Saturday, July 7, 2007

Seek ye first the kingdom of God

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God,and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matt 6:33 --- Most people have heard this verse, and usually it is given in the context of "Put your attention on the important goals, and these smaller day-to-day issues will sort themselves out" Or some similar way of looking at it.

In my personal life I am hoping to get my now-empty house sold, and rescue my finances.

Today in church our pastor related his recent doctor visit which revealed that his choice of lifestyle and healthy diet is why he is alive today. He has a hereditary cholesterol condition that if had been combined with ordinary diet and lifestyle, he'd be dead. So for him, "seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" was not merely a better choice to focus attention than other worldly pursuits, it is why he is still alive at all!

Which made me consider my own situation. Sometimes there may be a direct cause-effect such as with the pastor's health. Other times there may be a cause and effect, with another factor at work: Remember the Lord's prayer? It asks in part "Lead us not unto temptation, but deliver us from evil".

Assuming God answers our request, there may be lessons we need to learn in order to move on. I need to learn to say "No" to my kids when they ask for things, especially when I see it is from a dissatisfaction in life and they are asking for things as their own personal shopping "fix", a temporary feel-good that invariably doesn't even last all the way home from the store. I probably need to be more careful with money for what I spend on myself as well. Those small Items add up to big money. In hindsight, would I forgo a couple months of fast food in exchange for a laptop? all it takes is discipline.

So it comes down to this: If I seek first the kingdom of God, and learn the lessons that God is waiting for me to learn, then the rest "shall be added unto me". Perhaps the things I am seeking first are set as a learning opportunity, by changing my focus those things will all come together.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fighting the enemy on our shore or theirs

We struggle with sin, yet we invite the enemy to our own turf before we finally decide to battle. Far easier to fight the battle on a foreign shore than right at home.

What am I talking about? Fantasies. We play out our temptations in our minds be it revenge fantasies, sexual fantasies, greed fantasies, or just mean-spirited prideful "I sure showed them" fantasies that we fully indulge and allow to play out in our minds.

Whata perfectly safe way to have all the sin we like, right? No one gets hurt and we can do whatever we please without repercussion. Not so. Soon enough, the real thing comes knocking, and we are unprepared, having given in to the temptations many times over in our minds.

So if you're serious about being in that number "blessed are they who overcome", consider taking the battle to the foreign turf, where not so much is at risk, and a lost battle does not carry the same casualty counts as a home turf battle, and truthfully, the battle is more easily won.

But we love our fantasies, don't we? Well, you've been there, done that. Get a new fantasy: a life where Christ reigns supreme in our minds and hearts 24/7. Because there is not a single minute of a single day that we don't need Him. Think of it - as life's daily elements come your way, what if you were not so often "on the outs" with God, always needing to apologize before you felt you could ask for help and advice? What if you were friends, sharing the day as it came along? That is such a better place to live, because life doesn't leave you alone, and there is always something we need His help with. If you'reused to going without you are missing out on much more than whatever you're still clinging to instead. Just FYI.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Going without to give to the needy

Imagine you have 10 gift baskets for a party for your children and their friends. There is just enough, and each child gets a basket. An unexpected guest arrives, and your youngest goes to the new child and gives up their basket saying "Here is a gift basket for you."

As a parent you would certainly notice, and even though the baskets might be worth only a dollar or two each I can just imagine at the next opportunity you'd be itching to do something extra or special for that unselfish child, probably something worth much more than the dollar or two the basket was worth.

Your child may or may not ever even know the connection between their selfless act and the follow-on reward.

I believe that Luke 12:29-34 is, in part, talking about this. Verse 33 says : "Sell what you have, and give to those in need." God is watching, and I can just imagine how pleased he would be to see us willing to go without in order to help those in need.

Quite possibly he'd be looking forward to the next opportunity to grant our own requests sent heavenward, don't you think? (don't misunderstand me here, I'm not advocating trying to manipulate God, and that would never work anyway, but I am advocating learning from our relationships with our own children to give us insights into ways we can live our lives in a way that is pleasing to God.)

They'll have to face how they acted someday...

When I hear my kids bickering and fighting in the back seat I have to wonder how they would feel if they realized that they will all have to interact together once they've grown up -- calling each other for help and even introducing their children to each other as friends. I think they are of the mindset they only have to put up with each other till they hit 18. They are (hopefully) in for a surprise.

Time travel on the way to work

Years ago I had a police officer make a comment to me about one reason why a person would risk death or injury to themselves and others by speeding. He said they try to "use their vehicle as a time machine," racing to their destination and try to be less late.

So here's a question to provoke a little thought: If you use your car as a time travel device, are you going backward or forward in time? I asked this around and not everyone answers the same.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Perfect Apple

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect - Matthew 5:48

I recently mentioned to a friend that my daughter sometimes had trouble with guilt, that she would get so angry and devastated if she did the smallest thing wrong, or especially if anyone tried to correct her, making a point of her mistake.

He immediately knew what was at the source and was able to tell me that she must have strong tendencies to be a perfectionist. She is. She gets straight A's in school, and now that he pointed this out to me I see it in many things. Now I am able to diffuse her guilt flare-ups better, knowing the cause, and I'm working on helping her see that it's ok to be human and make mistakes. Without making her feel guilty. Kinda tricky sometimes.

This matter of perfection can be a bit confusing. We are told we cannot be perfect, so don't be too hard on ourselves, but keep trying because we can do better and better.

I do see the problem with perfectionism, it can lead to suicidal tendancies. But I can also see the problem with "we can't be perfect, so why try?"

So I'll just say two things.

1) Perfection is an opportunity, not a requirement. The more we rise to the occasion and "go for it", as long as we see it as an opportunity to go farther, do more, share the wonders of our Creator more closely, we gain with every effort.

Like the gold medalist who gets a 9.5 instaed of a 10 as part of their score, they are still delivering their personal best.

2) Think of the perfect apple. It is just perfect, and as delicious as you can imagine. Now think of a "good" apple. Nothing wrong with a good apple - can eat them all day long and love them. So we could see perfection as "being our best", giving our efforts that little something extra in everything we do.

Point here being that short of perfection isn't "bad", just as a good apple is still good even if you don't declare it the perfect apple. And one "perfect apple" may be in fact better or worse than some other "perfect apple"

The matthew 5:48 reference should not be taken alone - it is a summation of a point jesus was making in Matthew 5:43-48.

43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The greek word here for perfect is teleios
1. complete, perfect, entire, without spot or blemish. 2. of animals and men; full-grown, adult; hence, perfect in his or its kind. 3. of numbers, full, complete. 4. of actions, ended, finished; of vows, fulfilled, accomplished.

So then, in Matthew 5:43-48 the key thought is that following the bare requirements of the law is incomplete; to reach for perfection as God the father is perfect, we need to go the full measure, loving our friends as well as our enemies.

This call to perfection is not concerned with our private slip-ups or even indulgences. I only say this because almost everyone judges themselves and their progress toward perfection by these sort of things. Rather Jesus is focusing on what we do toward others and for others. It is much more important that we love and forgive all fellow men, and not judge those who make mistakes, than say, our personal struggle with calories.

For those perfectionists out there focusing on "lack of bad" rather than "full of good", it's worth considering for your guilt's sake.

The maturing of our love for our fellow man, as we become more christ-like, is akin to an apple "grown to perfection"

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Through a glass, darkly

Einstein is quoted as saying that "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." (I am having fun with the new quotes capability of ThoughtOffice). He may have been onto something there, as if you look hard enough you can find a few cracks in reality.

Take for example mirrors. Has it ever struck you as odd that a mirror always flips everything left to right? We are so used to it that we take it for granted. It never flips things top to bottom, only left to right. Even if you turn a mirror on it's side it still only flips things left to right!

People are startled when I reveal this to them and it's fun to watch as they try to come up with an explanation and they can't. Have fun with that, and if you enjoy brainy pursuits, have a play with ThoughtOffice 30 day demo. I am building the installers for the product, so I'm a bit of an "insider" :)