Do. Not. Worry.

On a scale of 1-to-Insane, how worried you right now? If not now, how has worry eaten away at your core in the past? Worry affects everyone, whether you are a follower of Jesus or not. And just because you declare Jesus as your King does not mean that you are immune to the effects of worry.

Jesus directly addresses worry in Matthew 6:25-34. He tells us simply not to worry about your day-to-day needs. If you do, it might cause you to look past God, the only One who can provide all your needs. God is not just a provider, He is THE provider. As Author and Creator - indeed King - of the universe, it is all His and He is the originator of it all.

Those who reject God altogether are a god unto themselves and they seek to make their own path, all the while fretting themselves to death in the process. God knows what you need. He knows everything! He always has and always will. Do you want proof of this? Think about about the birds. Do they have to work for their food as if it were a 9-to-5 job, or does God provide it for them? Or what about beautiful flowers? How many long hours do they need to toil at work to adorn themselves in such splendid fashion? Both questions have obvious answers. And you must not worry about such things, because you are far more valuable than a bird or a flower because you are made in the very image of God.

When has worry ever worked to your benefit? Think hard before you answer. Many of you recall the feelings of anxiety that accompanied procrastination which in the end yielded beneficial results for a project or a task. But what did you give up in the process? Peace of mind, sleep, health, perhaps even relationships that were sacrificed because of your incessant response to stress. Worry and stress are not the same, but they are roommates and the best of friends.

The solution to worry is given to us by Jesus Himself in Matthew 6:33, a beautiful and powerful verse of truth: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” We combat worry with trust. When we live as citizens in God’s kingdom, we acknowledge with our lives that our King is good and will provide for our needs. Should we still work? Yes! If we do not, we do nothing more than treat our King as if He exists to serve us, not the other way around.

Worry is the enemy of the Kingdom of God. It takes focus away from the one true King and puts it squarely on our shoulders, from which we face the cruel reality that we are helpless to provide for and fully meet our own needs. Worry spills over and compounds, never satisfying that which we need the most. Only God can fulfill our needs.

Follow the Leader

Throughout my life I have never had much trouble believing in things. The tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and at one point the Easter Bunny were are all factual figures in my life upon whom I knew I could rely. As I grew older and maturity and reality dawned on me, I abandoned belief in those entities because they weren't real. Sure, they are still real to children across the world and I would never dream of breaking one of their hearts by giving up the goods (so don't let them read this!), but I can remember the disappointment mixed with relief when I found out that there were other reasons for all the candy, presents, and money.

Why was I relieved to find out these characters were not actually real? I believe it was because I had come to rely on them for so many years for momentary things, not long-term solutions. Once I ran out of teeth then I was out of luck. Santa only came once a year, but what if he somehow forgot? And the Easter Bunny was always very odd to me, nevertheless he was a constant source of those amazing Cadbury Eggs that I loved so much. There was always this fear that one of these guys or girls would not deliver and that I would be left with nothing to show for my belief.

Belief is a good thing. The foundation of belief is faith, that unwavering understanding that what you can't see will truly deliver when you need it most. But much of what we say we believe is not really build on faith at all, but rather on the shaky legs of convenience. For instance, I believe a chair will hold me up when I sit in it, not because I put such value in the chair but rather because it's what chairs are supposed to do. I don't trust chairs for anything. Instead, I have expectations of them.

True belief leads to something more costly. That is because when you or I are ready to fully invest ourselves into the person or idea in which we believe, we step into a whole new realm of reality and identity: We become followers.

Belief is the easy part. All we have to do is say it and no one may know otherwise. But in order to follow, there has to be movement toward that which we believe. And when there is movement, there is evidence that what we say we believe as fully a reality.

When it comes to Jesus, followers are who He wants. Those who, once they put their hand to the plow, never look back (Luke 9:62). Believers pack the pews at set times and then leave their beliefs at the door until the next gathering. Followers have their faith with them always because they live that faith - indeed it is just as strong whether in the assembly of other followers or at work or in line at the grocery store.

If I don't see my need for Jesus, then simple belief is enough. Anyone can say that they believe in something or someone as long as it is convenient and gets them things that they want. When I choose to follow and not simply believe, I do so expecting to see God move and work in my life because that is what I truly want and need so desperately. I believe in Jesus and therefore I choose to follow Him with everything I have and all that I am.

Passion 2017

For several years now I've been able to go as an adult leader to the Passion Conferences in Atlanta. Having returned today, my mind is swirling with all sorts of thoughts, images, and mental tiredness that affects old guys like me when they go non-stop for almost three days. I realize that I am probably getting too old to keep doing this but I simply can't help myself.

If you have never experienced something like the Passion Conferences, then a brief blog post like this is probably not going to amount to the much more than the first few pieces of a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. But it's just too difficult to not make at least a meager attempt to recap some of the more memorable moments for me.

Imagine yourself sitting in a room surrounded by around 60,000 other adults young and old who want one thing - to know God in a more intimate way. And I'm not just talking about experiencing warm and fuzzy "Yes, Jesus loves me" kind of tingles; I'm talking about a passionate desire to know God on a deeper level than ever before. To breathe Him into your lungs. To see His work manifest in the world around you. To want Him more than anything else. This is what I walked into when I stepped into the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta on Monday night.

As someone who has been involved with student ministry for a couple of decades, I've experienced my share of trendy events where there is a lot of glitter and glitz but very little substance. Passion isn't like that. Yes, the production level is top notch and the music is about as professional and "tight" as you can imagine, but that is not what it's all about. Those things are avenues to open the heart and mind all the more so that God can fill it with Himself.

John Piper. Francis Chan. Christine Caine. Levi Lusko. Louie Giglio. Beth Moore. Chris Tomlin. Christy Nockles. Matt Redman. Passion Band. Hillsong United. All of these men and women come together to lead and teach through music and the study of God's word and life experiences that captivate the souls of all in attendance. It's not some weird hypnotic effect. Rather, it's interactions with real people who love God with everything they have whose sole aim is to lead this generation of college students to also love God with a reckless abandon. There are no gimmicks, just God.

Being one who is one score removed from being the age of most the participants, it would be easy for me to sit back with arms crossed and marvel at what God is doing in the lives of these students. However, that isn't what happens. Instead, I find myself captivated by what I am hearing and seeing, the spectacle of much being made of God. In return, I am drawn in as well and my soul is well-watered. I leave inspired, encouraged, connected, focused.

Eventually my days as a participant at Passion are going to come to an end. Each year, thousands of men and women my age come to Passion as "door holders," volunteers who selflessly and tirelessly serve to make sure that every aspect of these three days flows without interruption. I see myself in that role sooner than later. But for now, I am grateful to be a part of this movement of God as it flows and picks up momentum, showing no signs of slowing down or fizzling out. Thank you, Passion, for allowing an old guy like me to share in the joy of what you do.

Who's got your back?

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