Do Something Good

For no reason at all.

Not because of the holidays. Not because you hope to get something in return. Not because it looks good on a resume. Not because you need community service hours. Not because you want to impress other people on social media.   

Do something good for someone for no real reason at all. 

Do it because you follow Jesus, and doing something good for others is a significant part of your identity. You love Jesus, and the result is that you love others with no strings attached.

Preloved

I saw a store that listed their items as “Preloved.”  They were not second-hand, antiques, vintage, and certainly not used. 

When I read the sign, all I could think about was Romans 5:8. It says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God loved us through the work of the cross while we were disobedient, non-believers. 

Maybe it is helpful to think of people without Jesus this way. They are not failures, sinners, or ungodly pagans; they are simply preloved.    

Greater

I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but God is greater.

He is greater than any obstacle you are facing.

He is greater than any struggle you find yourself fighting.

He is greater than any temptation you are facing.

He is greater than any sin you have committed.

He is greater than anything evil can throw at you, whisper in your ear, or tell others about you. 

Take Courage; God is greater.

Finish the Race

A marathon is 26.2 miles.

Supposedly the race was to be 26 miles in the 1908 Olympics but to finish directly in front of the royal family viewing box; they added 385 yards to the course. After that, races varied from 24 miles to 26.2 until 1921, when the official distance was established. 

The people who run marathons fall into two distinct groups. First are those who race to win. The second group is those who run to finish. It is quite an accomplishment to say you ran that distance. 

But here is the deal, you have not run a full marathon unless you finish the final .2 miles. It is a fantastic feat to go 26 miles, but unless you run the last 385 yards, you have not completed the race.

Life is long. The goal for a follower of Jesus is not to live for him and come up short of the finish line. The goal is for us to keep running until he says we are done. Don’t quit just shy of the finish line; keep running until you break the tape and complete the course. Just know that the final stretch may feel like the hardest.

Untapped

Something untapped is full of unused potential.

Something untapped has an ability that is available but not used.

We all have a part of our life that is not being used for God. We have gifts and abilities that are available, but they are not working for the kingdom of God.

The rewards of eternity will not be given for potential but for our use of the resources given to us. 

Making the Most of It

A person I know shared a picture of their child dressed up for some meaningful life event. It was the first day of school, kindergarten graduation, a birthday, or some moment I forgot. A wiser older parent commented, “Time flies. Be sure to make the most of every moment.”

It was not the first time I had read a statement like that connected to a picture. Some older adults and/or grandparents often offer similar advice. 

My question is, “What does it mean to make the most of every moment?”  If this person had life to live over, what exactly would they change?

I am convinced that it has nothing to do with actions and everything to do with feelings. Most people are trying to enjoy their children when they are young. They make a big deal out of every possible life event, first experience, and celebration. In fact, most people’s schedules are packed because they are trying to do too much.

The problem is that we are consumed with other things while doing these actions. We have anxiety about the party, anger about a less-than-expected outcome, busy planning the next thing, or a thousand other distractions in our heads. Making the most of life is not about adding more to your busy schedule; it is about enjoying the moments as they come. It is about being fully present in each activity without anxiety or stress.

When older people tell younger people this advice, they are saying they wish they enjoyed the experiences more while they were in them. 

Making the most of life involves adjusting our feelings in our actions. You do not need more time in your schedule; you need to be more present in the time you are given.

Automatons

In 2012 my children encouraged me to rent and watch the DVD of “Hugo.” During the movie, I was introduced to something I did not know existed beforehand. There is a device in the show called an automaton. It is a mechanical creation made in imitation of a human being. This machine “performs a function according to a predetermined set of coded instructions, especially one capable of a range of programmed responses to different circumstances.”

I will not ruin the movie for you, but one of the central pieces of the plot revolves around this robot-looking device. It includes getting the correct pieces, the proper key, and discovering the programmed actions. 

One part of the theological framework of the Church I serve is that we believe God did not create us to be an automaton. Instead, he made us free-willed individuals with the power to choose. Each one of us is not acting on some predetermined script written by God. 

You see, once Hugo gets the automaton working, it will not suddenly become a child to him. Even if it could write or say, “I love you,” it would be empty as it does not have the choice to do anything to the contrary. Robots do not express any meaningful emotions, no matter how sophisticated they might be.

The downside is obvious; if someone has the opportunity to choose, then they can also reject returning the love that is desired. Yet, God, in his enormous power, decided to limit his control over our will so that we could love him without strings. He was out to build a family of love, not a collection of automatons. 

Naivety

This is defined as a “lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment.”

Often, we think of this in negative terms. Someone who is naïve is a person who lacks something. They don’t have the knowledge that others possess. 

The truth is some things in life are not worth knowing. When Eve was tempted in the garden, the serpent said, “You will become like God, knowing good and evil.” Unfortunately, the only knowledge humanity gained was the experience of evil. 

There are some things in life you do not want to know. 

The pain of loss, the heartbreak of lost love, the shame of sin, and the guilt of a wrong decision are just a few things God is trying to keep us from experiencing.

People may look at Christians and call them naïve. I am quite fine with that. There is a blessing in not knowing some things. 

Unknown People

I heard a person complain about how there were so many people they did not know at Church. Their solution was to have an event or program where everyone could get together. Then I reminded them that they were AT a fellowship event when they said this. They responded, “Well, I already know these people; I want to know some new people.” 

While I appreciate the sentiment behind the statement, there are also flaws.

First, whenever we have activities or lunches for people to come and meet new people, the new people rarely attend. When they finally decide to come, there is a good chance they will encounter the long-time members sitting with each other and visiting. People usually choose familiar friends when they have a choice.

Second, I have been metaphorically shouting this from the pulpit for almost 30 years of ministry. It is okay not to know everyone in Church. The goal has never been for people to come and get to know everyone. Instead, the hope is that each person will develop somewhere between one and ten people they connect with on a deeper level. A few close friends are better than a mass of acquaintances. 

The only way for the Church to reach more people is for Christians to know fewer people. That sounds wrong and ungodly, but it is true. Knowing a few people intimately is healthier than numerous shallow relationships. This will also allow the Church to keep growing beyond the number of people everyone can know, which is 150-200.

Everyone needs to know someone, but no one needs to know everyone. Having a few people that are unknown to you is actually a good thing for a Church community. 

Two Types of Thanks

One type is impersonal. This is when you thank someone for their service. You are happy about what they do and want them to know it. “Thanks for being such a great teacher” is a nice phrase to hear.

The other type is personal. This is when you thank someone for their character. You are glad they are a part of your life and want them to feel special. “Thanks for being a friend” is a wonderful phrase to hear.

Just be clear. The two are not the same.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas season will be a great time to thank the people in your life for how they interact with you. Ask yourself, “Do I want them to know I appreciate their work or do I want them to feel special?”

Failing to understand the distinction will lead to confusion for one of you.