Author Archives: lrbartel

“Preoccupation” or “Priorities”

Priorities

Two words that begin with the letter “P” today … “Preoccupation” and “Priorities”

Both words important for effective and fruitful “Christ-followers!”

We live in a world and in a cultural setting that is “Pre-occupied” with the material things that have to do with everyday life – the “here and now” … where and what we eat, what we drink, what we wear, and where we live.  Stand around a water cooler at work and just listen.  Examine conversations you’ve had with others.  Think about what has occupied your mind and concerns lately.  Hey, it’s easy to become “Preoccupied” with those things isn’t it?  Concern for them begins to just “gobble us up!”

But life is “more” than those things according to Scripture!

For Christ-followers the “Kingdom of God” or “the Kingdom of Heaven” needs to have “Priority” (there’s that second word)!

Here’s how the Bible puts it in Matthew 6:25-33 (part of my Bible reading this morning during “coffee with the Lord”)…

“I tell you [Jesus speaking] not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear!  Isn’t life more than food, your body, and more than clothing? … These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers [“Preoccupation,” if you please],  but your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs!  Instead, seek the Kingdom of God above all else [“Prioritize” it and its values] and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need [some versions say “everything else”]! (From Matthew 6:25-33 NLT)

Ask anyone that understands the keys to success and effectiveness… They will tell you “Preoccupation” with the wrong things – even many things – leads to frustration, failure, and fruitlessness!  On the other hand, proper “Priorities” lead to fulfillment, fruitfulness and success!

Gotta tell you, with the Lord’s help, the Holy Spirit’s “nudge,” and the principles and values of Scripture in focus, as a follower of Christ, I want to “Prioritize” [there’s that word again!] God’s Kingdom and right living!  Life is “more” than “Preoccupation” with the concerns of just the “here and now!”  How did the old Gospel song put it… “With eternity’s values in view, Lord, With eternity’s values in view; May I do each day’s work for Jesus, With eternity’s values in view.”  That’s the way I want to live!

NOTHING Can Separate Me From God’s Love!

God's Steadfast LoveHere is Apostle Paul’s inspired assertion: “NOTHING can separate us from God’s love > from Christ’s love” (Romans 8:35-39).

I mean what do we not understand about “NOTHING”!

Here’s what I read again this morning during my time of “coffee with the Lord”…

“Can ANYTHING ever separate us FROM CHRIST’S LOVE? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that NOTHING can ever separate us FROM GOD’S LOVE! Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, NOTHING IN ALL CREATION will ever be able to separate us FROM THE LOVE OF GOD THAT IS REVEALED IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.” (From Romans 8:35–39 NLT)

I have to admit I’m still processing the implications of this – I believe it and affirm it – but I admit I’m still processing it…

After all, Job in the Bible went through a lot… I mean a LOT! And God loved Job – He was never separated from God’s love. Read Hebrews 11:35-37: “Some were tortured, jeered at, their backs cup open with whips, chained in prison, were stoned, sawed in half, killed with the sword…some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute, oppressed, and mistreated…wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.” But according to this passage, “Never separated from God’s love in Christ Jesus!”

Wow! We’re talking about “Hesed” here – the Hebrew term for God’s “steadfast love – His covenant keeping love!” Not just some sweet, sentimental, gushy, “sloppy ‘agape’” – A father’s love! Divine love! A Savior’s love! But deep, passionate love! A love more interested in the development of Godly character in my life than my comfort.

Like I say… I’m still processing the implications of this for my life – (it’s a bit scary) but I’m relishing the truth of it! NOTHING…NOTHING! …can separate me from THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS MY LORD!

“I Don’t Get Mad … I Get Even!” Is that Appropriate for Christ-followers?

I don't get mad - I get evenSomeone wronged you… said something that wasn’t true or bad about you… took advantage of you… hurt you, a family member, or a close friend…

How does the saying go… “I don’t get mad – I get even!” (and in most cases, we even ignore the first part of that saying).

Is that the way Christians – devoted, obedient, followers of Christ – should behave?

I was faced with that challenging question today in my Bible reading during my daily time of devotions I call “coffee with the Lord”…

Here’s what Jesus said… “You have heard that the Law says, “’An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ (Exodus 12:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21) BUT I SAY TO YOU…” (and I paraphrase what follows)… Don’t retaliate! Don’t try to get even! Instead extend mercy and grace to those who wrong you, offend you or take advantage of you! In other words BE GODLY! BE CHRISTLIKE!

OUCH!!! Lord, help me to be more like you! Start it within – in my attitudes – help it to happen “inside – out!”

Apostle Paul, in writing to Christ-followers in Rome put it this way…

“Never pay back evil with more evil! Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable… Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ (Deuteronomy 32:35) says the LORD. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ (Proverbs 25:21-22) Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good!” (from Romans 12:17-21 NLT)

I want to live that way! Lord help me to be more like you! Not simply “human” – but authentically holy!

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