One Day at a Time

December 31, 2016

I like the phrase at the end of Matthew chapter 6: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Jesus is arguing against worry and excessive anxiety. In Matthew 6:34, he is not talking about moral evil, but problems or troubles that come our way each day. The modern versions are quite correct in rendering it: “Each day has enough troubles of its own” (e.g., NIV and NASB). Jesus is urging that we have a deep trust in God and handle our problems one day at a time.

Jesus argues against worry in a number of ways in this passage (Matthew 6:25-34). First, he argues from the greater to the lesser. If God has given us life and a body, will He withhold the lesser things — food and clothing — which are needed to sustain the greater gift? Second, he argues from the lesser to the greater. Jesus teaches that God provides for the birds and the lilies of the field. Since we are more valuable, won’t he provide for us as well. Third, he informs us that the pagans — those without faith — pursue the same things, but our heavenly Father knows that we have need of them. Our perspective should then be: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33).”

Francis C. Ellis tells of a businessman who drew up a worry chart to track his worries. His findings were:

  • 40% probably will never happen
  • 30% concerned that past and couldn’t be changed
  • 12% other’s criticism of him
  • 10% concern over health
  • 8% legitimate concerns changed

This aptly illustrates Jesus’ maxim: “Each day has enough troubles of its own.” We need not borrow problems from the future to ruminate on, let us live each day with trust in God.

Certainly, there are times when disasters come, and anxieties press us down, but the solution is still found in “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV). Or, as Peter encourages, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NIV). Only trusting in God will see us through.

One sage has remarked, “The most pleasant and useful persons are those who leave some of the problems of the universe for God to worry about.” Let us take one day at a time.

Becoming a Regular Bible Reader

December 20, 2016

With its 66 books and 1189 chapters, the Bible can seem formidable in size. It is a library of books after all. You may have said to yourself that you would like to read it. But moving from talking to doing can be difficult. The end of the year can be a good time to think about projects that can be spread out over a calendar year. I use the end of the year to plan my next year’s Bible reading. Of course, one can begin at any time, but the beginning of a new year is an excellent time.

Goal. Most things do not get accomplished until we have set a goal for ourselves and made a commitment to that goal. The same is true for Bible reading. If you would like to be regular in your reading or read through the Bible in a year, the first step is to set that goal for yourself and make a commitment to that goal.

Plan. Secondly, we need a plan for reaching our goal. A system that proposes how we are going to achieve our goal and gives us a yardstick by which to measure our progress. You can have smaller plans like reading the gospels or reading the New Testament. Progress might simply be tracked with a book mark or a simple log of chapters read. In some Bible apps I’ve seen plans as short as five days on a particular topics. These shorter plans are to get someone started in reading. Doing several shorter plans in a row may build up someone’s confidence as a reader.

For reading through the entire Bible, there are many Bible reading guides available. We have paper ones in the foyer, but several Bible apps for phones and tablets have built in reading plans that can be used. I’ve been using electronic guides since switching to phone and tablet for my regular reading. Guides may take you through the Bible chronologically, through the Bible in canonical order, or they may give you readings in the Old and New Testaments each day. Some guides may give you two readings a day and others give you four different readings a day. I’ve particularly enjoyed M’Cheyne’s Bible reading guide and the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan. But these latter two take you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice. M’Cheyne’s also takes you through the Psalms a second time, so you may want to check on the amount of reading a plan has. However, I’ve found variety in readings help keep me from getting bogged down.

Finally, it is helpful to set up a routine. Having a special time during the day when you do your reading will help you form “the Bible reading habit.” Use a translation which you feel comfortable with and which is easy for you to read. A pencil or pen can be helpful to mark verses that are especially meaningful to you or to write down questions on things you don’t yet understand (many apps also allow highlighting and note taking). I typically make a pot of coffee first thing in the morning and then do my Bible reading. Others may find time in a coffee break, meal time, or right before going to bed.

With the right goal, plan, and routine you can begin to explore the exciting treasures of the Bible.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.” (Psalms 119:105, ESV)

Like Angels in Heaven

December 10, 2016

One aspect of Jesus’ response to the Sadducees about the resurrection was that they didn’t understand the nature of the future life. The Sadducees attempting to trip Jesus up with questions had posed a conundrum. A certain man had married but died childless. According to the law, his brother was to marry his former wife and raise up children for his brother’s lineage. In the story of the Sadducees, the second brother also dies childless and the same happens through all seven brothers. The Sadducees thought they have reduced the resurrection to an absurdity: whose wife will she be if seven brothers were all married to her?

Jesus’ reply counters this misconception, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30, ESV). I recently had someone email about this passage, and he noted no marriage, no sex, and no births in the resurrection. His “what do you think about this passage” likely had a subtext that he didn’t make explicit but went something like this. Marriage is the greatest thing I know in this life; how can that not be in the life to come!

The resurrection life will have no death, so there is no need for replacements, that is new births. The result is the marriage relationship is no longer needed as well. I suspect my friend felt like the next life sounded more like a fast than a feast, if that is the case.

I like C.S. Lewis’s reflections on this found in his book, Miracles. He imagines a small boy who finds the greatest pleasure in his life to be chocolate. Someone older attempts to explain that after puberty and in marriage, he will find a greater pleasure than chocolate. Chocolate is what the small boy knows, and he cannot imagine the greater pleasure. We are in much the same position as we think about resurrection life.

Every good and perfect gift comes from God. I find many joys in this life, and our good Creator is deserving of thanks for every one of them. The one in charge of the joys of this life is also in charge of the joys of the next.

Yet, this is not a perfect world. We experience pain. We suffer sickness and injuries. Evil is perpetrated to the hurt of others. Natural calamities happen. If even in this broken world, we experience great joys, imagine what it will be like in the life of the resurrection.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4, ESV)

I trust the one who is the source of all joys that even greater joys await those who will be like angels in heaven.