Extravagant Generosity

Jesus, consistent with the Old Testament,  speaks unabashedly and repeatedly about wealth, greed and generosity. In Mark 12.41-44, Jesus relates a story comparing the giving of the rich to that of poor widow who gives two very small copper coins. Jesus comments …

They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.

There are many things that can distract us from faithful living, and money is one of them. We can become distracted by working too long and too hard, by comparing what we have with what  others have or by desiring earthly recognition for our giving, desiring our reward on earth and by giving with the wrong motivations.

What motivated the generosity of the poor widow that Jesus observed?

It was NOT the religious system; the religious system was corrupt. Prior to this passage, Jesus says, “Watch out for the teachers of the law … They devour widows’ houses …” We cannot base our generosity on the Church, the denomination, or the pastor. Our giving is to God.

The widow did NOT give out of her abundance, but out of her poverty. She gave everything she had to live on. She sacrificially gave all that she had as Jesus in two days would give his life on a cross for us.

The widow did NOT give in a showy manner, as the rich “threw” their money in such a way as to make some noise. The widow “put” her money in. No one needed to know but God. And God did see, just as Jesus saw. No offering goes unnoticed by God.

Her offering was small in value, but big on proportion. Some point to tithing as an Old Testament teaching, not present in the New Testament. Here Jesus lifts up proportional giving as: “all she had to live on.”

The widow was faithful and spiritually mature. She was thankful to God for his provision; she knew it was God who provided and cared for her. Implicit in this passage, she is a joyful giver–her attitude is right.

Questions for Reflection

  1. From whom have you learned your patterns of giving?
  2. Are you continuing to learn? Every aspect of our lives is touched, including our giving, when we grow in Christ.
  3. What proportion of your income do you give? Have you ever figured out the percent of your income that you give? If not, why? Why are you resistant?
  4. In what way does this story speak to you, inspire, touch you? To whom do you relate: the rich, the poor widow, the disciples gathered around Jesus to hear him teach?
  5. Finally, who do you love? In whom do you trust? Have you found your purpose in sharing Christ with others?

Risk-Taking Mission and Service

Are you doing the same things that you were five years ago? Does your ministry (we are all called to ministry as followers of Christ) look the same as it did five years ago? As you discover your God-given giftedness, have those gifts developed beyond what they were five years ago? Have you discovered any additional gifts that you might have?

“As we mature in faith and grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of God” which is our faith development, also our behaviors and actions change and develop, which is our works of mission and service.

Bishop Schnase writes …

Mission and Service refers to the projects, efforts, and work people do to make a positive difference in the lives of others for the purposes of Christ, whether or not they will ever become part of the community of faith.

Risk-taking pushes us out of our comfort zone, stretching us beyond service to people we already know, exposing us to people, situations, and needs that we would never ordinarily encounter apart from our deliberate intention to serve Christ.

Jesus’ ministry was risk-taking as he healed on Sabbath, ate with with sinners, called a tax collector to “follow me,” touched the unclean (lepers), defended the adulteress, was anointed by a woman of questionable character, took time for children, and traveled through Samaria. Finally, he performed the act of a servant, washing the disciples feet, and called his followers to do likewise.

A parishioner shared a story about someone she knew who participated on a mission trip, a work camp to West Virginia and was greeted by the stereotypical hillbilly with a long beard in the morning with cigarette and beer. The mission person thought, “Oh my, what am I doing here?” But as the week concluded with a shared fellowship meal and the children exclaimed, “This was the best day of my life,” he knew why he was there.

Schnase writes …

They measure the impact of their work in lives changed rather than in money sent or buildings constructed. They do mission with people of other cultures, not ministry to them. People come first, and Christ’s love for people binds them to one another and to their task (Cultivating Fruitfulness, 68).

And so we ask ourselves, when do we recall being pushed beyond our comfort zone in ministry? To what is God calling us, individually and as a church?

Faith and Works: The Test of Faith

I presented the sermon at last Thursday’s Community Lenten Lunch service here in Clearfield. My sermon followed the reading of John 6.1-15.

A Group Workcamp is coming to Clearfield, June 20-26, 2010. Who would think that 430+ youth from all around the U.S. would want to come to Clearfield to home repairs, let alone pay registration fees ($432/person) to come?

Who would think that Clearfield could raise $19,000 to buy the building materials needed?

Who would think that there are that many people in Clearfield area that are in need of weatherproofing, handicap accessibility, etc. and without the volunteer efforts of this Group Workcamp, they otherwise cannot afford it?

Who would think that an agency such as Community Action and the Churches of the Clearfield Ministerium could partner and support one another in this effort?

Tia Lansberry has been attending our Ministerium meetings, keeping us informed of the progress and the needs associated with bringing this workcamp. She is always enthusiastic; she always has an abundant list of ideas, some necessity, some hopes. One of Tia’s current pleas is for “hospitality” — how are we going to welcome this group of 430+ youth plus adults to Clearfield. West Side UMC just completed a three-week study, not just on hospitality, but radical hospitality, a hospitality that welcomes the stranger and makes them feel as if they were home.

How do you make a group of 430+ youth who will be camped out on the floors of the Clearfield Middle School feel at home?

Well, one of things Tia would really like to do is serve hot dogs along with having a band and some other fun things for the group as they arrive Sunday evening. Hot dogs, we can do hot dogs! Then I get to thinking … 450 people. Hungry youth. Not just 450 hot dogs … maybe 900 hot dogs. How many hot dogs fit on one gas grill at a time? Hmmm … probably can’t build a bonfire on the lawn in front of the Middle School … And where are all of those hot dogs going to come from?

There is a story in the Bible about Jesus and his disciples. The crowds have followed Jesus, hungry crowds. Not of 430+ youth, but 5,000 men (plus women and children.) As this crowd is closing in on Jesus and his disciples, Jesus asks his disciples, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” It’s not should we or can we … but where shall we?

The Scripture reveals this is a test, and Phillip fails the test, for as Jesus asks “where”, all Phillip can think is “how?” How are we going to feed 5,000 people? “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each on to have a bite.”

And so I have failed the test this morning as I ask, “How are we going to feed 450 youth hot dogs?” And others have failed the test as they ask, “We have to raise how much money for this Group Workcamp?”  … as they hear the figure, $19,000, Phillip’s question is echoed, “How?” “How are we going to do it?”

Then along comes Andrew. Andrew brings a child who has a lunch of five small barley loaves and two fish. Some surmise the fish a little more than large dried minnows; the barley loaves, the food of the very poor. But Andrew brings the child and the lunch with the commentary, “How far will they go among so many?” But yet Andrew brings him.

Perhaps it is the child who has stepped forward. That would keep with Jesus words, as Jesus once called a little child to stand among the grown-ups: “And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 11.3)

The test in this passage is “Do you have faith?” “Do you trust God?” “Do you believe that God will provide?”

Rarely does God lead us to do things that we can do all by ourselves. God leads us to do things that we have to depend on him. God is always seeking to stretch us; to deepen our faith; to reveal a little more of who he is; to display his great power in the midst of our meager offerings. He invites us out of our comfort zones and into a risk-taking ventures in the name of Christ.

Whether it’s manna and quail in the wilderness (Numbers 11) or barley loaves and fish. God provides. Whether it’s wine at a wedding in Cana or hot dogs at a Group Workcamp in Clearfield, PA, God will provide.

God takes what little we have to offer, but note it is the whole of the child’s lunch, not just part. And Jesus provides so that each has “as much as they wanted” and “all had enough to eat.”

All too often we worry if there will be enough; we wonder and ask “how?” And the answer of faith that God is looking for is, “Lord, you know.” Lord, if you want to feed 5,000 you know where, you know how. “Lord, you know.” “Lord, you are able to provide.”

And so each of us brings what meager offerings and gifts that we have and God blesses and multiplies them and uses them in ways beyond what we can ever think and imagine.

We currently have $13,482 of the $19,000.

And if you are interested to help in this Group Workcamp in any way, contact your Clearfield area pastor or Tia at Community Action.

As in any work of mission and service, you will blessed beyond measure.

See You at the Pole 2009

I participated in this morning’s See You at the Pole event at Clearfield High School. This is what I shared.

Engage: Go and Pray
“Go and pray to God for me and for the people …” (2 Kings 22.13a, The Message)

Israel and Judah had a history of waning back and forth in their commitment to God. Sometimes they followed wholeheartedly, sometimes they didn’t follow God at all.

During the period of the kings, the people’s commitment to God could be traced to the king’s commitment to God. If the king followed God wholeheartedly, the people followed God wholeheartedly. The books of 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles, chronicle the reign of the kings. Some did right in the sight of God, some did evil in the sight of God.

Along comes Josiah. Josiah is in the family succession to become king and becomes kings at the age of 8 years old. (If you have any little brothers or sisters at home, that kind of a scary thought, isn’t it? An 8 year old leading a nation.) But the Scriptures tell us that as Josiah becomes 16 years old, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father, David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22.2).

Josiah was on fire for God. He had all the idols and places of worship to gods other than the Lord God, torn down and destroyed. He was rebuilding the temple, the place of worship of the Lord God. And as they were reconstructing the temple, the workers found a book, a long forgotten book, The Law of the Lord, The Bible.

The Scriptures say of Josiah, “When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.” Tearing one’s clothes was a sign of grief, of mourning. Josiah was saddened that they had not been reading the Word of God and furthermore, they had not be obeying the Word of God.

It was at this time he sent word to the priest to “Go and pray for me and the people.”

Engage: Go and Pray.

Engage means to make a connection. It describes two pieces fitting perfectly together as in a gear or two puzzle pieces. An engaging personality, someone you like to be with, someone who upon first meeting them, you feel comfortable around. Engaging the audience (something I hope I’m doing right now.) You get and keep their attention. Engage in conversation. Those participating in the conversation are interested: interested in one another, interested in the topic of conversation.

This year, this school year, you are challenged to engage.

  • To engage with God in prayer.
  • To engage with God’s Word and grow in your relationship with him and your obedience to his Word. To passionately pursue God and his will.
  • To engage others. To, like Josiah, not only tear down the idols in your life, but as you live as wholly following God, you will impact your world around you. Josiah wasn’t concerned just for his own life and his own family. He was concerned for all the people. He asked the priest to pray not just for him, but for all the people. He desired that everyone have a heart for God. Therefore, Josiah not only engaged with God in prayer and engaged with God’s Word. Josiah engaged with others.

Engage others with your unique personality, that is a reflection of Christ’s love for them. Engage others as a speaker engages an audience. That doesn’t mean you have to speak a word; let your life speak volumes. Engage others in conversation about God, about the difference God makes in your life. Engage God in prayer for the others your life can and will touch!

“Three Simple Rules”

So … have you made any New Year’s resolutions?

I am grateful for the new beginnings in life. Most often beginnings come with endings. The endings, I don’t like. But the endings are inevitable. The year of 2008 is over. It is done. We cannot go back and undo or redo. We now look forward to 2009.

In the weekend services of January 3 and 4 at West Side UMC, I shared a bit from Reuben P. Job’s book, Three Simple Rules, and this book will continue to be the topic of discussion at our Thursday morning Bible Study. The book is an interpretation of John Wesley’s rules: “Do no harm,” “Do good,” and “Stay in love with God.”

There is one phrase from the book that keeps going through my mind. In the introduction Job asks …

Is our way of living life-giving rather than life-draining? Does it enhance the quality of life of others? (13).

I want my life to be life-giving. I want to add value to others. That sounds rather ambitious in itself, but when you look at how Jesus’ life was life-giving, it becomes more challenging. He gave life to others through the literal giving of his physical life. To be life-giving calls us to live sacrificially.

The topic of New Year’s resolutions usually center around self-care. Reuben Job challenges us, saying …

Taking appropriate care of self and living selflessly are not opposites. They are each essential elements of a healthy and productive life (46). … Self-care begins with the acknowledgment and reminder that each one of us is the object of God’s love (47).

Therefore, as we think about how we are going to take care of ourselves, living more healthy and productive lives, let us think about how we are going to care for others. Let us vow to “Do no harm” and “Do good.” Let us ask ourselves how we might help others live more healthy and productive lives.

The Blessing of a New Day

What if … we were to consider each day a blessing of God?

Drew Carey debuted the new game show The Power of 10 last week. The public is asked different questions, polled and the contestants have to guess what percentage answered a specific way. The second airing asked a question something like this, “What percentage of people surveyed said they are living the American Dream?”

A conversation followed in our household: What is the American Dream? You have to define that before you can answer.

The American Dream is in comparison to what? Countries that are wartorn, that know famine, drought, and disease. The site globalrichlist.com allows you to punch in your annual salary and see where you really are in comparison with the rest of the world.

Finally, we said that we don’t care about the American Dream, we care about God’s dream for us. By the way, the answer to “What percentage of people surveyed said they are living the American Dream?” was 47%. (Pretty high we thought, especially with the war and the current low approval rating of the President.)

God has promised to bless his people. Genesis 12.1-3 talks about the promise of blessing to Abraham, that Abraham will be a blessing, and that all peoples will blessed through him. Galatians 3.6-9,14 reveals that this blessing is that the Messiah will be born through him. The salvation of all peoples will come through Abraham. The son he longed for and waited for so long, was not just a blessing to Abraham and Sarah, he was a blessing to all people, because from his lineage would come Jesus Christ.

The ultimate blessing in our lives is that of salvation, that of knowing and being in relationship with God. As we spoke last time about how God’s mercies are new every morning, I wonder, what if we were to rise each morning first giving thanks to God for the day. What if we were to consider each new day a blessing, a gift from God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in “Life Together”, “For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day’s work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it.”

He also says, “The first thought and the first word of the day belong to God.” The psalmist says, “My heart is steadfast, O God, My heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!I will awaken the dawn. (Ps 57.7-8)

Let us purpose to awaken each day with praises to God, for the gift of a new day, a day to be lived for his glory!

The Newness of the Morning

The mercies of the Lord are new every morning.

The church is a short distance from home, so I usually walk there. Sometimes I haven’t taken a flashlight with me and when I get out of a meeting at night, a dreary night, I can hit a place of complete darkness. A bit of fear rises in my heart, because I can’t really see where I’m going. I’m walking by memory, rather than by sight.

I look forward to when I round the corner and even if the porch light of the house isn’t on, there is light in the windows. Feeling more safe, I walk toward that light.

Our ancestors possessed that kind of night all the time, and so with gladness they embraced the dawn. With that, they understood the darkness of their sin, and with every day they arose to embrace not just the light of day, but the light of their salvation, Jesus Christ. Every day they rose with a new hope. Every day they rose from sleep, it was a reminder of the risen Christ – he arose not just from sleep, but from death, to bring us new life.

Likewise, Jeremiah, the author, in Lamentations 3.22-23 tells us that God’s mercies are new every morning. Lamentations is a book of laments, expressions of sorrow. Yet suddenly hope is voiced, because of God’s unfailing love. Because of God’s covenant love – a love that endures, that never fails, that never leaves us, that never cuts us off.Suffering is a part of life.

It doesn’t matter if one is Christian or not, there will be difficult times in our lives. Being a Christian does not exempt us from suffering and sorrow. Eugene Peterson in his introduction to the Book of Lamentations in The Message says that Jeremiah neither explains suffering nor offers a program for the elimination of suffering.

Lamentations keeps company with the extensive biblical witness that gives dignity to suffering by insisting that God enters our suffering and is companion to our suffering.

With the dawn of each day, Jesus brings new hope. Jesus is our hope. Jesus is the star come out of Jacob (Numbers 24.17), the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4.2), the bright Morning Star (Revelation 22.16). And he brings eternal hope as he promises a city that will need no sun or moon to shine on it, “for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev. 21.23).

Sometimes we figuratively walk through dark places, places where we don’t see God, but we keep walking, sometimes more by memory than sight. Sometimes we see the light in the distance, and we just keep walking toward it, knowing that one day, God’s light will once again dawn upon our lives.

Who am I?

Exodus 3.1-10 Moses and the Burning Bush, A sermon for Lenten Community Service

I don’t know if you’ve ever done anything stupid before, but I know I have. And you might say Moses did. When he sees an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew, he reacts. That’s a good thing. He knew what he saw wasn’t right. But his reaction wasn’t right either – he kills the Egyptian. His life threatened, Moses flees into the desert to Midian.

Moses is in Midian forty years when God speaks to him out of a burning bush and calls Moses to go back and deliver the Hebrew people from the mistreatment they are suffering. Moses’ response is “Who am I?”

I propose the answer to this question might be found in the burning bush. God took a normal bush and inhabited it, making it something extraordinary. Moses was aware of his shortcomings. He was aware of his failure the first time he tried to help the Hebrew people. The first time Moses tried to do things his way and in his strength. This time God promises to go with him. God promises to do something extraordinary through an ordinary person.

“Who am I?” Moses asked. Moses is teachable – he learns from Jethro, a priest and his father-in-law. Moses has a humble spirit. He is but a vessel through whom God will speak. Moses has passion and compassion for those who are oppressed. God wired Moses for this.

Moses was a Hebrew raised and educated by Egyptians. He understood their ways.Moses was broken. He left a palace for the desert. He left royalty to become a shepherd.

“Who am I?” Moses asked. God answered, “You are the one I have chosen. I am sending you.” And God did not stop there. he said that he would be with Moses, that he would help Moses, that he would teach Moses what to say.

“Who am I?” is the proper response of any one who is called of God. We all have made mistakes. We all have failed. We all have acted outside God’s will. But we cannot step beyond the bounds of God’s reaching and forgiving. We cannot step beyond the bounds of God’s call.

“Who am I?” Are you curious enough to draw near the burning bush to find the answer? Are you curious enough to tread on holy ground? Are you curious enough to listen for God’s voice speaking to you?

Navigating Life

Today, we concluded our series on “Navigating Life: Doing Life God’s Way!” We believe it was an important series; we certainly hope that it was helpful for the hrist followers in our congregations!

We don’t always collaborate on our sermon series, but this series grew out of a conversation we had while traveling to Tennessee on Christmas morning to visit my family. We think this series was important because we believe that we will either do life God’s way (intentionally) or we will simply drift through life. And there are few things more sad than someone who drifts through life, lost at sea!

Using sailing imagery, we began the series with “Setting the Course.” Asking “Where are you headed?” we looked at John 14.1-6.

Joleen said, “Let’s journey with Jesus,” and Randy focused on trust saying, “It takes trust to do life with God!” Randy challenged listeners to think about the areas of their lives where they need totrust God, and then to release those areas to God.

Our second message was a lot of fun. We talked about “GPS” and asked, “How will you get to where you’re going?” But instead of talking about a Global Positioning System, but God’s Positioning System. Taking our cue from Deuteronomy 6.4-9, Joleen said, “Let’s journey with Scripture, a prayerful approach wherethe Holy Spirit speaks through the Words.” She challenged listeners to consider places where they could put Scripture so that it would be afrequent reminder of God. Randy’s message was, “When we make God thecenter of our lives we are more equipped to do life God’s way!” Randy encouraged listeners to develop their own, unique navigational system incorporating the spiritual disciplines, particularly prayer and Scripture.We divided the next two messages in the series.

Joleen took “Expect Delays,” asking, “What will you do when you encounter obstacles?” Randy took “The Crew” which asked the question, “Who are you traveling with?”After preaching those messages in our respective congregations, we traded places and shared the same messages with each other’s congregations the following week.

Joleen, after reading Matthew 8.23-27 noted that, “Storms will come, but Jesus is in the boat, so you’llweather the storm with a little faith.” Randy’s message, coming from Romans 12.1-8, stated that, “It takes a crew to complete a mission!” Randy challenged listeners to begin asking God what their function in the church might be, and to also begin asking others who know them to help them discover their role and gifting in the church.

We wrapped up the series today with a message on “Course Corrections.” We looked at James 1.1-18 and asked, “What do you do when you get off course?” Joleen suggested that listeners “Admit, ask forgiveness, and adjustonce again to Jesus’ path.” She stated that up until we make a commitment, we should ask, “Is this God’s will?” but that once we makethe commitment, we should affirm, “This is God’s will! Life is a discernment process where we are always open to hear God’s voice.

In Randy’s final message, he said, “When you get off course, return!” The inherent meaning behind the word “repent” is “return.” We must return to God and to what God has called us to be. “Ask God to search your heart for areas where you have gone off course,” Randy challenged listeners, “and ask God for wisdom and help to get back oncourse.”We hope that, by God’s grace, you will be able to follow Jesus more effectively from now on as you seek to navigate life and do life God’sway!

Feel free to ask questions or post comments at the end of this post!

God is Good

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

Since Don Moen and Paul Overstreet wrote and recorded a song by the title, God Is Good All The Time, this has become a popular greeting among church folk. And it speaks a great truth: God alone is good.

Luke 18.18-19 – A certain ruler asked him (Jesus), “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone . When we first read this, we see nothing wrong with the ruler calling Jesus good. But we must realize that the ruler does not know Jesus as the Son of God.

The ruler has sought Jesus out as a teacher. He has a question for Jesus; he want to know how to inherit eternal life. He believes Jesus is the teacher who can answer his question and so he addresses Jesus as “Good teacher.” It is a sign of respect, a sign that he is impressed with Jesus’ teaching. They are even words of flattery – you are a good teacher, you know what you are talking about, and so I am choosing to come to you to have my questions answered. Jesus is not flattered; there is a bit of rebuke in Jesus’ response, “No one is good-except God alone.”

We have the benefit of knowing who Jesus is in reading this passage. He is God and so he is good. But this man, does not know this and so it is not acceptable to call any teacher good, for God alone is good.

Yin Yang is a symbol from Chinese philosophy. Everything has its opposite. And in everything there is a trace of the opposite. There is a little evil in any good; there is a little good in evil. This is not true of God. God is good. He is only good. There is no trace of evil in God. In this respect, as Jesus says in the passage, God alone is good.

Good: pleasant, agreeable, excellent, rich, appropriate, glad, happy, prosperous, good understanding, kind, right, a good thing, benefit, welfare.

The Scripures
1 Timothy 4.4 everything God created is good. (See Gen 1) Deuteronomy God is bringing Israel to a good land.

Joshua 23.14 not one of all the good promises God gave has failed

Hebrews 6.5 goodness of the Word of GodGospel is the Good News

Romans 8.28 God works for the good of those who love him

Romans 12.2 God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect

Philippians 2.13 God works in you for his good purpose

Ps 13.6 I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.

Ps 25.7 Remember not the sins of my youth… according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord.

Psalm 31.19 how great is your goodness …

Psalm 116.12 Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

Ps 118.1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Ps 119.68 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.

Many of these psalms are psalms of thanksgiving, which come after the psalmist has gone through a difficult time and God has heard the psalmist cry and delivered him. The psalmist is not free of hardship, but sees God’s goodness in the midst of the ups and downs of life.

We benefit from God’s discipline
Psalm 119.71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

Hebrews 12.7-11 An earthly father disciplines. Discipline is expected and if done appropriately they are respected for it. They do their best; their discipline falls short; it is not perfect. But God’s discipline is perfect through his perfect wisdom and knowledge. He knows what is best and what he does is motivated by his concern for our well being. “God disciplines us for our good.” Not because he is good and we are not. Not because we deserve his wrath. This has nothing to do with wrath or punishment. It has nothing to do with him being all-powerful and having to prove his power over us. It is discipline done in love. It all has to do with our well being. It’s about us and what is best for us.

And in this process, we actually become more like God, his character is being nurtured and birthed in us, shared with us. Hebrews 7 continues in verse 13b so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. God is not a God who kicks us when we are down. He is a God who lifts us up; he brings healing and wholeness; He is a God who wants us to grow strong in Him, strong in our reliance upon his strength and trust in his goodness.

Those who have suffered failure in life, actually fair better in life. They do not fear failure. They are willing to take risks, rather than play it safe. John Maxwell says when you fail, stay down there long enough to learn something from your failure. Too many times we get up, we shake ourselves off, hope no one saw us, and go on like nothing happened.

The account of Joseph
Genesis 37-50. Joseph and the many-colored coat. Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob, which caused his other brothers to hate him. To make matters worse, Joseph had dreams about his brothers bowing down to him, as if he would reign over them. This caused them to hate him all the more. They were going to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery (but told his father that he was killed by a wild animal.)

Joseph ended up in Egypt. The Lord allowed him to enjoy success. He first served one of Pharaoh’s officials, until his wife made the moves on him and he got the blame and was sent to prison. He could tell the meaning of dreams and his hopes went up and down with promises to be released. Finally one day, the Pharaoh had a dream and no one could tell the meaning of it. It was remembered that Joseph could tell the meaning of dreams and he was called on. The dreams revealed that there was to be a great famine in the land. This was revealed so that the people could prepare in advance for the time of famine. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of his household and he was second only to Pharaoh in power.

And so through a series of what looked like bad events in Joseph’s life, he was able to save many people, including his own family who traveled to Egypt to purchase food during the famine. Because of the famine Joseph was reconciled with his family. Joseph says to his brothers: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Genesis 50.20 (see also Genesis 45.5-7) So we see that God works his good, saving plan through the evil, sinful plan of Joseph’s brothers. The guidance of God is stressed in this account, but nothing more explicit is said. It remains a mystery. “Even when no man could imagine it, God had all the strings in his hand.” (Von Rad)

This requires trust in God; a trust in God’s goodness is required, even when we cannot see the goodness from the trial or the hard time we are going through. We must trust that God is at work for good, even when we cannot see that good.

The invitation to taste the goodness of the Lord
Taste and see that the LORD is good. Psalm 34.8a. Action on the part of the believer required. Suggests that we must act in order to perceive the greater delivering action which is Gods. Requires movement; we must taste, to release the goodness that is stored up for us. Taste a new food, see if it is good. Someone may tell you it is good, but you don’t know unless you taste it yourself.

Joseph was obedient in action. As the official’s servant, even though he was a servant, he was faithful. In prison, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners. He basically did the wardens job. Things didn’t look good for Joseph when he was a prisoner, but that did not influence his actions, his character or his trust in God. He was put in prison because his character was questioned, but he maintained high character. Joseph didn’t know it, but while he ran the prison, he was in training to run the whole country.

God’s goodness pursues us always
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. Psalm 23.6a. There is action on God’s part. God pursues us, he chases us down with his goodness. Again, this psalm is used to bring comfort in some of the lowest times of our lives, as the psalmist talks about the God who leads us safely through the valley of the shadow of death.

This is the same God who has filled the psalmist’s cup to overflowing, overflowing with blessing, overflowing with goodness. The psalmist speaks out of experience of God’s goodness in the past, his goodness in the present and a confidence of God’s goodness in the future. This psalm ends with words of God pursuing us – not just following, not just offering, not being passive, but actively pursuing us – with his goodness and with his loving kindness.

God is active in our lives. He doesn’t just leave us out there on our own. He is active for our good. Even if we are not convinced of his goodness, his goodness is following after us. He wants to overtake us with his goodness. He wants us to be convinced of his goodness in our lives.

God wants us live declaring, God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.