Embrace ‘Simplicity’ of Spirituality

Embrace Simplicity Of Spirituality

Chapter Three

Embrace 'Simplicity' Of Spirituality
The Freshness Of Simplicity 45 Downward Mobility – Part II 53
In Tune And In Step 47 The Good, The Better, The Best! 55
If God Has A Windshield, He Sees… 49 Half-Hearted Yes Or Purposeful No? 57
Downward Mobility Part I 51 Discussion Questions 59

Isaiah 40:31; 2 Corinthians 4:16

The Freshness Of Simplicity

There's something fresh and exciting about "things" or "people" newly born. A long list of adjectives accompany our exclamation of a week-old colt or calf frolicking in the pasture. Smiles mark our faces at the wobbly, uncoordinated puppy as he wrestles with other members in the litter.

Yet all these remain in the shadows when compared to a person who has just recently experienced the new birth of Christ; – whose life is transformed from an existence of futility to hope, of frustration to peace, of fear to courage.

The new person in Christ has a fresh simplicity which is contagious. Here are a few observations I have noticed.

Observation Number One. THE NEW CONVERT TELLS IT LIKE IT IS! He/she does not know all the euphemisms or Shibboleths of the theological language, but simply testifies from the heart what God has done for him/her and what Jesus Christ means to them. The spontaneity and matter-of-factness are refreshing. How wonderful to retain this childlike nature as we mature spiritually. It can be. A person is saved initially by Christ's death, and daily but Christ's life (Romans 5:10) – His life within us.

Observation Number Two. THE' NEW CONVERT PRAYS AS IF JESUS IS VERY PRESENT. Christ is approached confidently by this new person who simply believes that He is a friend who will meet the need of his/her life. There is no straining or struggling or stretching to get Christ to come near in prayer. He/she believes that if "I come to God, He is, and He is a rewarder." There is no "build-up" or "cover-up" when approaching God. This new person comes just as he/she is – honestly minus pretense.

Observation Number Three. THE NEW CONVERT DESIRES TO SHARE WITH OTHERS WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE FOR AND IN HIM. This is expressed in varied ways. Charles Wesley on the first anniversary of his spiritual birth wrote till of the wonderfulness of that day –

O for a thousand tongues to sing, 
My great Redeemer's praise,
The glories of my God and King, 
The triumphs of His grace!

Andrew found "his brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah.' He brought him to Jesus." Reminisce for a moment. When you first met Jesus Christ, didn't you earnestly desire to tell others what had happened to you? As the years of our

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walk with the Lord multiply, that freshness will remain if we regularly tell others how precious Christ is and how powerful He is to transform human nature. All of us like new things. But "new things" wear out and are cast upon the junk pile of time. But let me hurriedly say that our spiritual freshness and simplicity can be retained. How? "They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." (Isaiah 40:31) "The inner nature is being renewed everyday." (2 Corinthians 4:16)

"Dear Jesus, as I grow older may the freshness and simplicity of what you did for me never fade, but continue. Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By prayer and by telling others, the simplicity and the freshness of Christ within will not go stale. I will pray and I will speak for Christ!

– Floyd Cooper –

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Matthew 6:24; Psalm 40:6; Psalm 119:59

In Tune And In Step

While in Grand Island, Nebraska, in the fall of the year to attend a church business meeting, it was my privilege to view a portion of the Harvest of Harmony. This is a gathering of high school marching bands. The brilliant uniforms, the rhythmic music, and the marshaled parading were all spectacular.

And then I noticed something – something beyond all this! One band was totally out of step with the music. The music was vigorous, but how could the band be so far "out of step" in their marching? To myself I thought: "It's too bad; the judges will certainly give near zero points for such a performance.

And then I noticed something else! Me – the observer! I was listening to the band directly before me as it passed, and viewing the band that was coming. Then, I realized both bands were in step and in tune with their own music.

In life's field, to be in tune and in step with God's will is so important. "I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord… I'll say what you want me to say… I'll be what you want me to be…" Any attempt to coordinate our marching with Jesus Christ to the drums of the world's ethics and attitudes is impossible. Some Christians try it, resulting in discordance from a half-hearted commitment. Christ meant it when He said: "No man can be a slave of two master; he will hate one and love the other; he will be loyal to one and despise the other." (Good News Bible) Jesus Christ knew the impossibility of serving two masters!

Our ears are to be tuned to the Almighty God ("thou hast given me an open ear" Psalms 40:6). Our feet are to be in step with Christ ("I turn my feet to thy testimonies" – Psalms 119:69). When there is such correlation, what beautiful melody flows from our lives to bless the Lord and to be a blessing.

John Henry Jowett (1864-1923) wrote in Springs in the Desert) upon the theme O The Soul's Harmony – "Perhaps the most difficult of all things is to get unanimity to soul. To get the soul to pass a unanimous resolution! 'All that is within me' at one! (Psalms 103:1) My soul is often like a tumultuous meeting, with interruption, and disturbance, and opposition, and I cannot get a unanimous decision. Or my soul is often like a disorderly orchestra, where each member is pursuing his own desire independently of all the rest… How are we to get this desired unanimity, so that "all that is within me; may "bless His holy name'? An orchestra must have a strong and dominant conduction, to whom every member must render the tribute of obedience. What a transformation takes place when the conductor appears, and raises his baton, which is the scepter of his realm, the symbol of his authority… all the members become as one member, and they

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wait the will… of their leader."

"Dear Lord and Father of mankind, 'Forgive our foolish ways; Reclothe us in our rightful mind, in purer lives thy service find, in deeper reverence praise.' Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today, by God's enablement every aspect of my being shall be brought into harmony with His will for the issuance of praise to God and the good of others.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Luke 10:39; Luke 11:13

If God Has A Windshield, He Sees…

Here is the short version of a chapel talk I heard long ago while attending a Christian college: When driving we can focus our eyes on the dirt and splattered bugs on the windshield. This is not good. Or, we can look farther ahead and focus on the road. Doing so, we see where the road goes, avoid obstacles, and travel with safety. This is much better.

That was a good advice. A job colleague some years ago put this principle another way. "A hundred years from now it won't make any difference." This is often true. A hundred years from now it won't make any difference if we staple the papers together or use a paper clip. It won't matter if we got paid on Friday or Tuesday. Looking down this longer perspective simplified many decisions and helped us avoid conflicts. It was useful advice, but some decisions have consequences for several generations of people who come after. Some decision have consequences for our own eternity.

Many of us have learned to not be distracted by the ugliness that is directly in front of us – the bug on the windshield. But it is possible to go off the road while looking close up at something worthy. We are inclined to get so caught up in activities that are close at hand and clamoring for attention, that we fail to do the things that are the most important. Here are three principles for safe travel down the road of life.

Moderation. If I installed a gorgeous stained glass window as the windshield of my car, I could sit there and look at beauty and maybe even gain a mood of worship, but I would crash into everything in front of me, go nowhere, and get hurt. Even good things, in the wrong place, are dangerous. Excessive attention to good activities can be harmful. (See Proverbs 25:16-27)

Plan ahead. Eternity will not begin for you when you die; you are already in it. When we die we don't change time zones, we change locations. We are in eternity now. Do you have the same plan as David when he said: "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalms 23:6)? Think of it this way – we're on God's porch right now. Is your behavior that of a guest in his home? If not, consider Paul's challenge to Timothy: "take hold of the eternal life to which you were called" (1 Timothy 6:12). The way to do that, Paul said was to "flee from all this (evil) and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." (1 Timothy 6:11)

Seek first. We tend to go where we look. Police are taught that when pursuing a drunk driver they must consciously watch the road, not the car ahead, or they may follow the

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other car into danger. Again, the longer view and the careful priorities. Jesus' counsel is "Seek first his (God's) kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well". (Matthew 6:33)

"Perfect Lord of All, thank you for creating me so that I need you, and for giving me the opportunity to know you. Forgive the many occasions when I look at trivia or evil instead of at you. Forgive me for the times I have put my interest on worthy things, but pursued them to excess. Help me to not crowd you out, but to put you first in my enthusiasms. I need you, and I want you to be number one in my life. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will put God first through all this day.

– Richard Walters –

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Matthew 6:19-24

Downward Mobility Part I

2:04 p.m. – Phone rings.

"Hello"

"Mr. Jones, your wife is on the phone." Click.

"Hello dear".

"Hi! Are you sitting down?"

"Yes".

"Well, let me tell you the worst first! The washing machine just broke down in the middle of washing some things I must have this evening. Would you have time to come home and see if you can fix it? Oh, by the way, the dishwasher overflowed again this morning. Can you call a plumber? You need to come home a little early anyway because my car is in the shop and we need to go pick it up before 5:00. On your way home, could you stop and pick up some bags for the vacuum cleaner. It won't run and I must get the floors done before we have guests this evening! Oh! By the way, how's your day going?…"

Wow! Isn't it great to have all those timesaving machines! What would we do without them?

Now, that's an interesting question. Most of our lives we have been drawn into the pattern of conformity to the great dream of prosperity. It is often called "upward mobility" which, roughly defined, means getting a bigger piece of the "economic pie." Then we can afford to buy more material things which will enhance the quality of our lives and save us time. This is supposed to result in more leisure time to enjoy our hobbies or other entertaining pursuits.

However, to our dismay, we have discovered that all the frustration of maintaining all those "things" often outweighs the advantage of time which was supposed to be saved.

There are times when I long to go back to the days when I didn't have many "this" but life was simple and more pleasurable.

Many people are discovering the futility of upward mobility. Many Christian people are sensing the frustration of chasing the elusive dream which is supposed to be produced

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by having more "things". Perhaps it's time for us to set a new course of action. Perhaps we should start thinking more about "downward mobility."

At the heart of this concept of "downward mobility" would be the words of Jesus when He said: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven." (Matthew 6:19-20)

Do you have a storehouse of treasures which have claimed all your time, resources, and commitment?

"Dear Lord, I give You my treasures today. Help me know I can use them to lay up treasures in heaven."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When I build a treasure storehouse for myself, it's my responsibility. When I give them to God, they are His responsibility.

– Edward Rickman –

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Luke 12:13-21

Downward Mobility – Part II

The first step and most critical reason for "downward mobility" is the reshaping of our financial priorities to match our spiritual priorities. The spiritual commitments we make are based on the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ. We submit to that Lordship and determine to follow His precepts in order to maintain our spiritual integrity. However, it is recognizably difficult to change the patterns of our financial habits. Jesus clearly delineates the difference between laying up earthly treasures and laying up heavenly treasures. He does so to help us see the futility of many of our expenditures in comparison to heavenly investments. The obvious solution is a change in priorities. Instead of dreaming of what I can further enjoy with my resources, my attention is turned to what God can accomplish with my resources when they are given for His purposes. What a difference!

The second step in "downward mobility" is to measure the margin between your real needs and your actual income. When we live in a world where a very high percentage of the population does not have access to even basic needs, how can we justify the use of so many of our resources for "beyond need" consumption?

I recently read of a church that has set a seven-year plan for its membership to participate in reprioritization of their financial resources. Perhaps we would be amazed at the number of people who are feeling the "pressures of prosperity" and would be blessed by a plan for "downward mobility".

A third step in the process is the mental and spiritual commitment that says, "I have enough."

In Luke 12, Jesus related the story of the prosperous man who had more resources than he had storage. So he determined to tear down his old barns and build bigger to assure that he would have plenty for retirement.

"But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"

Recognizing that "I have enough" and God deserves the rest, will be a liberating step. Trusting God to supply all our needs as He has promised to do can only happen if I plan to be faithful in how I use His supply.

"Dear Lord, forgive me for being careless in the use of my resources. Help me evaluate my lifestyle in relation to kingdom needs."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "You can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead!" How much are you sending on ahead?

– Edward Rickman –

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Matthew 12:45-46

The Good, The Better, The Best!

Shopping via means of the Montgomery Ward catalog is included in my pleasant memories. In late summer, just before the start of school, an order for school clothes would be sent. The article number, color, and size were all carefully recorded. It was a joyful day when the package arrived.

Those catalogs offered a choice of merchandise quality – good, better, best. (You remember, don't you?) Naturally, the good was good, but the better was better than the good, and the best was tops!

(In a high school class, I chose the letter "q" with which to write a sentence concerning economics. "When buying, always remember quality and quantity,: I wrote. I don't believe I ever explained to Mr. Hard's satisfaction what I meant.)

The "best" in the MW catalog cost more than the others as to rated qualities. So the one ordering must decide; Would it be the good? The better? The best? With three growing boys in the family my parents had to consider several factors when ordering.

And isn't it true, that throughout life we are constantly making choices in the quality of our lives? Too often we are content to accept and settle for the "good" when God wants us to have the "best".

Again, often the "Good" become the enemy of the "best". The "good" and "better" can lull us into the plane of mediocrity where we are content to live out our lives. The horizon becomes blurred in the near-sightedness of things, and the upward call of God is not heard. Our peripheral vision becomes narrow, thus canceling out the beautiful things along the roadside.

The merchant of pearls (Matthew 12:45-46) should not settle for "a pearl". No, he sought for "goodly pearls". One day he found "one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it." It was the "best". The disposing of all his property to purchase "the pearl" seemed so foolish to the neighbors. But as a seeker after the "best" he knew what he had found, thus his decision. Jesus seems to have approved of the merchant's decision. Jesus likes the serenity, and courage and knowledge, and expertise of this man.

How different is the rich man who had time, talent, and treasure but he invested in that which was selfish instead of service and blessing to others. The result was that he eventually lost all that he had gained.

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There is the Apostle Paul who testified: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ."

The hymnist wrote: "since mine eyes were fixed on Jesus, I've lost sight of all beside; so enchained my spirit's vision, looking at the crucified."

Exchange a religious profession for a deep Christian experience – the best. Move from the shoreline into the ocean of God's unmeasurable grace – the best.

"Thank you, our Heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ the pearl of great price. Thank you for the Holy Spirit – Counselor, Guide, Revealer, Teacher. Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today I will not settle for anything mediocre in my life but will seek God's best.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Matthew 5:37; Matthew 6:1-4; Ephesians 6:1-4

Half-Hearted Yes Or Purposeful No?

The phone rings and I leave what I am doing to answer it. The voice at the other end inquires about me, my family, the weather, and whatever else is current. 'What is the call really about?" I wonder. I soon find out. The preliminaries have been icebreakers to soften me up. The purpose of the call is to ask me to participate in something which will require time, energy, money, or all three.

If I believe the cause is worthwhile, possess the time, energy, and/or money to help, and want to get involved, fine. Often I do, for God's work requires much self-giving to flourish. But what about the projects which seem meaningless to me, or for which I lack the needed resources? I know inside that I have no business getting involved, either for my own well-being or, ultimately, for that of the cause. Questions may flood my mind: Will she be hurt if I don't? Might she even retaliate somehow? Will she think I'm lazy and talk about me? Will I feel guilty if I don't?

It's easy to feel pressured to make a quick commitment, but I may find I didn't have all the facts and regret my hasty decision. It's easier for me to make the right decision when I refuse to give an immediate answer. I can always think it over, decide I can't or shouldn't, and call back to refuse.

I can go ahead and accept because "I have to", whether or not I want to (and feel irritated). Or, I can create a vaguely positive attitude and get the project over with (feeling a vague sense of resentment).

On the other hand, I could and, in fact, can be honest and say, "I'd rather not, and I don't think it would be fair to myself or the project for me to take it on." I can even be more brief and say, "I think I'd better pass on this one", or simply, "No, thank you". To say no when the best response is no, is to pay the compliment of honesty, or speaking the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15).

Are you saying deep inside, "But I wouldn't want to hurt anyone by refusing". What if you hurt yourself by taking on the overload of an unwanted task laid upon you by someone else. You are someone; is it better to hurt yourself? Are you of less value than someone else?

I am learning to say no when I believe it's for the best. Sometimes this even gives someone else a chance to serve who may not have been considered had I half-heartedly said yes.

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"All-wise God, You who know me perfectly and who loves me immeasurably, give me discernment to know when I should lovingly respond with a 'No' to human requests for my time, energy, finances, and talents. Give my your wisdom that I may be aware of my 'place' and my 'purpose' in Your 'Master Plan'."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: As I take positive control and place myself in God's hands to be guided by the Spirit of Christ rather than by this world, some of my answers will be firm, friendly 'Nos'.

– Kay Kline –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever personally known and 'associated' with a New Convert to the Christian Faith? If so, how has he/she manifested the exelerating "freshness of simplicity" to you?

  2. Share what it was like (in terms of your new awareness of your environment and your fresh responses to people around you) when you "first accepted Christ". When you first met Jesus Christ, did you have a desire to tell others what had happen to you? Why is it that, all too often, Christians grow 'dull' and 'insipid' and 'less excited and less enthusiastic' when they grow older in their "Christian Life"? How can you maintain the "glow" of freshness and simplicity and excitement in your Christian life, regardless of the length of time you have been a "Christian" and regardless of how many hardships and losses and disappointment you have endured? Has your "Christian life" and experience been able to "stand the test of time"? (Note Isaiah 40:31 and 2 Corinthians 4:15)

  3. Is it your supreme desire to be fully 'in tune' and 'in step' with Jesus Christ, the Master of your soul and life? When you realize that you are 'out of step' and 'not fully in tune' and your Master's will and way, what do you propose to do in order to bring yourself into 'full compliance' with the Almighty Lord (to avoid 'discordance from a half-hearted commitment')?

  4. Is it possible for Christians to get so 'caught up' in activities that are close at hand and that are clamoring for attention, that they fail to do the things that are the most important? If so, give a concrete example of how 'immediate good things and activities' can distract one from pursuing the 'ultimate better things and activities' which have lasting and eternal benefits. (Note Luke 10:38-42) Is it your supreme desire to 'flee the evil of this world' and to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness? (Note 1 Timothy 6:11)

  5. What is meant by "upward mobility" in contrast to "downward mobility"? (Note the devotional articles entitled 'Downward Mobility' Part I and Part II)

  6. What does it mean for you to reshape your financial priorities to match your spiritual priorities? Have you found it difficult to change the patterns of your financial habits in such a way that your generous giving will reflect the Lordship of Christ in your life?

  7. When we live in a world where a very high percentage of the population does not have access to even basic needs, how do you think (American) Christians can justify the use of so many of their financial resources for "beyond needs" (luxury)

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    consumption? How would you distinguish between your "Basic needs" and your "beyond basic needs" consumption? If there is no strict (legalistic) standard established in the Bible to guide Christians in the expenditure of their financial resources, how do you personally decide what percentage of your total income you are 'justified' to spend on 'luxury' items in your life? How do you decide when you personally "have enough" money to sustain your basic needs (and some luxuries), and how much to give away to charitable and Christian 'causes'?

  8. Tell to what extent you agree or disagree with the following statements: "Too often we are content to accept and settle for the 'good' when God wants us to have the 'best'. The 'good' and 'better' can lull us into the plane of mediocrity where we are content to live out our lives."

  9. What 'qualities' of life would you describe as the 'best', which you desire to cultivate in your inner life (heart, mind, soul, spirit)?

  10. Tell to what extent you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "Exchanging a mere 'religious profession' for a deep fellowship with Christ, and moving from the shoreline of were morality and human achievement into the ocean of God's immeasurable grace, constitutes the very 'best' in human experience!"

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