Friday, October 29, 2010

"Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Love Ya, Tomorrow!"

"Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matthew 6:34)

If you've seen the movie, Annie, you recognize my title as a line from the great song of hope she sings in the depressing orphanage where she lives with other poor, ill-fed urchins. The good thing about tomorrow, she sings, is that it's actually "only a day away." That's true, but most of us would rather look at tomorrow with a far stronger telescope. Like Annie, we love tomorrow, especially the when it's all laid out for us. When it comes to the will of God for our lives, we want a prospectus, not a day-planner. But that's not the way God works, as Matthew 6:34 indicates.

Will you agree with me that the Christian life is to be a walk of faith? What better way is there to show our faith than to acknowledge that God is working out His plan for us, in both the good and bad times of our lives, and so there are no missteps. There is obedience and disobedience to direct, Biblical commands; but there are no missteps. In other words, God is more interested in how I live than where I live. Expecting anything more definitive than this may only indicate a lack of faith. Kevin DeYoung [i] explains it this way:

"Our fascination with the will of God often betrays our lack of trust in God's promises and provision. We don't just want His word that He will be with us; we want Him to show us the end from the beginning and prove to us that He can be trusted. We want to know what tomorrow will bring instead of being content with simple obedience on the journey (DeYoung, 47).

Does this mean we should not bother to seek the mind of the Lord when we plan to move somewhere else? Of course not. God has provided us with the means to make wise decisions; and I promise we will get to those. What I am saying, however, is that if we end up in Des Moines instead of Dallas, our whole life will not be ruined, and we can glorify God wherever we are.

Someone has said, "We either have to know the future, or know someone who does." I've come to terms with that and found peace. I do know Someone who knows the future, and He has promised, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye" (Psl.32:8). With His eternal eye, God has a much better view of my future; and my proximity to Him will determine the spiritual precision of my movements. It's as simple as that.

Who needs a horoscope when the Lord is ordering your steps? (Psl.37:23)

"Anxiety is simply living out the future before it gets here." (Kevin DeYoung)

[i] DeYoung, Kevin. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"The Lord Made Me Do It"

"It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord..." (Acts 15:25) "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us..." (Acts 15:28)

If you want to forestall criticism or unsolicited advice before you make a decision, simply repeat these seven words: "The Lord told me to do it." It may very well be His will, and we may feel strongly that it is, but the truth remains, just because we prayed, it does not follow that our inclinations are infallible. This is especially true if we're relying on a Bible verse we closed our eyes and pointed to!

Failing to make a decision is bad, as we have been arguing, but failing to own up to it once we do is just as bad. Yes, God is working behind the scenes, and our choices, right or wrong, will fit perfectly in His overall plan for our lives; but as far as you and I are concerned, those choices are just that: ours.

You may be asking, should we not pray then, or search the Scriptures, or feel free to express what we believe to be the direction in which God is leading us? Yes, most definitely, we should seek guidance through both prayer and the Word (more on this later); and, indeed, we should share our thoughts and feelings with others (more on this later, too). How will we benefit from good, godly counsel, if we keep our thoughts to ourselves? What we might need to change, however, is our terminology.

Instead of dogmatism where the Scripture is not dogmatic, why not opt for more biblical language, as in the cited verses in Acts. Why not, "I have prayed and searched the Scriptures about this matter, and it seems to me that God is leading in this direction." This lends both credence and reasonableness to our decision. Those who hear of it will not fear to question; but they will be cautious of assuming their own infallibility

My purpose here is to remind us that we can seek to diminish our own responsibility and accountability for our choices by putting the blame on God, as it were. If our choices are unpopular, we can soften the resentment by naming God as the instigator. "I really didn't want to do it, but God just wouldn't leave me alone." If our decision is unreasonable, we can quiet any voice of reason, by claiming the voice of God. But our decision was not God's fault, right or wrong.

It may be His will all right; but you and I will make the choice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

God's Will and Our Wills: Mutually Exclusive?

"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none else like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure...yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it." (Isaiah 46:9-11)

If, as Doris Day sang, "Que Sera Sera" (Whatever will be will be) is right, maybe the whole idea of seeking the will of God is just an exercise in futility. And the fact is, in one sense of the word, that's true. But like many words, and many things, there is another side of the coin.

When we read verses like the ones above in Isaiah, and others like them, it is patently obvious that God has set in motion events that will culminate in His will being accomplished; and nothing anyone does, or does not do, will frustrate His purpose. On the other hand, God still calls upon us to make choices (Heb.11:25; Josh.24:15), and holds us accountable for them. He ordained the death of His Son before the foundation of the world yet held those who carried out the sentence to be responsible. To deny either one of these truths—sovereignty and accountability—is to deny the Bible. As C.S. Lewis puts it, "Till (if ever) we can see the consistency, it is better to hold two inconsistent views than to ignore one side of the evidence."

Rest assured, God will not be forced to recalculate His plans if you make a foolish decision; because, when all is said and done, what God has said will be done. He not only rules, He overrules.

Having said that, it should be pointed out that God has given us some specifics that are His will for all His children, collectively and individually. Kevin DeYoung differentiates in his book, Just Do Something[1], between what God has ordained ("God's will of decree") and what He has commanded ("God's will of desire"). The former is how things are; the latter is how things ought to be. Here are a few of these God-pleasing attributes:

· Non-conformity to a sinful world (Rom.12:1; Gal.1:4)

· Whole-hearted service to God (Eph.6:6)

· Abstinence from sexual impurity (1Thess.4:3)

· Gratitude in all circumstances (1Thess.5:18)

· A life that shuts the mouths of critics (1Pet.2:15)

· Willingness to suffer (1Pet.3:17; 4:19)

· Patience to wait for the rewards of doing the will of God (Heb.10:36)

The truth is, when you and I speak of the will of God, we're usually not talking about these things. Yet, these are the things God considered important enough to comment on. Evidently, God thinks our conduct during courtship is more important than which Christian man or woman we choose to marry; and how we serve Him is more important than where we serve Him. Does this mean He doesn't have a specific plan for our lives, and doesn't care about our futures? No, not at all. He does indeed have a plan for our lives and a way to guide us in the right direction, which we'll talk about later. But to quote DeYoung again:

"Trusting in God's will of decree is good. Following His will of desire is obedient. Waiting for God's will of direction is a mess. It is bad for your life, harmful to your sanctification, and allows too many Christians to be passive tinkerers who strangely feel more spiritual the less they actually do (p.26).

God's will and our wills are not mutually exclusive. One does not negate the other. God's will is overarching and irrefutable; but our wills are alive and well. The fact that we cannot thwart the will of God does not mean we cannot disregard it, especially when it comes to those things He has enumerated for all His children.

Next time, we will get into the will of God that is usually uppermost in our minds when we use the term—God's will of direction. But in the meantime, maybe we should zero in on what we know for sure, and for which we will surely be held accountable. In this case, God has told us most definitely how to please Him. The question is, do we will to do it?

FYI: I've added a new page to my website that I think will be a blessing to you. It's my way of sharing some of my favorite women writers, past and present. Check it out:

[1] DeYoung, Kevin. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009. Print.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

To Will and To Do

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13)

I think if we truly believed this verse, there would be less "adultolescents" among us. By adultolescents, I mean people of whatever age, who, among other things, cannot seem to step out and make a decision or commitment about anyone or anything for fear of finding a more pleasing option around the next corner. You know, the kind of people whose search for the will of God looks more like a search for the Holy Grail or the Fountain of Youth.

I say this not to minimize the importance of the will of God, but to try to add some perspective to the search. When it—the search—becomes a way of life instead of a means to an end, we find ourselves floating through life looking for some ethereal sense of fulfillment, purpose, and destiny. As Kevin DeYoung describes this kind of Christian in his helpful little book, Just Do Something, "Too many of us have passed off our instability, inconsistency, and endless self-exploration as 'looking for God's will,' as if not making up our minds and meandering through life were marks of spiritual sensitivity."

Reading DeYoung's book has provoked me think again about the will of God; because, as he points out, it's not something to be grappled with by only the young. Circumstances in life change, and we may find ourselves faced once again with basic decisions we thought had been settled. I realize my thoughts will not confine themselves to one visit, so my intent is to start here and see what will come of it.

I have chosen to call it, "To Will and To Do," because I think some of us only get halfway in our Christian walk. We want the will of God, or so we think; but we find ourselves teetering on the edge when it comes to the doing of it, and often for seemingly good reasons. We like to talk and sing about the "sweet will of God," but the way we fret and worry over it is anything but sweet. It's as though we see God dangling His before us, just out of reach, in order to keep our attention. Yet why would the God who admonishes us to "take no thought for the morrow," expect us to agonize over our own futures?

Have I got your antennae twitching yet? Well, stick with me; I think we're all going to get some help here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Highest Respect

"...I will have respect unto you." (Leviticus 26:9)

God is not a "respecter of persons." He says so in Acts 10:34. In other words, He is not impressed at all by who we are or what our position in this life may be. After all, He is the God of the whole universe, you understand. Actually, this passage in Acts tells us God is not a respecter of men in salvation. Jew or Gentile may find redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ. But, on the other hand, I have found at least four cases in the Bible of particular qualities that God saw in certain people that caused Him to look upon them with a degree of respect. Interested?

First, in Genesis four, in the story of Cain and his brother Abel, we are told that although Cain's offering of "the fruit of the ground" may have been beautiful, and evidence of his own hard work, it was Abel's sacrifice of a life—in this case, the life of a lamb—that God was looking for. We read in verse four, "And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering." God not only had respect for the offering, He had respect for the man who brought it. As my husband likes to point out, our service to God may look good to others, like Cain's luscious fruit and vegetables, but only He knows when we have truly given Him a life, always a sacrifice.

In Exodus 2:24-25, we find out God is mindful of our sufferings. So much so that we read, "And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them." He heard their groans of despair, remembered they were His people, and honored their sufferings. And, as you know, it was not long before Moses showed up. In the same way, Hebrews 4:15 tells us that God is "touched with the feelings of our infirmities"; so may we not assume that when He "feels" our pain, the same respect is kindled?

We can also be sure that obedience will turn the head of God, as well. He says as much in Leviticus 26, verses three and nine. "If ye walk in my statues, and keep my commandments, and do them...I will have respect unto you." Obedience may be hard, but it's never impossible. It takes no special talent, training, or temperament, and it's a sure-fire way to get God's seal of approval.

Finally, we read in Psalm 138:6b, "Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly." In other words, you might expect someone as high and mighty as God would relate more to a proud person; but He's already seen that quality manifested in His arch-enemy, Lucifer (Isa. 14). Instead, it is true humility that stirs Him to respect. And I would venture to say, His respect is probably called for less often for this trait than for the other three.

Sacrifice, suffering, obedience, and humility. Am I willing to forego the respect of men, if need be, in order to gain the respect of God with these qualities? I have His love, no matter what; now I want His respect—the highest respect.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Our Sun and Shield

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." (Psalm 84:11)

What do you say we "squeeze" this wonderful verse today to see what sweet nectar we can get? And, by the way, if your fail to check out the other cited verses, you may miss half the blessing.

As you know, the sun is the only source of heat for our earth, and the main source of light. Moonlight may illuminate an otherwise dark alley somewhat, but it won't raise its temperature one degree. And spiritually speaking, it is only the blessed Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2) that can shine the warmth of salvation into the cold heart of any sinner who calls upon Him.

Nor would anything grow on earth if the sun did not provide the energy to effect photosynthesis. And, again, if you and I expect to grow as Christians, we will need to let the Spirit of God burn the words of God into our very hearts. (Luke 24:32)

Then, the verse says God is our "shield." Our shield of faith, if you will, with which you and I can "quench all the fiery darts of the wicked" (Eph. 6:16). And be advised: there are lots of those flying around! You will find our Lord referred to often as a "shield" in the book of Psalms, sometimes, as in our text, coupled with other things (e.g., strength and shield, help and shield, hiding place and shield). Not only is He Himself the greatest of all shields, but Psalm 47:9 says, all the other shields of the earth belong to Him, as well. God's got the corner on shields, it would seem! Ah, but best of all to me is when David says in Psalm 3:3, "But thou, O LORD, art a shield to me." Amen!

Finally, the verse promises that our Lord will give us "grace and glory." No doubt the hymn writer had this verse in mind when he penned, "He will give me grace and glory...and go with me all the way." And He will too. You can be sure of this, saint of God: Whatever begins with grace will end in glory. And in the meantime, His children who walk uprightly can always be assured that He will never withhold anything from them that would be good for them.

So, rejoice today, dear ones, in the Sun of Righteousness, our Shield of Faith; and walk in His grace...all the way to Glory!

Friday, October 1, 2010

As Sound As...What?

“As sound as a dollar,” was the old saying; but you don’t hear it much anymore, for obvious reasons. Today's dollar is about as sound as a politician's promise. No, I think we need to look elsewhere for something to which we can attach the adjective, "sound." But it’s a good word; I like it. To me, a sound body seems sturdier than a healthy one; and sound reasoning even more convincing than logical thinking. I'd rather it be said of me that I was of sound mind than that I had my wits about me. But that's just me.

No doubt, the fact that the godly men who translated the old King James felt that it expressed exactly the spirit of the text, in so many cases, is one reason why I feel so comfortable with it. Here are just three examples from the first eight verses of Titus two.


"But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine" (v.1) SOUND: "based on valid reasoning; free from logical flaws; having a firm foundation; unshakeable"

Is Paul warning us here against wild speculation, flights of fancy that may draw a crowd, but fail to edify one saint of God? Undoubtedly. As I reflect now on some of the so-called “Bible teaching” I have heard over these many years, I realize that some of it was just that—wild speculation that had no real Bible basis. And I have to wonder if it was not a substitute for willingness to apply oneself to the hard work of plumbing the depths of the great, historic doctrines of the Church, as found in the Word of God.

Make no mistake; the reality of God and the Deity of Jesus Christ, though appropriated by faith, are based on revelatory logic; and the truths about Him and this world rest upon the firm foundation of a Bible that originated in the mind of God. But any so-called doctrine outside these bounds may be thought provoking, but is certainly not sound.


"That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith..." (v.2) SOUND: "deep and undisturbed (as in sound sleep)"

When I think of faith, this definition of the word, "sound," seems entirely appropriate. Sound faith runs deep and is undisturbed by the perplexities of life that would threaten to overcome us. It is belief in the goodness of God that keeps us from fainting (Psl.27:13) and makes us understand that the God who framed the world has framed our lives as well (Heb.11:3). Therefore, we rest, undisturbed, sound in faith.


"Sound speech that cannot be condemned..." (v.8) SOUND: "sturdy, good, fit, healthy"

Proverbs 15:4 tells us that a "wholesome" or healthy tongue is a "tree of life." What we're talking about here is speech that is uncompromising but kind (Eph.4:15); soaked in grace and seasoned with salt (Col.4:6); that never wounds without binding up (Hosea 6:1). And, by the way, we may argue, “I didn’t mean what I said,” but Matthew 12:34 argues against us. “[O]ut of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." The rest of Titus 2:8 goes on to say that we should speak in such a way that when people with whom we disagree loudly condemn us, they'll feel ashamed of themselves later.

If a good synonym for “sound” is healthy, then the Christian who exhibits all three of these—sound doctrine, sound faith, and sound speech—could be said to have a healthy spiritual life. And, indeed, the Apostle John told his friend, Gaius, that his wish for him was that both his body and his soul would be healthy (3 Jno.2). You see, it’s possible to have a healthy body with a shriveled soul.

So, then, what shall be our standard? As sound as....what? My answer would be "as sound as the Word of God." As the song says, "You can live by it, die by it, rest and rely on it." Consume it to possess sound, sturdy doctrine; sound, resilient faith; and sound, impeccable speech.