Posts Tagged ‘Great Commandment’

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“MEANS TO AN END” – April 14

April 14, 2013

“O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” Psalm 130:7

It is just a means to an end.

That is a saying that I have uttered on many an occasion.  This saying has been applied to countless insignificant, meaningless, or unpleasant activities that are completed in order to obtain a greater purpose.  The greater purpose is the goal and the lesser activities are the means or method by which the goal is obtained.  It is a principle that is used all the time.

Someone may have a goal of being a corporate CEO.  The means to becoming the CEO is working all the various positions on the corporate ladder as they climb up to obtain the primary goal.  Many of those jobs are not very rewarding.  However, the CEO is the end; all the jobs along the way are the means.  That is why they do them.

Someone may have a goal of becoming an elected official.  The means to getting elected is going to all those political party functions, the “meet and greets”, the shaking hands, and the baby kissing.  Campaigning can be exhausting.  However, being elected is the end; the campaigning is the means.  That is why it is done.

Someone may have the goal of becoming fit.  The means to getting fit is eating less and exercising more.  Working out is not that enjoyable.  Eating less and healthy is not very satisfying.  However, being fit is the end; working out and watching what you eat is the means.  That is why it is done.

I think that everyone understands that it takes means to reach desired ends.  However, there is a problem when we allow this mentality to drift into our relationships.

People are never means.  People are always ends.

English: Broken Heart symbolThere is so much heartache that comes from people being treated as means to achieve some other end.  People are often tossed aside when they have served their purpose.

The friend who is no longer called because better ones have been found;

The girlfriend who is dumped after she has given herself;

The boyfriend who is broken off because there are better options;

The colleague who is abandoned since he is no longer of an advantage;

The friendship that is pursued because of connections;

The spouse who is left for a new source of happiness.

It is an unloving attitude to treat another person as a means; to treat them as a pawn in a grand strategy of obtaining a greater purpose.  We are told that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.  The goal for every person who we engage is to encourage, edify, teach, and train.  The people with whom we interact should be better for that experience.  They should be more joyful, more peaceful, and happier; they should feel like they have experienced kindness, gentleness, and goodness.  They should know that they are loved after they have spent time with us.  That is our end with other people.  Our neighbor’s best is the end; love is the means.

In much the same way, God is never the means. God is always the end.

Many people seek out God to get something.  They come to Him with expectations and when those expectations are not fulfilled they leave Him.

They seek God to make their life better;

They want God to repair their marriage and/or relationships;

They want God to give them wealth and connections;

They want God to make them feel better about themselves;

They want God to keep them out of hell.

They seek God for the purpose of obtaining those other things.  They are not seeking God because He is God.  We are told that the greatest commandment is to love God.  Our primary purpose is to bring glory to God for who He is and what He has done.  We bring God the greatest glory that is possible from us when we love Him with all that we are, think, and do.  Bringing God the glory that He is due is the end; our love is the means.

In God’s plan, I am never the end; I am always the means.

I put myself in a bad place when I make myself an end.  I was never intended to be my own personal end.  I cannot be following the greatest of commandments when I have made myself an end.

We are making ourselves the end when we say things like, “I deserve <fill in the blank>; to be loved, to be happy, to be respected, to be appreciated, to be acknowledged, to be rewarded, to be feared.  The results of not having our blank filled in, the way we want, is often anger, jealousy, envy, gossip, and coveting. Those sins are the fruit of making ourselves the end. We were never intended to be our own personal end; we have always been the means for showing love to God and others.

The good news is that we do not have to feel left out.  One of the blessings of Christian community, as God intended, is that other believers will be interacting with you as their end.  They will be showing you love as their means of encouraging and edifying you. This is one of the reasons that living within the Church, the body of Christ, is so important to our souls.  It is when we pull away from those whose end is our best that we begin to start looking out for ourselves and our own personal ends; only bad results will come from that.  We need to allow the means of other believers to work to their desired ends in our lives.

Now, we all know that the church is imperfect.  Other believers can let us down.  Other Christians often have their ends very confused and do a horrible job of loving their neighbors.  We can come away after interacting with some church folk and be discouraged and feeling unloved.  We need to learn to forget ourselves and understand that they don’t owe us anything.  Their actions are often the result of sin and/or immaturity.  Remember, they are our end; not our means.  We do not need to rely upon them.  We can rest assured that we will never be left abandoned in an emotional wasteland.  God is always for us.

We are God’s end; His love is the means.

We are children of God.  There is nothing that can prevent Him from showing His love to His children.  He knows what we need.  He knows that we need His peace, contentment, encouragement, and love.  He knows how to give His children good gifts.  When we make ourselves our personal ends, we are declaring our unbelief in the sufficiency of God.

We can trust God to fulfill us.

We can trust God to sustain our self-esteem.

We can trust God to give us happiness.

We are in the hands God.  He is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He is faithful and can be trusted with our emotional well-being.  It is a small thing for the creator of the universe to fill you and me with joy.

We just need to trust Him with our hearts.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for showing me your steadfast love.  Thank you for not leaving me to rely upon myself.  Thank you for being sufficient in all ways.  Lord, help be to show your love to my neighbors.  Forgive me for being manipulative of other people and not loving them like I should.  Lord, I pray that I will be a blessing to all those I meet and that they will feel loved by your steadfast love flowing through me. Amen.

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“THICK SKIN – FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT” – Mar. 2

March 2, 2013

“The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.”  Proverbs 12:16

“You are going to have to grow some thicker skin.”

That is a saying that I have made to younger, discouraged, engineers on many occasions.  It was a statement that was made to me.  We usually receive this bit of wisdom after someone in our office has experienced a particularly harsh exposure to the public, delivered the bad news to a short-tempered contractor, or had to eat the fruit of a client’s bad day.

Unfortunately, rude and insulting people are not limited to the work environment.  The world seems to have an endless supply of rude and insulting people.  They are in stores, restaurants, automobiles, sporting venues, the internet, family trees, and the Church.  We have all clashed with that person.  If you have not, then you might be that person, which is a blog for another time.

“Thicker skin” is a universal need for everyone.

However, “thicker skin” is a misnomer.  It does not mean that if you have “thicker skin” you will not feel the intended sting of a particular insult.   “Thicker skin” means that we have the self-control to adapt, understand, and respond to the negative.

Just as we can get a bruise in our skin, we all can be bruised emotionally.  There are some who bruise easier than others.

Your day may be ruined mulling over the meaning of a snarky remark;

A nasty email may be pondered upon for weeks;

 A negative assessment may make you want to give up;

The critical opinion of one person may bankrupt your self-worth.

If you have ever felt anything like that, then you have been bruised emotionally.  Those are all examples of letting a bruise go too deep.  We all need to learn how to minimize the bruising.

The reality is that everyone knows when a “thin-skinned” person has been bruised because they let everyone know about it.  The Bible calls such a person a fool.  The fool is the person who immediately over-reacts to an insult and leaves a wake of destroyed relationships.  That is not the type of person we want to be.  We want to be the prudent person who has the ability to ignore an insult.

There are some who have developed the ability to ignore insults by not caring.  They don’t care what other people think about them so what they say doesn’t matter.  I have a difficult time squaring that attitude with the second greatest commandment.  I don’t know how I can “love my neighbor as myself” and not care about what they think of me.  We are to love people.

Others ignore insults by being so very confident in their own opinions that the negative opinions of others can simply be discarded.  The problem with that attitude is Proverbs 12:15, “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”

How can you ignore an insult without being unloving or arrogant?

“Thick-skin” is a fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Galatians 5:22

It is the Spirit that enables us to respond to rude and insulting people in the “prudent” manner.  It is a work of the Spirit in our lives to be able to love the snarky, to be patient with the aggressive, to be kind to the rude, to be gentle with the rough, to control ourselves when attacked.  Responding as Christ would respond is a gift from God.  It does not mean that we don’t feel the bruising but it means that our response is coming from God’s new creation within us.

I don’t have this down.  I do not demonstrate the fruit of “thick-skin” like I know I should.  Therefore, we need to be intentional about what we build into our lives that enhances our walking in the Spirit.

Know Where Your Worth Is

We need to keep the big picture in mind. Our worth lies in our relationship with God that comes through Jesus Christ. We can be called all sorts of things but that does not change how God sees us. It is when we start allowing people to assign our worth that we get bruised deeply. I do not seek my worth from any man. I am a wretched person. I know myself. My worth does not come from myself or other people. It is because of what Christ has done for me while I was yet a sinner that allows me not to be overly concerned with the detractors. Our worth is not of this world.

A Nurturing Core

We must not be a lone Christian.  We need other mature believers in our lives who love us and are there to support and encourage us.  These are not a group of “yes” men.  They are people who we know are for us and want the best for us.  They are persevering with us.  They are the ones who can tell us whether a criticism has merit or not.  They are advisors who can speak truth and wisdom into our lives.  The reality is that some of the insults that we receive may be true.  We need to have people in our lives who we know love us, agonize over potentially hurting us, and will still tell us the truth.  The wise person will have this core group.

Know Your Path

 We can so easily focus on the negative.  Our memories have an affinity for failures and stumbles.  We need to learn how to battle our own inner critic.  We need to preach to ourselves the faithfulness of our Lord.  We need to refresh our minds with the blessings that have been shown to us; those past victories and affirmations that our Lord has provided through us.  We need to treasure the assurances of our faith.  We are all imperfect and being sanctified.  We need to reassure ourselves of God working in our lives by acknowledging how far he has taken us.

Forgive Quickly and Completely

There are times when a bruise goes deep because it is simply piling onto a hurt that was never dealt with.  I have never found that time has helped me forgive.  The longer I wait the more opportunity there is for misunderstandings and bitterness.  The best medicine is forgiveness quickly applied.  Jesus forgave those who were crucifying him while He was being crucified.  Stephen forgave those who were stoning him while he was being stoned.  It is when we hold onto hurt and forgive partly, that we are quick to associate the negative and suddenly we are feeling something so much larger than the particular issue.

Know Yourself

We all need to be nourishing our souls and our bodies.  We need to know our spiritual well-being.  Since responding appropriately is a fruit of the Spirit, how are you doing in your walk with Lord?  If you have ground to a halt in your Bible reading, prayer life, worship, fellowship, then you are probably not going to be showing the fruit that you want.

We need to know our physical well-being.  Are you getting enough sleep, are you eating nutritious foods, are you exercising, are you sick?  We never respond well when we are worn down physically.

We need to know our personalities.  If you are not a quick thinker, then don’t put yourself into a debate.  If you have a tendency to be blunt, then don’t put yourself into a situation that requires an immediate response (sleep on it before shooting off that email).  If a particular person has a way of bruising you deeply, then position yourself so that they don’t have a clean shot at you.

This life is full of rude and insulting people who have the ability to bruise us.  It is inevitable that we will be bruised while we are out being faithful to the second greatest commandment – loving our neighbors as ourselves.  We will take some shots.

However, those bruises will not go deep enough to really hurt if we are walking in the Spirit, have the fruit of the  Spirit, and are wise about the paths that we take.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for those times where I have not responded as I should.  Forgive me for all of those time where I have allowed myself to be discouraged by an unkind or insensitive word.  Lord, I know that my worth is found in You.  I know that You love me.  I know that You are doing wonderful and good things through this life that I am in.  Lord, please continue your work of sanctification in my life.  Lord, I pray that all the fruit of your Spirit will be evident in my life.  Give me the “thick-skin” of  a child of God who is filled by your Spirit.     Amen

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