Racial Reconciliation

Achieving racial reconciliation is challenging and seemingly impossible — both in our country and within the church. The stipulations imposed on us because of our differences should not determine how we relate to one another, but sadly, it seems they do.

The most recent deaths of Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge, LA) and Philander Castile (St. Anthony, MN) by police and the deaths of 5 police officers (Dallas, TX) by Micah Johnson have once again ignited lingering embers of hatred and fear within our nation. We hear cries of “Black Lives Matter,” “Blue Lives Matter”, “All Lives Matter,” and more — each with their own allegations, critics, and followers.

Reconciliation 6When it comes to racism in America, it seems like our country hasn’t learned from the past or grown up from its failures of slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and social bias. We can point fingers, blame politicians, scoff at social activists, and become hardened to the problems. We can remain ignorant to it or try to ignore it. But the problems of racism and the realities of its hatred are only increasing. Today, racism in America is no longer just a black and white issue.

Racism comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Racism isn’t just a southern problem, an urban problem, a Middle-East problem, or a American problem. Racism is a human problem. And it has always been a sin problem. It can be found in every culture but, it is most visible when cultures clash and inequities are felt.

At its core, racism begins with selfish pride and can be flamed into selfish hate when influenced over time with experience. Its siblings, classism and elitism, come from the same selfish, sinful, Satantic origins.  Racism won’t be eliminated from the world until sin is cleansed from our hearts and removed from the world in God’s time.

Human history, especially American history, demonstrates that diversity can too often complicate life and contradict holiness, but in Christ, a place where by grace we belong, we find unity. Lord help us, “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Reconciliation 4With this prayer, may we who belong to God’s family by faith in Christ alone always celebrate and prioritize our Christian family identity in Christ above ALL else (including our view of police or our stance on politics) and find our unity in Christ as the truest definition of our lives regardless of our skin color, cultural differences, socio-economic backgrounds, family status, or political leanings.

We need to live the way Christ wants us to live— united in Him. Diversity within the body of Christ has been the DNA of Christianity from the first century, and especially of the church—and the Lord delights in it!

Our reconciliation with others will never happen by pursing unity – it will only come from pursuing Christ who reconciled us to God.

Consider the following Scriptures:

For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him. (Romans 5:10-11)

In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19–20)

Only when we are reconciled with God through faith in Christ as our death substitute can we have hope of reconciling with others through life’s sojourn.
Reconciliation 1Since the shooting of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, our country has become a tinder box of racial tension, division, and fear. Over the last week of the latest racial conflicts in our country and here in our community, we’ve heard some rhetoric that seems way over the top. We’ve experienced the anger and fears between the black community and law enforcement. We’ve been horrified by the vengeance of misguided individuals. But, should the overreaction of some cause us to overreact or worse, not react at all?

What can I do?  What can you do? WHAT CAN WE DO?

Intercede through prayer. Ask God to soften our hardened hearts, reveal our racial blind spots, and heal the deep festering wounds. The Lord God is the only one who can do so (Psalm 139:23–24). We know that reconciliation is God’s will according to His Word (Romans 12, Ephesians 2, and 2 Corinthians 5), so let’s pray without ceasing that we will be His ambassadors of peace and ministers of reconciliation. Let’s pray for those who are grieving deeply today over the loss of lives and weep with them. Let’s pray that we will respond to God as we reach out in grace to others – even those who are different and see the world differently than we do. Let’s pray for our brothers and sisters who are living in fear because of the color of their skin. Let’s pray for our police officers and other first responders who are serving faithfully during days of intense scrutiny and pressure. Let’s pray for the Lord to give wisdom to our governing authorities as they lead our country, “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2).

Instruct your own heart and mind through clear teaching of God’s Word under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We must recognize that the misinterpretation of the Bible has been utilized as a tool of prejudice and the misuse of Scripture as weapon of racism throughout American history, so we must approach Him in humility to learn from the Lord rather than reinforce our anger, justify our distrust, or rationalize our sinfulness. Let’s read more of the Bible to feed our souls with God’s heavenly perspective (could I suggest Ephesians?) than refreshing your newsfeed on social media which is filled with the vitriolic bias of humanity’s limited viewpoints.

Interact with others who are different. Let’s build intentional relationships (friendships), with neighbors, coworkers, classmates, and, especially, fellow members of God’s family who are different ethnically or racially. Let’s be those who are quick to listen to others who view the world differently because of their culture or their experiences, slow to speak our mind and share our opinions, and slow to become angry with those who are different than us. This starts with believing the best rather than assuming the worst of others who like us, bear God’s image. Verbally acknowledge the hurts and fears of others and seek reconciliation in Christ.

Reconciliation 5I confess, the outlook of this ongoing racial conflict which has been embedded in our nation since its beginnings and within our sinful hearts since the Garden (Genesis 3) looks hopeless. But, with God, nothing is impossible (Genesis 18:14; Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37, 18:27).

Please, Lord Jesus, hear our prayers, transform our hearts, and reconcile our relationships.

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

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The Power of Prayer

The backbone of anything done for God is prayer. The inner core of any work that will last for eternity comes from prayerful dependence on the LORD. Throughout the centuries, those who systematically, consistently, and dependently intercede for the people of God and ministries of the church make up that backbone.

In most cases, it’s the older, experienced, seasoned saints who understand this the best and and pray the most. A lifetime of walking, stumbling, and clinging to God has taught them the necessity of intercessory prayer.

PrayerThose who are younger more often look to external things that make churches thrive, attract people, and build the kingdom of God. Things like the design of the buildings and security of the facilities, the friendliness of the people, the style and the excellence of the music, the communication skills of the preacher, and other aspects of a church are usually seen as determining factors for the effectiveness of a church. Certainly, those are important matters and should be given careful thought and be fully funded, staffed, and led. The biblical and spiritual reality, however, is that virtually all advances of the church for the glory of God are the result of believers in Christ who understand the significance of prayer and faithfully pray.

Early in his military career under the leadership of Moses, Joshua learned that real strength was not in his sword, but in the power of God. The first mention of Joshua in the Bible comes after the Amalekites’ attack upon the stragglers at Israel’s rear following their exodus from Egypt:

“At Rephidim, Amalek came and fought against Israel. Moses said to Joshua, ‘Select some men for us and go fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the hilltop with God’s staff in my hand.'” Exodus 17:8–9

Moses' prayerMoses, now in his eighties, took the staff of God that he used to part the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16) and ascended a nearby hill overlooking the battlefield. Joshua, in his fighting prime, took charge of the army. In the ensuing battle, when Moses lifted up his hands in intercessory prayer, the army of Israel prevailed and when, due to fatigue, he lowered them, Amalek gained the advantage (Exodus 17:11). Soon Aaron and Hur were called to help and support Moses, seating him on a stone and standing each at one side to hold his hands up toward Heaven. When the sun went down, Joshua and the army of Israel had defeated Amalek and his army (Exodus 17:13).

That was a day Joshua would never forget. He learned that real victory was not in his own strength, military strategy, or leadership skills, but in the power of the LORD that comes through prayer. Forever fixed in his mind was the image of Aaron and Hur coming to Moses’ side and lifting his hands up to God in prayerful dependence. Throughout the rest of his life, Joshua put into practice the lesson he learned at Rephidim: the real power for any work done for God is prayer.

It’s the same today for us as the people of God. Prayer is the work that God uses to transform the world. E.M. Bounds said of leaders who have had effective spiritual impact, “They are not leaders because of brilliancy in thought, because of exhaustless in resources, because of native endowment, but leaders because by the power of prayer, they could command the power of God” (Prayer and Praying, Chapter VIII).

praying handsPrayer means much more than just saying prayers and much more than praying by habit or through a list. Prayer is more than believing in the power of prayer. Prayer is calling out to and depending completely upon the the personal, triune, sovereign God of Heaven who wants us to pray, hears us when we pray, and moves because we pray. That’s why prayer is the backbone for the work of the church. Prayer is the essential, inner-core strength that is required for spiritual victory in our lives, in our families, and in our friendships as we lift up our hands toward the LORD’s throne (Exodus 17:15-16, John 15:5-8, Ephesians 6:18, 1 Timothy 2:8, James 5:16).

PrayingPrayer is the reliance upon God that enables us to put on and utilize the  full, spiritual armor of God, “for our battle is not against the flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, agains the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:11-12). If we hope to have strength as the church and victory in this world, we must be the children of God who pray.

I’m praying today for a revival of real prayer to produce a spiritual revolution in our hearts that would empower us to change the world for God’s glory. Let it begin with me, LORD.

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

 

State of the Union

state-of-the-unionDuring tonight’s State of the Union Address by President Barak Obama,  the president said, “The future we want – will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics.”

What I’ve found is that find that most Americans have grown tired of politics, weary of the rhetoric, cynical of public servants, and fearful of the future of our nation. What is it about our times that government has ceased to work? Why are people simply so angry? Regardless of your political persuasion, it’s easy to be mad or, at least, frustrated by what’s going on in Washington.

How should we respond to the frustrations that so many of us feel with the current state of the union and future of our nation? How do followers of Jesus respond to politics, politicians, and government?

A Brief Historical Perspective

As long as we have had human government, godly citizens have disagreed with the policies, decisions, and activities of their governments. Times of dissent can escalate into a crisis. It’s then the we must decide, if we should actively protest or patiently wait on the government leaders with respect for their authority. Where should the line be drawn?

In the second century AD, the respected Roman scholar Celsus leveled an accusation of atheism against followers of Jesus. Because they did not worship the gods of Rome nor revere Caesar as a god, Celsus accused them of treasonous, atheistic beliefs. When persecution came their way, the early church endured it. There is little evidence of anything resembling early Christian resistance to government persecution.

Confessing Church in GermanyBut in World War II, Christians were among the boldest defenders of another oppressed people group. Faithful followers of Jesus played a major role in organizations such as the Dutch resistance, the French underground, and others that opposed Nazi aggression.  In Germany, followers of Jesus arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to Nazify the German Protestant church and stood up against the Nazi persecution and extermination of Jews. Dietrich Bonheoffer, a founding pastor in the Confessing Church, was involved in a conspiracy with members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler, primarily for the sake of the Jews. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and executed by hanging in April 1945 while imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp, just 23 days before the German surrender.

Closer to home, we find in the founding of the United States of America, biblical preaching and teaching within the churches provided the justification for the revolution against Great Britain and the establishment of a new government. Alice Baldwin, writing in The New England Clergy and the American Revolution, says,

“The teachings of the New England ministers provide one line of unbroken descent. For two generations and more New Englanders had . . . been taught that these rights were sacred and came from God and that to preserve them they had a legal right of resistance and, if necessary a right to . . . alter and abolish governments and by common consent establish new ones.”

The founding of this country – civil disobedience to colonial rulers as well as the framing of the key political documents – rests upon a Christian foundation. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the United States is a Christian nation, although some framers used that term. But it does mean that the foundations of the U.S. government presuppose a Christian view of human nature and of God’s providence.

A Broader Biblical Perspective

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there was political chaos and government crisis in Jerusalem. King Herod, the reigning king who was paranoid and felt threatened by the prophecy of another king, murdered all the boys under the age of two (Matthew 2:16-18).

Thirty years later, as the disciples walked the lake shore of Galilee with Jesus, they were gradually learning to embrace the principles of the kingdom of God while living under the authority of the Romans. They began to sense that their miracle-working Teacher was fulfilling the prediction of the prophet Isaiah, who said:

For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Could it be that Jesus was about to fulfill the words of the prophet? Could He be the long-awaited Messiah? With anticipation of a divine takeover of the world, imagine the disciples’ wonder—and confusion—when this King told them that they owed a pagan emperor their money and respect! Yet in the days just prior to Jesus’ execution on a cross, that’s exactly what the disciples heard Him say (Matthew 22:15-22). The disciples anticipated political liberation. Shockingly, Jesus taught His followers to respect even a pagan ruler.

But what if the government tells us to renounce our faith, or abort our children, or serve in a military waging an unjust war? The Scriptures also make it clear that respect for leaders does not mean unqualified compliance or complete silence. The New Testament apostles showed us that there are times to appeal to a higher authority. When the Jewish rulers commanded Peter and John to stop talking about the resurrection of Jesus, the apostles responded, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide;  for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20). When there is a direct conflict, Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29).

Centuries earlier, Daniel had similarly refused to comply with government actions when they forced idol worship on all the people of Babylon. For his courage, Daniel was thrown into a lions’ den. His gracious but courageous response to this injustice clearly shows that he did not have issues honoring the authority of King Darius. When he emerged unscathed from the lions’ den because he trusted God, Daniel said to the king,

“May the king live forever. My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths. They haven’t hurt me, for I was found innocent before Him. Also, I have not committed a crime against you my king.” (Daniel 6:21-22).

Barack Obama, John BoehnerWhen we have issues with our government in Washington, we would do well to consider the way Daniel respectfully resisted King Darius. When weighing our response to the government for the sake of our conscience, we must also consider how we are to respond to an institution that has been established by God. It’s an exercise in balance and perspective, requiring careful wisdom.

In our current political climate how should followers of Jesus respond? God has given us two clear guide-rails from Scripture as dual citizens of Heaven and of the United States or wherever you live (Ephesians 2:19Philippians 3:20):

1. Trust God’s Sovereignty. God is the One who has established government and it’s leaders as a servant in His hand to accomplish His purposes and plan.

1 Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. 2 So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. 4 For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. 5 Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience. 6 And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s public servants, continually attending to these tasks. 7 Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.  (Romans 13:1-7; underlining for emphasis)

Governments – both good and bad – are established by God as His servant. Therefore, He will provide the submissive, obedient follower of Jesus what is good from His perspective (Romans 8:28-31) – even when He allows adversity and suffering by the hand of those in authority.

Ted CruzGod is also the One who moves the hearts of rulers whom He has established as His servants. King Solomon, intending to prepare his son to rule in his place over Israel, gave his son the following wisdom in governing a nation: “A king’s heart is like streams of water in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses.” (Proverbs 21:1) A farmer directs water by digging irrigation canals. Similarly the Lord directs the hearts of kings – for example, Pharaoh (Ex. 10:1–2), Tiglath-Pileser (Isa. 10:5–7), Cyrus (Isa. 45:1–6), and Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:21; Neh. 2:1–8). God is sovereign, therefore, no wisdom, no understanding,  no counsel, no government, no president will prevail against Him (cf. Prov. 21:30).

Governments, people of position and office, as well as the decision-makers in Washington, may appear to wield power, but they are really under the enthroned authority of God (Isaiah 40:22-23). He can dispose of any human leader because He is over all of them. He can dispense with any government just as easily as He can make flowers wither and blow chaff away (cf. Isaiah 40:6–8). He can reduce them to a state of comparative nothingness. God is not only superior, but sovereign. Whatever form of government we may live under, God is still in control of it’s past, present, and future. Trust Him.

2. Pray for God’s Servants. God answers prayer that shapes both governments and our individual lives.

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Paul used four different ways to describe the kinds of prayers we should offer on behalf of our governments: petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings. Although the first three of these words have similar definitions, it is likely that Paul intended to emphasize the different ingredients that should be part of our prayer life for those God has placed in authority over us. Taken together, Paul’s call for such prayers reminds us that God wants us to pray continually for all those He has placed in authority over us in order to express our confidence in God’s authority and sovereignty that are His alone. Pray to Him for them.

Capitol buildingHenry David Thoreau, in Civil Disobedience and other Essays wrote, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” At times, it feels, like we are experiencing frustrations with government that lead to desperation like never before. Quite frankly, I’m fed up with the Fed!

It’s during times like these when I look out and feel beat down that the best option is to look up – to keep looking to Jesus. How should we respond to government frustrations? Trust God in His sovereignty and pray for the servants He has placed there – even and especially the ones in Washington.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Rubik’s Cube

Rubiks CubeI’ve never been able to figure out a Rubik’s Cube. I know – you figured it out in elementary school. And yes, 30 years later there are You-Tube videos showing you exactly how to solve it. But it’s always stumped me. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve seen others do it. Hearing them say how easy it is never makes it better, either. Every time I’ve tried, and failed, I eventually just put it down and walk away.

Sometimes life feels like a Rubik’s Cube. I just can’t figure it out. I’m stumped. I feel that I can’t do anything right. As a husband. As a parent. As a pastor. As a leader. As a friend. As a servant. As a follower. As a child of God. There are times that no matter what I say or what I do, things or relationships only get worse. I want to do what’s right, but I lack the ability or the discipline. When I can’t seem to do anything right I’m ready to just throw up my hands and walk away…

Other times, I’m working through an issue that’s so confusing that I can’t even figure out how to do what needs to be done. If I could just figure out the right thing to say or the right thing to do, everything would be better. Right?

Still at other times, my heart has grown cold and I don’t even want to. I know what I should do. I just don’t want to do it. My pride keeps me from thinking of others. My stubbornness makes me dig in for the fight. My sense of control keeps me from forgiving. The mountain just looks too intimidating to climb.

That’s why Philippians 2:13 is one of the most encouraging verses to me in the Bible:

For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.

God promises to both motivate and empower us. Read that verse again — it’s amazing! God promises to give us the want to and the how to do what He wants us to do as we look to Him and depend on Him.

I can’t — but He can!

When I focus on my limitations that lead to endless frustrations, failure is inevitable with fatigue to quickly follow. But God must work in us before He can work through us. We must come to Him in total dependence that He is good, that He is in control, and that He can change our hearts. Then, and only then, will He begin to work through us.

This principle is seen at work throughout the Bible in the lives of men like Moses, David, Peter, Paul, and others. God had a special purpose for each one to fulfill, and each one was unique, but also has serious flaws. It took God forty years to bring Moses to the place where He could use him to lead the people of Israel. As Moses tended sheep during those forty years, God was working in him so that one day He might work through him.

rubiks-cube completedThe power that works in us to enable us is the power of the Holy Spirit of God (John 14:16–1726Acts 1:81 Cor. 6:19–20). Our English word energy comes from the Greek word translated “works.” It is God’s divine energy at work in us and through us. The same Holy Spirit who empowered Christ when He was ministering on earth can empower us as well. God’s divine energy is available to motivate and enable us to serve the Lord (Eph. 1:18–23).

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

Whatever it is you’re facing today, remember you can’t, but God can.

Look to Him. Talk to Him. Cry out to Him. Wait for Him. Trust Him to complete His purpose in you.

Follow meas I follow Jesus Christ.

Prayer and Honor on Presidents’ Day

George WashingtonToday we recognize Washington’s Birthday, also known as Presidents’ Day, as a day to honor the life work and sacrificial service of George Washington, the first President of the United States. We also recognize the work and service of President Abraham Lincoln as his birthday was also in mid-February. In practical use, Presidents’ Day has become a day to celebrate and honor all our presidents, past and present.

Paul taught us to pray for our leaders, “for kings and all those who are in authority,” today and every day (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Peter instructed us to “Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him.” (1 Peter 2:13-14). We are to give honor to those who deserve honor because of the positions of authority God has given to them as His servants (Romans 13:4-7; 1 Peter 2:17). The same Peter who taught us to be subject to human rulers, also refused to obey the Sanhedrin when it demanded that he cease preaching the gospel (Acts 4:19-21). Peter believed that there was a proper place for civil disobedience when the laws of human government make it illegal to obey God (see Daniel 3:1-18), but to do so respectfully.

Barack ObamaThe commands in the inspired Word of God to pray, honor, and submit to governing authorities as God’s servants relate to the office AND the person, whoever it may be. Submission to them includes obedience, but submission also includes an honorable attitude from which the obedience flows.

We should do this regardless of whether these individuals are personally worthy of our submission, but because by submitting to them we honor God by obeying His Word. After all, the governing authorities for whom Paul called Timothy to pray and the Emperor to whom Peter called us to submit included Emperor Nero, the ruler who beheaded Paul and crucified Peter.

Whether you agree with your president and other elected leaders or not, you and I are to pray for them, not against them, to have wise counsel that leads to justice, compassion that results in mercy, and courage to stand for truth in oder to accomplish God’s will.  And we are to obey them unless such obedience requires disobedience to the Lord.  Obey your highest authority whenever you can, and God always. Obey the Word of God — pray, today and everyday, for the President of the United States.

Prayer for Teachers

Teacher AppreciationLord God Almighty and our Heavenly Father, we ask for Your powerful presence in our 72 public school campuses here in Plano, as well as the private schools, those homeschooling, and thousands across our country. Above and beyond the reasonable boundaries of our walls and security (Psalm 127:1), we ask for Your protection over our schools. Relieve our teachers and administrators from fear, yet, give them courage to protect our children and community when necessary.

Thank you for the 6,500 employees of PISD who serve in our schools. We ask that you would provide and retain teachers and administrators with integrity of character who will honor Your boundaries and plans for each child’s wellbeing and growth. Give our educators skill in teaching, wisdom in discipline, grace for each child, and peace in their classrooms.

High school teacherWe pray that you would provide all the time and resources necessary for each teacher to instill knowledge in their students and actively communicate with parents. We pray that you would give our teachers the insights and skills necessary to meet the individual educational needs of each student, and yet raise up an entire generation that would be equipped to lead their family, community, country, and world for Your glory.

We ask, Lord God, that you would use teachers to inspire each child to discover Your calling for them. We pray today that You would provide the opportunities for them to be ready for the future You have planned for them. We pray for students who have special needs and students who come from troubled homes that they would receive the extra grace, mercy, and love they need to overcome their extra challenges. Father, we ask that You would use the lessons in each classroom, the coaching on each field, and the experiences on each stage to prepare students to be critical thinkers, hard-working citizens, honorable leaders, and active participants in Your world.

StudentsEnable our principals, administrators, and school board members to see beyond the dollars and the desks to reach the families and children of our community. Provide Your generous resources to compensate teachers for all their sacrifices and effectively manage the needs of the students. Give them wisdom to know how to improve student & system performance, provide discipline & safe environments, evaluate & equip staff, and plan for the future.

We pray that Your power would not only be present in the lives of our teachers, but that You would be known through their faith, hope, and love. We praise You and thank You for them.

In Jesus’ Name and for Your Glory, Amen.

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Those in other parts of the world – and probably even my city – would consider some of my daily anxieties silly because I’ve never had to wonder about my next meal(s) or worry about an empty closet to keep me and my family warm. From a purely physical perspective of basic human necessities of food, clothing, and shelter, I have never been deprived – I’ve never had to worry.

Sparrow chicksNonetheless, there are some times when I am worried. There are days I feel overwhelmed. I’ve experienced terrifying moments of fear. I’ve had dark days of discouragement. There will be days of disappointment from not getting what I wanted or thought was needed.

And maybe that’s the problem – me.

When I’m concerned about what I want, what I need, or what I think I need more than what God wants, I become anxious. When I’m concerned about good things and important people (like my family, my friends, and even my church) more than what God desires, I become worried. That’s why Jesus says,

Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)

Life is so much more than basic needs, personal feelings, perceptions, desires, and wants here on earth. The greater reality than my physical, mental, and emotional needs is the spiritual reality that Jesus, the Messiah, is my whole life. Trusting God to meet my needs displaces all the fear, worry, and anxiety that fills my heart when I focus on me.

As a recovering people-pleaser, there are times I fret about not meeting the expectations or desires of others. Jesus spells out my problem with one word – idolatry.

Don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:31-32)

In it’s most basic form, idolatry is putting anything or anyone in the place that God alone deserves. The most basic solution to this human problem is trusting God. He alone is the source of life, the source of all good things, and the One who is worthy of our complete attention and devotion. Jesus speaks to me when my heart is set on the wrong things or people.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matthew 6:33)

The cure for my idolatry is the same cure for my worry – set my mind on Who and what is in heaven rather than who and what is on the earth. Seeking the kingdom doesn’t mean we ignore the good things and important people in our lives. Seeking the King and His kingdom is a matter of prioritizing our attention. Trusting God is not a passive rest, but an active search for God’s will by praying, reading His Word, and obeying what He has made clear. And one day, when Jesus, who is my life, is revealed, then I will also live with Him in all His glory.

SparrowIn the spring of 1905, Walter and Civilla Martin were visiting the Doolittles – friends in Elmira, New York. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for over twenty years. Her husband was, likewise, an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived joyful lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while the Martins were visiting with the Doolittles, Walter commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them the secret of their joy in the midst of pain. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “If His eye is on the sparrow, then I know He watches me.” The beauty of this expression of simple faith gripped Civilla’s heart and that same evening she wrote the words for this song:

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

If you’re prone to worry like me, follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.