Worry Is Not A Sin

(This is a copy of an email to a friend on 30 September, 2017).

You asked me to send you the reference for a Bible verse I mentioned last Thursday. Here’s the passage:

“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (II Corinthians 11:28, ESV)

In the NIV it reads, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Let’s compare this with another place where Paul uses the same word:

“do not be anxious about anything…” (Philippians 4:6, ESV)

In the NIV it reads, “Do not be anxious about anything…” which is exactly the same.

Now, let’s look at the Greek:

II Corinthians 11:28 – μέριμνα (English transliteration: merimna, mare – im – nah

Philippians 4:6 – μεριμνᾶτε (English transliteration: merimnate, mare – im – nah – tay

In spite of what the NIV has done with the English translation, the words translated “anxious” and “concern” in these two verses come from the same Greek root. I’m not criticizing the NIV; I love it. This is why it’s valuable for us to study more than one version of God’s Word. I hadn’t noticed Paul’s complete teaching on anxiety, or anxiousness, until I got an ESV Bible a few years ago. Then, II Corinthians 11:28 took me by surprise and caused me to dig deeper. Even though I took two years of New Testament Greek at Northwest Christian University, I hadn’t noticed this.

I love the fact that Paul admits to anxiety or worry. It helps us realize that Philippians 4:6 is intended to be a word of encouragement, and not a command. This realization makes Paul’s teaching more consistent with the strengthening word of angels when they said, “Fear not.” It is not condemnation; it is comfort and power.

Satan tries to use worry as a wedge to separate us from God, but God intends worry to be a magnet that pulls us toward Him.

–Bob Young
[9/30/2017]

Now, go buy a book! (And if you’ve already bought one, write a review).
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

Did You Think It Would Be Easy?

The Harvest, by Bob Young

Can two contradictory things be true? Probably not. Can we see a contradiction where none exists? That’s more likely.

The Apostle Paul made two seemingly contradictory assertions in the same sentence:

But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
(I Corinthians 16:8-9)

Wait, what? Ask him with me: “Paul, how can your work be effective if you have many adversaries? I mean, if your work is effective, doesn’t that mean everyone is convinced by your preaching? Aren’t you becoming famous? Aren’t you popular?”

But, when we stop and think it through, we realize that Paul understands the reality of Christian service. Take Jesus, for example. Jesus was effective – many lives were being transformed.

Zacchaeus said, “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I [now] restore it fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)

Zacchaeus was a changed man, and it was because Jesus was doing effective work. But at the same time, Jesus was accumulating a long list of adversaries, including some very powerful people.

Sometimes, you only have one adversary (Satan), and the difficulties show up as circumstances, rather than as people. As an example, consider the trouble-upon-trouble experienced by Job.

Christian, here is the Satanic delusion: You may be tempted to think that, because of adversaries or trials, your work isn’t effective.

The reality – experienced by Jesus, Paul, and many others – is that effective work generates opposition.

When that happens to you, what should you do? Do what Paul did: stay in Ephesus. Stick it out. See it through. Bring your work to completion. Don’t give up. Don’t stop. Don’t lose faith. Don’t lose hope.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
(I Corinthians 16:13-14)

Listen to Paul’s encouragement: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

–Bob Young
[16 September 2017]

Now, go buy a book!
Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

What if God…?

What if your Creator only desires the best and highest for you?
What if all religious perversion of the best and highest springs from human misunderstanding, and doesn’t come from God?
Would you trust God then?
Would you love God, your Creator, as God loves you?

Your brokenness can be repaired.
Your loneliness can be replaced with companionship.
Your despair can turn to hope.
Your fear can give way to courage.
Your bitterness can melt away.
Your load can be lifted.
Your heart – your heart! – can be made new.

Because, yes – your Creator only desires the best and highest for you.

–Bob Young
5 September, 2017

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

It’s Not Easy Being Black

After giving this article the title, “It’s Not Easy Being Black,” the first thing I’d better say is, I’m white. My ancestors are from Scotland, Ireland, England, and Holland. So, I have no experience with being black. And yet, after sixty-two years on this planet, I do have a few observations about life, and one of them is this: it’s not easy being black in America.

Today I posted this observation on Facebook. “It’s not easy being black in America.”

Before I clicked to apply the post, I already knew what the reactions would be. Some posted their reactions, most didn’t – but I know what the whole range of responses was. Some people nodded their heads sadly and agreed. Some people shook their heads and said, “Why does Bob post stuff like that?” Some people said, “How would Bob know? He’s not black. Why doesn’t he stick to topics he can speak about with real knowledge and experience?” Some people said, “Oh, great. There’s a white guy who thinks he’s helping us all by expressing sympathy, but what he says doesn’t change one little thing. Maybe his conscience feels better.” Some people said, “Well, it’s not easy being me, either. What about my problems? Why single out one group? There are lots of us with problems.”

Yes. You’re right. There are lots of us with problems.

And yet, there is a reason, right now, in America, why a white person (that would be me) needs to write a public article pointing out the obvious. There is a reason to single out one group out of all the groups with problems. There is a compelling moral need, right now, to talk about the specific problem, the painful reality, of being black in America.

It’s like this.

It’s hard to be fat.
But it’s harder to be fat and black.

It’s hard to be old.
But it’s harder to be old and black.

It’s hard to be female.
But it’s harder to be female and black.

It’s hard to be autistic.
But it’s harder to be autistic and black.

It’s hard to be poor.
But it’s harder to be poor and black.

It’s hard to be LGBT.
But it’s harder to be LGBT and black.

It’s hard to be unemployed.
But it’s harder to be unemployed and black.

It’s hard to be uneducated.
But it’s harder to be uneducated and black.

It’s hard to have cancer.
But it’s harder to have cancer and be black.

Honestly, I don’t know if I would be successful as a black. And by successful, I mean doing what I’m doing now – faithfully following Jesus, my Lord. I know that I would be severely tempted to fall into one of two traps.

Trap #1: On the one hand, it’s possible that I might just give up. The struggle might be too much for me. I might become a silent failure, sinking as deeply as possible into the dark background of America, rarely seen, rarely heard. My defeat, my resignation, would have logical and predictable outcomes. If I gave up, I would spend a lot of time being unemployed, receiving whatever handouts I could get from the government or individuals. I might console myself, numb the pain, and forget my problems, by turning to alcohol, drugs, or both.

Trap #2: On the other hand, there is that part of me that has learned to stand up for myself, to fight, to flail my arms wildly against all attackers, real or imaginary. There is something in me that says, “I would rather be punished for fighting back than sit quietly and accept mistreatment that I don’t deserve. If anyone is going to hurt me, by golly, I’ll give them a reason!” I can see myself becoming violent, bitter, full of fomenting hatred, ready to explode every time the smallest spark ignites my short, fast, fuse.

I stand in awe of the sheer nobility that I see in many black people. They are the ones who avoid the two extremes that I fear would grip me. They are the blacks who are simply, plainly, kind to me. I don’t mean quietly subservient. I mean genuinely nice. These are the blacks who extend their warm friendship to me from the moment of first meeting, before they know how their friendship will be received. These are the blacks who take a chance, with every new encounter, even several times a day, choosing to initiate their interactions with every new person they meet with a positive regard and with an optimism about the relationship that might develop.

I’m not sure I’m that strong.

But I’ll do what I can. I’ll follow Jesus, and I’ll regard you as Jesus regards you, no matter who you are. And I’ll speak. I’ll speak out, because Jesus speaks out. I’ll speak, because silence in the face of evil, is evil.

–Bob Young
[8/14/2017]

Bob has a few books available at Amazon. You should buy one!
Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

 

Publicly Reject White Supremacy

There’s a difference between calling yourself a Christian and actually following Jesus. Jesus didn’t say, “Be a Christian;” he said, “Follow me.” Many terrible, evil things have been done by Christians, but that’s not to say they were following Jesus.

Nazis And Christianity

“Some Nazis, such as Hans Kerrl, who served as Hitler’s Minister for Church Affairs pushed for ‘Positive Christianity’, which was a uniquely Nazi form which rejected its Jewish origins and the Old Testament, and portrayed ‘true’ Christianity as a fight against Jews.” (See Source 1)

“During the First and Second World Wars, German Protestant leaders used the writings of Luther to support the cause of German nationalism. On the 450th anniversary of Luther’s birth, which fell only a few months after the Nazi Party began its seizure of power in 1933, celebrations were conducted on a large scale by both the Protestant Churches and the Nazi Party. At a celebration in Königsberg, Erich Koch, at that time the Gauleiter of East Prussia, made a speech in which he, among other things, compared Adolf Hitler with Martin Luther and claimed that the Nazis fought with Luther’s spirit.” (See Source 2)

The majority of historians believe that Hitler was not a Christian, but he had no qualms about using Christianity to further his aims. “Hitler publicly claimed he believed in Christianity and an active God, and in one speech, he stated that he held Jesus in high esteem as an ‘Aryan fighter’ who struggled against Jewry and Jewish materialism.” (See Source 3)

Ku Klux Klan And Christianity

The KKK has presented itself as a Christian organization, adopting the symbolism, language, and rituals of Christian churches.

“Additionally, the cross was henceforth a representation of the Klan’s Christian message.” (See Source 4)

“Although members of the KKK swear to uphold Christian morality, virtually every Christian denomination has officially denounced the KKK.” (See Source 5)

Summary

The activists who endorse the beliefs, philosophies, and policies of the Nazis and/or the Ku Klux Klan do not follow Jesus. They may lie by calling themselves Christians, but they are not Christ-like. Supporting or endorsing these groups in any way, including silent acquiescence, is a rejection of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

–Bob Young
8/12/2017

Want more by this author? Currently, he has four books on Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

 

Source 1: Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 13–51.

Source 2: Wikipedia article: Religion_in_Nazi_Germany, which cites several sources.

Source 3: Wikipedia article: Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler, which cites several sources.

Source 4: Wade, Wyn Craig (1998). The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-19-512357-9.

Source 5: Perlmutter, Philip (January 1, 1999). Legacy of Hate: A Short History of Ethnic, Religious, and Racial Prejudice in America. M.E. Sharpe. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-7656-0406-4.

Hearing The Still, Small Voice

Praying Hands by Otto Greiner (1869-1916)

There is no condemnation in not hearing God’s voice. Society – and often, even the church – discourage us from acknowledging his still, small voice. And yet, when you stop to think about it, you realize that the Bible has always revealed that conversation with our creator is what God himself intended. One of the most beautiful passages in the Bible is found in Genesis 3:9:

“But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

God’s question is shown in its larger setting by including the previous verse with it:

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”
(Genesis 3:8-9, ESV)

This is God’s plan. To walk with you and talk with you.

Some will tell you, “Yes, but that was before the fall.”

Instead of listening to them, listen to Jesus. Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants,… but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15, ESV)

Or, if you prefer, listen to the Apostle Paul: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” (II Corinthians 5:18, ESV)

Do we live after the fall? Yes, but also after the reconciliation.

James puts it this way: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

So, why do we have so much trouble hearing God speak? Why does even the church, all too often, discourage us from believing we have heard God? Oh, there are crackpots! Miscreants! Deceivers! There are those who would say, “God told me to do this or that,” and they bring harm to others or their own self-destruction. There are false prophets! And, indeed, we are told by Jesus, James, John, Peter, and Paul that there will be many false prophets – not just a few.

Satan uses this fear against us: “Since we can hear the wrong voice, it’s safer to hear no voice at all.”

No. No, it’s not. To not hear God speak is the most dangerous path of all.

Because God loves you so much, the words that he speaks to you will be words of comfort, encouragement, wisdom, and strength. You will be the better for hearing him. And – this is wonderful – the people you come in contact with will also be the better for it. When you listen to God, and boldly accept his words to you, then you have a powerful and profound and lasting impact on the lives of those around you.

You are in a garden, filled with life, and God is calling out to you.

Don’t be afraid. The Lord is with you.

–Bob Young
9 July, 2017

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

How Do You Know Jesus?

I was having a conversation with a very close friend this week. He’s going through a tough time in his life. He has been close to God, in the past, but… not right now, not so much. He asked me a question, and I said, “Well, I know you don’t want to hear my real answer – because you know that my real answer would come out of my religion. But, I can still give you a practical answer. Do you know what he said?

He said, “Actually, I do want you to tell me your real answer. Give me your religious answer. I knew when I asked you that it would be a religious answer, and it’s what I want from you.”

This made my heart leap for joy, of course. Not because I got to express my deepest beliefs, but because I genuinely think that in this answer, my friend will find his greatest peace.

We talked for quite awhile. The conversation was great. Our relationship, which was already solid, was strengthened. Near the end, as we were winding down on the phone and getting ready to end the call, he said, “You know God one way, and I know God another way. It’s not the same for me.”

This reminded me of a parable that Jesus told. Can you think which one? Yes, of course. It’s the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew chapter 25. Jesus told a story about a rich man who was going on a journey. Before he left, he called three of his servants into the room and spoke with them. He gave one of them five talents. This was a measure of silver, used as money. Five talents was a lot of money. He gave the second servant two talents, and to the third servant the rich man gave one talent of silver. He told them to invest the money while he was gone, and see if they could make a profit. The third servant took his one talent and – well – I’ll let him tell it.

“Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.” (Matthew 25:24-25)

It’s a great parable. We see here that different people know Jesus in different ways. Kind of like my friend and I, when he said, “You know God one way, and I know God another way. It’s not the same for me.”

So, I’m curious. How do you know Jesus?

Well, I have the keyboard right now, so I’ll go first.

I know him to be stronger than I have been able to imagine. He is more patient with me than I deserve. His thought aren’t my thoughts, and his ways aren’t my ways, but when I do things his way, my life is better. I have never been able to drive him away, but he’ll keep at a distance if I demand it of him. Then, when I’m ready (finally ready!), he draws close again. He is able to change my heart. He is able to change my mind. He is able to change my attitude. He is able to make me able to forgive those who have hurt me the most. He is able to urge me on when I want to quit. He helps me stand when I’ve fallen, and helps me run when I can only stagger. I am best when I am his, and worst when I am my own.

Would you like to know Jesus like this? It’s easier than you might think, yet harder than anything you’ve ever done. Here is how to know Jesus better. Close your eyes (just kidding, it doesn’t matter!), and say something like, “God, I’m ready to know you as you really are. I don’t know how to meet you, so it’s up to you, but now would be a good time. I’m ready for you, Father.”

Will you do me this kindness? When you meet him, schedule a time with me to tell me about it. Thanks. I’m praying for you, Friend. If you’re reading this, I’m praying for you.

–Bob Young

6/2/2017

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