The Good Life, part 4: LET IT BEGIN WITH ME

PANNING FOR GOLD

Digging into Psalm 34:12-14

Do you recognize the words in the title? They are the second line of a timeless song from the 1950s.

angel with halo

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin with me.

Actually, peace on earth–and THE GOOD LIFE, which is the theme of this blog–do not begin with me or any other person. They begin with God. Peace and a good life are possible for us because God is the Prince of Peace and He is good.

Hold it; hold it! I can hear some folks thinking. If God is good and the Prince of Peace, why isn’t the world in better shape? Why isn’t my life better?

I’m glad you asked. 🙂

Jesus brought the kingdom of heaven back to earth, but not everyone chooses to become  a citizen of it. And not all who have become citizens of it live there full-time.

Similarly, the good life is available for “whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days” (Psalm 34:12), but — well, let’s look at this verse in context.

12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:12-14 NIV).

Oh! You mean desiring the good life is not enough? You mean it is not even enough to pursue the good life with faith and courage?

Well, according to the psalmist, if you want the good life–if you want to change your world–you first have to change yourself!

A sterling example of this is the heartbreaking scene towards the end of the epic adventure film “Lawrence of Arabia.” The unconventional, charismatic British army officer T. E. Lawrence had done the impossible–he had managed to create a coalition of fiercely independent Arab sheiks, and, with their assistance, had conquered a major city.  However, in the following weeks, the sheiks refused to work together to restore normalcy to the city. It became a nightmare of rubble, disease, and starvation.  Lawrence, himself, fell into depression and made no attempt to re-forge their former unity of purpose.

Better a patient person than a warrior,

    one with self-control than one who takes a city (Proverbs 16:32).

If I want real, lasting victory–it has to begin with me.

What are some of the things that need to change about me if I want a really good life? Let’s go back to verses 13 and 14 of Psalm 34:

  • “Keep your tongue from evil.” That would include gossip, sarcastic remarks, off-color jokes, and pessimistic talk, right?
  • “Keep your lips from telling lies.” In other words, don’t mislead or take advantage of others by giving them false information. Don’t bury your heart by pretending to be someone you’re not. And don’t say things to yourself that are contrary to God’s gracious plans for you. Don’t say, “I can’t,” “Nothing good will ever happen to me,” “I’d better be content with a little. Who am I to expect anything special from God?” You’re of great worth to God. He delights over you with singing (Zechariah ). He has great plans for your future (Jeremiah 29:11). That’s the truth. Stick to it!
  • “Turn from evil and do good.” Well, that covers the waterfront: Don’t do what’s wrong, and do do the things you know you should.
  • “Seek peace and pursue it.” Stay out of strife. Did someone insult you? Don’t let it under your skin. Is you co-worker in a foul mood? Do yourself and the whole workplace a favor–be extra cheerful. Wherever you are, replace anxiety, frustration, and contention with faith, calmness, and harmony.

Imagine how good your life would be if your were this positive, mature, and holy.

Holy. Free from the internal garbage that keeps you from being and doing all God created you for.

Is that impossible? It must not be. God doesn’t ask us to do anything He doesn’t enable us to do.

15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV).

And it’s not as hard as it might seem. It’s not so much a matter of fixing yourself, as it is letting go of your old self and letting Christ’s life flood into your thinking and your desires.

not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:9 NIV).

put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and . . . put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV).

Three years ago, the Lord said to me, “It’s time to dream. It’s time to plan.” My dream to move from Illinois, which had been my home for over forty years, happened quickly because the Lord caused my house to sell in ten days! Another dream–to write a novel based on the life of the apostle Peter–hasn’t taken off so fast. But as I have held onto the dream and learned to cooperate with God, I have changed a lot. It had to begin with me.

 

MARTIN LUTHER KING’S DAY: How to Change the World

Martin Luther King Jr.Yesterday my phone informed me that it was Martin Luther King Day. I felt out of the loop–like I should have been attending a service commemorating him or joining a group to pray for racial equality.

Thoughts about Dr. King began piling up in my brain, each bigger and more impressive than the last. One that kept begging for my attention was his unusual style of protest. Nonviolent protest.

What does it mean? It means fighting for what’s right, without using force. Not burning down buildings,  throwing rocks through windows, or spreading vicious rumors.

It’s kind of counter-intuitive. I mean, it doesn’t come naturally to “turn the other cheek” when someone slaps you in the face! . . . Why did Jesus say to do that? Was he unconcerned about injustice? Hardly! But he knew how to defeat it. Yes, really.

Getting even doesn’t solve problems, it just makes them worse. Mahatma Gandhi, the great nonviolent activist of India puts it this way:

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Wow!

So what does work? The apostle Paul gives the solution:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21 NIV).

Nonviolent protest seems passive. Weak. A meaningless gesture. Well, it’s not. You have to be a big person to channel your anger in the right direction instead of just exploding. Big enough to wait for the right moment to act, even when people are calling you a coward. Big enough to not lose sight of your goal.

You have to be a big person to stand for what’s right and be beaten down but to stand again, and again, until evil crumbles. Until oppressors realize they can’t break you and they can’t get rid of you. Until people have to listen, after all, because you have attracted so much attention.

That’s how Jesus lived. That’s how the apostles lived.  That’s how Mahatma Gandhi lived. That’s how Martin Luther King Jr. They changed their world. They showed us how to change ours.