Goodness Overcomes

“Good job!”  Good boy!” “You were so good today.” “She is a good person”. Goodness is shown by actions.  We know when we see a good behavior, a good word, a good response.  But how do we know what is good?  Some people call evil good, others say good is evil.

In September, a 19 year old employee at a Dairy Queen saw evil but decided to respond with good.  A blind man in line had dropped a $20 bill.  A woman behind him picked up the $20 and put it in her pocket.  Seeing her actions, the employee told her to give the money back to the blind man, but she refused, cursed and walked out. She didn’t see her actions as evil.  In fact through her selfishness she thought she was doing good – for herself.  She got a free $20 bill at the expense of a blind man’s lack of sight to see it fall.

The employee went to the blind man, sat down, apologized for the woman’s actions, and gave him $20 from his own pocket.  Thankfully, the good he did influenced someone else to do good and write a letter to Dairy Queen praising his actions.  Then another employee posted the letter on Facebook where others saw it and it became national news.

We see more and more evil around us every day, and many of us don’t even do anything about it.  When we close our eyes to evil and ignore it, we are not doing good.  Good calls out evil. Good takes action. The only way we can overcome evil is by replacing it with good.

This confusion about what is good and what is evil became a problem with the Israelites and Isaiah the prophet warned them.  He said, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter!…That is why the Lord’s anger burns against his people,” (Isaiah 5: 20,25)

When a culture becomes selfish and cannot see the difference between what is good and what is evil, that culture will soon die from within.  We in our culture are becoming confused.  We can’t tell when something is right or wrong, when something is good or evil.

Just two generations ago these actions would be considered evil by most people in our country:  divorce, pornography, cheating in business, homosexual marriage, laziness in providing for your family, abortion, supporting immoral and violent movies, and hatred against Christians. Yet to many they are now called good and acceptable.

Jesus taught, “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit… A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”  (Luke 6:33)

Those who abide in Jesus, the Vine, can’t help but produce goodness.  The goodness they produce in their lives come from the good that Jesus puts in their hearts as they follow Him and desire to obey Him.  Jesus encouraged His followers, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Goodness will always do what is right and then evil will have to flee.  As Paul wrote, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:21

Is my goodness showing in my decisions?  Am I making good choices because it is the right thing to do?  Like the employee at Dairy Queen, will you make a good decision this week for the good of someone else?  Will you and I stand up for good?

“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”  3 John 1:11

“Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”  Romans 12:9

“The supreme test of goodness is not in the greater but in the smaller incidents of our character and practice.”  F.B Meyer

“Of all virtues and dignities of the mind, goodness is the greatest, being the character of the Deity; and without it, man is a busy, mischievous, wretched thing.”  Frances Bacon

 

 

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The True Vine

North Carolina’s number one industry is agriculture.  And there’s no better place to see the produce and animals than the North Carolina State Fair.  Each October our family joins thousands of people to enjoy the rides, pig races, farm animal judging, NC food products, honey cotton candy, and fried foods.  We also look for the ribbon winners (sometimes ourselves) for crafts, art, photography, sewing, cakes and cookies.  One of our favorites is to see the largest produce– pumpkins, apples, sweet potatoes. This year’s blue ribbon, largest pumpkin weighed 799.6 lbs!  There was a sweet potato larger than a person’s head and a watermelon weighing in at 282 lbs.

Looking at the pumpkin and sweet potato I tried to imagine how large the plant and vine must have been in that garden.  That pumpkin couldn’t have grown without a strong vine giving it nutrients and supporting its growth.  Without the vine that pumpkin wouldn’t have existed.

The vine is essential in a garden or a vineyard.  In a vineyard the vine is the main part of the grapevine.  It extends from the root system in the ground and holds the branches where the grapes are produced.

Jesus said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener…Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me…I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:1, 4-5 NET)

Who is Jesus, the true vine, the one I need to be connected to, and relate so closely to?

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die.”  (John 11:25-26)

He is the one who came from God, lived a perfect life, and who died and rose from the dead as witnessed by hundreds of people.  He died out of love, compassion, and forgiveness so that we could know God’s deep love for us.  We deserved the penalty of death for our sins but He chose to pay it for us instead.

Trusting in Jesus as my Savior makes me His follower.  Then I desire to know Him more because He loves me and cares about me.  This is how Jesus described Himself:

I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29

Jesus is my life source, my joy, and my purpose for living.  I cannot live without His love, forgiveness, peace, kindness, and gentleness.  As I remain with Him he teaches me how to live through His words. He will give me the power to accomplish what He asks me to do.

Because Jesus is the True Vine I can know true life.  Do you know the True Vine?  Are you remaining with him daily?  He longs for us to know Him more deeply and to produce the most abundant fruit in our lives.

Faithfulness in Prayer

This week more than two thousand people from over 110 churches gathered together in the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.  For a musical concert?  A play?  No… prayer.  Many different churches and denominations joined together – African American, Messianic Jews, Middle Eastern believers, Hispanic, Asian and White all praying as one voice.  All singing praises, crying out to God to revive our hearts and churches and restore our nation.  The event was organized by men and women faithful to prayer through Raleigh Area Concerts of Prayer.

Why would over 2,000 believers in Jesus give up a week night for praise and prayer?

Those believers abide.  They remain so closely to Jesus that they know His heart, His words, and His commands.  They are faithful to pray because He has asked them to pray. They are faithful to pray because they know that “apart from Me you can do nothing”.  (John 15:5)

Jesus was faithful to pray:

“He went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12

“I am praying for them… ” (His followers) John 17:9

Jesus also expected his followers to be faithful to pray:

“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”   Luke 18:1

“Pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44

“Pray then like this…Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” Matthew 6:9,10

“Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Matthew 9:38

Jesus asks his followers, “Abide in me…” Stay with me.  Remain with me.  Know my heart and my words so you know how to pray.  Then He said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.” John 15:7-8

This weekend I will spend time praying with other believers in our nation through the PrayerCast Simulcast in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  This event, on October 18-19, will feature some of the foremost leaders on prayer to equip and encourage us to pray.  Why don’t you join me and sign up at prayercastlive.com?  And then share with me how God is leading you, your church or city in prayer.

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.”                                       Oswald Chambers

Concerts of Prayer

 Raleigh Area Concerts of Prayer

Grow peace, not kudzu

You can see it everywhere.  In the southern United States this invasive plant envelopes trees, forests and structures.  It has been spreading at the rate of 150,000 acres annually and has devastating environmental consequences.  What is this plant that has been nicknamed, “The vine that ate the South“?  Kudzu

Kudzu chokes out the beauty of the trees it covers until the trees are unrecognizable.  You actually can’t see the trees for the kudzu.  It is like a monster that keeps growing.

We have another monster growing in our country as well. The rate of growth has exceeded all expectations.  People are being choked out and covered by it.  It goes by several names –fear, panic, and pessimism.  You can’t even recognize the person when they are covered in it – worry.

Worry from the troubles of life – unemployment, natural disasters, healthcare, bankruptcy, foreclosures, fires, and killings.  It seems like the worries of life have sucked the wind out of people’s sails, taken away laughter and consumed so many, just like kudzu.

Yes, this world is full of troubles.  Awful terrible troubles.  We were told these things would happen. Jesus told his followers, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Yet, Jesus comforted his followers by promising His peace to them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27

Peace overcomes worry as we abide with Jesus and His words.  It may mean clinging to His words every second of each day to dispel the growing vines of worry.  Think about these words:

“Jesus said, ‘… I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing… Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?.. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.”  Luke 12:22-31

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

We can enjoy His peace right now.  Take a deep breath and shake off the growing vine of worry.  It is freeing. There is a loving God who cares.  His peace will guard my heart and mind as I live in Christ Jesus.  Are you ready to shake off the monstrous vine of worry?

 

Kudzu
Kudzu

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fragrant Aroma

The fragrance was everywhere – the smell of fresh oranges, apples, plums and fresh cut watermelon.  No… I wasn’t at our farmer’s market, in an orchard or a grove.  I was attending and speaking at a women’s retreat in North Carolina.  The weekend was filled with laughter, tears, praying, reading God’s word and opening up our real lives with each other.

Grace, love, kindness, gentleness, goodness, thankfulness and joy filled the air.  Women from different backgrounds, different colors, coming from 7 or more different states, sharing our joys, sorrows, burdens, pain from broken lives and fears of the future.  We listened with patience, prayed with faithfulness, spoke words of kindness, loved each other with hugs, and laughed our socks off with joy until the wee hours of the night.

Why? – Because we belong to each other, we are sisters, our Father is the gardener and Jesus is the Vine.  (John 15:1)

The Result? – “My Father is honored by this, that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples.” John 15:8.  Jesus prayed, “…may they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me…”  John 17:23

Our culture not only watches our individual lives as believers in Jesus but most often the community of believers.  How we act towards each other, our love for one another, our actions and words say a lot.

Are we fragrant or do we smell like rotten fruit full of unforgiveness, bitterness, pride, selfishness and impatience?

Prayer is the greatest unifier of believers.  It forces us to tear down walls.  Walls made from pride, prejudices, and denominational divisions.  On October 15, I will participate with over 100 churches and over 2,000 believers in Raleigh, NC for Prayer 2013 at the Memorial Auditorium.   Pastors from the area will lead us in praying for our area and nation.  There will be no denominations or ministries listed or advertised.  Just praying with one another and seeking God together.  Now if we could join together like this more often out of love and need for each other – the world would notice.  I sure hope the community of Raleigh notices that night.

“For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing –.”  2 Corinthians 2:15

Have you experienced some special times of fragrant aroma among some community of believers?  Are there ways you can join together with other believers in your area for prayer?