Thursday, January 29, 2009

Doing What We Ought To Do

Motivation is getting people to do what they ought to be doing. Nobody has to motivate me to eat the second piece of pie. Nobody has to be motivated to do anything they want to do or find easy to do. Motivation, however, moves people toward what they ought to do.

Why are people reluctant to do what they should but don’t want to do? I’ve only lived 44 years so I can’t speak with certainty, but it sure seems like just in my lifetime people in America have turned more and more selfish. Decisions are based upon selfish desires rather than upon what ought to be. If a person can benefit from doing something that might hurt others or by not doing something that would benefit others, then that’s the choice many will make.

How many times have you found that what is good for the individual actually harms the group. We have to start looking at what is best for others. Listen to the words Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV). Two important issues come out of these words. First, don’t be selfish. It is proper to think about what affect your actions may have on someone else. Second, you must still think about yourself but in balance with your concern for others.

So, in order for one to do what he ought to do, he must be motivated. Motivation can come from within; it’s just knowing what is right and doing it. Motivation can come from the beneficiary. The person in need acts to compel you to do what you ought to do. Motivation can also come from a third party. A pastor sees a need and wants to mobilize his church to meet the need. Leadership is the key to motivating like this. Hopefully, our spirits connect with the Spirit of God and we are internally motivated to do what we ought to do. Hopefully, we act mercifully toward those in need having been motivated by their plea. Hopefully, churches have leaders who, like Jesus, can move them to do what ought to be done.

Factors such as selfishness, greed, envy, or guilt are not valid. But such things as love, goodness, kindness, and mercy are valid. The Golden Rule especially applies here: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12 NIV).

Monday, January 26, 2009


Riley got in trouble today. He said a little rhyme that makes fun of people. He may not even realize it, but the words are hurtful.

He's just trying to be cute but he has to realize that he can't say just anything he wants. There are consequences to our words and actions.

Some things are just wrong. Nothing can justify it. I try to excuse it when I say or do something wrong; I guess it's human nature. But it's still wrong.

We can all do better. Today is a good day because we've learned something.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winners and Losers

In a game of winners and losers, there really are no winners. To gain at the expense of another is selfish. To brag of it is arrogance. To celebrate it is childish.

According to, as the video screens projected the image of President George W. Bush, boos could be heard among the masses in Washington today. When the helicopter taking now-former President Bush to Andrews Air Force Base for his flight home to Texas, the crowds cheered his exit and some sang, “Na-na-na-nah, na-na-na-nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye."

What Americans should celebrate today is the great freedom this country affords each citizen. The election of Barack Obama illustrates this feature of our country. His inauguration demonstrates to the world how a country can peacefully transition power from one leader to another.

The family of five (Why weren’t the kids in school?) at IHOP this morning was rushing the waitress and eating at a frantic pace. At 11:00 they jumped up and headed for the door. The mother looked at me and said, “We have to get home and get in front of the TV!” I hated to tell her that it would be too late to see the swearing in of the forty-fourth president and to hear his inaugural address. So I just smiled and nodded. I really don’t think they cared; they had won.

Does the non-white community think they have lost every other election? If white people are supposed to accept Obama as the president of all the people, why haven’t they been able to accept the forty-three white presidents as the presidents of all the people?

What was once in a melting pot is now being strained and separated. Instead of being one people and one culture, we are a country of separate identities; President Obama called us a “patchwork.” And the truth is that each segment sees itself as a minority in some way and is fighting to be heard. Seems like if we were all one people and one culture there would be no minority; there would be one voice, one need, one solution.

Conservative politics and economic policy is concerned with (and in the past has proven effective at) helping every American obtain a better way of life by extending opportunity and creating an atmosphere of optimism. Liberal politics and economic policy is about advantage: winners and losers.

I believe the greatest problem facing the USA is spiritual. President Obama said in his address today that “we are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.” No wonder there is conflict! Of the five groups, Christians are the only ones who want everyone to be winners – by placing faith in Jesus Christ. In the New Testament book of Galatians, a letter to Christians living in Asia Minor in the mid-first century, Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christianity does not discriminate. People who claim to be Christians may discriminate, and that is wrong. But Jesus embraces all who will come.

The reason the greatest problem we face is spiritual is because our country is not a Christian nation. Maybe it never was. At least in recent generations the commitment to and expansion of Christianity has been such that religions with other answers to spiritual questions have gained a foothold. So instead of being one in Christ, we are separate. And separation begets winners and losers.

America needs another Great Awakening. It is time for Christian – true Christians – to pray and to take the message to the streets.

In politics it is easy to create a false sense of “winning.” But it is always at the expense of the losers. And in such cases, the country loses. Fiscal budgets and legislative bills can no more bring us together than can bombing our enemies or building bridges to tomorrow (all of these are important in a nation’s life). But the Bible can bring us together so that we are winners.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Just in Time


I just returned from a mad dash to the bank. The deposit has to be in by 2:00 to count as today’s business. We have car payments drafting today so it was mandatory I make it in time.

Today is one of my favorite kinds of days. A wintry mix is falling from the sky! Mostly freezing rain. The air temp must be well below zero because the ice on the pine trees is beautiful. The roads were just wet; that was good! I did not have time to drive slow. I stayed with the speed limit, but I had to get there on time. A minute late would really cost us!

That reminds me of God’s call to each of us to come to Christ. We have time now to respond and accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. But that time will come to an end – and we don’t know when! But when Jesus returns with those who have gone on before us, when he gathers those who are still alive, when he establishes his millennial reign…then it will be too late. (Those of you who do not agree with my historical premillennial sequence, please forgive me.)

The point is, no matter which view of the end times you adhere to, time ends and along with it, the opportunity to come to Christ. It’s like getting the deposit to the bank at 2:01. It’s too late!

There are so many people around us who are not Christ followers. They are still lost in their sin. They are on the clock. It’s up to me and you to share the truth of scripture with them so that they may come to Christ – even at the last minute – and escape perishing eternally.

By the way, my deposit receipt is stamped “1:58.”

Friday, January 02, 2009

Snowing in Ekaterinburg

I checked and saw that it is 12 degrees F in Ekaterinburg, Russia. When I shared the news with Riley, he said, “It’s always snowing there.” That’s not always true but I’m thrilled he thinks so naturally of Ekat. Our family will probably spend lots of time there during his school years. He can’t wait ‘til he can go.

Deana and I are going with a few others from church in April. This will be an exploratory trip to establish a plan for long-term missions there to plant a church. Not a good trip for an 8-year old. (Yes, Riley is now 8!) But we’ll try to plan future trips so that Riley (and other kids) can go.

We’ll go in the spring when the snow cover has melted and the beauty is beginning to come through. We’ll go in the summer when we can enjoy the wonderful green mountain scenery. We’ll go in the fall to see the beautiful birch trees with golden leaves. We’ll go in the winter when the temperature hovers near zero. And it’s always snowing there!

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Jesus

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Love Dare

I asked for the book “The Love Dare” for Christmas. Deana and I have a good marriage but it can be better and I don’t want it to go bad; that’s why I asked for the book. I know that some people think that couples who are not having trouble don’t need the book, but from the first 2 days, I think it will be good to strengthen marriages that are doing OK. Having blown it once before, I think anything someone can do to make sure marriage lasts is a good thing.
So far, “love is patient” and “love is kind” have been the basis of my assignments. I’m fairly patient but not very kind. I’m pushed into new territory already! What will the next 38 days hold in store? I’m guessing I’ll be a different man by Valentine’s Day.