Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shock and Awe

“He is like a tree planted by streams of living water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Psalm 1:3 NIV

The phrase “Shock and Awe” was coined during the second Gulf war and the invasion of Iraq. This post is not about that time in history but deals with gardening! What to flowers, bushes and trees have to do with Bunker Buster Bombs?
The portion of scripture quoted above, read from the Tehillim (Jewish translation of the book of Psalms with commentary) states: “He shall be like a tree replanted (emphasis mine) by streams of water.” A footnote to this verse reads: “The wicked people who are enchanted by the charms of This World are considered ‘planted’ here, i.e. rooted permanently in this earth…Not so the righteous man who is considered replanted’, i.e. he has uprooted his desire for the pleasures of This World and has planted his soul in a higher realm of existence so that it derives its vitality and sustenance from the world of the spirit.” This sounds much like a born again experience.  Col. 1: 13-14 NIV says: “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” God literally transplants us into a whole new world.
In recent years I have become an avid gardener.  Proper soil preparation is critical for success; red Georgia clay is as friable as cured concrete. When I establish a new bed I remove all the old soil and replace it with top soil, manure and organic matter. Whatever I plant there has a rich medium to sink roots into easily. Eph. 3:17 NIV describes the ground our Heavenly Fathers places us in. We are to be “rooted and established in love.” I John 4:7 NIV states that “God is love”; He is the soil we are transplanted into and soil composition is very important. 1 Cor. 13: 4-8 provides the breakdown of this new ground we call home. God is patient, kind, does not envy or boast. He is not proud, rude, self-seeking or easily angered. He keeps no record of wrongs; does not delight in evil; rejoices with the truth. God always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres and He never fails. God relocates us into a totally new and foreign environment. As plants in the natural react to change, we also experience transplant shock.
When flowers, shrubs and trees are uprooted and moved, their root systems suffer from the disturbance. It is unavoidable, but steps can be taken to mitigate the effects and help smooth the transition from one location to another. I use a product called Quick Start and it is akin to a B-12 shot for transplants. The impact is visibly demonstrative; the plant adjusts much quicker to its new home. God, The Great Gardener, does the same thing for a new believer. He place His Holy Spirit in them to provide assistance and help on an as needed basis. Becoming born again is an exhilarating experience, which initially can also be a bit bewildering, even un-natural. This is normal and God provides His own supernatural bloom boost in Holy Spirit who helps us adjust to the new surroundings.
Another rule of thumb in gardening is “dig a ten dollar hole for a one dollar plant.” To insure that a transplant will grow and flourish, provide a soil enriched space much larger than the root ball. If I do not follow this rule, the native clay creates a barrier that severely restricts new growth. The plant expends enormous energy in an attempt to develop a good root system and may stay stunted. This applies to all plants: flowers, shrubs and trees. God is not cheap nor is He chintzy. He does not carve out a tiny portion of Himself with just enough space to squeeze us in. He lavishes us with ample, fertile ground to quickly put down strong roots. He desires that we tap in deeply to Him to establish stability and the ability to draw our nourishment from Him, our source.
Some plants, especially trees, benefit from being staked. These help ensure straight vertical growth and provide protection from being damaged or uprooted by strong wind and severe weather. There come a point when the tethers must be removed and the plant or tree stands on its own. Failure to do this can cause damage as growth continues. The guide lines could cut into the trunk and open the door to disease or infestation. Supporting the plant never guarantees storms and winds will not take a toll. Their purpose was to steady the plant or tree when developing a strong foundation to withstand strong turbulence. New believers benefit from a strong support system in the beginning of their walk with the Lord. More mature brothers and sisters can help by: teaching and instructing in the Word of God; praying and interceding while the young Christian learns the practice and habit of prayer; using their faith to combat difficult situations until babes in Christ develop their own. Winds of adversity will come. Tethered support can help prevent a new believer from being blown over or uprooted when storms hit.  
The tree in Proverbs 1:3 was transplanted next to a stream. All plants, especially those freshly relocated, need water. The fourth chapter of John’s gospel records a discourse between Jesus and a Samaritan woman (a major cultural faux pas and another whole topic for discussion). Jesus initiated the conversation with a request for a drink from the well. He told the un-named woman: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst, indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up into eternal life.” ver 13-14  A new believer is comparable to the tree in Proverbs; the stream of water to Jesus. From the Lord, a believer draws enough to liberally share because he or she “will yield its fruit in season”, and be refreshed themselves because their “leaf does not wither.”   
If this transplant process happened automatically when a person is born again, why do many never seem to take root and flourish? Proverbs 1: 1-2 NIV gives explanation. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law does he meditate day and night.” The scripture does not imply that we cloister ourselves away; avoid any outside contact; and spend our time 24/7 with our nose in the Bible. It deals with making right choices. We determine who has entrance to our sphere of influence. Choose friends wisely. In life we have contacts with all sorts of people; some of these encounters we cannot control. How these associations and interactions impact us is our decision. We must use wisdom and discernment to know how much of their input we receive.
The second point mentioned was having daily exposure to God and His Word. Most of us, throughout the day must focus our attention to the task at hand. In our free time we have opportunity to study and memorize God’s word. The word “meditate” means to ponder and contemplate. It also means to “think out loud”, repeating what we’ve read as we consider its meaning. This process builds a filtration system that screens incoming thoughts and ideas. If they pass the litmus test of God’s Word we can have confidence to follow their directions.
 Another aspect about transplanting, more evident with trees than with flowers and shrubs is this, growth is a slow process. We desire instant results, however, maturity takes time. It may appear as though nothing is different. Continue to follow God’s plan and good growth will occur often unseen, under the surface before there is any visible manifestation. Then, as if overnight, everything changes. We are “shocked” and the progress and development and “awed” at what God has accomplished.
Trees tend to stay put once they become established. To uproot a fully mature tree carries the real risk of death. When we are firmly “rooted and established in love”, it behooves us to stay put. To pull up roots and head for greener pastures can prove lethal. Stay with God; develop a strong, personal, intimate relationship with Him. Study and apply His Word to your circumstances. You will have all you need and plenty to share with others. In times of adversity, which will come, you will not wither, die or be toppled. Your roots are dug down deep and you will flourish in the best and worst of times.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Don’t Send Me to Africa

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom. 12:2 NIV

In the mid nineties, Christian singer/songwriter Scott Wesley Brown recorded a song, Please Don’t Send Me to Africa, which poked fun at a stereotypical fear many Christians harbor. The thought of moving half way around the globe to be a missionary (let alone going next door to witness to a neighbor) is terrifying. At times Christians, myself included, shy away from really wanting to know God’s will because of a belief that we will not like it. God’s will is equated with “suffering for Jesus”. Being uncomfortable, inconvenienced and put out are not high on the list of our life’s priorities. Scriptures such as, Isaiah 55:8 NIV, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” can take on an ominous tone. This is reinforced with that old Christian cliché “you just never know what God is going to do!” pronounced in a somber, foreboding voice. Have we inadvertently painted a picture of God as a capricious trickster who just loves pulling the rug out from under His children with crazy schemes to shake up their lives? Perhaps.

In his song, Brown tells God all the things his willing to do to avoid being sentenced to Africa: tithe 11% (he must be desperate, most Christians don’t give 10%), volunteer for the nursery, chaperone a youth retreat and go door-to-door. In full panic mode, Brown offers to do what he should already being doing in order to escape foreign service. He admits to God that his life is just too comfy in middle class suburbia; he wants to stay put. Living in the U.S. though not perfect, has a measure of predictability that offers comfort and security with a sense of control. Willingness to step out into the great unknown of God’s will and all it entails is best left to the Peter’s of Christianity. The rest of us will stay in the boat and hang on for dear life until we reach the shore.

Romans 12:2 gives insight into finding God’s will and what its defining characteristics are. First, we will not find God’s will using an un-renewed mind. That said, God does not expect us to abandon the critical thinking skills He blessed us with. He wants our natural reasoning and logic exposed to and trained by His Word in order for us to tap into His plans and thought processes; otherwise they are incompatible. The more our minds are renewed to God’s methods of operation, the easier it becomes to know and do His will. It is true that sometimes God’s plans are “outside the box” and beyond the limits of our comfort zone; not even a blip on our radar. He can change us if we will trust Him to do a makeover. Let me share a personal example.

For anyone who does not know, my husband and I spent three years in Haiti working with the Assemblies of God school nutrition program. Neither of us had any desire to live or work overseas, let alone in Haiti. Like Scott Wesley Brown, we were happy supporting the troops on the foreign fields from the comfort of our stateside residence. Our church became involved with an independent mission organization in Haiti. We contributed to the effort by sending money, supplies and monthly support to educate a young Haitian girl. When the church announced a mission trip for a construction crew we were ready to assist, with both feet firmly planted on U.S. soil. Unknown to us, God had other plans. To make a very long story short, God not only changed our hearts about the trip, He miraculously provided all the finances to cover the expenses. He made two people, who viewed Haiti as a “nice (relatively speaking) place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there” open to return for another short visit, and then move there permanently. He accomplished that without any kicking and screaming on our parts. How? Our minds were renewed.

When we were at least willing to entertain the thought that perhaps this just might be something He planned for us, He had permission to mess with our thinking, and He did. This did not happen over night. Within eighteen months we sold our home and most of our possessions and moved to the Caribbean. We were excited, completely on board with God’s plans, truly a divine reversal. For us, His will was better than good, pleasing and perfect, it was awesome. Was living in Haiti a three year extended vacation in the sun? Not hardly. That said, I would not trade those years for anything; it was the adventure of a life time.

Second, God’s will is always good, pleasing and perfect when viewed through the lens of a renewed mind (often from the perspective of hindsight). Jeremiah 29:11 NIV assures us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Our thinking and reasoning must be totally transformed in order to grasp this. God’s will does not always entail a radical relocation to another area. More often it involves changes to small habitual aspects of our lives and personalities. These are sacred cows that die hard. Romans 12:1 NIV instructs us to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices”. The problem with living sacrifices – they won’t stay on the altar! When we try to “wrap our heads” around God’s ways using our natural minds we get spiritual migraines. We complain to God. What He is asking us to do does not make sense. This is correct; but it does take and make faith. Faith is what pleases God; it is His “modus operandi.”

Third, speaking only for myself, deep down inside I do not like being told what to do. I enjoy having my own way. I would prefer to lay out my agenda before God for His approval, blessing and funding. I would like Him to open and close the right doors, make the path smooth and keep the process as easy and fun filled as possible. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try to convince Him to do things my way; He has a mind of His own and prefers His plans over mine. If I want to be onboard with His design for my life, I am the one who must change. My mind must be renewed. I have found that just being willing to consider options other than my own, allows God to start the transformation process. He will use His Word to show me new facets of Himself and how He operates. He will bring the right people into my life through media and personal encounters. He will guide me to the place where His desires are now my desires. These He will gladly grant. I have experienced this process personally, that is how He got me to Haiti.  

          Before moving abroad I adopted a saying, “there are three places I never want to live– Haiti, Florida and Texas”. God, in His marvelous sense of humor has moved us to two of those three locations. Texas is the lone holdout. Do I think that is next? I don’t know. My opinion of Texas has dramatically changed from being a land of cowboys and tumbleweeds to a place with great ministries and churches and BBQ. Texas would be fun, but Africa, that would be an adventure. I don’t know what next God has up His sleeve for me; whatever it is, I will need some brainwashing. My mind will have to be renewed even more in order to test and approve God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. For certain the next step will be an awesome adventure

For anyone who wants to hear the song, here is the link.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shop til You Drop

“…you will know the truth, and the truth (that you know, emphasis mine) will set you free. John 8:32 NIV

Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding. Prov. 23:23

The truth that you know will set you free, but the truth itself is not free; it comes at a cost. In life there are no “free lunches”. This applies to things in the spiritual realm as well as the natural.

To “buy the truth” indicates there is value assigned to it. Payment takes on many forms: time, effort, persistence, sacrifice, money, etc. To acquire truth one must pay the price. For example, in an ongoing quest to know truths that transform, I am attempting to read a chapter from Proverbs daily. This requires time I could spend doing other things. I am on my fourth cycle of reading the book and only on this round did that particular scripture catch my attention. Over the course of thirty plus years, how many times and in how many different translations have I read this verse? I have no idea. Why did it impact me now and not before? No clue. I do know this; I have found a gem of truth because I spent time in God’s Word searching. Do I know all that this verse has to teach me? Not yet. I need to allocate time and effort to study, meditate and pray about what “buying the truth” looks like. Part of my discovery process is writing this blog post. Doing so helps me assemble my jumbled thoughts and ideas into a cohesive (hopefully) essay. From this foundation I can begin to build a path that leads from mental assent (agreeing something is true), to faith (believing something is true), to KNOWING it is true. When I know the truth, it has the power to make me free.

Salvation is an example of how this process unfolds. If questioned, one may agree Jesus was a real historical figure. One may also conclude He was a great teacher, a kind person, a miracle worker, a spiritual mystic or prophet. In terms of salvation according to biblical standards, those opinions are insufficient. Roman 10:9-10 teaches that salvation necessitates one confess Jesus is Lord and believe in one’s heart that God raised Him from the dead. One must move from simply acknowledging Jesus existed, to by an act of one’s will, submitting to His Lordship. That takes faith.

Faith is not static but capable of developing and growing. Romans 10:17 NIV states, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” “Hearing” in Greek means to hear something repeatedly. If one goes past agreeing that Jesus existed, to confessing Him as Lord, but no further, will one experience all the freedom that salvation encompasses? Possibly not.

If all salvation accomplished was keeping one out of hell, it is still the deal of a lifetime. The words for salvation, soteria, and for saved, sozo, in the original Greek language have connotations of being made whole in every aspect of our lives. Healing and restoration to health, preservation from danger and rescue in perilous situations are also included. What prevents someone from experiencing all salvation affords? Ignorance of what this gift contains. Salvation allows one to receive Heavenly benefits now, in this lifetime. These do come at a price. One needs to develop an intimate relationship with God through prayer, praise and worship, and with His Word through reading, studying and meditating upon it. To obtain maximum results one must reorder one’s priorities to make the pursuit the truth of paramount importance.

Matthew 13:44-46 relates two short parables that describe such efforts. The Parable of the Hidden Treasure tells of a man who discovered something of great value in a field. He temporarily re-hid the find, sold all he owned and bought the field. Now he rightfully possessed the land and all it would yield. The Parable of the Pearl refers to merchant looking for fine pearls. In that day, pearls were more rare than gemstones which made them more valuable. The merchant found a pearl of exceptional quality. He also sold all he owned in order to purchase the treasure he found. Both of these examples are of natural elements that pale in comparison to “the riches in glory, in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NIV How many of us are willing to exhaust our time and resources to obtain what is inestimable worth?

“Buying the truth” is worth all we give to find and possess it. When we progress through mental assent and faith, we reach a pinnacle. We no longer need faith to believe, we now KNOW. This knowledge is unshakable and brings release to our life. Questions and doubts that plagued us are now non-issues. What we “know” is bedrock for future growth and development. The exciting part, we will never lack new frontiers of faith to explore. We will only begin to scratch the surface of all there is to learn during this brief stint of eternity called life on earth.

We can focus our efforts and resources to acquire possessions to leave behind. Or we can turn our attention to the pursuit of truth, exploring every aspect it and finding freedom along the way. There are no limits to how much we can buy, and the supply is endless. So, “On your mark, get set, go!” and shop til you drop, literally.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blab It And Grab It

         “Blab it and grab it!”, “Name it and claim it!” phrases employed as descriptions of the Word of Faith ministries of Kenneth E. Hagin, Charles Capps, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland and many others. Often the words were derogatory remarks made by people who never personally investigated what these men and women actually believed and taught. I know, I was one of them. Not until I took time to listen to their teachings and to read their writings could I draw my own conclusions. Now, I am one of them.

To be fair, did people act out of foolishness and presumption “naming and claiming” things outside of God’s will, timing and even their own level of faith? Yes. Because of this, for the most part, the church as a whole threw out the baby with the bathwater. The bible contains many references to the creative power of our spoken words; and the consequences, good and bad, resulting from our speech. Salvation, the greatest gift offered is received when one will “confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV The primary objective of Word of Faith teachings was never about “getting stuff”. The bible says when we pray, if we believe we received, we will have it. Word of Faith focused on establishing God’s Word as final authority and following its instructions implicitly no matter the situation, circumstance or cost.

In spite of any personal bias concerning “blabbing and grabbing it”, the real true litmus test of its authenticity, or lack thereof is, does scripture back it up? If there is biblical foundation, we have a key to receiving answers to prayers and an important tool for bringing the Kingdom of Heaven into manifestation on earth. If proven true, the mistakes and misuses of others attempting to reduce God and His Word to a formula to satisfy selfish desires must not prevent us from skillfully using scripture to change our world. The question we must ponder – does God “name it and claim it”? I believe He does.

Genesis 12 relates an encounter between Abram and Jehovah God. Abram, a descendent of Noah’s son Shem, lived in Haran with his father Terah and the rest of his family. All of them were moon worshippers. “Long ago your forefathers including Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor lived beyond the river and worshipped other gods.” Joshua 24:2 NIV Abram’s background and upbringing may have included some knowledge of Jehovah as a god, but the focus was elsewhere. Still, God had a plan for Abram. In Genesis 12, God showed up and staked His claim on Abram. God named a childless husband the progenitor of a great nation of people. He claimed Abram as the instrument He would use to bless all the people of the world. In Genesis 17 God literally renamed Abram to Abraham and reasserted His claim to use Abraham to be a blessing.

Jesus imitated His Father in everything He said and did. “And I (Jesus speaking) tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18 NIV Jesus renamed Simon, Peter; an impetuous, volatile fisherman, a rock. Jesus claimed Peter and his revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to be foundations He would use to build a church upon that Hell and all its fury could not defeat. God did not restrict naming and claiming to individuals only. “But this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel; ‘Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine’.” Isaiah 43:1. NIV Of all the people groups, God chose the Hebrews and named and claimed them as His own.

The principle applies to every area of life. In the midst of a ferocious storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus named and claimed His solution to a sinking ship. “Quiet, be still.” Mark 4:39 NIV The wind and waves immediately obeyed; calm was restored and the voyage continued on to completion. Joel 3:10 instructs the weakling to declare, “I am strong” as opposed to lamenting their lack of strength. James 1:5-6 directs anyone in need of wisdom to ask God for some with the confident expectation their request is granted. When we truly believe we have already received when we pray, it is foolish to speak to the contrary.

People, in jest, referred to Kenneth E. Hagin as the author of Mark 11:22-23 because he repeatedly referenced it when teaching. A close look at these verses reveals a lack of any limits or boundaries defining what can be ask for and received. Was Jesus being reckless when He gave us “carte blanche” to ask for anything? God is not stupid nor is He Santa Claus. God will not violate His expressed will to satisfy our desires. Several years ago a woman claimed Kenneth Copeland as her husband. The problem, Kenneth was already very happily married to Gloria. Making this type of a confession is ridiculous: it is a direct violation of God Word. James 4:3 NIV addresses this issue; “When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasure.” This scripture should bring us great comfort. We are not always aware of our true motives. God is, and He will not provide things which will destroy our lives. The scripture does not mean we never spend anything for pleasure or enjoyment; what matters are the motives and intents of our hearts. When we ask for something we need or even want, do we ask with a pure heart; or are we attempting to impress others with our possessions and/or spirituality? Are we trying to bolster our self esteem? Will we get it wrong sometimes? Probably. Will we try to “push the limits”? Most likely; we did with our natural parents. That process taught us how far we could go. Sometimes we were pleasantly surprised to discover our “over the top” requests fell right into the realm of possibility.

When we are confident that we have not asked amiss, and our petitions line up with God’s word and our level of faith, how do we handle answers that are slow to appear? God’s Word teaches the principle of “seed TIME (emphasis mine) and harvest”. There is always a gap between “Amen” and “there it is”. Perhaps we still need time to grow into those things we want. For example, if a five year old boy asks for a motorcycle, would a wise parent give him one? His request although not bad, is inappropriate for a young child. When he is fifty, I mean fifteen; this might be the perfect gift. Time is needed for the child to mature and grow into his dream.

James 1:3-4 NIV tells us that the “testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” God is looking to develop us to go the distance, not just wind sprints. This requires maintaining consistency through good and bad while we wait. Someone asked Kenneth E. Hagin how long was “long” when waiting for an answer. He responded, “If you are willing to stand forever, you won’t be standing long.” There are no shortcuts in life and there certainly aren’t any in the Kingdom of God. Knowing the Word of God, decreeing and acting upon it place us in position to receive from God what we need, and on His perfect timetable.

To “name it and claim it” or “blab it and grab it”…that is the question? Only an individual can answer that for themselves. I stated my position, but don’t base your decision on my personal beliefs. Search this out in the scriptures and with God yourself.

Father, right now I name everyone who reads this piece a seeker of Your truth and I claim that they will find You in a deeper dimension than ever before and they will find answers in Your Word for the questions in their hearts. I believe I receive the answer to this prayer, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When is “Good” Good and “Bad” Bad?

He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil come to him who searches for it. Prov. 11:27

We get what we focus our attention upon. This seems a no-brainer, still, God places something this obvious in His Word. He knows how quickly we forget. This verse is cut and dried, matter of fact; but often God’s Word runs deeper than what appears on the surface. Digging into the Word is a treasure hunt yielding valuable lessons.

Consider the difference between good and evil (bad). Strong’s Concordance defines good as: being pleasant or agreeable, excellent, rich or valuable in estimation, happy, glad, prosperous, kind, benign and ethical. Evil, on the other hand, is: bad, disagreeable, unpleasant, sad, unhappy, vicious in nature, wicked (ethically), thinking badly of people and thinking of doing bad deeds. The biblical definitions of these words show the breadth of meaning each encompasses, and the vast disparity between them. Indulge me for a few minutes as I veer off course. I assure you this rabbit trail is leading somewhere.

Through casual usage in everyday language, we have trivialized good and bad. For example, if I remarked “The food was good”, was I really saying the meal was well prepared and enjoyable? As a stand alone written statement the reader could safely conclude that I was pleased with the fare. If I expressed this verbally, understanding what I really meant required more than simply hearing my spoken words. My tone of voice, my facial expressions and my body language were strong indicators that reflected my true feelings. What I said, coupled with the non-verbal cues, conveyed exactly what I meant.

When I was younger it was popular to use the word “bad” to describe something excellent, enjoyable, pleasant, etc. It was typical to see a really nice car and refer to it as a “bad machine”. Someone unacquainted with slang could conclude that my comment was critical, not complimentary, even though the exact opposite was the truth.

Evil has a more sinister connotation. We tend not to throw this word around lightly. Evil contains the ingredient of intentionality. A person can commit an act that is considered “bad”, however, it may be an honest mistake, an error in judgment or stupidity. When one commits evil, it is pre-meditated, purposeful and not accidental.

Allow me now to tie the common practice of using good and bad in opposing context with my first point; the definitions of good and evil. Romans 14:16 states, “Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil”. The converse, to not allow what you consider evil to be spoken of as good, I believe, is valid also. We are not to promote sinful, wrong behavior and ideas when popular belief says they are acceptable. We are also to vigorously speak up for and defend what is right and good, even when the court of public opinion disagrees. In this verse I find another layer of truth hidden beneath the surface; the warning to not use these words out of their proper context.

You may ask, “What is the big deal? What difference does it make?” When we use the words, good and bad, to define something opposite of it’s meaning, their true value is diminished. The defining line between them becomes blurred. Without a clear understanding of each word, we may find our pursuit of something produces unexpected results. This may seem far fetched, please bear with me. God says what He means and means what He says. He is accurate, precise, concise and literal. He’d like us to follow His example. Suppose I go to Him in prayer and ask for a “really, cool, bad machine” i.e. a car? How should He answer my prayer? I would be very upset if He gave me a malfunctioning refrigerator. It would be “cool” because it is not keeping food cold, which makes it “bad” and it is a machine. It would fit my request to a “T”. Would God really give me a broken down fridge instead of a car? Of course not! He knows what I need before I do. God is not the author of confusion. When He speaks His words are accurate because they have creative power. He pronounces His desired end result and that is what He gets. He wants us to use our words in like manner. Speaking words in ways contradictory to their meanings creates misunderstandings. God does not operate in an environment of ambiguity and neither should we. When we carefully choose and speak words that define what we want, we release power for those things to manifest. This puts us inside the arena where God operates.

Second, the words seek and search, while similar, have subtle differences in meaning. To seek is to look earnestly or diligently for something. Search means “trample” or literally “beat a path to”. When I am “searching”, get out of my way or get run over. I am on a mission! Search also means to go to God or an idol for the purpose of receiving an ocular (visual) answer; in other words, “when all else fail, pray.” There is a fuel behind search that propels desperate people to use any extreme to achieve the desired end result.

Third, according to Proverbs 11:27, when we “beat a path” to evil, evil comes to meet us. Evil will accommodate anyone who intends to do wrong. What about those who seek after good? Scripture say they will also find what they are look for. In addition, Psalm 23:6 assure us, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all (emphasis mine) the days of my life.” The word “follow” in Hebrew is a hunting term. God is hunting us down to bless us. This happens continually, not just on our good days.

Proverbs 11:27 is another example of the biblical law of sowing and reaping. What we expend effort to obtain, we will receive. Knowing that God is hunting us down to bless us, let’s make it easier for Him to catch us…go for goodness.