Obedience is Not Optional

“To God’s elect … who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with His blood…” (1 Peter 1:1-2 NIV emphasis mine).

mo9vkbg5csg-ben-whiteThe above passage is rich with theological implications. It contains trigger words that light the Bible student’s heart on fire such as ‘elect’ and ‘foreknowledge’. It also mentions each member of the Trinity; Father, Son, and Spirit. However, when I read it this morning three other words grabbed my attention …

“… to be obedient …”

Why were God’s elect chosen according to the foreknowledge of God? To be obedient. Too often, Christians see obedience to God’s Word as optional. We tend to pick and choose the passages we’ll respond to. I’m not talking about the things we rule out after careful study and exegesis. It’s a truth of Scripture that not all commands within its pages apply to Christians today (hint: think shellfish!). What I’m talking about are the no-brainers — commands to worship God with all our heart, soul, and strength; to love others, worship together, and to be holy in all our conduct. We tend to pay attention to commands such as this when it’s convenient to do so, but the moment things get rough or difficult we abandon them.

When reading 1 Peter this morning I wrote the following words in the margins of my Bible:

Obedience is not optional. 

That phrase — obedience is not optional, is my new mantra. I will repeat it when things get rough. I will repeat it on the days I don’t feel God’s presence in my life. I will repeat it on those days I’m not feeling particularly Godly. Obedience is not optional!

It’s hard to justify disobedience when God’s Word says we were chosen to be obedient!

 

 

My Goals and Prayers for 2017

ef1h5yttmz8-annie-sprattNew Year’s Eve provides a wonderful opportunity to review the past year spiritually. Where has God taken you? Where have you grown? Are you more like Christ now than you were at the beginning of the year? These are the questions I asked myself as I compiled my list of goals for 2017:

 

  • I want to love people more. Not only the people God has put in my life but everyone. Strangers. Sinners. People that God loves and Christ died for. Yeah, those people. When asked what was the greatest of the commandments, Jesus replied, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40). You simply can’t love God with all your strength if you aren’t loving the people He loves. I want to get better at this.
  • I want to tend to my holiness. God’s Word says, “15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). I don’t use the word holy in a holier than thou sense … I simply want to be more holy than I am now … because God is holy.
  • I want to write more. I want to get better at writing. Sometimes I read the things others have written and it feels like they are communicating at a whole different level. I want to write more devotionals, more blog posts, finish a fiction project, and finish a non-fiction project. Why? God chose to communicate through the written Word … and I feel like I can honor Him through my writing if I apply myself.
  • In 2016, I managed to lose a great deal of weight. Over one-hundred pounds actually. I did this after I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. I started walking then running and tending to my diet. I managed to get off all my medications (diabetes and high blood pressure). At the time of this writing, I’ve gained a little back but am still doing fairly well. In 2017 I want to build on my progress. I’m praying God will give me strength and endurance as I address this goal. There’s a lot of “I’s” in this goal, however, I am well-aware this cannot be accomplished apart from God.
  • I want to continue to serve. God has provided me with a wonderful avenue to serve Him. I am the Director of Education in my local church, a Sunday School teacher, and a fill-in musician on the Praise Team. I am grateful for these opportunities to serve and I pray that God will continue to bless me in my service.
  • I pray God will temper my frustration. ’nuff said.
  • I pray for my church and the Church. In 2017, I will be praying for both my local church and the global Church. I am praying for the people in my church to grow in faith, love, knowledge, and service. I pray they will allow God to use them. I am also praying for the global Church. I pray the Church’s influence for Christ will increase. I pray for the Church in the United States to stand strong in the face of adversity. I pray for the Church to reflect the love of Christ.
  • Finally, I pray for the world and our Country. I pray for the United States. I pray for the spirituality of our country. I pray that as a people we will come to love and honor God. I pray for the divide in our country to diminish and for us to unite in purpose and prayer. I pray for our President-Elect and the incoming government. May they honor God with their leadership and decisions. I pray for the United States to honor God in its foreign relations and I am specifically praying for the country of Israel.

There are other goals and hopes I have for 2017; probably too many to list, however, I have grown comfortable allowing God to work them out. What are your goals and prayers for 2017?

Do You Reciprocate​ God’s Love?

sunset-hands-love-womanIn his post “A Key Ingredient for Friendship“, blogger and pastor Lyn Perry identifies reciprocity as a key ingredient for friendship. He does so after reading about William Shatner’s damaged friendship with Leonard Nimoy in the book Leonard. Perry writes, “Without reciprocity, friendships fail.” And he’s right … it’s hard to love someone that doesn’t love you back.

It’s so hard, in fact, that I suspect even the best of us would eventually tire of an unreciprocated friendship. Heck, I’m only going to care for so long. Eventually, I’m going to write you off if you fail to love me back. I say that even though God role-models something much different.

The oft-quoted verse John 3:16 begins with the words “For God so loved the world …” God loved the world that would crucify His Son. God loved the world that would, by and large, reject Him. Yet God doesn’t write us off. In response to His unrequited love for the world, God displays patience and desires the best for us (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s unrequited love for the world is the most remarkable kind of love ever displayed. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God didn’t just love sinners, He put His Son on the cross for sinners.

That is remarkable!

I write all of this to arrive at a point. It’s not just an unbelieving world that fails to respond to God’s love. There are many of us Christians who are still failing to reciprocate God’s love for us. We give lip-service to our faith in Christ yet continue to live in a way that doesn’t reflect our profession of faith. This is what James was saying when he wrote, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).

In the cross, Christ displayed the most remarkable kind of love for the world and Christians, of all people, should be responding to and reciprocating that love. If I’m being honest, I go through periods where my life doesn’t reflect God’s love. I am prone to selfishness. I sometimes allow my mountains to take my eyes off My Rock. My prayer is for that to change dramatically in 2017. I want to love people more. I want to serve myself less than I serve God. Mainly, I want to reciprocate the love God has shown me. Because His love is truly remarkable.

Today’s Thanksgiving Run

So I stepped out my door this morning with the intentions of heading to the gym to get a treadmill run in, but I discovered the temperature outside was a little warmer than I expected at about 40 degrees. So instead of the gym, I hit my usual running path. I’ve been running inside too much lately, so I was thankful that the weather here in Ohio cooperated and gave me the opportunity to do something different.

I started off with a warm-up walk to shake the dust off and ease into my activity. My goal was a shorter run at a little faster temp than my longer ones … I ended up with a two mile run that dipped down to a 14:00-15:30 pace for it’s duration; which, though slow for most runners, is up tempo for me. So I had a good time. But, it was fitting that on this day of Thanksgiving I found myself praising and thanking God that I was able to run and get outside. There are times I get so focused on the task of losing weight and discouraged by minor setbacks that I forget to just be thankful for all God has done for me. Last year, a run on Thanksgiving Day would have been the furthest thing from my mind. When I was a hundred pounds heavier and beset with high blood pressure and diabetes, I couldn’t run. So I’m thankful God has given me the opportunity to change that. He truly has blessed me.

morningrun
Thanksgiving, 2015

I was also thankful this morning for the beautiful sky God painted. I was the only one on the path this morning so I felt like I was sharing the sky with Him alone. It’s a sky that I wouldn’t have noticed had I stayed in bed … so I’m glad God gave me the nudge out the door this morning.

My beagle Sadie

I’m thankful for other things as well. My wife, children, and church family are more than I could ever ask for. My little grand daughter Molly is simply the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I even find myself thanking God for my beagle who, believe it or not, was an answer to my wife’s prayers. I am thankful for a God who has extended me grace, mercy, and forgiveness when I didn’t deserve anything but judgement. It is a testament to His character that I have been given a chance to live in the shadow of Jesus Christ. And I am thankful for everything He has blessed me with in the process.

Is my life perfect? Nope. I still screw things up from time to time and it seems like I fall short in some way every single day. But God is helping me focus on the blessings in my life and to forgive myself for my shortcomings. Sometimes, I tend to make the obstacles in my life bigger than my God … and that needs to change. I want God to be the biggest thing in my life so that all my troubles seem smaller.

My goal is to take the Apostle Paul’s advice:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV).

My prayer is that this spirit of Thanksgiving becomes my daily attitude from this point forward. It is also my prayer for you.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

An Argument for Older, Mature Pastors

stanley
Pastor Charles Stanley

A few years ago a young man knocked on my door and invited me to his church. I was a little surprised, because of his young age, to discover he was the lead pastor of his church. I must confess that my initial reaction was negative. I remember thinking to myself that I could never follow a pastor as young as the man standing on my porch. I’ve often thought of that encounter and even repented a bit for my initial reaction. Scripture is rife with stories of God using the young and old alike and I’ve come to learn that, in His sovereignty, God can call and use whoever He sees fit. Perhaps I was a little jealous that such a young man had discovered His calling early in life while I was still struggling to determine my own.

But there are advantages to a pastor who has some years on him as opposed to one who is young. At the top of that list has to be an awareness of one’s dependance upon God. Age has a way of teaching us about our own limitations. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that nothing I’ve accomplished for the Gospel was accomplished in my own merit or in my own strength. I have developed an awareness of my own weakness and sinfulness that makes me appreciate God’s grace all the more. That same awareness should be present in a pastor. In his book, What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All Steve Brown writes the following:

Did you ever think that grace (i.e., God’s unmerited favor) is attracted to sin? That’s what the apostle Paul said: “The law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). 

Older, more experienced, pastors tend to be more aware of their weaknesses and their sin and because of that awareness grace abounds. A friend recently shared stories about a rehabilitation ministry he is involved with for recovering addicts. Essentially, addicts are placed in a secluded monastery where the grace of Jesus Christ is liberally applied to their wounds. The stories that come out of this ministry are beautiful because their sins are often so great that grace is multiplied. It’s the same for a pastor who is aware of his own sin – grace is multiplied.

Age, mistakes, regret, persecution, trials, and even sin have a tendency to mature a growing Christian. James puts it this way:

“2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4, NASB). 

Granted, even a young pastor can possess the kind of spiritual maturity I am writing about, but young or old, this maturity is an essential quality in a pastor. The expectations we place on our church leaders tend to get things upside down. We want our pastors to be beacons of perfection. We want them to be the most holy, most perfect, and least sinful members of our church; yet when I think about the pastors that have taught me the most I discover they are the ones that know first hand the cost of their own sin and appreciate the grace it took to place them in the pulpit. Should pastors strive to be holy and provide an example for us to follow? Absolutely. But I don’t want a pastor who has simply read about trials – I want one that knows first-hand what I’m going through and can relate to my problems. Heck, if Jesus can relate to our temptations, shouldn’t our pastors?

“15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Our leaders need to remember their sin and remember the grace that conquered it. The Apostle Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament penned these words:

“15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). 

Paul went on to set the standards required of our pastors in 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

“3 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

Above reproach, a one woman man, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted, gentle, peaceable, not greedy … there’s a reason these qualifications are written in the present tense. I don’t want my pastor to nurture any addictions, or to be angry, or to have a wandering eye … but if he can tell me about a time when his life failed to meet those qualifications and then tell me how Christ intervened in his life with grace … that’s the gospel! That story of redemption is going to resonate with me and give me hope … because I’m a sinner too.

I suppose I’m not arguing for physical maturity as much as I am spiritual maturity. We see pastors fall all the time. Ministries, families, and churches are far too often ripped apart because we’ve put someone in the pulpit that wasn’t spiritually mature and lacked an appreciation for the gravity of their own sin and the grace it took to conquer it. To reference Paul one last time, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 2:9) and unless a person understands that, they have no business in the pulpit.

 

 

Book Review of Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You by Steve Brown

3freeLet me preface this review by saying I loved this book, but I would not recommend it for everyone. Why? I think new or young Christians may be confused by the rhetoric employed by author Steve Brown. Make no mistake about it, Brown is presenting some solid doctrine. His book is is all about grace. He is an advocate of eternal security and writes to convince his audience that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross frees us from the cost of sin once and for all and there is nothing we can do in our own power to earn or lose salvation. My concern is not necessarily in Brown’s doctrine or theology, rather, it is in his presentation. Brown says and writes things that seem to be inflammatory. Consider his title – “Three Free Sins” – the connotation is that because Christ has paid for our sins, they cost us nothing and are “free.” While this is might true on the surface, anyone with a working knowledge of the gospel knows there is greater depth required to unpack and explore such an assertion. Brown has his reasons for packaging his message the way he does, and I believe they are noble reasons, but I fear his message may get lost in its packaging.

A surface reading of this book suggests Brown may be pushing the heresy of antinomianism on his readers. He’s not, but I get the feeling he enjoys being viewed as a heretic. As I read his words, though I was digging what he said, I kept asking myself why he seemed to be intentionally walking that fine line. The answer come’s when Brown answers the question, “Why don’t you write and teach in a normal way?” His answer is as follows: “I’ve tried to say it in a normal way. Nobody listens. So I decided to be … as outrageous as God was in his giving of himself for us.”

So there you have it. In a way, Brown is right. I only read his book because of the provocative title. However, while I appreciate and agree with his message, I fear his method may be confusing to some.

Christianity’s Gift to the World

thinkingI’m currently reading a book by Steve Brown titles What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All. Brown’s books are wonderful. Like me, he is a conservative Christian who believes in the inspiration of Scripture. Doctrinally, I think we are fairly similar. Yet, his writing takes you to new levels of reflection. The first time I read anything by Brown I remember thinking to myself that he was either a heretic or a genius – and it took me a while to figure out which. I’ve settled on genius. Brown writes in a way that is provocative. It’s like he is intentionally picking on the scabs conservative Christians walk around with. What he says makes you angry until you slowly start to realize it’s not Brown that is angering you, but rather God’s Word. And faced with that realization, there is nothing left to do but repent.

Basically, Brown makes me think. I’m sure some people find him annoying – some may have even settled on heretical – but I appreciate him. Here’s a quote from What Was I Thinking? that I currently can’t get out of my mind:

“Our gift to the world is not one of anger, judgment, or condemnation. Our gift to the world is to find where the Holy Spirit is creating beauty, speaking truth, and manifesting goodness—and when we find it, to identify it, enjoy it, affirm it, and get involved in it” (p. 64)

It’s that’s first sentence that has stuck with me … “Our [Christians] gift to the world is not one of anger, judgment, or condemnation.” Too often, that’s the face we present to world around us – anger, judgment, and condemnation. When, in reality, the Church should be an extension of God’s gift to the world – grace, mercy, and salvation through His Son.

Brown makes the further point that because of our anger and disgust with the world around us, Christians often retreat to the Church. We take safe haven in our churches and our Christian subculture because we are convinced that’s where the Holy Spirit is. We do it because it makes us feel safe yet our safety comes at the expense of the culture around us. We create a divide between the sacred and the secular and then refuse to cross it for fear of sacrificing our own righteousness. But it’s important to understand that this divide is man made. From God’s perspective there is no “secular”. The gospel of John makes that clear:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

All things came into being through Him. It’s this fact that gives God the authority to speak into the hearts of every man and into the core of every situation. It’s that fact that gives Jesus the authority to forgive our sins. It’s that fact that gives God the right to determine that salvation must be accomplished according to His plan rather than our own. It’s that fact that is the foundation of grace. And when we retreat in disgust from the world around us and take refuge in our Christian subculture we are failing to take that gift of grace to the very people that need it the most. Jesus understood this. That’s why He hung out with sinners. That’s why He said,“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Even the Great Commission, our marching orders from Christ, instruct us to take His message of grace to the world, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). 

When Christian present nothing to the world but anger, judgment, and condemnation and then retreat back to the safety of our own Christian subculture, we are forfeiting the one gift we have to give the world. It is imperative that Christians refuse to forfeit our input and voice to the culture we live in. Music, arts, literature, science … all of these things stand to benefit from the input of Christians.

If we want to deliver Christ’s grace to the world, we must be engaged in the world. Jesus once prayed for His disciples, “14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:14-15, emphasis mine). Notice that Jesus didn’t pray for His disciples to be taken out of the world; rather, He prayed that they be kept safe from the evil one as they engaged the world for Him. 

Christ’s prayer should be the strategy of the Church. Rather than withdrawing from the world and drawing imaginary lines between the secular and the sacred, we should engage the world. We should deliver Christ’s gospel to the sic and refuse to sacrifice our voice while tending to our own safety.

Genius.

Lessons from Genesis: Prayers of Intercession

sodom-and-gomorrah-painting
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, an 1852 oil on canvas painting done by John Martin

My study this morning included God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The wickedness of these cities had reached such a pinnacle that God’s wrath was imminent, but He used the moment as a tool to reveal His very nature to Abraham. Before destroying the two cities, God visits Abraham and reveals His plans. This visit leads to an incredible exchange between Abraham and God:

23 Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” 26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.” 27 And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes.28 Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 He spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” 30 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” 32 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten” (Genesis 18:23-32). 

I must admit this passage used to confuse me. I couldn’t quite figure out why God needed Abraham to remind Him of His own just nature. Quite frankly, the thought that Abraham had to negotiate for the lives of the righteous upset me. However, my confusion was born out of misinterpretation; what’s happening in this passage isn’t a negotiation – it’s intercession.

God is just. He knew exactly what He was doing when it came to Sodom and Gomorrah; but by allowing Abraham to intercede on their behalf, he revealed His gracious nature to Abraham. Yes God demands justice for sin, but in doing so He never sacrifices His own grace. God allowed Abraham to intercede for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and by doing so, He allowed Abraham to become a channel though which God’s grace flowed.

Abraham’s intercession for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah is a reflection of Christ’s intercession for those who call Him Savior:

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time (1 Timothy 2:5-6) 

Just as Abraham interceded on behalf of the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus Christ intercedes on my behalf. With his prayers of intercession, Abraham was displaying a particular kind of Christ-likeness that I far too often fail to display. My prayers tend to be selfish, “God bless me!” – when a proper prayer of intercession should read, “God bless them!” 

My goal is pray less selfishly. I want to pray more for others. God knows exactly what He’s doing when it comes to His justice and His grace, but when I pray a prayer of intercession it shapes my heart to resemble the heart of Christ who prayed the most famous of all intercessory prayers …

“Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

[View all posts in the Lessons from Genesis Series] 

Knowing Verses Obeying God’s Voice

image from citygatekeepers.org

In Christian circles these days we can get bogged down with the concept of knowing God’s voice when we hear it. I’ve even taught whole classes on discerning God’s voice from that of the enemy and our own subtle thoughts. In retrospect, I’m beginning to realize the problem with most Christians isn’t knowing God’s voice when we hear it, but rather, our problem is heeding His voice when it directs us toward obedience.

When speaking on this subject Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them” (John 10:27, emphasis mine). Even newer Christians who have spent little time in His Word have the ability to discern God’s voice on most subjects. Sitting under the preaching of a decent pastor and attending an occasional Bible study is sure to communicate some things to us concerning God’s voice, right?

For instance, when asked what the greatest of all the commandments were, Jesus responded, “Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … and the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40). Even if we can’t quote this popular passage, most of us at least know it, right? I have to think even non-Christians know this passage. If not this one than we certainly know the portion of 1 John 4:8 that says “God is love.” So when asked the questions, “How should you love God?” or “How should you treat your neighbors?” most of us should be able to discern God’s voice on the matter. Knowing what God wants us to do isn’t the problem …

The problem is we don’t do it. 

When given the opportunity to put God first in our lives we consistently choose ourselves. When given the opportunity to love our neighbors as we love ourselves we make excuses and decline. When God tries to save our marriage we throw our hands up and do what we want to do anyway. When God says don’t have sex with that person or you shouldn’t be looking at that website or please don’t make that choice we boldly declare that we know what’s best and fail over and over and over to be obedient.

This kind of disobedience can be expected out a person who doesn’t know Jesus, but for us Christians it is inexcusable. We choose to disobey God’s voice and then claim ignorance when, in fact, we’re just selfish.

I fear that this kind of disobedience has become the norm in the Western Church rather than the exception. This disconnect between our knowledge and our actions is damaging the testimony of the Church. The non-Christians in our culture see that disconnect and dismiss Christ because of it. Our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ see that disconnect and choose to embrace it rather than change it. James wrote that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26) and I have to believe that works blossom from obedience to God’s voice.

Christians … it is time we stop just telling the world what we know and start showing them what we believe.

Are You Lucky or Blessed?

image from genius.com

On the way home from work the other day, driving through a dense morning fog, I turned left without seeing an oncoming car. The car was coming at me pretty fast and, thanks to the fog, I didn’t see it until it was right on top of me. A collision seemed pretty imminent, but the cars missed each other by only a matter of inches.

That event has caused me to reflect on matters of luck verses matters of blessing.

Immediately after narrowly missing the other car I began praising God and thanking Him for sparing me from the accident. In my past life, I would have reacted differently. Before I was a believer, I would have attributed my good fortune to simple luck. However, I now know better. Proverbs 16:33 provides a solid principle for believers concerning matters of luck:

“The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.”

It’s every decision is from the Lord. From our limited vantage point, it may seem like we’re rolling the dice, but God is in control of the results. I’m not suggesting that God controls every roll of the dice during our game of Monopoly, but it is important for us to remember that the results of our dice roll is a matter of His providence or control. If I roll double snake eyes, it is only because he directly caused it to happen or because he allowed it to happen. Either way, God is in control. All things are a matter of God’s active or passive will.

When we attribute our good fortune to luck, we are failing to recognize God as the source of our blessings. In Christ, however, we know better. When we praise God for our good fortune it reflects a significant change of heart.

This is a pretty easy concept to grasp when we consider our good fortune but it becomes a little more difficult when we consider the bad things that happen to us. When something that seems bad enters our life (a job loss, relationship issues, disease, etc) it is still a matter of God’s providence. He has either caused it to happen or has allowed it to happen.

They key question we need to ask God amid such circumstances is, “Why?

James, the half-brother of Jesus, offers this thought:

“2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). 

When a Christian faces a significant event in life, be it a blessing or a trials, she should understand that God is in control of all things … and this understanding should have a huge impact on our response! When faced with good or bad fortune, we should seek God’s counsel and ask Him how we are to respond and grow and what we are supposed to learn from the situation.

I’ll conclude my thoughts with more from James Chapter 1 as it seems to apply well:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously andwithout reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).