Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they simply are! Think of the sea, the air, the sun, the stars and the moon---all these are, and what a ministration they exert. So often we mar God's designed influence through us by our self-conscious effort to be consistent and useful. Jesus says that there's only one way to develop spiritually, and that's by concentration on God. "Don't bother about being of use to others; believe on Me"---pay attention to the Source, and out of you will flow rivers of living water. We can't get at the springs of our natural life by common sense, and Jesus is teaching that growth in spiritual life doesn't depend on our watching it, but on concentration on our Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father knows the circumstances we're in, and if we keep concentrated on Him we'll grow spiritually as the lilies. The people who influence us most aren't those who buttonhole us and talk to us, but those who live their lives like the stars in heaven and the lilies in the field, perfectly simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mould us.
If we want to be of use to God, let's get rightly related to Jesus Christ and He'll make us of use ...unconsciously... every minute we live.
What Goes In...
"The land of Israel encompasses two major bodies of water. In the north part of the country lays the beautiful Sea of Galilee fed by the Jordan River as it flows from Mount Hermon southward. Teeming with life, this body of water symbolizes the richness of the land. As the Jordan leaves the Sea of Galilee, it flows thru productive areas, but within sixty short miles it feeds another body of water known as the Dead Sea. No greenery, no growth, nothing lives in this area. Trees that once grew there are just skeletons of their once stately forms. Salt encrusts everything that touches this water.
What happened to the water in those few short miles? Actually nothing happened to the water. It's the fact that the Dead Sea has no outlet. Whatever flows in stays there. "
We must guard our hearts. Just as the impurities that flow into the Dead Sea accumulate there, so do the things flowing into our hearts accumulate there if we allow them. Many times we ignore the things feeding into our minds and hearts throughout the course of the day. We're overwhelmed by the world.
Unless we consciously tune our radio or TV to Christian programming, we have a constant inundation of the world's ideals---lust, sex, illicit relationships, infidelity in marriage all regarded as fun and games. We listen to the news and the newscasters seem to focus on the evil of this world---theft, murder, rape, coporate embezzlement, corporate illegalities, crooked cops and hidden evils. We go to work and are surrounded by crude jokes, small thefts, character assassinations, gossip, lies, petty arguments. Even sometimes we come home to arguments, anger, and recriminations.
It's endless. And just as everything that's in contact with the waters of the Dead Sea become covered with salt, so will everything we touch be contaminated by those things that accumulate in our hearts. The anger that had flowed into our minds all day will splash out on our family. The jealousy engendered by constant songs and jokes about infidelity in marriage will overflow into doubt regarding our husband or wife. The lust that pours into our minds through popular songs and jokes and gossip will overflow until we find illicit attitudes that seem to take root in our hearts and minds.
Just as the water flowing into the Dead Sea seems clean, it's the collection and concentration of having it remain there and stew under the hot sun. So it is with us. The mulititude of things flowing into our minds may seem innocuous in itself. We may seem not to be paying attention. But unless we take steps to counter the flow, it will concentrate and have an impact on our spiritual life. Thus we must take the helmet of salvation and the sheild of faith ( Ephesians 6:17) to guard our minds and thoughts and create a dam that will counter the constant flow of the world through our minds.
We must endeavor to take to heart Paul's injunction to "think on these things" whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phillipians 4:8 When our minds are full of the things of God it's difficult for anything else to get in. When we have within us a well of water springing up (John 4:14) it will keep the evil from acccumulating. It will wash out the evil. Let's keep the well flowing by keeping our relationship with Christ close and personal and by focusing on the things of God to where the influx of this world can't enter.
"We receive rich gifts from Godís gracious hand. If we receive love, we must give love. If we receive financial blessings, we must share our bounty with those less fortunate. If we're blessed, we must share those blessings in return or else the gift dies, and something of ourselves dies with it".
I wanna to share this with you:
Anytime an associate at ________ is absent more than 3 times, they're "coached". First, it's a verbal, then a written, then a "D" day (decision day where the employee has to decide if they're willing to conform to the rules in order to keep their job), then termination.
As you know, I was out 4 days. Yes, I called in each day, but once a person misses 3 days, they're supposed to go in and fill out a leave-of-absence form, even if it's only for 1 day. I didn't know it at the time---I had understood it was 5 days, but it's only 3.
I had to be in the office last night, and the night manager and I were talking. I told her she might as well go ahead and give me my "coaching"---I had just found out I'd been absent beyond the 3-day rule. The other CSM had told me I needed to "check into it", because I "could be in a lot of trouble". This was said in front of other associates, with a lot of eye rolling for emphasis. I said to her, "I'm nobody special---there shouldn't be an exception made for me. I fully accept the consequences."
Early this morning, around 5:30 or so, I'd to be in Nancy's office again. After we were through with the situation at hand, she asked me to stay behind a moment. I did. She grinned at me and said, "You know all those absences you thought you had? They're all excused---none of them count against you."
I was stunned. There I had stood, accused and condemned by the other CSM (and she was enjoying her moment of pointing out I was "in trouble"). But that which somebody else had been so quick to condemn me for, had already been wiped out. I'd been guilty---yet through mercy, I'd been "forgiven"---the slate wiped clean.
I did, I asked, "How could that happen?" Her answer? "There's not a lot we managers have control of. However, we do have the authority to make certain changes if they're warranted. You're faithful and we know it. You put up with a lot---we get around---we hear what's being said when a lot of folks don't think we do. I heard what was said to you tonight---I also "heard" what you didn't say back even though you could have. I checked to see what was in the system on you, and there's nothing. I thought you'd like to know---you're not 'in trouble'."
I'll never know which of the two of them, did it. I know Dustin said to me when I called in while _____ was in the hospital, "You don't worry about your job. If there's ANYthing you need, just let me know." And I know what Nancy said to me about what she'd overheard earlier in the shift. Whomever did it, the results are the same: the "slate is wiped clean". Let the other CSM think what she will---the good news is, she doesn't dictate my relationship with my bosses. And I know the 'rest of the story', now.
Do you get what I'm saying to you? Do you see any parallels to this? The world stands ready to judge and condemn us, but we're in the service of a merciful God Who loved us so much, He sent His Only Begotten Son to die in our stead. Remember what I told you once before: it's only people who expect perfection from one another---God doesn't. I believe He expects our honest effort, but it's also He Who knows when we've done our best---not those around us. Our best might not be their best, but God knows when we've done all we can. It's through the loving mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ that our records are expunged---our slates are wiped clean. We might "deserve" to be punished, we might be guilty of all and more, but He doesn't operate on what others say about our guilt. He operates solely on the basis of our individual relationship with Him.
I sure didn't expect such mercy, but it was given anyway. I could never earn the mercy God has extended to me countLESS times before, but He did it anyway. Never ever let the world dictate your relationship with the Lord through their accusations or condemnations. Know 'the rest of the story'--you ARE very important to Him.
AND me. I love you with ALL my heart!