Riches

What does being rich mean to you? For some, it means having money to do anything and everything that they wish. To others, it means having enough to be satisfied or content. And yet to others, it means having a life of blessings and little worry despite having little money. Many people focus on making money because as the old adage says “money can’t buy everything but it sure makes everything better”. When we focus on getting rich or making money we often forget the other things of importance in our lives. People who put so much emphasis on their careers, in order to provide “financial stability”, will often miss out on the important things in life. We have all heard people say “I’m working hard to provide a future for my family”.

These people rarely have time for the present day family that they are working so hard for. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m glad my parents weren’t around when I was a kid so I could have this great inheritance check now that they’re dead”. Everything in our lives is about balance. The right amount of money, the right amount of time and the right attitude generally always pay off. The right amount of exercise and the right amount of rest keep us healthy in the long run. What do riches really do for us? Sure, not having to worry about paying bills would be great but what kind of life do we have working or worrying about work constantly. Monetarily “rich people” often don’t seem happy. Watch a young family with few “riches” and you will see hugs, laughter, smiles and they will find fun in the little things. You don’t need money to be rich; you need the right perspective on life and a little faith in your future.

4Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. 5Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone…” Proverbs 23:4-5

These are the words of wisdom that turn our attention to what should be the most important thing in our lives – God. He warns us often throughout the bible not to be misled by the things of this world. St. Paul writes in his letters about how this world will lead us toward destruction. Jesus taught us to focus on the words and promises of God and showed us how the men of this world were leading us astray.

If we focus on riches and riches only, they can be gone in a glance; leaving us with nothing. If we focus on God and His word, we are never alone and always content. The same Proverb in verse 12 tells us, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” Jesus often said to keep focused on God and place our faith in Him alone. God is on our side and He will provide us with what we need and will never give us more than we can bear. His plan is in motion for our lives, we need to have the wisdom to allow it to unfold and keep our attention where it belongs, on God.

Compassion

What does compassion mean to you? People often believe that it is the ability to feel sorry for others and while some believe that it is showing care for others. I’ve talked about showing grace towards each other as means of sharing the teachings of Jesus, which has been called – being compassionate. I’d suggest that the answer to what is compassion is really all of the above and may include several other aspects that I haven’t touched on. Personally, I find that compassion is best served with part humility and a big component of being genuine about the subject. I’ve had a few people in my life that, after I speak with or see them, I’m left feeling great. They have such a demeanor that you can’t help but be warmed by your interaction with them. They are kind, giving and rarely have anything negative to say.

Compassionate people bring calm, understanding and positive emotions into our lives. They teach us how to look for the good in all things and how to accept the things that we cannot change. Most of us are compassionate about homelessness, poverty, children and the sick. There is a great line in the movie “Back to School” starring Rodney Dangerfield when he’s describing a teacher he has; “He seems to care, about what I don’t know”.

What do you care about and are there things that you should be more compassionate about? Our lives go so fast that we can miss opportunities to be more compassionate about more things. Commit to being more positive and strive to be the type of person that when you leave someone, they have a warm feeling inside because you were there.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13

God cares for and has compassion on us in all of our weaknesses. How many of us would stick with friends or family that constantly failed to meet our needs or respect what we’ve asked of them? We are weak from the original sin in our lives, yet God is compassionate towards us. Are you that compassionate with people in your life?

As a parent, I am compassionate with mistakes that my kids make, or the challenges that they present or the needs that they have. I’ve often said that the best supervisory training is parenting. God, our Father, has compassion on us too. We see His compassion most brightly in the form of a Savior sent to redeem us for all eternity. I do not fear God as the Psalmist did because of God’s compassion towards me and the grace that He gives me through His son Jesus Christ. Jesus intervened on our behalf with God and now we all can live in peace through Him. Just thinking about it gives me that warm feeling inside.

Anxiety

I can’t watch TV news any more, I can’t read news on-line anymore and I’m starting to turn off TV shows that have too much conflict between the characters in them. It seems like everywhere I turn, there is conflict –a non-stop loop from kindergarten of: “yes you did, no I didn’t”. It’s making my nuts (or nuttier). I think it is also influencing how we speak to each other. I’ve spent the last month working in a high-pressure environment with the U.S. Army (12hr days for 25 straight days) and things can get a little testy among the team. As we were wrapping up, one of the team asked me a simple question about going home and I gave him a very sharp answer. He observed, “it has been a tense few weeks”. I had no idea of the way that I spoke. We never really understand how our words and actions affect those around us. What if your kind words were the only kind words that people hear in their lives? Would you go out of your way to speak them then?

There is a story called the blue ribbon that tells of a father who was given a blue ribbon by someone at work because they identified him as being important to them. He was then challenged to give the ribbon to someone who was important to him. He struggled to find that one person and put the ribbon in his briefcase before heading home. Once he arrived home, he found his son sitting in his room as he walked by. He returned with the ribbon and gave it to his son, explaining what had happened that day. He explained that while their relationship hadn’t always been the greatest, he wanted him to know that he was special and important to him. The son started to break down uncontrollably. When he was able, he explained that he was sitting there contemplating suicide because he thought that no one cared. Go out of your way today to speak a kind word to someone, you never know what your impact will be.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25

There is a lot to be anxious about these days. I seem to be writing a lot about worry and anxiety but they are everywhere and can take over a person’s life. However, those strong in faith know to send those worries and fears to God in prayer. What about the other people in our lives who do not have the confidence or assurance to do that, what can we do to help them? Well placed kind words can mean a great deal to everyone we encounter.

Last week we discussed compassion and leaving people feeling good after we see them. Consider this the warm up act for compassion. When we are simply nice, generous with ourselves and offer kind words we will make a difference in people’s lives. Jesus never spoke poorly about anyone, not even those trying to persecute and kill Him. He teaches us the real meaning of compassion. Jesus was always uplifting even in the face of terrible times. If we compare our lives to His, we have it pretty easy. Share your grace and peace with others as it has been shared with you. A kind word will cheer up an anxious heart.

Worry

I want to go back to the roots of this devotional and talk a little management philosophy. I’ve never been known as a positive person. My entire career was spent planning for the worst but hoping for the best. In management, you have to be on guard for the things that will hurt you or the organization. It’s important however, to celebrate when things go right. Many managers forget to do that. They become so focused on problem avoidance or fixing problems that they fail to recognize the great things happening around them. Managers worry about things that “could” happen and miss the good things that do happen. I won’t deny that there are a lot of things to be worried about these days. I would suggest that many of us worry about things that don’t exist or things that we anticipate will happen but never do.

What troubles you? Is it something tangible or is it something that you are worrying about before it actually happens? Week after week we are inundated with terrible news stories that seem to repeat themselves – school shootings, terrorist events, climate changes, a rollercoaster economy or some horrific aspect of society. Are you getting ensnared by the negativity in the media and turning it into a personal struggle? So, what are you worried about? It’s impossible to avoid worrying so the key is learning to keep it in check. Others have suggested that worry and doubt is more of an emotional response and the best way to counteract it is through logic. Look closely at what you are worrying about and see if it is an actual or a perceived problem.

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Luke 24:38

In this verse Jesus was speaking to His disciples when He first showed Himself to them. What if Jesus was asking you these questions? Why are you troubled and what doubts do you have? Jesus would tell you that you should be sending all of your worries to the Father. It can be argued that the emotion of worry (trouble) is a product of the devil. It is a great way to put separation between you and God because if you don’t think that God is with you in your life as a result of your feeling crushed by doubt, you will turn away from God.

Maybe you’ll rely more on yourself, maybe you’ll turn to “an escape” or maybe you’ll simply let the doubt take over and crush you. When these things happen, God is pushed away; just what the devil wants. Go back to Jesus asking you – “Why are you troubled?” He is speaking to you in this verse and wants you to stay close with God, especially in times of trouble. How will you answer Him? We’ve been taught in other verses to lift our concerns to God in prayer. Sounds like great advice.

Wisdom of Martin Luther

On one of my many flights, I was reading from a book titled “Concerning Christian Liberty” written by Martin Luther. Of course, it is a reprint but it has been an interesting read from someone who brought Christianity into everyone’s hands. His study and perspective are based on the writings of the bible; his insights are raw and his life was fascinating. Anyway, as I read this before Easter, I couldn’t help but think that his words provide another great summary of what Christianity is. Enjoy the exerpt:

“Christ was sent for no other office than that of the word… What is this word, and by what means is it to be used, since there are so many words of God? As the Apostle Paul explains: to preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if one believes the preaching. Martin Luther references this verse to justify his comments: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”(Romans 10:9) 

“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes”(Romans 10:4) and the just shall live by faith. For the word of God cannot be received and honored by any works, but by faith alone. Hence it is clear that as the soul needs the word alone for life and justification, so it is justified by faith alone, and not by any works. For if it could be justified by any other means, it would have no need of the word, nor consequently of faith. But this faith cannot consist at all with works; that is, if you imagine that you can be justified by those works, whatever they are, along with it.

 Therefore, when you begin to believe, you learn at the same time that all that is in you is utterly guilty, sinful, and damnable, according to that saying, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”(Romans 3:23) 10There is no one righteous, no, not one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”(Romans 3:10-12)

 When you have learned this, you will know Christ is necessary for you, since He has suffered and risen again for you, that, believing in Him, you might by this faith become another man, all your sins be remitted, and you being justified by the merits of another, namely of Christ alone. Therefore, the first care of every Christian ought to be to lay aside all reliance on works, and strengthen his faith alone – more and more, and by it grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who has suffered and risen again for him. Faith, which is the brief and complete fulfilling of the law, will fill those who believe with such righteousness that they will need nothing else for justification.”

May the Peace of Christ and the Grace of God be with you this week!