Scheduling goodwill

One of the key points in Grow Like Jesus is that we grow in “favor with man” by building relationships that move people closer to Christ. So our relationships should point others toward a relationship with Christ if they don’t know Him and a deeper relationship with Christ if they already know Him.

There are many ways to do that, of course, but today I’d like to discuss just one: Schedule goodwill.

I’m all for random acts of kindness. And, in fact, there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. So I’m not suggesting that you only offer goodwill according to a schedule. You have an endless supply, so give it out whenever and wherever possible. But I am suggesting that you put some “goodwill giving” on your actual schedule.

There’s a common axiom in business that goes like this: Plan the work and work the plan. Apply that same concept to your goodwill. If you schedule some goodwill, you’re more likely give out some goodwill.

Audrey and I take a similar approach to prayer. While the circumstances of each day shape who and what we pray for, we also have a list we use to intentionally cover specific people, organizations, and issues in prayer. We plan the prayer and pray the plan.

I saw an opportunity to apply this to goodwill after a recent meeting with the college pastors at our church. Here’s the back story: My wife and I open our home to college students for a weekly Bible study. They lead it. We just provide a place and help out as needed. At a meeting for “host home families,” one of the college pastors suggested that we send an encouraging text each week to the group leader.

I loved the idea. But why stop with the leader of the college Bible study?

Since I’m one of those guys who tends to forget stuff, I decided to schedule a reminder to text or email a different person each day with an encouraging word. It’s literally on my calendar.

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pixabay.com

Here’s my schedule (subject to change):

Monday: A pastor.

Tuesday: A friend.

Wednesday: A college group leader.

Thursday: A missionary we support.

Friday: Someone in my small group.

It won’t take long to send these messages, so I might send five a day. That would be 25 encouraging messages a week.

We’ll see how it goes. Frankly, I tend to ebb and flow on such things. I’ll start strong and go through some dry spells. But if a message pops up every day on my calendar reminding me to encourage someone, chances are better that I’ll do it.

So what sort of goodwill can you fit on your schedule?

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4 Ways to Deal with Modern Goliaths

Some stories never grow old. No matter how many times I read them, they always teach me something new. And even if I’m learning the same lesson for the second, third, or forth time, it still seems fresh. It seems the older I get, the more I need reminders about the lessons I’ve learned before.

Take, for instance, 1 Samuel 17, the chapter in the older testament that tells the familiar story of David and Goliath. We all know this one, right? You didn’t even have to attend a church, synagogue or mosque to hear it.

So what can we learn, or re-learn, from this story that applies to our lives today?

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As my wife and I reread it recently, it struck me that our culture is filled with warriors standing in loud and open defiance of the living God. They aren’t physically big, but their presence is huge and intimidating – like a nearly 10-foot-tall warrior dressed in full armor and holding a huge spear.

They come out each day on social media, in blogs, in newspaper columns, on television talk shows, at protest marches, at political rallies, in courtrooms, and at work. They shout, in effect, “This day I defy the armies of Israel!” (1 Samuel 17:10) And they tell anyone who follows Jesus, “Come here … and I will give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” (1 Samuel 17:44)

So what can we do about the Goliaths in our lives?

Well, it’s not a good idea (aka not Biblical) to stick a smooth stone in their jagged foreheads. But we don’t have to model David’s approach exactly to benefits from his story. So here are some non-violent lessons we can learn from the shepherd rock-thrower:

Recognize evil as evil.

David showed up at the scene to bring supplies to his brothers and check up on them for his father. When he heard Goliath’s rant, he knew it was evil and he said so.

“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel?” he said. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)

He immediately saw the need to take action and wondered why no one (including his brothers) was doing something. Too often we turn a blind eye to evil rather than confronting it in some proactive way. We sit around like Saul’s army and complain about it, but we don’t do anything.

Sharpen our skillsets.

When King Saul pointed out that David was smaller and far less experienced as a warrior than Goliath, David pointed out that he had some mad skills of his own. As a shepherd, he had defeated lions and bears. “This uncircumcised Philistine,” he said, “will be like one of them…” (1 Samuel 17:36)

If David had spent his days sitting on a rock eating pomegranates, he wouldn’t have been much of a shepherd – and he wouldn’t have been ready for Goliath.

When we face evil in our world, we don’t need skills with a sling. But other shepherding skills could come in handy. We need to be intellectually sharp, for instance, and skilled in emotional intelligence. These are some of the ways Jesus grew “in wisdom.” (Luke 2:52)

Fight for God, not ourselves.

David knew there was a reward attached to victory over Goliath, but he also knew he was fighting to defend God’s honor, not his own. And while he was confident in his ability to fight this battle, he knew victory would come from God – as it always had.

“The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear,” he said, “will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37)

And he told Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. … All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45, 47)

Act in faith.

When Goliath “moved closer to attack him,” David didn’t run away or even stand and wait for the battle to come to him. He “ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.” (1 Samuel 17: 48) There was no doubt or fear in his heart because he knew God was on his side. Win or lose, his life was in God’s hands.

We know from 1 Samuel 16:13 that Samuel had anointed David and, so, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him. We also know that as followers of Jesus, that same Spirit lives within us. (Acts 2:38) If we walk in that Spirit, we know He will lead us. He will help us recognize evil when it defies God, and he’ll help us respond in truth and love, trusting God for the results and giving God the glory.

No time for a midlife crisis

I’ve been putting off a midlife crisis for years, because I’m simply unwilling to define my “deathday.”

What’s a deathday? It’s that number on the right side of the dash on your tombstone. One date is your birthday, then the dash, and then the deathday. I’m a math weakling, but even I know it’s hard to find the middle of something without know where it begins and where it ends. So how can I have a midlife crisis without know when my life will end?

Based on family history, I used to predict that I’d live until my mid-50s. But that was no good when it came to scheduling a midlife crisis. You can’t have a midlife crisis in your 20s! Your 20s are reserved for other crises.

Now that I’m in my early 50s, I’ve decided I might defy family history. My immediate male ancestors were heavy smokers; I’m not. And I’m in no hurry to go anywhere. I’m looking forward to what follows death, but I’m just hitting my stride here on Earth. I’m madly in love with my wonderful wife. I have great kids and amazing grandkids. I enjoy my work. And when I get out of my own way, I usually feel like I’m contributing to the world around me.

As the Apostle Paul put it, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Do I have problems? Sure. And most of them are self-created (like a midlife crisis). But, more importantly, I have peace. Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in my you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome this world.” (John 16:33)

Mom and her great grandchildren
Mom and her great grandchildren

So I take heart and do my best to live as if I’ll die tomorrow and plan as if I’ll live forever.

What’s that look like? Well, it looks like my mother. She’s 80 going on 180, and she’s very much a role model.

We recently had a party in her honor and a bunch of family and friends showed up to celebrate with us. I was reminded again of how well she is living her life. Present tense.

She never stops growing like Jesus, and that, I think, is her secret. She goes about each day loving God and loving others. She takes risks to serve others. And she seeks truth and tries to learn from it. She follows Paul’s advice and conducts herself “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)

When we live like that, we are too busy serving God and others to create a midlife crisis that’s all about ourselves and our selfish desires.

I often fail in my attempt to live like that. OK, I regularly fail. As a result, I’ve experienced thousands of selfish, self-created crises, any of which might qualify as a midlife crisis. So whenever I die, feel free to take my age and divide by two to get my midlife age. Then pick whatever crisis I was dealing with at that time and you can call it my midlife crisis. I’ll be OK with that, and even if I’m not, I won’t be around to argue about it. In the meantime, I’ll follow Mom’s lead the best that I can.

Celebrating Dependence Day

I love holidays largely because of the one thing they all have in common: A call to gratitude.

Holidays remind of us of who we are, where we’ve come from, our shared struggles, and our common victories. And if we aren’t too caught up in the surrounding hype – the food or the presents or the festivities – we reflect on all those things with shared gratitude.fireworks-710375_960_720

We live in a great country, don’t we? A country built on the sacrifice and service of men and women who fought for and, in some cases, died for the freedoms we share and enjoy. And while we might lament much about where we are and where it seems we’re going as a nation, we can still be grateful for all that we have.

So I’m grateful for our independence. And I hope you are, too.

At the same time, there’s an ironic twist to the strength of American independence: It’s founded on complete dependence. Thus Independence Day also can rightly be celebrated as Dependence Day.

Dependence, you say? On what?

Our country was founded and has grown to greatness because of the independence of a people who have been dependent on God.

George Washington said, “It’s the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

The more we stray from that dependence, the more we risk the freedoms we’ve inherited. Our country simply is not designed for independence without dependence. As John Adams put it, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

So now that we’ve rightly celebrated our independence, let us live in full dependence to the One who allowed us to have it.