Monday, December 26, 2016

The Goodness of God

“The Goodness of God”

By Susanne Scheppmann 

Key Verse:
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5,  (NIV)

 “Be good!” we tell our children. What exactly does that mean to us? (Usually it infers not embarrassing us.) The problem with the term “good” results from the fact each of us has our own definition and expectations of what makes something good. For example, I love asparagus, but my children considered it a tortuous punishment if I make them taste it. For someone who loves to exercise, a personal trainer would top the list in blessings; I would rather have the flu.

Do you see what I mean about goodness, my friend? The term “goodness” is subjective to us. However, it is imperative that we believe in the goodness of God in our lives in order for us to begin to trust him in all the details of our seemingly scrambled lives.

The Bible illustrates to us the goodness and greatness of the God we serve. Psalm 136 begins with “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” The primary reason we know God is good, is that his love for us is never ending. There is nothing we can do that will make him stop loving us.  The Message Bible says, “None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us (Romans 8:37-39).” The ultimate proof of God’s goodness rests on the foundation of his never-ending love for us.

Psalm 136 continues to list examples of God’s goodness. He does great wonders! He created the beauty of our skies and splendor of the earth. He strung the sun, the moon, and the stars in the heavens. He remembers us in our lowly position. He provide for all his creatures, including you and me. 

As children of God, we ought to appreciate his goodness and provision in our lives. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me! Never send them away! For the Kingdom of God belongs to men who have hearts as trusting as these little children's (Luke 18:16 Living). Today as you ponder God’s goodness and his greatness humbly recall the first lines in the familiar mealtime blessing of childhood:
“God is good.
God is great. “
Will you become a thankful child of God trusting in his goodness and greatness?

Father God, even when my life circumstances seem out of control, help me to realize that you are good and that your love for me endures forever. Help me to realize and be thankful for your goodness to me each day.
Application steps:
Take a few minutes today and list in a notebook areas in your life where God has revealed his goodness and greatness. Example: family, home, career, pets, washing machine, refrigerator. In the coming week, each day add five more items of God’ provision in your life where you can say, “God is good, God is great!” Then take a moment to thank him for his goodness in your life.


Refection points:       
In what areas of my life do I doubt God’s goodness?

Do I truly believe that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus?

What areas of my life do I take God’s goodness and greatness for granted?

Do I claim responsibility for the good things in my life and blame God when life becomes hard?

How can I promote the truth of God’s faithfulness in my life to others?

Power verses: 
Psalm 31:19, How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. (NIV)

Psalm 116:7, Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. (NIV) 

Psalm 116:12, How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? (NIV) 
Philippians 4:19, And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (NIV) 

© 2004 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

“A Green-eyed Saint”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse: 
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

I wiped the steam from the mirror. Leaning forward on the damp bathroom counter, I checked to see what color my eyes were today. Thankfully, two bright-blue eyes stared back at me. Relieved, I breathed a prayer of repentance and thanksgiving to God.

Have you heard of the green-eyed monster? Well, I took a slightly different angle on jealousy. I became a green-eyed saint. My eyes were emerald green with envy, envy of another sister in Christ who I perceived was more “spiritually blessed” than I. As she told of God’s immense blessings in her ministry and life, I could taste the bitter bile of envy surge in my thoughts. 

Oddly, the root of my jealousy springs from my desire to please God. I want him to smile down and see just how wonderfully I work in his kingdom. I long to be a super-saint for God.  

Unfortunately, it seems this malady runs deep within the Christian community. Do you remember the story in Mark 9 when Jesus’ disciples were strolling into Capernaum and they argued about who was the greatest? Mark writes, “When he [Jesus] was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.”

Now I find it interesting he allowed them to argue as they walked along the dusty road. He could have stopped the arguing before they reached Capernaum. Why did he wait?  

I don’t know for sure; but it might have been that when they finished grousing at each other, they all realized how silly and childish they sounded. I believe the disciples' faces flushed red when he asked them, “What were you arguing about?” 

I have often felt like those disciples. Sometimes God lets me whine and fuss until I just plain embarrass myself.   

Jesus went on to explain how God views greatness. He said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." Which translates to me that I must humble myself and serve not only the needy; but also, the spiritually blessed that he allows to cross the pathways of my life.  

Scripture tells us that we are each gifted and placed in the body of Christ exactly how the Father planned. (See I Corinthians 7:7; I Corinthians 12:12; 27) Each time I become a green-eyed saint, I refuse to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in my life. As my envy begins to rot my spiritual bones, I become useless to him.
Thankfully, God reminds me that I have my very own purpose in his kingdom that no one else can ever fulfill. He allows me to recognize and confess my sin of envy. He urges me to humble myself and be thankful for my own individual gifts and talents.

Personally, I want to keep my blue-eyes. What color are your spiritual eyes today?   
Father, allow me to recognize any envy or jealousy that has crept into my life. Forgive my sin of coveting others for their spiritual blessings. Help me use my own gifts and talents to benefit your kingdom in my own special way. 

Application steps: 
Write a note to someone who you admire in God’s kingdom. Encourage her special gifts. Tell her how you have benefited from her service to Christ. Then say a prayer of blessing for her. 

Refection points:      
What special gifts and talents has God given me?

How am I faithful to serve God with the blessings he has given me? 

Whom can I bless today?

Do I know someone who needs special encouragement today in her service to Christ? 

Power verses:  
1 Corinthians 13:4, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (NIV)  

Job 5:2, Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple. (NIV)  

1 Corinthians 3:3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? (NIV)

James 3:14, But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. (NIV)  

1 Peter 2:1, Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. (NIV)  

© 2004 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

“The Great Giveaway” 

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21, (NIV) 

 “I feel like I am shopping at my own garage sale!” I murmured to myself. Sifting through closets, I discovered long buried treasures. (Rather, treasures long forgotten.) “Were they treasures if I didn’t even remember them?” I pondered. 

Moving day hovered over my head. In two weeks, I needed these “treasures” boxed and ready to move into a smaller home. The question begged to be answered, “What in the world am I going to do with all this stuff?”

As I mulled over the problem in my head, I thought of the rich young ruler in Gospel of Mark. I remembered the Scripture, “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘ One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mark 10:17-22) “ Hmmm, how do I compare to that young man? What would Christ have me do with “my stuff?” I wondered.

In answer to my questions, I discovered three scriptural principles for giving to others.

Give In! Give in to God’s thoughts on material possessions. Although, our culture tells us accumulating things makes us a more valuable person, Scripture tells us to, “Sell your possessions, and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33) Author A.W. Tozer writes, “Never own anything. I do not mean that you cannot have things. I mean that you ought to get delivered from the sense of possessing them. This sense of possessing is what hinders us…understand that it is His…If it is God’s you no longer need to worry about it.”   
                                                                                                                                                                                                       Christ wants us to “seek our treasure in heaven.” We need to give in to Jesus and seek him. Allow him to become the treasure in our life. 

Give Up! Jesus bids us to give up the credit when we help others. Listen to what he said, “Take care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven . . . But when you give to someone, don't tell your left hand what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4 NLT)

Give up the credit for a good deed whenever possible. Attempt to give help anonymously without anyone knowing. Remember, your Father knows!

Give Cheerfully! The final principle is to give and do it cheerfully. God asks us to give out of cheerful hearts. The Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 9:7 advises, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsions, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 

We live with material abundance. We need to give because we are blessed. Besides the Bible tells us, “When we give to the hungry, the thirsty, those in need of clothing, to anyone in need; we are really giving to Jesus.” (Paraphrased Matthew 25:35-40) Do we need any more prodding than that?

As I finished boxing my treasures to “give in, give up, and give cheerfully” I recalled the Proverbs 31 woman. I believe she knew the three giveaway principles. “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy Proverbs 31:20.”

What is Jesus asking you to give in “The Great Giveaway” of life?

 Lord, help me to remember that you love a cheerful giver. Help me to loose the strings of sentimental attachment to things that are not important. Give me a discerning heart on what I should give away and to whom.

Application steps: Set a goal to once a month clean out a closet, a drawer, your     garage, etc. Make a list of charities and churches that could benefit from your cheerful giving. Then give it away!

Refection points:     
Do I worry about my material possessions?

Do I have more “stuff” than storage?

Who would be blessed by my giving? 

Am I a cheerful giver?

Power verses: 
1 Tim. 6:19, In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (NIV) 

Psalm 37:4, Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (NIV) 

Isaiah 33:6, He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. (NIV) 

© 2004 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

“Wired Tired”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Mark 6:31 (NIV) 

Sometimes I wear my exhaustion as a badge of honor. I feel a tinge of pride, when a friend states, “You look tired.” For women in the American culture, exhaustion is a valued quality. Even in the Christian community, we wrongly perceive our tiredness as a “mark of spirituality.”

I have never been a high-energy gal. My energy and stamina ebb on the low side. It seems when God created me, he wired me tired.  Scriptures tells me, For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13 NIV) God created each of us with our own energy levels. Mine happens to be low wattage.

However, sometimes envy floats to the surface as I compare myself to women who bounce around full of exuberant energy completing every task set before them. Their endless supply of enthusiasm saps my vitality. I covet their high-energy personalities.

Recently the Lord has revealed a new truth to me. He showed me even my high-energy friends, work to the point of exhaustion. For most of us, regardless of our inherent energy levels, we push beyond healthy boundaries. We immerse ourselves in a flurry of endless activities. The list can include: soccer, dance, bunko, ministry, lunches, coffees, etc. Unfortunately, by example we teach our children the same draining lifestyle.

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Christ called his disciples to come away and rest with him. The remarkable part of this passage is the disciples were busy doing wonderful things for God. Yet, he called them away from good activities to a better activity for a time; rest.

One of my favorite passages of Scriptures tells of Jesus taking a nap. “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion (Mark 4:38 NIV).” Can you imagine the Holy Head of our Creator, snoozing on a boat pillow? I believe that if Christ needed a nap, it indicates that we might need a nap, too.  

Napping as Jesus did enables me to be more like him in other areas of my life, too. I find when I am well rested I am able to be more loving and patient with others. I like to think of my naps as a “spiritual discipline.” They rank right up there with Bible Study and prayer.

So how about you? Were you wired tired? Or perhaps you are high-energy, but overcommitted? Do you hear Christ calling to you to come away to rest?

Jesus, help me to accept that tiredness is not a badge of honor. Help me not to be compelled to perform at our culture’s standard of activity. Nudge me to rest, to nap, and to restore myself from busyness. Call me away to rest with you.

Application steps: Review your “to do” lists. Ask God to show you his priorities for your life and then adjust your “to do” list accordingly. Allocate a specific time to rest from activity each day. Allow yourself the luxury of an afternoon nap.

Refection points:     
How often do my friends comment on how tired I look?

Do I take pride in my exhaustion?

Does my tiredness please God?

Does my tiredness keep me from spending time with God?”

Do I feel guilty when I rest or nap?
Power verses: 
Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God.” (NIV) 

Psalm 62:5, Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. (NIV) 

Matthew 11:28,  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (NIV) 

© 2004 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.