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The Lord has said: “These people praise me with their words, but they never really think about me. They worship me by repeating rules made up by humans. Isaiah 29:13

“Now I lay me down to sleep…”

It’s a simple childhood prayer. One repeated by countless children in the past. For many it’s their first prayer. For far too many it’s as deep as their prayer life goes. Are the words of this simple prayer meaningless? Do we really believe that the God of the universe is so concerned about miniscule me that he’ll watch over me in the night? Are they dead words?

“God is great, God is good…”

We sit before a table full of food. More food perhaps than the majority of the world sees in a month. Do we believe God IS good with all the starving children and homeless people? Do we believe God is GREAT when disease and violence are ravaging our families and killing our children? Some before they are even born? Are the words we pray for table grace dead words? Words we repeat with no meaning, no thought, no real belief they are true?

I have a dear Christian friend who, for all his gifts and talents, can’t manage his time to save his soul. Countless numbers of times he’s forced to call people and tell them he can’t make this appointment or that appointment because he’s double booked. Sometimes he completely misses appointments because he’s forgotten to write them down or check the calendar on his high tech equipment. Much as I love the guy, I can’t trust him to be where he says he’ll be. His words are dead words because they aren’t followed consistently with action.

I get countless prayer requests on social media. I’ve learned to pray for a situation first and then post my agreement in prayer for people I don’t even know. Do I really believe my prayer for a situation will make any difference? Are my words dead words? Words without thought or expectation of action?

As I sing songs of worship or raise my hands in praise or open my Bible for study. Are my actions out of duty or truly out of worship of a God who has taken my worthlessness and made it new?

The Father speaks to us through his prophet Isaiah. The message is simple. Think before you speak of him. Humble yourself before proclaiming your allegiance. Put actions to your words wherever possible. Always, always pray in the Spirit. The Spirit brings life. The Spirit brings truth.

This isn’t a treatise against simple prayers or written prayers. It’s not an attack on any form of worship. It’s simply a reminder to all of us that our Father, the God of the universe is not impressed with our words or religious activity; He’s blessed by pure hearts. Hearts that are broken before him.

PRAYER: Father, I’m humbled today by my own words. I confess that too often the things I do ‘for you’ are really things to make me feel better about myself. May my words be full of life and action through your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

One of the amazing things about the Bible, in my opinion anyway, is the nuggets of truth that are scattered throughout its pages. Little phrases that hold in them tremendous encouragement for us and open to us a clear view of how much God really does love us.

1 Peter 5:7 is one of these nuggets. To set the stage a bit, the book of Peter was written by Jesus’ disciple, Peter. You remember good ole’ stick my foot in my mouth, hot tempered, proud and boastful Peter. The same guy that promised to honor Jesus and then denied him a few minutes later?

Peter wrote this letter to Christ-followers who were going through persecution that was so severe that it was considered the most heinous treatment of human beings in history. He’s writing to people who felt outnumbered, misunderstood and in constant threat of imprisonment, torture and death.

Towards the end of his letter he says “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Did you see it? The nugget of truth for us? Look again. “he cares for you”.  Let it sink in. “he cares for you” He, Jesus, the Son of the most high God.

Now personalize it. “Jesus cares for me.” Mull that over. Jesus cares.  Doesn’t sound like a distant, removed or uninterested God to me. He cares. He doesn’t just care for the world. Jesus cares for me!

That’s not stuffy theology. It’s not restrictive doctrine or rigid rules. It’s love. You see, what Peter is really telling his readers then and now is this. During those times when life is impossible. When your relationships have failed, when you are misunderstood or caught in sin, when the addictions seem to be overpowering you, when fear and ruin seem inevitable. Jesus cares.

When someone cares for you it’s evident. You know someone really cares for you when they listen intently to your every word; when they know what you like and dislike; when they understand your anger or sorrow or frustration.

A person who really cares for you is always proud of you. Not for what you have done but because of who you are, the real you. You know, the one that others rarely get to see?

A person who cares of you challenges you. He encourages you to strive for your dreams, but doesn’t get disappointed in you when things don’t go as planned. He’s the kind of person that attends every one of your games, or recitals, or concerts or workshops and listens intently to the same words you’ve said a thousand times and acts like each repeated thought is brand new and profound.

That’s Jesus. He cares for you. When the world crashed in, remember. Jesus cares for you.

Caring has another side to it. It’s not a pleasant side at the time, but it’s an important side none-the-less. If a parent, for example, cares for his child he disciplines his child. Discipline isn’t punishment. Punishment has anger at its base and revenge as its motive. Discipline is more about love, about shaping, about molding. Its motive is love. Its desire is pure.

Alongside discipline is its twin, tough love. Discipline says I’ll mold you. Tough love says, “if I have to, I’ll let the consequences of your decisions run their course. Then, I’ll mold you when you are ready.

Discipline and tough love are never fun. Not for the receiver or the giver. But discipline and tough love both work together to create character and integrity that will bring us through the tough times.

That’s Jesus. He cares for you. He loves you the way you are, but loves you far too much to leave you that way. When life gets hard, don’t get angry or bitter. Remember that Jesus cares. Talk to Him. Rest in Him. Let his healing arms of love surround you.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. Thank you for caring for me. I know I’m not always an easy one to love. I make bad choices. I hurt people and myself. I get angry at you when I don’t get my way. I’m just a spoiled two-year-old sometimes. I’m so undeserving of your patient, loving care but I thank you for being here for me. You truly are an Awesome God. Amen.

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