Doing the Most Good

I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. (Psalm 40:8)

logo - doing most goodFor over 10 years, I have had the privilege of serving on The Salvation Army (TSA) Columbus Area Services’ advisory board. Today, I’d like to use this space to share with you some of the reasons I’ve come to love this organization and its people.

  1. TSA’s mission statement doesn’t just hang on their building’s walls, it lives in their people’s hearts and drives everything they do: “Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
  2. Eighty-five cents out of every contributed dollar goes to meet human needs. Speaking at our annual fund raiser, retired astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn recalled that his father used to say, “The Salvation Army gets more out of a dollar than anyone else.” His dad was right.
  3. Management guru Peter Drucker declared TSA to be “the most effective organization in the U.S.” I can tell you first-hand that these folks are exceptional at what they do.
  4. The Salvation Army is there 24/7, year-around. Some organizations are appropriately designed to engage the community during an emergency and then move on. TSA is designed to stay; they are always there to support and serve the hurting.
  5. Here are some of TSA’s services: food pantries, housing, after-school tutoring, anti-human trafficking case management, emergency disaster relief, and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. People often say to me, “I never knew The Salvation Army did so much.”
  6. Rather than foster a permanent dependency, TSA moves people down a path to independence, believing each person has innate strengths and capabilities that can be mobilized to facilitate change.
  7. “Doing the Most Good” is TSA’s brand promise, and in my view, it is a promise kept.

When you see The Salvation Army’s red kettles and hear their bells ringing a few months from now, smile and know there is still goodness in the world and that people still care. Hope lives on.

The People I Admire Most

[Read the Scripture for the day in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.]

Who do you admire most, and why do you admire them? Is he a musician or an athlete? Is she a business leader or an author? Do you appreciate people for their accomplishments or abilities or character? What resounds in others to the point it resonates in you?

Personally, I esteem the twelve-steppers among us and others like them those who have looked honestly upon their innermost weaknesses and vulnerabilities and confessed their inability to overcome them in their own power. With a precious humility worthy of our aspiration, they rest completely in God for restoration, rerecoverynewal, and fullness of life.

Truth is, these folks have discovered what we all need to admit, that confronting our wrongs is far more powerful than denying them, and that confessing is crucial to overcoming. With this in mind, the apostle Paul called out some various ways our inward condition surfaces through our actions, from the sexually immoral among us, to the greedy, to those who slander. Then in a bold celebration of truth and grace, he reminded his readers, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Our natural inclination is to deny our wrongs or excuse them or blame others for them, but that gets us literally nowhere in the kingdom of God. Instead, our hope is found in being completely open, honest and accountable before God for our wrongs and our overall tendency toward sin, and then trusting in the boundless grace of Christ for forgiveness, salvation, and transformation.

“Coming clean” with God is our first step. When we do, He not only forgives us, He cleanses us from the inside out. What could be more worthy of our admiration?

God, reveal my heart, and give me the strength to trust you completely for forgiveness, cleansing, and the precious gift of a right standing before you in Christ Jesus, your Son. I stand in awe of you. Thank you.

To Be Like Scrooge

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. (1 John 3:14)

If there is a greater personal transformation in fiction than that of Ebenezer Scrooge, it doesn’t readily come to mind. For over 150 years, Charles Dickens’ miserly protagonist has served as a metaphor for stinginess and greed, but his story is really one of stunning conviction and response—a realization of wrong, a plea for mercy, an inner renewal, and a newly-found compassion for others. His testimony is the passing from the doom of death to a life of love, for in the end, he was a new man, changed from the inside out.

For whatever reason, we continue to identify the old money-lender with his former “Humbug” disposition, as though tethering him with Marley’s chains to his former, self-absorbed way of life. Maybe part of us finds comfort in comparing ourselves against such a low benchmark, as though our goodness lay in being better than someone else. But in so doing, we miss the point, we miss the good news. Our hope is not found in being so different than this Scrooge or that one; quite the opposite, our hope lives in the fact that we can be like him! We, too, can live in mercy and grace! We, too, can pass from death to life! We, too, can become new! For when we live in Christ, we, too, are changed.

scroogeWhat does true transformation of our inside look like on the outside? The grace we receive shines through the grace we give. We take in the words of the apostle John: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Then we live them as did our good friend, Ebenezer: “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more . . .  And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”1

May it likewise be known through our words of truth and our acts of love that we, too, live well in Christ.

Father, send your Spirit to shine through me today. May you be glorified—and may others be blessed—because you used this life for your purposes. I pray in the name of the Son you love, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Read John’s call to genuine love in 1 John 3:11-20.

1 Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Enriched Classic (New York: Pocket Books, 2007), 104.