We are a people obsessed with greatness.
We compare and rank everyone and everything we can think of. Look at all of the greatest lists ranking music, movies, TV shows and much more at the end of each year. Recently I ran across a list ranking all of the James Bond films from top to bottom.
It doesn’t stop there. A few years ago Jim Collins wrote a book entitled Good To Great. Collins wrote in this book about how to take companies from simply good to great. Certainly this is a worthy goal. Good is simply not good enough. Companies should strive to be great.
How about our spiritual lives? Most of us would probably say that our spiritual walk is good. We read our Bibles. We pray. We go to church. We talk about God and Jesus in our lives. It’s good.
What about God Himself? Is He good? Is He great? Look at how we are taught to pray as children. God is great, God is good. We put God’s greatness before His goodness.
We hear this in some of our modern songs. I love Rich Mullins. His songs touch me in many ways. In fact, I cannot think of a song of his that I don’t like.
Perhaps his most famous song is Awesome God. The song describes God’s greatness in how He created the world and sent His Son to the world to save us. You cannot hear the song without thinking of God as awesome and great.
The question we have to ask ourselves is if we truly believe that not only is God great, but that God is good.
Do we believe that God is good when our circumstances go bad? When a parent dies when a child is young, does he or she grow up believing that God is good? How about when a child dies leaving the parent heartbroken? Does the parent still believe that God is good?
How about during when other things go wrong? Do we believe that God is good when we lose jobs? How about when marriages go sour and end? What about when other relationships end? What do we feel when our church doesn’t act like we think it should? Do we really believe that God is good?
Many of us will resort to clichés during these times. We will say something like God is good all the time, All the time God is good. We say this and on the surface we believe it. However, do we really believe it in our heart of hearts?
Many of us will believe that He is good. Far too many of us will not. We will not trust God and truly believe that He is good. Too many will believe that God is some sort of cosmic killjoy, secretly enjoying our misery. Nothing could be further from the truth.
God wants us to know that He is good. In fact, He invites us to know and understand that He is good. Psalm 37:4 tells us this. The verse says, “O taste and see that God is good.”
Notice that the verse doesn’t ask the reader to see that God is great or awesome. If you believe in God, it’s easy to think these things. You can look at the sun, the moon and the stars and see that God is great. That does not necessarily help one have an intimate relationship with God. It’s only when one realizes that God is good that this relationship can begin and flourish.
So, how do we begin to see that God is good?
First, we need to see that God has always been good. We need to realize that God has been good from the very beginning. We also need to see that God Himself is the definition and the determiner of good.
Next, we need to see what went wrong. How in the world did we ever get to the point that we no longer believed that God was good? Something had to have changed to affect us this way.
Finally, we need to look at what God has done to bring us back to the realization that He is good. In simple terms, it begins with that invitation in Psalm 34:7. That is the basic framework. However, what does that mean?
That’s the aim of this post. God is great. Most of us can agree on that. However, we all want to know and see that God is good.
How do you know that God is good?
Yesterday’s post was a rundown of what I spoke about at my first campground service of the year. It was based on the first two verses of Ephesians as my services this year will be a series on Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.
One phrase stood out to me that I want to explore a bit more. It comes at the end of the first verse after Paul calls himself an apostle of Christ Jesus.
He writes that he is this apostle “by the will of God.”
Paul was an apostle by the will of God. Think about that for a minute. By the will of God.
What are you doing that is by the will of God?
Are you going to your job tomorrow by the will of God?
Are you a parent by the will of God?
Are you a grandparent by the will of God?
What does that even mean?
I think too often how we look at our circumstances are faulty. We might bemoan the circumstances we find ourselves in. We might even grumble about them. Do we, though, consider that they are the will of God?
Our job is not going the way we imagined. Perhaps we find ourselves in a career what we did not plan or even consider. It is easy to question why. However, are you in that position by the will of God?
Maybe we have problems with our children. They are going down the wrong path. We do not like the choices they are making. Heartbreak happens. What happens if that is by the will of God?
As I looked at that phrase “by the will of God”, I realized that it is an attitude changer.
Paul looked at this circumstances in life, his position in life, and realized that it was all by the will of God. He was not a Pharisee any longer, by the will of God. He has been shipwrecked, beaten and stoned in life by the will of God. Knowing that it was by the will of God allowed Paul to face and work in any circumstance he faced.
It will do the same for us.
Job? Family? Position in life? Being by the will of God makes it bearable.
Does that mean we throw our hands up in resignation and simply accept it as is and never seek to change poor circumstances? No. However, it does mean that we can look beyond them, learn the lessons from the situation, and lean on the Lord through them.
By the will of God is a lubricant that eases the circumstances we find ourselves in. It is support that keeps us from falling. It is fuel down the road of life.
Do you live life as though it is by the will of God?
I don’t watch a lot of baseball anymore. I used to watch as much as possible, which wasn’t much when we used to only have three TV stations to watch. I would spend Saturday afternoons watching a little bit of the game of the week on NBC. Fortunately, ABC also had Monday night baseball and those summer evenings were spend watching a little more baseball.
When my grandparents got cable I would often visit them and every evening that the Atlanta Braves were playing on you could find them watching no matter who was visiting them. I spent as much time as possible there just so I could watch baseball.
Somewhere along the way I have found that I can’t watch a lot of baseball. However, there is something that I always pay attention to.
There is still something magical about it. It is like the unofficial kick-off of Spring for me. Everything is new and fresh. And there it is, the boys of summer playing in all sorts of weather as their season starts.
That’s how I feel about today as well. It’s opening day for a ministry I’ve been part of now for fourteen years. I spend each Sunday morning for about twenty-six weeks going to a campground and sharing God’s word.
Last night I passed out fliers and ran into some folks who come to our service when they are there camping. I was able to renew that relationship and will be able to build on it for a few weeks this year.
There will be other people who I will be introduced to, who have never come to the service before. I will make new relationships. Some will come back again and again. Others I may never see again. It is truly an exciting time.
This Spring and Summer I will share from a book of the Bible that I have never done so before. I will be preaching from Ephesians throughout the year.
Paul kicks off this little treasure by introducing himself. They know him, of course. He established the church a few years prior to writing this, but it has grown and there are people who only know him by reputation.
He declares that he is an apostle of Christ Jesus, one sent from God. The context of how he uses the word is one who actually witnessed the living Christ. Yes, Christ died before Paul began his ministry, but He appeared to and spoke to Paul on the Damascus Road. It was one of the most dramatic life changing events in history. Paul made a 180 degree change in the direction of his life.
He adds then that his apostleship is by the will of God. Paul knows who set him on the path of life he is on. He did not choose the life he leads. The Lord did. In fact, if left up to himself, he would not have chosen his life. Life would have been easier if had stayed on the path he was on before meeting Christ. He would have had money and power. Yet, he does not regret it one bit.
He writes to the saints of Ephesus, the set apart ones of Ephesus. He is writing to the local church of this city. He is writing to those who have come to know Christ, both while he ministered there and after he left. Paul loves the Church, the entire body of Christ and he loves the local outposts spread throughout the world.
Paul describes them as faithful in Christ Jesus. This is better than how they are described a few years later in Revelation, when Jesus says that they have lost their first love. That is a sharp contrast if we think of the relationship between Christ and the church as a marriage, as Paul will describe it later in Ephesians. Now they are faithful and later, in Revelation, Jesus will say they have lost their first love, as though they are no longer faithful. For now they are, however, and Ephesians has few serious problems for Paul to address.
Paul finishes up his introduction as he does in almost every letter he writes: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Though the work of Christ on the cross, God extends grace to us. What is wonderful is that this grace is not a one time thing. It isn’t even a daily thing. It is a minute by minute, hour by hour thing.
Paul also wishes for the peace of God to the Ephesians (and us). Once we were God’s enemies. We were slaves to sin, seeking anything and everything but God in our lives. Now, through Christ, we are no longer enemies. We have been adopted, as Paul later says in this letter, we are part of the family of God.
Openings days and beginnings are exciting. They are filled with hope and anticipation for what may be. I’m looking forward to spending these next few weeks exploring God’s word in Ephesians.
Just a few short years ago, our country faced a financial crisis. There was an economic meltdown that few had ever seen in their lifetimes. The government, no matter your political flavor, decided to act. What they did was to try to provide a stimulus to help the economy.
Last July I did something that I had tried to do before. I gave up caffeine. There have been times that it has been difficult. I have been tempted to give in and drink a Mountain Dew a few times of late. Why? Because the Mountain Dew would be stimulating to me.
A few years ago, a gentleman went over a personality test that I had taken to help determine part of my career. I thought it was dead on about who I was. This individual said something that I have never forgotten, With an attitude that came across as though it was a character flaw, he said that I was not gregarious. The implication was that I was not a stimulating person.
Here’s the thing. You and I should be stimulating. And we can be. You might even say that it is part of the calling of our faith.
Who tells us this? Is it in the Bible?
I don’t know and yes are the answers.
The answer is found in Hebrews and we can’t honestly say who said it since we don’t know who wrote that particular part of scripture.
Yes, it is found in the Bible.
In Hebrews 10:24, the writer tells us that we should “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.”
If that is a measure of how we are doing the faith, then I stink.
I don’t know if I am stimulating those two actions, but I know for sure that I cam not considering it very often. However, what better impact could we have on each other’s lives?
If I am stimulating me and I am stimulating you, then we are doing a big part of our job. The winner? Ever member of the church.
It doesn’t matter if the government is stimulating the economy, our soft drinks stimulate us or if we have stimulating personalities. All that matters is that we stimulate each other do good and love. If we focused on doing those two things, the world would know the God we worship.
Are you stimulating others to love and good works?
We are all seeking something.
We may be seeking wealth or power. Perhaps its acceptance or love. Maybe it’s something simple, like a new job or a career.
It doesn’t matter what it is. We’re all seeking something.
I heard recently that someone I knew was at a new church. Because of circumstances that I cannot go into, this person has left their church. It might be said that this friend of mine is shopping. However, it’s really more like what I’ve already written.
My friend is seeking.
If everyone is seeking something, I wonder what it is that we should all be seeking. I understand that we will all have some differences, but is there something at our core that should be common to all of us?
I think there is. And I think I found it the other day.
In Jeremiah 29, we might find the answer. You might know Jeremiah 29 because of verse 11. Many people claim it as one of their life verses, with the Lord knowing the thoughts He thinks about us, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give us a future and a hope. (Yes, I know that Jeremiah is talking about Israel, but I don’t believe this is limited to Israel.)
Just before that, though, in verse 7, Isaiah writes that Israel should seek the peace of the city where He had caused them to be carried away. Your translation may say welfare, but is there really much difference? If someone’s welfare is not being taken care of, they do not have peace. Jeremiah goes on to say that in this peace, Israel would find peace.
That’s astounding, isn’t it? Our peace is found in the peace we seek around us. By seeking the peace of the world around us, we find peace.
So, where do we find that peace?
In the Prince of Peace, of course. We should seek our peace with Him first, and then take that peace to those around us.
We are all seeking something. Why not seek what would benefit the world and ourselves the most?
Are you seeking peace?
I’m sure you have heard of FOMO by now. If not, it is short for Fear Of Missing Out.
I’m not sure if it was around before social media, but it certainly is now. And I have certainly been guilty of it. And I’m certain that social media exploded this sensation within me.
I opened my Facebook account in November of 2008. Well, actually, my family did it for me. I had absolutely no interest in social media. When they told me that I was getting friend requests on this account of mine that they were managing, I stepped in. The rest is history.
Six months later something else happened. I started my own Twitter account. I did this to get the upper-hand on my kids. I figured that they would want to open one soon, so I jumped in before them.
I didn’t tweet much for the first six months or so. Since then, I have tweeted 47,700 times. You have to spend a lot of time on Twitter to do that.
Why did I spend that much time on Twitter, tweeting random thoughts and retweets?
Why did I spend a ton of time on Facebook, possibly neglecting time I could have spent time with my family?
Why did I blog seven days a week for a couple of years, and then five days a week for a couple of more?
We fear missing out on a ton of things in our lives. A lot of, let’s face it, truly trivial things.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve built some good friendships through these platforms. But when I examine much of what I have done in social media, it’s trivial. And much of what I do going forward will probably be trivial. And I will probably experience FOMO again and again.
I wish that we all experience FOMO in one other area. I wish that we feared missing out in our relationship with Jesus as much as all of these others things. I wish that Jesus was our treasure, something that we would be willing to sell everything we own so we could buy a field with said treasure in.
Wouldn’t that be something?
Have you ever experienced FOMO?
I can honestly say that I didn’t get on the Fast and Furious bandwagon until just a few years ago. Andrew caught one of them on TV and decided that he liked them. We began getting the DVD’s and watching them in earnest.
The fact that this series has made it this far is incredible. Who would have thought that a franchise that had its roots in street racing would transform itself into one of the best action franchises in history? Who would have thought that this seventh installment would be racing toward one billion dollars? I think even Dr. Evil would be astounded at that figure, but we won’t get sidetracked.
It would be easy to just give a standard review. You know, a synopsis of the movie, what was good about it and what wasn’t. This movie definitely is not perfect. None are. However, it ranks up there among the best of the seven.
I was a little surprised that Kurt Russell ended up not turning on the team. I had him pegged as working with the main villain. It was refreshing to see him remain one of the good guys.
The tribute to Paul Walker was done with class. You could tell that there was a lot of emotion and love that was on display while remembering one of the main stars of the film series.
However, all of that is not what I want to focus on.
After we left the theater, Andrew asked me what I liked best about these movies. I paused for a minute and thought about it. I was able to give him one word for the answer.
Family is one of the themes that has run through these movies from the beginning. Yes, the concept of family in unconventional. It’s multicultural, bringing Hispanic, Black and White culture together. Yes, they have questionable morals, but so did many of our heroes in the Bible. So do many of us.
I love the picture, very flawed that it is, that the Fast and Furious movies give us of how our churches should be. Granted, in some areas it’s difficult for our churches to be multicultural. The zip code I live in is 99.99% white. Yet, somehow we have Cubans who attend our church, as well as Haitian, African-American, and some plain old African. There is even a pastor from India that considers us his home church when he is in American.
The Church is family. The Church is multicultural. Even more so than the world of Fast and Furious.
Have you seen Furious 7? Are you going to?