What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Be Kind and Compassionate

I’ve done some thinking about what the Bible has to say about being kind and compassionate and was drawn to Ephesians 4:32 and the surrounding verses. They say:
29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. NASB
Verse 32 in the NIV is put this way: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” For some reason that is the version that came to my mind, not the NASB in which I’ve done most of my memorizing. So my thoughts today are focusing on what it means to be kind and compassionate (or tender-hearted) towards those we come into contact with every day.
It’s something that comes “naturally” to some. However, I think that starting at a young age we should be taught to have compassion on our fellows. Some miss this in their childhoods and act in unkind ways. But we should still respond to them with kindness and compassion. As a matter of fact, we don’t know the family histories, background, or what happened to that surly person we came in contact with today. Maybe they haven’t been taught the principles of kindness or compassion. Sometimes we do know but still need a reminder to treat others in a kind and compassionate manner.
In my household, it has been the “rule” since before we had offspring. It’s what I expect from those living in my home. However, circumstances have come together in such a way that I find myself having to work hard at being kind and compassionate even in the midst of others who may not have those things as a guiding force or principle for their lives.
Most of the time it is easy to be kind and compassionate to those who are also working within that framework. However, when push comes to shove (figuratively, of course) we need to return mistreatment from another with the kindness and compassion that the Spirit of Christ has given us. I don’t think it can be done on our own power. That’s just too hard and we would probably fail (more than we do already). It has to come from the power of God working in our lives for us to be kind and compassionate amidst turmoil and mayhem (or just dealing with a surly person).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Struggling Right Now

I try to make my blog articles encouraging but sometimes I’m in a space where that is difficult to do. However, it forces me to look in God’s Word for some encouragement. That’s where I went today when everything seemed to be caving in around me. Some days, like today, I struggle to believe the kind words of others, the encouraging books I read each day, and even the truths of Scripture. But every time I look to the Scriptures I find a thread to hang onto.
Today’s thread was found in a promise based on Proverbs 19:21. The promise (God speaking to us) says, “Though you have many plans, My purpose will be fulfilled.” The verse says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” What I thought about regarding this verse is that God’s purposes will be the ultimate outcomes of the events of our lives. That brought to mind Jeremiah 29:11 (‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’) God has plans for us.
It is, however, important to keep in mind, as we make our own plans, that the plans we make may not be the same as the plans God has for us. He already knows where we’re headed, the path we will take to get there, and is directing events to work out according to His plan. I’ve heard around the AA tables that God’s in control and we have to “Let go and let God” handle the big picture and the day to day details.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan at all. It just means we need to keep flexible and ready to roll when God’s plan intersects our plans and changes need to be made. And, to me it means that as each situation comes up, I need to pray about it, ask for guidance, make the best decision I can at the moment, and leave it up to God for the outcomes. Of course, the hardest part of that sequence is leaving it to God in such a way that I can still function in my responsibilities.
So, after writing to you, I’m struggling a little less. And I’ve laid some things at the feet of Christ before God. With that action there comes a sense of hope. It’s not very big and it may not last very long, but there’s a little.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Having a Passion

In a recent sermon at my church, the pastor started a new series with a message from Nehemiah 1 – 2. He entitled it: How to Change Your World in 52 Days. The key part of the message was looking at Nehemiah and seeing how he responded to the news that Jerusalem was a disgrace to the nation of Israel. The walls were in rubble and the gates had all been burned to nothing. Nehemiah could’ve respo nded like everyone else had for the last 200 years. They had the attitude that it’s a shame but someone else will have to do something about it because they did not have the knowledge, the strength, the whatever excuse they could make. But in reality they just didn’t have the passion for the mission to rebuild the wall.
However, when Nehemiah heard the news, he responded with weeping. He was distraught over the condition of Jerusalem, his “homeland’s” major city. Even though it was over a thousand miles away from where Nehemiah was in the Persian Empire, he had a deep response to the condition of God’s holy city. This passionate mourning about an issue (in this case, the state of Jerusalem’s walls) will be so burdensome that we will drop to the floor and weep. Everyone needs something to be passionate about, but we all need to be passionate about the things of God.
The second step Nehemiah took to changing his world was to go to his knees in prayer. He started praying while he was weeping and continued praying for several days. This may be where Nehemiah’s plan was formed and confirmed by God. I know I don’t give as much attention to prayer as I should. I rarely spend a day praying about a specific task, person, mission, or something else I might be passionate about. But Nehemiah spent several days kneeling in prayer. Is there something I should be that passionate about? I’m not sure at this point, but I’m praying about it.
The last point the pastor made was that Nehemiah did not just keep praying about the situation and hope someone else would step up to do something about it. He stood up and acted. So the third step to changing your world is to stand up and act. But we need a plan. For instance, Nehemiah’s plan was revealed in several places in these two chapters. He had a mission and he had some steps that needed to take place in order. First, he did his research and found out the name of the man in charge of the king’s forests. He also had to find out the names of the various rulers whose lands he would be traveling through. Remember, Nehemiah was a lowly cupbearer/butler. He would not have known these people in the course of normal living. He had to do research to get that kind of information.
The next action Nehemiah took was to present his plan to the Persian king as soon as he had opportunity. That came when the king asked him why he was so downcast and not his usual joyful self. God’s hand was definitely in this situation because normally anybody who appeared in the king’s presence who was not happy looking would be taken out of the king’s court and killed. But Nehemiah had earned the reputation for being exceptionally joyful, so much so that the king noticed when he was distraught. That’s something we have to remember as we make plans . . . God is controlling the ultimate outcomes. That’s sometimes hard for me to remember or believe as I don’t see answers to my prayers.
However, Nehemiah knew God’s hand and power was in the situation so he responded to the king’s question with a succinct explanation of what was on his heart. He started with complimenting the king and continued with a description of the situation: “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruin and its gates have been destroyed by fire.” [Nehemiah 2:3] The king, miraculously, responded by asking what did Nehemiah want from him. And Nehemiah laid out a well-thought out plan that included the king giving him support in numerous ways.
Later, after arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah continued to prayerfully make plans, step by step. First, he rested, then he went out at night and inspected the walls. He did this so he would know what the next steps would be and exactly how big this task was. After that, realizing he could not rebuild the wall by himself, he motivated and rallied the Israelites living in Jerusalem to join his cause. The rest of the book of Nehemiah lays out the obstacles and solutions Nehemiah faced in building the walls. But God’s hand was on the situation and, in accordance with Nehemiah’s passion, prayer, and planning, the wall was rebuilt.
So my first question and prayer today has been, “What is my passion?” I’m praying God would show me what should be my passion and help me take action on accomplishing something to address an issue I’m aware of that needs to have attention. What’s your passion and what action are you taking to address that issue?