Pretty Please

img_1253When my children were toddlers and they wanted something, they were taught to say: “Please.” When they really wanted something, they would look at me with their smiling eyes, and say: “Pretty please.”

I was reminded of my kid’s pretty please this morning while I was reading in I John 3:22-23: “Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing to him.  Now this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he gave us the commandment.”

After reading this verse, I was left with two questions:

  • What is it that is pleasing to God?
  • Do I do carefully and consistently do what is pleasing to God?

Micah 6:8 is the answer to the first question, but it leads to a series of other questions: What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

  1. Do I act justly and live a life of sincerity?
  • John admonished his readers to “not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth (NKJV).”
  • Another translation of this verse says: “We must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words (GWT).”
  1. Do I love mercy?
  • Jesus said to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:36).”
  • Mercy is equated with God’s loyal love for His people, and it is one of several attributes that define God.
  • Psalm 89:14: “Equity and justice are the foundation of your throne. Loyal love and faithfulness characterize your rule.”
  1. Do I walk humbly?
  • What is the attitude of my heart towards God and my fellow man? Is it arrogance or humility?
  • James says that, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble . . . humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (4:6, 10).”
  • Paul said in Ephesians 4 that we should, “Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love (The Voice).”

After thinking about all of this, I’m still left with one question: Do I act justly, or do I just act?  How about you?

Choice Choices and Daunting Decisions

decisionEach day of your life, you are presented with the opportunity to choose to do or not to do. Many of these choices are minor, but there are times when major decisions must be made.  Some of your choices can be as simple as:

  • What clothes will I wear?
  • What should I eat for breakfast?
  • Which brand of toothpaste should I use?

Major decisions can be more taxing and involve questions like:

  • Should I be cremated or have a traditional funeral?
  • Should my money be invested in an IRA or a ROTH?
  • Should I use a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon for back surgery?

On occasion, people will call me when they are facing a perplexing situation that requires a major decision.  They will consult with me and ask for my opinion concerning where they should work, live, or who they should marry.  Their question is often:  How do I know the will of God?

Discovering the will of God is more of a mystery than what it needs to be.  Let me suggest five questions to help guide you.

  1. Is the action you are considering consistent with the principles of the Bible? God will never lead you to do something that is contrary to Scripture.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  2. Have you prayed and asked for guidance? For I know the plans I have for you; plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
  3. Have you discussed your situation with your friends? A nation will fall when there is no direction, but with many advisers there is victory (Proverbs 11:14).
  4. What will the results of your decision look like? If your mother reads about it on the front page of the newspaper, will she be proud of your actions or will she be embarrassed?
  5. Are you depressed, angry, or stressed out? If so, you need to clear your mind and calm your emotions before you try to make a wise decision.

I encourage you take some time to reflect on Psalm 37, and how it relates to your situation.

Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him

The Happiness Secret

61rSjSmiZ1LEven though I’ve never watched a full episode of Duck Dynasty, I do know the motto of the main character on the show.  Phil Robertson often says:  “Happy!  Happy! Happy!”

Have you ever given any thought to the source of happiness?  The ancient philosopher, Aristotle tried to answer this question.  He believed the most important factor in an effort to achieve happiness is to have a good moral character:  “He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life (Nicomachean Ethics).”

Happiness is not an on-going quest for instant gratification.  It is, however, the product of a disciplined life that has been focused on the practice of the virtues.

To be content, your life needs to be filled with the right content.  A good example of this is seen in a contrast of Abraham and Lot.  After a family feud, Abraham allowed Lot to claim the well-watered and fertile plains of Jordan as his territory. Lot turns his herds and servants in that direction, and after a brief period of time, he has “pitched his tent toward Sodom.”  Genesis 13 describes this city and its inhabitants as exceedingly wicked.

The difference between these Lot and Abraham is seen in the word content.  Lot’s tent (life) was full of conniving desires that led him away from the virtues of God; however, the story of Abraham was much different:  His tent (life) was content as he delighted in the goodness of God.

Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • How happy am I?
  • Does the content of my life help or hinder lasting contentment?

As you think about these questions, read this excerpt from Psalm 1:  Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.

Is happiness an accident, or is it the result of a life well-lived?

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

trustGodWhen people are confronted with the existence of evil, some will question the existence of God. When this happens, I encourage people to consider the nature of evil.  Evil and Good are value judgments, and as such, they must be measured against a morally perfect standard.  If some act deviates from this standard, it is deemed to be evil.

Early in his life, C.S. Lewis rejected the idea of God.  After a thorough investigation, he made an interesting statement:   “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call something crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”  Lewis also made the point that a portrait is a good or a bad likeness depending on how it compares with the “perfect” original.

Any time you feel intense physical or emotional pain, you may find yourself asking the question:  “Why?”  Randy Alcorn offers an excellent discussion of suffering and the sovereignty of God in his book If Good Is Good:  Why Do We Hurt?  

God is both loving and sovereign . . . Knowing this should give us great confidence that even when we don’t see any redemptive meaning in our suffering, God can see it—and one day we will too. We can trust that God has a purpose for whatever he permits. We are limited to time; God is not. From the perspective of a timeless God, the distant future—when justice is fully granted, and evil and suffering are gone—is as real as the present. What he knows he will ultimately accomplish through suffering, for his glory and our good, is not merely a possibility but a reality he can already see, in all its fullness ~Randy Alcorn

Immorality, pain, suffering, evil, and ethical failures are, according to some people reasons to question the presence of a loving God.  I strongly disagree with this assessment, and  I believe they help to prove the existence of God.  I have written about this in the past, and encourage you to read my post: Why God?

My words are neither nonsensical nor vacuous, they are the thoughts of one who has walked the path of suffering and loss on more than one occasion, and I still believe in the goodness of God.