What Are You Pursuing?

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My Musings – We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

God gave us life and liberty (freedom to make our own choices).  The pursuit of happiness is a bit more problematic.  Man has a tendency to find (or think he can find) happiness in all the wrong places and with all the wrong things.  More often than not, these rob us of the very thing we are pursuing.  We would be better off pursuing joy (which is not dependent upon things or circumstances) rather than happiness (which usually is dependent upon things or circumstances).

Better yet, as the above verse states, we should pursue righteousness and love, which results in life, prosperity and honor.  We need to remember, however, that an abundant life is more about quality than quantity, lasting prosperity has little to do with an abundance of “things” (which moths and rust can destroy) and honor has more to do with our character than it does with how much fame an adulation we can achieve.  And how ironic it is, that when we get it backwards (we pursue long life, prosperity in things and honor absent humility), righteousness and love (and happiness) often eludes us.

My Advice – Let’s make sure what we pursue is not only worth the chase, but is also worth catching.

The Outer Limits?

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My Musings – This verse is not meant to be taken as hyperbole (exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally).  Just the opposite, and more.  How does one explain the infinite love and forgiveness of God?  There is nothing literal that can adequately capture it.  So you go beyond the literal, pushing on to the outer “limits”

“To infinity and beyond!” (Buzz Lightyear).  To those who had not yet experienced flight, much less space travel, the heavens were something beyond the grasp of early man.  Today, having actually reached out into space, and seen into deep space with instruments like the Hubble telescope, the depths of the heavens are still far beyond our grasp.  If all space, time and matter came into being at the Big Bang (“And God Said…and it was so.”), and the “universe” is ever-expanding, does this mean there is an outer-edge to it?  If so, then you would have reached infinity, and the limits of God’s love still reaches beyond.  “Whoa, this is heavy!” (Marty McFly).

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” (Rudyard Kipling).  This one, early man could possibly grasp.    If you travel West (or East), you can travel on forever and never reach the East (or West).  The twain will never meet.  You may turn around, and there it is, but that is called repentance (if turning away from sin) or backsliding (if turning back to sin).  But forgiveness means never being under sin’s penalty ever again. The Psalmist did not say as far as the north is from the south.  If you travel North (or South), eventually you reach a point where your direction changes and you begin to travel South (or North), without ever turning around.  This would have never captured the magnitude of God’s forgiveness. “Heavy!”

My Advice – If you have not already done so, “Go West, young man!” (John B. L. Soule). Take a trip “to infinity and beyond.”  How’s that for mixing metaphors?

If have already done so, do not turn around, do not even look back. “We ought not to look back, unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors and for the purpose of profiting by dear bought experience.” (George Washington).  Keep heading to the outer limits (situated farther out).  Because when you think you have reached the limits of God’s love and forgiveness, there is even more “situated farther out.”

The Ransom Price

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My Musings – Redeem means to buy back, liberate or free a possession, object, or person, by the payment of a ransom.  Biblically, the term redemption indicates a freeing from the slavery of sin, in exchange for the ransom price.  Redeemer, is the one that pays the ransom (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1988).

The ransom price must be of sufficient value to effect the exchange.  Ironically, in our fallen state, we have no intrinsic value that would merit any ransom price.  Yet Christ paid the ultimate price to redeem mankind.  The priceless in exchange for the worthless.  The ultimate in unmerited favor. Ever marvel at the love that had to be behind such a sacrifice? No wonder Job’s heart yearned within him.

My Advice – Our bargaining position is extremely weak.  We have nothing of value to offer ourselves.  Accept the ransom.

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.

Choose Wisely

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1 Chronicles 16:34Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. (NIV 1978)

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”.  “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.  “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

My Musings – What is good?  We all have a general idea what it means to be good, and we usually contrast it with bad or evil.  But when it comes to man, in his fallen state, good is a relative term.  Relative to one another, but not to God.  In fact, the Bible states that “[t]here is no one righteous [good], not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10–12, NIV 1984).  Only God is good.

Before the fall, mankind desired the knowledge of good and evil more than life.  You might recall that there were two trees in the center of the garden – “In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:9, NIV 1984).

But only one was forbidden – “And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  (Genesis 2:16–17, NIV 1984).  And that is the one they desired.

When it came to choices, mankind chose what was forbidden and forfeited what they already had – goodness and innocence.  It was a “fool’s choice,” for who needs to know the difference (good versus evil) when all they have and all they are is good and innocent?  In making the “fool’s choice” mankind also gave up the opportunity to live forever in that state (good and innocent).

As a consequence of that choice, God was no longer “safe,” for mankind.  But He was still good.  “He’s the King, I tell you.”  And His love “endures forever,” even in the wake of mankind’s bad choices.  Because of His goodness and love, He was compelled to provide a way back to the paradise lost, through the death and resurrection of the only man to ever be good (“the exact representation of His being“) relative to God – the second Adam, God’s only Son Jesus.  By accepting Christ, that goodness is imputed to man.  It all boils down to another choice.  This time will we choose the “tree of life” or will we continue to think that our ill-gotten knowledge is “better?”

My Advice – Choose wisely, choose life.

For This Reason

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Matthew 19:4-6“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (NIV 1984)

My Musings – My parents couldn’t afford a carriage. Not even a bicycle built for two.  Yet their love and devotion for each other was something money could not buy. They spent 66 years together as husband and wife.  Today would have been 69.  God joined them together and only God was able to separate them.  But only for awhile.

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” – When Harry Met Sally

My mom and dad’s marriage was like this.  They married young (dad was 18 and mom was 16), many times a recipe for failure, but for them a smashing success.  The fact that it was a marriage of three (dad, mom and God) had more to do with it than anything else, I am sure.

“Michael and I had great role models. Though his father has passed away, his parents had an amazingly strong marriage, as do mine. Both weathered really tough times. For us it has been normal to stay together through difficulties. We grew up witnessing that firsthand.”  – Tracy Pollan

Life was not easy for them, scratching to make a living early on.  Working hard for life’s necessities, never getting a chance to enjoy life’s luxuries.  But they understood it was more about making a life than it was about making a living.  They were more concerned about providing a good home for their children than providing a nice house for them.  Weathering “really tough times” made for “an amazingly strong marriage.”  As such, they were great role models for my two brothers and me.

“I have learned that only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy. First, let her think she’s having her own way. And second, let her have it.”  – Lyndon B. Johnson

In marriage, a sense of humor helps.  In speaking about the “perfect balance” in marraige, my dad often joked “marriage is a 50/50 proposition – I give 50 and she takes 50.”  In reality, my mom and dad usually offered each other nearly 100%, demanding little for themselves.  Now that’s  “perfect balance.”  Sure they had their selfish moments, we all do, but to them marriage was mostly about the other person (and their three boys).

“Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.”  – James Dobson

When my dad passed, my mom could hardly bear the thought of living without him.  When he entered the hospital that last time, never to return home again, it was one of the few times in 66 years of marriage they spent the night apart for more than a couple days.  Yet she still longed for more time together.  That’s real love.  Not what passes for love nowadays.

I like marriage. The idea.  – Toni Morrison

It was more than an idea to my parents.  It was more than an ideal to them.  It was real.

My Advice – If you are married, or are contemplating marriage – Be like my parents.

Forsaken First Love

Revelation 2:2, 4 – “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Our works need to be more than merely performance and duty. They need to be motivated by love and devotion.

My Advice – Do not let your service to God become perfunctory, something you do out of duty rather than love.