Good or Best

     Does Satan sometimes influence a Christian to do “good” things? Oddly enough, it seems sometimes the answer is yes. 

     One of Satan’s most successful ploys is to encourage us to do good things which will prevent us from doing the best things that God intends for us. 

          Satan may tempt us to do a religious thing rather than a Christian thing.
          Satan may tempt us to do a church thing rather than serve a neighbor.
          Satan may tempt us to only pray for another person rather than help them while we pray.
          Satan may tempt us to give a cup of cold water rather than explain the path of salvation.

     The allure of the good is strong for several reasons. Such activity is usually socially acceptable and we gain the praise of others for being so generous. Good behavior is less likely to involve a long-term relationship that might be confining. And, of course, good behavior allows us to have warm feelings of self-satisfaction.

     What is the promised reward when we correctly identify, select and carry out the best? We will hear “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)

     How can we know which actions are good, but not the best? James 1:5 promises such wisdom. If we don’t seek this wisdom, we are likely to miss the chance to do the best things by instantly doing every good thing that comes along.

     It is vital that we have an eagerness and willingness to joyfully serve our Master. But before putting our enthusiasm into play, we must seek and find his will. We must allow him to help us correctly identify our assignments. Then He will help us complete them. 

Disobedience Thru Ignorance

None of us consciously intends to disobey God. We don’t get up in the morning and say “Today I’m going to refuse to do what God tells me.”

Yet every day we manage to be disobedient. Why?

Sometimes the answer is that we simply don’t hear Him telling us how to obey. We are like the child who, as he runs off to play, honestly does not hear his mother say “You be home by noon.” We don’t consider our actions to be disobedient because we can’t be expected to do what God says if we don’t know what He says, can we?

Oh, we don’t put our hands over our ears and shout “I can’t hear you” like we did when we were children. Yet we allow the radio, phone, TV, computer and demands of job and family to drown out his still, small voice. We don’t hear because we don’t listen. Often we don’t listen because we fear He will tell us to do, or stop doing, something.

We may feel “I didn’t know” is an acceptable excuse for sinning. But while it may serve as a thin veneer of acceptability in our minds, God views it differently. For a child of God to be ignorant of His commands is a sin that leads to further sins.

Does God really want to make his specific will clear to each of us every day? Yes! But those messages will remain a mystery unless we learn to listen and comprehend. To hear Him more clearly and consistently we must enter our prayer closet several times each day, listen for his voice in the din of life, read what He has already written for us and discipline our minds to think of spiritual things.

He will guard us from accidental disobedience if we deeply and sincerely want to obey.

Bits & Pieces, Odds & Ends-18

     Luke 2:49 indicates Jesus had unusual spiritual sensitivity. Does it mean He knew then He was the Messiah? Maybe and maybe not.
     But it does mean He understood that God had a specific, personal claim on his life to one degree or another.
     And what did He do about it? He went home and correctly played his proper role as a family member (Luke 2:51-52). He continued to do so for the next eighteen years (John 2:3-10).
     My first and greatest opportunity to behave in a Christ-like manner is at home with my family. If I don't follow his example there I won't follow it anywhere. 




     Genesis 4:26 states the people began to "call on the name of the LORD".
     Do I call on his name in surrender as often as I do in request? Do I call on his name asking that He change me as often as I ask him to change others?




     In my efforts to please my Father I need to emphasize relationships more than rules. I must not allow myself to settle for reasonable success in the "Thou shalt not" category of Christian living, while ignoring the "cup of cold water" part.




     Joshua 24:15 says "Choose you this day whom you will serve". I think we are also asked each day to decide who we will "worship."  This will be determined and demonstrated by which TV shows we watch, what internet images we download, which magazines we read, how we spend our money, which gossip we listen to, what attitudes we reinforce, which priorities we develop and what parts of our culture we embrace.    

My Heavenly Coach

A standard practice among coaches is to view a film of the previous game with the players. During that viewing the staff points out each player’s mistakes and good plays. A dedicated player will accept the criticisms and resolve to improve. Such an athlete feels gratitude for the compliments and determines to repeat that behavior the next game.

Their won-lost record at the end of the season hinges largely on the success of such sessions.

If I am serious about playing well for my Heavenly Coach I will eagerly take part in the periodic reviews He makes of my life. At times I will sense Him saying “Bob, you missed an opportunity to be a witness there” or “Bob, that was cruel” or “Bob, that was a selfish attitude.”

Then my reaction should be “You’re right, Lord. I’m sorry. I see now that it was sinful. I confess each of these to you and I will try my best not to repeat them. Please help me. Thank you for forgiving me.”

At other times Coach will say “Bob, you controlled your temper pretty well back there” or “You were extra kind and thoughtful with your family today” or “Your attitude of gratitude was strong last week.”

And my reaction should be “Thank you, Lord. All that is the work of your Spirit. I’m going to work harder to make sure I keep developing the fruit of your Spirit.”

Battle With Sin

Why is it that Christians must have the proper concern about the sin in their lives? After all, we have been promised eternal life walking on golden streets. We have been forgiven. Our everlasting reward is guaranteed. Why should we be concerned about our sins?

The sin that remains in our lives will be a barrier to a close relationship with our Father. It will be a cloud that prevents us from knowing Him more intimately and it will block us from understanding his purpose for our lives. It will block the blessings He has planned for us. . Therefore, as his children we must continually be alert for sin. We must learn to recognize it in  its many forms.

Sin comes in many outwardly attractive shapes, sizes, colors and packages. In reality, it is ugly, deceptive and deadly, but on the surface it is often beautiful and alluring.  It is presented to us through the internet, books, friendships, magazines, TV screens, movies, advertisements and the advice of well-meaning people. It calls to us at night, in the morning and throughout the day. It approaches us at home, at work, in the park, on the lake, in the country and in the city. It invades our thoughts when we are alone or when we are in a crowd. It even calls to us on Sunday morning during church services. it can be loud or soft, bold or shy, smooth or crude.

Sin is everywhere, all the time. Satan, who is a liar and killer, constantly tempts us.

God calls for us to use all our strength to resist sin, but He does not ask for us to do it alone. He has given us the Holy Spirit and in Philippians 4:13 He promises we will be able to do all things through Christ. All things certainly includes resisting sin.

Our minds are the battlefield on which we must defeat sin. We can be successful only if we give God control of our thoughts and actions. In James 1:5 He has promised us his wisdom to use in this battle. Through the Holy Spirit He will direct our fight against sin. If we follow his directions our lives will be increasingly free from Satan.

And then we can give our heavenly Father all the glory, praise and gratitude.

He Forgave

He said "Don't," but I did.
He said "Do,", but I didn't.

He said "Stop," but I kept going.
He said "Keep going," but I stopped.

He said "Give," but I kept.
He said "Keep," but I spent.

He said "Go," but I stayed.
He said "Stay," but I went.

He said "Louder," but I stayed silent.
He said "Be quiet," but I shouted.

He said "Now," but I waited.
He said "Wait," but I did it anyway.

Over and over I sinned.
Over and over He forgave.

And that is "Good News"!

The Great He Is

At the burning bush Moses asked God to identify Himself. God replied, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14) In that same verse he directed Moses to tell the Hebrew people the “I AM” sent him. Our assignment as God’s children and servants is to tell people HE IS!

HE IS the truth.
HE IS the one who forgives sin.
HE IS the only path to eternal life in heaven.
HE IS the wisdom we need to succeed in this life.
HE IS  the final victor in the battle between good and evil.
HE IS the creator and sustainer of the universe.
HE IS  the one who gives us joy and peace.
HE IS our protector from temptation.
HE IS our refuge. 

HE IS
and it is our privilege to tell everyone we meet!

Our Need For Companionship

Four times in the first chapter of Genesis, God looked at his creation and “saw that it was good.” Then, in verse eighteen of chapter two, He considered Adam’s aloneness and said “it is not good” (emphasis mine).

At first it might seem that when God evaluated his creative efforts He realized He had made a mistake or left something undone. Adam was alone and it was not good. Had God simply forgotten to create woman? Was Adam left to play a life of solitaire because God had overlooked something? Of course not!

God had a purpose when He allowed Adam to begin life without companionship. Just before Eve was created, God caused all the animals to pass by Adam (Genesis 2:19-20). Adam saw that throughout the animal kingdom there was male and female. Only he had no counterpart.

God wanted Adam to realize he was alone so he would place greater value on Eve when she was provided for him. From the very beginning, human nature has caused us to have greater appreciation for a blessing if we have spent some time without it. (We don’t realize the value of water until the well runs dry.)

We, like Adam, have a God-given, built-in need for human companionship. He intentionally put within us the need to communicate and fellowship with other people. This need is evident in all stages of life. The infant that stops crying instantly when his mother picks him up and the child who cries out “Mommy, mommy, watch me” are responding to this aspect of being human. The herd instinct that drives teens is evidence of its presence. Wedding vows are exchanged because of it – and sometimes repudiated due to the lack of it. The elderly can lose the desire to continue living if they don’t have it.

Satan recognizes this need and uses it to harm and tempt us. He tells us that we can never be happy until we find a human companion. He leads us to believe we are alone because we are somehow unworthy or unattractive or socially deficient. He tries to make us feel we are incomplete if we are alone.

And often, in response to Satan’s prompting, we begin to base our life on the search for a person whose presence will fill our emptiness. We evaluate others on the standard of “Do I want this person to be my companion and friend?” If we feel they do not somehow measure up they are rejected and the search goes on, often in the wrong places.

How does God want us to deal with this need until He provides us with the companions He has chosen for us? First of all, we must understand that such companionship does not necessarily contain a sexual component. Companionship can come from either gender and does not require the breaking of the seventh commandment.

We must learn to look to Jesus as the perfect companion. In John 15:13-15 Jesus offered us his friendship. And in John 14:23 Jesus said he and the Father will come and live with those who love and obey Him. How’s that for companionship?

Jesus wants us to make him Number One in every part of our life. He will provide all we need in this endeavor because He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20)

Fill My Cup

The woman at the well said to Jesus “Sir, please give me a drink…” (John 4:15). She asked Jesus to fill her physical cup with physical water to meet a physical need. She admitted she needed something and she hoped Jesus would give it to her.

We must go to Jesus in the same way, recognizing and admitting our physical needs and asking Jesus to meet them.

But the importance of our spiritual needs is far greater than the importance of our physical needs. And for these needs we extend to him the empty cup of ourselves–a life that is empty because we are trying to meet these needs in our own power out of the resources of the world.

The woman at the well needed water. In the quiet honesty of Spirit-led introspection, what do we most need from Jesus? He has already offered us joy, peace, confidence, health, prosperity, protection and a person relationship with himself. We are invited to request as much of each of these as it takes to fill our lives.

So why are we still empty?

The answer may be slightly different for each of us, but basically we remain empty because we do not have enough faith in Jesus to fully believe two of his promises. Jesus said “If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) And in Luke 12:29, 31 He said “Don’t keep worrying about having something to eat or drink. But put God’s work first, and these things will be yours as well.”

He has offered, but He will not fill our cup without our permission.