Priority of Purity or Purity of Priority

I didn’t write anything here yesterday. The post I would have written got squeezed out by competing “demands” on my time. What it really means is that writing a post here wasn’t high enough on my list of priorities. Priorities seem to be in a constant state of flux. Perhaps juggling is an apt analogy. There are so many “priorities” in the air at any given time that I simply can’t address them all. There is so much that I’d like to do, and there are so many distractions along the way, that I almost never feel as though my juggling act is working all that well. Too many of the balls that that I try to keep in the air just get dropped.

That’s a good jumping off point for going back and looking again at the passage of scripture I started looking at a few days ago.

Psalm 119: 9-11

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.

10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.

11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

It seems pretty clear that if I want to keep my way pure, it has a lot to do with setting priorities. David says here that he seeks God with all his heart. He makes seeking God his top priority. Jesus said the same thing when someone asked Him what he regarded as the most important commandment. Jesus replied that there’s absolutely nothing more important than loving God “with all my heart”. (Matthew 22:37-38)

So, if I want to keep my way pure and be an authentic person of integrity, it seems that my very highest priority must be to seek God, to pursue Him, to know Him and His ways, and to love Him with all my heart. Since I’m pretty sure that God hasn’t called me to withdraw from society and be a hermit, this must mean that I need to be more intentional about my day to day priorities.

God, I sure need Your help with purifying my prioritizing! Today, I choose to pursue You and to seek you with all my heart as I do the work and fulfill the responsibilities that You’ve given me. I choose to do it with JOY because I know that You love me.

My Choice

Another new day that will be made up of a series of choices. I don’t think there is any effective auto-pilot system for life. Whenever I try to just cruise along, I inevitably crash. There are too many pitfalls that need to be avoided, too many unavoidable dangers along the way that have to be handled with care. Even when I try to be careful, way too often I still mess up. That’s part of the reason I’m always so grateful for a fresh start, for the chance to start putting into practice what I learned yesterday.

Yesterday I concluded my reflections with some thoughts about God as the Refiner, about how I need Him to “create a pure heart” in me. If I’ve learned anything in my 56 years, I’ve learned that I just can’t do that on my own. Sometimes I think it would be wonderful if God would snap His fingers, or wave a purifying wand, and just get the job done once and for all. Of course, it doesn’t ever work that way.

I don’t believe that the refining is a passive process. I have to do my part to cooperate with the Refiner. Each step of the way, I have the option of refusing to go along with Him. It’s really only in my voluntary choice to go His way and do things His way that I become more like Him. I’ve found that this doesn’t work at all when I try to go God’s way out of a sense of obligation or guilt.

It’s when I offer myself completely to Him, and when I do this out of love for Him, that we make real progress in the purifying process. Romans 12:1 says I’m to offer myself to God as a “living sacrifice”, and that I’m to do that as an act of worship. If I do that, He says he’ll transform me by renewing my mind. That’s surely an ongoing process. I’m grateful that it isn’t something I’m expected to do entirely on my own!

Another New Beginning

Today I start back to work after a two week Christmas break. That means that today I get another fresh start, this time in the context of my professional role. There were ways that I fell short last year, ways that I disappointed and let down the people I work with and the people I serve. I hope they will offer me new opportunities to redeem myself where I failed them in the past. By the same token, it is my intention not to hold past failings of the people I work with against them. I have an opportunity to wipe slates clean and to offer the benefit of the doubt. That’s my proactive choice as I head into the new year at work.

Yesterday I introduced a new passage of Scripture. Only 3 short verses here, but ever so much to consider and apply. Since yesterday, I’ve given some thought to what it means to be “pure”.

The definition of “pure” from Answers.com that I pasted into yesterday’s post included 14 different meanings, but almost all suggest that to be pure means to be free of something–free of adulterants, dirt, defilement, pollution, foreign elements, the inappropriate, fault, sin, discordant qualities.

These definitions seem to suggest that there is a state of purity that is lost when adulterated by anything that doesn’t belong, by anything that shouldn’t be there. When I look into my mind and into my heart, it seems pretty obvious to me that purity is not my current starting point. There are all kinds of discordant notes. There are all sorts of unwelcome thoughts and attitudes that I wish weren’t there.

So, at least in my own case, purity is not the starting point. That means that I need to be refined so that the polluting foreign elements are removed. I’m pretty sure it is the same for all of us and that it has always been this way. In Psalm 51, the poet David prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, Oh God.”

David was onto something. He recognized that a pure heart is something that only God can create. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to purify my heart and rid it of all that defiles it. So, along with David, my prayer for today is that God would create in me a pure heart, that He would be my Refiner and enable me to rid myself of the impurity that keeps me from being what He has created me to be.

Attitude Today

Another new day is beginning. I don’t know what lies in store for me today. There are many things that are completely beyond my control. What I do get to choose and what I can control, is the attitude that determines how I will respond. I can be proactive about that. I can decide in advance. So, this morning I choose an attitude of gratitude. I choose to recognize and to remember that as a child of God, I am richly blessed, no matter what my circumstances may be. I choose to recognize and to remember that God is in control, and that I can trust Him with all my circumstances because He loves me and because He is completely trustworthy.

So what does His word say to me today? There’s a passage on my heart from Psalm 119. There is a great deal in these three short verses, so I suspect I’ll be reflecting on them here for a few days.

Psalm 119:9-11

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.

10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.

11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

How can a (young) man keep his way pure?

The starting assumption here is that I want to keep my way “pure”. I think it’s true that I do want to live a life that is “pure”, but what does it mean to be pure? Answers.com offers a list of 14 meanings:

1. Having a homogeneous or uniform composition; not mixed: pure oxygen.
2. Free from adulterants or impurities: pure chocolate.
3. Free of dirt, defilement, or pollution: “A memory without blot or contamination must be . . . an inexhaustible source of pure refreshment” (Charlotte Brontë).
4. Free of foreign elements.
5. Containing nothing inappropriate or extraneous: a pure literary style.
6. Complete; utter: pure folly.
7. Having no faults; sinless: “I felt pure and sweet as a new baby” (Sylvia Plath).
8. Chaste; virgin.
9. Of unmixed blood or ancestry.
10. Genetics. Produced by self-fertilization or continual inbreeding; homozygous: a pure line.
11. Music. Free from discordant qualities: pure tones.
12. Linguistics. Articulated with a single unchanging speech sound; monophthongal: a pure vowel.
13. Theoretical: pure science.
14. Philosophy. Free of empirical elements: pure reason.

Wow! This is quite a list, and it gives me pause for a great deal of further reflection. Today, I’m going to ponder what purity really is, and I’ll come back to it tomorrow morning.

What will today bring?

It’s still dark and too early to know for sure what kind of weather we’ll experience today in the Comox Valley. Will it be wet, windy and stormy? Or, will it be clear, calm and bright? That’s how it is with life. Often, we don’t know what lies ahead. The wonderful thing is that, despite the uncertainty and the reality that there relatively little within our control, we can choose in advance to be at peace. God is in control. He is a perfect Father, and we are His children!

Colossians 3:16

Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

In the final sentence of this verse, I’m encouraged to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God with a thankful heart. I believe this is really the natural response when the words of Christ come to life in me. As I grow in my awareness of who He is and of His love for me, I can only respond by singing my praise from a thankful heart.

No matter what today holds in store for me, I choose to offer Him my thankful heart. I’ll look for opportunities to “sing” him psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Perhaps I’ll even sing out loud at times!

Stormy Morning in Courtenay

It’s a stormy morning in Courtenay, with winds again from the southeast and rain falling heavily. I like storms for a variety of reasons. One big reason is that the sunshine always seems brighter and warmer and fresher after a storm. I think the same is true of all life’s storms. We appreciate life’s special blessings and gifts all the more when juxtaposed against the stormy challenges that inevitably come our way.

Colossians 3:16

Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

As I continue to reflect on Colossians 3:16, I’m reminded that when the words of Jesus come fully alive in me, I’m far better equpped to face life’s storms. It’s during the stormy times when God’s big perspective and His wisdom are most needed. That’s true for me, and it’s also true for other people in my life. When they walk through the valleys, they too need His wisdom. If His word is living in me, then I can make it available by way of counsel and encouragement.

I can use God’s wisdom to teach those whom I mentor in some way, but I don’t think teaching is what’s most required when people are in the eye of the hurricane. Teaching needs to be pro-active so that the learner is equipped in advance for the inevitable hard times. Probably the best way to “teach” while someone is being tossed about by adversity is by example.

Colossians 3:15, the verse just before the one we’re looking at, says that we need to let the “peace that comes from God” rule in hearts. If I’m at peace in Him, regardless of circumstance, then my example has the potential to be helpful. The calm that come after the storm is probably a better time for explicit teaching. For me, that teaching must be informed by the words of Christ that are alive in me.

I thought I was going to conclude my thoughts about this verse today, but it looks as though there’s still more here to ponder.

Sunshine after the Storm

The sun is reflecting brightly from freshly fallen snow on the mountains I see from my window this morning. A southeastern wind brought a storm in the night. Now the storm is gone, and the sun is shining. For me, this is yet another image of a fresh start. Even with fresh starts, of course, there is continuity to our lives. Today is the second day of the new year and the second day for this blog.

Today I continue with some reflections about the verse from Colossians that I began writing about yesterday.

Colossians 3:16

Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

Yesterday I talked about the importance of being proactive in terms of encouraging the words of Christ to live in me. This verse describes Jesus’ words as rich. It is good to remember this when reading them. The recorded words of Jesus are multi-dimensional. There are often layers of meaning that I will miss if I don’t take the time to meditate on them and to ask what Jesus was really getting at. That means that there are going to be applications for my own life that I’ll miss, too.

What’s the application for me? It’s much the same as yesterday. I need to be careful not to just read His words. I need to take time to think about them, about His intended meaning, and about how that influences me and the choices I make as I journey through each day.