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Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Need to be Right

Why do I argue?  Why do I correct others?  Why do I get angry at the way other people behave?  I think it is my nature.  From the beginning, my ancestors desired to be like God, to know good and evil (Genesis 3).  I like to know.  I like and possibly need to be right.  I have a tendency to live and think like "my way is the right way".

 

I realized, in the past 7-10 years (yes, I am a slow learner), that most of the stress in my life I have created.  Most of that created stress is attributable to my need to be right.  I think I understand things better than those around me, so I "gently" correct them.   This tends to anger people (I suspect they have a need to be right as well).  It creates tension and stress.  I created tension and stress because I need to be right.   I get angry watching other people behave... how they drive, how they dress, how they act, how they speak, how they treat other people and me.  I believe my view and my decisions are right and when the behavior of others doesn't line up with it, I get angry.  I can't really do anything about how they behave which is frustrating and leads to stress.  If I do act and attempt to correct I end up angering and arguing... again stress and frustration.

 

I am learning that I am not right (I know... news flash).  In fact, I am learning that my thinking ends in futility and my conduct is indefensible (Romans 1:20-21).  There is a way that seems right to me but in the end it is foolishness (Proverbs 14:12).  I don't have the perspective to decide big issues like "right" and "wrong".  I occupy only a small slice of time.  I live in very limited context.  No matter how much I read or how much I listen and learn, it is only a fraction of what can be known.  Therefore, my perspective will only ever be limited.  I also am learning (slowly), that there is a perspective and knowledge that isn't limited.  There is a presence that occupies all of time (past, present, and future).  There is a being that transcends all contexts.  It is God.

 

The Bible instructs me to yield and submit to God (James 4:7).  When I do this, most if not all of the stress goes out my life.  When I function with the understanding that I don't understand everything and that God is in charge and the judge, the need to argue with and correct others diminishes.  I also find that my frustration with others diminishes.  I still see things that I perceive as wrong.  I just realize I am not the "Behavior Police".  I do my best to love them as they are, where they are, and as the opportunities present, bear witness to what I am learning about and experiencing with God and myself.  God does the changing of hearts.

 

I still struggle from time to time with a need to be right.  The stretches of yielded submission grow longer as I continue in my relationship and pursuit of God as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  I am growing.  I am learning.  My mind continues to be transformed.  God's love, mercy, and grace make up the difference.  I believe I will continue to work on giving up my need to right in the here and now and work on by need to be right the One who is right and is seated on God's right (Acts 2:32-33).

9:02 am est 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Important

"Love the Lord, your God, with all your...

-        Heart

-        Soul

-        Mind

-        Strength..."

Mark 12:29-30

 

 

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus answering a question about the greatest commandment.  In all versions, the sequence is the same (Exception being Matthew who leaves off "strength").  In God's economy there is priority hence even the idea of the Great Commandment.  God's insistence on being first and the one and only God in our lives is further evidence of His priority (Deuteronomy 5:6-10).  The Apostle Paul writes of it in Romans 12:2, referring to God's "good, acceptable, and perfect will".  With this in mind, I believe it is no coincidence that there is particular sequence to our four elements of being in the Great Commandment.

 

Heart refers to our core.  It is the source of life for us (Proverbs 4:23).  Is it surprising that this is listed first?  We speak of "matters of the heart".  Those things that drive us, that defy reason.  In our heart, the issues of faith are resolved.  We believe enough to act.  It is the foundation of our discipleship (2 Peter 1:5).  It is this which affects our soul.

 

Our soul, that part of us which is God breathed (Genesis 2:7), connects us to God.  As we resolve the most important issues, the matters of the heart, what we are, what we stand for, whose we are, and are willing to act on them, our soul reflects these conclusions.  With our heart and soul synchronized, we can begin to think correctly.

 

The Apostle Paul wrote about the corruption of the mind (Romans 1:18-32) and of the transformation of the mind (Romans 12:2).  Both are consequential to resolving the heart and soul issues first.  If we believe in and are aligned with God, our minds can be renewed and aligned with God as well.  If we choose to ignore God and pretend he doesn't exist, our minds are corrupted.  As the rest of our being goes, so goes the physical.

 

Again, the Apostle Paul writes about the consequential degradation of our bodies when we choose to ignore God (Romans 1:18-32) and about the disciplining of the tool and temple that is our body when we choose to pursue and know God (Romans 6:12-14).

 

I suspect the priority of these qualities doesn't end here.  Jesus spoke to Martha, at the point of her complaints against her sister Mary, that Mary had chosen what was most important.  Mary had chosen heart and soul matters.  Martha had chosen physical (or "strength") matters.  The minds of both were affected. (Luke 10:38-42)  Mary's drew her to Jesus.  Martha's drew her to the matters of the moment, the urgent.

 

We are confronted with this dilemma every day... The important versus the urgent.  I see my brothers and sisters in Christ busied with many activities and campaigns related to urgent matters and varying degrees of importance.  I see very few of us focused, as Mary was, on heart and soul matters as our highest priority.  We spend so much time and energy confronting and seeking to remedy physical wrongs... abortion, same sex marriage, creation vs evolution, addictions, prejudice, violence, poverty, etc...  Not to say or to convey that some of these issues aren't important, they are.  But they aren't the most important.  We will not argue into agreement people who do not share the same philosophical underpinnings that we share.  Until someone believes what you believe and values what you value will they seek to know what you know and do what you do.  It is the heart, soul, mind, and strength sequence!

 

We, the disciples of Jesus Christ, would be far more effective in the battles of the physical if we started first with the battles for the heart and soul.  If we loved God first and loved others as we love ourselves... if loving each other was the commandment we lived by... If God was our highest priority and the commander of our lives... would we really need to fight against abortion?  Would we be debating prejudice, violence, poverty, same sex marriage?  They may continue to be issues but we would be focused on resolution along with like-minded brothers and sisters.

 

My plea to you, my fellow disciples of Jesus Christ, is the focus on the important.  Leave off with buildings and programs, with marketing and presentation, with campaigns and causes.  Focus instead on you.  Are you the best disciple you can be?  Focus on each other, building each other and our collective selves up to being the Body of Christ, the Church - conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-30), with his mind (Philippians 2:5-13), measured by nothing less than his full stature (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Focus on these heart and soul matters first.  The mind will follow and with mind, the body (although needing to be disciplined) will come along.  Spend our resource (time, money, energy) on the most important and we won't need to spend as much if any on the symptoms that condemn us of the state of our heart and soul.  Focus on what is important.

8:20 am est 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Where Do You Meet God?

Where do you meet God?  Where do you typically find him?  Where do you go to look for him?  How do you go about looking for him?

 

I have a number of friends who either question God's existence or outright deny he exists.  Our conversations tend to follow the same track:  "If there was some proof of God, I could believe" or "Show me scientific proof God exists".  I have a number of friends who confess the God exists, confess they believe in Jesus Christ, have confessed their sin, and sought forgiveness from God through Jesus.  They believe God exists and they believe Jesus lived, died for their sins, and rose from the grave.  I believe they know this first person because they experienced it.  But like meeting a celebrity once, they have that one real experience and everything else they know, they know second hand.

 

 

Jesus, God's Son, made an interesting confession while here on earth.  It is recorded throughout John's Gospel and summarized in John 17.  Jesus said and did only what he saw and heard from His Father.  Implied in this confession is a fact that Jesus listened to, observed, and spent time with God.  In fact, there are numerous occasions throughout all the Gospels where Jesus and God the Father interacted or Jesus went alone to pray.  It cannot be understated that in all that Jesus did, all that he said, all that he was created for, God was his source.

 

You cannot find God unless you look for him.  If you look for him you will find him.  Matthew reports Jesus teaching... "Ask and you will receive.  Seek and you will find.  Knock and the door will be opened."  James writes, instructing us that if we draw close to God, he will draw close to us.  Unfortunately, too many expect God to perform for them without any effort on their part or like Israel, in the wilderness, they are too fearful of what they may find if they meet God so they are content to hear of him second hand.

 

The truth of our relationship with God is that it is first person and can only be first person.  We are his children.  We aren't grandchildren, or nephews, or nieces.  Jesus enables us to be first person.  God predestined that in Jesus we could be reconciled to Him.  We don't have to earn it but we do have to believe and accept it.  We do have to develop in our relationship with him.  If we don't, is there really a relationship at all?

 

I typically meet God in my office at home, in the morning, every morning.  There are two chairs set a 90 degrees to each other.  One of them is mine.  The other reminds me that God is there, waiting to spend time with me.  He loves me and wants to be with me.  He aches like a parent aches to feel the love of a child in return.  He created me, provides for me, protects me, guides me, called me, gifted me, redeemed me, forgave me ,sacrificed for me.  Surely, I can spare a moment for him.  Certainly he deserves all the time I can give him.  With Jesus as my example, I reasonably cannot conclude anything less than giving him my entire existence... being anything less than a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).  The more time I spend with God, the easier it is to find him in other places and at other times. 

 

I typically find God in his Word, the Bible.  I get to know what he has chosen to reveal to me, to us.  When I pray, I get to interact with him first person.  When I act out what I find out about him, about me, about what He is about and wants, I understand God better.  Like layers of stain on a fine piece of wood, each interaction deepens the color, the texture, the richness of our relationship.  The more I know him, the more I realize what it means to be his son.  I know what he expects.  I know what he values.  I know when I am pleasing to him and when I am not.  I know that when I do please him, I want to do it more.  I know that when I disappoint him, I don't want that experience again.

 

I know this from experience.  I know this from God's Word.  God wants to be found.  He is not far from us.  If I look for Him, he will meet me where I am the way I am.  Are you looking?  He is waiting for you! 

 

 

6:49 am est 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

It's Your Choice

"You may eat from any tree in the garden...except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; the day you eat from that, you are surely doomed to die."  - Genesis 2:16-17

 

God created everything (Genesis 1:1; John1:3).   God gave everything a purpose (Romans 8:28).  Everything does as God commands with one exception... man.  God gave man something no other being, no other element of creation has:  a choice.  In creating this world, he ordained a purpose for everything.  Trees to be trees.  Rocks to be rocks.  Animals to be who they are.  The Adversary to oppose.  The Angels to serve.  In creating all these things he created a choice for us, for man.  We could choose him and all that he created, the way he created it or we could choose anything else (ultimately choosing ourselves) over God.  You could say that even we do what we were created to do - choose.

 

God revealed himself to that first man... in creation and through a relationship.  God revealed himself to his people, Israel, through the law (Romans 2:17-20).  God revealed himself through the prophets.  God revealed himself through His Son - the Christ.  God revealed himself through the Apostles.  God has revealed himself through the written words of the Bible.  God reveals himself through His Holy Spirit.  God reveals himself through his image created in us.  God reveals himself through those who do choose him.  God reveals himself in the things that are created (Romans 1:19-20).  God isn't hard to find. Who he is isn't hard to discern.  His intentions aren't difficult to grasp.  The choice isn't complex.  But it is your choice.

 

If you seek to choose God, you will be opposed.  God created the Adversary to oppose His way to create the possibility of choice.  Because of the first man's choice, you are aware of all kinds of alternatives to God's way (God has only one way - John 14:6).  God gave us all we need (Philippian 4:19).  God enables us to sort out his good, acceptable, and perfect will (Romans 12:2).  Even in those times when we aren't sure what to say or can't form the words to say, He has made a way for us to communicate with him (Romans 8:26-28).

 

You see it isn't that God isn't there.  It isn't that he is hard to find.  It isn't that the choice is difficult.  It isn't that we can't make the choice.  It is only that... it's your choice and because of that, the consequences are yours to bear alone.  Choose God's way and life.  Choose any other way and death.  It's your choice.

6:50 am est 


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