Saturday, December 19, 2015

Living Life or Living in Misery?

Micah 6:8  He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

That verse was the focus of our last post.  And we're continuing the subject, today, starting with a different graphic quote.  Our graphic for today's post asks a really good question.  If we think about it, that speaks of our impact in the now. But, since we live in the eternal, one way or another, it also relates to our long term state.

What can be extremely edifying or totally scary is our attitude toward those around us and the things of this life.  Tim Keller expressed it well. He said, “If you need something in addition to God to make you happy, that is your true King.”

Tim Keller's comment has real insight.  Where is our focus?  We can find that kind of focus when we look at groups like ISIS, white supremicists, #blacklivesmatter, and others and see a common thread.  In an interview, Louis Farrakhan made an interesting statement. “Who am I? I am that man that represents the messiah that has come to end this civilization,” he said. “And that’s why they want nobody to have anything to do with Farrakhan, but I’m here.”  As much as Farrakhan speaks in anti-semitic terms, he still uses, or rather misuses, a Jewish term.  The Messiah is a savior, not a destroyer.  All of the groups mentioned have a common goal.  Improvement of earthly status, even at the expense of others, and without God.

An online conversation brought all of this to mind.  Among other things, I was accused of living in "conservative Christian white privilege".  Mostly because I disagreed with the viewpoint of the person who made that accusation and had suggested that slavery of Africans started with other Africans.  One tribe battling another, as often as not, out of greed.  Whoever won took possession of property, housing, livestock, and enslaved the conquered people.  The person I was talking to apparently decided that this kind of evil was strictly a white trait.  But there's a verse that discusses that.

Jeremiah 17:9  "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 

Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't see anything there that limits that condition to a particular people group or skin color.  If we believe the Bible, that started with the mother and father of all of us, back in the garden of Eden.  And a later result of that was the Tower of Babel, an attempt at reaching God and heaven without a Messiah.  At which point God decided "enough of this nonsense" and diversified languages and skin colors to prevent that.

The pilgrims who came here did so not to improve at the expense of those they were leaving behind, but on their own merits.  And, when they determined they had to become a separate country from England, the Declaration of Independence didn't say happiness was a right.  It was "the pursuit of happiness" that was a right -- no guarantee of successfully attaining it.

Christians seem to believe that anything else is counterfeit.  I'm not so sure, when things fully agree with the Bible, that it isn't God finding another way to communicate truth to us.  Gautama Buddha discovered the Four Noble Truths:

  1. Suffering is characteristic of human existence; 
  2. Suffering is caused by longing for pleasure and avoidance of pain; 
  3. It is not necessary to suffer; and 
  4. There is a path to end suffering.
The first point comes out of Jeremiah 17:9.  Whether by action or inheritance, we're really good at creating misery.  Both our own and for others.  The second highlights that, basically, we like the easy way out.  Yet, when we look at it closely, we set up barriers to the real easy way.  The Buddha's third truth is that we don't need to suffer.  And truth number four is that there's a path ending suffering.  That's where he starts to go wrong from a lack of knowledge.  Because he doesn't realize that this path is through Jesus Christ.

When we consider those truths, it's easy to recognize that a savior is our only hope.  But we have to realize what He's saving us from.  Part of that conversation that led to this meditation was my being told my Christianity wasn't right.  That Jesus wouldn't allow things like racial inequality, poverty, etc.  But there's:

John 16:33  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. 


Matthew 26:11  For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

Poverty, suffering, inequality, trials, unhappiness, turmoil, anger, man's inhumanity to man, etc. all come out our Old Sin Nature.  And, if we focus on this world, we can remain miserable.  Part of the problem being that our own wrong focus cuts God out of the picture.  Yes, we can improve life here. But by including God and by dialogue and mutual cooperation, not by finger pointing and laying blame.  @LovLikeJesus tweeted this:  Words are like seeds. They have creative power. Isaiah says, "We will eat the fruit of our words." What seeds are you planting?

If we focus on the things of this life, we miss the Living Jesus.  But He's the source of joy, not necessarily happiness.  There's a difference between the two.  Happiness is a momentary experience, whereas joy is an ongoing attitude.  Christians speak of being delivered in their circumstances, not necessarily out of them.  That's joy.  There's a comfort and peace that allows dealing with situations from the right perspective.  And that could very well also deliver us out of our circumstances.  But it doesn't have to.

The wrong focus and wrong thinking can only lead to turmoil, frustration, and anger.  Which leads to more conflict and anger.  The conversation that led to this post revealed a continual seething anger that the gentleman won't give up.  The Bible suggests there's an easy way to deal with our anger.

Ephesians 4:26  Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

Or how about the Mark Twain quote shared by @lightstock?  It says, "Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured."  And modern secular psychologists echo that statement.  Continued anger does little to the person we're angry at, but it can do both psychological and physical harm to the person living in anger.  

I pray for this gentleman and others like him.  The continued wrong focus and wrong attitudes can only lead to further turmoil, conflict, and anger.  Which will only make them and those around them miserable, except for those who have the joy of the Lord.  And, although we can't ever be sure that people like that aren't still saved, neither can we see assurance they are.  The only solution is described in my life verse.

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

Are you doing that, today?

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