Tag Archives: Goodness

Two Boxes

Smartest thing I ever did was take a lesson from an expert in organizing clutter.  His name was…   let’s see, it’s around here somewhere…   Well, anyway, one of his tips was to take two big boxes and label them, “Keep” and “Pitch.”  Then, everything you pick up, toss it into one box or the other.  I discovered this system only works if you actually get rid of the “Pitch” box.

A similar task confronts those who are given new life through faith in Christ, sorting through the elements of their old nature and new, keeping the new and discarding the old.  Paul explained this process as the logical extension of our having “died with Christ” (Colossians 2:20a) and having been “raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1a – See the previous post, “Refocus”).  In a sense, he said, get yourself two boxes, a “Death” box and a “Life” box.  Toss the parts for which Christ died and keep the parts for which He was raised. 

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

(Colossians 3:5)

“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. – ( Colossians 3:8)

New things Paul listed to put in the “Life” box and keep included:

“…compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – (Colossians 3:12b-14)

Clutter can be debilitating; it feels so free to finally get it sorted and cleaned out. Similarly, the clutter of old habits and attitudes can wear us down and tangle us up with guilt and shame. Instead of fighting that battle, Paul says, drop all that old stuff into the “Death” box and haul it to the dump. Of course it is not entirely as easy as that. You will probably have to repeat the cleanup from time to time (just like you do in the basement closet!). But the boost you experience each time is worth it.

Knowing You Don’t

The man with the money turned out to be a con-artist and a crook.  And when everything came crashing down, I thought I’d been ruined.  After months of negotiations, we were about to close on the sale of our business.  Mentally, I was already spending the money.  The night before the closing, the whole deal evaporated – in the space of one phone call.  Poof!  Gone!  That happened 30 years ago.  Now, I can look back, grateful for how it worked out. What seemed like a setback actually directed me down the road to a most satisfying and life-changing career.  But at the time?  Ouch!  Would that I had known these words:

” Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”” (James 4:13-15)

My wife and I have experienced more than one of those sudden detours.  We have figured out how little we truly know or control what tomorrow holds.  In response to that truth, James basically says, understand these two things:

  • There is a God
  • You are not Him

But he also adds this insight: “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  Not only do we not know what tomorrow holds, we also don’t know if tomorrow will exist for us!  What do we do in the face of that reality?

“As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. “ (James 4:16-17)

In short:

  • Be humble
  • Since life is short, instead of building yourself a paradise you can’t keep, do good while you have the chance!

Chew on that…



Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough

I think I know this guy.  For that matter, so do you.

” Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”” (Matthew 19:16)

We know him because he is our spokesman.  He asked the question we have all asked: “Have I been good enough to go to Heaven?”  “Do I measure up?  If not, tell me what good thing to do so I can take care of it.”

Interesting.  We find out later (verse 22) that this guy is loaded.  Great wealth.  Presumably, if he wants something – anything – he only has to get out his wallet and he can have it.  He’s traded up for a three car garage. He’s sampled wine and brie in Paris.  Got the newest phone.  Or maybe he’s famous, stands in the wings and listens to the sellout crowd chant his name. He’s the guy we secretly wish we were.

But somehow, he realizes that it isn’t quite enough.  He’s not “in” yet.  There’s something missing. He senses that he hasn’t quite done enough good.  Other people look upon him as a good person.  Maybe they even named the hospital wing for him.  But he knows himself too well.  Old regrets steal his sleep.  But no matter: just tell me what good thing to do. I’ll get out my wallet and get it done.

Jesus zeroes in on the word, good.

““Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. ”” (Matthew 19:17a)

The only “One” Who is good, is God.  Anything short of God’s goodness isn’t “good.”  Almost good, pretty good, good enough, as good as it gets – none of that is perfectly “good.”  If you had a strawberry shake, made just the right way at the old fashioned soda shoppe, and then I put a tiny drop of spit into it, it wouldn’t be “good” any more.  You don’t measure good by comparing yourself to other imperfect humans.  You measure good by God’s standard.  Anything less isn’t “good.”

Jesus says,

“If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17b)

If you want to be good enough, do what God has said to do.  Perfectly, like the only One Who is good.  Like the only One Whose goodness qualifies Him for eternal life.  But the guy doesn’t get it.  He doesn’t think that way.  Which becomes obvious, with his next question:

““Which ones?” the man inquired.” (Matthew 19:18a)

How much is good enough?  We will come back to this.  But for now, let’s go stand next to the guy and puzzle over the way Jesus used the word, “good.”

I know this guy, don’t you?

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Pulling Weeds

Why would God allow evil to exist in His world?  Why wouldn’t He simply wipe out everyone who was evil?  Here’s a couple of questions to think about:

  1. In any war to eradicate evil, is it only the guilty who are injured or killed?
  2. If God were to wipe out everyone who had any evil impulses, would you survive?

” Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”” (Matthew 13:24-30)

God has created a unique environment called earth, a place where life is possible – even conscious life that thinks and chooses.  In His wisdom He allows that life to grow for now, even the “weeds,” the ones who choose evil. It is important to consider your own life and how you grow.  Are you wheat or weeds?  Most of us, if we are honest, will acknowledge some dandelions in among the daisies of our life.

That is why Jesus came.  He can fix that.  There is a time coming when that fix will make all the difference for you…

” Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:36-43,)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Nobody’s Perfect, But…

Kim Jong-un cannot qualify for Heaven. But then, neither could Mother Teresa – not on her own steam. Nobody can live up to Heaven’s standard for entry. The bar is set way too high. Jesus made that clear:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

If golf was how you got into Heaven, Tiger wouldn’t. You must be perfect. How perfect? As perfect as the Heavenly Father. Sounds harsh, but when you think it over, if any imperfection was allowed in Heaven, pretty soon it wouldn’t be Heaven. In time, it would become Detroit. That is why Jesus told the people that their righteousness would have to be much better than the Pharisees, whose sole focus in life was to obey all the commands of Scripture. You have to be perfect.

Reflect for a moment on the fact that we live with standards for perfection all the time. If you dial even one wrong number out of ten, your call cannot be connected to the right phone. If you mess up just one letter or number of a password, you cannot get on to a secure WiFi. You must be perfect, or you cannot get in. Same thing with Heaven. Jesus said so.

But Paul Harvey had something to say, too: “You need to know the rest of the story.” The “rest of the story” about the word, perfect, is that, in the original language of Matthew, it also meant “complete.” Jesus came to “complete” us by giving us His Spirit. We were created by God and designed by Him to have the Spirit within us, guiding us. Without that Spirit, there is no way for any human to be perfect. Jesus was saying, in order to enter Heaven, you must have the Spirit of God living in you. How does one get the Spirit? Jesus said, “Trust Me, … and I will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, The Spirit of Truth.”

Maybe you are thinking, “But I have already trusted Jesus, and already have His Spirit, but still I am imperfect. What now?” Don’t panic, perfection is coming. Not here, not now, but guaranteed. Jesus said:

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)