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.    

Christian Capitalism

In a capitalistic economic system every person is encouraged to accumulate all the wealth possible. Success is largely determined by the size of portfolios and bank accounts. Money earned today is to be used in a way that will produce more assets tomorrow.

By the same token, an individual’s poverty is of no concern to anyone else. A person is allowed to lose all his wealth without interference from anyone else. Birth-to-death poverty is common.

Such capitalism is a disaster unless it is guided by “Do unto others” (Matthew 7:12) and “Feed the hungry” (Matthew 25:35-36). Only these Christian principles can shape the system to benefit all income levels.

There are, of course, many times and places that Christians can give to people who need help. The Holy Spirit will lead in determining when, where and how such caring and sharing should take place. Certainly Jesus called on his followers to give help one-on-one.

But in today’s world there is a need for large-scale institutions that strive to produce economic equality. For the most part our churches have not stepped up to the plate to help fill this need. One of the least offered prayers during Sunday morning services is “God, do you want me to give more?”





Q.  Does God want the poor in my community to have more of this world's resources?
A.  Yes.
Q.  What is His plan for getting more to them?
A.  The generosity of Christians.
Q.  Does God want me to have more of this world's resources?
A.  Only if I will pass on these additional blessings to the poor.(Or maybe only if I pass on   more of my currently held resources.)

Become Before Doing

     God's call to his children comes on two levels. First we receive the call to become, then we hear the call to do. Isaiah's experience illustrates this two-level call. First God called him to become sinless. Only then did He call Isaiah to do something (Isaiah 6:1-9)
     Jesus talked about this "becoming process" in John 15:1-5. Our identification with him should be so constant and  intimate that we become exactly like him. Jesus told Phillip, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father." (John 14:9) When we have each become all the Father intends us to be, we will be able to say, "If you have seen me, you have seen Jesus."
     After we have clearly understood and started answering the "become" call, God issues the "do" call. Correctly answering the "do" call is the goal of the WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? movement. It is very wise to consider this question before making decisions. Each of our actions and reactions should be identical to what Jesus would have done in a similar situation. If we always follow his model, we will impact our world for him.
     However, if we try to answer the call to do without first answering the call to become, we are in danger of being like the Pharisees of Jesus' time. They were trying to do all their religion required without first becoming what Jesus was (Matthew 13:13-15). Maybe we need to start a WHAT DID JESUS BECOME? movement. 
     We must answer God's call to become by spending time alone with him in prayer and Bible study. "I want to be like Jesus" must become the primary goal in our lives. Then, in his own time, God will issue each of us a call to action.
     

Faith

     Regular faith allows us to look back at past unpleasant times and say "God, I see now that you were teaching me and growing me. I understand now at least part of what you were doing. Thank you."
     Great faith allows us to look at current unpleasant times and say "God, I guess you are teaching me and growing me. Keep it up until I have learned all I need to learn. Thank you!"



     Somewhere I read "Faith and obedience will remove mountains of evil. But they must go hand in hand." I like this thought, but is faith without obedience really faith?



     The primary purpose of strong faith in God is not so that He can do more work through me, but so that He can do more work in me. My lack of faith hinders my effectiveness as his servant and it also blocks my becoming like him.



     I do not need to develop a plan for my life...month...week...day...hour. Instead I need to discover God's plan, which has been in existence for thousands of years. I need the faith to believe his plan is better than mine and the courage to put it into practice.



     Faith says to God "If it is your will I will attempt the impossible and accept the uncomfortable." 
  

Bits & Pieces, Odds & Ends – 17

To fully benefit from having God as my Father, I must admit that I need him as provider, protector, counselor, guide, comforter and savior. I must admit "I can't," acknowledge "He can," and believe "He will." Only then can I know the full value of having been adopted into his family and having the privilege of calling him "Abba Daddy."

John 5:1-18 tells the story of a crippled man. When Jesus asked him "Do you want to get well" he replied that he had no one to help him get into the healing pool. He knew of only one way to get healed. Sometimes I limit God the same way. I say "Lord, I can't be happy unless ____." Then I get discouraged and disgruntled if my specific request is not granted. I need to be willing to say "Lord, do whatever you think is best in my life and I'll be happy no matter what you provide."

Should I view Jehovah as a god of joy (and praise him) or a god of responsibility (and serve him?) Of course the answer is "both," since worship is defined as "recognizing and properly responding to God." Service is part of that proper response. Too much emphasis on the joy part can cause a turn inward, always looking for the next bit of spiritual excitement. Too much emphasis on the responsibility portion can result in guilt and lifeless attempts to minister. Our challenge is to find and retain the joy that comes from fulfilling responsibilities.

I Can

If I apply Paul’s “I can do all things through Christ…” (Philippians 4:13) to my life, it means I can run errands for a shut-in neighbor and then sit and listen for the hundredth time as she recounts her memories of childhood. It means I can ladle soup in a homeless shelter. It means I can baby sit for a single mother while she goes grocery shopping. It means I can take a four-hour shift beside the ICU bed of a relative I hardly know and do not particularly like. It means I can share Jesus on a bench at Wal Mart. It means I can forgive completely. It mean I can show love to those who criticize me.

Any time my pastor or other church leader asks me to do something I must never say “I can’t” without first asking God if He wants me to. When I am following his will the answer “I don’t want to” is not an option, unless I immediately say “But I’ll do it if He wants me to.” In the Philippians verse the words “through Christ” are the key to life application. If, as I pray, I am led to believe God does not want me to do it I may say “I won’t” but I must never say “I can’t”.

Attitudes and Actions

In Matthew 5:20 Jesus called his disciples to a spiritual level higher than that of their religious leaders. He was asking the disciples to grow beyond those who led their times of worship and taught in their synagogues.

To the disciples this must have sounded impossible. Those religious leaders very carefully followed the law of Moses and the many interpretations thereof. They were the theologians and seminary professors of their day. They wrote the Sunday School literature and scriptural commentaries. They tithed, attended all the festivals, gave special offerings, prayed three times every day, fasted several times each year, and sacrificed at the correct times and in the appropriate manner. How could these “working stiffs” ever exceed such righteousness?

They could love their neighbors!

Jesus did not fault the actions of these leaders. Their actions were impeccable. But He knew their hearts (Luke16:15). He called his followers to a set of attitudes that were more pleasing to the Father. He called them to love others. 

If God were to call us to judgement today, would we want him to judge us on our actions or our attitudes? Which come closer to the meeting his standards?

What should be our primary attitude toward God? Love! (Matthew 22:37)

What should be our primary attitude toward people?  Love! (Matthew 22:39)

What actions should we take to show God we love Him? Obey Him! (John 14:15)

What actions should we take to show others we love them? Serve them! (John 13:4-5)

Love

     God sends us into the world with a trunk full of love to give to others. We are to dip into that trunk and scatter love to everyone we meet. That love takes the form of listening, sharing, caring, forgiving and some occasional foot-washing.
     Our trunk has compartments that contain an inexhaustible amount of all forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can match each recipient with the proper form of love at the appropriate time. 
     When I find myself running low on the motivational drive to be a "love scatterer" I must remember how empty my trunk was before He filled it, how small was (is) my qualification to be a receiver of such love and how much better my life is now because of that love.

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     The Bible is a love story...not a romance, but a love story none-the-less. It is a story of love freely offered, but often rejected. In the cases where that love was accepted the result was wonderful loyalty, joy and power in each individual's life.
     It is a love story featuring you and me, just as much as Biblical characters.

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     I have grown up with the idea that as Christians we should "Love the things God loves and hate the things God hates."  I think "...and with the same intensity" should be added. This may be an accurate summary statement of being and living as a Christian.
     It seems lately that the intensity of our hating is much greater than the intensity of our loving.