Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tough Times

The present economic crisis has hit home!

This last week I had to lay off three of the fifteen people under my supervision. Another was released but renewed for a short time to help us get through the summer.

This is one of the hardest parts of being a manager. I don't do this easily. And one of the ones I had to lay off was my own sister. Ouch! I know this is all just business, but for me it's hard to make these decisions and then let the people know that they no longer have a job. One of the team members I had to let go immediately made plans to sell her car and cancel their cable subscription. I have to distance just a bit and not feel so responsible. But, it's hard.

As I've said before, I read Oswald Chambers almost every morning, at least most mornings. This morning the subject was the verse about "seek ye first..." I've always read that verse like don't even think about the physical things of life, just be concerned about the spiritual and all will be taken care of.

Well, I've lived long enough to know I'm not reading that right. I've seen too many people abuse the interpretation of that scripture and literally become "spiritual" beggars. I watch that and think that something is wrong here. So I've hit the middle of the road on this one. My philosophy is to be very responsible and take care of yourself so you can be free to help others. BUT you must be personally responsible!! We're not to worry about our physical needs, but we are to be responsible.

Imagine my surprise when I reread this devotional. That's exactly how Oswald Chambers seems to be interpreting this verse. I think the point of my post this morning is to show how much our personal filter interprets for us what we're reading and hearing. I would have sworn that OC was saying don't even think about your personal needs, just let God take care of them. Put your mind on the things of God and don't even think about physical things. But that was how I was reading what he was saying through my own personal filter.

Today I read it quite differently. I read it the very same way I've grown to interpret that verse. Imagine that! OC didn't change; he's been dead a long time. So what changed? My whole way of thinking and living, and now I read what is really being said. May I remember this lesson for a very long time: I'm not to be anxious or to worry over the physical things, I'm to be very responsible about them as I put the things of God as a top priority.

Here's OC's devotional for today:

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

Immediately we look at these words of Jesus, we find them the most revolutionary statement human ears ever listened to. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." We argue in exactly the opposite way, even the most spiritually-minded of us - "But I must live; I must make so much money; I must be clothed; I must be fed." The great concern of our lives is not the kingdom of God, but how we are to fit ourselves to live. Jesus reverses the order: Get rightly related to God first, maintain that as the great care of your life, and never put the concern of your care on the other things.

"Take no thought for your life. . . ." Our Lord points out the utter unreasonableness from His standpoint of being so anxious over the means of living. Jesus is not saying that the man who takes thought for nothing is blessed - that man is a fool. Jesus taught that a disciple has to make his relationship to God the dominating concentration of his life, and to be carefully careless about every thing else in comparison to that. Jesus is saying - "Don't make the ruling factor of your life what you shall eat and what you shall drink, but be concentrated absolutely on God." Some people are careless over what they eat and drink, and they suffer for it; they are careless about what they wear, and they look as they have no business to look; they are careless about their earthly affairs, and God holds them responsible. Jesus is saying that the great care of the life is to put the relationship to God first, and everything else second.

It is one of the severest disciplines of the Christian life to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us into harmony with the teaching of Jesus in these verses.

Today's reality check for me is that feeling responsible and being responsible is very much a part of a believer's life. I cannot take that lightly. But foundational is that God is in charge and I can be responsible and let go of the anxiety and worries about myself and others. It helps in these tough times!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Intimacy: Discipline or Enjoyment

I recently heard a sermon on intimacy with Christ, and it was all about the disciplines.

I've ruminated on the theme of that sermon. I remember when I thought the Christian life was all about the disciplines. I tried so hard. I had my checklist. I had my prayer list. I had my 2959 notebook. I did, I did, I did.

Then one day I realized that my Christian life was not about performing and doing. It was about being and enjoying.

As Paul and I were discussing this and expressing what we've come to understand and live, I used the illustration of a piece of chocolate pie. Do I have to discipline myself to enjoy that piece of pie? Do I have to learn about chocolate? Do I have to inspect the recipe? Do I have to question who made it? Do I need to talk about it? OR do I need to eat and enjoy? I love the verse, "O taste and see that the Lord is good."

My handsome feller, not to be outdone by my illustration, suggested that he thought of kissing his wife. That's me. (To be grammatically correct, That's I. Sorry, I do digress.)

His is a much better illustration because "intimacy" sometimes involves kissing the one you love. His questions: Do I time how long our kisses lasts? Do I study the anatomy of a kiss? Do I worry about if I'm doing it right? OR Do I just kiss and enjoy?

Both of us left a long time ago the thought that you meet God at church or you meet God in your closet. You might actually "meet" Him there. But you don't necessarily "enjoy" him there. We have learned that we meet God and enjoy Him every minute of every day in every activity we are involved in. There's no such thing to us as being disciplined to meet God. That's almost a foreign language to us any more. Our struggle is just forgetting to enjoy Him, always and forever.

So, whether Paul's riding his motorcycle or I'm busy at work editing math books, we're fellowshipping with Him and enjoying Him. Or whether we're at church or with our family, whatever we're involved in, He is with us and we are called to enjoy intimacy with Him without interruption. What could be better than that?

As I exit talks, sermons, and teachings on being with Christ our Saviour, I want to do the excitement dance and leap for joy. I don't want to go away shamed, sad, and sure I will never be able to perform or DO what's required. That's the gospel I've embraced and am enjoying living.

Eating chocolate pie, kissing my feller, intimacy with Christ––all enjoyable and exciting experiences in my life. Nothing I dread or have to discipline myself to do.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Give Me Liberty...

For years I have read the daily devotionals of Oswald Chambers in his book My Utmost for His Highest. Now there's a Web site where the daily devotionals can be read online. My personal book is earmarked, dated, has notes in it, and a few pages are even a little tear stained.

I thought today's reading, May 6, is appropriate and timely because of some arguments and discussions making the rounds in some SBC circles. Interestingly Oswald Chambers died in 1917, so his devotionals were written a long time ago, but remain relevant.

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free." Galatians 5:1

A spiritually minded man will never come to you with the demand - "Believe this and that;" but with the demand that you square your life with the standards of Jesus. We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One Whom the Bible reveals (cf. John 5:39-40). We are called to present liberty of conscience, not liberty of view. If we are free with the liberty of Christ, others will be brought into that same liberty - the liberty of realizing the dominance of Jesus Christ.

Always keep your life measured by the standards of Jesus. Bow your neck to His yoke alone, and to no other yoke whatever; and be careful to see that you never bind a yoke on others that is not placed by Jesus Christ. It takes God a long time to get us out of the way of thinking that unless everyone sees as we do, they must be wrong. That is never God's view. There is only one liberty, the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.

Don't get impatient, remember how God dealt with you - with patience and with gentleness; but never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it. Jesus said, "Go and make disciples," not "make converts to your opinions."

Here's what the Web site says about the author:
Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) was a Scottish minister and teacher whose teachings on the life of faith and abandonment to God have endured to this day.