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Monday Special: Just Too Busy

Busy“We can feel reassured by busyness and strangely comforted by it, even as it saps us of all strength and keeps us from feeling as if we are succeeding at even one of our responsibilities.” Ever feel so busy you cannot get anything done? All too often the typical response to,”how are you doing?” is “I’m busy!” This article gives a little bit of a different perspective as well as exhorts us to realize busyness may not be so much what life is, but what we allow.

Enjoy!

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50 Reasons for Giving Thanks

christmasIt’s that time of year again. Stores are beginning to play Christmas music. Santa Claus is starting to show up, even in Walmart. And the Black Friday sales are right around the corner. The enjoyment of this season has even hit my own home; yes, my wife is adamant about listening to Christmas music as soon as November is here. If you asked her, she would quickly tell you I am not in favor of all this Christmas celebration so early in November. But I am not just another Scrooge or Grinch–I absolutely love Christmas. I mean who doesn’t? It’s the time of year for family, friends, gifts, food (and lots of it) and the time to remember when God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, was born as a humble babe in Bethlehem. Although my love for Christmas is great, I do have a bit of disdain for the season starting so early. Why? Because in my view, a premature focus on Christmas causes us to overlook one of the greatest holiday seasons of the year…Thanksgiving. So in honor of the Thanksgiving season I thought it would be appropriate to share 50 reasons I have to be thankful this year. I will share 25 this week and 25 next week…

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I am thankful:

50) To know the God of the universe.

49) I live in America, a country known for its freedom.

48) For a healthy body.

47) To have a car that is in good condition and runs well.

46) To know I will have food to eat tomorrow morning.

45) For the food I have had to eat today.

44) For God’s provision of a job.

43) For a job that I enjoy.

42) To live close to where I work.

41) To live in a city with police officers.

40) For a family that loves me.

39) For parents that sacrificed so much to raise me.

38) That my parents cared for me from infancy through adulthood.

37) To have three grandparents still living.

36) Not to have dealt with death much in my family.

35) For siblings who made growing up fun.

34) For an older brother who has stayed in touch over the years.

33) For an older sister who taught me a love for horror movies.

32) That one set of grandparents lived within two miles of my childhood home.

31) To have had good friends throughout my entire life.

30) For Calvary Christian School, where I attended elementary and middle school.

29) My friends’ families who treated me as their own child growing up.

28) For modern comforts, like indoor plumbing, heating, and air conditioning.

27) That I enjoy exercising my body.

26) For the church families that God has provided throughout the years (Calvary Baptist, Summit Baptist Bible, Cornerstone, First Baptist, and Denbigh Baptist).

Thanksgiving2These are the first 25 of 50 things for which I am thankful. Stop by again next week for the final 25. Until then, please add to the list items that you are thankful for this year. Let’s make much of Thanksgiving this year as we anticipate the celebration of the coming of the King of King and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, this Christmas.

God’s Will: What is it?

the will of godWhere should I go to college? What should I major in? Who will I marry? Where will we live? Should I change careers, jobs, or locations? All of these questions are ones I have either asked myself or had others ask. However, as a Christian there is one question that quintessentially summarizes all of these inquiries. That summarizing question is: What is God’s will for my life? Most believers and even some unbelievers have probably asked this question at some point in their lives. So what is the will of God really? Can we know it? Is it something different for each person? Before diving in, I must clarify that much of the content below is adapted from John MacArthur’s book, “Found: God’s Will”. While I leaned heavily on this book, it was and is ultimately God’s Word that reveals God’s will (Colossians 1:9; Ephesians 5:17).

First, God’s will is that man Be Saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4). These verses indicate that it is God’s will and desire for all men to be saved. This will of God is described as good and pleasing to God. Salvation is at the heart of God and is thus His will and desire for each and every person. He desires such because it not only pleases Him, but is good for us. The eternal life God wishes for all to participate in is clearly revealed in God’s Word (2 Peter 1:3). God desires people to be saved so greatly, that it is the very reason He is patient in carrying out His wrath and final judgment on the earth (2 Peter 3:9). So God’s will is first that we be saved.

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Secondly, God wills that man Be Spirit-filled (Ephesians 5:17-18). Now, this cannot happen unless the first part of God’s will (salvation) has become a reality in our lives. God’s Spirit indwells all those who call Jesus Christ Lord and Savior (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). But once we are saved, God wills that we be not only indwelt by, but also filled with the Holy Spirit. From the context, we see that Paul is comparing the effects of the Spirit to the effects of alcohol. When a person is drunk all his inhibitions are gone because he is controlled by the alcohol. This is the idea of the term “filled”; it means to be controlled by something, to be dominated by it. The believer is to be dominated by God’s Spirit by dwelling on God’s Word (Colossians  3:16). So God’s will is that we be Spirit-filled.

Thirdly, God wills that man Be Sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). The word “sanctified” simply means to be separated from sin and evil and set apart unto God. In this passage, Paul is speaking to the Thessalonians with regard to handling their bodies in a God-honoring way. As believers, the Thessalonians (and by way of application, us as well) were not to act like the world (unsaved culture) around them. They were not to take advantage of someone else for their own good and pleasure. Instead they were to control their bodies and sanctify themselves to God. This was to be done and can only be done as God’s Word is read, studied, and applied to our individual lives. So God’s will is that we be sanctified.

Fourth, God wills that man Be Submissive (1 Peter 2:13-15). This is definitely one of the two hardest concepts for those of us who live in a Western culture to understand and live out. Peter was writing to believers who were spread throughout the Roman empire (which was known for not being so nice to Christians). It was also during this time that slavery was prominent, and there was no such thing as “labor laws” in place. So the Christians to whom Peter wrote would have had a much more difficult situation in which to live out an attitude of submission. Yet the Apostle did not stutter or hesitate to record God’s will for believers. They were to submit to government, rulers, and even parents (Ephesians 6:1-3). God’s desire in this aspect of His will is simple…to silence critics to Christianity and make people ask why. It was all about God getting the glory. So God’s will is that we be submissive. More

Fifth, God’s will is that man Be willing to Suffer (1 Peter 3:17). This is the second of the two hardest aspects of Gods’ will for us Westerners to follow. We love our comfort, our ease, our pleasure, and our entitlement.  Ask us to suffer and we quickly turn the other way. But notice that in this part of God’s will it is not stated that suffering will be for all. Instead it is stated that we should be willing to suffer, “IF” that be God’s will. But Scripture also tells us that if we desire and obey in following Christ there will be persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). It is in this suffering that we partner and share in Christ’s suffering (Philippians 1:29). So it is God’s will that we be willing to suffer.

Sixth, it is God’s will that man Be Saying thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). In a culture built on entitlement, this may in fact be a lost art form. It is rare to find someone who recognizes that everything they have is ultimately a gift from God. And in a world that is broken and battling it is difficult to find things in which to rejoice. But according to these verses, a believer is to rejoice ALWAYS and give thanks in ALL circumstances. If honesty is the best policy, then I would be going against that policy to say that in every  condition of life I find it easy to give thanks and rejoice. But notice God does not say to give thanks only when life is easy or comfortable. Why does God believe thanksgiving is possible even in the darkest of days? Because real thanksgiving is not a result of circumstances, but of contentment. And contentment is a matter of the heart. God’s will is that we be saying thanks.

So there it is, God’s will for your life: Be Saved, Be Spirit-filled, Be Sanctified, Be Submissive, Be willing to Suffer, and Be Saying thanks. “But…” you say, ” that does not tell me who to marry, where to go to school, where to live, what job to take, or give me the answer to my current tough situation. Truth is there is one more piece and directive in God’s will. And you are going to love this.

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If you are Saved, Spirit-filled, Sanctified, Submissive, willing to Suffer, and Saying thanks, God tells you this one last thing in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in God and He will give you the desires of your heart”! In other words, if you are obeying God’s will as revealed in God’s Word, DO WHAT YOU WANT!

This was the third lesson in the “God’s Will” series. If you missed the first post “God’s Will: First Things First“, or second post “God’s Will: Three Wills of God“, you can check them out here. Stay tuned for the conclusion of “God’s Will” next week with “God’s Will: How to do it?”.

God’s Will: Three Wills of God

the will of godWhat has been considered the best selling toy of all time? It has sold more than 350 million worldwide. It has won the German Game of the Year for Best Puzzle. It was invented in 1974 and was originally called “The Magic Cube”. Still not sure? This puzzle toy was invented by Erno Rubik. It’s the Classic Rubik’s Cube. The six-sided, nine-colored, puzzle game reached the height of popularity in the 80’s but is now used mostly for speed competitions.[1] But imagine “the Cube” sitting on a table with you and three friends around that table viewing the game. You may view all blue squares, while one friend sees all white squares, while yet another perceives all red squares.  Why the different sights? Shouldn’t you all be seeing the same thing? Not exactly, because you each have a different perspective on “the Cube”. A similar thing is true when we discuss the will of God. While God has one will, it does have three differing aspects: God’s will of Decree, God’s will of Desire, and God’s will of Design.

First, God’s will of Decree is just that, God’s will that He has declared from eternity past (Isaiah 46:9-10). It encompasses all the decrees of God that He has proclaimed from the beginning. This will of God is that which is going to happen and cannot be stopped. It is also known as His secret will (Deuteronomy 29:29). While the entirety of God’s secret will is not revealed, man is still responsible to plan according to what is revealed and to allow God to ultimately work His will (Prov. 16:9). So God’s will of Decree covers all that He has declared to take place from eternity past. last-will

Second, God’s will of Desire includes all that God desires, but that He does not necessarily cause to happen. This includes items such as the salvation of all people (1 Timothy 2:3-4) and all children not perishing (Matthew 18:14). It is this will of God that allows some things to take place, even though sinful and wrong, for His glory. Take for example the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17). In this recording of Jesus’ line, we see names (and more importantly the stories behind those names) that reveal sin and actions that God is not pleased with and do not align with His “will”, yet somehow uses to bring about His glory through the birth of His Messiah, Savior, and Son. He does allow somethings that he does not desire, giving man freedom of choice (Mark 3:35, 2 Peter 3:9).

Finally, God’s will of Design is that will original to God’s design in creation (Ephesians 5:17, 1 Thessalonians 4:3). This will of God is that which He wrote and willed into the very design of everything He created. His will of Design can be obeyed or disobeyed. This will of God is revealed to us specifically in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and includes things such as sexuality, authority, etc. The Bible tells us that this will of God was not produced by man, but by God’s Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). This will gives us guidance to follow in our lives (Psalm 119:105). It is God’s will of Design that is written in the very nature of creation as revealed through His Word.

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While seeing one side of a Rubik’s Cube may give you the idea that it is all one color, there are always five other sides to “the Cube”. The truth is that God’s will is similar to “the Cube”, not in the sense that God changes His will depending on how we see it, but because we do not have as full a perspective on things as the Creator. He is the one who has a perfect will for His glory. But there are three different perspectives or aspects of that will: Decree, Desire, and Design.

This was the second lesson in the “God’s Will” series. If you missed the first post “God’s Will: First Things First“, you can check it out here. Stay tuned for the continuation of “God’s Will” next week with “God’s Will: What is it?”.

[1] – Information taken from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubik%27s_Cube) accessed October 27th, 2013.

Jonah: Resistance is Futile

Winter Retreat Tshirt 2013Prejudice and Grace. When the former comes to mind, what do you think of? Maybe racism, the Civil War, city gangs, or other such cultural problems. On a larger scale, people like Hitler, murderers, and supremacists come to mind. But what about the latter? What about grace? Maybe forgiveness, love, or even God come to mind. All in all, positive traits come into play with grace. When we think of these two categories and consider which one we most display, the natural inclination is to answer quickly…”Grace, of course!” But the truth is that there was a man who, when faced with the same dilemma, answered the same way, but was quickly and repeatedly shown how wrong his self-evaluation was. That man’s name is Jonah! Jonah demonstrates the importance lesson that…Resisting God is Futile. And for the next few weeks we will examine the experience of Jonah and see Jonah’s prejudice, but God’s grace throughout.

Right from the get go in the book of Jonah we see two main characters: God and Jonah. Yet it is God that initiates action (Jonah 1:1)–he is the one who comes. God gives Jonah a message to proclaim and calls him to be His messenger to Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and it was prophesied that she would conquer Israel (Hosea and Isaiah). Therefore, to Jonah, Nineveh was the last place he wanted to go. So instead of going to Nineveh as God commanded, Jonah ran the other direction to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). But Jonah was not trying to merely run from his enemies, he was trying to “flee from the presence of the Lord”. He was attempting to flee the omnipresent God (Psalm 139:7-12). How often do we do the very same thing? We run to money, job, success, relationships, drugs, alcohol,etc. Why? To flee from the very One who loves us most and desires to save us from our running.

But the story does not end there. In the midst of Jonah’s running we see God is the one who controls. God hurls a great storm on the sea on which Jonah’s ship sails (Jonah 1:4).  And this was no ordinary storm. The mariners who spent their lives on the sea are frightened so much they even cry out to false, nonexistent gods (vs. 5). But where is Jonah? He is in the bottom of the boat fast asleep. This illustrates a false teaching we often hear about God’s will–how is the will of God known…”I have a peace about it”. But here we see the prophet of God on the run from God and “at peace” in the midst of a terrible storm. (Lesson to learn: subjective internal peace is a terrible guide to finding and knowing the will of God.) But what is the purpose of the storm? To get Jonah’s attention and call Him back to the One whose presence he is trying to escape. But the problem Jonah forgets is that the God He is running from is the God who is sovereign over it all, including the very sea he is in (vs. 9, cf. Job 38:4-11). That God is the same God today. run

It is at this point in the story that Jonah finally clarifies. Surrounded by unbelieving sailors and confronted with his disobedience toward God, he fulfills his prophetic role and speaks the truth of God (vs. 9). It is ironic how God uses even a disobedient, wayward prophet to call others to Him. God uses a circumstance that was designed by man (Jonah) to thwart the plan of God (proclaiming His message) to actually accomplish the very thing He intended the man to do. Jonah is used by God, despite his stubborn spirit, to reveal the God he is trying to flee (Psalm 89:9). This illustrates a reality of our daily lives–God turns what was meant for evil into good. He makes disobedience still accomplish His ultimate purpose.

Finally, we see in the story of Jonah the ultimate irony. Some of the very people Jonah was meant to show the love of God to, actually turn and show him care. While the declaration has been made that Jonah must be thrown into the sea (vs. 12), the men do all they can to avoid what they see as Jonah’s death (vs. 13). Here we see that the one who should have cared most for them, was actually the one who was cared for more by them. Is this not what God does for us? He creates and provides for us, supplies and sustains us. And we should love and care for Him in return. But instead, it is we for whom God had to care by sending His one and only Son to take our place on the cross. It is He for whom we should care above all else, yet it is He who shows care for us above all else. It is the same caring God of Jonah, that has called you and me to care for others. How are we doing? Are we running from God and despising our enemies? Or are we running to our enemies and declaring our God?

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So as you sit and think about whether you are more prejudice or gracious, remember Jonah. That it was God who Came, God who Controls, God who calls us to Clarify, and God who calls us to Care for others. But He does this all only because He first Came for us, has Control, Clarified Himself to us, and Cared for us.

Freedom

braveheart_freedomFREEDOM!!! This word was probably made most famous by Mel Gibson in his line from the movie Braveheart. But in America, every 4th of July, it takes on great meaning. Here in the United States of America, we have become accustomed to, expectant of, and proud of our freedom…and we rather enjoy it. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself “Why?” Why do we enjoy our freedom so much? Why does it bring so much joy? Or another way of asking it…why does slavery and oppression upset us so much?

Because slavery and oppression, not freedom, are foreign to our world’s design. Genesis 1-2 record for us the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them, including mankind. Throughout chapter one we see God say over and over again,”It is good”. Essentially God, the perfect Creator, is putting His ultimate stamp of approval on His creation. What we see throughout Genesis 2 then is the outworking of that “good” creation. Adam and God enjoy a perfect relationship without shame. Adam and the animal kingdom get along and recognize the role they have with one another. And finally Adam and Eve (the first man and woman) relate harmoniously (Gen. 2:25). So the question that lingers concerning freedom is: “If that is how our world was created and designed, why is there suffering in the world?”

Suffering entered the world through man’s disobedience. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey and thus rebel against God, their fate was set and their slavery began. Genesis 3 records the tragic choices that led not only to their punishment but to all of mankind’s death and separation from God, and thus separation from the freedom that we were designed to have in perfect union with one another and the heavenly Creator. But Adam and Eve arre not alone. In John 8:34 Jesus says, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin”. Therefore, because of Adam and Eve’s sin they became slaves to it; but all of us since then have chosen slavery as well (Rom. 3:23). And for that choice there is a consequence, that consequence being death and separation from God (Rom. 6:23). So if we were designed for freedom, but have become slaves to sin through our own choices, is there anyway to return to freedom? Can we become free once again?

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I heard it said once, “For freedom to become a reality the greatest sacrifice must come from the just”! And this is how freedom came for us as well, the just had to sacrifice. The only one who is ultimately just in all His doing is God. Psalm 146:7 states that it is God who “executes justice for the oppressed…the Lord sets the prisoners free”. Jesus reiterates the way to freedom in John 8:32 stating, “The truth will set you free”. So what truth is it that can set us free from slavery to and oppression from our own sin?

It is the Just who sacrificed Himself for us so that we might regain the freedom for which we were created and designed. Philippians 2:6-8 references this regarding Jesus Christ, God in flesh, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled (sacrificed) himself by becoming obedient to the point of death even death on the cross”. This is how we can regain the freedom lost in our slavery to sin. It is by Christ and Christ alone, through His sacrificial blood and death that we can be saved and set free from the wages of sin. It is only because, “He became sin who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God”, that anyone can be set free from their sin. So how does we become free once again?

Simply by recognizing our enslaved condition to sin in which we have no power or authority to overcome by ourselves. We must believe that Jesus Christ is the only Savior. As Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. It comes down to recognizing two truths: who we are as slaves to sin and who Jesus is as Lord and Savior of the world.

So do you need to return to freedom? Are you still a slave to sin?

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While we celebrate this 4th of July and our freedom as citizens of the United States of America, don’t forget: the Just made the greatest sacrifice for you–not to give you freedom in America, but to give you freedom from your sin!

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