The Good that Opposes the Best

Creativity is the key. 682x1024 The Good that Opposes the Best

In business, we often say that good is the enemy of great (and quickly fix that with books like Good to Great by Jim Collins).

But have you ever thought about the good that opposes the best when it comes to our spiritual life?

Philippians 4:8 tells us

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

just as the Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us that the fruit of the spirit is

… love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

So naturally, especially as a new Christian a decade ago, I spent a great deal of time aspiring to these concepts.

The only problem is that I always ultimately come short.

So then should I abandon those moral goals altogether? Not quite.

But perhaps we may need to rethink them.

After I read the following by Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest, it caused me to pause:

The things that are right, noble, and good from the natural standpoint are the very things that keep us from being God’s best. Once we come to understand that natural moral excellence opposes or counteracts surrender to God, we bring our soul into the center of its greatest battle. Very few of us would debate over what is filthy, evil and wrong, but we do debate over what is good.

It is the good that opposes the best.

The higher up the scale of moral excellence a person goes, the more intense the opposition to Jesus Christ…The natural life is not spiritual, and it can made spiritual only through sacrifice. If we do not purposely sacrifice the natural, the supernatural can never become natural to us.

Ultimately, I took this passage to mean that all of us may disagree on what is in fact ‘good’…and we can waste so much energy and time, not only trying to achieve ‘good’, but trying to prove and convince others of that definition.

Instead, why not focus on surrendering our lives and will to God and with that will come the moral clarity so many of us seek.

Really, the equation becomes so much more attainable when we put our efforts in God’s hands instead of our own, wouldn’t you agree?

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God Ate My To-Do List (Living Beyond Yourself Week 2)

 God Ate My To Do List (Living Beyond Yourself Week 2)

God ate my to-do list today.

This morning as I sat down to listen to Beth Moore teach session 2 of our “Living Beyond Yourself” study following our week titled “To Live By the Spirit”, I had a heavy heart. A big change is taking place in our lives today, that although I feel very strongly about (in a good way) and helped make it happen, it does not negate the fact that it’s scary.

So I thought it ever-important to really start today right. Not in a ‘turn over a new leaf’ kind of way, but more of a ‘do what you’ve always known what you’re supposed to do’ kind of way.

You know what I mean, right?

When you go through your day, don’t you get those nudges of what you feel like you should do, but you don’t do them for whatever reason (too tired, too busy, not convenient, etc). Or better yet, you sit in your bed on a Sunday night pledging to God, “This week will be different.” You say you’ll get up early, read your Bible every day, make time for your kids when they come home from school, start a regular cleaning schedule, stop watching “Real Housewives of …”, clean out the fridge of crap & start juicing, pull out the P-90X DVD that’s been sitting in its case since Christmas…

Should I continue? (Just PLEASE tell me I’m not the only one who does this!)

Anywhoooo…

So this morning I finally did what I knew I needed to do. Well, I didn’t get up as early as I’d hoped. But I did work my way through my essential morning routine and then sat down to listen to Beth teach me before starting my work day.

I’ve also learned, as someone who has a brain that never stops, that I need to keep a piece of paper or a notebook nearby whenever doing something like this to jot down the random thoughts that inevitably pop in my brain.

I had been keeping said piece of paper in my Bible, but if you’ve ever done a Beth Moore study before, you know she makes you flip back & forth finding verses in that Bible like you’re fanning yourself in a Mississippi church that doesn’t have A/C in July!

 God Ate My To Do List (Living Beyond Yourself Week 2)

At some point during the hour-long lesson, I misplaced that square piece of paper keeping track of what I needed to do once this was over.

I flipped through all the pages and even held my Bible open upside down. Nothing.

I thought to myself, “Well, maybe God ate it! I guess that wasn’t supposed to be what I focused on today.”

Yet all through her teaching, I felt a nudge.

Now would be a good time for me to confess that I’m a bit of a TV addict. Not a sit down and become a zombie in front of the screen kind of way, but a “I have to have constant noise running in the background of my life” kind of way. I rarely do ANYTHING at home without the TV on and if I do, it’s the result of a very conscious choice and a strong effort of my will.

So that nudge was telling me to forsake my end-of-the-night programming that ‘helps me fall asleep’ and instead replace it by ending my evening doing my Bible study homework. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but do-able. After all, I can sacrifice half an hour for God, right?

But then the nudge got stronger: I felt like while someone else was making a sacrifice in our family this week, I should match it by fasting TV all week.

WHOAAAAA – hold on there God…doesn’t that seem a bit extreme?

I mean, come on – I’m just trying to support what you’re doing in this person’s life, but you don’t have to punish me too!

But then it hit me: what could he accomplish in me if the noise of the TV was turned off and I was more in tune with His Holy Spirit. What could I hear? How much more productive could I be? What would I learn?

My initial freak-out turned into a peace that washed over me, quelling the PANIC I’ve been allowing to creep into my life.

In that instant, I got up, walked over to the armoire where our TV is housed in our bedroom and shut the doors on it. A literal and symbolic step saying that not only am I not going to allow you to dictate my time and my thoughts, but even more so a step of obedience to God saying that I choose you to fill me over the garbage that my enter my life through this screen.

As soon as I walked back to where I had been sitting and listening to Beth, I found it.

My to-do list was literally at my feet.

I don’t have many of these moments in my life, but it was almost as if I heard God audibly speak to me. Once I was obedient, He allowed me to move on with my day. But sometimes we are so stubborn in what we think is right and ought to happen, that we allow no room for Him to come in and impact our lives, much less our to-do lists!

Now that I’ve found it, I’m not sure it is in fact what I need to spend my time doing today. But regardless of whether or not I accomplish the things on that post-it note or not, I do know what I need to spend more of my time doing:
Inserting quiet time into my life that will not only allow the Holy Spirit of God to speak into my life and my decisions, but that will permit me to be still enough to hear Him when He does!

So I have two questions for you today:
1. What are you doing in your life that me be keeping you from what the Holy Spirit truly has for you?
2. Will you pray that I make it through this week without my TV crutch? I’d be ever so grateful…

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Pruning

I have a beautiful plant that a friend gave me a couple years ago.  It started out as only two branches, and while one branch thrived, the other became weak and small.  When I asked my mom how to treat the sick branch, she informed me that I must cut the longer branch and replant it because its roots were choking the smaller branch.

That terrified me!  What if I lost the entire plant?

At the time, I would rather have had one long, beautiful branch than no plant at all.  In the end, I followed her advice and now I have a beautiful, full plant that I prune often.

Essentially, what looked healthy on the outside was actually very sick under the soil.  John 15:2 extols:

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesso that it will be even more fruitful.

“Prune” in that verse is the Greek word Kathairo, which means pure, clean, without stain, and without spot.  To kathairo is to cleanse from filth, purify, and remove defilement or imperfections.  It may seem like an oxymoron, but in order to truly grow, we must constantly prune away dead leaves and cut back overgrown branches.  We must be willing to cut out all that God reveals as impure in our life if we want to truly grow in Him.

Who are you allowing to do your gardening?  1 Corinthians 15:33 teaches us that “bad company corrupts good character”.  Do not allow just anyone to do your pruning; the only suitable gardener is God.

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Boast

2011 07 25 CarVisit Natchez Leipers Fball Cheer 012 300x200 Boast
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” – Gal 6:14

Has God ever sent you a friendly reminder by leading you to a certain verse in the bible?  Maybe even a helpful suggestion in the form of a tug on your heart?

The weather is finally starting to give us a glimpse of fall here in Nashville, and it takes me back to a similar night when I was single.

My roommate and I decided to take advantage of the first “chilly” Florida night we’d experienced all year. We walked to the lake at our apartment complex (or retention pond, depending on how you look at it), sat down in the grass, and turned on the flashlight as I opened the bible.  She prompted me to read the last chapter of Galatians, which brought me to a verse that I had not truly committed to memory the first time I attempted to do so…Galatians 6:14.

It is so easy to get caught up in what we’re doing for the world.  Pride comes in and captures our thoughts so quickly.  I was proud of what I had accomplished at work that day, proud of myself for running that night…even proud that I had brought my Bible on our short stroll to enjoy the weather.

However, to Christ, my good works mean nothing unless they are an example of His love to others.  We were created to do just that: good works (products of the fruit of the spirit) of and for Him.  Anything that we accomplish is a result of what He has allowed us to do. Our efforts will not increase our chances for salvation; we’ve already been given that gift through the grace of God…and it is a gift that we can all receive.

So do not boast in your own ability, but instead walk in the path Christ walked and give Him the glory for what He’s allowed you to accomplish.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Eph 2:8-10

 

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How does God look?

1345460 lizard How does God look?How does God look in your life?

On the way to church yesterday morning, Britton asked if God was ever a lizard.

I don’t think it was a deep theological question as much as it was a little boy trying to fit Jesus into an imagine he was looking at in his book.

While I love how my son was looking for God in the unexpected, it made me think of how often I try to fit God into my own perception of Him or make Him look the way I want Him to look, instead of accepting the way He looks in my life right now.

Too often, we feel like “God isn’t here”, when really we’re just looking for Him in the wrong places.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ~ Matthew 7:7-8

Instead of trying to force God to look the way we expect Him to in our lives, why not stop and ask for Him to make Himself know to you in the place where He is?

freecards promoheader 00 How does God look?

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The Living, Breathing Word of God

cloudy day image The Living, Breathing Word of God
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
– Isaiah 55:10-11

As fall turns to winter and rain turns to snow, I hear many of my friends longing for spring already! I on the other hand long for this weather. In fact, I think I was the only one who got excited for rain when we lived in Florida because I could look outside at the gray skies and pretend it was cold outside!

This weather reminds me of the promises we find in Isaiah 55:10-11. God’s Word is not only true, it is living, breathing, and powerful for equipping us today.

What God speaks, He will accomplish.

The important thing to remember is that He uses us to accomplish His will here on earth. This is incredibly encouraging to me…especially on the days that I feel less than adequate to live up to such a task. It reminds me that while He needs my willingness, He does not need my capabilities.

Go out today knowing that the same God who created the universe has a specific purpose for you and it will be accomplished in your life when you believe in the power of His Word.

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Finding Comfort

medalceremony Finding ComfortThe Winter Olympic Games of 2002 had one controversy that stood out among the rest: the Pairs Figure Skating competition.

As I, along with the rest of the world, sat in shock and watched the Canadians lose the gold medal to what seemed to be unfair judging, I wondered how they would recover emotionally.  They skated a perfect routine, the audience gave them a standing ovation, and even the commentators had voted them the winners.  So when the ordinals came in and put them in second place, it felt like the entire stadium took an emotional hit.

Sale & Pelletier had done everything in their power to win the gold.  When the end result was not what they had expected, they didn’t seem to be able to recover.

Where do you turn to when you feel like you’ve done everything right and still don’t get the end result you were looking for?  Do you blame someone else, or do you rest secure that God will reveal himself in every circumstance?  Above all, we must remember and rejoice in the fact that God is the source of our comfort.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. -2 Cor 1:3-4

If we only relied on the reward at the end of the road to determine our behaviors during the process, our lives would be very shallow and unfulfilling.  Scott Hamilton even commented just before the medals were awarded, “It’s always the process and rarely the result”.  The only end result we can be guaranteed of is salvation through Jesus Christ.  I think you would all agree with me that there could be no greater reward than that.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. – Phil 2:1-2

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My Way

SinatraMyWay My Way“I did it my way.” Frank Sinatra wasn’t the only one to have ever uttered these words.

How many times have you ever passed over reading the instruction manual before operating a new gadget?  How often have you driven in circles instead of stopping to ask for directions?  Have you ever had someone go before you to show you the way, and yet you took a different path?

Most of us can answer “yes” to at least one of the previous questions.  Call it stubbornness or determination; whatever it is, we all seem to have a streak inside that wants to prove to others that we know what we’re doing on our own.

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, “Come follow me”.  I don’t recall him ever saying, “Here’s what I’ve done, but you might find a better way to go about things”.

Not only do we have God’s perfect Word to follow, but we also have the life of Jesus Christ as an example of how to live our own lives.  Our heavenly father only wants the best for us, and therefore does not want us to travel through life on our own.

Frank admittedly had regrets.  There is no guarantee in life that even we as Christians will live a perfect life.  What we do know is that with God, we will have no regrets.  Let your confidence be strengthened by Him as we strive to walk in his perfect light.

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect – 2 Samuel 22:33 & Psalm 18:32

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Unashamed

abc blocks UnashamedI pray a lot about walking in God’s will.  I pray and ask for him to reveal his calling on my life.  Sometimes, I believe I may be too legalistic about even that.  It’s not always about where we are, but what are we doing where he has put us.  Our primary purpose is to proclaim his name and make disciples of all nations (from Matt 19:28-29).  How can we do that if we are afraid to even say his name in public?

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes – Rom 1:16

It is true that our world has become very politically correct.  Many of our workplaces and schools do not permit us to openly preach the gospel.  However, nothing prevents us from sharing our personal testimony with those who are interested.  There should never be a moment of hesitation when it comes to sharing what God has done in your life.

Magician and self-proclaimed atheist, Penn Gillette, once posted a YouTube video about the great deal of respect he had for a man who came to several of his concerts and then approached him afterwards with sincere compliments and a Bible. While he remained unmoved in his religious opinion despite the genuine efforts of his fan, he commended him for living out his faith, citing the following example:

“If you saw someone standing in the street about to get hit by a truck, genuinely believed they would die, yet did nothing to warn that person, what kind of a human being would you be? So who are you as a Christian if you genuinely believe someone will suffer eternal damnation if they do not believe in Jesus, yet you fail to expose them to that life changing truth with them? He was the most honest man I’ve ever met.”

Pray specifically for the opportunity and boldness to witness to someone today.  It may be a co-worker, a waiter, or someone on the street; whoever it is, don’t let the opportunity pass by to welcome them into the kingdom of heaven. 

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord…who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. -2 Tim 1:8-10, 12b

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I will go

When Rebekah met Abraham’s servant, who wanted her to return to his home to be married to Isaac, she was ready and willing.  Her brother and mother even asked if she could stay with them before leaving.  So they left it up to the girl to decide.  Rebekah knew this was God’s will for her life, so her only response was, “I will go” (Gen 24:58).

When you say that you want to follow God’s will or that you are willing to go wherever he takes you, do you really mean it?  We can hurt God with our insincerity.  Are you willing to leave everything that you now find comfortable to answer the call God has placed upon your life?

God has rich plans for each of us if we are only sincere in going down that path.  Are you ready to say those three little words?  Try it right now, but only if you mean it: I WILL GO.

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. –Ps. 119:33

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