Monday, February 24, 2014

Love the good...

Week 9:

Amos 5:14-15 14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live.  Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.  15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.  Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

Through my years of parenting, I have heard Christian child rearing experts talk about teaching our children to love the good.  In doing so, we will build a moral warehouse in our children’s heart.  Loving the good is not just for children.  I can benefit from loving the good as well. 

For me and my profession, I spend a lot of time redirecting the negative.  What happens for me is that I tend to focus on the negative.  I catch myself demanding perfection in many aspects of my life with little grace for imperfection.  I notice myself seeing only what is incorrect and negative and not focusing on the positive and things that are right.  In fact, as I do some reflection, I notice that negative is a small percentage of what is really going on.  Yet, I allow this negative to demand most of my attention. 

For the most part, I feel like I do love the good but do not focus much on the good.  So, my question to myself would be, “Do I really love the good or just love the idea of good?”  If I am focused on the negative most of the time, it is hard to have a love for the good.  I am clouded by the evil.  I do hate evil, yet I let it be a focus for me.  I see evil every day in our society.  I am bothered by it.  I judge people’s character by it.  Yet, there is very little I can do about the evil.  I can speak against it.  I can teach those around me to avoid it.  However, only God can defeat the evil.  Still, I focus on how bad things are and let it affect my emotions, judgments, and decisions.

This passage reminds me how I am to love the good.  I am to seek the good.  It is life.  The negative sucks the life out of me.  Where there is good, God is nearby.  It is good for me to hate evil but not focus on it.  For me, to love the good is to focus on what is good.  I’ve been working on my practice of trying to “Catch them doing something good.”   Overcoming the remnant of focusing on the negative is a difficult task.  However, as I am intentional about catching the good, I notice the good things more. This reminds me of Philippians 4:8 “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.” 

One other piece that has helped me to love the good is the practice of looking at the core of the person.  He/she may have taken part in something evil, yet he/she is still good at the core of his/her being.  God’s love is still flowing toward his/her life.  When I see the good in a person, it helps me to separate the evil deeds from the character of that person.  This fits the old adage, “Love the sinner and hate the sin.”  I know that this phrase is quite overused; yet it is important to see into the person like Jesus did.  I must condemn the evil and point out the choice of the person while still loving him/her.  I also can be there to walk alongside the person as he/she deals with the consequences of the choice.  This helps me to love the good and see the good.  And, hopefully I have helped them see the good that God has placed inside of them as well.  It is good to recognize our poor choices and even feel some convicting guilt to move us back toward the good.  However, a continual shame and withdrawal of love causes a person to believe he/she is evil at his/her core and believe there is no hope. 

Seeking the good, loving the good, noticing the good versus focusing on the negative, following the evil, and condemning the person brings life.  This practice brings life for my soul as I focus on the positive.  This practice brings life for the other person’s soul as I love him/her for who he/she is and not for what he/she does.  I am challenged to love the good in this way.


1.      What is the negative in your life that you focus upon?
2.      What are some of the positives that you may be missing in the cloud of negative?
3.      How does loving the good play out for you in your life?
4.      In what ways can you better seek the good?
5.      What will help you to focus on the positive?
6.      This week, keep a record of how often you focus on the negative versus how often you focus on the positive.  At the end of the week, bring this list before God and ask His guidance and blessing on you going forward.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Dwelling with the sacred...

Week 8:

This week, spend time in meditation over this passage.  Follow the instructions below the passage as your guide.
Psalm 15
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

Cross references:

You will be reading this passage three times following the guidelines below:

1.  First reading.  Read the passage through, one time, slowly.  Pause between each clause.  After you finish this first reading, be silent for a minute or two.

2.  Second reading.  Read the text slowly once again, pausing between phrases.  But this time pause even longer and be aware if any of the words or phrases that catch your attention, or seem to stand out in some way.  Make a mental note of those.  After you finish the second reading, write down those special words or phrases.

3.  Third reading.  Reread the passage up to the word or phrase that touched you in some way.  When you reach that word or phrase, stop and repeat it a few times.

4.  Pondering.  Reflect for a while on the phrase that moved you.  Repeat it a few more times.  Let the words interact with your thoughts, your memories or any other Bible passages that come to mind.  Let it touch your heart, desires and fears.  Begin to wonder, “What might God want to say to me specifically”?

5.  Prayer.  Turn that last question into a prayer, asking God, “What is the word you have for me in this passage, God?  Is there anything you want to say to me today?”  Listen.  Write down anything you sense God might be saying to you.

6.  Rest.  Be still and silent for a while.  Enjoy being in the presence of God.  In this step you move from doing to being.  Simply be for a while.

7.  Response.  Ask yourself and God, “What am I being called to do as a result of the word I have been given?”  Perhaps you are feeling challenged to love God more, or to accept some aspect of who you are, or to serve someone you know or to begin changing some aspect of your character.  Whatever it is, write it out.  “Today God is calling me to be a more ______ person.  Be with me God and teach me how.”   Thank God for the word and the calling you have been given. 

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Commands rooted in love...

Week 7:

Deuteronomy 6:20, 24-25 20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?”  24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

Commands, stipulations, decrees, laws, guidelines, rules, discipline, obey…it all sounds daunting, discouraging, and negative at times.  Why do those words, especially associated with God’s Word, seem to be overbearing at times?  Why do they come across as negative to so many?  Furthermore, why do so many (me included) follow these out of fear for much of our lives?


A lot of this depends on our narrative of God.  For most of us, our parents and earthly authority figures have taught us about rules, laws, discipline, etc. and in most cases out of love.  However, there are those times where the discipline we have received has been accompanied by a withdrawal of love.  Now, as I say this, I recognize that our parents and godly authority figures have led us as best they could.  This withdrawal of love is usually based out of a hurt heart on the part of our authority figure.  Out of those hurt feelings, he/she protects the heart by withdrawal.  As a parent, I make mistakes.  I am flawed and at times within my discipline, I withdraw my love.  That is not my intent; however, out of my own wounds, insecurities, and limited knowledge, I have made this mistake.  I also realize that some of my readers may have had an upbringing that was quite painful and their caregivers were intentional in withdrawal of love.  For that, I feel tender. 


For years I have believed in a God that loves me, but is disappointed in me quite a bit of the time.  In my head, I know God’s love.  In my heart, I question if He loves me all the time.  Where does this come from?  I have projected onto God how I have been handled by my authority figures.  I have taken earthly mistakes and assumed that God treats me the same way.  And, sadly, I have taught my children the same lesson.  My intent here is not to cast blame or make those of us who have enforced God’s law without love feel guilty.  I would like to see myself and others walk a new walk in God’s love.

I have tried very hard to make God’s Word practical to life.  Of course, many times I become Pharisaical and push God’s teachings with a hardline approach.  For the most part, I have lived life teaching a practical approach.  God has reasons for his commands, laws, stipulations, and decrees.  After all, He created us; wouldn’t He know what is best for us?  I appreciate what Henry Blackabay says in Experiencing God:

God loves you deeply and profoundly.  Because He loves you, He has given you guidelines for living so you will not miss the full dimensions of the love relationship.  Life also has some land mines that can destroy you or harm your life.  God does not want to see you miss His best, and He does not want your life destroyed by foolish choices…That is the purpose of God’s commands.  He wants you to receive life and have it abundantly…When God gives you a command, he is not restricting you.  He is freeing you.


God loves us.  His commands are rooted in love.  He created us, knows us, and wants what is best for us.  He sent Jesus to die for us so that we can enter into a relationship with Him.  There are two books that have helped me shape this view of God.  The first one is The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith.  This book helped me to see the way I have viewed God.  The second book is Gateways to God by Dmitri Bilgere.  This book has helped me begin a journey of believing in and living in God’s love for me.  My encouragement to you is to look at what you believe about God’s commands and God’s love.  Look at how God has loved you and how His commands are rooted in love.


1.      Who in your life has shaped your narrative of God?
2.      Where in your life do you feel God has punished you?
3.      From that punishment, how did you feel about God?
4.      What parts of your life do you feel are a disappointment to God?
5.      Identify the earthly authority figure where you picked up this idea of being a disappointment to God.
6.      This week, notice where you feel unloved by God.  Ask Jesus to come into that situation.  Sit in silence and listen for Jesus.  What truth is He telling you about God’s love?

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Times of trouble...

Week 6:

Proverbs 24:10 If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!

I was reading out of Proverbs 24 with my group the other night and this one verse seemed to stand out for me.  I noticed how James 1 and Romans 5 came to mind about facing trials through perseverance.  My thoughts began with knowing that trouble is inevitable, and trials in life will happen.  I thought about how I have reacted in times of trouble.  I noticed how strong a message this little verse seemed to deliver.

If I falter in times of trouble, then am I weak?  Do I lack strength when the hard times come and I crumble?  Should I be preparing for trouble so that I may have the strength to stand?  Wow!  What is this verse saying to me?  Here is what comes up for me around this passage.  See what you think.

The first thing that comes to mind is the passage in I Corinthians 12:10 where the Apostle Paul is delighting in his weakness for it there that he is strong.  The idea is that he has humbled himself to the point that Christ is his strength.  He cannot boast in his own actions, but Christ living in him.  Maybe I am to falter at times in order to lean on Christ Jesus.  Maybe I am to know that I am human and not God through a time of trouble.  So, sometimes my strength needs to be small.

 Another thought for me is around preparation.  I think about Jesus talking about when He will return.  I think about how He does not even know the time of His return.  So, His charge is “be ready”.  I think that charge also inspires me to be prepared for times of trouble.  I am not saying that I should look upon things in a negative light or live a life of fear of trouble.  I am saying that I need to continue to prepare my heart for times of trial.  The more I study, the more I practice God’s Word, and the more I train my heart and soul; the better prepared I become.

Still, another thought for me is around routine and repetition.  As I prepare my heart and soul, I do so in a routine.  I practice what I believe enough to feel strength and confidence in my faith.  When I was an athletic coach, I practiced my teams through situations and routine.  There were times where unapologetically, our practices were boring.  We took routine groundball after routine groundball.  The result of that routine and repetition was my teams could make the plays in games as if they were second nature.  Because of that confidence, many times my players would make extraordinary plays.  The other part of our practice would be spent on placing them into as many situations as possible in order to prepare them for just about any bad thing that could happen in a game.  It was this kind of work that made my teams successful and able to work through adverse situations.  The same goes for my life.  I’ve seen it enough to have the strength to overcome.

Finally, I cannot discount the Holy Spirit of God living inside of me.  Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come and He lives inside of us when we believe in Jesus.  That gives me strength when I feel I do not have strength.  I am able to stand strong on the Spirit in times of trouble.  I would venture to say that if my strength is small, it is because I am not relying on the Spirit. 

It is through weakness, preparation, routine, repetition, and the Holy Spirit where I become strong enough to handle a time of trouble.  My faith is partially based on this strength.  Thank God that he has given me this gift.


1.      How did this passage land for you?
2.      What were your initial thoughts and reactions?
3.      Where do you find your strength in time of trouble?
4.      Give an example of a time of trouble where you faltered.
5.      What did you learn from that time that may have created strength for the next time of trouble?
6.      This week, look at your routine.  Do you spend some time preparing for time of trouble?  Maybe you do and just do not realize it. 

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