You and God, Are You Good?

19_0130_DISCIPLESHIP_Remembering-Your-Confidence-in-Gods-Goodness_1021x640-696x436I often recall with great fondness that time in my life when I first began learning about God. It was in the Spring of 1982 and I had been attending a fellowship with the sweetest people I had ever met. In May, I took a class called, Power for Abundant Living, that literally changed my life for the better. In that 3 week long course, I learned so many things about God from the Bible that seemed to be the polar opposite of who I thought God was and who people said God was. Based on His Word, the Bible, I learned that God was good only and that He wanted the best things in life for me. I learned that He was tender and kind and always on my side. I followed His instructions from the book of Romans (Romans 10:9-10) and got born again, born from above. With my newly found spirit inside, I learned how God would work in me, never over stepping my free-will and teach me things I couldn’t even conceive of before. Best of all, I learned how He was now my Father and that I was His son for eternity. There’s really no comparison for the sweet fellowship I enjoyed with God as my Father during those warm times of learning and growth. God and I were good, really, really good and nothing stood in the way of our family relationship. So, when it comes to you and God, are you good?

Sadly, over the years, our relationship started to change. It wasn’t God who changed towards me, but I had changed towards Him. Some of the folks I was hanging around began to add conditions and rules that were not a part of my early experiences. What was once completely free and based entirely upon God’s grace, turned into behaviors I had to perform to be okay with God. The wrong teaching turned my focus inward and suddenly it was all about what I was and was not doing. Slowly and somewhat imperceptibly, I began to morph into one of those guys that everyone hates to be around, the religious guy. I was so overly focused on my own sin and shortcomings, that I was hard and critical with everyone else. For me, it was no longer about God’s undeserved and unearned goodness, but instead it was about me living for God in ways that others could approve of and endorse. What was once so intimately personal and perfect, became tainted with the commandments and doctrines of men. The odd thing about this, when it happens to you, is that you don’t really see it taking place. All you know, is that what once free was no longer free and the cost associated with the required new life was perpetual misery and a lack of confidence in the One I was supposed to trust the most. Heaven was brass, as the saying goes, and down the slippery slope I traveled. This experience happened for longer than I would care to acknowledge until I finally had the good sense to break away from the folks I once trusted with my life. Some of you perhaps know what I’m talking about. So, when it comes to you and God, are you still good?

Years later, much like a recovering alcoholic, I had to get honest with myself about how I had been living. Instead of relying solely on what men said, I got back to the true doctrine that had once set me free before the bondage set in. I saw again, on the pages of God’s Word, that Jesus Christ had lived a perfect life with God, so that I would not be required to try it myself. I learned again how God had solved the sin problem for me forever and that all that I had or ever enjoyed in my life was completely based upon God’s grace, given to me freely based upon the accomplished works of His son. I relearned that God was not angry with me for my shortcomings; that He wasn’t following me around accusing me concerning my every failure. Instead, like the best imaginable parent, He was lovingly guiding me back to His heart, back to His unconditional love. And, like a flower blooming in the springtime, I started to recover and grow and blossom. I had much unlearning to do and still do at times, but throughout it all I remembered again who my Daddy really was and that He wanted me to enjoy my life. I saw His hand of blessing realized in my life and in the lives of my family. I finally was able to see that it was never about me and what I was and was not doing in my life, but rather what my Father in heaven was and is doing for me; for the people He loves so deeply. It became so clear that what seemed to be good to be true, was so good because it was true. He lovingly and patiently taught me what was really behind my downfall and that the source of my difficulties was an opponent I could not see, working behind the scenes to drown me in religion and the principles and philosophies that man made up in one form or another. It became so strikingly obvious that the practices and teaching not based on the grace filled life He called me to, were error, the same error that makes people hide from God and His kindness; man made doctrines ever focusing on man’s acts and man’s experiences instead of the truth of God’s Word. Once you know, you know and life gets better in a hurry. So, when it comes to you and God, are you good my dear friend?

The truth of Power for Abundant Living still lives in my heart some almost 40 years later; the truth about God and who He is according to His own Word, the Bible. His clarion call to the heart of man is to learn of Him and who He truly is for us, to us and in us. It’s the promise of a life with indescribable peace and assurance. It’s a life filled with abundance in every category of life. It is the constant awareness of knowing you don’t have all the answers, but you know the One who does. It is healing and restoration and repair whenever needed and however needed. It is forgiveness and mercy that has no end point. It is just he greatest possible life there is and it’s there for anyone that wants to learn. You may be just starting out on your journey with God or you may have enjoyed your life with Him for many years now, but either way there’s no denying that life with God is the life He always intended for it be for His precious and beloved creations. So, when it comes to you and God, are you good? Is your relationship filled with happiness and joy and love that has no end? If not, it is always there for you if you still want it.

As for me and God, we are good, so so good…

Just some good thoughts…


You Are Not Your Behavior!

It is common, in the highly philosophical world of social media, for people to have license to say whatever they think is true. Living in America, it certainly is their right! However, not all that is written is necessarily accurate. Some things, while sounding good on the surface, work against people’s best interests. One such conclusion, usually stated in an attempt to confront hypocrisy, is the declaration that people “are” what their behaviors indicate! Are you the sum total of your behaviors? Read on…

To conclude that who you are is based on your behavior falsely assumes you are operating in a vacuum. It does not account for circumstances or the environment. It wrongly assumes that all human behavior is simply the individual acting, free of any outside influence. It does not begin to consider the vast impact of social media which spreads negative messages like wildfire. It summarily discounts your upbringing, your difficulties and your troubles. It reckons in arrogance that all people have the same opportunity to make good decisions completely removed from the situations they find themselves in, whether arduous and perilous or delightful and easy. In short, it fails to take into account the human condition, the foibles, the errors in judgment, the emotions and passions, the capacity to see the choices clearly and therefore choose wisely.

The spectrum of human behavior is vast and wide. What is wrong for one person is right for another. The person who is hurting will naturally hurt people. But, the solution for “hurt” people is not to condemn their behavior, but rather seek to remedy their hurts. People that steal and cheat and manipulate, do so because they have learned to do so, not because they are inherently bad, but because they learned no other way to get their needs met. And while their behavior is assuredly wrong, condemnation and judgment do little to offer a chance of escape. The person that consistently does “wrong” does so for a myriad of reasons. Simply demanding that they do better or assigning more and more punishments, does nothing more than telling a beggar to get a job! Surely the person that begs, whether legitimately or as part of a deception, does so at the expense of their own self image, shamefully begging as a last resort solution or in futility for not finding any other way to make it. Wrong behavior can be remedied, but whether repaired or worsened, is not an indicator of the value of that person.

God’s love for people is never based on their behaviors. God loves unconditionally and he does so because that is what people need the most. God has the ability to see what cannot be seen and understands exactly what is behind the wrong behavior. He is all-knowing and as such knows who the person really is absent all the evil influences. He looks on the heart. And in His provision for man, provided a way for men to escape the confinement of their own past behaviors. He gave man a Savior, a man subject to all the wrong choices possible for a man, yet without a failure to always make the right one. He gave him as a substitute for the man, so that the man could move forward according to the accomplished works of another man, thereby being set free from himself. In that acceptance of the Savior, His precious man could finally have the opportunity, the free will opportunity, to make a different choice. Then, men aren’t simply the sum of their behaviors, but instead a new creation.

In similar fashion, our job as fellow human beings experiencing the human condition, is to extend that same love and acceptance to other people. We must stop judging everyone and foolishly comparing their behaviors to our own in an attempt to feel better about ourselves. Though we cannot look on their hearts, we can at least acknowledge what stinkers we can be at times compete with all of the past behaviors we would like to forget! People that act poorly or rashly or foolishly, do so from a lack of understanding, not an understanding of what is right, but rather an understanding of who they really are or can be. People need your love, not a lecture! People need compassion and understanding and kindness. The kid struggling at school or exhibiting bad behaviors needs love and forgiveness more than an extended restriction! Inside we are all the same. We need lots and lots of love and acceptance. We need people to think well of us despite our wrong behaviors and as such, influence our behavior for the better. We need copious amounts of forgiveness which enables us to start again, over and over again if needed, free of judgment, resentment  and long harbored ill feelings.

Maybe you aren’t feeling so good about yourself right now. Maybe you have made some mistakes and some bad choices. Maybe you have been choosing poorly for many, many years. Well, my friend, that does not define who you are at all. All it defines is where you are at this moment in your personal evolution and growth. Your life is not wasted. It isn’t too late for you. God will give you a new beginning if you want one and it does not matter what you did in the past. It is that big and God is that good! As a writer once noted, “You made a choice in the moment that seemed reasonable in the moment, but to look back upon it in your later years with new eyes is at a minimum unnecessary and foolish.” Let your past be the past even if it extends only five minutes ago.

You are NOT the sum total of your behaviors! You are a person subject to a wide variety of influences, some of which will have assuredly led you astray. The only remedy for being led astray is to rediscover the course. Remaining lost and lamenting is a fool’s game! Know this day and everyday, that you can be exactly who you choose to be without any restriction. “Judge not another man’s servant as God is able to make him stand!”

Just some good thoughts…

You are Good Enough!

e61575f6ba345c0d95694deee5f23d5fToday I had the privilege of attending the funeral service for one of our fallen law enforcement officers. As the speakers came up one by one, each one clearly a person who truly loved God, all offering heart-warming stories about their relationship with the officer, all had one common theme; namely concerns about not being good enough. These weren’t people living on the fringes of society, committing crimes and taking advantage of their fellow-man. These were people deeply concerned about doing the right thing, setting a good example and leaving behind a lasting legacy. Yet, they all echoed the same fear, one of not being good enough. So my question for you is, are you good enough?

Ever since the beginning of time, man’s heart has longed to be righteous before God. The true nature of man is goodness and though he often struggles to accomplish it, his heart yearns to do right and to be right. It doesn’t matter if a man loves God or rejects God, the wrongs he commits pain him and the good he does, rejoices his heart. It is a universal condition and because of that, the enemy of mankind works hard to exploit it. Imagine working hard day by day to please God, only to be left with a feeling that you somehow don’t measure up. Therein is the rub… You don’t feel like you measure up because on your own you could never measure up. Likewise, you don’t feel good enough because of your own works you could never be good enough. God knows this and has made a way out for you and me!

Each of us was born into the world with the nature of wrong built right into our blood stream. It was never intended that we start that way, but it is the way we ended up. Your very own life blood carries within it the seeds of error, sickness and death. You fall easy prey to temptation and wrong choices because the seeds of wrong live within you. But God, who did not intend this condition, made a way for you and I to live above it.

The way above it to make the decision to get born again (Romans 10:9-10) and to accept God’s free gift of righteousness; to accept Jesus Christ as your savior from sin; to accept his perfect walk before God to atone for your imperfect walk.  True humility rests in understanding that you cannot lift yourself up by your own bootstraps. A humble heart is one which knows that it cannot of its own accord do anything! There’s nothing humble about perpetually feeling bad about yourself. Humility isn’t found in condemnation and feelings of inferiority. You certainly wouldn’t want that for your children, so why on Earth would you believe that God wants that for His children? The reason people think this way is because that’s what they have been taught. They have it drummed into their minds and scorched into their hearts that their walk before God, indeed their happiness before God, depends on what they do and do not do. And, while we all know that doing wrong makes us feel bad, we fail to realize that attempting to do good or to do better has no natural end point. How good is good enough? How many good works are required to earn our own righteousness before God? Again, therein is the rub. It is the enemy behind this false logic, ever working to bring us misery and frustration.

In order to do good you first have to believe you are good. The boy who believes he is a good boy will do good works because of his goodness. The boy who feels he is a bad boy will continue to do bad because of how he feels about himself. Oh he may work to make himself good, but his good won’t ever be good enough and as a consequence his good works will end in resentment. God tells us that we are good, not from any works we have done, but because of God’s goodness towards us. It’s the goodness of God that leads a man to a change of heart. God created His righteousness within us when we got born again leading unto good works. The good works we do aren’t to be loved by God but because we already are loved by God! That’s the truth…

In this short life, you cannot allow yourself to get trapped into the fallacy that you can, by your good works, make yourself good enough. All that belief will do is make you a slave, and not to God, for that matter. You’ll spend your life rehashing some mistake you made twenty years ago. You’ll dwindle away your days in self-evaluation and heart hardening condemnation. You’ll be chock full of criticism and judgement towards others because of how damn hard it is to be you! It’s not God’s will for you to live that way. Life with God was never intended to be a checklist of requirements to accomplish before your little stamp book is full enough to earn a ticket into heaven. Instead, life with God was intended to be sublime, with you never having to earn anything from God, but rather living in the greatest freedom; free to love; free to give and free to serve!

I know the people I listened to today are wonderful people with a heart full of love for God. I just wish I could share with them a better way; a way where the focus of our lives is on God and His goodness, not on ourselves and how we might strive to be good enough…

You are good enough. You know how I know? Because God said you are…

Just some good thoughts…

Ps To that brother and comrade that gave his all, you were good enough!