Thursday, December 5, 2013

Decision Making and God's Will

We have all faced those decisions where the "right" answer is not always a clear answer. How do we make decisions that are pleasing to God when Scripture doesn't specifically tell us what to do? When we are faced with options, how do we know that we are making the right choice? Here is some helpful advice to point you in a God-honoring direction. 

1. Where Do I Fit In?
The Bible is clear that our life is a small chapter that fits into a much grandeur story that God is telling. So while God is most certainly concerned with every detail of our life, His bigger concern is how the small details of our life fit into the larger story that He is writing. God's ultimate plan is to save mankind for the glory of Christ! In all the choices we make, we would be wise to weigh our decisions based on what will bring the ultimate glory to Christ. Is there an option or choice that we are given that will help us better align our lives with the gospel story? Is there a decision we are faced with that we can answer in such a way that allows our story to fit in better with the overall story of God's plan? Whether you are choosing a college, a house, a job or a spouse, one should ask which choice will ultimately fit you in better with God's plan for all of life?

2. What Is My Mindset?
While God does not always list for us the right choices to make in His Word, He does very clearly describe the type of mindset He wants us to have in making those tough choices we are faced with. Ultimately, God desires our sanctification, or our journey towards holiness, to be front and center when we are weighing out choices in front of us. In making decisions, are we motivated from a desire to see ourselves and others grow spiritually? Is there a choice before us that will push ourselves and others closer to Christ? God desires our sanctification. Are we desiring the same thing when making decisions?

God also desires that we remain content with His goodness rather than lusting in our selfish passions. Are we allowing God to be glorified in us by remaining content in Him or do we allow our passions, cravings and own desires to motivate our decision making?  Ultimately we are called to place others before ourselves. We are called to serve others rather than using others for our own gain. Are their options laid before us that would lead to greater opportunities to serve others?

3. What Are My Safeguards?
If we admit that a proper motivation is needed when making decisions that are honoring to God, how can we make sure our motives stay pure? It is easy to become blinded to our selfishness. What can we do to make sure we are making decisions that allow us to fit into God's overarching plan of saving mankind as we seek to serve others?

First, we must make sure that our desires are being shaped by the wisdom of God's Word and the leading of His Spirit, rather than the deceiving nature of today's culture. We need a renewed mind to choose the best things in life. Are we allowing our minds to be shaped properly so that we choose rightly? Are we allowing our minds to be saturated by His Word so that we are faithfully walking in the Spirit each day?

Second, we must protect ourselves from our own pride and ignorance by seeking the wisdom of others. God is good about placing wiser individuals in our paths to help guide us through the tough decisions in life. Are you faithfully seeking out others than can offer insight into the choices you are faced with? The book of Proverbs has much to say in the area of wisdom. One thing is clear, the individual who leans on the counsel of others will always be more steady than the one who trusts in his own knowledge. 

In Conclusion...
Be confident in making decisions that are being shaped by an inward desire to see God's plan of saving His people accomplished. When we desire the things that God desires, we are well on our way to being exactly where He wants us to be, doing exactly what He wants us to be doing. 

For additional insight and reading:
Ps. 1:1-2, Prov. 2:1-11, 3:5-6, 11:14, 13:20, 19:20, 24:6, Rom. 12:1-2, Eph. 5:15-21, Col. 3:16, I Thess. 4:1-8, 5:12-18, I Tim. 2:3-6, James 1:5-8, I Peter 2:13-15, 4:1-11, 19, I John 2:15-17

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gospel Faithfulness

The book of Acts describes a whirlwind of events surrounding the establishment and growth of the local church in the life of New Testament believers. You have Jesus ascending to heaven, the Holy Spirit coming on believers, disciples speaking in different languages, thousands getting saved, people selling all their stuff and you even have people dropping dead in church. What a crazy couple of weeks.

Two individuals stand out greatly to me in the early portions of Acts. The first is Peter. Peter had been radically transformed by seeing the resurrected Christ. No longer fearful of death, Peter seeks to boldly obey the Great Commission given to him by Jesus by preaching two of the greatest sermons ever. In Acts 2:41 Peter proclaims Christ and 3,000 people were saved. Then he proceeds to do even better the next time when in Acts 4:4 he preaches again and 5,000 get saved. I'm not sure in my lifetime if I'll ever see 8,000 souls saved. Peter saw it happen in a matter of days. And these aren't skewed numbers based on decision cards turned in. These are legit Bible confirming salvations that occur. Stephen is the other guy that stands out to me. He preaches a bold sermon in Acts 7 and his results aren't quite as impressive. Acts 7:57-59 records for us how his invitation went. Nobody gets saved and he gets stoned.

Was Peter more faithful than Stephen? What did Stephen do wrong? Both he and Peter preached from the Old Testament, both proclaimed Christ in their sermon and both accused their audiences of killing Jesus. One sees 8,000 saved and one is buried under rocks. What's the deal? Both were faithful to what Jesus commanded about making disciples but God had different ways of fulfilling His plan through them. God uses Peter to make a multitude of disciples immediately that would be the foundation of the early church but I believe God used Stephen to reach the greatest disciple maker the church has ever known.

Think about the account of Stephen. He is stoned by angry Jews as the Pharisee Saul oversees the execution. Saul needed more than a sermon to be converted. He needed the prayers of a prayer warrior so that his self righteous pride could be exposed by the glory of Christ's gospel. Stephen cries out to God, asking that He not hold the sins of his executors against them. Does God hear these prayers? Absolutely, as God converts Saul on the side of the road, changes his name to Paul and uses him to write most of the New Testament while planting churches throughout Asia and Europe. Stephen's sermon ended tragically yet God used the faithfulness of Stephen to grow His church just as He used Peter.

The Great Commission calls us to faithful obedience. We may not always see the results in our lifetime but we can trust God will always use our faithfulness to grow His church!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Some Thoughts on Starbucks

There is a lot of debate right now concerning recent comments made by the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz. These type of cultural events always provide an opportunity for Christians to think and react in general towards sin and towards others who believe differently than we do. Unfortunately, if we aren't careful, we miss the opportunity to serve as salt and light and instead do damage to the gospel we are trying to promote. 

Here some thoughts I'm using to help me maintain a good perspective on whether to continue visiting my local Starbucks. 

(It should be noted that I hate coffee in general and only go to Starbucks if my wife is with me or if I have a gift card. Then I get the only drink on the menu that isn't influenced by coffee)

1. A Christian call to boycott Starbucks in this situation feels very contradictory to what Christians sought to fight against with the CFA situation brought on by Dan Cathy's comments. The outrage in that situation was over comments Dan made in support of traditional marriage. In addition, the situation became far more than it was because the comments were taken out of context. This too seems to be the case with Schultz's comments. Never does he suggest that he wants Christian customers/traditional marriage supporters to go elsewhere for their coffee. Instead, he suggests to a concerned stock holder, that if he is concerned about losing money over the company supporting same-sex marriage, he may need to look to buy stock in another company. In addition, Schultz implies the stock holder should keep his money in Starbucks because he believes the company is not suffering from it's stance on marriage. So in reality, the CEO Schultz was actually encouraging the man, who seemed mostly interested in the economic standing of his stocks, to keep his money right where it is. This is a big difference than some of the Christian headlines and Facebook posts suggesting that Starbucks has told us they no longer need our business. I am certainly not supporting his comments. But I do think it is important to clarify what he actually said. 

2. Boycotting in general seems to feed the perception that Christians are judgmental towards those that don't believe like them. I believe most of the "lost" world expects people to boycott when something goes against their beliefs. In fact, Pilate was shocked when Jesus did not react to false accusations being thrown his way before His crucifixion. If the lost world is known for it's boycotts to protest not getting their way, I'd rather believers be known for handling attacks against our beliefs in a different way. 

3. It's always better to evangelize those who believe differently than us than to try to force them to believe the way we do with our wallets. In addition, improving the morality of America will never produce the eternal change we say we long for in the lives of others. We have not been victorious with the gospel if we simply see same-sex marriage outlawed and the amount of same-sex couples decrease. Our task remains the same, those individuals must still believe and repent to be saved. Too often though, I'm afraid we fight for a victory that does not produce this type of change. 

So what should we do?
1. We should definitely be wise stewards of the money God has entrusted to us. If one were to feel that Starbucks would be a poor use of one's money, based on standards the company holds to, I see nothing wrong with a person choosing to buy their coffee elsewhere. I'm not a fan though of the public call to boycott. It's unnecessary and unhelpful in my opinion. I personally boycott the Hooters restaurant, no matter how many times I'm told their food is good. I feel the company as a whole is degrading to women, promotes lust and ultimately is a distasteful establishment. I feel no need to call for a boycott by all Christians on this though. It's a personal stance I take in striving to be both pure in my thoughts and wise with my money and my time. I want to be a good steward with my finances and choose wisely where I choose to spend my funds. My encouragement is that you be too, as you evaluate what that means for you personally, keeping in mind, most companies that sell products we enjoy probably support some cause that we disagree with. 

2. Continue to hate the sin of homosexuality. Not because we are intolerant of others but because Genesis 1 tells us that we serve a Creator who defines right and wrong for His creation. And let the hate for homosexual sin drive us to share the life giving, life altering message of Jesus Christ with those who suffer from the blindness of the god of this world. 

Here is a super helpful article from Russell Moore on the issue as well. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sometimes God Leads Us to Death

Excerpt from Nate Saint's Journal...talking about Operation Auca only days before his murder. 

"May God continue to put His good hand on the project and may we drop it when not fully assured of His direction. At present we feel unanimously that God is in it. May the praise be His and may it be that some Auca, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, will be with us as we lift our voice in praise before His throne. Amen."

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! What a joy it must be to sit in the presence of Lord Jesus with a group of people that were responsible for your death....knowing that it was only through your death that they are now sitting with you. 

When your life is all about the can confidently be led by God to your own death, knowing that by losing your life, you gain it, and so many others may gain theirs as well. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mr. Weak on Sanctification

An encouraging quote from Mr. Weak - Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

"I am resolved to keep in the good way, to run when I can, to walk when I cannot run, and creep when I cannot walk; yet to keep my face toward Zion. My journey may be long and toilsome, and my mind and body weak; yet my heart is set on that fair City at the end of the way, beyond the river that has no bridge."

There are seasons in our life where sanctification is happening faster than others times...the important thing is that we continue to press on in our pursuit of Christ more and more each day. The true Christian perseveres, even if it means crawling at times.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

When Jesus Won't Let You Go to the Mission Field...

There are times when God would actually have us stay home, rather than head off to the far reaches of the world, to share the gospel for His glory. Can you imagine that? God telling a willing and able body that desires to leave home not to go overseas to make Christ known to others? That is exactly what Jesus does to the demonized man of Mark 5. We aren't told the full details of this man's back story. But it's evident his past is troubled. His life has been wrecked by Satan. He had been torn from family and friends, isolated as an outcast among the dead. His future looked bleak and yet Jesus stepped in to radically change His life. He is set free from demonic possession, set free from a dead life, set free from torment and torture. Naturally, he wants to go with Jesus, learn from Jesus and follow Jesus wherever He goes. But Jesus won't let him. Shockingly, Jesus turns down this man's request to physically follow Him. Instead, he is told to go back home. Why? I believe Jesus knew that this man's family, friends and acquaintances needed to see first hand what Jesus could do to an individual's life. Jesus knew that a changed life needed to be seen by a lost world. Jesus knew that this man had been left for dead by all those closest to him. Now He wants these same people to see how Jesus raises the saved to walk in newness of life. 

Have you faithfully shared the gospel with those closest to you before you make plans to set off for the ends of the world? Jesus set the example. He went to Nazareth first, his hometown, and was rejected. He tells this man to do the same. If you aren't faithful to share the gospel here, you probably won't be faithful to share it there. Go to your home first and tell them. Then go tell the world. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Don't Believe What I Just Saw

There is a famous call by Vin Scully of the L.A. Dodgers that reflects what most of the sports world felt when a hobbled, over the hill Kirk Gibson came off the bench to win a World Series game in spectacular fashion (you can watch the video here) back in 1988. An improbable feat, as an unlikely hero homered off the most dominant closer in baseball at that time. Most people would agree with Vin Scully, "I don't believe what I just saw."

There was a group in Mark 2:1-12 though that witnessed something far more spectacular, making their similar comments to Vin Scully's much more meaningful. In this passage, Jesus heals a paralytic, a man who medically had been told that he would never walk again. And yet Jesus exercises His sovereign authority over creation to fix what was previously broken. But in more spectacular fashion, He heals this man spiritually as well. Most would say the miracle performed in this passage was the healing of his physical ailment. But Jesus draws attention to his ability to heal spiritually. By proclaiming that this man's sins were forgiven, Jesus worked a far greater miracle. As a holy God, Jesus forgives sins that would condemn this man for eternity. Yet with a spoken word this man is transferred from darkness to light instantaneously. Some in the crowd were angered over this proclamation. In their hearts they questioned how an ordinary man could forgive sins. It's precisely by this action though that Jesus revealed He was more than an ordinary man. He is qualified to forgive sins because He is God in flesh. 

The people that day left, overwhelmed by what they had witnessed. The passage tells us they glorified God (they made his greatness known) by proclaiming to others..."We never saw anything like this!"

May we be just as faithful to reveal the greatness of God to others as this group did that day! Because if we are Christians we have certainly witnessed an unbelievable, life changing miracle in our own life.