From Worry to Prayer: a reflection on Philippians 4

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In one of the most well-known passages from Paul on prayer, Philippians 4:6-7, we read these words:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Every time I read the first part of verse 6 – “Do not be anxious about anything” – I confess that I feel a tingle of guilt over my tendency to become anxious about things. However, if there’s one thing I have discovered, it’s that feeling unnecessarily guilty about the things of God often kills the growth that God wants to bring. I pointedly say “unnecessarily” there because there are certainly things we should feel guilty about, such as willful sin, disobedience to God’s express commands, or lack of love toward others. Guilt should lead us to repentance and the kindness of God’s grace.

However, when we start to feel false guilt over feeling anxious based on this verse, it doesn’t help us do what Paul is really after here in his words to the Philippians. He is most concerned with calling the believers to prayer. Perhaps the rendering of the old King James Version will help us here because it sounds so foreign:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

The word (μεριμνᾶτε) literally means to be anxious or troubled by many cares. Paul is encouraging the believers not to be weighed down with their worries (or even guilt about having those worries), but to turn toward the presence of God in prayer to present to God those sources of care and worry, thankfully trusting that God will answer.

To put it in practical terms, when cares and worries are overtaking us we should immediately reach out to God in prayer. That is the sort of mental and spiritual activity that is most beneficial; much more than agonizing over the sources of worry, let alone being guilty about worrying. When the stresses of life – relationships, work, school, the future – reach out to grab us and hold us within their grubby hands, we should turn immediately and run into the arms of our good God. With Him we find open arms to receive us, hands capable of holding our troubles and worries, and divine peace that inexplicably enables us to find gratitude even in the midst of our stormy lives. The Apostle Peter echoes these words of Paul when he writes:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

What anxieties or worries do you need to release into the hands of God today?

What would it look like now to turn to God in prayer to experience His provision, peace, and care?

 

The Weekend Wanderer: 13 July 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

91291“The Temptations of Evangelical Worship”Mark Galli continues his meandering reflections on the contemporary situation of evangelicalism with some pointed reflections on worship. “In the last decade or so, evangelical congregations have woken up to the centrality of praise and adoration as Scripture commands. One of the great developments of our time is how we worship. “Praise choruses” and contemporary worship music, for all their limitations, aim our hearts and minds in the direction of God. One does not even have to be taught to lift your face or raise your arms as you sing these songs, as the songs themselves often drive one upward to seek and praise God….Yet the temptation of the horizontal is with us always, and it comes in many disguises in our worship.”

 

91310“Amazon Sold $240K of ‘Liturgy of the Ordinary’ Fakes, Publisher Says” – I was so sad to hear about this turn of events for Tish Harrison Warren, who wrote the wonderful book Liturgy of the Ordinary published by InterVarsity Press. If you haven’t read the book, it’s well worth the read. IVP made a statement about how they are working on this with Amazon directly and on their side of things here. You can also read Warren’s own reflections on this at her blog here.

 

6-19-DavidSwanson-Immigration“Immigrants Under Attack: Five Ways the Church Can Respond” – David Swanson writes at Missio Alliance about the difficult place the church lives in at the tensions of immigration. “A few weeks ago my wife and I brought our two young sons to a prayer vigil for a Colombian pastor and her husband who’d been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Despite having fled terrorism in her home country, purchasing a home in Chicago, completing her pastoral training, and serving a church, Pastor Betty Rendon was arrested in front of her daughter and granddaughter in her own home. She was deported in less than a month.”

 

Jaipur City India“From Babylon to Rajasthan, here are the newest UNESCO World Heritage sites” – From National Geographic: “The ruins of an ancient city, the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, and an icy volcanic landscape are officially part of our collective world heritage. For the past 43 years, representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have met to evaluate which natural and cultural wonders around the globe merit World Heritage status. Icons including the Galápagos Islands, Macchu Picchu, and the Great Barrier Reef are inscribed on the list. Some sites are endangered by threats such as overtourism and climate change.”

 

First men and original sins adam roberts.jpg“First Men and Original Sins” – Here is Adam Roberts at Image integrating reflections on the movie The First Man with thoughts on space travel, the sacred, the profane, and original sin. “Profane is an interesting word. Etymologically the word describes the ground outside—or, strictly, in front of (pro)—the temple (fanum). How do we understand the profanity, or otherwise, of space travel? Is earth the temple and outer space the outer (pro) fanum? Or could it be that the heavens are the temple, and it’s we who are stuck down here in a mundane, profane antechamber? Is the sense of wonder that attends space exploration fundamentally a religious impulse? Or is the achievement of Apollo a triumph of solidly non-spiritual science, engineering, technology, and materialism?”

 

90642“How J. P. Moreland Presented His Anxious Mind to God” – In an interview about his recent book, Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace, theologian and apologist J. P. Moreland opens up about the challenges of his own recovery from anxiety and depression.

 

Music: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Take Five,” from Time Out.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 25 May 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

Karamles“The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East: An ancient faith is disappearing from the lands in which it first took root. At stake is not just a religious community, but the fate of pluralism in the region.” – Emma Green offers a stellar piece of reporting at The Atlantic on the situation that I have discussed often with my friends in the Middle East, both while visiting there and when they have visited here. There is a crisis in the Middle East of Christians fleeing their homelands for a variety of reasons.

 

Back Row America

“Back Row America” – Chris Arnade at First Things: “For many back row Americans, the only places that regularly treat them like humans are churches. The churches are everywhere, small churches that have come in and taken over a space and light it up on Sundays and Wednesdays. They walk inside the church, and immediately they meet people who get them. The preachers and congregants inside may preach to them, even judge their past decisions, but they don’t look down on them. They have walked the walk and know the shit they are going through, not from a book, not from a movie, not from an article, not from a study, but from their own lives or the lives of their friends. They look like them, and they get them. There are rules to follow if you join, but they don’t require having your paperwork in order or having proper ID. They don’t require getting grilled about this and that. They say, ‘Enter as you are,’ letting forgiveness wash away a past that many want gone.”

India-election“Why Indian Leader Modi’s Big Win is an ‘Absolute Tragedy’ for Christians” – From Open Doors: “Since Modi came to power in 2014, India has risen from number 28 to number 10 on Open Doors’ World Watch Listthe annual list that measures the 50 places around the world where it’s hardest to follow Jesus. Under his leadership, Hindu nationalist attacks against Christians have risen, believers are given fewer rights in some areas and the government is frequently accused of turning a blind eye to brutal attacks against religious minorities like Christians. Open Doors’ local partners recorded 147 incidents of violence against Christians in India in 2014, but they have recorded 216 violent incidents in India in the first quarter of 2019 alone, including two murders.”

 

90341“Lessons on Christian Rhetoric from Five of its Greatest Practitioners” – Erin Straza interviews James E. Beitler III on his new book Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church. There, Beitler examines the rhetorical strategies of C. S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, and Marilynne Robinson in their oral and written communication.

 

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset“After Technopoly” – Alan Jacobs reflects in The New Atlantis on Neil Postman’s assessment of “technopoly” with some help from Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski and English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott. With the fine distinction between technological core and mythological core, Jacobs’ concludes: “Technopoly is a system that arises within a society that views moral life as an application of rules but that produces people who practice moral life by habits of affection, not by rules. (Think of Silicon Valley social engineers who have created and capitalized upon Twitter outrage mobs.) Put another way, technopoly arises from the technological core of society but produces people who are driven and formed by the mythical core.”

 

Marilynne Robinson“Pushing Back Against Marilynne Robinson’s Theology” – Speaking of Marilynne Robinson, this essay by Jessica Hooten Wilson offers a thoughtful critique of Robinson’s approach to Christian faith. While I deeply enjoy Robinson’s writing, particularly her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead, there seems to be at times an uncritical reading of her work within Christian circles. Wheaton College’s theology conference two years ago was entirely focused on her work, producing a book of appreciation and critique entitled Balm in Gilead: A Theological Dialogue with Marilynne Robinson.

 

7d8acac56“Vacation is Good For Your Health” – “If you feel like you need a vacation, you’re almost certainly right. Americans get far fewer paid days off than workers in pretty much any other industrialized democracy, and the time we actually take off has declined significantly, from 20.3 days in 1987 to 17.2 days in 2017….people who take more of their allotted vacation time tend to find their work more meaningful. Vacation can yield other benefits, too: People who took all or most of their paid vacation time to travel were more likely than others to report a recent raise or bonus. And time not taken depresses more than individual career prospects: In 2017, the average U.S. worker left six paid vacation days unused, which works out to 705 million days of travel nationally, enough to support 1.9 million travel-related jobs.” So, take a vacation this summer.

 

great-day-of-his-wrath“A Revolution of Time” –  Paul Kosmin takes us on a journey through time to the cataclysmic beginning of marking time as we know it. “Last year was 2018. Next year will be 2020. We are confident that a century ago it was 1919, and in 1,000 years it will be 3019, if there is anyone left to name it. . . .Now, imagine inhabiting a world without such a numbered timeline for ordering current events, memories and future hopes. For from earliest recorded history right up to the years after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the late 4th century BCE, historical time – the public and annual marking of the passage of years – could be measured only in three ways: by unique events, by annual offices, or by royal lifecycles.”

 

90711“1 in 10 Young Protestants Have Left a Church Over Abuse” – “Surrounded by revelations of #MeToo and #ChurchToo, younger Christians are more keen to recognize sexual abuse—and less likely to put up with it. According to a new study sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers under 35 have previously left a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously. That’s twice as many as the 5 percent of all churchgoers who have done the same. Among the younger demographic, 9 percent said they have stopped attending a former congregation because they personally did not feel safe from misconduct.”

 

age of fear.jpeg“Age of Fear” – John Wilson, editor of the now defunct Books & Culture, wants to talk about fear. In his own inimitable style, Wilson does so in First Things by interviewing himself about fear based on a tweet that he made earlier this month. In this self-interview, Wilson tracks through a number of books and articles he has been reading on the topic, including a piece in The Weekly Standard that I referenced in an earlier edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” which you also might enjoy reading, “Fear Factor,” which is an extended review of Martha Nussbaum’s The Monarchy of Fear.

 

Music: Bob Dylan, “Everything is Broken,” outtake from MTV Unplugged in 1994; originally from the album Oh Mercy.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Live in Peace

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Have you ever felt worried, distressed, or anxious?

Yes, I know that might seem like a ridiculous question. In one way or another, we have all experienced worry, distress, or anxiety. These real experiences of our lives are the sort of things we encounter throughout the Scripture. In fact, the writer of Psalm 4 expresses thoughts we all likely relate to:

Answer me when I call to You, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1)

Where do you turn to find peace in these times? Often, we turn to friends or family for support, or look to distractions like television or reading a book. In themselves, none of these things are bad. However, within Psalm 4, we are directed in another way. The psalmist instructs us in the way we should turn in our distress.

God’s Strong Presence
First of all, the psalmist shows us to whom we should turn. “Of course,” you might say, “you are going to say that I should turn to God.” Yes, that is true, but it is not enough of the truth in this case. The psalmist says Read More »

The Weekend Wanderer: 4 August 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

1000“Rare medieval bible returned to shelf at Canterbury Cathedral” – “A 13th century bible, one of a handful of books which survived intact when the library of Canterbury Cathedral was broken up at the time of the Reformation, is back in the building after almost 500 years. The Lyghfield bible – named for a monk at the cathedral who once owned it – is the only complete bible and the finest illuminated book known to have survived from the medieval collection. The cathedral won a grant of almost £96,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and raised £4,000 more to buy it at a recent rare books sale in London.”

 

Willie Jennings“Can ‘White’ People Be Saved?” – At the beginning of July I spent a week in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a small group of pastors, professors, and non-profit leaders learning from Dr. Willie James Jennings around his outstanding book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. I wish I could have taken everyone there with me because the conversations were transformative for me, even as I continue to ponder all that I experienced. Since I couldn’t take you with me, I’d like to share this video of Dr. Jennings’ session at Fuller Theological Seminary, in which he helps define “whiteness” and the ways in which Christianity has been distorted through a racialized imagination. This is not for the faint of heart, but I highly recommend you wrestle with this challenging message. [Thanks to Nic Fridenmaker for sharing this particular link with me.]

 

29.thumb“Choosing Church: There are lots of reasons to avoid church, but here are the reasons to look again” – After listening to Jennings, you may find it helpful to look at this essay written over a year ago by Marilyn McEntyre, in which she addresses questions about Christianity’s relevance in the context of the rise of “religious nones” and  in a politically and racially divided world. McEntyre offers both admission of reasons to avoid church while also pointing to the ways in which the church is still important.

 

tal_vertical“Come All Ye Faithless” – A couple weeks ago on “This American Life” Eric Mennel told the story of one church planter, Watson Jones, who sets out on his mission to build a new church in a very challenging setting. As I listened, I was reminded again and again of the challenges of urban, multi-ethnic church planting. This episode will make you laugh and cry, particularly if you have been a part of efforts like this. [Thanks to the ten different people who shared this link with me.]

 

57221732_6481d1d067_o“Archaeologists May Have Discovered a Church Built on the Site of Constantine the Great’s Conversion to Christianity” – “Archaeologists working along the banks of the Tiber river in Rome last week discovered what may be the remnants of an early Christian church likely dating to the fourth century CE. The site of the church is only about 150 to 200 meters from where the emperor Constantine fought his rival Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312 CE — and in close proximity to the place where historical accounts indicate that Constantine saw a cross emblazoned in the sky, a cross that convinced him to convert to Christianity.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 5.31.55 PMWhile in conversation with some colleagues in ministry, one of them shared a ministry resource with me that I had not encountered. The Flourishing in Ministry project is organized by the Well Being at Work initiative of the University of Notre Dame. “Flourishing in Ministry examines what motivates pastors and priests to be engaged in ministry—and what disrupts them from experiencing wellbeing in their work. In our research, we attempt to explore how clergy—often working with lean resources—can give so much to others, and experience a sense of fulfillment and growth in their daily work lives.” Explore it and flourish.

 

BN“Barnes & Noble says sales of books related to anxiety are soaring. Here’s why” – If you’ve been feeling anxious about life in our current cultural climate, you may not be the only one.  “Sales of books related to anxiety are up more than 25 percent through this past June from a year ago, according to Barnes & Noble. The bookseller said ‘we may be living in an anxious nation.'”

 

Bergman“Remedial Bergman: On his centennial, introducing the great director to a new generation” – One of my favorite movie directors of all time is Ingmar Bergman, both in relation to the themes of his work and the skill with which he directs movies. John Simon offers a helpful introduction to Bergman and his work over at The Weekly Standard. He writes: “Bergman is unequaled in his filming of the human face; he uses faces in eloquent, sometimes sublime, close-ups to tell much of his stories. This is one reason why conventional synopsis often doesn’t suffice with Bergman’s films.”

 

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

When We Feel Like Running Away

There are times in our lives when we feel like running away. I still remember when I was an elementary school kid and one of the bullies came after me during a recess football game. I definitely felt like running away…and I did! As fast as I could go.

As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve encountered much more threatening things that make me and others want to run away. I’ve seen a father of four crushed by lack of work. I’ve seen parents helplessly lose a child they love. I’ve seen a single mom struggle to parent teenage children in rebellion. I’ve seen students feeling overwhelmed by confusing decisions. I’ve seen churches challenged by dire situations. These things and more can make us feel like running away.

In Psalm 11, we hear of a similar situation. The writer is struggling with the advice from a friend to simply run away:Read More »

Worry and Faith (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Worry and Faith,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series “The Kingdom Life.” The text for this week is Luke 12:22-34.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have you experienced the greatest worry in your life? How did you deal with it?
  2. This weekend we continue “The Kingdom Life” series by looking at Luke 12:22-34. After beginning your study in prayer, ask God to speak to you, and then read those passages aloud.
  3. This teaching from Jesus begins with a strong exhortation not to worry. What does Jesus say not to worry about in 12:22, 29?
  4. Jesus offers two examples from nature – the birds and the wildflowers – for His disciples. What do these two examples tell us about worry and faith?
  5. What does Jesus tell us about God’s thoughts and actions on our behalf in relation to our worries (12:24, 30-31)?
  6. How have you learned to give your worry to God? Take a moment to read Philippians 4:6-7. How does this illustrate the connection between prayer and worry?
  7. Jesus’ summary statement in 12:31 is well-known. What do you think it means?
  8. In 12:32-34, Jesus exhorts His disciples to not fear, but to do something else instead. What does He call them to do?
  9. What do you think it means to live as a reflection of Jesus’ words in 12:34?
  10. What is one way that God is speaking to you personally through this study? If you’re on your own, write it down and share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, discuss this together.

 


Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we arranged a daily reading plan through this series. You can also join in with the daily devotional here. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Monday, May 8                     Luke 12:22-26
Tuesday, May 9                    Matthew 6:25-27
Wednesday, May 10             Psalm 147:1-11
Thursday, May 11                 Luke 12:27-34
Friday, May 12                      Matthew 6:28-34