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"You Follow Me!"

follow-me

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

 John 21:20-22

Have you ever had a moment, even a brief one, where you’re in the middle of a project at work and you start thinking about… someone else. Say a friend at work. You and your friend started around the same time, and he or she is experiencing great success and you’re… well, you’re not. You’re slugging away at your job, just trying to make it through the day, and you can’t help but—just for a second—think, “Man, why does [insert name here] get all the breaks? I’m busting my tail and what do I have to show for it?”

I’ll be honest, I think about this every once in a while. I have some very talented friends, who are very gifted in many areas—including areas of ministry that I gravitate to. And in the past, I’ve found myself feeling really insecure about at least one of these folks, who I really don’t need to feel insecure around.

So I read this passage, and I was struck by the attitude of Peter. Read More about "You Follow Me!"

Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl


Title:
Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl
Author: N.D. Wilson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Have you ever tried to use your sense of smell to describe how a fresh bowl of fruit looks?

What about sight to describe the sound of a two-year-old happily playing in her room?

If so, you understand a little more about the challenge N.D. Wilson faced writing Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl.

This book is downright peculiar. But it’s peculiar in all the right ways. You see, Wilson’s trying to describe the indescribable: God speaking Creation into being, ex nihilo (out of nothing).

Wilson frequently writes in an almost stream-of-consciousness style that, while can be a bit distracting at times, is quite entertaining. His illustrations are hilariously (and appropriately) absurd. And his pace is quick and lively.

Wilson spends a great deal of time deconstructing the absurdity of the idea that our world, in all of it’s beauty and bizarreness happened on a fluke. A random act of chance. But it’s in its seeming randomness, that we see the complexity and intricacy of how this world has been created. And he finds philosophers arguments to the contrary ridiculous, an excuse to sell more books. And that includes, Nietzsche, who Wilson describes as “the only philosopher to ever make me laugh out loud” (p. 199). High praise indeed. Read More about Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl

Making assumptions…

Generally speaking, it’s unwise to make assumptions about a person or situation. While on occasion, our assumptions turn out to be correct, they most typically wind up being hurtful or creating an unrealistic expectation.

And about no one is it more critical to not assumptions than God.

Yet, we do it all the time.

When we understate our sin, we make an assumption about God—that being, that He doesn’t really care all that much.

When we do what God commands out of obligation or fear of punishment, we make an assumption about God—that He’s capricious and mean-spirited, looking down on us and just waiting for us to screw up. And when we do, oh, boy…

Reading the parable of the ten minas in Luke 19:12-27 reminded me of this: Read More about Making assumptions…

When God Wants a Man

When God wants to drill a man and thrill a man and skill a man…
When God wants to mold a man to play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart to create so great and bold a man that all the world shall praise…
Watch His methods;
Watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects whom He royally elects…
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into frail shapes of clay that only God understands. How his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands…
How he bends but never breaks when His good he undertakes.
How He uses whom He chooses…with every purpose fuses him;
By every art induces him to try His splendour out…
God knows what He’s about!

When God wants to take a man and shake a man and wake a man…
When God wants to make a man to do the future’s will;
He tries with all His skill…
When He yearns with all His soul to create him large and whole…
With what cunning He prepares him…
How He goads and never spares him! How He whets him and He frets him and in poverty begets him…
How often He disappoints whom He sacredly anoints!
With what wisdom He will hide him;
Never minding what betide him…
Though his genius sob with slighting and his pride may not forget;
Bids him struggle harder yet!
Makes him lonely so that only God’s high messages shall reach him…
So that He may surely teach him what the hierarchy planned;
And though he may not understand…
Gives him passions to command.
How remorselessly He spurs him…
With terrific ardour stirs him
When He poignantly prefers him.

When God wants to name a man and fame a man and tame a man…
When God wants to shame a man to do His Heavenly best;
When He tries the highest test that His reckoning may bring…
When He wants a [god] or king;
How He reins him and restrains him so his body scarce contains him…
While He fires him and inspires him…
Keeps him yearning, ever burning for that tantalizing goal.
Lures and lacerates his soul…
Sets a challenge for his spirit;
Draws it highest then he’s near it!
Makes a jungle that he clear it;
Makes a desert that he fear it…and subdue it, if he can –
So doth God make a man!

Then
To test his spirit’s wrath
Throw a mountain in his path;
Puts a bitter choice before him and relentlessly stands o’er him…
Climb or perish, so He says…
But, watch His purpose, watch His ways.
God’s plan is wondrous kind – could we understand His mind?
Fools are they who call His blind!

When his feet are torn and bleeding;
Yet his spirit mounts unheeding…
Blazing newer paths and finds;
When the Force that is Divine leaps to challenge every failure,
And His ardour still is sweet –
And love and hope are burning in the presence of defeat!

Lo the crisis, Lo the shouts that would call the leader out…
When the people need salvation doth he rise to lead the nation;
Then doth God show His plan…
And the world has found a man!

Author unknown

Book Review: Just Do Something

just do something

“I feel like God wants me to be alone for a while.”

“I’m waiting for God to open a door to the right job.”

“If I choose this school, will I be going against God’s will for my life?”

We’ve all statements like these before. Whether it’s dating and marriage, the quest for the perfect job, what college to go to or where to buy a house, many Christians get hung up on the question of God’s will: Is it God’s will that I do XYZ? What is God’s will for my life and how can I know what it is? While it’s good to be concerned about living a life that glorifies God, sometimes we spend too much time navel-gazing when we really ought to just do something!

That, in a nutshell, is the point of Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc.. DeYoung is greatly concerned about the “tinkerer” generation, those of us in the 35 and under age group who try a lot of different things, but commit to very little in the end. “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… We’re tinkering around with everyone and everything. Instead, when it comes to our future, we should take some responsibility, make a decision, and just do something” (p. 15).

In this very short book, DeYoung reveals to his readers the heart of the issue: We make following God’s will far harder than it needs to be, because we’re looking for the wrong thing. Instead of looking at God’s revealed will of decree (meaning that what He ordains will come to pass) and His will of desire (what He desires from His creatures), we seek to divine His will of direction. DeYoung explains, “God does have a specific plan for our lives, but it is not one that He expects us to figure out before we make a decision…[W]e should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze or a tight-rope, or a bull’s eye, or a choose-your-own adventure novel” (pp. 24-25, emphasis in original).

We do this for a few different reasons:

  1. We want to please God, although our misdirected piety makes following Him more mysterious than it’s supposed to be.
  2. Some of us are simply, by our nature, quite timid, and prone to be too cautious.
  3. Some of us are searching for perfect fulfillment in this life, ignoring the fact that perfect fulfillment does not exist on this side of eternity. Because every experience and event must be rewarding, every decision in life takes on weighty significance.
  4. We have too many choices; we are overburdened by options and thus cannot make a decision for fear of making the wrong one and missing out. “Our freedom to do anything and go anywhere ends up feeling like bondage more than liberty” (p. 37).
  5. Finally, we might just be cowards. We want to know that everything is going to be fine before we do anything; but that’s not how God operates. We forget that God is all-knowing and all-powerful and He has planned out every detail of our lives for our good (Eccl. 7:14). “God doesn’t take risks, so we can” (p. 41).

Instead of being controlled by these ideas, and instead of treating God as though He were a Magic-8 Ball, DeYoung encourages us to remember that God has already revealed His will for our lives in Scripture: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thes. 4:3). The sum total of what we need to know about God’s will for our lives is that we are to grow in the image and likeness of Christ. To live holy, set-apart lives, being obedient to the Scriptures and thankful to God in all circumstances.

Seems so uncomplicated, doesn’t it?

I really appreciated reading Just Do Something, because I’ve been caught up in the question of God’s will of direction more than I’d care to admit and seen how unfruitful a pursuit it’s been for me. Instead of looking to the answer of what seems good to the Holy Spirit and to me (Acts 15:28), I’ve been prone to spend too much time looking for a clear and direct answer when there isn’t always one. This has been the big struggle for me in trying to lead our family, because I’m terrified to make a mistake. But, instead of being seen to be appropriately cautious on some decisions, I end up just being indecisive. And indecision only leads to irritation in the Armstrong home.

Kevin DeYoung has done the Christian community a great service by writing Just Do Something. This book is practical, witty and extremely helpful. If you worry endlessly about the question of God’s will, read this book—then, stop worrying, make a decision and just do something.


Title: Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc.
Author: Kevin DeYoung
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2009)

Made in the Image of God: Choice

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26

This week, we arrive at one of the most hotly-debated ways in which we image God: Our ability to choose.

Throughout the Bible, there are innumerable passages related to the will of God and His ability to do or not do whatever He wishes. Perhaps the one that most clearly states His sovereignty is Psalm 135:6:

“Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”

There are literally hundreds more within the pages of Scripture. Isaiah 14:27; Luke 10:21, 12:32; Ephesians 1:4-6, 11-12; Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 2:4… this is just a small sampling of the wealth of passages referring to God’s absolute sovereign will.

There is nothing that falls outside of God’s will, according to the Scriptures. No word, no deed, no thought. Absolutely nothing. God is aware of all and in control of all.

So far so good, right?

Here’s where it starts to get contentious. Read More about Made in the Image of God: Choice

Made in the Image of God: Wisdom, Emotions & Morality

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26

As we continue to look at humanity bearing the image and likeness of God, we come to the next way we image God: Through intellect, emotions and morality.

Wisdom and Knowledge

God is wise and full of knowledge. Several passages in the Bible speak to this truth, not the least of which is Isaiah 11:2, which says in anticipation of the coming of Jesus, “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Here God is spoken of (specifically God the Holy Spirit) as being the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, and of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Like God, we have the ability to have knowledge and wisdom (cf. Prov. 1:7). Solomon, King of Israel, was the wisest man ever to live (cf. 1 Kings 4:30-34). Jesus commends the dishonest manager for his shrewdness in using unrighteous wealth to make friends for himself, commanding His followers to be wise in using money as well (cf. Luke 16:1-13). So we can have wisdom, and we can know truth.

What we cannot know all things fully, nor can we fully understand God’s reasons for why He does what He does. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). The Apostle Paul states, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). So while we cannot fully know yet, we are fully known.

Read More about Made in the Image of God: Wisdom, Emotions & Morality

Made in the Image of God

John Calvin said, “We cannot clearly and properly know God unless the knowledge of ourselves be added.” Because humanity was created in the image of God, we need to understand what that means, and this understanding will in turn fuel our knowledge of God Himself.

A mentor of mine asked me, along with the other men he invests in, to build and define our understanding of what it means for humanity to be made in the image of God. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of the work I’ve done to this point, as an understanding of this topic is vital to our spiritual growth.

I hope you’ll join me here and also spend some time studying the subject for yourself.