Fill ‘er Up

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My Musings – The house (our heart and mind) is not swept clean (the old is gone) so that it remain unoccupied (the new must come).  If left empty, Satan will do his best to fill it up.  He cannot do that if it is already full.  So, “finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8, NIV 1984).  This is how you “renew your mind.”  It will transform your heart.

My Advice – Fill ‘er up.

 

Go and Do Likewise

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My Musings – “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

What indeed?  I’ve done it.  Maybe you have too.  The stranded motorist all alone.  Well, who doesn’t have a cell phone these days?  They can call someone.  It’s a busy road, someone is bound to stop.  I’m running late, I can’t be bothered this time, I’ll get the next one.  What if it’s a ruse, I could be putting myself in real danger.  On the other hand, what if they don’t have a cell phone?  Would it be a bother even if I did have the time?  What if it’s a not to well-traveled road?  What if I don’t stop to help, they could be left in real danger?

How about the shabbily-dressed person on the corner with the crudely lettered sign “any amount will help?”  They’re probably running a scam.  They’ll probably use it for drugs or alcohol.  Why don’t they go out and look for a job?  What if they’ve tried it all and just want to feed their family just for this day?

Without getting too political (too late), what about the refugee seeking a better life?  They’re probably here for free benefits.  They just want to come here and change things to the same as what they left.  What if they belong to some sleeper cell?  Why don’t they just come here legally?  What if they really did flee a life and death situation?

Maybe some of the concerns and objections above are legitimate.  After all, there will always be those looking to take advantage. Many of the situations we face will be tough calls.  But do we really want to turn a “blind-eye” to those who might be truly in need because we are afraid of what might happen to us or skeptical hat their needs are genuine?  While we need to be wise and wary, at the end of the day we are responsible for our hearts and actions and not the other person’s motives.

My Advice – We all know that immediately after the above question “and who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Isn’t it interesting that the two in the parable most likely to lend a hand did not (maybe they used some of the above rationalizations), and the one least likely to care at all (the “hated” Samaritan) cared enough to act.  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37, NIV 1984).

Maybe the ones we find in apparently needy situations are our “hated” Samaritans.  Should it make a difference?  The point of the parable is no.  They are just as much our neighbor as the ones we visit with over the white picket fence.

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Why Not Rather Be Wronged!

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My Musings – “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” – John Wayne as J.B Books in The Shootist 1976.

As I’ve noted before in my blogs, John Wayne was my favorite actor.  Like many, I admired his swagger.  Also like many, to me this creed that his movie character lived by sounds fair.  Yet it is a worldly creed.  We must aim higher.

Paul states a somewhat other worldly creed in the above condensed verses.  To me the key phrase is “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

How Far – “The problem is, “as far as it depends on [us]” isn’t really that far most of the time.  All too often we are very thin-skinned when it comes to being “wronged,” “insulted” or “laid a hand on.”  But rather than take revenge, we are to “overcome evil with good.

With Everyone – “Other people” are not just family and friends.  Not just fellow Christians.  Not just Americans.  Not just the same ethnic group.  Not just Democrats or Republicans.  Not just those who share our worldview and opinions. Everyone means all people, even our enemies.

Be At Peace – Apparently this means more than avoiding conflict.  When (not if) the “other people” wrong us, insult us or lay a hand on us (essentially act like an enemy) we are to feed them if they are hungry.  Give them something to drink if they are thirsty.  Elsewhere, Jesus says to the extent we do this to the “least of these,” we do it to Him.

If Possible – At last – the fine print, the loophole?  I don’t think so.  There will be times that “as far as it depends on you” will not be far enough no matter how far you bear with it.  But even then “do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19, NIV 1984).  Walk away and let God deal with it.

My Advice – These are hard words.  But Kingdom living has a higher calling than worldly living.  Our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.  “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7, NIV 1984).

 

 

Take Heart and Overcome

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My Musings – To overcome is from the Greek NIKAO, which means to overpower, or to be victorious over. When we accept Christ, though we remain in the world, we are no longer of the world.  As a result, we are able to overcome (gain victory over) the world.  If He had not overcome the world (evidenced by His resurrection), then neither could we.

Because we remain in the world, the world will hate us.  Because they hate Him.  And this hate grows stronger very day.  But we do not lose heart, rather we take heart because He did overcome the world.

In this world you will have trouble . . .

For Doing What’s Right – “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:13-17, NIV 1978).

For Being A Christian – “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:12-16, NIV 1978).

. . . but take heart! I have overcome the world.

My Advice – How then should we respond to suffering imposed on us by the world?  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12;21, NIV 1984).

 

Don’t Get Cocky Kid!

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My Musings – Going to battle requires preparation.  Being properly prepared involves at least three key elements:  knowing your enemy, surveying the battlefield, and choosing your weapons.

Knowing Your Enemy – “So that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” Ephesians 6:11, NIV 1984).  In the movie “Patton,” on the eve of battle, actor George C. Scott who portrays General Patton is seen reading Field Marshal Rommel’s book “The Tank in Battle” (actually “Infantry Attacks”), a book on battle tactics.  In a following scene, Patton has Rommel on the retreat and as he gleefully exclaims “Rommel…you magnificent %@$&*!, I read your book!”  I don’t know how historically accurate this is, but it nicely illustrates how knowing your enemy can help you defeat him.  This is especially important in Spiritual warfare “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11–12, NIV 1984).

Surveying The Battlefield – “So that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV 1984).  An army would not willingly go into battle without knowing a little about the “lay of the land.”  Choosing the “high ground,” would provide a definite advantage.  Avoiding positions that would make your army vulnerable, is another example.  When Adam and Eve were tempted, they were in the worst position they could be in to avoid temptation.  They were hanging around the forbidden tree.  At the time of the year that kings go to war, David stayed behind.  His first mistake.  Then he “found” himself where he should not have been, watching Bathsheba bathe and inciting lust.

Choosing Your Weapons – “Therefore put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV 1984). Spiritual battles require Spiritual weapons.  “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4, NIV 1984). In a classic fight scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Indiana Jones had just fought a fast-paced battle against a dozen attackers.  Already weary, he is confronted by one final ninja-type adversary wielding a samurai sword. Somewhat nonchalantly, Jones draws his gun and shoots the warrior. Moral of the story: don’t bring a sword to a gunfight.  Corollary: don’t bring worldly weapons to a Spiritual battle.

My Advice – Know your enemy, survey the battlefield and choose your weapons wisely.  Lest you think these make you invincible, one final movie quip from Han Solo to Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars” – “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky”   To avoid this “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10, NIV 1984).

Just Say Whoa to Woe

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My Musings – It’s easy to dump on the Pharisees. After all, their name has become synonymous with self-righteous hypocrisy making them easy marks for criticism and condemnation.  But what if we substituted the word Pharisee in the above verses with the word Christian?  Is that how the world sees many of us?  Are they justified in seeing us that way?  We want to scream that they are way off base.  That we are under attack and being unjustly persecuted.  But we need to be very careful before we dismiss it outright.  For you see, “the problem with self righteousness is that it seems almost impossible to recognize in ourselves. We will own up to almost any other sin. but not the sin of self-righteousness. When we have this attitude, though, we deprive ourselves of the joy of living in the grace of God. Because you see, grace is only for sinners.” ― Jerry Bridges, evangelical Christian author, speaker and staff member of The Navigators.

We might think, why should we care what the world thinks of us?  Well, if they are wrong, and perhaps they are in most cases, we need not care.  Jesus did say, after all that in this world we will have persecution, and that if the world hated Him, we should not be surprised if they hate us too.  But if they are right, even about a minority, we should care very much.  For Jesus also said they (the world), will know we are His followers if we have love for one another.  And if they do not see His love in us and from us, then the truth that we are proclaiming will not seem very much like the truth.

Another reason we should care is because Jesus cares.  He had nothing but condemnation and anger (yes, anger) for the teachers, scribes and teachers of the law that exhibited such self-piety and hypocrisy.  His attitude was not a casual “well actually,” but a very much heated “woe to you!“…”You snakes! You brood of vipers!”  Whoa.  Let’s take a closer look at these “woes” from Matthew 23, NIV 1984, and learn from them.  We do not want to become 21st century Pharisees.

  • Hypocrites – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
  • Sons of Hell – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

  • Blind Guides – “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?”

  • Neglectful – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

  • Greedy and Self-Indulgent – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

  • Whitewashed Tombs, Dead Men’s Bones – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

  • Full Measured Sinners – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

My Advice – I am sure that the vast majority of Christians are not this way, or at least not blatantly.  But are there times we “deny” God’s grace to those whose sins seem greater than our own?  On occasion, is the way we behave on the outside inconsistent with how we are on the inside?  Do we overly focus on certain evils (“strain out a gnat“), to the exclusion of others (“swallow a camel”)?  Are we so self-absorbed by the “injustices” that we must endure that show no mercy to others?  Let’s just say whoa to woe.

 

Sincerely Yours

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My Musings – “I suppose my best attribute, if you want to call it that, is sincerity. I can sell sincerity because that’s the way I am.” – John Wayne (my all-time favorite actor).  Sincerity is being free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy.  Not a bad attribute to have.  You cannot “sell” it, if it’s not the way you are.  You cannot script it, because it comes more from the heart than it does from the mind.

My musings come from my heart, and I do my best to avoid pretense, deceit and hypocrisy.  They are in a sense a script, but not “scripted.”  Not everyone will buy what I’m selling, but I trust that it’s not because I am being insincere.

My Advice – Do your best to be sincere in all your dealings.  There are no regrets in sincerity.