Busy Bodies

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Busy Bodies

By Patricia Knight

To qualify that we live in a society comprised of busy people is an understatement of major proportions. Frantic to the point of distraction may be a more appropriate consequence of the activities that crowd our lives. We are proficient at multi-tasking. Dates on our calendars are filled months in advance. We are slaves of the ever-ticking clock, attuned to a shrieking alarm each morning. We are tethered to a cell phone and addicted to texting, both alerting us to instant updates of personal and newsworthy nature. 

Whether we tap our toes to the beat of music or an engineer calculates the exact orbit of a space rocket, we function in a time-space perimeter. Work weeks are identified by specific hours. The world is divided into established time zones; multiple time pieces line airport walls, identifying current hours for each country on an international scale. Clocks and calendars are integral components of our daily lives.

Do we feel the stranglehold of time commitments threatening our sanity like a speeding train out of control? We are finite beings; our time is limited, prompting us to use every hour to its full advantage. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time” (Ephesians 5:16, NAS). We are instructed to walk paths of spiritual wisdom, looking toward Jesus, revealing the urgency of our time and the necessity of obediently serving God each day.

Have you ever wondered how God manages His time? He maintains the solar system, answers incessant prayers, solves myriad crises, assigns angels to divine message delivery, interacts with believers, fulfills prophesies, and restrains Satan, just a smattering of our Lord’s functions. God is bound to neither clock nor calendar, exclusively human devices.  “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8-9). God has an eternity behind Him and another in the future. Why should He hurry? Though our Lord could have created the world within seconds by merely issuing a decree, He purposely savored the experience, accomplishing miraculous handiwork each day for a week.

Our heavenly Father is patient with His children. He is delaying future prophesied events to provide the opportunity for everyone, everywhere, to come to know Jesus personally. God is long-suffering, tenderly waiting for all people to respond to His unconditional love, constantly involved in our lives, everywhere present simultaneously.

Do we envision our prayers stacked up in a heavenly e-mail file, waiting for God to read in chronological order? “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139: 4;13-16). Our Creator knew each of us before we were born, He formed each individual, watched over the development of each cell in utero, and is now intimately familiar with each life. God has full view into our hearts, aware of every thought and intent, knowledgeable of the words we will say before tongues utter them.

God is immortal and infinite. He existed in eternity past and He will live forevermore. There is no need for Him to count minutes or days. He alone created time and matter. Our heavenly Father designed, created, and now maintains the entire universe. He accomplishes everything with patient purpose. Our Lord is immutable, not subject to change. His character is inconsistent with errors, displaying only purity and holiness. We are commanded, “Be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15), set apart, separated from sin and impurity, and devoted to God.

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Since we aren’t going to change our time-oriented world, how can we attain a more God-like approach to daily life? This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). We are commanded to “pray without ceasing” (Ephesians 6:18), “rejoice always” (Philippians 4:4), and to offer “thanksgiving in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), thereby adopting Jesus’ priorities.

God is our Protector. “He who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Psalm 121:3; 7-8). Our Lord is the unsleeping guardian of our souls, the One in whom we are commanded to confidently place our trust.

In our time-space framework, we confront limits. Because we are finite, we must be cognizant of clocks and calendars to responsibly manage our predetermined amount of time each day. Not one of us possesses the ability to be all things to all people at all times. Only God is described as omnipotent, all-powerful; omniscient, all-knowledgeable; omnipresent, responsive to everyone at one time. Our heavenly Father is infinite, with no limits to His presence or His person. He is timeless—eternal.

It is impossible for our mortal minds to grasp the idea of timelessness. Eternity is not an abstract term that describes a place somewhere out in the fuzzy hereafter. Eternal is a Person who was incarnated to live among us on earth. The Son of God taught us of His Father’s faithfulness and of His trustworthy promises. Jesus Christ is eternal; He has no end. As co-heirs with Christ, believers inherit the gift of eternal life that our Savior sacrificially earned for us on the cross of Calvary.

When Jesus appeared to His disciples after He arose from the dead, His resurrection body was not constrained by time or travel, unrestricted by walls or doors. He appeared and reappeared at will. When we live eternally with our Savior in heaven, the time-space limits we now experience will disappear; not a clock or a calendar will be needed. What a magnificent reward eternity will be for believers currently bound by finite obstacles.

King David wrote Psalm 31 during terrifying times when his enemies conspired against him using such overt, powerful intimidation tactics, David’s friends abandoned him. Even so, David admitted, “’I trust in you, O Lord,’ I say, ‘you are my God. My times are in your hands’” (Psalm 31: 14-15). Like David, do we desire to place our time and our lives in the Almighty’s capable hands, with unwavering trust against powerful enemies and unknown forces, relying implicitly on His faithfulness and power? Earthly time produces significant consequences when God’s characteristics permeate our lives. Readily accept the reputation as a busy body for Christ!

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Worrywart or #Worry Not

Worrywart or Worry Not

By Patricia Knight

As recorded in the Old Testament, Abraham and Sarah lived in the advanced civilization in Ur of the Chaldeans when God asked them to leave their comfortable home, family, and friends to follow Him. They unhesitatingly obeyed God and traveled to an unknown land for an unspecified period of time, giving up all things familiar for an obscure future.

The couple worshipped God faithfully and He blessed them with wealth, expansive land holdings, and burgeoning animal herds. God himself was Abraham’s greatest treasure. God promised him further greatness, but Abraham questioned what God could possibly give him of value since he had no heir to inherit his estate. What Abraham and Sarah desired most was a son, but Sarah had remained barren all of her life.  God then promised the couple an heir and descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore.

Years passed without the promised child. Both Abraham and Sarah were aging. Abraham was 85 years old; Sarah, 75. Were they worried? Though the Bible doesn’t specify such a reaction, we can assume both fear and worry were involved. Wondering if God had forgotten His covenant to them, they decided to take matters into their own hands. Abraham fathered a son, Ishmael, with their maidservant, Hagar. For the purpose of producing a male heir, such an arrangement was acceptable in their society, but Abraham and Sarah had blatantly disobeyed God’s law. The Lord’s characteristics of purity and holiness made it impossible for Him to renege on His promises. It was important they learned that their God was unequivocally faithful.

When Abraham was one hundred years old, angels visited, promising him that Sarah would give birth to their own son within a year. It had been fifteen years since the initial promise, sufficient time to worry about how, when, or if God’s promise would come to fruition. When God’s prophecy was concluded, all details were fulfilled exactly as He promised. Because the couple had irresponsibly implemented their own plan by ignoring God’s covenant, animosity arouse between the two sons, Isaac and Ismael, extending to all future generations of their descendants, the Israelites and the Arabs.

Worry is mental distress or agitation usually resulting from a pending or an anticipated situation. One pundit explains: “Worry is useless. If you worry that a bad thing is going to happen, and then it does, you’ve been through it twice” (Anon). Who wants double trouble?  Most of us practice discipline in areas affecting our health, and yet we implement worry, a health wrecking ball. Worry compromises our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being, displacing the peace of God.

Worship and worry are mutually exclusive; they repel like similar poles of a magnet. Worry is a spiritual handicap that casts doubt on the sincerity of our Christian faith. If we profess to trust our loving God, who plans every aspect of our lives, and we worry about how the features of every day are going to develop, what does that communicate about our commitment to our Lord? As Jesus taught His disciples, “‘You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule’” (Matthew 5:3, Msg.). Why do we always wait until we are desperate to call upon God?

Worrying reveals selfishness of character, a need to have one’s own way. When we allocate our time to fretting about circumstances over which we have no control, we waste precious moments that could be spent in prayer and Bible study, both drawing us closer to God.

The Apostle Paul understood the human tendency to spiral downward as we focus on worry during stress, grief, or emergencies. He advised, “‘Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life’” (Philippians 4:6-7, Msg.). Paul urges us to concentrate our minds on things with eternal value and release our worry through prayer, leading us into deeper spiritual territory where God transform us with power and grace.

Anxiety is created from the incapacity to deal with worrisome details. If we feel we must continually ruminate an issue, God provides the productive alternative: 

“Cast all your cares upon him {the Lord}, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

The ideal remedy involves admitting our sin of disobedience, asking forgiveness, and giving God preeminence in all areas of our lives. Jesus asks, “‘Can your worries add a single moment to your life?’” (Matthew 6:27, NLT).

Worry stalls the growth and development of our personal relationship with God. Jesus advises that we not worry about what we eat, drink, or wear. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else; and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:32-33, NLT). We have all of God’s promises before us in his Word. Like Abraham and Sarah, do we catch ourselves worrying about God’s timeline and jump ahead of His plans for our lives?

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, who gives wholeness and well-being to those who trust in Him. Peace is the tranquility of spirit believers experience when they commit their troubles to God in prayer and worry about them no longer. Jesus is engaged in the business of transforming insecure lives of worry to the enduring stability of peace. He cultivates peace in individual lives. Depend upon Jesus always and in all ways! Forsake fickle, frail worry for Jesus’ promise of peace!

Fearful Hands

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All hands will go limp; every man’s heart will melt.
Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them.
—Isaiah 3:7-8

Fearful Hands

By Patricia Knight

“Hands hang limp,” a description used four times in the Old Testament, is a metaphor expressing fear or failing courage. Isaiah 3:7-8 records, “All hands will go limp; every man’s heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them.” A typical reaction to intense fear is a limp, incapable mind and body. We freeze in our most ineffectual state. Doubts assail us; fear paralyzes us.

Jesus had just miraculously fed in excess of 5,000 men with a boy’s lunch of five barley loaves and two fish. After the baskets of extra food were gathered, Jesus commanded His disciples to go ahead of Him and cross the lake by boat while he dismissed the crowd. Then Jesus slipped away into the mountains for solitary prayer.

Imagine that you were one of Jesus’ disciples. By now it was dark. Jesus had left your group, assuring you He would rejoin you in Bethsaida. Each of you were familiar with the demands of navigation on the local waterways. Several of you were fisherman by trade, having spent your lifetime coaxing a living from the sea. Your group of disciples had rowed three and a half miles into the lake in the pitch darkness. There were no lighthouses or emergency flares; just total blackness.

From Jesus’ outlook on the mountain, He could see you, His beloved disciples, struggling at the oars as the wind buffeted your boat. “At the fourth watch of the night {between 3:00 and 6:00 am} he went out to them, walking on the lake” (Mark 6:48).  

Distracted by the wind storm and thinking only of survival, you disciples worked as a team to keep your boat on course. Suddenly, out of the dark, tumultuous night appeared what you interpreted to be a ghost. With terror in your hearts, you cried out in shock. You had learned the superstitions about spirits in the night, causing disasters. Perhaps this was a water spirit which you had heard spoken about in hushed tones by the elders who told of experiences encountered during their lifetime of boating and fishing.

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Immediately he spoke to them and said,
“Take courage! It is I.
Don’t be afraid.”

Then he climbed into the boat with them,
and the wind died down.
They were completely amazed.
—Mark 6:50-51

In response to your fear, Jesus immediately “spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Then He climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely amazed” (Mark 6:50-51). Not one of you had recognized Jesus until He spoke. Little did you realize when Jesus walked on the water toward your boat, He was displaying the majestic presence and authority of His Lordship, ruling over the waves. As His Word testifies of Him, “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them” (Psalm 89:9).

God commands, “Do not fear…; do not let your hands hang limp” (Zephaniah 3:16).  Though hands hanging limp is an alternative method to explain fear, I wonder if the disciples’ hands dropped their oars during that frightful, majestic night when Jesus appeared to His chosen men by walking on water?

How often do our hands hang limp when what we need is a surge of heavenly courage and power similar to the promise Moses gave Joshua centuries ago.

“’Be strong and courageous… The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).

Deut31-7-8-StrongBarbedWire--AMPOur experiences with fear may not be as visually explicit as witnessing our Master walk on the surface of water before our eyes. Nevertheless, our fears are just as real. Do such tragedies as developing cancer, being victimized with identity theft, or suddenly losing all of  our earthly possessions in a natural disaster, instill fear in our hearts? Do we allow panic and anxiety to wash over us like raging ocean waves, or do we grab the oars and look to the Master of the Seas as our Source of help?  Our head as well as our hands often hang limp with discouragement in an emergency situation. However, God has promised to care for His own, to provide for all our needs, and to give us victory in conflict.

Joseph was shamefully treated by his brothers when they forced him into a cistern and sold him as a slave to passing merchants. He was then sold to the captain of the guard in Egypt where he prospered, but without warning he was falsely accused of a crime and thrown into prison where he remained for several years, seemingly forgotten!

Job, known and admired as a model citizen who loved and served God, was victimized by having his property burned, his animals stolen, his children killed, and his health so compromised, he was humiliated, grieving, and in constant pain.

The Israelites, God’s chosen people, had suffered in servitude to the Egyptians as brick makers for centuries. They felt hopeless and helpless, waiting for God to rescue them from their cruel taskmasters.

Do any of our fears compare to what Bible characters suffered centuries ago? Perhaps our experiences pale in comparison or we could be dealing with much more horrendous hardships. The Israelites, Joseph, and Job all feared for their lives. Their circumstances reversed when God intervened, working out individual life plans, blessing them richly. Their catastrophic life stories are contained in God’s Word so we can learn from their mistakes and their victories. We aren’t so different from those biblical figures who suffered hardship, disease, and injustice. Their ultimate victory was a gift from God who loved them deeply, just as He does us.

God’s promises have remained constant throughout the centuries. “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared” (Proverbs 3:25, 26). God is worthy of our trust. With promises so personal and profound, why not permanently put fear to rest and rely on God’s rich mercy and grace? Don’t let your hands hang limp, but trust your Lord enough to grasp His hands and walk in step with Him day-by-day.

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Prayer When Dealing With Anxiety

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Since today is election day, I think we can all relate to this devotional I wrote quite awhile ago for the anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleThis particular devotional was included in the section titled Prayers of Supplication. 

 

When I’m dealing with anxiety . . .

When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought joy to my soul. 
—Psalm 94:19

 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 
—1 Peter 5:7

 

Anxiety weighs down the human heart,
but a good word cheers it up. 
—Proverbs 12:25 NRSV

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication,
with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God;
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 
—Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

 

May God bless you richly and grant you
increasing freedom from all anxiety and fear. 
—1 Peter 1:2 TLB

 

. . . I will pray.

Loving Father,

Edgy, anxious, jumpy—I just can’t seem to get it together this morning. Every little detail seems to be a big deal doing its dance across my mind. I really need Your help, Your peace, Your undisturbed calm.

I’m not sure how I got to this place. Too many newscasts with their dire predictions, too many experts telling me to watch out for this, never eat that, stay away from something else. There doesn’t seem to be one safe spot on the whole planet. Even at church, there are concerns about building funds and nursery workers and doctrinal controversies.

Lord, I don’t want to look at my life through anxious eyes. The world is what it is, but I know that You can give me peace in the midst of it. Right now, I offer all my anxious thoughts to You. I lay them at Your feet. And I ask You to sort through them and nudge me when I need to confront one of them. Until then, I’ll relax and rest in Your love and constant watchful care.

Amen.

 

Man’s world has become a nervous one,
encompassed by anxiety.
God’s world is other than this;
always balanced, calm, and in order. 
—Faith Baldwin

 

[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

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Faith vs Anxiety

 

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The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and
the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.
—George Mueller

 

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