DO YOU HAVE A TENDER CONSCIENCE?

In July I saw a book advertised in an email entitled The Duty and Blessing of a Tender Conscience that got my attention. As I read about it my interest increased when I saw that it was originally published in London in 1691. That’s an old book! Intrigued, I ordered the 2019 reprint in which spelling, formatting, and grammar changes have been made. It has been a relatively easy read with a lot of challenge and conviction.

Author Timothy Cruso (1656-1697) begins his discussion about the subject with a partial verse in II Kings 22. The account is about good King Josiah and his response to God’s message to him through the prophet Huldah. Cruso cites part of her message from God to the king “Because thine heart was tender . . .” (II Kings 22:19).

Those five words from the King James Version provide the starting point for The Duty and Blessing of a Tender Conscience. A broader statement about Josiah’s tender conscience is given in the full verse from the New International Version: “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord” (II Kings 22:19, NIV).

Chapter four in the book has the title “The Proper Ingredients of This Tenderness of Heart.” First is the hatred of sin. That certainly makes sense as long as we keep the oft quoted saying in mind: “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Second is love of holiness. Without this ingredient no one will be truly tender in conscience. Third is a fear of God. My sense is that our love of holiness and hatred of sin are the automatic outcomes of what is the real meaning of a fear of God (which is often misunderstood).

I can’t repeat everything in the book in this post, but I do want to relay Cruso’s “The Evidences and Tokens of a Tender Conscience” (chapter six):

            1. The first evidence is a zealous concern for the honor of God, when it interferes and stands in competition with our own, both in matters of faith and practice.

            2. A second evidence is a strict endeavor that both the ends that we propose, and the means which we employ upon all occasions, may be equally good.”

            3. A third evidence is a vigorous resistance of the most plausible and powerful temptations.

            4. A fourth evidence is an impartial shunning of the smallest sins.

            5. A fifth evidence is a particular care in bridling the tongue, and setting a watch against those common unobserved evils that are especially incident thereunto.

At the risk of including too much, I want to also share six things Caruso suggests we need to monitor to have a tender conscience: much speaking, passionate raging, foolish jesting, rash vowing, unregarded promises, and needles protestations.

With these selections I’m confident you see why I said the book is challenging and convicting. I won’t bore you or set myself up by telling you on which of these I most need to work. But I do encourage you to review what I have borrowed from the book and do some self-examination. Do you have a tender conscience?

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WHAT HAPPENED TO MATURITY, RESPECT, CLASS, AND GRAVITAS?

Before reading this post, please note that it is different from my description of what my blogs are about. My site says in these posts I am “Considering the Christian life, the Bible, and the Church.” Clearly that is not true about this one. Yet it is something I have been thinking about and I wanted to share.

Like many who are paying attention to the current political climate as we move closer and closer to Election Day, I am disappointed and embarrassed. It seems to me that grown women and men who are politicians and leaders should be showing more maturity, class, and gravitas, as well as respect to their fellow candidates, politicians, and the public.

I’ve been following presidential elections since 1960 when I was nine years old and cannot remember any political season lacking these qualities as much as we are witnessing now.

And I have in mind not just the two presidential candidates, but their running mates also, as well as the senate majority and minority leaders and the speaker of the house. To me the only one of this group who exhibits these qualities very much at all is the Republican VP candidate.

When it comes to gravitas, where is the seriousness, sobriety, and solemnity in demeanor in campaigning and giving speeches? You would think we would especially see more gravitas when the candidates are interacting with one another or being asked hard questions.

To have class “means to be a gentleman or a lady the old-fashioned way: a respectful, considerate, elegant, discreet, well-mannered, cultured, civilized, witty, funny, faithful, and kind gentleman or lady” (copied from a definition on the internet). That’s a high standard for sure, but I think most of us think our current leaders could and should do far better than they are.

I watch speeches, rallies, and interviews with our candidates now and wonder where the respect politicians showed one another years ago is? It seems like every four years respect between candidates on different sides disappears more and more.

And it’s not just the candidates and leaders who are failing in these crucial qualities. As disappointed as I am with the candidates and political leaders, I am even more disappointed in and by the political commentators and news reporters. So many on their cable shows are lacking in gravitas, class, respect and maturity.

But it is not just people who are involved full time with politics that we see and hear a lot that lacks these important qualities. Many in the entertainment business are as bad if not worse than the candidates, the politicians, the news reporters, and the political commentators.

In the title of this post I listed four qualities I think we are missing from our candidates, political leaders, political news reporters, and many celebrities. The one of the four I have not mentioned is maturity. My challenge to everyone who tries to stay informed about this political season and discuss it with others is simple. Don’t you think it’s time we grow up and show some maturity? I think with some intentionality we all could do better.

Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this post on Facebook or in other ways.

Thank you for reading; in my next post I will be returning to “Considering the Christian life, the Bible, and the Church.”

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BLESSED?

While not original with Chick-fil-A, their network of restaurants made the phrase “Have a Blessed Day” a common expression. When we first moved to Amarillo a few years ago I was surprised that almost everywhere I went to shop or be served employees told me “Have a Blessed Day.”

What does it mean to be blessed or to “Have a Blessed Day?” I’m reminded of a song we sang in grade school that declared what “Happiness is.” The refrain of the song reminded us that happiness is “different things to different people.” My sense is that today “being blessed” and “having a blessed day” means different things to different people.

The Bible uses the word blessed many times in both the New and the Old Testaments. And when the Bible uses this word the writer or speaker is declaring that those who have and practice certain characteristics are blessed. Blessed suggests God’s favor, approval, pat on the back, or congratulations. We call these descriptions of those who are blessed beatitudes.

One of the best known uses in the Old Testament is Psalm 1:1 and 2, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” To get the full explanation look up Psalm 1 and review verses 3-6.

Probably surprising to some readers, the last book of the Bible – the book of Revelation – has seven declarations about those who are blessed. One of my favorites is Revelation 14:13, Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

The best known beatitudes in the Bible are the eight pronouncements Jesus made in Matthew 5:3-10 in the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount. He underscores eight qualities or attitudes of people who are blessed. And after each pronouncement Jesus specifies the special blessing that goes with the quality or attitude.

My sense is that the first of Jesus’ beatitudes is the most misunderstood, and at the same time the most important. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus declares, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (NIV).

The quality “poor in spirit” means more than simply being poor. One misunderstanding of the phrase is to shorten it to say “poor-spirited.” But to be poor in spirit does not mean a person has no value, or that he or she is unimportant or insignificant. It isn’t to be like Eeyore who is pessimistic, gloomy, depressed, and no fun.

A couple of different translations of the quality helps us better understand what it means to be “poor in spirit.” The Good News Translation renders the first beatitude “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!” The New Century Version reads “They are blessed who realize their spiritual poverty, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”

To be “poor in spirit” is to be aware that on our own we are not worthy of God’s love.  It is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty and therefore humbly depend on God’s mercy and grace. I hope it is obvious why I suggest this first beatitude is so important.

The specific blessing (in addition to the general blessing) of being “poor in spirit” is to be a member of the kingdom of heaven. Christians acknowledge their need for God’s gift of salvation through Jesus. The kingdom belongs to us because we belong to the kingdom.

Have a blessed day!

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