Good. Better. Best.



If you are missing a little joy, it may be that you are only operating in “good.” It may even be that you are only operating in “better.” But you’re not getting to the “best” yet. Excellence is doing the best you can with what you have. The fine-tuning of a Christian’s life is not about moving from bad to good; it’s about finding excellence

Good —>>> Better —>>> Best 

When you get into this level of excellence, you really CAN rejoice in all circumstances. If we don’t get this, we simplify our options down to only two choices: either bad or good. This explains why so many of us settle for good enough when we have access to the greatness of God, doing the best with what you have.

In order to get things moving from good to better to best, you often have to say “NO” to things that are just good or better to get the best. It may seem awkward to say “no” to something good, or “no” to something better. However, when you say “no” to something good, and when you say “no” to something better, that creates space for you to say “yes” to the best opportunity.

Here is the truth.

To say “YES” to the BEST THINGS, you are going to have to say “NO” to the things that are just better and “NO” to the things that are just good. Not simply good, not slightly better, but the very BEST that God has for us! In the opening section of his letter to the Philippians, Paul gives us three areas where we should move from good… to better… to best, and experience the excellence of God in our lives.”


1. WE NEED TO HAVE EXCELLENT THOUGHTS 

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Paul 

Too many times, we have thoughts that we don’t share.

Who can you encourage today? Do you have kind thoughts about someone? Do you appreciate them? If so, let them know!

Remember: The mind is a powerful thing to waste. If you have kind thoughts about someone, don’t keep it to yourself. But, also remember that everything that comes in your mind doesn’t have to could out in your conversations. 

Avoid the Really Awful Thoughts (RATS). Think about it, if someone brought a box full of rats into your home or your workplace and unleashed them, that would be nasty. You would think that is gross.

But that’s what we do in our minds sometimes. We just let these really awful thoughts (RATS) run around and wreak havoc. What we really should be doing is fighting these awful thoughts, these limiting beliefs, and replace them with liberating truths. The more we rehearse and endorse limiting beliefs in our thinking, the more they settle in and take up residence.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Romans 12:2

Too many times, we have thoughts that we don’t share.


2. WE NEED TO HAVE EXCELLENT FEELINGS

“It is right for me to feel this way about you.” Paul 

Too many times, we have feelings that we don’t express. 

We are all experiencing strong feelings as we’ve come into 2021. But sometimes, we don’t clarify what those things are. It’s not just about information; it’s about the effects of the information on your heart.

How are you feeling right now? Have you been able to express that to someone? Our emotions are complex. Have you felt any of these core these center ones? Surprised? Bad? Fearful? Angry? Disgusted? Sad? Happy? We have all these words to describe our feelings because we have all these feelings. Let’s use them!

Too many times, we have feelings that we don’t express. 


3. WE NEED TO HAVE EXCELLENT PRAYERS

“It is my prayer that your love may abound.” Paul 

Too many times, we have prayers we don’t voice.

We never “arrive” — Our Christian journey is continually growing us, but we will not fully “arrive” until heaven. “There is no truer indicator of a Christian’s level of spiritual maturity than his prayer life. Prayer is much more than a duty; prayer is a compulsion for the spiritually mature Christian.” – John MacArthur

HG Bosch gave a beautiful illustration of the inherent idea of the separation that is found in the word holiness and comes from the world of nature. In the forests of northern Europe and Asia lives a little animal called the ermine, known for his snow-white fur in winter. He instinctively protects his white coat against anything that would soil it.

Fur hunters take advantage of this unusual trait of the ermine. They don’t set a snare to catch him, but instead, they find his home, which is usually a cleft in a rock or a hollow in an old tree. They smear the entrance and interior with grime. 

Then the hunters set their dogs loose to find and chase the ermine. The frightened animal flees toward home but doesn’t enter because of the filth. Rather than soil his white coat, he is trapped by the dogs and captured while preserving his purity. For the ermine, purity is more precious than life. O, that we all had the mindset of the ermine in winter!

REMEMBER: “The more holy a person becomes, the more conscious they are of their unholiness.” – Charles Spurgeon

Too many times, we have thoughts that we don’t share. Too many times, we have feelings that we don’t express. Too many times, we have prayers we don’t voice.


So, here are three ways to get the best and be the best today.

  1. Share your thoughts with one person.
  2. Express your feelings with someone you love.
  3. Pray for the people who matter most.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Martin Luther King Jr.

To understand Martin Luther King, Jr., a brief overview of history is helpful. In 1777, the Vermont legislature became the first to abolish slavery. “By 1820 slavery was no longer a national establishment. It was a southern enterprise. Of the 1.5 million slaves in the United States, 99 percent resided in southern states and territories” (Phillips, 2000, p. 6). 

When Lincoln was elected to the presidency in 1860, the South revolted, and seven states seceded from the United States before he could even be sworn into office. Those seven states formed the Confederate States of America. Within six months, eleven states had left the Union. “When Confederate troops fired on the Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina— a four-year war, the bloodiest in American history, began” (Phillips, 2000, p. 11). Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, and declared that more than three million slaves in the rebellious southern states were free.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in 1929, just before the Great Depression. He was brilliant and graduated high school at the early age of fifteen. King later earned his doctor of philosophy from Boston University’s School of Theology. He became “the most important civil rights leader in the twentieth century” (King, 1996, p. ix). He was high energy and an action-oriented man with something to say about the state of affairs regarding American racial equality. 

“The America he addressed was different from the America of today. It was a nation whose racial wrongs were sanctioned by unjust laws” (King, 1996, p. ix). His task was one that would require a great deal of discipline, patience, and courage. He established himself as a leader in a movement that would change the tone of racial equality in the United States of America. King believed that “if America is to remain a first-class nation, it cannot have second-class citizens” (King, 1996, p. 67).

“Dr. King once said that when a crisis is placed right out in the open, leaders will naturally emerge out of the situation” (Phillips, 2000, p. 334). King was a man who cared deeply about people. Perhaps this was because he had a pastor’s heart. He also encouraged his people to care for each other. “Dr. King was able to provide people with a sense of hope. Even when things look their bleakest, he would express optimism: ‘Somehow, I still believe we’re going to get there,’ he’d say” (Phillips, 2000, p. 338).

The Leadership of Martin Luther King Jr.

Great leaders are judged by their ability to make leaders. It is simply not enough to evaluate a leader’s effectiveness by the number of followers they can accumulate. Leaders make leaders. “A leader must know who he is, and who he is dealing with; and then he must lead” (Brookhiser, 2009, p. 238). 

James Burns has been identified by many as one of the key writers on leadership. Burns wrote that “transforming leadership, while more complex, is more potent” (Burns, 2012, p. 4). In this statement, Burns is differentiating transformational leadership from other types of leadership. 

Northouse picks up this thought and says further that “transformational leadership places a strong emphasis on followers’ needs, values, and morals” (Northouse, 2016, p. 177). 

Heifetz emphasizes that leadership should be more normalized than glamorized. One of his main points is to normalize leadership activity rather than elevate it to an exclusive position of authority. “Leadership takes place every day. It is neither the traits of the few, a rare event, or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” (Heifetz, 1994, Kindle Location 4320). 

King had this life-long approach and expression of leadership. He did not merely hold a position of power and authority or mystically become a great leader. King learned, adapted, and grew through various seasons of life. Heifetz further points out that “every time we face a conflict among competing values, or encounter a gap between our shared values and the way we live, we face the need to learn new ways” (Heifetz, 1994, Kindle Location 4320). King had this type of need for learning. 

Strengths

Dr. King had many strengths, but his greatest strength was his ability to speak to people with passion and clarity. “Modern scholars have acknowledged Martin Luther King, Jr., to be one of the great orators in American history— and have ranked his ‘I have a dream’ speech with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address” (Phillips, 2000, p. 88).

King delivered one of his most remembered speeches in 1963 at the centennial signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. “Although many of the phrases and themes that appear in ‘I Have a Dream’ had often been repeated by Dr. King, this is his most famous and most often quoted speech. He delivered it before the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963” (King, 1996, p. 101). King is quoted as saying, “one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free … so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition … in a sense, we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check … instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check” (King, 1996, p. 102).

More than just a great speaker, King was dedicated to being an activist as well. He was known as a patriot who regularly risked his life to fight for racial equality in America. Another of his strengths was his implementation of nonviolent assault. “King believed that only through a massive nonviolent assault would conditions change for black Americans” (King, 1996, p. xi). He taught that nonviolent campaigns consisted of four steps. First is the collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive. The second is negotiation. The third is self-purification. Fourth is direct action. 

King believed that people needed to learn to respect each other and live together in equality. “This means that no individual or nation can live alone. We must all learn to live together, or we will be forced to die together” (King, 1996, p. 19). King was also a great advocate of servant leadership. He taught and spoke regularly on the different types of love and emphasized agape love. However, he also believed that “nonviolent resistance does call for love … a very stern love that would organize itself into collective action to right a wrong by taking on itself suffering” (King, 1996, p. 44). King desired to be a servant leader. His heartbeat for this is captured by his words in two different speech excerpts.

“And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important – wonderful. If you want to be recognized – wonderful. If you want to be great – wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s your new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it … by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant” (King, 1996, pp. 189-190).

“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize, that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards, that’s not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school. I’d like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity” (King, 1996, p. 191).

Challenges

One of the challenges of King’s approach was the slow nature of how change would be realized. King acknowledged this himself. “I do not want to give the impression that nonviolence will work miracles overnight. Men are not easily moved from their mental ruts or purged of their prejudiced and irrational feelings. When the underprivileged demand freedom, the privileged first react with bitterness and resistance” (King, 1996, p. 60). Another challenge in King’s work was the uphill battle of fighting his time’s injustices without breaking the law. Many times, the law was against King and his movement. He responded to this with a landmark philosophical statement.

“I would agree with Saint Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all. A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality” (King, 1996, p. 89).

King also struggled with the apathy of many of the people that he was trying to help. On occasion, he would be as critical of his people as he was of the people who opposed him. He wanted his people to rise up and realize their power and potential. “Power is not the white man’s birthright” (King, 1996, p. 165). The following excerpt exposes the frustration King felt toward his people’s apathy and their violent reactionary response to racial slurs from white people. 

“It is always amusing to me when a Negro man says that he can’t demonstrate with us because if someone hit him he would fight back. Here is a man whose children are being plagued by rats and roaches, whose wife is robbed daily at overpriced ghetto food stores, who himself is working for about two-thirds the pay of a white person doing a similar job and with similar skills, and in spite of all this daily suffering it takes someone spitting on him or calling him a nigger to make him want to fight” (King, 1996, p. 129).

Of course, King would be firmly against fighting in response to verbal slander. But his point here is more focused on the apathy that had developed regarding the day-by-day conditions of life for his people. King wanted to “strategically and intentionally set out to persuade others to take up the ‘weapon’ of nonviolent direct action” (Phillips, 2000, p. 62).

King was a transformational leader who embodied servant leadership. 


WHERE WERE YOU?



What do you do when you feel like life is spinning out of control? 

Where were you when 9-11 happened back in 2001? Or when COVID-19 hit in 2020? Or when you heard about rioting in the streets? Where were you when these things happened?

I mean to ask not only about your physical location but also about your emotional state. Where were you emotionally when these things happened? Where you feeling uplifted and the news brought you down? Or were you already down, and the news brought you even lower.

What was your reaction when you first heard the devastating news that President Kennedy was assassinated or when the Challenger exploded? Depending on your age, you may have only read of these dark moments in a history book.

Both of my teenage daughters, Madi (17) and Sarah (13), were born after 9-11. Although they have missed out on generations of tragedy, their generation has already come face to face with unprecedented levels of brokenness. Social media has made each awful moment hard to miss. As a parent, I find it challenging to moderate my girls’ level of exposure to news that can trigger intense feelings of disappointment.

Whether you were at the end of your coffee, your day, your week, or even your rope, we all felt the weight when the bad news came. There is a heaviness that hit us in those moments. Things felt out of control, and we all struggled to answer the question, “what do I do now?”

Brokenness is not always a bad thing. Remember, broken crayons still color. God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. Have you ever heard the phrase, “the grass is greener on the other side?” I have come to learn that the grass is greener where you water it. This truth is especially true in our spiritual lives. Prayer is the H20 of a healthy relationship with God. 

Before you react, reach out to God.

Hershel Hobbs shares this about Prayer:

An automobile has a battery, which is simply stored-up energy, that enables the machine to function. The motor, lights, radio, and so on draw energy out of the battery. However, an automobile also has a generator that replaces the energy drawn from the battery. If the generator does not function properly, the battery will soon be dead. Then when you need power to start the automobile, you will find that you have none.

Nothing is wrong with the rest of the mechanical equipment. It simply has no power by which to function. An automobile has a cable connecting the battery to the car’s mechanisms. If that cable is removed, the battery still has some power to spare. However, the power is not transmitted to the working parts of the automobile, so the car itself is powerless.

Christians are like that. We expend spiritual energy in life and ministry. For us to remain spiritually strong, that energy needs to be replenished. If not, in a crisis moment, we will discover the power is gone. On the one hand, Jesus said that Prayer is the generator that keeps our spiritual power constant. On the other hand, Prayer is the cable that connects us to the omnipotence of God.

Before you react, reach out to God.

When asked, “What is more important: praying or reading the Bible?” C.G. Spurgeon asked, ‘”What is more important: breathing in or breathing out?

Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I don’t believe that Paul expected his readers to be in Prayer every minute of the day. However, he did want them to take Prayer seriously and to continue praying whenever possible.

The adverb translated “without ceasing” in those verses is also used to describe a hacking cough. Paul wanted his people to be people of Prayer. He was devoted to Prayer as a fundamental activity in his life.

In several of his other letters, Paul instructs his readers to devote themselves to Prayer. “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all Prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” – Ephesians 6:18 

Jesus also went out of His way to encourage Prayer among His beleivers. “And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” – Luke 18:1

Before you react, reach out to God.

Many leading voices have also emphasized the importance of Prayer.  

  • “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of Prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado
  • “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther
  • “True Prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” – Charles Spurgeon
  • “To get nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees.” – Billy Graham
  • “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work. Prayer is the greater work.” – Oswald Chambers

So let me encourage you. When life is rough, pray. When life is great, pray. What’s at stake here is our ability to keep going. If we don’t get this, we will go throughout our day without the power we need. There is never a bad time to pray, but this is a bad time not to pray. 

Before you react, reach out to God!


THE POWER OF 4



I hate reading, but I do read a lot.

Recently, this caught my attention, and I want you to know about it. 

The Center for Bible Engagement conducted an impressive study exploring the impact of Bible engagement on 400,000 Christians in North America. This study, Understanding the Bible Engagement Challenge: Scientific Evidence for the Power of 4, concluded that the quality of the lives of Christians who “DO NOT engage in the Bible most days of the week” is statistically the same as non-Christians.  

This study revealed THE POWER OF 4.

When you spend only 1-3 times a week reading the Bible, it has next to no impact on you.

As soon as people in the study passed the number three threshold and went into their fourth engagement with the Bible each week, they saw a significantly positive difference in how they felt and how well they dealt with hard times.

  • Feeling lonely dropped 30% 
  • Anger issues dropped 32%
  • Alcoholism dropped 57%
  • Relational issues (especially in marriage) dropped 40%
  • Pornography and other sexual sins dropped 62%
  • Feeling spiritually stagnant dropped 60%

This explains why so many people are hurting.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

  • Are you lonely? 
  • Are you dealing with unresolved anger? 
  • Are you struggling with an addiction? 
  • Are you in a relationship that is struggling?
  • Are you fighting a battle with pornography?
  • Are you feeling distant from God?

Are you ready to upgrade your life?

James 4:8 gives us our next step.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8 ESV

God speaks primarily through His Word. But remember, when you spent only 1-3 times a week engaging with the Bible, it has next to no impact on you. We all need to experience the POWER OF 4!

If we don’t get this, we run the risk of missing out on God’s many benefits, and our bad habits continue and increase. Get in the Word, and let it get in you. Are you ready to upgrade your life?

Let me invite you to experience THE POWER OF 4.