‘There, there, never mind’

I’ve been filling in some of the blanks in regard to past posts.

This one has turned out to be most appropriate for me, right at this moment.

In this study, Selwyn discusses self-pity; he writes: “There is one more escape route to examine before we begin to look at some of the steps we need to take in order to face up to reality ~ self-pity. One of the worst things we can do when we are confronted by difficult or unpleasant reality is to lapse into the reality of self-pity.

… Self-pity must not be confused with self-concern, however; self-concern is a healthy thing and evaluates the best interests of the self so that it can function more effectively in the interests of others. Self-pity is an unhealthy thing, and has little regard for the interests of others – just the interests of self.”

In many Psalms, such as Psalm 90; we read about the frailty of our lives – not so much as to generate self-pity, but to recognise the frailty of life and to value what we have been given.

Psalm 90:3-6,12 (NIV): “You turn people back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, you mortals.’ A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death – they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered.  … Teach us to number our days,  that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Yesterday (7/2), my Doctor advised me that I’ve most likely got Prostate Cancer – and now I start the days of blood tests, CT and bone scans, and the sorts of treatments that flow from the results of these investigations. None of which I look forward to – however, I know that my Lord and God, is close by and whatever happens, His love will never fail.

The heart of the matter

I think the thought contained in Selwyn’s introduction has been repeated a number of times – but, like all important issues, it need to be repeated to underline just how important it is.

He writes: ” … let us be quite clear what we are saying about this issue of busyness and activity. In themselves ,work and activity do not constitute a problem – they become a problem when we use them as an escape route to evade responsibility.” He goes onto say: ” … (we reason we need to ask) the Holy Spirit to show us what is going on in our hearts is because only God can cut through the layers of our personality and show us what is motivating us in that part of our being which is just below the level of awareness.”

In Hebrews 4:12-13 (NIV), we read: ” … For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

I believe, as I’ve also said many times before, that we don’t have to stumble blindly through these issues, by ourselves. God loves us, so much, that He is always bringing to our attention, those aspects of our lives that He wants us to change – so that we might become more like Jesus. Do you agree?

Motives are everything

I liked the following statement made by Selwyn concerning Christian service.

” … Attendance to home and family responsibilities and relationships is of prime importance, and I would go so far as to say that they take precedence over every other activity – preaching, evangelising and church meetings included. No one can have a successful ministry unless they are prepared to deal with important issues that arise from time to time in family life.

What we must remember is this: any work in the name of Christ but from a wrong motive will be burned up on that day when our life’s work will be examined before the judgment seat of Jesus.”

In summary, Selwyn is saying that if the motive for some Christian activity is to avoid dealing with a serious family issue; then we will not be blessed by God.

In Mark 7:6-13 (NIV), we read: “Jesus replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) – then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” “

As in the above case where some Jews were using religious traditions to avoid their responsibilities; we too, might use our self-serving motives to undertake religious-services, so as to avoid being Christ-like to family and close friends.  It’s important that we always take this sort of issue – regarding our motives, to God, in prayer and to seek His guidance.

First things first

[Just catching up – there’re no problems with the feeds.  🙂  ]

I like the verse (1) from Psalm 127, which Selwyn used for the key verse for today’s study.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.”

It’s a very re-assuring verse because it tells us that God is in control and that His will prevails. There are no surprises for God – everything that happens has been seen by God before He created time, which is also controlled by His laws of physics. I think that this is one aspect of God’s greatness that is beyond our comprehension.

In today’s study, Selwyn talks about those people who escape from reality by being extremely active and always busy. He writes: ” … busyness and activity are not bad in themselves; they become troublesome when we use them as an escape route to avoid facing up to an important issue that needs attention. … No amount of Christian work can justify inaction in urgent and important matters that relate to family and home.”

The prayer for today, is an excellent summary: “Father, I am coming to see that effective living is a matter of priorities. Help me to put things in their proper order – God first, family next, and church work third. In Jesus’ name I ask it. Amen.”

In Matthew 22:37, we read: ‘Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” … ‘

The first aspect of our spiritual life which must be given the highest priority – is to love God.

 

 

 

Learning lessons the hard way

In today’s study, Selwyn looks at another escape route from reality. He starts by saying: “Let us look at yet another popular escape route – that of busyness and activity. It’s interesting how the phrase “I’m too busy” can be a cover-up allowing us to avoid something that we don’t want to do but know full well, we ought to do.”

I think what Selwyn has written is fairly straight forward – and I’ve no additional comments.

What did you think of today’s study?

***

Last night, I had a dream (about Jesus); and, it was so vivid I got up out of bed at around 3 am, and started to read the Bible. I was taken to a number of different passages, but these verses from Pslam 107, I found to be very encouraging (verses 1-22, NIV) : Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High. So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.

Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.”

It does not matter – what sort of distress we are suffering; our Lord and our God – loves us, and will rescue us.

Neither a worm nor a wonder

Selwyn starts today’s study with: “We continue considering the question: Have we allowed the yeast of the Pharisees to get into our spirit?”

The best bit, I thought was: “Christians know exactly who they are – they are the children of the living God and joint heirs with Jesus to all that God owns. You see, those who understand that their true greatness comes, not from things or earthly attachments, but from their relationship with God have no need of superior attitudes. … You are meant to live with your feet on the earth and the Spirit of God in your heart, walking straight up to the task that God has called you to do.”

The issue is that while on a knowledge level, many Christians are aware of the verses in the Bible which tell them that they are God’s children; this knowledge hasn’t been fully actioned – in the way they live their lives. Yet, this is how we demonstrate our love for Jesus – in the way we follow Him. Knowing what the right path is to eternal life, is one thing; actually moving our feet in that direction is the real challenge. Do you agree?

The big cover-up

Today, Selwyn continues to examine the attitude of the Pharisees – that group of people known for their self-righteous attitudes.

He says: “Jesus saw right to the depths of their lives and perceived that they were inwardly bankrupt … they were proud, supercilious and self-righteous – the attitudes some people adopt to cover up their feeling of inferiority.”

Later on, in the study he brings our attention to the fact that the sin of pride is often found at the root of a superior attitude. While Selwyn concentrates on just one aspect: that a superior attitude is a cover, a shelter from the unpredictable storms we all have to face in everyday life. I also think that with many people, who portray a superior attitude; that attitude is used as a diversion – to divert attention from their real motives, which is based on pride, greed and lust. In summary, Pharisaism is basically idolatry – it’s the putting of self-interests first; in their hearts they love their ‘self’. Consequently, they don’t have a relationship with God. They cannot love others in the true sense of the word, and any charitable works are done to makes themselves – ‘feel good’. This ‘yeast of the Pharisees’, is still active and spreads rapidly through each generation. The attributes of our sinful nature, are the same now – as they were two thousand years ago; as they will be – on the last day.

In Luke 12:1-3 (NIV), we hear Jesus talking to His disciples: “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

Jesus is telling the disciples that a person’s true motivation will be revealed. In a very real sense – Jesus is within us, monitoring the desires which we form in our hearts – nothing we do is missed by God. Even those thoughts or actions that come to us under the cover of darkness, are seen by Jesus. Hypocrites – are the devil’s fools!

Any comments on today’s study?