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Archive for May, 2010

For Goodness Sake

May 31st, 2010

“The good man brings good things from the good stored up in his heart.” Luke 6:45 NIV

“Goodness is important, because goodness matters to God.”

My thoughts today are “for goodness sake.”

My Mom seemed to say that a lot when I was growing up. “Allen, for goodness sake don’t do that.” She was a good lady, caring, selfless and generous, and loved by all who knew her. It must have been her way to appeal to what was better in me, wanting me to learn to consider what would be for the best when making decisions or choosing a course of action. I couldn’t tell you whether that was very effective at the time, because teens aren’t always as concerned about the result of things, as they are of their desire at the moment. But at least she planted an idea inside my head, and maybe into my heart, by sincere repetition.

To many, goodness just doesn’t seem good enough. Goodness often sounds so mediocre – so plain vanilla – nothing particularly exceptional about it. Badness at least has some thrill to it; goodness sounds boring. Greatness, now that will get attention; goodness just doesn’t seem to rate much notice. But I suggest that goodness is important, in spite of a culture that evidences anything but that. Goodness matters to God, so that should matter to you, a lot!

Jesus said, “(Even) a tree is recognized by its fruit . . the good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:43-45 NIV. So, here’s the deal. If you want to live for goodness sake, it starts in the heart. Goodness is not some occasional, big important thing that you do; goodness is really about who you are, all the time, in things great and small.

Goodness begins with what is “stored up in the heart.” (See Proverbs 4:23 NKJV) It happens over a sustained period of time by living a life that is consistently obedient and pleasing to God. You don’t “get” goodness all of a sudden; you become good by living everyday “for goodness sake.” “That you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work . . growing . . strengthened . . joyfully giving thanks . .” Read Colossians 1:9-14 NIV.

Goodness is expressed by “good things.” You don’t try to do them; they just naturally happen because of what you have placed purposefully into your heart. Good people characteristically do good things. Bad people mostly do bad things. Both are capable of doing either sometimes.

Goodness is the new, redeemed nature of a “good man.” Goodness is a product of God at work in your life. See Galatians 5:22 NIV. “I am convinced that you are full of goodness, complete in knowledge, competent to instruct one another.” Romans 15:13-14 NIV. See Ephesians 5:8-10/Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that your heart’s desire is to live to please God always.

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When All Else Fails

May 28th, 2010

“O Lord; You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.” Psalm 142:5 NLT

“Success is fragile; security is not in success. It is in God alone!”

My thoughts today are about “when all else fails.”

I do not want to seem negative, nor pessimistic, nor discouraging, but hard times are neither the exception nor the rule; however, they are the common experience of all. Such moments will either press you toward faith, or push you to despair. Which of those happens to you makes a significant difference. Faith, the first of those, is a wonderful thing; pushed to despair, the latter of those, is unprofitable.

When all is well, you might tend to assume some measure of self-sufficiency, willing to believe you are equal to every task, a match for any challenge. Good times mislead you to believing that is possible; hard times expose the inaccuracy of that and can leave you with troublesome doubts.

Today’s verse describes David at one of his lowest points  – a time when all else fails. After enjoying the favor of King Saul, a place in the royal family and palace, and the praise and popularity of the nation, David is now driven away from all he had and forced to take refuge in a cave. The victory over Goliath was a diminishing memory; the danger from Saul increased daily; the problems mounted and his circumstances tightened.

David was desperately looking for refuge; he sought for it in the cave of Adullam where he found God was the true Refuge. You know who came to his aid? “His brothers and father . . came to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him and he became their leader.” 1 Samuel 22:2 NIV. Never was it truer that “misery loves company.”

When all is well, people sing your praise and want to share your success; there’s a crowd happy to hang around. But when life feels upside down and you cannot see how it would ever be right again, the best people to surround you are those related to you by God, and those who relate to your disillusioning pain – people who pressed into God to find refuge. Read Psalm 91:1-12 NLT.

Remember the cave of Adullam? Today’s verse may well have been written in that cave; the words certainly describe what David found to be true there. That is when and where God met David, and he found God to be more than enough. “O Lord; You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.” Psalm 142:5 NKJV. The cave was just a place to be temporarily; God was and would always be his Refuge, and a crown and the love of a nation was still ahead for him. God always has good things for your future, whatever it feels like right now.

When David spoke of his faith, he could not yet see his future. For all he knew at the moment, the cave might have been the best he would know. When all else fails or seems to have done so, let God be all that you need or want. Success is fragile. Your security is not in your success; it is in God alone! Read Psalm 73:23-26 NIV.

My prayer for you today is this: when all else fails, press into God who will not fail you.

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Emotional U-turns

May 27th, 2010

“Please . . settle your disagreement.” Philippians 4:2 NLT

“A disagreement is not more important than the person with whom you disagree.”

My thoughts today are about “emotional U-turns.”

Disagreements are not hard to come by. They seem to come by every time you turn around. And I am often amazed at the silly things many of my disagreements were about. And even when a disagreement – especially with a friend – is about a more serious difference between you, ask yourself if the disagreement is really more important to you than the person with whom you disagree. That honest comparison puts everything in a much different perspective usually. You can always have your own way, if you don’t care to have anyone else is in your life.

I remember a time some years ago when I felt slighted and disrespected by a long-time friend over a decision disregarding my wishes. I nursed and justified my feelings, wanting little contact with my friend. After too long and enough emotional distance from the incident, I realized that I missed our friendship and my life felt less without the company and communication of that friend. I was not very proud of the direction our friendship had taken over the now not-so-important disagreement. I had wasted time; I needed to turn around and go to my friend.

You know what a U-turn is; it’s a 180 degree turn from the direction you were going to the opposite direction that you should be going. The longer you continue away from a meaningful relationship, the further you go and the harder it is to come back. Sometimes business partnerships, friendships, families, and even marriages are strained – maybe shattered – by too many simple, continuing disagreements. When you are going in a wrong direction and you know it, stop and turn around for God’s sake and others.

When an issue is allowed to become more important to you than a person or friendship, that seldom will be right. At such a time, you need to make en emotional U-turn. You will be a better and happier person for doing so. Disagreements start simply enough. Somebody said something; somebody did something; somebody didn’t say or do the acceptable thing that results in a disagreement where someone just walks away. Reconciliation always requires one person to make an emotional U-turn for the sake of the relationship.

Paul was appealing to two special ladies – Euodia and Syntyche – in the church at Philippi. Both were valued friends and had worked together alongside of Paul. Some unspecified disagreement had caused a rift between them, and inevitably a problem in the church. Paul pleads with each of them, “Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.” Philippians 4:2 NLT. Someone needed to make a relational U-turn for the sake of the Gospel.

The Bible says to settle your disagreements, When you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins also . . If you are offering a sacrifice to God and remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice . .  go and be reconciled to that person; then come offer your sacrifice to God. Settle matters quickly.” Mark 11:25 NLT/Matthew 5:23-25 NLT. Reconciliation is always God’s way to go, whoever is right or wrong.

My prayer for you today is that you value true agreement more than differences.

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Contrast of Realities

May 26th, 2010

“Naaman . . was a mighty man of valor, but a leper.” 2 Kings 5:1 NKJV

“God will do for you what you cannot, when you will do what you can.”

My thoughts today are about “a contrast of realities.”

No one’s life is a single story. We know that our own isn’t, but hold to the idea that others’ are somehow. Every one of us is a collection of realities, some proudly reported and others contrary to our wishes. Naaman was just such a contrast of realities – “commander of the army . . a great man . . highly regarded . . valiant soldier . . but he had leprosy.” NLT. So much about Naaman and his life were wonderfully good, but he had leprosy!

Those who knew him would have said that “he had it all,” but Naaman’s “all” included leprosy. Leprosy was the worst of dreaded diseases – incurable, devastating, and a tragically contagious disease, unrelated to anything he would have chosen or had done to deserve. But his story included that reality.

Initially, this unwanted reality might have been possible to ignore, until he could no longer do so. For a while he may have tried to hide it from others, but soon some would know. Sadly, leprosy was terminal, eventually. A person with it died just a little at a time, slow and agonizingly. Naaman was offered a way to be rid of his leprosy, something that he could not do for himself. He moved in the direction of a miracle. His story takes some interesting twists but concludes with the word “leprosy” being removed form his resume, and from his life! You can read Naaman’s story for yourself. See 2Kings 5:1-19 NKJV.

Let me draw a parallel. The things you should deal with and fail to do so do not go away or simply lie dormant for very long. You know the kinds of things – the not-so-bad things that waste valuable time, unprofitable habits, secrets you keep, guilt you hide, attitudes wrongly indulged, or friendships and activities that lure your heart from God.

Left unattended, they hold the potential to spoil the wonderful story of your life that God is writing. Jesus spoke of Naaman, “There were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed, only Naaman the Syrian.” Luke 4:27 NIV. I want to be that kind of an exception. God will do for you what you cannot, when you will do what you can. See 2Kings 5:9-14 NLT. To be whole, you have to be real.

King David spoke of this contrast of realities, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer.” Psalm 19:12-14 NIV.

Errors, hidden faults, willful sins, great transgression – such a worsening progression of the soul is inevitable and stands in stark contrast to the reality of a heart that desires every thought of the heart and every word of expression to be pleasing to God. You can make your story different, if you will. See Psalm 139:23-24 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you deal with anything that doesn’t fit your profile.

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Seeing the Good

May 25th, 2010

“Prove all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21 KJV.

“Everything that is good or will be good, may not seem good to you at the time.”

My thoughts today are about “seeing the good.”

Maybe everyone’s mother said, “Eat your vegetables; they’re good for you.” All I knew was that they didn’t look good, and I didn’t think they would taste good either, and I had no interest in trying them. But Mom knew best (and was the boss!); she knew, and had convinced Dad, the nutrition and vitamins that I needed, and that my tastes would eventually mature and change.

Ever wonder who decides what’s good and what’s not? It would seem to me that only the one who knows why something is good can pronounce it as such. God looked at His creation and pronounced, “It is very good.” Genesis 1. God should know!

Eventually you learn that everything that is good, or will be good, may not seem good at the time. Usually, good is a subjective and arbitrary interpretation of how you feel about something at the moment, rather than an accurate evaluation of potential or intrinsic value. People rush to judgment, with little time or regard, accepting as fact what they judge true right now.

If you know the story of Joseph, you know how amazing is the grace and forgiveness he showed his brothers and the even greater faith in God he demonstrated when he said, “God intended it for good.” How they treated Joseph was not good by any definition, and what subsequently happened to him because of their behavior could not be described as good.

Joseph did not feel good about being abandoned in a pit, and sold as a slave far from home. He did not feel good about a woman’s accusations and lies, nor see any good about being wrongly thrown into prison. The day came when he saw the providential hand of God all along the way – not causing the very bad things that happened to him – but faithfully orchestrating the good that did result. Not good at the time, but best in God’s time! Then Joseph could confidently say, “You planned evil against me, but God intended it for good.” Genesis 50:20.

Much later, the Apostle Paul would write, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV. Really, there are difficult times when trusting that truth is quite a leap of faith. Remember; God does not promise everything begins as a good thing or concludes in the way you regard good, nor that the promise is true for every individual who wishes it to be – it is only irrevocably true for those “who love God, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Read the verse that follows. The good to which God promises to work is: according to His purpose for your life. And what is that? “To be conformed to the likeness of His Son!” Romans 8:29 NIV. That’s what life is all about; that is very good.

My prayer for you today is that you understand all that is good is always best.

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