Thursday, February 26, 2015

Giving – and the Federal Budget

If pastors ever want to ensure low attendance some Sunday, all they have to do is announce the week preceding that they’ll be preaching on tithing. Messages about money attract congregants like vinegar attracts honeybees. “All they want is money,” is a common complaint uttered by some about the contemporary church.

We don’t like being told how to handle our money, whether by the clergy, parents, friends, or sometimes, even our spouse. After all, it’s “my money,” isn’t it? I have every right to do with it as I choose, don’t I?

Whose money is it, anyway?
I don’t intend to explore the concept of tithing, but one principle has helped me over the years in not maintaining such a tight grip on my wallet. As a friend explained, from a biblical perspective it’s not “our” money. We are not “owners” of our possessions, including our cash and bank accounts, but stewards – or managers.

In His so-called Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus told of a wealthy man who, before leaving on a journey, entrusted talents (some money) to his servants. He asked them to manage the money in an appropriate way during his absence, and upon his return, they would give an account of what they had done with it.

Two of the servants invested the talents wisely, doubling the amounts that had been entrusted to them. Both were commended for their stewardship and then informed they would be given even greater responsibilities: Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21.23).

The third servant, however, did nothing with the money entrusted to him, choosing instead to hide it until the rich owner returned. His explanation? 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” (Matthew 25:24).

None of these servants owned the money in their possession, but still were expected to put it to good, productive use. In a similar way, we might work hard to earn our paychecks, but ultimately the money is not ours, but God’s. Our skills, abilities and gifts come from Him. He simply asks us to be wise in how we manage or use our financial resources. And if He asks us to give a portion of that directly to help in advancing His eternal kingdom, is that too much to ask?

This principle reminds me of how “our money” – the taxes we pay to the Federal government – are being used. We often hear, from both Democrats and Republicans, about the “government” funding various projects, ranging from education to highways. Our elected officials, from the President to members of Congress to those who serve at the local government level, seem to view themselves as owners of tax revenues, authorized to use the funds as they choose.

But lately there’s been a strong pushback, taxpayers complaining that in reality the government – Federal, state and local – has no money of its own. They note that in a real sense, government leaders are basically managers – stewards – asked to use the funds entrusted to them with wisdom and frugality.

Government seems to have stepped into the role of the wealthy man in the Bible, described by one of his servants as “a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed.”

This isn’t advocating non-payment of taxes. In fact, I believe all U.S. citizens have a responsibility to pay their fair share to support functions of government, ranging from law enforcement and emergency responders who come in times of need to road crews that pave our streets and fill in potholes. If God has prospered us financially, we have an obligation to help in supporting not only His work, but also the public works from which we all benefit.

But wouldn’t it be nice if our elected officials took their own stewardship more soberly? That rather than spending tax monies like drunken sailors, heedless of budgets and growing deficits, they would realize they have merely been entrusted with tax revenues – resources provided by American taxpayers? That they have the responsibility for using them with great care and discretion, rather than acting as if they’d been given a blank check for unconscionable, reckless spending?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Integrity, Like Pregnancy, Is All Or Nothing

Much of life we perceive in 50 shades of gray, so to speak. It all depends on your point of view. But some things are stark black and white. Like being pregnant. You can’t be “a little bit pregnant.” A woman either is – or she’s not. It’s the same with integrity. One can’t have “a little bit of integrity.” It’s pretty much all or nothing.

Once again the thorny issue of integrity has popped up, thrust into the spotlight by a figure in the public eye. This time, instead of a football coach or politician, it was NBC News anchor Brian Williams, an admired member of the national media, who “earned” the spotlight of scrutiny.

Information surfaced disputing Williams’ story of having been aboard a military helicopter in Iraq that was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2003, a report that had seemed to grow over the years. Confronted by eyewitness accounts debunking his claim, Williams admitted “a mistake in recalling the events.” NBC News, faced with an assault to both Williams’ and its own credibility, suspended him for “misrepresenting the facts.”

Even a tiny crack can be the start of a spoiled egg,
a sinking ship, or a shattered reputation.
Another example of the strength – and fragility – of integrity. We can spend our lives building a reputation for integrity, and this can serve us well. But it can all be destroyed in a moment, even by a isolated occasion of misjudgment or misbehavior.

But why should someone who has been trusted for years and years suddenly have that swept away by a lapse in honesty? Maybe it’s not fair – but that’s the way it is.

Whether you’re a media star, business leader, educator, pastor, police officer, parent or a spouse, trust is not optional to the “job description.” It’s essential, non-negotiable. If someone were to put a drop of poison in your favorite beverage, you wouldn’t want to drink it even though the poison would be only an infinitesimal percentage of its volume. In a similar way, a tiny bit of deceit can spoil a lifetime of trust and confidence.

That’s why I’m so impressed by the wisdom of the Bible. It tells it like it is, even though we often don’t like what it says. For instance, “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). Another passage underscores the point: “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful will be destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3).

Just as a tiny crack can cause a ship to sink, even a small act of deception can bring about the destruction of one’s once-sterling reputation.

I don’t know how the rest of the Brian Williams saga will play out. Some might ask, isn’t it harsh to condemn a man for distorting the truth on such a seemingly inconsequential matter? Shouldn’t he be forgiven?

Yes, forgiveness certainly could be warranted. As we so often hear, nobody’s perfect. But it’s also important to recognize our actions – good and bad – have consequences. When a person is in a position of public trust, as someone like Williams has been, there are expectations, even demands, for retaining that trust. Once that is compromised, it’s not easily regained.

But as someone wisely said, when we point a finger at someone else, the other fingers are pointed toward us. Rather than looking down our noses, reveling in the quandary resulting from someone else’s moral or ethical misdeeds, we need to remember we’re all only one selfish, thoughtless, reckless act away from a similar plight. As the Bible reminds us, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Going Clockwise in a Counter-Clockwise World

Technology has touched our lives in many ways, some good and some bad. It’s even intensified the communications gap between generations. Take the evolution of the telephone, for example. If you can define the meaning of “party line” or explain why we still talk about “dialing” the phone, chances are very good you’re a Baby Boomer. A millennial has no clue what those terms mean.

And if you can remember the days of using a knob for changing channels on the TV; how it was necessary to maneuver the “rabbit ears” to get good TV reception, or even referred to the device as a “television set,” again you’re probably a member of the so-called Boomer generation.

As clocks change, in generations to come,
how will we know if we're going
clockwise or counter-clockwise?
In this digital age – when time on most of our watches, clocks and cell phones appears in numerals like 3:45 and 10:17, without hour, minute and sweeping second hands – how long will we still understand what it means to go “clockwise” or “counter-clockwise”?

I started wondering about this at our local mall early one morning during my power-walking regimen. Like most of the walkers, I was going counter-clockwise, just as stockcars and thoroughbred horses do when racing in the United States. Then I noticed one fellow who’d resolved to go against the flow, like a salmon choosing to swim downstream rather than upstream like the rest of its finny friends.

This gentleman was a stranger, but judging from his gray hair and the ponytail cascading down his back, he might have been a remnant of the hippie era, staging an ambulatory protest against conformity. Since most of the walkers weren’t moving very quickly, risks of a head-on collision were slight. But it did seem disconcerting to pass Mr. Clockwise going in a contrary direction.

Then it occurred to me that as followers of Jesus Christ, part of our calling could be described as choosing a clockwise path in an increasingly counter-clockwise world.

Romans 12:2 warns, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Another passage exhorts followers of Christ, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – come not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

Tough words for sure, and perhaps a bit difficult to accept. After all, we live in the world, don’t we? If everyone else is going counter-clockwise, why should we be different?

And just what is “the pattern of this world”? What is “loving the world” all about?

We get the “pattern” in part from the media and popular culture. They’re constantly telling us what to think and believe, sometimes in ways that clearly contradict teachings of the Bible. This applies to individual behavior, moral convictions and ethical standards. If we disagree with shifting values, society tells us we’re out of step and need to get with the program.

We see it in society’s pervasive emphasis on materialism, the underlying message being that true happiness and fulfillment are found in money and things we possess. We even have churches and TV evangelists that affirm this perspective.

Then we have political correctness and the so-called “thought police,” trying to press us into their mold. They often bring to life the biblical description, “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity…they not only continue to do these things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:29-32). Not only that, but if we don’t concur with their redefining of morality and acceptable behavior, we’re portrayed as bigots, haters, narrow-minded and judgmental.

Yes, it seems in many ways to be a follower of Jesus today means to go against the tide, or to go clockwise in a counter-clockwise world. But it was the same for Jesus Himself. His was the ultimate “road less traveled,” and we’re called to do much the same, as He directs.

Is it easy going against the flow? Maybe in a mall, but definitely not in the world around us. But as Jesus said, Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it(Matthew 7:14).

Monday, February 16, 2015

Going Fast . . . Or Far?

The late Frank Sinatra sang many famous songs during his more than 60-year career as an entertainer, but one of the most memorable is “My Way,” which he released in 1969. Today, more than four decades later, it seems many people embrace “I did it my way” as their personal motto.

There’s a lot to be said about individual achievement – the resolve, determination, perseverance and single-mindedness often involved in attaining lofty goals and aspirations. In a sense, the Declaration of Independence set the stage for this philosophy when the leaders of 13 colonies agreed in 1776 it was time to “do it their way,” apart from England, by forming the United States.

But there also are limitations to individual initiative. I was reminded of this while viewing the film, “The Good Lie,” the story of a small group of Sudanese refugees who fled tyranny in their homeland and ultimately found a new home for themselves in Kansas City, Mo. At the conclusion of the movie, an African proverb was displayed that well-summarized their amazing pilgrimage:
“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”

In sports, and much of life, we can achieve much
more together than we can on our own.
We see the truth of this adage exhibited in every area of endeavor. Where would comedian Bud Abbott have been without his sidekick, Lou Costello? What would Orville Wright have accomplished without the aid of his brother, Wilbur? Working out of a one-car garage, William Hewlett and David Packard teamed with others to form a company, Hewlett-Packard, that one day would become the world’s leader in manufacturing personal computers.

In track and field, we see sprinters competing on their own, but usually in longer events, groups of runners compete together, sometimes as teams. We see stock car drivers maneuvering their cars at high speeds on their own, but if you’re traveling on a commercial jet from coast to coast, you want a crew of people in the cockpit.

We may never achieve the notoriety of famous entertainers, athletes or entrepreneurs, but we’d all be wise to approach life from a “we did it our way” perspective than the standoffish “my way.” This truth is expressed repeatedly throughout the Bible, a clear warning against going it alone, urging us instead to seek support, encouragement and strength from one another.

Proverbs 27:17 declares, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man (woman) sharpens another.” In another of the so-called “wisdom books,” King Solomon of Israel observes,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!... Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Ironically, it was when they failed to heed this advice that Solomon and his father, King David, suffered their greatest failures.

The spiritual life, I’ve discovered, also proves the “go fast, go alone…go far, go together” principle. People make professions of faith and appear to be making rapid progress spiritually, but because they don't connect with other believers, their growth eventually stagnates and over time they disappear from the scene entirely.

This is one reason we’re admonished, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

The Bible describes those who follow Jesus Christ as the “body of believers” – “you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Just as even healthy human organs will die apart from the body, the most determined, well-intentioned believers will flounder without consistent fellowship with other devoted followers of Christ.

So if your goal personally, professionally or spiritually is simply to go fast, you can try going on your own. But if you want to go far, enduring for the long haul, going together with others is the better plan.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Motivated By Fear – Or Love?

For some a sunrise like this might seem fearsome,
but others would view it as an act - and artwork - of love.

Recently I exchanged perspectives with some folks on social media, offering our views on what motivates people to do what they do. Fear, one of them said, is the greatest motivator.

In one respect, I don’t disagree. Fear is what keeps us from stepping into traffic or driving too fast. Fear keeps a child from touching a hot stove, especially after having made the mistake of doing that once. Fear is what keeps us glued to the morning TV news shows, waiting to find out what the catastrophe du jour happens to be – and what we can do about it. Fear of consequences can help to curb bad behavior. And with many religions, fear is what holds people to rituals and rules, no matter how curious or restrictive.

But I believe there can be a much greater motivator in life: Love. It’s love that pushes a single mom out the door to work a second, or third job to provide for her children. It’s love that pulls a parent out of a warm, cozy bed in the middle of the night to comfort a crying infant. It’s love that convinces a husband to defer a compelling, very justifiable “want” so he can purchase something nice for his wife instead.

Even more than these, love inspires acts of mercy and compassion to help people that can’t help themselves – and who couldn’t possibly repay the kind deeds received from others. And it’s love that insists on doing whatever is necessary to deliver someone else from danger, even if it means the “ultimate sacrifice.” As Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Love is a recurring theme in the Bible, as summarized by the familiar verse, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It was God’s love for us – and utter hatred of sin that has separated mankind from Him – that sent Jesus to the cross to become what many theologians term the “propitiation” or “atonement” for sin.

Followers of Jesus are commanded to love one another, but even that is a result of God’s doing. “We love, because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19 tells us. And it is out of appreciation for God’s love and concern for the spiritual well-being of others that should prompt believers in Christ to share their faith with others – not judgmental attitudes or intolerance: For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died (to their old, sinful selves)” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

The so-called “love chapter” of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, which is often repeated at weddings, describes love as patient, kind, protecting, truthful, trusting, hopeful, persevering and unfailing. At the same time, genuine love, it says, is not envious or boastful, prideful or rude, self-seeking or easily angered or grudging. These noble qualities aren’t easily manufactured, but are best cultivated through the power of Christ.

This passage also concludes by saying, And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). One of the reasons for this is that when believers die and go to their eternal home, their faith will have become sight and their hope – which the Bible defines as earnest expectation and confident assurance – will have turned into reality. Enduring, unconditional love will be all that remains of those three.

Books have been written about God’s love and the love we should demonstrate to others. But suffice it to say, I’d choose love over fear as a motivator any day.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Knowing What You ‘Can’t’ Clarifies What You ‘Can’

How does it feel when someone says you can’t do something? Perhaps a parent has said you couldn’t succeed at learning how to play a musical instrument. Maybe it was a friend telling you that you weren’t good at playing ball. Or it might have been a spouse discouraging you from pursuing a cherished personal or professional goal.

When we hear “you can’t,” it can dishearten us. It can cause us to stop trying. Or it can actually motivate us, arousing a sense of determination to prove the person wrong. Sometimes, however, being told what we cannot do gives us a clearer understanding of what we can do – and what we should be doing.

Case in point: A series of 10 “cannot” statements widely attributed to Abraham Lincoln, although reports they actually were penned by the Rev. William John Henry Boetcker, a minister and noted public speaker, in the early 1900s. Regardless of the actual source, each of these observations is very insightful.

These wrongly attributed
still merit attention.
Consider the first one: “You cannot bring prosperity by discouraging thrift.” In other words, you won’t prosper long-term by practicing irresponsible and wasteful spending. What a revolutionary concept! Even if President Lincoln never voiced such a thought, it should be inscribed on public buildings in Washington, D.C., and be required reading for every elected official.

The other nine “cannots” are equally challenging and worthy of consideration:
-        “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
-        You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
-        You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
-        You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
-        You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
-        You cannot further brotherhood of men by inciting class hatred.
-        You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
-        You cannot build character and courage by destroying men’s initiative and independence.
-        You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.”

These certainly run counter to much of today’s thinking, but nevertheless they seem to be common sense. Interestingly, the Bible presents its own collection of “cannots.” I’m not referring to the “shalt nots” of the Ten Commandments, although they make good sense, too – something that’s increasingly uncommon, unfortunately.

For instance, Jesus told His followers, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Despite the posturing of outspoken proponents of prosperity theology, we can’t serve and worship God, giving Him top priority and our full attention, while worrying about acquiring and keeping more and more stuff. Surprisingly enough, each session of the U.S. Senate opens with prayer, but they definitely don’t do that on Wall Street.

In the Old Testament, Joshua expressed the same sentiments after he had led the Israelites into the Promised Land – the land of milk and honey. He declared, “if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). He was saying we cannot serve the true God and pursue other idols as well, whatever they may be.

Later in His so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed out, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18). A tree can be judged by its fruit, and He was advising His followers to be discerning about whom they listen to, that they should be wary of being deceived by slick-talking “false prophets.”

Jesus also made the starting statement that, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).

He wasn’t advocating the breakup of families, but was asserting that to truly follow Him meant putting everything else in second place, no matter what. It wasn’t coincidental that not long afterward, many of the curiosity seekers that had surrounded Him stopped following, choosing to go their own way.

And when apostles Peter and John were confronted by the religious leaders and commanded to stop speaking about Jesus, they replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

Moral of the story: Sometimes we cannot do even good things, if and when they conflict with doing the very best things.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Nonchalant With the Divine?

You’ve probably seen photos or replicas of the famous fresco painting, “The Creation of Adam,” that adorns the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel in Rome. This meticulously conceived work by Michelangelo from the early 1500s is one of the iconic creations in the world of art.

Books have been written about this singular treasure. Art critics through the centuries have been enraptured by its beauty, as well as its profound emotional impact upon all who view it. Recently, someone drew my attention to an intriguing detail in this scene depicted from the book of Genesis.

One of the best-known sections of the painting represents the hands of both God and Adam at the moment of creation. God’s right hand appears to be reaching out in earnest, desperately seeking to touch Adam, the first man. Adam, on the other hand (literally), seems nonchalant, his left hand almost limp, displaying little exertion for reciprocating toward the Divine.

If a caption were written, Adam might well be saying something like, “Oh, hi. How ya doin’?”

Perhaps in Michelangelo’s mind, Adam was just awakening, groggily becoming aware of what was happening. So in that context, the less-than-earnest effort displayed for reaching toward God might be understandable. But it occurs to me that this must be how God views how we feebly approach Him at times.

If you’re a parent, you remember how eagerly we’ve been greeted by our children when we returned home from work or an errand. “Mommy, Mommy!” or “Daddy, Daddy!” they scream with delight, running toward us for a welcoming embrace. By the time they’re teenagers, however, that enthusiasm is usually gone. We walk into the room and all we get is a shrug or “Hey,” while they stay focused on the text they’re sending, a game on their tablet, or the TV show they’re watching.

Sometimes we’re the same as believers. Early in our walk with God, we’re all “Daddy, Daddy!” – or “Abba, Abba!” to use the correct biblical term. But as months and years in our spiritual journey wind along, our excited greetings degenerate into a casual wave. The effort to get ready to attend a worship service starts seeming like too much trouble. Even though we know it would be good to devote some quality time each day to prayer and studying the Bible, it seems there’s always something more urgent to address.

That’s why I often try to remind myself that unlike Adam’s depiction in Michelangelo’s masterpiece, I need to pursue the Lord as eagerly as He has pursued me. “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

More and more it seems we’re living in a similarly “dry and weary land” where fervent faith isn’t “cool.” But that doesn’t mean it’s not important and shouldn’t be cultivated. Do we thirst and long for God, as the psalmist writes?

Taking a lackadaisical attitude toward our relationship with God, fired up only by the furnace of crisis and then soon cooled afterward, runs the risk of becoming like the church of Laodicea, described in the book of Revelation: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! Because you are neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).

In other words, if the idea of spending time with God no longer lights your fire, check to see if your wood is wet!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Where Are You Looking?

One day I was sitting in class, lost in my thoughts, when one of the tough guys at our school said, “What are you looking at?” I’d been gazing in his direction, so he presumed I was staring at him.

Where we look can make a great
difference in how we see life.
But that question, “What are you looking at?” is valid today. There’s an endless variety of choices for our attention. We have TV programs, an endless array of websites and publications, text messages, billboards, books on any and every topic. Politicians and celebrities share a common demand: “Look at me!”

Recently I read a statement that resonated with me: “If you want to be miserable, look within; distracted, look around; peaceful, look up.” Seems like a good description of many people we encounter every day, even ourselves.

Introspection can be good at times, but as the quote says, too much looking within ourselves can lead to misery. We can become self-critical, self-indulgent or self-pitying, consumed with “me, myself and I” at the expense of others. Someone even created a term for it – navel-gazing.

Then there’s the distraction of continually looking around ourselves. Actor and film director Woody Allen once quipped about being accused of cheating on his “metaphysical exam” because “I was caught looking into the soul of the person next to me.” I’ve never done that, but it’s easy to become consumed with looking at everything happening around us.

When driving, there’s a particular danger of not looking where we should, electing to look at a just-received text, the GPS, or not really looking at anything in particular while engaged in conversations on our smartphones. These days we don’t have to be drunk or under the influence of chemicals to be “driving impaired.” So the adage, “Look where you’re going,” is important.

We become engrossed in learning all we can about the crisis du jour, whether it involves severe weather, terrorism, economic upheaval, or random mayhem. The world around us does seem to be heading to Hades in the proverbial hand basket, and we’re eager to be firsthand witnesses.

Our hobbies and pastimes captivate us, ranging from the Super Bowl and various other major sporting events to vicariously experiencing the lives of people starring in so-called “reality” shows. There’s no shortage of distractions available to us.

But I’ve found the best place of all to look is…up. When I find myself feeling depressed or disheartened, I eventually realize it’s because I’ve spent too much time looking within or looking around. But when I intentionally shift my focus, choosing to look up, I find peace, and hope, and joy, and confidence that things aren’t so bad after all.

Perhaps that’s why the psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

Another psalm declares, “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he shows us his mercy” (Psalm 123:1-2).

In the midst of uncertainty, sometimes feeling overwhelmed by chaos surrounding us, God offers assurance: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

So the word to the wise: Keep looking up.