Do Good

Mom just pulled the cookies out of the oven. You can smell them. She can see the look in your eyes and she offers a warning. Don’t you dare touch the cookies before dinner! She then leaves the kitchen to go take a shower as you sit, desire overtaking you. Eating the cookies is a bad idea. There’s no way to hide the missing cookie, but they smell like chocolate drops of heaven. They’re so fresh. They’re probably still a little bit gooey. You just want one. What do you do? I’m sure you wouldn’t touch the cookies, but I would. And I wouldn’t eat just one either.

We sometimes spend all our energy focusing on what we shouldn’t do that we miss out on what we should be doing. Instead of just not eating cookies, we could have been outside doing something fun. The cookies wouldn’t have even been a temptation if had been placing our focus on something more productive.

There are moments when I wonder if the church isn’t guilty of this. We put a lot of emphasis on working to avoid sin and that’s not necessarily wrong. We should avoid sin because sin is bad. Sin is harmful. Sin separates us from God. We live in a culture that is filled with sin and we know that to live for Jesus means to put to death our sinful nature. Yet people in the church keep sinning (sorry to burst your bubble if you thought church people were the picture of perfection). So what do we do seeing the continual struggle with sin? We keep talking about sin.

Can you imagine a life where all you ever focus on is your faults? Can you imagine if your parents only ever focused on your faults? Maybe some of you don’t have to imagine, you experienced it. It’s a toxic life to only ever think about your shortcomings. At the moment of repentance, God forgives us. Completely wipes our slate clean. We truly are a new creation completely made in the image of God. Our focus shouldn’t be about our level of goodness or our sin, it should be about His goodness to forgive our sin.

Isaiah 1:16-17 (NLT) Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. 17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.

I love this because it is a two part process. One, stop sinning. Two, do good. A huge part of our mission as Christians is to help people. There is a world of need all around us and we don’t spend near as much time focusing on how we can help meet those needs as we do our own sin.

I believe that part of learning to not sin is learning what you should be doing. If your whole life is focused on not doing something and you are constantly fixated on NOT doing that one thing, guess what you end up doing? That ONE thing you’re not supposed to do! However, when you know your purpose, your mind is consumed by it. You become passionate and begin to dream of ways to live it out. We need to stop focusing on our weaknesses. Stop focus on our faults. Instead, focus on the mission.

There is a world of need. Watch the news, there is such great spiritual need and we are the only ones equipped meet those needs. We have the Gospel of Jesus. We have the truth. We have been given the assignment of spreading that truth everywhere we go. How much of your thought life has been devoted to carrying out that mission? How much of your prayer life has been devoted to carrying out that mission? How many physical needs in our community have you reached recently?

Sometimes people aren’t interested in Jesus because they’ve never experienced the love of Jesus. I’ve been pondering lately, what can I do to show people the love of Jesus? I’d like to ask that question to you. What can you do to show people the love of Jesus?

We all have unique gifts and abilities. I’m not just talking about singing or painting. You are uniquely qualified to meet a need in someone’s life that I could never meet. Think about who you are. Think about what you’re good at. Think about the resources you have at your disposal. Maybe you have a lot of resources, or maybe you don’t have much. Maybe you can think of lots you’re good at, maybe you can’t. Either way, I want to challenge you to begin to pray and ask the Lord how you can begin to use your life, abilities, resources to meet the needs of other people.

We have work to do. We need to make sure our focus is where it should be. I’m a big believer, we shouldn’t sin. I’m also a big believer that when our focus is where it should be, loving the Lord and fulfilling His purposes, we will be empowered to avoid sin all the more.

Let’s change our life mission. Instead of “Don’t sin” let’s strive to “Do good”.

What Has It Cost You?

It was a good deal! The charger would have cost $80 if I ordered it directly from the company, but I got it for only $20 on Amazon. Sometimes what seems like a good deal at the time ends up being a huge problem. After my third cheap charger failed, I realized the better deal, in the long run, would have been paying the higher cost up front. Anything worth having is worth paying the price.

What determines value is how much someone is willing to pay for it. We know that the gift God gives us is free, but it isn’t cheap. It has incredible value because Jesus paid the ultimate cost for our salvation. One principle of life is that we often get out what we put in. When we pour ourselves into something we find great satisfaction when it is completed. On the other hand, if we didn’t have to work hard to get something, it isn’t a big deal when we lose it.

King David had sinned by taking a census of the people of Israel even though God had instructed them to not take a census. When you say your descendants will not be countable, it doesn’t make much sense to try and count them. God gave David a choice of consequences and he picked the one with the shortest time span. He was then instructed to go to this specific spot and build an altar to sacrifice to the Lord.  Problem. a man named Araunah owned the property and worked there. Araunah saw the King coming and naturally told the King that he would give him the land free of charge.

1 Chronicles 21:24 (NLT) But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!”

David refused to give a sacrifice to the Lord that cost him nothing. He understood that for it to truly be His sacrifice, it had to cost him something. How many times do we come into the house of the Lord to worship Him and yet, it doesn’t cost us anything? How many days do we neglect prayer and the study of His word? Too often we are guilty of giving God our leftovers instead of sacrificing and really pouring ourselves into our relationship with Him. To truly grow closer to the Lord it will cost you something. God honored David’s willingness to sacrifice.

2 Chronicles 3:1 (NLT) So Solomon began to build the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David, his father. The Temple was built on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the site that David had selected.

The spot where David resolved to only offer to the Lord a sacrifice that cost him something is the very spot chosen to build the temple of the Lord! So what does that mean for us? Solomon reminds us as he is preparing to build the temple that God is so big He can’t really be contained in a building.

2 Chronicles 2:5-6 (NLT)“This must be a magnificent Temple because our God is greater than all other gods. But who can really build him a worthy home? Not even the highest heavens can contain him! So who am I to consider building a Temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices to him?

How much less could He be contained in a man?

1 Corinthians 3:16 (NLT) Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?

Yet, He tells us that we are His temple! His very presence dwells in us! How much more powerful does that make His promise in 2 Chronicles 7?

2 Chronicles 7:15-16 (NLT) My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 16 For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.

All these scriptures working together really give new meaning to being a living sacrifice.

Romans 12:1 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him

We are His temple! We must live our lives in such a way that truly honors Him. All we do is not for ourselves, but for His glory. The cost is great, but what we gain is beyond value. I challenge you to truly let your life be a living sacrifice poured out to the Lord. Be willing to invest your time, even when it is inconvenient or you struggle to find the energy. Pursue a deeper relationship with God. No matter the cost.

Bad Day Syndrome

Some mornings we wake up and we suddenly realize it’s gonna be one of those days. I call it BDS (Bad Day Syndrome). I recently woke up with a severe case of BDS. My alarm went off at 5:30 on a Sunday morning so I could get up and begin my morning routine. I didn’t get up. I stared at it and said, “NO!” I reset it for 6:30 and again it went off and again I said, “NO!” What I was really thinking was, “Not today Satan!” But of course, it wasn’t Satan trying to get me out of bed to pray.

When I finally got out of bed I stumbled into the kitchen to fill my cup with water and my roommate chose that morning to walk up behind me and give me a scare. The joke was on him, I turned around threw my water at him and stormed out of the room. I did immediately come back apologize and tell him it was a rough morning.

Finally, I tried to open my Bible and read, but for whatever reason this day all motivation was gone. I had no energy to begin reading His precious Word. I knew today was gonna be rough. I didn’t have the energy to pursue a fresh word, but I knew where I could find something to keep me going. I opened my prayer journal and began to skim writings from the past few days and I came across this scripture.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT) Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I knew I was in a moment of very real weakness. I knew if I tried to go through that Sunday in my own strength, I would fail and end up in a bad situation. I kept this verse on my mind every moment that day, reminding myself that my strength is from Jesus. Letting Him be my strength I made it through the day with a good attitude.

We naturally want to hide our weaknesses, but in doing so we actually increase their power in our lives. We have to admit when we’re weak and surrender those weaknesses to the Lord so that He can demonstrate His power through those weaknesses.

I am not where Paul was that I can take pleasure in my weakness, however, I can recognize that by not trying to cover it up I gave God an opportunity to work in my life!

What are you going through in life? Maybe you are feeling weak, persecuted, chewed up and spit out, or maybe you’re just plain at the end of your rope. Wherever you find yourself today, I want to encourage you not to give up. Rather, lift your head up. Look to God in the midst of all your weakness. Don’t try to put on a brave face or a strong mask. Be vulnerable. It is in our brokenness that He is able to work the best.

Psalm 34:18-20 (NLT) The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!

The Danger of Contentment

The goal of humanity is contentment. Everyone wants to be happy rather than sad, angry and depressed. We want to be full of peace and we don’t want to endure suffering. That is basic human desire. However, I find that in the midst of lacking struggle, in the midst of contentment we are often in the most danger. It is in times of ease and comfort that we are tempted to rely on human effort rather than God’s gentle guiding hand.

Psalms 63:1 (NLT) O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

We have all related to this scripture at some point in our lives. During those moments of heartache, loss of direction, confusion, we find ourselves full of a diving desperation. We begin to seek out the Lord’s help when things aren’t working out like we expected, hoped or feel we deserve. We are very aware of the fragility of humanity and how great our need is. The problem is our need for God is just as great during the good seasons as it is in the bad season. Yet, during the good, we are less inclined to turn to the Lord.

Isaiah 31:1 (NLT) What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.

During seasons of contentment, we sometimes lose sight of God and begin looking at our own strength, or the strength of our neighbors. When tragedy begins to strike who do we run to first? Sadly, many times we run to God as a last resort. We turn to our neighbors first and when their strength fails we remember the Lord. He should be the first person we turn to not the last.

Psalm 63:6 (NLT) I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.

This scripture is particularly challenging to me as I continue to challenge myself in my daily devotional life. I have a love for His word that is stronger than it has ever been, yet in some seasons and I crave it more than others. When was the last time I lay awake at night just thinking of the goodness of God?  Dwelling in His presence and loving Him? Last night I did a devotional, prayed briefly and then watched shark tank til I went to sleep. I missed an opportunity to just dwell in His presence.

What about you? Do you think upon the Lord with that level of passion and consistency? Is He continually in your thoughts? I would bet during seasons of hardship He is in your thoughts more often than seasons is ease. More and more I find myself looking back with gratitude for difficult seasons that drove me deeper into the presence and Word of God. I would rather have a difficult life, full of reliance on the Lord, than a life of ease where I neglect my Creator.

The goal of humanity is contentment, but we have slightly missed the mark. Our goal should be contentment in Christ. Too often we want contentment from a life without struggle. We want to have plenty of money and live a worry free life. Those aren’t bad goals, but if we are seeking contentment from possessions rather than Jesus then our goals are wicked.

I pray that we wake ourselves, search our hearts and renew our desire for the Lord. I pray you would develop a greater reliance upon Jesus. Regardless of the season, let us dwell upon the Lord day and night! Our need for Him is constant, so should our reliance upon Him be. Let us remain desperate and dependant upon Jesus in times of difficulty and especially during times of contentment.

A Broken Computer

I love having the latest technology before everyone else. I’m an apple user and last year I enrolled my phone and both my computers in their beta program and had the latest operating system months before everyone else. It was awesome. A few months ago I did the same thing, only this time it wasn’t awesome. The trouble with downloading beta software is that it will be glitchy and this year the glitches were huge, especially for my 2010 MacBook Pro, which I use to do all my writing. It was almost unusable, certainly not conducive to my writing process.

I had loaded software onto my computer that wasn’t ready yet. It is good software, but it wasn’t the right time. It was broken. Today as I am officially relaunching daily pursuits it has me thinking, how often do we rush to add things to our lives that we aren’t ready for and it ends in disaster? In the same way I ended up with a broken computer, many times we end up with broken lives.

Proverbs 16:25 (NLT) There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

I wish I would have waited to add that software to my computer. Not only was the software not ready, but I hadn’t prepared my computer. When using beta software you are supposed to backup your computer beforehand in case you need to downgrade. I didn’t do that. Which means to fix it, I had to lose everything on my laptop. Thankfully, I didn’t lose anything important, but it was a huge inconvenience.

Just because something seems right at this moment, doesn’t mean it is. Maybe it’s for a later moment? The biggest example that comes to mind is love. How many of us got ourselves into trouble because we rushed into relationships at a young age? Yet the Bible says this…

Song of Solomon 2:7 (NLT) Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and wild deer, not to awaken love until the time is right.

The same thing is repeated in Song of Solomon 8:4. Love is beautiful and amazing, yet when awakened too early it often leads to heartache and a myriad of other issues that we have to deal with later in life.

We also have a tendency to rush big decisions. We have a consumer mentality, “This is a great deal, but you have to accept it right now or it goes away.” We feel this tug to make decisions quickly, but sometimes we need to slow down. A decision made quickly is often a decision we didn’t pray about.

The reality is the software I added to my computer, wasn’t necessary I just wanted it. Many times we add things to our lives, that we feel like we need, but we don’t. Sometimes it is material things that we spend money on. Other times it is just in how we spend our time.  I know for me when I feel overwhelmed, I need a down day. The issue is when I feel like that I feel like I need to just rest, watch some tv or play some video games and a little of that is nice. However, if that’s all I do then I’ve missed out because my true rest comes not from those things, but from the presence of Jesus.

Many times we add things to our lives, but we add the wrong things, or we add the right things at the wrong time. Either way, the solution is to get into the presence of God and seek His will and direction for our lives.

What are some things you’ve recently added to your life that hasn’t benefitted you? The good news is that regardless of mistakes we have made God doesn’t make it difficult to make things right.

Today find some time to get alone and go into your prayer closet. Fill your life up with the presence of the Lord. Dig into Word of God. Give Him an opportunity to speak to you. Simply say, “God I want to hear Your voice, please speak to me, guide me and fill me.”

He will do it.