Thursday, October 6, 2011

How does your 'good' compare to mine? Take the quiz!

I love quizzes!

At the death of most important, world-changing people, I hear many people refer to the fact that the deceased person is 'in heaven' or 'looking down on us smiling' or 'is partying with their friends' or in a 'better place'. And the rational for this person being 'in heaven' or 'a better place' or whatever is usually all the good, joy, happiness or brilliance they have brought to the world or to the person speaking about them.

So, it got me thinking, "What good have I done that would qualify me, if that is the standard for 'heaven' or the 'better place'?" See how many of these 'goods' you can claim for yourself...get your calculator out. Ready? Go!

I have comforted many people who have lost a loved one after performing their loved one's funeral (+3)
I never slept around and married Julee as a virgin (+5)
I have never done illegal drugs (+2)
I pay my taxes and have never been delinquent (+2)
I have raised my son to be a strong, athletic, caring, straight A student (+3)
I have never hit my wife, nor hardly ever raised my voice or talked down to her (+3)
I have been married for 17 years and never cheated on my wife, even in my heart (+4)
I have rarely used profanity my whole life, even in anger (+2)
I have led mission trips around the world to help those less fortunate than myself (+5)
I chose a life of financial uncertainty and lower end pay to serve others when I graduated near the top of my police academy class and had multiple opportunities to do something more lucrative (+6)
I have never murdered anyone nor rarely ever even wished someone would die (+2)
I have never raped anyone (+2)
I was rarely disrespectful to my parents or adults in general (+3)
I have treated women with respect my whole life (+2)
I have served the poor and homeless food many times in poor neighborhoods and LA shelters--pictured above (+4)
I have given shelter to those who needed a place to stay in my own home for years at a time (+5)
I have given money to those who were in dire straights never expecting repayment (+4)
I have never abused my animals but have loved and provided for them (+2)
I have constantly sacrificed personal and family time to be there for others in their time of need (+3)
I have been a father to the fatherless, supporting those who were not my children out of my own pocket (+4)
I have clothed those who needed new clothes (+2)
I have supported the weary and those who were ready to give up by counseling them for hours at a time (+2)
I have risked my own life by breaking into houses that were on the verge of burning down while others stood outside to see if anyone was alive, rescuing pets and calling the fire department (+5)
I have rescued marriages and families on the verge of divorce (+3)
I have talked people out of suicide (+4)
I have coached my son's soccer, basketball, baseball and football teams (+2)
I have written songs that have brought joy and hope to people around the world (+2)
I have continually performed duties for others outside my job requirements that people fail to pay me for (+2)
I often suffer disrespect and gossip while pouring my life into others (+2)
I have made being at home for dinner and praying daily with my family a priority (+3)
I have tried to talk highly of others even if they have not done the same for me (+2)
I have visited strangers in prison to give them hope (+2)
I have rarely been in default on a debt my whole life (+1)
I have been a loyal friend and try to put others ahead of myself (+1)
I have visited the elderly and sick in their homes or in the hospital to encourage and bring them joy on my own time (+3)
I got the presidential award for physical fitness 4 times, was president of Students Against Drunk Driving, sat on the student council, was chosen for Boys State by the American Legion, and got more medals and awards then I could fit on a letter jacket in high school (+4)
I have written published articles and poetry to bring awareness and encouragement to others (+1)

Well, how did you do? Looks like my score is 107 for the things I could remember in 10 minutes sitting in front of the computer. How does my list make you feel? Bad, because you got a low score? Great, because you have done all these things and MORE? Jealous because scoring over 100 in anything is a great score?

Now, what if you and I were to list the 'bad' things we have done and that score was higher than our 'good' score and we died 30 seconds from reading this? Where will you end up? In 'heaven' or the 'better place' or 'hell' or the 'bad place'?

The reality is that everything I wrote above is true but the score or value I gave to those things is arbitrary and of my own making. What if all those things above is equal In fact, those things above are things that I should do just because I am human, not because I am 'good'. But unfortunately many of those examples are 'above and beyond' what most would do. Which actually shows you less of how 'great' a person I am and more of how wicked and unable to do 'good' people are in general. And how much we need the grace of God to get through this life and be saved in the next life.

It is a popular idea to look at the external of someone's life and say 'that person deserves good in the next life because they did good in this life'. But the issue is never 'good'. You should be doing that anyway. The issue is 'perfection' which we will never be without the grace of God. I need God to make me pleasing to Him. He did this through sending Himself, Jesus--who was God in the flesh, to forgive my sin on the cross--which outweighs my 'good' even if that was the standard.

It reminds me of Jesus' words:

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matt. 16:24-26

Today, purge from your mind the idea that God is 'impressed' with your good or someone else's. Do 'good' because you are human. 'Repent' because you are a sinner in need of grace. Once grace is found, then the 'good' actually means something--because you are emulating the God who loves you and loves others through you.

Be blessed today friend!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

God's Spiritual Groundhog's Day

In the 1993 movie 'Groundhog's Day', Bill Murray's character is forced to relive the same day over and over again until he can learn to give up his selfishness. This mind-numbing reality of going through the same motions and conversations and experiences day after day would drive any sane person to insanity. In fact, it is precisely this idea that drives Murray's character to change--because he couldn't stand doing the same things over and over infinitely never having a real 'life'.

As I have been teaching through the books of the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and now having just finished the book of Joshua at Revive, I am struck with the nearly unbelievable idea that God, who is eternal, has to deal with the SAME issues with EACH person--ALL the time. Not only has God had to deal with sinful people who act the same, speak the same, and think the same since He created the first one (Adam) in the garden of Eden, but He has to reteach each new generation the same things over and over and over and over and over and...well, you get the idea.

Looking at the history of people in their interaction with God, the Bible records that God has to patiently work with each new generation almost from scratch. Imagine that. It is not just one person who God must connect with, convict, convert, counsel, comfort, correct, and care for, but billions of people. Each person, their whole lives. Everyday (which it's always continually 'day' somewhere where people are awake doing something, so there is no 'break' for God).

So, right now God must manage trillions of decisions for the 6 billion people on earth at this moment. This is not to mention the billions of people who have already existed since the beginning of time. Meaning God as been 'reliving' the same issues and problems (and also joys and happiness) over and over and over for thousands of years for billions of people that have made trillions of decisions. Wow. That kind of patience for humanity is unreal. Beyond comprehension. This is an aspect of God I have never really considered until I started to see the sinful patterns of humanity played out on the pages of the Bible in a continuous, irritating and embarassing storyline.

I am amazed by God for many things. However this new appreciation for Him and His love for humanity to save and love and shepherd us is mind-blowing. We get mad when our child or spouse or dog won't listen after the second or third time, imagine trillions of times...
"Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" Romans 2:4

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9
Wow. True. Thank God!