What Are We Seeking?

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My Musings – To seek first means to give priority (something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives).  Immediately prior to this verse, Jesus was talking about the things of this life that people give attention to – food, shelter, clothing.  Things that most would consider necessities, although there are still way too many that lack all of these in sufficient quantity (if at all) to not be considered in want.  Others have much more than they need.  Few are content with what they have.  But no matter what category one falls into, Jesus insists that there is something much more important – our relationship with our Creator.

Our life here on earth is fleeting (a mere mist of vapor) and of little consequence when compared to all of eternity before us.  But what we do with Christ while here on earth has tremendous consequences in terms of what eternity will be for us.  The lack of  the so-called necessities of this life will pale in comparison to an eternal separation from God in the torment of Hell (as politically incorrect as it is to even mention such a thing) if we never get our priorities straight while here. Likewise, the accumulation of things in this this life will be soon forgotten if the face of such suffering.  Whether a life of abundance or want, all need Christ.  If you seek Him, He (and His Kingdom and Righteousness) will be found.  In His Kingdom, all these things will be given as well.

My Advice –  Seek Him (Christ) while He may be found, because He came to seek (and to save) you. This is not me speaking in arrogance, although many will still believe so.  It is me speaking in compassion to those who do not have a relationship with Christ.  Because once upon a time, I was there as well.

What God Unwillingly Does

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My Musings – Is it possible for us to cause God to do something against His will?  Apparently it is. God “does not willingly bring affliction or grief.”  But He does bring it on nonetheless.  Why would He do something that He is not willing to do, that He does not have to do?  It is motivated by “compassion, so great is His unfailing love.”  The Father will discipline the children He loves, in order to bring correction and growth.  If there were a gentler, less grief bringing way He would undoubtedly choose that way.  But when there is no other way, He is compassionate and loving enough to permit bring grief our way.  When this was not enough,  He took it upon Himself, through His only Son.  For “it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer (Isaiah 53:10)” on our behalf in order to bring salvation to His creation.  He was willing to do what He did not willingly want to do (say what?).  Now that is love and compassion!

My Advice – We can rest assured, that in all these grief “things,” God will bring about good to those who also love Him and are called by Him (Romans 8:28).  Are you feeling “affliction or grief?” Don’t ask why, as in why me? Ask why as in, what correction (repentance) is needed in my life? What do I need to learn from this? What growth is not otherwise possible without this?  Don’t let the thing that God did not willingly want to do be wasted.  Use it!

The Real Prosperity Gospel

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My Musings – The context of this verse is the Babylonian captivity that would last seventy years.  A captivity brought on by a rebellious and sinful nation.  God has always had plans for His people.  Good plans.  But somehow, sin always seemed to get in the way.

God never intended for mankind to ever have to leave the garden, but sin got in the way. God never intended to have to wipe out mankind (except Noah and his family) by a flood, but sin got in the way.  God never intended to have to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but sin got in the way.  God never intended to need to send His chosen people into exile, but sin got in the way.  God never intended for His creation to result in the crucifixion of His Son, but sin got in the way.  Yet despite all this, and more, God continues to have plans for us.

The word “prosper” in today’s text is the translation of the Hebrew word šālōm, a term denoting well-being, wholeness, harmony, and peace. (Martens, E. A., 1995. Jeremiah. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 540. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.)  It has nothing to do with riches, wealth or treasures.  God’s concern goes much deeper (into the soul of mankind – the hope) and much further (into all eternity – the future).  It always has.

Before the fall, even before the creation, God knew His plans to prosper those He made in His image would require the ultimate sacrifice on His part.  It was not His intention, but it was His plan.  His plan not to harm us, resulted in the severest harm to His Son.  In the process, He “bankrupted” Heaven in order to prosper us.

My Advice – Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.  You’ll not have to seek any further.

New Every Morning

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Nehemiah 9:17 – “But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – God did not discover grace, compassion, love and forgiveness in the New Testament.  It has always been there.  God did not compromise His justice, righteousness and wrath against sin in favor of these other qualities.  He reconciled  them at the intersection of the cross.  This was not a fall back plan after centuries of “failures” of the Law.  It was always the plan, even before He created man and woman.

My Advice – Available to all who believe and receive.  Do not pass it up.

When Compassion Becomes A Verb

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Judges 2:18For the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Webster says that compassion is a noun and defines it as the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, however, asserts that “compassion is a verb.”  As such, it is not merely a desire to alleviate another’s distress (“those who are oppressed and afflicted“), but actually taking action to do what we can to alleviate it.

But God demonstrates his own love [compassion] for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV 1984)  This was the ultimate expression of compassion.

My Advice – Let’s do what we can to “pay it forward.”  While it is a rare event when someone is called upon to give their life for another, each one of us encounter numerous opportunities everyday to lighten the burden of someone else.  When we ignore these opportunities, compassion remains a mere noun.  We need to make it a verb by taking action. “As long as you are standing, give a hand [verb] to those who have fallen.” ― Persian Proverb

 

 

Prepared for Gentle Respect

1 Peter 3:15But in your hearts set apart Christ Jesus 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. (NIV 1978)

My Musing – In a world with little hope, Christians should stand out because of their hope. This is likely to raise questions. Questions we should be able to answer (although many are unprepared). We should not be arrogant or condescending in our replies. The lost deserve our pity and compassion, not a “holier-than-thou” response.

My Advice – Be gentle in your responses. Respect their right to choose for themselves. Do not lose your gentleness if they do not choose Christ. There may be another time and how you respond to them now may make some difference later.

Fight or Flight, As Long As I Am Right?

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Romans 12:9-10Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:14-16Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. (NIV 1984)

Romans 12:17-18Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV 1984)
Romans 12:21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV 1984)
Colossians 4:6Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV 1984)
Ephesians 4:14-15Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (NIV 1984)

 

My Musings – Society (having the same root, more or less, as social) appears to be becoming anything but social (can we still call it social media?).  Why is it that as civilization becomes more and more polarized, it is becomes less and less civil?  How can we restore social to society and civil to civilization?  First, a couple thoughts from other.

  • Fear, Hate and Disagreement – Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle [views, opinions, beliefs], you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe [say] or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate. – Rick Warren
  • Crucial Conversations – A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.

It is okay to hold opposing views.  It is okay to care passionately about those views.  But because the stakes are high (relationships that we care just as passionately about), we must handle these conversations well.  People can and do disagree about important issues.  Because they feel passionately about their own views and beliefs, emotions can run high.  As a result, how we disagree matters (stakes are high) a lot.

One can either digress into threats (fight), revert to silent fuming (flight) or speak openly, honestly and effectively. The question is, when it matters most, are we at our worst (fight or flight and ineffective) or at our best (open, honest, caring and effective)?  One can handle them poorly (fight) and face the consequences.  One can walk away (flight) and face the consequences.  Or one can handle them well (open and honest) and minimize or avoid the consequences altogether.

The irony is, the more crucial the conversation, the less likely we are to handle it well and the more likely the consequences will be broken relationships. Being passionate in our beliefs and being compassionate with those of opposing beliefs are not mutually exclusive. Passion need not result in polemic behavior and compassion need not result in compromised beliefs.

Notes from Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012.

Not every conversation, not every issue is crucial.  But sometimes what is trivial to one, is of the utmost importance to the other.  For example, in 1968 and into 1969, talks to end the Vietnam nearly did not even get started over disagreements (lasting ten weeks) over the shape of the conference table.  Trivial to some, crucial to others.  Ultimately, however, the stakes (peace – the objective of everyone at the table) were very high.

Many times, there is no absolute right or wrong answer, except to the parties who cannot agree.  At other times there is an absolute right and wrong, with someone being absolutely wrong and no way of changing their mind. We cannot control what others view as crucial.   What we can control is how we engage.  We may still end up disagreeing, but we need not be disagreeable.  By the same token, we need not agree to be agreeable.

My Advice – Do not allow passion to extinguish your compassion.  Do not allow compassion to compromise your passion.  The truth is never afraid of open and honest dialogue.