Steps to reducing anxiety that are founded on trusting God

Core of the Bible Podcast #34: Steps to reducing anxiety that are founded on trusting God

Today we will be exploring the topic of trust or faith, and how God is faithful to provide for all of our needs, reducing our anxiety over that which is unknown when we place our trust in him and follow some simple biblical directives .

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Matthew 6:26-32

Your life is more valuable to God than all the beauty and provision represented in his Creation; he knows all of your needs.

As believers, we are easily and constantly distracted from what is truly important by our bodily needs and desires. Living on this earth presents us with challenges and struggles that can pull our focus away from God.

REDUCING ANXIETY THROUGH TRUST IN GOD

Trust is about perspective. When we focus on the things of this world more than God, then we have lost our true perspective. Yeshua calls this condition “little faith.”

Yet, the simplicity of trusting God can restore us to the correct spiritual perspective and emotional “center.” A sincere understanding of God and his ability to provide for our basic needs gives us a foundation of trust that we can then build on. When this reality seeps deep inside to our core, it becomes a tap-root that can sustain us through the most adverse conditions.

According to Yeshua’s instruction here in Matthew 6, God cares for what he creates. Whether birds, flowers, grass, or people, he has built into his Creation practical mechanisms for sustenance that allow his universe to thrive. Seeing this provision and beauty within his Creation is his evidence to us, his proof, that he has the ability to provide for our needs. All we have to do is recognize this, and rest safely and securely within his care.

We are urged by Yeshua to ponder these evidences for ourselves. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

When we see birds, we should consider how they can find the food they need without any type of farming or storage of goods. The contrast he makes is stark: day to day provision vs. constant toil and storage which is subject to disaster or thieves.

Is there really a way that we can live day to day, and is this what Yeshua is encouraging all of us to do, to be vagabonds and travelers?

As romantic and idealistic as that sounds, my belief is that Yeshua is emphasizing how we many times will tend to focus on the process and methods of provision so hard that we lose sight of who is the One who is the ultimate Provider.

This is a lesson that I constantly need to be reminded of. As a husband and father of four, I have spent the majority of my adult life concerned with providing for myself and my family. Ultimately, I have known that whatever job or place that I worked was a provision from God, but many times the stress became dominant when I took my focus off of him and sought to provide my own security and provision, or when the demands of the work seemed to overwhelm me.

In those moments, I found that all I had to do was focus on one day at a time, one issue at a time. As I did so, I would find that each new day brought a little clearer perspective and a little more insight, and pretty soon things would be working out.

While this may seem simplistic and a bit naive, it is a method that has allowed me to successfully maintain a career of twenty five years and provide (as well as could be expected) for my family in that time.

That has been my path so far, but it may not be yours. God may be calling you to do any number of things in any number of places; maybe several different places, or hundreds of places, for that matter. The primary thing for believers is to not focus on thinking that you are somehow providing for your own needs all this time, and that whatever you are currently doing is what is expected for the rest of your time here on this earth.

REDUCING ANXIETY THROUGH PRAYER

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Anxiety over things we cannot control not only cannot add any time to our span of life, but actually has been scientifically proven to shorten it. The more we stress over things that have not happened yet, the more we tax our immune and nervous systems to where actual damage can be done to the working of our physical bodies.

Philippians 4:6-7 – Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Another lesson I continue to learn is on the benefits of ongoing prayer throughout the day, asking for God’s involvement and giving over my stress and anxiety to him.

While I have a pretty good routine of praying first thing in the morning to set my mind on the things of God before setting my mind on the things of the world, I confess, my prayer life throughout the rest of the day is practically non-existent. I become consumed in the responsibilities and requirements of my family, my home, and my work, and the things of God easily slide to the periphery of my experience.

However, I am learning that if I maintain an attitude of thanksgiving and continue to present requests to God throughout the day, real requests about real things, he is faithful to relieve my anxiety on those things, and to provide real evidence of his working through those things I have given over to him.

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

If we are to truly take Yeshua’s words to consider the lilies and let this line of thinking sink deep into us, we can find that we have the ability to look past the latest trends and fashions and know that if we are trusting in God, we will have the clothing we need to do whatever it is we need to do. Whether it is clothing for normal use, work clothing, or specialized outfitting for unique environments, God is able to provide whatever we need.

Recall the provision of the ancient Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years, as even Moses reminded them.

Deuteronomy 8:4 – “Your clothing did not wear out, and your feet did not swell these forty years.

While my clothing may not be the latest style, I certainly have what I need, and more. God has been faithful with me and my family.  Now, while I have never had clothing that lasted for forty years it definitely illustrates for me that if God is able to do that, then he is certainly able to provide whatever our possible needs may be. My trust and faith in him is strengthened when I consider the lilies of the field.

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

This admonition was directed to an audience that for the most part did not know where their next meal might come from. They were an agrarian society that depended on the weather, the success of the local crops, and the avoidance of conflict. Warfare could interrupt that food cycle. Drought could interrupt that cycle. Pest invasions could interrupt that food cycle. Food was a precious commodity that hung by a thread on any given day of any month. With no refrigeration or collective grocery commerce, this was a real and daily concern that faced the majority of the population at that time.

However, for most of us today, food and drink are merely distractions that we toy with as to the newest cuisine or latest fad food. In our American culture at least, we have idolized food and food preparation, food consumption, restaurants, chefs, nutrition, food plans. We have TV channels dedicated just to food and food preparation and consumption. Restaurant eating has become a pastime and an adventure.

The variety and volume of food available to the average American consumer is mind-boggling in the context of historical comparison with past cultures and civilizations. And yet, even though we have plenty of necessary food available, we still spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about different kinds of food and what we will be eating.

Ironically, and quite sadly, with all of this food available, we still have a large problem with hunger and need in America. We have become so lop-sided in our thinking that we are missing the forest for the trees. If we were to simplify our food obsession, reduce our available portion sizes, and focus on focusing in on the quality natural food that God originally intended for us, we would be much better off and our national health and outlook would improve greatly. With the right motivation and logistical preparation, this could also allow for some of that surplus to make it to those who are in real need.

Yeshua is encouraging us to look at nature, these natural examples of birds and flowers to remind us that these necessary things are part of existence in this world. Just as birds need to eat and flowers exhibit their God-given splendor, Yeshua prods us to consider these provisions amidst the many unnecessary cares we carry for these things in this world. We can express the wonder at how God makes it all work, and keeps his people provided for among the seeming chaos of this life.

The ancient believers expressed a similar amazement at the care that God bestows upon mankind within the vastness of his Creation:

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. … When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:1, 3-4

God cares for us, not because we desire him to, but because that is his role as a parent. Just as we always want to ensure our own children are provided for, how much more God wants to do the same for his own children! One of the main aspects of this provision is expressing trust in God that he will do so.

When we know and trust God, we are considered righteous, certainly as we grow and seek to follow his commands and live according to his Word. We exhibit this faith by praying and requesting for God to be active and involved in our lives, and the lives of those around us. This is where the peace that passes understanding resides, in true faith and recognition of God’s all-encompassing provision for his Creation.

REDUCING ANXIETY THROUGH GIVING

Psalm 37:18-19, 25  – The LORD watches over the blameless all their days, and their inheritance will last forever.  They will not be disgraced in times of adversity; they will be satisfied in days of hunger.  … I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread.

Where we need to exhibit care is in not condemning those who are hungry and in need, as if somehow they are the cause of their own misfortune by not trusting in the God of the Bible. That may only be a small part of a larger context of areas of the world where they are living through the same issues their ancient progenitors faced: drought, famine, and conflict. As a measure and enactment of our trust and faith in God, we should honor him by sharing with those in need to the best of our ability, whether through personal, hands-on assistance, to local agencies or organizations that are working in those areas to provide assistance to those in need.

Psalm 82:3-4 – “Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.  Rescue the poor and needy; save them from the power of the wicked.”

Just as it was the responsibility of the ancient Israelite judges to act justly with their own people, it may so happen to be that we are the ones whom God will use to provide the justice and rescue that those in need are desperate for. Sometimes, we may be the answer to the prayers of others.

There is no doubt that food and clothing are essential for life; about these necessities, Yeshua even taught that “your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” As we have opportunity amidst our own wealth and abundance, it may be that God is prompting us to share our resources with those who have none.

As we begin to see the larger picture of provision in the world in general, it allows us to get our eyes off of our own needs and anxieties and instead look for answers and solutions to helping others. Our anxiety can be relieved not only by trusting for God’s provision for us personally and through diligent prayer throughout each day. We can also become less anxious as we find ways to helping others in the way we would want to be helped, were we in the same situation.

Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Our faithfulness in meeting the needs of others is the surest way to reduce our own anxiety over these needs for ourselves. That, in and of itself, is also a provision of God.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

A faith that looks beyond what it can see

2 Corinthians 5:7 – For we walk by faith, not by sight.

This impactful verse has morphed into a sound-bite of our Christian culture through the pervasive screen-saver and bumper-sticker mentality of this current generation. Bad teachers and charlatans alike have used this verse out of context to justify any number of invisible principles, promising future rewards which currently cannot be seen with the eyes. Promoters of the health and wealth gospel convey how God intends for all believers to be wealthy, even if they are currently in poverty. “Walk in the faith of your future wealth, not by the poverty of what you currently can see, and you will have it,” they falsely claim.

However, maintaining the actual context of this verse (2 Cor 3:5- 5:15), the apostle Paul conveyed this sentiment amidst a lengthy treatise on the believer’s ability and mindset in overcoming adversity and real-life persecution for their faith, not a depressed financial condition. This was an appropriate and necessary statement of encouragement based on the situations and conditions that the believers, especially the apostles, faced every day. In their ministry of growing the congregations and teaching the early believers in their new-found faith in Messiah, they were being persecuted, and by persecuted I mean they were hunted and pursued, most times in fear for their very lives.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 – We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.

The treasure they carried was the message of “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory” (4:6) conveyed through “the glory of the Messiah, who is the representation of God,” (4:4). Paul says, “we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us,” (4:7).

Just as the Messiah represented God, the apostles were representing to the congregations the truth of God’s glory and kingdom through his provision of the Messiah Yeshua. Even though their bodies were being debased and abused, Paul conveys that this was only a “momentary light affliction [which] is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory,” (4:17). “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that Jesus’s life may also be displayed in our mortal flesh,” (4:11).

This is hardly the stuff of mere economic hardship.

Continuing his discourse, Paul begins an analogy of life in the present world contrasted with life in eternity which cannot be presently seen.

2 Corinthians 4:18, 5:1 – So we do not focus on what is seen [i.e., all of the bodily abuse and persecution they were enduring], but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands.

This “earthly tent” is the outward form of the present physical body. This is not necessarily an invention of the apostle Paul, it was a description of the physical body that was prevalent in contemporaneous writings of the time.

Wisdom 9:13-17 For who can learn the counsel of God? Or who can discern what the Lord wills? For the reasoning of mortals is worthless, and our designs are likely to fail; for a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthy tent burdens the anxious mind. We can hardly guess at what is on earth, and what is at hand we find with labor; but who has traced out what is in the heavens? Who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy Spirit from on high?

These writings were included in the Septuagint Greek version of the Hebrew Bible in the apostle Paul’s day, and indicate that this idea of the physical body being likened to a tent was not unknown among Jewish thinkers of those times. Ironically, the passage also laments not being able to understand the wisdom and counsel of God unless God sent his holy Spirit, the very thing that Paul is making the case for regarding Messiah Yeshua in the Corinthian passage.

2 Corinthians 5:4-5 – Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.

The direction of Paul’s argument is building toward the distinction between the earthly visible body, this outward physical body, and the eternal, invisible life of the spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 – So we are always confident and know that while we are at home [that is, as in a familiar country] in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight [i.e., outward, visible form]. In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home [that is, as in a familiar country] with the Lord.

To walk by faith and not by sight is to not become overwhelmed with the condition and situation of the outward form of the natural body, that which can be seen. The pinnacle of Paul’s discussion lies in walking by faith (that which is unseen but very real) in distinction with becoming distressed through the seen and known condition of the outward form of the body through all of its current persecutions and abuses.

This is the true hope that believers in Messiah share! Our faith can overcome all situations and obstacles that can be seen, because they are only temporary (4:18). Our faith reaches beyond these temporary things into eternity, even beyond the “tent” of this outward form that we currently have.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Taking refuge in God

Psalm 91:2: “I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.””

Throughout the Bible, and in the Psalms especially, is a phrase in Hebrew which is variously translated as refuge or trust. This term implies an action based on an intimate and deep-seated bond of faith in Yahweh as creator God.

To take refuge somewhere is to seek safety from danger. It is an action based on the belief that where one seeks refuge one will be safe. This is one of the clearest and most striking depictions of what faith in God is.

By contrast, one does not take refuge in a place where one does not feel safe or does not expect it to withstand an onslaught of aggression.

A refuge is a fortress of protection and safety. A refuge can provide calmness and reduce anxiety of risk or danger. However, a refuge only works when one is within its domain. Once a person leaves a refuge, they are exposed to danger like anyone else. They are liable to lies, dangers, and capture by the enemy.

Jeremiah 16:19: “Yahweh, my strength, and my stronghold, and my refuge in the day of affliction, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, vanity and things in which there is no profit.”

According to Jeremiah, outside of the refuge there is nothing but lies, vanity (or emptiness) and things in which there is no profit. Jeremiah continues in the next verse to speak of the tendency of men to manufacture artificial alternatives to the true refuge of Yahweh.

Jeremiah 16:20: “Shall a man make to himself gods, which yet are no gods?”

Whether the idolatry of graven images, or of placing one’s trust in the weakness of men, both options are fraught with danger.

Psalm 118:8-9: “It is better to take refuge in Yahweh, than to put confidence in man. It is better to take refuge in Yahweh, than to put confidence in princes.”

It is a comfort to know that Yahweh knows those who have placed their trust in him and he honors their commitment by fulfilling their needs for safety and deliverance.

Nahum 1:7: “Yahweh is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knows those who take refuge in him.”

Through his Messiah Yeshua, Yahweh has been shown to be a God who keeps his promises. Because he keeps his promises, we can have confidence that our trust in him is not misplaced. Our faith can be securely established in him.

Hebrews 6:11-12, 18-19: ” We desire that each one of you may show the same diligence to the fullness of hope even to the end, that you won’t be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherited the promises. … that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…

For believers today, we can know that our faith in God provides safety and security beyond the reaches of this world and its designs against us. God desires all men to place their faith in him, and so be under his protective care and watchful eye.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Trust in God, not these other things

The Bible has an abundance of passages that are familiar to many, extolling the benefits and joy of trusting in God.

Psalm 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
Psalm 25:2 O my God, in You I trust, Do not let me be ashamed; Do not let my enemies exult over me.
Psalm 31:14 But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, “You are my God.”
Psalm 33:21 For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name.

Yet the Bible also abundantly cautions us about where we should not place our trust.

Job 15:31 “Let him [the wicked man] not trust in emptiness [vanity], deceiving himself; For emptiness will be his reward.
Psalm 44:6 For I will not trust in my bow, Nor will my sword save me.
Psalm 62:10 Do not trust in oppression And do not vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.
Psalm 146:3 Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
Jeremiah 7:4 “Do not trust in deceptive words…
Proverbs 28:26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.

Each one of these verses is easily a sermon or lesson in itself. Yet collectively they illustrate the futility of many of the things we find ourselves continuing to place our trust in day after day.

Our trust or faith is that which we have confidence in or rely on. If our confidence resides anywhere besides God and his provision, then we place ourselves, our lives, our countries, in jeopardy.

God desires us to place our confidence in him, not because he is narcissistic, but because as our Creator, he knows what’s best for us. As a loving parent or a protective eagle, he watches over the faithful to protect and guard our way. Ultimately, he wants what’s best for us.

Psalm 91:1-4 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

Psalm 40:3-4 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD. How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.

Trusting in God is where true joy and blessing resides, because God does not change, and our faith and trust in him has lasting consequences that far outweigh any current circumstance we may be enduring.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Psalm 52:8 But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

An active trust that can calm our hearts

“”Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.”

John 14:1

The disciples had many reasons for their hearts to be troubled. They were following an itinerant preacher, one who was being shunned by the local synagogues and who was calling out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. They had given up essentially everything, their livelihoods and their social status, if they had any, to follow him.

Yeshua reassures them that to have placed their faith in him was equivalent to believing God; that is, in the fulfillment of his purpose and plan for Israel and the nations.

Yeshua is speaking here of the validity of his ministry as the spokesman for Yahweh God. Trusting in the words of Yeshua is equivalent to trusting the words of the Father, because he spoke exactly what the Father wanted him to say.

John 12:49-50: “For I spoke not from myself, but the Father who sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. I know that his commandment is eternal life. The things therefore which I speak, even as the Father has said to me, so I speak.””

To have faith or to believe is to place one’s trust in some thing or someone. The disciples had demonstrated where their trust was placed by following Yeshua wholeheartedly and completely. Their lives were bound together with his, and therefore with the life of the Father. This unity with him in all things is what caused their faith and understanding to grow.

For those of us today who are placing our faith in the words of Yeshua, we can be assured that we are believing the very words of God himself. In the same way as those early disciples, our lives should be bound together with his. When we are faithful in this way, we can rest secure in the knowledge that his words are continuing to come to pass. When we commit our lives to his purpose, as the disciples did, we can know that his kingdom is being established throughout the world. And knowing that God is continuing to accomplish his purpose in this world should prevent our hearts from being troubled.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Why believers don’t need to be anxious

“Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient.””

Matthew 6:34:

Many believers understand that it is not necessary to be anxious about things that haven’t happened yet. Yet with all the information and uncertainty in our lives, it gets difficult to continue to keep our eyes on eternal things.

I have seen many believers take the perspective that we don’t need to be anxious because “God has everything in control,” or “everything will work out the way that it supposed to.” While those sayings may be essentially be true, that’s not what Yeshua is teaching us here. If we really look at what Yeshua is teaching us in Matthew 6, we have to see the word therefore.

He says therefore don’t be anxious.  The word means accordingly, or likewise. It means that Yeshua is asking us not to be anxious is based on something he said previously. So what is the context of this teaching? Let’s back up one verse and see what it says.

“But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:33:

The context of his teaching is that we don’t need to be anxious when we are seeking first God‘s kingdom. Seeking first the kingdom of God allows us to not be anxious. Why not? Because when we are seeking first the kingdom, God will provide for all of our needs; that’s the promise.

Of course the logic then plays out that if we are not seeking first his kingdom we have every right to be anxious. God is not obligated to provide for our needs. If we are not seeking God‘s kingdom first, we have no idea what is coming our way tomorrow or anytime in the future. If we are not seeking God‘s kingdom first we get blown around by every wind of doctrine or circumstance that comes our way. If we’re not seeking God‘s kingdom first then we listen to false ideas and rumors and accept those things as being true, when we have no idea what they’re really based on.

Instead, I encourage you to not be anxious about tomorrow by trusting God and seeking his kingdom first. Then you can focus on today. Then you can focus on expressing and abiding by God’s kingdom right now. How can we show our love for God today? How can we show our love for others today?

Don’t be anxious; seek the kingdom, today.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Fear of God removes all other fears

“Don’t fear, neither be afraid. Haven’t I declared it to you long ago, and shown it? You are my witnesses. Is there a God besides me? Indeed, there is not. I don’t know any other Rock.””

Isaiah 44:8:

If we are fearful, then we are not trusting completely in God.

This famous passage in the book of Isaiah speaks of the uniqueness of God compared to the idolatry of the world. People put their faith and their trust in all sorts of things when they are not trusting the God of the Bible. Perhaps it’s riches, armies, their own resources and strength, or other gods fashioned out of wood and stone; none of these provide the depth and security of trusting in the one true God.

We know he can be trusted above others because what he says has come to pass. His faithfulness which is demonstrated through his word gives us all the reason we need in order to trust him fully for the future we cannot see. Since he knows the end from the beginning, we can rest within his perfect will when we trust in him completely.

Trusting in him removes other fears: fear of men, fear of events beyond our control, fear of death. Additionally, when we are faithful witnesses of him to others, our trust is renewed, our faith is strengthened, and our fear diminishes as we recount his deeds among his people over the generations and millennia of time. This God can be trusted because he has demonstrated is faithful.

Therefore, we have no need to be fearful in this life. Fear evaporates in the burning presence of active faith in the one true God. Fear of God removes all other fears.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Trusting in God or wealth

Core of the Bible podcast #27 – Trusting in God or wealth

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of trust, and how that in which we have placed our ultimate trust, God or Wealth, will always be evident in our lives.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24

You cannot be bound equally both to God and to your confidence in wealth. One will always take precedence over the other, and the results of following either will be evident in your life.

The issue that Yeshua focuses on is not necessarily the results of following either (which are evident throughout the biblical writings), but the complete inability of humans to multi-task serving God in among other responsibilities in this life. He says emphatically, “you CANNOT serve God AND wealth.” In literal terms, the text reads there is NO ABILITY to do both.

Looking at the example Yeshua gives us, it’s as if we were to picture ourselves as slaves, and we have two masters. These masters, while both responsible for us, can command us with conflicting information that would require actions that would go against the other.

For example, let’s say “Lord 1” commands us to fetch water from a nearby spring for his thirst, and immediately “Lord 2” commands us to get his slippers for his cold feet. Which command do we do first? We can’t do both tasks at the same time, and yet they are equally important. Do we get the water first, or the slippers? Both Lords are equally commanding and we are obligated to obey them both.

It becomes readily apparent that if we are to choose one Lord over the other as the primary Lord of us, then the secondary Lord’s commands are moved to the secondary position. In this case, if we chose Lord 1 and his water fetching as being primary, we would then do that task first, and Lord 2’s task of getting his slippers would have to wait.

Also of note is that Yeshua does not provide a third option, as if there was an option to have no Lords at all and just do whatever we want at any given time. He posits that those are the two options, either God or wealth, and we will in fact serve one primary Lord from those options.

This raises the point of just how powerful Wealth as Lord is; he (if we are to personify him for our discussion) actually rivals God in scope and influence, at least from our limited perspective in this world. This is also why he is so dangerous.

Let’s continue this little thought experiment of personifying Wealth as Lord. From our perspective, this Lord can control where we live based on our financial situation. He can control what and how much we eat based on our buying power. He can control the type of car we drive, or if we even have one. If we do have a car, he controls how long our commute is based on where we have to perform our work. He can control our daily lives based on other types of employment requirements we have: how long we have to spend each day at our jobs and how much time off we are allowed to do what we need to do for ourselves and our families, if we have one. Perhaps we have no spouse and children because the Wealth has not granted us the financial stability to do so. He controls our ability to receive appropriate health care, and may even be directly responsible for the length of our lives depending on how hard we have to work and what kind of dangers we face doing our jobs. The list goes on: where we can afford to vacation, what kind of clothes we wear, the social circles we are a part of, and so on.

Wealth as Lord is a very powerful master, indeed. When viewed from our limited perspective, it becomes immediately apparent why people choose to serve the Wealth as Lord, since Wealth appears to provide for the best outcomes of all of these things. Perhaps at times we have also served this Lord, as well. Even if we don’t always do what he wants us to do right away, many times we still answer his call.

But here is something to consider: perhaps if we can look beyond Wealth as Lord and see that there is only one Lord of Wealth, then we find that we only truly have one Master.

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 – Be careful not to say, “My own ability and skill have gotten me this wealth.” You must remember the LORD your God, for he is the one who gives ability to get wealth; if you do this he will confirm his covenant that he made by oath to your ancestors, even as he has to this day.

1 Chronicles 29:12 – You [Yahweh] are the source of wealth and honor; you rule over all. You possess strength and might to magnify and give strength to all.

Proverbs 8:18, 21 – Riches and honor are with me [Wisdom], long-lasting wealth and righteousness. … that I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, and that I may fill their treasuries.

If we are faithful with the Wisdom which God provides, we will have the ability to look to the only One who provides what we need, and that is God.

Yeshua confirms which Lord needs to always be first:

Matthew 6:32-33 for all these [things] do the nations seek for, for your heavenly Father does know that you all have need of all these; but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these shall be added to you.

We all have necessary obligations in life, but if our over-arching purpose for everything we do does not rest in God and his kingdom, then we have by default chosen to place our trust in the other option, and Wealth then becomes our Lord. We should always seek FIRST the kingdom and its priorities, and then place the concerns with wealth and provision as secondary, because the promise is then that these things “shall be added to you.”

—–

According to the New Testament writings, covetousness is equated with idolatry (Colossians 3:5). When viewed from this perspective, it is clear that God cannot be worshipped among any other gods, as one of many.

Yeshua makes it clear that every choice in life will fall under one heading or the other, God or worldly wealth, and whichever choice is made is a determination of which deity is being trusted.

Some of the writings which were contemporary with those of the biblical texts convey the dangers of focusing too much on the building of wealth and security of this world’s goods. While considered apocryphal by some, the writer of Ecclesiasticus penned the following practical wisdom almost three millennia ago:

Sirach 31:1-11 Wakefulness over wealth wastes away one’s flesh,

    and anxiety about it drives away sleep.

Wakeful anxiety prevents slumber,

    and a severe illness carries off sleep.

The rich person toils to amass a fortune,

    and when he rests he fills himself with his dainties.

The poor person toils to make a meager living,

    and if ever he rests he becomes needy.

One who loves gold will not be justified;

    one who pursues money will be led astray by it.

Many have come to ruin because of gold,

    and their destruction has met them face to face.

It is a stumbling block to those who are avid for it,

    and every fool will be taken captive by it.

Blessed is the rich person who is found blameless,

    and who does not go after gold.

Who is he, that we may praise him?

    For he has done wonders among his people.

Who has been tested by it and been found perfect?

    Let it be for him a ground for boasting.

Who has had the power to transgress and did not transgress,

    and to do evil and did not do it?

His prosperity will be established,

    and the assembly will proclaim his acts of charity.

This whole narrative proclaims the honor of the one who, even though he may be rich, does not seek after it with all of his being.  Acts of charity would be evident with him as he seeks to not transgress the commands of God, and therefore his prosperity would be established.

Yeshua also proclaims this same principle in a story that is related of an encounter he had in his day with a rich young ruler.

Matthew 19:16-22 – Now someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.”

In the case of this sincere seeker, Yeshua gets right to the heart of the issue and puts this young man in the cross-hairs of the decisive issue: in order to attain to eternal life or salvation, will this man trust in his riches, or simply place his trust in God?

We may view the man’s response with empathy, because, while the question isn’t necessarily directed at us, we should also understand we are faced with the same principle. Where do we stand when it comes to our wealth? Are we willing to place the needs of others over our own security?

In concluding his discussion with the rich young seeker, the disciples expressed their astonishment at this principle that he seemed to be espousing. Wasn’t it the rich who were shown to be blessed by God, and thereby the ones who were essentially guaranteed an entrance into eternal life?

Matthew 19:23-26 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.”

With God, what appears impossible to us becomes possible. It is not our trust that provides, but God who provides. Our trust in him merely becomes the means of demonstrating that it has been directed into the correct place when it is resting in the providence of God’s mercy and bountiful provision, whether for salvation or provision in this life. When that occurs, we then allow God the freedom to be God in our lives, and for him to provide and direct as he sees fit for his purpose and kingdom.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 – “Now God who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God…

1 Timothy 6:17-19 – Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others. In this way they will save up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future and so lay hold of what is truly life.

This statement by Paul to Timothy is a reference to the very principle Yeshua made to the rich young seeker. God is the one who provides us all things. Since that is the case, do we really think that we can somehow provide for ourselves in any meaningful way beyond what he has given us?

This is the root principle that Yeshua was revealing. If we are choosing to trust wealth over God, then we are looking to the provision rather than the Provider. That is the foundation of all idolatry: trusting in a created thing rather than the Creator.

Instead, let’s learn to move away from our own perceived security and into the only true security that exists: that which comes from God. Once we learn to trust God, to really and genuinely trust him for every provision, it’s as if a whole world of possibilities opens up, and allows us the freedom to actually seek first his kingdom.

—–

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Godly faith that roots up mountains

Truly I tell you that if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and has no doubt in his heart but believes that it will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Mark 11:23-24

These verses have been used in many ways over the years, most notably by the “name it and claim it” mindset prevalent in some of the various strains of Christianity. Within those groups, it is common to understand the meaning of this passage as being used as a measure of someone’s faith to serve their own greed. If one simply believes enough, they can have anything they desire.

However, in a 19th-century commentary on this passage from John Lightfoot, we find an interesting reference from the Talmudic literature of the Jews that may help to explain this unusual term:

The Jews used to set out those teachers among them, that were more eminent for the profoundness of their learning, or the splendor of their virtues, by such expressions as this: הוים  ﬠוקר הוא He is a rooter up of (or a remover) of mountains. “Rabbah Joseph is Sinai and Rabbah is a rooter up of mountains.” The gloss [or the interpretation is]: “They called Rabbah Joseph Sinai, because he was very skillful in clearing difficulties; and Rabbah Bar Nachmani, A rooter up of mountains, because he had a piercing judgment.”[1]

John Lightfoot. Commentary on the New Testament From The Talmud and Hebraica. Hendrickson Publishing. 1989. p. 283.

A modern commentary expands on this idea.

The Jews used to call their greatest teachers by the expression ‘removers of mountains.’ They would say for example that there was not in their days such a ‘rooter up of mountains’ as this teacher. He was so skilled that he could root up mountains. The expression was used to highlight the fact that the teacher had a profound insight into weighty or mountainous problems. Nobody could deal with those difficult problems. But this man could handle them. He was able to move these mountains as though they were small things.
We all had this kind of experience. One day, you wrestle with a particular issue, and it feels like you are facing a big mountain because you don’t know how to handle it. You just can’t move it out of your way. Every time you think about it, you find that you can’t cope with it. And then, you meet a very wise person. He understands your problem. He is able to help you. As he guides you, the problem you thought was so difficult suddenly becomes manageable. The obstacle, the mountain, has been removed.
Rabbi Rabbah bar Nachmani was a person like that. He was called ‘a rooter up of mountains’ in the Talmud ‘because he was exceedingly acute in subtle disputations.’ He had piercing judgment. The problems that people found insurmountable, this great rabbi could see right through it.
So this expression was applied to people who had deep spiritual insight.

Yves I-Bing Cheng, M.D., M.A., You will say to this mountain – Mt 17(14-21) (meetingwithchrist.com)

While the term may apply to those who have great spiritual insight and discernment, we need to keep the meaning of this metaphor within its proper context. Yeshua bases this whole notion of having great spiritual insight on a key principle: “Have faith in God,” (Mark 11:22).

As we review the language in that statement a little more closely, we see that it also carries several shades of meaning, as represented in various English translations:

  • Have faith from God
  • Have the faith of God
  • May the faith of God be in you

The qualifier is not stated in the Greek; typically when God is identified, the phrase is ho theos (the God). But when the qualifier ho is not there, as it is in this passage, it can also mean something along the lines of “godly faith” (the faith of God or from God) which some of these other versions bring out.

Having godly faith, even as small as a mustard seed, can provide a path through even the most difficult of problems. A godly faith is one that trusts that God ultimately has all things under his control, and that there will be a way through whatever challenge may be facing us.

Yeshua completes the thought by saying, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,” (Mark 11:24). This isn’t a magic charm of faith to say that if we believe strongly enough, we can have whatever we want. Instead, armed with the metaphor of being “rooters of mountains,” believers always have the opportunity to trust God in finding a way through whatever barriers they may face. By committing all of our difficulties to God in prayer, we need to trust he has already provided the answers we need; we just need to open our spiritual understanding as “rooters of mountains” to see them.

The godly faith is one that trusts God for all things: our food, our drink, our clothing, as well as insights for a way through any challenges we may face. If this is the case, then what more can a person possibly need in this life that God has not already provided for us as believers?


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Trusting God rather than men

It is better to take refuge in Yahweh than to put confidence in man. It is better to take refuge in Yahweh than to put confidence in princes.

Psalm 118:8-9

Believers are sorely tested when it comes to this type of trust in Yahweh. This type of faith can define who we are. In our lives, we can be confronted with situations in which it can become necessary to make the hard decision to abide by the dictates and overtures of men, or to maintain our trust in God.

To complicate things further, the lines are not always as clear-cut and transparent as we would like them to be, which is why ongoing trust in God is necessary.

Albert Barnes comments on this trust:

It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man – This is stated apparently as the result of his own experience. He had found people weak and faithless; he had not so found God. Compare Psalm 40:4; Psalm 62:8-9.
Psalm 40:4 – Blessed is the man that makes Yahweh his trust, and respects not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Psalm 62:8-9 Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. Lowborn men are but a vapor, the exalted but a lie. Weighed on the scale, they go up; together they are but a vapor.
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man – Literally, “Good is it to trust in Yahweh more than to confide in man.” This is the Hebrew form of comparison, and is equivalent to what is stated in our version, “It is better,” etc. It is better,
(1) because man is weak – but God is Almighty;
(2) because man is selfish – but God is benevolent;
(3) because man is often faithless and deceitful – God never;
(4) because there are emergencies, as death, in which man cannot aid us, however faithful, kind, and friendly he may be – but there are no circumstances in this life, and none in death, where God cannot assist us; and
(5) because the ability of man to help us pertains at best only to this present life – the power of God will be commensurate with eternity.

Trust in God is preferred over trust in men because of man’s weaknesses and inability to always foresee the right way to go. In fact, many times the opposite is true.

Additionally, our trust in men can be broken when they are unfaithful and do not keep to their own standards and commitments. In these cases, we have to find another source of trust that is larger than our circumstances to be able to rise above the fray.

To trust in God is to have a resource beyond what the rest of the world can see or know, which is why it is so valuable. With the wisdom that God provides, believers can share this confidence with those who have no hope, or those who can’t see beyond the present situation. The encouragement we receive from trusting God can extend out to those around us who may also have lost faith in men.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.