Updated: Jan 22
Downtown Bend is the meeting of two worlds. It's the contrast of fancy boutiques and fine dining right next to the beautiful Drake park running along the Deschutes river. In the park, you can always find geese and gray squirrels, sometimes even deer and elk. The summer brings daisies and the winter brings red mountain ash berries. In town, there are tourists and locals serving and shopping. Some buy food and clothes and some work to provide those comforts. They busily run around trying to secure happiness and livelihood. One wonders, do the flowers and the animals in the park scurry about as frantically and with as much worry as all of those working downtown?
In Jesus' sermon on the mount, he remarks on our priorities and anxieties in life:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? ... And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
"Do not worry about tomorrow" is a great proposition, but remember the condition, "seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness" or in other words, prioritize a relationship with Jesus, His rule, His reign, and His fellowship of believers. Remember, the irony of Jesus' question - can worry add any time to your life? No - worrying rather than acting actually lessens our life. What are some things that you feel anxious about? We all worry from time to time, but here Jesus is asking us to bring those worries to him. How can you cast those anxieties on God? What does it look like practically for you to seek first His Kingdom this week? Jesus promises to take care of our needs, when we prioritize him in this way. We do it through seeking a relationship with Him, by prayer, Bible study, and fellowshipping with other Disciples of Jesus.
I remember the first night I set foot on my old college campus at the UofO. I was moving into my apartment, figuring out financial aid, trying to find a job, looking for friends i na new town, and figuring out which classes to take. there was a lot on my plate. That very night, I was invited to a Bible discussion by a few girls attending a campus ministry in Eugene, OR. I joined the Eugene church and put Jesus first In my life. Soon, I had a loving family of disciples surrounding me with friendship, and helping me with my struggles. A few of them helped me navigate classes and financial aid and others helped me to find a job. Later I moved in with a few of the guys for a better housing situation. By putting His Kingdom first, God took care of me and I overcame my anxieties about the future.
In order to follow Jesus, we must overcome our fears in life by asking God to take care of our needs. Do you want to follow Jesus into a fearless life? If you do, it's important to note that Jesus isn't telling us to be lazy or irresponsible. We still have to work, and eat, and dress ourselves, but these shouldn't come first. Jesus wants us to make him our number one priority. It's essential. That's a big ask, but remember Jesus's words in the passage - we are his dearly loved children. Jesus wants a relationship with you and to care for you as a father cares for his children. Will you choose to put Jesus first today and not worry about tomorrow?
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In the summers, we host an open Bible discussion in downtown Bend right by Mirror Pond Plaza and Drake Park, where we lean into this tension by studying Jesus' sermon on the mount. Occasionally, we walk around and invite people to join the Bible discussion. By doing this we found another contrast in the many social layers of Bend, OR. Often, the working professionals are too busy to join a Bible discussion or seek the Lord, and if they do they are often anxious about their stressful schedule. Conversely, we've had numerous guests at our discussion who happen to be homeless - pan handling, fishing, or enjoying the sun in the park. Often these guests seem to have more in life to worry about - no job, income or housing, yet they typically don't express all of these anxieties and are more open to discussing Jesus.
We're blessed to be able to study God's word in such a beautiful park, where the animals, trees, and flowers remind us that God is in control. I hope that our future blog posts in this series looking at the parables God teaches us through His nature can help you as well in your path to seeking God!