The Things That Should Really Be On Our Bucket List

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Repeat after me: I am not average. I am a beautiful, unique snowflake. I am a world-changer. I am a dreamer, a fighter, a kick butt and take names kind of person. I am a firework (see Katy Perry). I am the captain of my soul. Oh captain, my captain, I will “carpe diem” (see Dead Poets Society).?I will pursue my dreams and chart my destiny. I am not average I am awesome.

This is the mantra and motto and manifesto of my generation. We are the bucket list generation. The “be all that you can be” generation. The “you can be anything you want when you grow up” generation. Our worst nightmare is failing to live up to our potential and failing to fulfill our dreams.

Maybe God doesn’t want us to be awesome.

We Christians aren’t immune to the awesome, dreamer, lover, world-changer talk either. Every year thousands of books and blogs and articles and tweets tell us we are supposed to do great, incredible, amazing, earth-shaking things for God. Exactly 23 minutes ago Joel Osteen posted the following on Twitter:

Now don’t get me wrong: I really do believe every Christian is supposed to live their life 100%, pedal-to-the-medal for Jesus. I believe God wants us to do great things for him. I firmly believe that the Christian life is a fantastic, wonderful adventure. I believe we are created in the image of God which makes us all inherently valuable.

But here’s the thing: the things that impress the world don’t impress God. In fact, for the most part, the things that impress God look distinctly average.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul says: “For this is the will of God…”

Okay here it is! Tell me Paul, tell me. What is God’s will for me? What awesome, incredible, world-shaking things does God want me to do? I’m ready. I’m psyched, pumped, and rearing to go.

This is the will of God:

…your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.

Wait, that’s it? God’s will for me is purity? I mean, I guess that’s cool and all but it isn’t exactly world shaking. I was hoping for something a little more…awesome.

Let’s try another passage. Maybe we were just looking in the wrong place. In Matthew 25:34 Jesus speaks of the day when all of us will stand before the judgment throne. The Lord will say: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ?Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Okay, now we’re getting to the good stuff! We’re talking about eternity here. Jesus is about to tell us who will get all the rewards in heaven. Who is it going to be?

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.? Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ?Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?? And the King will answer them, ?Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.?

Well, crap. That wasn’t what I was hoping for. I was hoping for something a little more exciting, edgy, and awesome. Feeding the sick and blessing the poor and visiting the imprisoned don’t really classify as awesome. I don’t have any of those things listed on my bucket list.

Maybe we’ve got it all wrong. Maybe instead of pursuing awesome we should pursue average. The things that are average in the eyes of the world are magnificent in God’s eyes. The things that are boring in the eyes of world are breathtaking in God’s eyes.

God isn’t impressed by those who fulfill their dreams, he is impressed by those who faithfully obey. God isn’t impressed by those who claw their way to the top, he is impressed by those who fight their way to the bottom. God isn’t impressed by dreamers, he is impressed by servants.

On the final day God won’t say, “Well done awesome and killer person, you fulfilled your dreams.” He will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Let’s dream big for God. But we must always make sure our dreams really do line up with God’s dreams. Let’s have a biblical bucket list.

original photo by wales_gibbons

How To Pray For The Man Who Kills Babies

Kermit Gosnell is currently on trial for the twenty-plus years of atrocities that took place in his abortion clinic. The details of what actually happened in that clinic are enough to make you vomit, scream, and want to punch a wall. The more I read about the case the more it becomes clear that Kermit Gosnell was an evil man who did tremendously evil things. Horrific, holocaust-like things. Demonic things.

How should we Christians respond to this kind of evil? After all, Jesus commanded us to pray for our enemies and to do good to those who mistreat us. So how do we respond to a man who has killed babies, hurt women, and committed other untold wicked deeds? We respond in two ways.

PRAY FOR JUSTICE

There is such a thing as godly rage. In Romans 13:3-4 it says:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,?for he is God?s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God?s wrath on the wrongdoer.

God appoints rulers, judges, presidents, kings, and supreme courts to act as servants on his behalf. They are appointed by God to execute God’s wrath upon those who do evil. God has placed a divine sword in the hands of the men and women who rule our country, and they are to use that sword on behalf of the Lord.

Therefore, it is appropriate to pray that Kermit Gosnell would receive divine justice. It is right to pray that government would convict him of his crimes and appropriately sentence him for his crimes. If that means the death penalty, so be it. We should pray that Kermit Gosnell would receive justice for the wickedness he has done. It is right to pray that the government would fulfill its God-given duty.

And we can be assured that even if Gosnell does not receive appropriate justice now, he will receive appropriate justice when he stands before the throne of God. We serve a God of justice, and he will not let injustice win. There are no mistrials or hung juries with the Lord.

PRAY FOR MERCY

Strange as it may seem, we should pray for Kermit Gosnell to experience both God’s justice and God’s mercy. In Ezekiel 33:11 the Lord says:

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…

In this passage we see the beautiful complexity of God. He is a God of justice who will not let a single evil deed go unpunished. At the same time he is also a God of mercy who takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. God’s desire is that Kermit Gosnell would repent of his sins, embrace the forgiveness available through Christ, and receive eternal life.

When we’re confronted with wickedness on the scale of Gosnell’s, we’re also confronted with the scandal of the free gospel. If Gosnell turned to Christ, every one of his sins would be forgiven. Would he still be executed by the state? Possibly. And that would be right. Forgiveness of sins doesn’t mean escape from the earthly consequences of sin. But he wouldn’t experience the wrath of God because Christ took the wrath in his place. Christ became the baby killer in his place. Incredible.

When confronted with extravagant, Gosnell-like, Boston-like evil, we should pray that the perpetrators of evil would feel the sword of God’s justice. We should also pray that the wicked men and women involved would experience the incredible, life-changing, sin-forgiving mercy of God.

We don’t serve a safe God. His ways are not like our ways. But we do serve a just God and a good God. As we read the headlines, let’s pray for mercy and justice to prevail.

Before You Make That Decision

Every day we face hundreds of choices and decisions. Fortunately most of them are not life-altering.

Should I go with the honey hot wings, or the Cajun? ?Should I get the ultra-whitening toothpaste or the kind that restores brain cells? ?Should I watch Doomsday Preppers or Extreme Paranormal Makeover?

But as the new year begins, many of us face difficult and life-changing decisions. ?I’m so grateful for God’s incredible promise in Psalm 32:8:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

This is the one of Scripture’s most encouraging promises. I regularly pray “Thank you Father, that you have promised to instruct me and teach me in the way I should go and counsel me with your eye upon me. ?Please guide me in this decision I am facing. Please show me what to do. Please give me wisdom. ?Thank, you, Father that you have promised you will.”

First of all, it is God Himself who instructs us?? “I?will instruct you??I?will counsel you??My?eye upon you.” God doesn’t delegate his counsel to an angel or anyone else. ?The very fountain of all wisdom counsels us. ?The one who devised the laws of nature, who knows how the whole universe works together, who knows all things, including the future; the one who knows us intimately, who knows what is best for us and loves us so deeply he shed his only Son’s blood to purchase us. This is the one who instructs us and counsels us.

God teaches and guides us for his own glory. ?He wants us to lead lives of maximum effectiveness and fruitfulness. ?He desires to display his goodness, kindness, mercy, and transforming power through us. God wants to counsel us more than we want his counsel.

He shows us the way to go because he is a loving Father.??If any of my children faced difficulties and ask for my advice I wouldn’t say figure it out on your own. I want my children to do well. I want my children to have every good thing. I want my children to know and enjoy God. If I desire these things from my children, how much more does our heavenly Father desire them for us.

He speaks to us his by his Word and his Spirit.??God’s word is a treasure chest of wisdom and guidance. It contains all we need to know about God and how to obey him. It is filled with his will from cover to cover. In addition, God fills us with his own Spirit, The Counselor, who guides us into all truth and shows us what to do in every situation.

God also speaks through the preaching of his Word and books written by Christian teachers. He also guides us through godly Christian counselors? our parents, pastors, wise friends and fellow believers.

What are you facing today??Before you make that decision, go to your loving Father and thank him for his wonderful promise to teach you guide you and personally counsel you. ?Seek him in big decisions and small. ?Then trust him and don’t fret. He will certainly fulfill his promise to guide you in his perfect timing. ?If you have to make a decision, and have sought him, and still don’t know what to do, just make the best decision you can. ?He will guide you.

Obviously you don’t have to ask God what kind of wings to get. ?But I would recommend the Cajun.

God Is Not Working For Our Comfort (But Something Far Better)

Any time we find ourselves in difficulty or trial, it is easy to think we have been forgotten or rejected by God. This is because we do not understand the present process. God is not working for our comfort and ease; he is working on our growth. At the very moment we are tempted to question his faithfulness, he is fulfilling his redemptive promises to us. ?–Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp, How People Change

“God is not working for our comfort and ease; he is working on our growth.”

When I became a Christian I heard someone say, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for for life.” ?Which is true. Only I thought his wonderful plan for my life was to continuously bless me with good things. Which is true. Except my definition of good things and God’s definition of good things are often different.

Gods wonderful plan for my life is to conform me to Christ, not give me everything I want. ?Sometimes being conformed to Christ is painful. Sometimes God conforms me to Christ by NOT giving me what I desire. Sometimes he conforms to Christ by sending people into my life who sin against me. Sometimes he uses pressure and suffering. ?He’s got all kinds of wonderful tools to chisel, chip, shape, sand and smooth.

God in his infinite wisdom knows exactly what we need to make us more like Jesus. Because Jesus was humble, God needs to bring things into our lives to humble us. ?Because Jesus was patient and forbearing with others, God brings people into our lives that require patience and forbearance. Because Jesus trusted God when mistreated by others God sometimes takes us through that challenge.

“At the very moment we are tempted to question his faithfulness, he is fulfilling his redemptive promises to us.”

If only we could always remember this. God is CONTINUALLY working to make us like his Son. ?Every single thing that happens to us is part of this plan for our lives. Nothing happens by accident. Every single thing is focused on this one goal of conforming us to the likeness of Christ.

And won’t it be worth it? When we get to heaven and see the glory of Jesus shining through each of us we’ll rejoice and thank God for every painful thing God did in our lives to produce Christ in us. ?Remember, our afflictions, in comparison with this wonderful goal, are momentary and light. If we take our eyes off this goal, they seem heavy and long.

So let us be like Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. ?Keep your eyes on the joy ? ?seeing Jesus’ face and enjoying him forever completely conformed to his likeness.

Good News For The Goal Challenged

I’m goal challenged.? I?ve never been real good at setting them. ?Well, actually I?m good at setting them. ?The problem is that after I set them, I forget to look at them.? I have goal amnesia.

Don?t get me wrong. ?I think it?s good to set spiritual goals especially, and try to build spiritual habits into our lives like having consistent devotions, because God uses these means to bless us. ?So I believe we should have goals in our lives. ?Check out Stephen?s post from last week.

But above and beyond our own goals, it?s so encouraging to me to know that God has goals for his children, and he will achieve them. ?He has plans for us he?ll fulfill. God says,

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ?(Jeremiah 29:11)

God has good works already prepared for us to walk in:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

It?s encouraging to me to know that God has already prepared those works and he?ll make sure we walk in them. ?We may forget our goals but God won?t forget the plans he?s made for us.

And God?s greatest goal for us is to conform us to his Son for his own glory:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

God has plans to transform us more and more into the image of Christ?s glory this year. ?He?ll use blessing and affliction. ?He?ll bring brothers and sisters into our lives to sharpen us. ?He?ll use our feeble efforts to pursue him. ?He?ll use his Word as we read it and listen to it preached. He?ll use our prayers and the prayers others say for us. ?He?ll use wicked people. ?He?ll use our failures and successes. ?He?ll humble us and guide us. ?He?ll make us wait patiently. ?He?ll give us people to serve and encourage. He?ll give and take away.

And he will be successful in achieving his goal. ?At the end of this year, we?ll be more like Christ than we are now. ?I want to do all I can do to obey Jesus and become like him, but I?m so grateful it?s not ultimately up to me. ?It?s the wonderful plan of the One who does all things well.

Can You Miss God’s Will For Your Life?

Decision making can be a paralyzing experience.

Say, for example, that you have been offered a new job in a different state? Should you take it? Well, it depends. What are the schools like in the area? What is the traffic like? Are there any nuclear power plants nearby? Is the increased salary worth the emotional cost of moving your family? Will you be forced to root for the Dallas Cowboys? All these different factors can make it difficult to decide.

Now throw the whole issue of God’s will into the mix? Is it really God’s will for you to move? It seems like it’s God’s will, but maybe it’s not. What if you make a terrible mistake and somehow miss the will of God? Are you going to end up in some purgatorial situation because you accidentally missed God’s will?

The fear of missing God’s will is enough to paralyze any Christian. But here’s the question: can a Christian miss the will of God for their life? Could you somehow go your entire life being outside of God’s good plan for you?

It seems that the Bible teaches that, yes, you can miss God’s will. It also teaches that no, you can’t miss God’s will.

You Can Miss God’s Will If…

The way to miss God’s will is really simple: ignore the Bible. In the Bible God has told us exactly what we should do when it comes to making decisions. First, we should determine if our decision goes against anything clearly spelled out in the Bible. The Bible is clear that fellowship with other believers is necessary for our Christian growth. If taking a job will cut you off from fellowship with others, it’s not God’s will for you to take the job.

Second, we should ask God to give us wisdom. James 1:5-6 says:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…

Getting wisdom from God isn’t a mystical, super spiritual experience. It means asking God to help us think clearly and biblically about the decision in front of us. When we ask for wisdom we should believe God is going to give it to us. God isn’t trying to hide his good will from us. He wants to help us understand the right way to walk.

Third, we should ask the opinion of others. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail,?but with many advisers they succeed.” This is so gloriously simple. Finding God’s will for your life is as simple as asking the opinion of other, godly Christians. Lay the situation out before them, and then let God speak to you through their counsel.

You Can’t Miss God’s Will If…

If we heed the counsel of scripture, we won’t miss God’s will. God isn’t hiding his will, or trying to trick us into making a bad decision. If we evaluate our decision by scripture, ask for wisdom, and then ask the opinion of others, we are doing what God requires of us. He promises to guide us through that process.

We don’t need to seek a subjective, mystical, spiritual feeling when it comes to decision making. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes God gives us peace about a decision, and that’s a blessing. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes we might not feel one way or another about a decision. In general, feelings are a very bad barometer of the truth. A feeling of peace can come from God, but it can also come from a lot of other things, like a glass of wine or a good nap. Plus, what exactly constitutes the “right” feeling when it comes to a decision? Is it peace? Or maybe joy? Or a sense of rightness?

The Bible doesn’t tell us what we’re supposed to feel about our decisions. Instead, it tells us how to make biblical, God-honoring decisions. So if you have a big decision to make, don’t freak out. Instead, go to the Word, ask for wisdom, and get others involved.

Should We Make Decisions With Fleeces?

fleece

You’ve got a big decision to make.

You’ve got a fat job offer, but there’s some potential. You’re thinking about this girl that you really like, but you’re not sure what the outcome will be. You’re trying to figure out if you should buy a house or keep renting. How do you decide?

How about putting out fleeces? You know, just like Gideon. In Judges 6, God called Gideon to deliver the people of Israel from the hand of the Midianites.? But Gideon was a jittery, nervous fellow, and he wanted to be sure that God was with him, so he asked God to give him signs.

In Judges 6:36-40 Gideon laid out a fleece. If the fleece was wet but the ground was dry, then he could be sure that God was on his side. Next day, wet fleece, dry ground. But Gideon needed a little more assurance, so he decided to ask for one more test. If the fleece was dry but the ground was wet, then God was definitely with him. Once again, God came through. Dry fleece, wet ground.

So should we follow Gideon’s example?

Should we ask God for signs when we’re making decisions? Lord, if this job is from you, let me see a cloud in the shape of a cross right now. If I’m supposed to ask this girl out, let her text message me in the next five minutes. Is this what we’re after?

I don’t think so. If you read the story of Gideon closely, you’ll see that Gideon is not an example for us to follow. In Judges 6:12,14, the angel of the Lord came to Gideon and said:

?The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.?…And the LORD turned to him and said, ?Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you???

God tells Gideon flat out that He’s with him, and then commands him to go and give the Mideanites a beat-down. But Gideon isn’t buying it. Even though he is speaking face to face with God, he isn’t convinced that God is with him. So he starts playing the sign game. In Judges 6:36, Gideon says, “If you will save Israel by my hand…”, and then he lays down the first fleece.

A few verses later, before putting down the second fleece, he says, “Let not your anger burn against me…Please let me test just once more…” Gideon knew that he shouldn’t be putting God to the test, but he just had to have a sign.

Why did God answer Gideon’s requests? Because He’s gracious and often stoops to our level of faith.

Should we ask God for signs prior to making big decisions? No. Gideon isn’t our example. Don’t lay any fleeces before the Lord. Rather, go through the biblical process of asking God for wisdom, seeking the wise counsel of others, and then making a decision.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an Old Navy fleece jacket that I need to bring inside.

+photo by seeks2dream

Originally published November, 2009.

How To Walk In God’s Will In Every Decision

The world can be a really confusing place.

Every day we’re confronted with a vast array of confusing decisions that will have a real effect on our lives and the lives of those around us. Do we become members at this church? Do we go to homeschool, private school, or public school? Should I get into a relationship with this girl? Should I take this job opportunity?

How can we know that we’re doing the right thing and are in God’s will?

Proverbs 3:5-6 makes it really simple.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart…

God is worthy of our wholehearted, unreserved, unquestioning trust. He will take care of us, and lead us, and guide us, and shepherd us. He won’t leave us to flounder in the muck of life. We can and must throw ourselves upon the Lord and trust that He’ll hold us.

…and do not lean on your own understanding.

We can either lean on our own understanding or God’s understanding. We lean on our own understanding when we trust our unstable feelings instead of God’s unshakable word. We lean on our own understanding when we trust our own opinions rather than the wise counsel of those around us. Our own understanding will collapse beneath us, causing us to fall off of God’s path. God’s understanding never crumbles.

In all your ways acknowledge him…

We’re called to acknowledge God in all our ways. Not just a few of our ways, or most of our ways, but all our ways. Our attitude must always be, “Your will, not mine Lord.” Every decision we make, from the job we take to the parenting style we choose, must be rooted in our commitment to serve and obey God.

…and he will make straight your paths.

Isn’t this a wonderful promise? If we trust in the Lord, do not lean on our own understanding, and acknowledge him in all our ways, God will make our path straight. Period. If we make decisions in humble dependence on God, he’ll lead us on straight paths. We don’t need to fear or worry, because God is committed to making our path straight.

As you walk through life, don’t panic when big decisions come your way. God is for you and wants to lead you on the straight path.

Note: Kevin DeYoung’s book Just Do Something, is a helpful book in regard to finding God’s will for your life.

+photo by bbsc30

Clenched Teeth Obedience

It?s not enough to do God?s will. ?It doesn?t please God when we obey with clenched teeth.

We need to delight to do God?s will.

“Not only did Jesus do the will of the Father, not only was that His whole goal in life, but Psalm 40:8 tells us that He delighted to do the will of the Father. To become like Jesus, then, is to come to the place where we delight to do the will of God, however sacrificial or unpleasant that will may seem to us at the time, simply because it is His will.” — Jerry Bridges, The Disciplines of Grace

When it comes to obedience, attitude is everything! ?If a father tells his son to cut the grass, and the son does it sullenly, grumbling the whole time, even though the son ?obeys? his obedience won’t be pleasing to his father. ?So when we obey God, we need his grace and the power of the Spirit to obey with glad and cheerful hearts.

Give us your grace, Lord Jesus, not only to do your will today, but to delight to do your will!

photo by amandabhslater

When Doing God’s Will Is Hard

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How can we come to delight to do God?s will when it’s contrary to our desires?

When we don?t feel like reading the Bible or praying or going to Care Group or asking forgiveness. ?How do we rejoice when we feel like cursing or crying? ?5 suggestions:

Confess. Tell Jesus you don?t feel like doing this. ?Ask him to forgive you for your coldness heart and lack of desire to obey him. Confess your inability to do anything apart from him.

Pray. Ask Jesus to help you delight to do his will and to give you joy in obeying him.

Remind yourself of the truth of God?s word. His commands are not burdensome. ?None of our work in the Lord is in vain. ?His yoke is easy. ?This is the reality of the situation. ?The good fight of faith is to battle to believe God?s word and not our feelings.

Look ahead. Look to Christ?s reward. ?For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross. ?He looked past the cross to the joy he would experience later. ?Look past the immediate hardness of your situation to the joy afterward.

Obey until it becomes delightful. ?Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words BECAME to me a joy and the delight of my heart? (JE 15.16).

“Not only did Jesus do the will of the Father, not only was that His whole goal in life, but Psalm 40:8 tells us that He delighted to do the will of the Father. To become like Jesus, then, is to come to the place where we delight to do the will of God, however sacrificial or unpleasant that will may seem to us at the time, simply because it is His will.” — Jerry Bridges

What would you add to these suggestions?

photo by ground.zero