Don’t Worry

We’re told not to worry and we know we’re supposed to praise instead. While praising is a wonderful general strategy for refocusing and reprioritizing our thoughts, are there any specific strategies for coping with valid concerns?

What He Did Say

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 “and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

– Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV)

Verse 25 talks about not taking no thought for the material things of living. The word and its context at the time didn’t mean that deciding what pieces of clothing to wear today was wrong.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought—“Be not solicitous.” The English word “thought,” when our version was made, expressed this idea of “solicitude,” “anxious concern… [1]

What He Didn’t Say

  • Pretend it’s going to be fine
  • Pretend you’re going to get what you want
  • Pretend there’s nothing wrong

How often when we tell ourselves not to worry, we are actually telling ourselves to delude ourselves about the current circumstances or the future resolution? We tell ourselves, “Don’t worry, it will all take care of itself.” Our mental salve for troubles and problems is to look for and hope for the resolution of the problem.

The problem getting removed or resolved will happen sometimes. Sometimes, however, it won’t. The point of this passage is not to guarantee perfectly smooth living; it’s to tell us how to work through troubles that haven’t gone away. The New Living Translation translates verse 25 with, “Today’s trouble is enough for today.” It’s not about being trouble free; it’s about being filled up with power and knowledge of how to work through the troubles as they come.

Working through Worry

Sometimes a quick praise prayer can knock worried, anxious thoughts out of our head. Sometimes, the thoughts are more stubborn than that and they need to be intentionally removed.

  • Acknowledge the concern if it’s valid.
    • Jesus didn’t say that worry is made up or crazy. There are truly troubling things in life and truly difficult patches that we or our loved ones are walking through. It’s not about faking your way out of things or trying to pretend that nothing is wrong.
  • Don’t Let It Run with Your Mind
    • While worries can be legitimate, worries can also run away with us. Our minds can be very imaginative with where things can go and taking things to a new level of problems doesn’t help us and doesn’t help us to trust the Lord. Acknowledge that today’s troubles are enough for today and you’re going to lean on the Lord through it.
  • Realize that Worry Changes Nothing
    • Sometimes we can be so anxious to feel like we’re doing something that we latch on to worry as something we can “do”. Because we’re focused on the problem, talking about it, or finding solutions in our own mind, we feel like we’re helping somehow. We’re not. Worry doesn’t do anything and it doesn’t change anything. If anything, it makes it worse.
  • Worry Damages Your Faith
    • Worry isn’t just useless or a waste of time; it can acutally damage your faith and your ability to see God’s goodness and power. Deep down, the root of worry is that somehow, in some way, God isn’t going to keep one of His promises: maybe you don’t belive that He will provide, maybe you don’t believe He truly loves you and knows what you need. Whatever the block is, if you allow your focus to go to worry, you are tearing away and your foundation of belief in God.

The Antidote to Worry

While it’s great to work our way through worry and finally feel like it’s defeated, it’s not complete to stop there. The antidote to worry is service to the kingdom of God. The verse that says, “… seek first the kingdom of God” wasn’t accidentally dropped into this passage. Our worry blinds us to the needs of others and the call of God. Once we’ve acknowledge the source of our worry (our disbelief) and surrendered that to God, we must act out that belief and the change in us by serving others. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; sometimes it’s just stepping up and making dinner on a night when you’d rather just curl up with a pint of ice cream. Maybe though, depending on your circumstances, getting out and serving others who are struggling, through more tradition outlets like serving the homeless or mentoring kids can be a huge help in keeping our perspective and humility before the Lord.



[1] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 28). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Meditating on the Lord

1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; 2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. 3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. &em; Psalm 1:1–3 (NRSV)

What Is Meditation

Merriam-Webster defines meditation as: the act or process of spending time in quiet thought. Current science has shown that it is more than just quiet thought; it is the process of choosing quite awareness.[1] Meditation is defined by Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier, as the process of focusing on breathing, getting distracted, then refocusing on it.[2] Researchers like Wendy Hasenkamp agree.

In an attempt to see what meditation did to the mind, Wendy Hasenkamp asked participants to focus on their breathing. If their mind wandered, they were to push a button and refocus on their breathing. While they were doing this, their brains were being scanned by an MRI to see the changes in activity.

The study showed that the mind, when switching to a meditating mode, used three different parts of the brain: the default mode network when the mind was wandering, regions of the brain that detected important or relevant information when the participants realized their mind was wandering, and the executive brain function took over to redirect the mind to focus on the correct thing. In addition to seeing the mind switch the areas it was using, participants who were more experienced at meditating were more quickly and completely able to switch back to the meditation when their mind wandered.

Researchers concluded that meditation allows us to practice the mental “muscles” that let us be the boss over our own thoughts. As we continually pull our thoughts of the daydreaming, wandering thoughts that take us wherever our emotions allow, we become stronger and faster at choosing what our mind focuses on. [3]

Meditation and Scripture

This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. &em; Joshua 1:8 (NRSV)

Many places in scriptures we are commanded to meditate on the Lord, His ways, and His laws. The Old Testament promise for this is success and peace.

3 Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace— in peace because they trust in you. &em; Isaiah 26:3 (NRSV)

Under the new covenant of the blood of Jesus, it is even more beneficial to focus our mind, as Apostle Paul reminds us, to find the peace of God that protects our hearts and minds.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. &em; Philippians 4:4–7 (NRSV)

Practical Meditation Steps

The process of meditation as described by Dan Harris or the research of Wendy Hasenkamp is about clearing your mind or about thinking about nothing. This is not what the scriptures say, but it is the first step of getting to a mental place where we can clear our thoughts to focus on who God is and what He’s done for us.

If your mind is full of worry and troubles, just adding the good thoughts in won’t reset your mind; it will only clutter it more. Focusing on something as peaceful and regular and necessary as your breath can turn off the “worry circuits” in your mind and create a quiet place to bring in the thoughts of praise for the Lord.

Prayer and asking passionately (supplication) are also a part of this mediation process along with the meditation habits of not worrying. When we’re coming to the Lord and focusing on Him, talking to Him about what’s troubling us is a vital part of letting go of the anxious thoughts. In fact, from the way Apostle Paul phrases it, it might be the only way to truly get rid of them, “Do not worry… let your requests be known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Living Every Moment in Meditation

In the busyness of daily life, it can be difficult to see how the mundane tasks tie in with serving and glorifying God. It can be easy to divide our actions and even our thoughts into separate categories: the God stuff and the life stuff. However, every moment we’ve been given is a gift from God, not something that we have to get through in order to get to the “real” ones.

Meditation offers a way to take a moment and feel connected with what we’re doing. It’s a way to bring a connection with God into anything and everything we’re doing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the cares of the world, or the demands of your day, stop and take one moment and find the peace of God. Still your mind through turning off your busy mind, and reconnect with God by choosing to focus on Him.

Protection of Heart and Mind

Apostle Paul says the result of this kind of focused mind “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7). This kind of effort isn’t simply a good idea or suggestion. It’s the mechanism that we’ve been given to protect our devotion to Christ. We are constantly being shot with by the flaming arrows of the devil (Ephesians 6:16). Our faith can be potentially damaged if we don’t keep our focus on Him and seek His goodness in everything we do and see.

In the parable of the sower, the seeds (the good news of Jesus Christ) that were strangled by thorns were the people who let the cares of the world take over and defeat the belief in Christ.

22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. – Matthew 13:22 (NRSV)

We need to have a tool in our spiritual belt that allows us to fight the thorns away. Meditation is a heavyweight in the fight of keeping our faith strong and our focus on Christ.


[1] “Psychology Today.” Mindfulness. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2015. <>.

[2] ABC News. “The Long Journey to Becoming 10% Happier”. Nightline. 12 March, 2014. Video. 09 May 2015. Notes from approx. 10:39. <>

[3] Hasenkamp, Wendy. “How to Focus a Wandering Mind.” Berkeley, 13 July 2013. Web. 09 May 2015. <>.

Strong Enough for Fruit

Producing a character full of God’s Spirit

First Things First – Christine Caine daily devotional, April 21

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples – John 15:8

It was a sobering moment when I realized that the fruit of the Spirit did not include how well I could preach or how effective I was at giving altar calls. Nowhere in the Bible could I find a Scripture that said, “By their gifts you will know them.”

I realized then that there could be no doubt I had been examined by the Lord and found lacking. Deep within me, I came to accept the fact that I had a long way to go in my spiritual walk. I needed some time to deal with my issues and to strengthen my inner person so my gift would not take me to a place where my character would not keep me.

Sadly, all too often I hear of destinies that have been sabotaged because Christians have focused on developing the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their lives rather than seeking the fruit.

When the gifts of the Spirit on a person’s life are greater than the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life, that life will begin to crumble. Let’s ensure that we are not only seeking spiritual gifts but also producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Nowhere in the Bible could I find a Scripture that said, “By their gifts you will know them.” How about “by their results you will know them”? What do we think defines us as Christians besides love?

I needed some time to deal with my issues and to strengthen my inner person so my gift would not take me to a place where my character would not keep me. The phrase “my character would not keep me” is a powerful statement to me. Who we are in our hearts is far more important that what we do in this life and we can get so carried away with what we’re called to do that we forget about who we’re called to be. We forget that we should be asking the Lord to try our heart.

Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you. – Psalm 26:2-3 (NRSV)

Sadly, all too often I hear of destinies that have been sabotaged because Christians have focused on developing the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their lives rather than seeking the fruit. What are your gifts? What is your fruit? In a nutshell, the gifts are what you do and the fruit is who you are.

When the gifts of the Spirit on a person’s life are greater than the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life, that life will begin to crumble. Gifts are given to help us serve others in our own unique way. We are constantly being challenged to step to the next level of our abilities. When we are walking with the Lord this can be a beautiful opportunity to know Him better and learn to love others more.

… From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. – Luke 12:48 (NRSV)

Sometimes, however, we should be taking an honest perusal of our hearts and minds and saying that maybe this step is not one we’re spiritually ready to take. At that point, what could have been a blessing is now a temptation. It has morphed to something that will not benefit us because, in order to go to the next level, we will have to use our strength and our effort and our talent to move there.

When we stop and humble ourselves before the Lord, we can take the next step in His strength, knowing His character will be in us and leading us forward.

Spiritual Maturity

The spiritual maturity this kind of self-aware activity takes is higher than the maturity level for Sunday morning pew-warmers. This kind of deep spirit trolling takes commitment and honesty in the presence of the Lord. This kind of maturity requires the ability to see God above ourselves, our circumstances, our emotions, and our desires.

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. – Psalm 22:2-3 (NRSV)

In Psalm 22:2-3, David clearly wasn’t having a warm-fuzzy feeling encounter with God here. He felt ignored, “you do not answer”. This wasn’t a casual conversation either, he was engaged intensely and was tired, “find no rest”. Reading on in Psalm 22, David is have more than just a bad day; he’s feeling near death. This isn’t an insignificant thing that he’s bringing before the Lord. He’s begging and pleading and pointing out the insufferable nature of his circumstances.


Such a small word but in this context, it tells so much about David’s view on God. David was exhausted and was praying prayers that went unanswered while being threatened by strong foes (Psalm 22:12,16), but it not dissuade him from seeing the grandeur and glory of God. He knew exactly where God was and who God was and didn’t allow the frustrations of his circumstances to bend that in the slightest.

That steadfastness is the spiritual maturity that we are required to have in order to face this kind of character work. We will not be able to be formed into the image of a holy God if we can’t get our eyes off ourselves long enough to look for Him.

When we are in that place, our character can grow and be transformed. Then we will be able to carry the load of fruit that God has planned for us. We will be able to step into the good works, our gifting, with ever-growing, ever-renewing strength.

Devotional, First Things First, from April 21, 2015 is copyright Christine Caine International. Used by permission.

What Do You Expect?

Guarding our joy through understanding our expectations.

What Are Our Expectations?

Our view of our circumstances and therefore our response to them is formed primarily from the expectations we have. This includes relationships, career situations, and, possibly the most important one, how we view God.

This is a more specific application of the idea that perception affects our reality. While that’s true, the only way that perceptions can impact us is through our expectations. Perception is simply how we look at people and circumstances; expectations is how we interact with people and circumstances.

To use technology as an example: I perceive that technology is beneficial and I like to use it. My expectation is that it will work. When my expectations are not met, I am annoyed.

Expectations are what set the stage for my response to my environment. If I have no expectations, no preconceived ideas about how things will go, it is impossible to be disappointed. Disappointment only comes when something about the experience didn’t live up to what you thought it would be.

The Subtly of Expectation

While it seems straightforward to analyze your own expectations, it can be difficult or not impossible to be aware of what yours are. For something that is so important to our overall healthy walk of life, how can it be so subtle? Should we somehow be automatically connected with this things that is so deeply a part of us? No, and the key to why not is that “it is so deeply a part of us.”

When we go through life, there are habits and thought processes that are so ingrained in us, be it from nature or nurture, that we can’t separate them from who we are. They are the fluidity that we walk through our day in. This is important in many ways because it gives us context in new situations where we otherwise wouldn’t have any clue how to operate in. A perhaps slightly oversimplified example would be going to the grocery store. If you are going to the one that you grew up going to, you know where all the products are that you need to buy. If you are going to a brand new grocery store that you have never been to before, do you have to stop and ask the first employee that you see for a detailed map of the aisles? No, because you have an expectation of what a grocery store is and how it’s set up enough to be able to navigate and find what you need to, even if you have to look in two or three places first. Your expectations have allowed you to navigate an unknown situation and still achieve the goal that you needed; in this case, you bought food.

The Crash of Expectation

Expectations can cause us difficulty when we start applying them to areas of our life where they don’t apply, but we want them to anyway. We begin to expect certain things of people that they are not in a place to provide. In the disappointment that follows from our expectations not being met, we often react in selfish ways. Because our expectations are so deeply engrained in us, we feel that it’s our right, our destiny, or some other similar expression of desire that we have our expectations met.

In relationships this can cause true wedges and damage between friends or especially spouses. Because the other person doesn’t share this expectation, they feel attacked or pushed into something that may not make much sense to them. Enough times of this level of misunderstanding and the relationship begins to grow sour.

With God, the same thing can happen. We can set up these expectations of who God is and, more importantly, what He’s going to do for us. These expectation come from a variety of sources: from church, from culture, from charismatic teachers or preachers, from ourselves, and from the Scriptures. Not all expectations are wrong; any that are based on the Word of God are true. Unfortunately, many of expectations come from other influencers and lead us to have disappointing experiences of God.

Exploring Expectation

While having our expectations let down is one accurate way to open our eyes to our expectations, there is another way to find them out, one that could lead to less pain in the process. This way is a conscious exploration of how we are approaching our choices. As we move through our day, we can pray that the Holy Spirit will open our mind and enlighten us to understand what is motivation what we’re doing.

One obvious place to start is when we ask the Lord for things. Take a moment to stop and be aware of what you expect as a result of your prayer. What do you think God will do? How do you think God will answer your prayer? What do anticipate with have changed after God is done?

There are no wrong answers to these questions; they are meant to be observations of what’s going on in your heart and mind right now. As you become more aware of what you expect, it becomes easier (and possible!) to begin to look at whether those expectations are based on God’s truth or on your ideas of what He should do.

Another red-flag that indicates expectations is the word should, especially in the context of what God or others are doing. When you feel that another person should have done or not done something, it can be an indicator that you have preconceived ideas about the circumstances. This can be a good time to stop and explore the expectation to discover more about why you’re thinking what you’re thinking.

The first step in understanding these expectations is to be able to become aware of them. Doing these awareness exercises isn’t always to highlight incorrect ones, but to become aware of them. Once you’re aware, the next step is to begin understanding which ones are based on God’s truth and which ones are incorrectly based on culture, past experience, or self-defense response.

For example, if you are asking him to remove circumstances in your life that case you stress, ask yourself what will have changed when those circumstances are removed? Will you have moved closer to the Lord by them being removed, or will your life just have become more convenient?

Eternal Expectations

God wants to bless you more than you can imagine, but God is not here solely to bring you the comfy, cozy life. He’s come to conform you into His image for His glory, which is the greatest glory there is. If your expected answer doesn’t change you and humble you and make you more pliable in His hands, your expectations might be based more on an earthly expectation than an eternal one.

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. – John 17:3 (NRSV)

When we talk with the Lord and as we walk with Him closer and deeper every day, are you expecting to get know Him? Are you expecting that at the end of every day and at the end of all your days, that you know Him not only has a Savior and Redeemer, but as a friend?

The hope of the righteous ends in gladness, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing. – Proverbs 10:28 (NRSV)