Friday, December 18, 2009

THE SEVEN BEST WORDS OF THE CHURCH -- Devotional for December 18, from "Good Seeds"

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all His works. (Psalm 73:28)

Pastors are well aware of “The Seven Last Words of the Church,” and listen with trepidation for them to be stated in one form or another by members of their congregation. “We’ve never done it that way before!” is one way to say it. Or turn the coin over (it’s still just as worthless!): “We’ve tried that already; it doesn’t work.” People just love to talk with authority about God’s business, as if they were all-knowing and all-wise about human nature, and about the future. Now we’re hearing a rather humorous tag added to a tired old cliché: “Been there, done that – bought the T-shirt! (yet another “Seven Last Words” with which to rain on someone’s parade!) What can we do when people we thought were our friends, or at least our teammates, throw cold water on our dreams? We can turn again to Psalm 73. The coda for Asaph’s song takes us from the doldrums of the blues to a praise song of victory: “Instead of dwelling on the meanness of men, I’m going to concentrate on the nearness of God!” People easily discourage us, even when they think they’re helping us. When we spend too much time with others, and not enough with God, we’re going to hear a lot of opinion, even about God’s will for our lives. But the verse specifically says, “the nearness of GOD is my good” – not the nearness of people. He has things to tell us, but He’s a Gentleman: He waits till everyone else is finished -- and He waits till He has our ear. But how often are we tuned to His “still, small voice” (I Kings 19:12)? It’s not that the ideas of others are of no consequence, but they are important and helpful only as they confirm what God is telling us. And if we don’t hear God’s voice we might be tempted to think that the ideas of others are spelling out God’s will for us. Indeed He often does speak to us through others, but remember who else can speak to us through even our best friend: Jesus identified this “wolf in sheep’s clothing” when he said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan, for you are a stumbling block to Me, for your mind is not set on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matthew 16:23). So, when you hear the seven last words of the church coming from well-meaning but self-serving (Satan-serving?) friends, answer back with the seven BEST words of the church. Tell them, “Regardless of what you say does or doesn’t work, God tells me what I must do, and I suspect it’s what He wants all of us to do, which is simply…“To know Him – and make Him known,” or as our verse says it: “I have made God my refuge, and now I’m going to declare His goodness to everyone I meet!” If that doesn’t put your friend back on your team, at least it might stop him from pulling you off of God’s!

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