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!


Thy Peace said...

Thanks for your posts. I enjoy reading your posts, for they affirm some of my own thinking and experiences. I too have been reading Oswald Chambers for a long time. Like reading the Bible, I get a different perspective at different times.

Today's message has been the central issue in my life and it still is. Whenever any one asks me, if I have been a long time Christian, I always say no. I am a beginner and a new Christian. The reason being, I am still and will always be stuck with this message: To abide with the Father. Or to seek Our Lord Jesus Christ first, then everything will flow from that.

I am not ashamed to admit I sometimes struggle with this understanding. Lot of times, it makes sense, some times it does not and I question God and my beliefs. Lot of times, I come up empty. Till I read some of the Bible or listen to a message or come across good Christian music.

My favorite chapter in the Bible is John 15. These always ring in my ears.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Bobby Brown said...

Philippians 4:6-7 (King James Version)

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Marjory Brown said...

Quite often when I read the Bible and render my interpretation of some verse..just for will have a direction that speaks to my life at that time. Later, when I read the same Scripture, it doesn't change in its meaning, yet for that day, I see it from a new perspective. Maybe that is why 'the word of God is alive, powerful, get the jist. Great post!

Mary Burleson said...

Thy Peace,
Thanks for commenting. I often see your comments on Wade's blog. And thanks for being such a good sport in the way you responded to Paul's recent comments. We both really appreciated that.

That's interesting that in response to being asked if you are a long time Christian that you say, "No, I am a beginner and a new Christian." I like that. When someone says to me that another is "so spiritual," I always want to ask them what that means? The variety of answers I've heard is quite thought provoking to say the least. I think I will always be in the learner's class, at least I hope so.

Bobby, two of my favorite verses from my favorite book.

Margie, great point. I so agree. Hey, girlfriend, your comments always remind me of how much I miss our long, hours long, visits we used to enjoy. maybe one day...

Aussie John said...


I always appreciate your honest writing, having a peek at your blog whilst looking at what Paul has to say.

Yesterday morning our local paper had an article telling us that our Prime Minister (what a gross title!)reads "My Utmost for His Highest" every morning.

I would sure like him to read your words, with which I wholeheartedly agree!

Mary Burleson said...

Aussie John,
What a nice surprise that you stopped by and commented. Paul so much enjoys your comments and interchanges on his blog.

I had to read twice your parenthetical, (what a gross title), about Prime Minister. I had never thought about those words. Funny.

By the way, we have traveled some and I'm traveled out except for one place, your country. That's the only place left that I would really like to visit and see. Maybe some day...

Bobby Brown said...

I came across this reading Sam Storms. I know it is a little late but I thought it really spoke to your previous post about Enjoyment or Discipline.

There was a time when I thought the verb “enjoy” and the noun “God” should never be used in the same sentence. I could understand “fearing” God and “obeying” God, even “loving” God. But “enjoying” God struck me as inconsistent with the biblical mandate both to glorify God, on the one hand, and deny myself, on the other. How could I be committed above all else to seeking God’s glory if I were concerned about my own joy? My gladness and God’s glory seemed to cancel each other out. I had to choose between one or the other, but embracing them both struck me as out of the question. Worse still, enjoying God sounded a bit too lighthearted, almost casual, perhaps even flippant, and I knew that Christianity was serious business.

Then I read Jonathan Edwards (1703-58). Something he said hit me like a bolt of lightning. I’m not a Christian Hedonist because of Jonathan Edwards. Scripture always has and will remain the final authority in my life. But Edwards helped me to see that God’s glory and my gladness were not antithetical. He helped me see that at the core of Scripture is the truth that my heart’s passion for pleasure (which is God-given and not the result of sin) and God’s passion for praise converge in a way that alone makes sense of human existence. I should let you read it for yourself. Outside of the Word of God, it’s the most significant and life-changing utterance I’ve ever read:

“Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory he has displayed? An understanding of the perfections of God, merely, cannot be the end of the creation; for he had as good not understand it, as see it and not be at all moved with joy at the sight. Neither can the highest end of creation be the declaring God’s glory to others; for the declaring God’s glory is good for nothing otherwise than to raise joy in ourselves and others at what is declared” (Jonathan Edwards, The Miscellanies [Entry Nos. a-z, aa-zz, 1-500], The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 13. Edited by Thomas A. Schafer [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994], no. 3, p. 200).

Here it is again, in other words:

“God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. God made the world that he might communicate, and the creature receive, his glory . . . both [with] the mind and the heart. He that testifies his having an idea of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation [i.e., his heartfelt commendation or praise] of it and his delight in it” (no. 448, p. 495).

Edwards’ point is that passionate and joyful admiration of God, and not merely intellectual apprehension, is the aim of our existence. If God is to be supremely glorified in us it’s critically essential that we be supremely glad in him and in what he has done for us in Jesus.

Bobby Brown said...

Sorry one more quote from Storms.

We do not do other things hoping that joy in God will emerge as a by-product. Our reason for the pursuit of God and obedience to Him is precisely the joy that is found in Him alone. To come to God or to worship Him or to yield to His moral will for any reason other than the joy that is found in who He is, is sinful