Saturday, November 27, 2010

You're That Good, Really?

by Andrew Cromwell

I am constantly amazed by how much time and effort we spend at trying to convince others and ourselves that we are good people.

You might believe you really are a good person and that you have put others at the center of your life. People are always telling me, “I’ve always tried to be a good person and I’ve never done anything really bad.” And while I don’t doubt that, I also know that it is beside the point.

Just because you have tried to be good, doesn’t mean that you actually are good. What’s more, just because you don’t go around killing, stealing, or generally being a thug, that doesn’t mean you are not a self-centered, self-obsessed, royal jerk. It just means that you are good at comparing yourself with someone else whose behaviors are more “over the line” than yours.

We give ourselves far too much credit for not doing the “bad stuff” while at the same time giving ourselves a pass for bad behavior that we believe was justified. Very few of us have been tested to the breaking point so we don’t really know what we are capable of.

We are proud that we haven’t stolen anything, but we have never gone hungry or watched our children go hungry. We feel good that we are not hooked on pain meds, but we have never suffered from chronic pain.

And somehow we find a way to excuse ourselves when we do something wrong. We tell ourselves that we deserved that little indulgence or that anyone in our situation would have done the same thing.

Let’s just be honest, none of us are that good. Scripture says, “No one is good, not even one.” All of our attempts to be good are just that—attempts. Even the best of us, if you look closely enough, wither under scrutiny.

My point is not to make you feel bad about how much of a jerk you are (although you are). Rather, it is to simply remind you that when we go through life trying to “be good” we miss the point. God isn’t looking for people who are trying to “be good”—if that is your goal, not only will you fail, but you will also simply become proud at the few times when you do succeed.

Instead, God is looking for people who recognize that they aren’t good and are unable to be good and so they turn to Him for help. Romans 3:22 says, We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” Our own goodness won’t get us anywhere, but God’s goodness sure will. When we allow Him to shine through our weakness, our self-centeredness and our excuses, we discover that His power to love others and to live rightly is the only way to truly succeed.

This weekend, the pastors in Kings County would love the opportunity to help you get past the “but I’m better than...” comparisons and step into a new power to walk with God and live according to His purposes. Don’t knock it until you try it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Please and Thank You

by Tim Howard

Growing up, I remember my parents always celebrating Thanksgiving Day by inviting family and friends to a common meal with all the traditional items plus a whole lot more. I never cared for the turnip or squash but my mother had rules and one of them required every child to try a bite of every item. If you didn’t obey, you didn’t get dessert. At the time I felt this was child cruelty but regardless of my twisted thoughts, I followed her orders. And by the way, the dessert was worth it! Even though I disliked certain things about the meal, the yearly celebration was a highlight for everyone and the month of November still brings back fond memories.

The concept of thanksgiving, however, was something our family taught year round. It wasn’t relegated to a once a year event. As soon as we were old enough to speak, our parents saw fit to teach us two words that are still a part of my vocabulary. ‘Please and Thanks.’ It’s amazing to see how quickly things change when these two words are not activated on a regular basis.

A simple request for someone to “Please pass the turkey” can change into a demand when you remove the word ‘Please.’ When the word ‘Thanks’ or ‘Thank You’ is removed from our conversation people feel less appreciated and taken advantage of. We also plant seeds that grow an attitude of ungratefulness. Romans 1:21 reveals what happens when people fail to give thanks: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their views of life, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

Giving thanks will guard you from a spirit of entitlement and help you to stop taking things for granted. Giving thanks will cause a demanding spirit to leave and help you see life with a new perspective. Giving thanks will cause people to appreciate in value rather than depreciate. Maybe that’s why the Bible is full of scriptures like Psalms 107:1 “It is good to give thanks to the Lord....”

Thankful people are fun to be with! They bring a fresh perspective because they focus on what they have and don’t worry about the things they have yet to obtain. They bring joy because they choose to fill their mouths with praise rather than complaints. They create an atmosphere of levity because they accentuate the positive. A thankful heart expressed through thankful words and demonstrated with acts of love will change the atmosphere around you. Just like a thermostat that changes the climate in your home, a grateful person will influence others for the good.

Our country has set aside one day a year to remind us of the importance of thanksgiving. I personally think we should be thankful 365 days a year but THANK GOD we at least have one day still on the calendar as a reminder.

As I approach Thanksgiving Day scheduled for November 25, I’m going to invite family and friends to enjoy a common meal with all the traditional items plus a whole lot more. I won’t require every person to try a bite of every item but I will ask every person to give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His loving-kindness never ends. (Psalms 136:1) As you celebrate, don’t forget to give thanks to God and others. And btw… don’t forget to say please!