Archive for April, 2010

Essence v Clutter

April 8, 2010

What you do today will be determined by how you define two lists.  There are only two lists, and your view of each of them determines what you are doing right now.

There is a list of things that matter.  There is a list of things that don’t matter.  There is not a third list.

A few years ago I was discussing with one of my friends the relative length of those two lists.  We decided that the list of things that don’t matter is by far the longest.  We decided that most things in this life are on the list of things that don’t matter.  There are relatively few things that really matter.

Another thing: passion.  It seems that a lot of the things we are really passionate /excited about are on the longer list – the list of things that don’t matter.  Here’s an example: Alabama football (or Auburn, or UT, or whoever – or even high school – I was really into that when my boys played).  Three in my family went to Alabama, so I’ll pick them (they are also geographically closer – about 50 miles).  How excited do you get about your favorite football team?  How much money do you spend on that passion?  How much time?  See what I mean?

Also:  people tend to confuse the lists.  We tend to put things from the list of things that don’t matter on the list of things that do matter.  We confuse ourselves when we do that.  We confuse others about who we are when we do that.  We mess up our lives when we do that.  We can ruin our lives by doing that.

Another way of looking at the confusion: we often are deeply interested in things of questionable importance, while at the same time showing only a causal interest in things that will be important in eternity.  When we die and pass into eternity, we just won’t care how many championships Alabama (or whoever) won, or if they won any at all.  It won’t matter then.  So, why do we get so upset about these temporary things (it doesn’t have to be football) now, when before long, we won’t care?  We could remove ball and plug in politics, business, how we look, or some other sacred cow – and the answer would be the same.

The essence of life, what really matters, the short list – is fearing God and keeping His commandments.  We are all familiar with Ecclesiastes 12:13, which says just that.  Here’s another “essence” passage from the Old Testament:

Micah 6:8 NKJV 8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

If you want a New Testament one, start with the Beatitudes.  They’re in the first few verses of Matthew 5.

Here’s a suggestion.  If you will do this, I think you’ll be a better person.  I think you will have more friends and fewer enemies.  I think you’ll like yourself better.  I think people will tend to listen to you and respect you more.

Show as much passion for justice as you do for sports.  Justice starts with how you treat your neighbor.  It doesn’t start with what’s happening a thousand miles, or ten thousand miles, away – it starts with you.

Look for opportunities to show mercy – and then deliver.  You aren’t trying to find other good people right now.  It’s easy to be nice to them.  You might even get something back for it.  They will likely return the favor.  You are looking for someone undeserving – someone who needs mercy – and you’re going to help them.  Weren’t there some Bible verses about Jesus coming to save sinners (the undeserving), to look for the lost (the undeserving)?  I think those are in there.

Try real hard to actually be humble.  I know it’s hard, but try.  Read about Jesus.  Then, look in the mirror and see if your life looks like His.  Pray about it.  But be careful how you pray.  Sometimes God’s lessons in humility are unpleasant.  I know from experience.  Just saying….  I have found it better to go ahead and believe what He says, than to try and force His hand and cause Him to teach you through experience.

You have two lists in your head.  They show in your life.  What is on your short list and how much energy do you spend on those things?

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The Enemy Defined

April 6, 2010

Dear Lord,

Bless our men and women serving in our military

Grant them safety

Grant them recovery if they are injured

Grant them the love of their family and their nation

Grant them Your tender embrace

Grant them the mighty protection of Your right arm

Grant them a safe return to their families

Grant them peace at home.

Bless President Obama

Grant him wisdom

Grant him wise advisors

Grant him courage

Help him, and us all, focus on Your will.

May all human wars end

May the peace of Your Son and His kingdom reign

May we, Your family, love You and our neighbor.

In the name of the Prince of Peace…….Amen.

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1 Thessalonians 4:10-11 NKJV 10 … But we urge you, brethren … 11 that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you…

Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

*[This story is a work of fiction.  I just made it up.  It is intended to make us think.  That’s all.]

The Enemy Defined

It is hot…or cold…or in between.  The weather changes with the years…and the wars.  There is a war now…and I am in it.  “Now” is not necessarily today, but it could be.  It could be any time…any place…involving any one.

I am on the edge of a field.  The field is about twenty yards wide.  A farmer has plowed it.  The turned earth is still fresh.  I can smell it.  It reminds me of my daddy’s garden in the spring when I was a kid.  Today, it is not spring time in Alabama ten years ago.  It is half way around the world, and while I may not know everything that is going on on the other side of the field, I know I am not in Alabama today.

A small group of “The Enemy” is on the other side of the field.  They have a 7.62 MM machine gun.  They are pointing it at us.  They have fired it off a few times.  No one has been hit…yet.

We know that this group of individuals is “The Enemy” because our government has told us that they are.  Our government is always right.  They define “The Enemy” for us.  They spend our money for us.  They generally tell us what is right and what is wrong.  It is simpler that way.  We have grown accustomed to this way.  Our government has names like “Obama” and “Bush.”  If your name is “Smith” or “Jones” you can’t be the government.  What would a “Smith” or a “Jones” or a “Brown” know anyway?

I almost forgot.  I get to vote to the pick the government every few years.  I have one vote.  One man, one vote.  That’s comforting.  I have one vote.  There are ninety-nine million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine other votes.  More or less.  My one man one vote is worth 1/100,000,000.  That’s comforting.

The machine gun emplacement across the field is not comforting.  It is scary.  It is actually more than that.  It is really quite terrifying.  And that’s how I feel now…because our captain has just told us that we all are going to storm it.  Twenty yards.  That’s not too far.  I forgot again.  The fresh plowed ground will be hard to run in.  It will slow down our advance.  I’m sure our captain has thought of that.  Really, he’ll be the one out front.  And another thing, which I reckon is obvious…it’s in the open.  I think that’s called a clear field of fire…for the other guys.  They have thrown up some dirt and stuff in front of their Russian machine gun.  They can see us real good.  We’ll have trouble getting a clear shot at them.

Something has just occurred to me.  I have a young wife and a two-year old son.  My young wife is seven months pregnant with my second son.  She is half a world away at our house in Alabama.  I am on the edge of this field.  I am about to be in the middle of the field.  It has just occurred to me that if I were to be called on to give a suitable reason why those guys over there, across this field,  are a grave threat to the health and well-being of my young pregnant wife and my two-year old son half a world away in Alabama…I’m not sure I could do it.  I am suspicious that those guys over there are probably “Smiths” and “Jones” like me.  Their government, or cause, or whatever…has defined me as their enemy, and they have believed them.  That is helpful.  We both can know exactly who our enemy is…our governments have defined him for us.  Or, us for him, according to your perspective…or place of birth.  It is all very helpful.

About half of us will die in the next five minutes, or so.  My odds of surviving till the next open field are one in two.  I will call that good odds.  If a baseball player got a hit one of every two at bats, he would be a great player, he would bat .500.  No one ever does that.  My odds are very good.  The odds of the machine gunners on the other side of the field are very poor.  They will probably all die.

What bothers me is, what if I die in this field?  There’s not much time and I’m afraid I can’t figure out an answer to my question about my young wife and kids half a world away in Alabama in the five minutes that may be all I have left.  I’ve got to think fast.  How does killing those guys across this field actually help my family in Alabama?  I’ve got to figure it out…and I don’t have much time.  What is the answer?  I need help.  Oh yeah, the government, even the majority.  They have defined the enemy for me.  That is so helpful.  Even if I never figure out the answer to my question, I can rest assured that those guys over there have been clearly defined as “The Enemy.”  I am still confused, but I am relieved.

We’ll go any second now.  Hold on…

*****************************

Well, I made it.  Our captain was told that no helicopters were available.  But, apparently, they found some.  A couple of Apaches just came in and blasted the bad guys.  I didn’t hear any “Ride of the Valkyries,” but their pass was indeed “outstanding.”  The other guys are all dead.  And we’re all not.

That’s good…for us.  But…I still don’t know the answer to my question.  Can you help me?

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James 4:1-3 NKJV 1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Luke 1:79 [speaking of Jesus] To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Romans 14:19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

Romans 15:33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

2Corinthians 13:11  Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

1Timothy 2:2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

Titus 3:2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

1Peter 3:11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.

*The references to Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama are in no way intended to be negative to those two honest and sincere gentlemen personally.  It is simply a plea for more “bottom up” management.  The reference to the Valkyries is from the helicopter attack in “Apocalypse Now.”  It is the music the colonel had loudspeakered from the helicopters as they swooped in to rocket the village.  I guess you already knew that…about the Valkyries.  The photo is of American Civil War dead at Antietam.

The Resurrection of Me

April 2, 2010

More than one Bible text pictures the beginning of the Christian life as a resurrection which occurs as one comes up from the water of baptism.  This is stated either explicitly or there is a clear allusion to a new life.

Romans 6:3-4 NKJV 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Colossians 2:12 NKJV 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Colossians 3:1 NKJV 1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

Thus, the Christian enjoys two resurrections: the one at his/her baptism and the future one at the end of time.  Let’s talk about the first for a moment.

A resurrection means that a death has occurred, otherwise, the concept of resurrection would be meaningless.  The death that has happened for the Christian is the death to a life of sin.  The life of sin that has died is supposed to stay dead.  The sins that you repented of before your baptism have no place in your current Christian life.

You might ask yourself, “What is different in my life now compared to what I was like before I became a Christian?”  This difference will be more pronounced in some lives than others.  But, there should always be a change.  Jesus changes people who have a relationship with Him.  What has changed in your life?

A resurrection also means something new.  The new Christian has been given a fresh start.  He/she is now a new person.  That status has been granted by God in Christ.  The only way to have that newness is to be in Christ and when you are in Christ it is yours.  What a joy!  You have been given a chance to start over.  What are you going to do with it?

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Make a list of three or four things that were wrong in your life before you became a Christian.  Carefully examine your life now to determine if those same things have actually changed for the better.  Decide what you will do now to improve where you were previously deficient.
  2. God’s word is the source of faith, direction, encouragement, and hope.  Commit to taking a few minutes every day to read your Bible.  Read a short passage of 10-20 verses and mediate on how you can apply it in your life now.  Then, pray about it.  Do this daily.
  3. Jesus modeled perfect mercy, among other things, in His life.  Think of ways you can be more merciful to the people around you.  Remember, if they deserve it, it’s not mercy.  Be nice to someone who ought to do better.
  4. Evaluate if you are practicing the Golden Rule – do to others as you want them to do to you.  Work on thinking of this rule every time you see another person.  You are good at quoting the rule, how good are you at doing it?

God has given you a new life.  Think about it.  What are you doing with it?