Saturday, May 30, 2009

Not to Worry

Life. It's busy. Fast-pace. Full of uncertainty and the frightening unknown....my life is, anyway.
Being a sophomore in high school, my schedule is always packed - the calender always full. There's school, church, sports, clubs, more school, odd jobs, driver's ed, extra-curricular activities, preparing for college...oh, and did anyone mention free time?
Often my busy life mentally catches up to me. Sometimes I get overwhelmed to the point of panic and tears. And the older I get, the more it happens, with more and more of thoughts like these bombarding my mind: What if I don't get good grades? What if I'm not doing enough extra-curricular activities? Will I even have enough money for college? And what will I do after college?
Recently I had another one of these breakdowns. I just felt helpless and hopeless. I felt like a failure - like I wasn't going anywhere. I wondered if I was really following God's will, and if my life was really worthwhile.

Do you ever feel like this? I know that teens aren't the only ones who get overwhelmed with life. It happens to everybody. Everyone wonders what the future might hold, and so we try to prepare for it. Preparing for the future is good, but the truth is, you can only do so much, and as for the rest, you have to leave it up to the Lord.
The last time worry hit me, I desperately turned to these words for help. Read this passage of scripture slowly, and dwell on the words - not just now, but every time you feel overwhelmed with life.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
There fore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his life?
So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not worry, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
- Matthew 6:24-34

The verse that really hit home with me was verse 33, Seek first the kingdom of God...and all these things shall be added to you. If we just seek God and His will, then we do not have to worry about anything else, because those things will be added unto us! We don't have to worry about life if we're seeking God every step.
I'm so glad I don't have to make decisions on my own. If I did, there's no telling where chance would take me! But God has a perfect plan for our lives. That's why we should consult him at every decision that comes our way.
And that's also why we shouldn't worry. God has everything in control. He loves us more than birds. He loves us more than flowers. So if God takes the time to care for those things, who can't even work to earn their food, don't you think He would take the time to care for us, those whom He loves more than anything?
Worry is a weapon the devil uses to make us miserable and to shake our faith in God. But we have an even more powerful weapon - scripture - that we can use against the attacks every single time.
So don't worry so much about the future that you miss out on today. Follow God's will, and He will take care of you!

Just a Thought...

When we're outside or in the car on a bright, sunny day, what do we generally do? Put our sunglasses on. Why? Because when we don't have the shades on, the light is so blinding that we can't see the world around us very clearly. So we put sunglasses on to dim the light and see the world easier.
What if there was such a thing as spiritual sunglasses? Sometimes God's effulgence is so extreme for us that it hurts, so we put on "sunglasses," dimming God's brightness so we can look at the world instead.
But God wants us to bask in His brightness. He wants us to stare fully into His light. It might be hard at first. The blinding brightness might even hurt. But then we will be able to focus on the things of Heaven. When we are truly focused on God, the rest of the world will become dim to our eyes.
So take off your spiritual sunglasses. Focus on the light of God.
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. - Colossians 3:2

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What Are You Waiting For?

As I've said thousands of times, exercising your freedom to speak is so important. You really can make a difference.
Everyone, at one time, has probably experienced that moment when something tugs at your heart - that moment when you feel a flame spark inside and you desire to do something to make a difference. It might have been when you saw a hungry child on TV, when you saw an abused animal at the shelter, or when you realized that America was backsliding.
Today I was listening to an old Natalie Grant CD (I love Natalie Grant!), and I came across this inspiring song.

What Are You Waiting For?

Sometimes I get the overwhelming feeling
So sad those faces on TV
If I tried to make a difference would it help anyway?
But then I stop and to myself I say...

So you wanna change the world
What are you waiting for?
You say you're gonna start right now
What are you waiting for?
It only takes one voice
So come on now and shout it out
Give a little more
What are you waiting for?

Sometimes I feel a little helpless
Seems like I can't do a thing
But anything is possible just you wait and see
Good things happen if you just believe...

Someday somehow
Gonna take that step
Cause time is ticking away
Right here right now
Before it's too late
Gonna face tomorrow today...


So, what are you waiting for? If anything has ever tugged at your heart, know that it was God. And if you've ever heard a voice inside your head that says you can't make a difference, know that it was Satan.
Not only do we have the constitutional right to speak out (a right that won't last long if we keep silent!), but we have a right, and a responsibility, to make a difference that comes directly from God.
God gives us dreams and passions for a reason. Like the song says, it only takes one voice to make a difference.

You can be that one voice. Don't let fear stop you.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Heaven

With the recent passing of Joyce, our beloved Pastor's wife, Heaven has been on my mind a lot.
Joyce was an amazing person. She was a loving friend, a wise mentor, a brilliant writer, and a strong Christian. And she always looked forward to finally getting to Heaven. Even before she had cancer, she was constantly eager to discuss Heaven with anyone.
Joyce didn't speak of physical death as a dark, frightening or mournful experience. Rather, she focused on the spiritual side of death, which is really an extraordinary awakening into the awesome presence of God.
Joyce was blessed with many dreams and visions of Heaven. I'll never forget the following vision she shared one time:
A person in a dark room reached for the doorknob and turned it. When the door cracked, a wonderful, soft light began to filter in. Heaven was on the other side of the door.
Our life on earth is like the second it takes to reach out and grab the doorknob. Heaven is like entering a completely new room.
Many people today, even Christians, tend to focus entirely on this side of death. We try not to think about dying. When we do think about it, it's with dread, and so we live like it will never come.
But have you ever stopped to really consider what happens on the other side of death? Is death the end of life, or is it just another step we have to take so that we can enjoy life in all its fullness? Heaven is such an abstract thought for our human minds to grasp. But instead of being overwhelmed by the endless (literally) aspects of Heaven, think about the things we do know!
No more sadness! Can you imagine never having to cry again? Never again having your day spoiled by disappointment or heartbreak?
No more pain! Pain is something a lot of people are afraid of. Not in Heaven!
No more sickness! Imagine never having to take your temperature again - never having to worry about catching a virus - just enjoying life! Think about the people you love who are now plagued with sickness, whether it be a cold, the flu, cancer, even arthritis...When we get to Heaven, all of that will be gone! We'll be in perfect health!

No more fear!
We'll be reunited with old friends! We'll even meet new friends, and even make friends with people like Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, Esther.... (Whoa!)
We'll walk hand-in-hand with Jesus! Just think of what it will be like to run and sit in God's lap anytime!
I like to think that everything on earth that gives us joy and pleasure is just a sample, just a miniature, of what we'll experience in Heaven. For instance...What if roller coasters are just a smaller form of the thrill and excitement we'll be experiencing for eternity? What if eating candy is just an idea of what we'll be feasting on in Heaven? What if the love and friendship that we know on earth is just a foggy image of the unimaginable fulfillment we'll receive when we're in the presence of our Creator, our Father, our Savior, our King, our Friend...?
Now death doesn't seem so dreary after all. Maybe it's hard for us to fathom now. But maybe when the body we currently inhabit finally draws its last breath, our eyes will be unveiled, and the life we lived here will become the foggy dream, and our souls will be free to fly home.
If we'd take on this mindset, and see this life for what it really is - a fleeting second compared to eternity - perhaps we'd be happier. If we thought about Heaven more, we could focus more clearly on what really matters in the grand scheme of things. Petty annoyances that used to ruin our day wouldn't matter so much anymore. Serious choices, like taking the time to share the Gospel with someone, would. The choice you make, or don't make, to live for Christ in this life would matter greatly.
When I think of Joyce now, I don't think of a dead body. I don't think of a person that used to exist, who is now gone. Instead, I think of Joyce as healed of cancer forever. I think of her as dancing to her heart's content at the very throne of Christ! I see her joyfully walking the streets of gold, holding hands with her Savior...holding hands with Jesus.

Some bright morning when this life is over
I'll fly away
To that home on God's celestial shore
I'll fly away
I'll fly away oh glory
I'll fly away (in the morning)
When I die hallelujah by and by
I'll fly away
When the shadows of this life have gone
I'll fly away
Like a bird from these prison bars has flown
I'll fly away
Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I'll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I'll fly away
Just a few more weary days and then
I'll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I'll fly away
-I'll Fly Away


....I’ll not fear when I pass through the valley,
Though encompassed by shadows of night,
For I know that beyond it is shining
An eternal and glorious light....
Shall we weep when we know the departed

With their toils and their cares now are done,
And the bliss of eternity’s ages
In the presence of God is begun?
-Beyond the Shadows