). We must believe He lived a perfect life. We must believe He died for our sins. We must believe He was resurrected on the third day, and we must pick up our cross and follow Him.

That means letting go of the things that turn us from him, and we all have work to do that. I know I do, but it’s worth it. We talk sometimes about Heaven and Hell. There are people who believe in Heaven, but they don’t believe in Hell. I’d argue that even if Hell weren’t a real place (it is), that any place not Heaven is Hell. That’s how great Heaven is. There are people who believe in Hell and not Heaven. Neither of these groups of people make a ton of sense to me, but they’re out there. I’d do anything to avoid Hell and keep those I love from going there.

Please look closely at your life and the things you fixate on. Believers, fixate on Christ. I know you have children to care for and a wife to love (and God commands us to do so). I know you have to provide for your live,s and I promise I understand the need for rest and the desire to pursue goals. I simply beg you, make getting closer to God your primary goal. Consider anything that takes you from Him antithetical to your overall mission.

For our panel: Are you willing to discuss an idol in your life that you struggled to turn away from? What are some other things that hold us back from the kingdom? What do we do when we recognize an idol, but still covet it even though we know it’s wrong? What is Heaven really like? What is Hell really like?

Musings on Christianity 27

Musings on Christianity 27

You Find What You Seek; Your Focus is Your Destination

Keep your eyes on the road. Keep your eye on the ball. Look before you leap.

How many statements do we have out there that reveal the same simple truth? More importantly, why do we need to keep remind ourselves? Even as I type this, more and more come to mind.

While some people take those statements and apply them to businesses or weight loss or scholastic goals, people still sometimes seem determined to focus on the distractions.

If you indeed obtain what you focus on, why focus on fear? If you find what you seek, then one who fears the loss of his possessions or status will inevitably find those things. I’ve always been a driven individual. I have a very limited list of things I focus on. In truth, we should only focus on one thing:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).”

If one studies that segment (and a few others) more deeply, they all say the same thing. Keep your focus on God.

A God-focused individual may not appear very different in some respects. For instance, God commands us to be submissive and obedient. This means a God-focused individual will be diligent at work and hard working. He’ll be quick to do as he’s instructed. But there will be some differences. A God-focused man won’t participate in the water-cooler talk. A God-focused man won’t be quick to lose his temper or insist on his own way.

I won’t claim to be God-focused. That’s part of the reason I’m writing this. I currently state I have to work to be God-focused. I aspire to be God-focused. I think about God a lot, but I’d be lying if I said he was the focus of my every thought, and that is the problem. 

If I were to console myself, I’d say that when I truly realize I’m not focused on Him, I reorient myself. I just wish I didn’t have to stop course correcting so frequently in the day.

But what does it truly mean to be God-focused? Does a God-focused person just read the Bible all day and pray? Prayer isn’t the formal activity people make it out to be. Sure, I think every person should spend some time of each day kneeling in prayer, but that’s not the only way to do it. Prayer isn’t a posture or position of body; prayer is a mindset, and that mindset is what it means to be God focused.

First, a God-focused individual must passionately study God. A writer such as myself passionately reads and writes. A musician passionately studies his or her instrument. The key to being God-focused above all else is to passionately study God. The way we do this is reading the Bible.

For those who proclaim to be of the faith, consider this: How often do you read the Bible? If you’re a mechanic, you open a manual for a car pretty often. Journalists have to open the AP Style Book each time they proofread their work. A construction man will have to study the schematics for a building. So again, how often do you study the Bible?

If you’re expecting me to give you a “required” amount of study, I’m going to disappoint you. Salvation isn’t a checklist of deeds, it’s a gift of grace from God. What I will say is that if you only read the Bible when someone makes you, I can’t say I’d call you God-focused. A man who hates his job can still go to work. He’s not focused on his work; he’s focused on his status, appearance, or financial well being.

The heart speaks truth.

This is why studying God’s word is the first step. You can’t do what God wants if you don’t know what He wants. You can’t be focused on God if you don’t even know what things God wants you to fix your thoughts on. There’s a verse in the Bible where he literally tells you what to fix your thoughts on (Philippians 4:8). That list isn’t exclusive, but it is instructive.

Just sitting here thinking about things, I know I’m supposed to be loving (Mark 12:31 among others). I’m supposed to be wise (Proverbs). I know I’m supposed to be slow to anger (Numbers 14:18).

Ultimately, I’m supposed to be perfect (Matthew 5:48). The problem is that my sinful flesh makes that impossible. So how do I strive to do that? I focus and study God’s word, using it to guide my actions.

So the second thing a God-focused person must do is apply what he or she learns from the Bible. As one studies the Bible, one must apply the principles and obey the commands the Bible gives. The more one works at doing this, the more one finds ones self living a God-focused life.

I think that’s the battle. Sometimes it feels like every moment of every day is a battle between what I know the Bible tells me I should do and what I do. Like Paul, I too often find myself doing what I don’t want to do. I want to be a more patient man. I want to be a man who’s slow to speak, but my mouth flies open far too much, and I still don’t have a lick of patience. 

Working to improve is an example of being God-focused. Catching yourself doing something against the teachings of the Bible and adjusting your behavior is a great way to glorify God. I’m quite happy when I do this. I’d just prefer not to have to fix my thinking.

This is discipline. We discipline our actions and behavior according to God’s instruction, and the more we discipline ourselves, the more our thoughts will stay fixed on God.

The third thing a God-focused person must do is have a constant mindset of prayer. Again, we’re not telling you to kneel and pray every second of every day. I pray when one of my sons is acting up, and I know I should respond with patience and a calm demeanor rather than raise my voice. I don’t do it physically; I just think, “God, help me to lead my son to you.”

When there’s a disagreement at work, and I feel the old, prideful person I used to be start to get indignant, I think, “God, help me to be patient and kind. Help me to not insist on my own way.” 

Those are statements from 1 Corinthians 13.

When one incorporates scripture into prayer, it’s stronger. It shows your supplications are a request to do as God wants rather than a demand for God to do what you want. God is loving and generous. He gives such wonderful things to his children (Matthew 7:11). However, He’s not the servant; we are.

We use prayer to lament to God. We use prayer to praise God. We use prayer to offer supplications to God. We use prayer to seek God’s wisdom and will.

We are supposed to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This speaks to a mindset far more than it does a posture. However, one should be constantly comparing ones actions from a Biblical mindset and thinking about God throughout ones life.

That might take someone as legalistic as myself right back to a mindset of, “Then I should just read the Bible and pray all the time!”

Well if prayer is just focusing on God, then a God-focused person will do this instinctively.

It doesn’t mean everyone should strictly grow up to be a pastor. That’d be a fine life occupation indeed, but God didn’t have all 12 tribes of Israel become priests. God wants doctors and lawyers. God wants teachers and farmers. God, in his wisdom, knows what His people need, and He uses people to provide. God provides leaders and artists. God used people to write His spirit-driven words.

This means we need to study our profession. This means we need to do our jobs, whatever they are. Three months ago, who gave a second thought to a grocery store employee? Now we see how critical those people are. How about food service workers? How long will it be now before you throw a fit at a guy who prepared your food? You see, God raises the meek to humble the prideful (Matthew 23:12). 

  

A misguided person will focus too much on the works. However, if works aren’t what lead to salvation, that what you’re doing isn’t actually what matters. What matters is why. Why are you doing it? How is what you’re doing glorifying God? The doctor performing surgery because it will make him enough to buy a car I can’t spell the name of is lost. The doctor next to him performing surgery because he knows God has called him care for the ill has it right.

The teacher working on a lesson plan because that is what will help him earn a promotion is lost. The teacher next to him working because he knows God has chosen him to teach his little children has it right. 

There is another benefit to this.

You see, a God-focused person isn’t anxious. What does it profit a man to fear the loss of money or food? Will worry grow crops? Will concern in itself keep an illness from infecting you?

This fear-focused person isn’t doing anything for God. In truth, such a person is showing a lack of faith. And what does acting out of fear truly do?

A germophobe might never get sick, but he never gets to experience some of the wonderful things God has given him.

Again, this doesn’t mean, “Do what you want.”  That’s not God-focused. It simply means, do what God wants, trusting He will provide and care for you. He will.

Don’t be afraid for your life. I promise, you’ll die one day. But the saved will live again.

Don’t be afraid of poverty. You were born with nothing, and you can’t take any of your money or possessions with you after you die.

Instead, hold fast to God. He is enduring and everlasting. He will give you what you need.

This is a perfect time to fix your thoughts on God. This is a perfect time to look at your life and ask yourself if you’re really serving Him. This is a perfect time to glorify Him by being generous when others seek to horde for their own comfort. This is a perfect time to glorify Him by being grateful for what you have, even if it’s not that much.

Whatever you do, do it to honor Him.

For our panel: Even as teachers and preachers of the word, would you claim that God occupies your every thought and action? How do you reorient yourself if/when you realize you’re not focused on God in a certain moment? Is going to church “enough” Bible study? Is there more one should do to be God-focused? What verses are good to go to, to help one focus on God?

Book Review: Anxious For Nothing by John MacArthur

Book Review: Anxious For Nothing by John MacArthur

Anxious for nothing
Image of the book’s cover was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes under fair use doctrine. 

I have been, and feel I will always be, a man of ambition. I’m constantly after something. I’m task and goal oriented. The bulk of my earthly motivations are built around a specific and (usually) measurable goal.

There are a lot of advantages to this. I consider myself reliable. People tend to come to me for results, and I would like to think I deliver. My drive has helped me to publish the books I’ve published and be recognized at work.

But that drive wears on not just me, but those around me. I say again, I’ll always be a man of ambition, but I don’t want my ambition to cause more selfishness than I already tend to demonstrate. I don’t want my ambition to push those I love away or blind me to things that I already have.

Those are the reasons I choose to read Anxious for Nothing as my next book by John MacArthur. Reading this has given me a new perspective on how to separate drive from stress. I’m still growing in this, but having a biblical perspective on life has already dramatically reduced my number of rants. I’m certain I used to have a daily average. Not only is this frame of mind sinful, it’s also just exhausting. I’d be mad at a coworker. I’d be annoyed at one of my friends. I’d be frustrated over my sales. All of these things are self centered. This book is essentially a blunt reminder that we trust God to provide for us. For one (such as myself) who seeks to move and do, that action can become sinful (and unhealthy) if it leads to stress and resentment.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2
Image of John MacArthur taken from his website for review purposes.

This book points out that fact, and it provides biblical reasoning for why that thinking is unnecessary. It’s hard for me to do, but the more I let go of my own pride, the more I find things working out. I don’t currently further endorse the phrase “let go, and let God.” My problem isn’t with the literal words, but the connotation they might have. If I just sit in my chair without eating or drinking, I’m going to eventually starve to death.

So rather than detract from MacArthur’s valuable insight, I choose to focus on a single verse:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

The more I focus on that, the more I find my other efforts bearing fruit. MacArthur’s book is an arrow pointing to a frame of mind that can truly bring peace to anyone working with stress or frustration. I’d recommend it to anyone, but it’s probably best suited for believers who may be feeling overwhelmed or stressed about their daily life.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt