On Following Jesus, my story for 2011, my goal for 2012

I am a minute miser.  I did not use to be so, but I am now.

I feel like (no, actually, I know) I wasted so many years of my life (and, since they were my teenage and early twenties, I often feel the best years), that I must now devote myself wholeheartedly, 24/7 to God.

This is something I want to do.  If I could go back, I would have started this way as an 8-year-old and never stopped.  But it’s not what happened.  And so I’m left with these years in a vacuum that I look back on as a dry, bombed-out gulch . . and a resolve to do much, much better in the present and with any future God gives me on this earth.

I sometimes get caught up in, well, legalism about the things I want to do for God.  I put minimum “factory requirements” on myself for how many blogs I will produce, for example.  I want to plan out each minute of the day.  I want to dissect seconds to make sure they are ministry minded.

The problem with this is, I sometimes get, well, a little out of whack about it.  I’ve been on winter vacation, and I wanted about, oh, I don’t know, 300 blogs to transpire over the break.

Counting this blog, I think I’ve only fallen about 294 blogs short or so.

I wanted to deeply minister to about, oh, I guess maybe 12 people.

I am way short of 12 people.

I would have really liked to have brought at least one person to meet Jesus.

And that did not happen.

It’s discouraging.  I failed myself.  And, while I am sure there are people already sitting back with arms folded pronouncing legalism upon me, I hope you’ll hear me out.

I’m not trying to get to Heaven on my good works–well, there are moments, I’ll confess, when I get out of whack about that, too, and I think I do have to contribute a tiny bit here and there–but for the most part, that’s not why I want to pour every second of my life out for God.  What really drives me is the love of Christ.

It frustrates me that there are billions of people around the world who have no idea that they could be loved like no one has ever loved them, that they could find peace like they have never found peace, that they could even be released from the guilt of everything they have ever regretted.

I know what’s coming.  Someone in their mind right now–and very validly–is thinking, “Like you?”

I mean, haven’t I just explained, rather elaborately, that I am still, in many ways, a mess?  That I get out of sync with God’s will and get wrapped up in perfunctory duties rather than following the grace of Christ?

But don’t you see?  Don’t you see?  This is why I have such a fire in my soul to tell others about Jesus!  If Jesus can love me, even though I have always fallen short of giving Him the hundred percent devotion I long to give Him . . . even though my mind gets all crackers sometimes when I try to express my love for Him, because the love I feel for Him is bigger than the breadth of my entire being . . . and even though I do get caught up in sins that Satan is so fond of offering me, such as legalism . . . Jesus is for everyone.

And I see that so clearly sometimes that I can hardly stand that everyone doesn’t know it.  I want to scream it from the rooftops.  I want to fly (with an experienced pilot beside me) a plane through the sky trailing a huge banner of John 3:16.  I want to dance through the streets singing of His love (with someone else’s singing voice so as not to scare people away–and maybe somebody else dancing, now that I think about it).  I want to tell everyone, everywhere that Jesus is alive and He’s here to save.

But I don’t always show that Message in the way I follow.  Not nearly always.  Way, way away from always and I hate it.

I fail in my quota and in my quality control.  I don’t always remember that Christ has given me everlasting peace or that I’ve been freed from the guilt of that valley of nothingness and sin that used to be my life (and that I sometimes still visit).

I worry about my vulnerability, that it will drive people away from God, that they will look me and be disgusted rather than see that God must really be a God of mercy to have invited me in, too.

I wish, wish, wish I could do everything I want to do to thank Jesus.

But I am not everything I want to be     .     .     .     .     .

And so here I am, right here, Jesus.  I’m struggling, I’m bungling, I’m disappointing my own self, and I’m full of imperfections that drive me batty.  But here am I, loving You.  And You tell me that is enough.

Wow.

You tell me that is enough.

Every standard, every requirement, every quota, and all quality control, has been met and answered in Your walk on earth and Your death on the cross, because You are not like me.

And that is why You came. 

I love You.

Help me to give You my every second.

And my goal for 2012?  I don’t right now have the faith to believe I can be the 100-fold servant in Mark 4:20, with as much of my life as I wasted before I loved Jesus and with the ridiculous mess-up I know myself to be.  So I want to be the 60-fold servant.  I want to be that 60-fold servant desperately.  I want to be planting seed.  I want to show how happy I am to be on God’s farm and in His family.

. . . But I can’t do that by placing quota on myself.  And I won’t be able to manage even my own quality control.  It’d be something like that scene from I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel try to work in a candy factory.

Instead, my goal is to cling to 2 Corinthians 5:17, my verse for 2012.

I believe You, Jesus.  I’m ready to close down the 2011 factory of my me-centered efforts . . . to join You on the fields of 2012.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

Younger? No. Older? Yes.

I notice I’m not getting younger.

In fact, I think I’m getting older, Lord.

I don’t want a life of meaningless time tangles.

Teach me how to give this day to you, God.

Teach me how to give this very hour.

Teach me this minute, even now, this second, what you want for me.

Whatever it is, Lord, let my heart be opened.  I want to receive your will without fear or arrogance.  I want to fulfill your will every breath of my life.

I want nothing more than to go into eternity as your good and faithful servant.

Younger? No.  Older?  Yes.

More yours?  Yes, Lord, that is what I want most.

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Photograph by Bo (HelloBo), profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/welcome2bo/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

Published in: on September 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Does God “make” some people bad, like Esau or Judas?

Are you willing to take a look at the Bible to see if what you think about God is true?

If you are, and if you’ve chosen this humble little blog to get you started, let’s get right to the heart of the matter in Romans 9:

Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac.  Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! (Romans 9:10-14, NIV)

Does Romans 9  show that God doesn’t give everyone a chance to turn to Him?

Romans 9 says that God hated Esau.  The “just as it is written” is Malachi 1:2-3.  Malachi was given this Word from God around 433-430 B.C.  Why bring that up?  Because Esau was born a long time before that. Some scholars think 2006 B.C., others 1840 B.C.

What did God say to Esau’s mother Rebekah before Esau was born?

What He said was,

And the LORD told her, “The sons in your womb will become two nations.  From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals.  One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.” (Genesis 25:23, NLT)

Did God already hate Esau?

Well, here is what God says about His plan:

“The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands.  And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” (Jesus, quoted in John 3:35-36, NLT)

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jesus, quoted in John 3:16-17, NLT)

If God created Esau to hate Him, then why didn’t God say before Esau was born that He hated him?

I think one reason may be to show that God doesn’t turn people away who come to Him.  He knew Esau would never come to Him, but knowing and willing are two very different things.

Again, why is it that Jesus never says Judas’ name when He says one of His disciples will betray Him (see Matthew 26:21, Mark 14:18, Luke 22:21, John 13:18,  John 13:21-27)?

One reason may be to show that Jesus did not ‘make’ Judas betray Him and Jesus did not create Judas without choice.  Jesus knew what Judas would choose because Jesus was God before He was human (though as human He was still fully God) and He had lived outside of time.  He also knew because He was in perfect communication with His Father in Heaven.  But Jesus did not make Judas sin.

God never makes people sin.

Satan never even makes people sin.

People sin because they want to sin.  [See Footnote 1]

Does God “make” some people bad?  NEVER!

God’s desire is for every person to stand before Him as a new creation, although He knows many, many people will violate His desire.  But don’t take my word for it–I don’t even want to take my word for it!  No, we need instead to look at what God says about Himself and trust in Him, because His Word is true and His promises do not fail.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6, NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (James 1:13-14, NIV)

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:23, NIV)

For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! (Ezekiel 18:32-33, NIV)

As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die? (Ezekiel 33:11, NIV)

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5, NIV)

God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” (Romans 2:6, NIV)

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. (James 2:1, NASB)

The person who does wrong will be paid back for the wrong he has done. God does not play favorites. (Colossians 3:25, GW)

“Are you Israelites more important to me than the Ethiopians?” asks the LORD. I brought Israel out of Egypt, but I also brought the Philistines from Crete and led the Arameans out of Kir.” (Amos 9:7, NLT)

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. (Deuteronomy 10:17, ESV)

“To show that you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, Father, my Father.” (Galatians 4:6, GNT)

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Photograph by Aaron Gilson, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/aarongilson/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

[1] I saw a wonderful clip of a sermon about this, I believe from John Piper.

Published in: on March 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm  Comments Off on Does God “make” some people bad, like Esau or Judas?  
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What does God choose?

What does God choose?

We know that God chooses where people are born.  He places some people in homes where they will be kings, queens, emperors, empresses, pharaohs, and so on.  And He places some people in homes where they will be slaves, homeless, or unwanted.

This is hard for us to understand, because we don’t live outside of time, and we don’t know what God knows.

We do know, however, that God did not want evil (Isaiah 6:3, John 3:16, 1 John 4:7-8, 1 John 4:12, 1 John 4:16, James 1:13, James 1:17).

Once evil entered the world, He could have destroyed it—and us.  But instead He chose to keep the world going, even in its miserable, fallen state . . . so that people could know Him as they were created to, and live with Him forever.

God also chooses people to work miracles through and to do mighty things through, like Daniel, Joseph, David, John the Baptist, and Peter.

So . . what about the people God does not choose for these special jobs?  Are they condemned to Hell?  Does He mark them from the beginning with a big ‘X’?  Are they born with a tag that says ‘Destination: Hell’?

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, NASB)

Some people believe this passage is only in reference to the church Peter is writing to.  That begs the question . . . what other passages were only in reference to the church being written to?  Paul wrote specifically to the Romans . . . does that mean His letter is only applicable to them?

That surely doesn’t make sense.  What does make sense is that God wants people to be saved.

Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11, NIV)

Is this only for Israelites because they are the ones directly addressed?  If so . . . the Ten Commandments were addressed directly to them as well.  That would mean they are not valid for other people, but we know that’s not true.  People like Job, Rahab, and Ruth were adopted into the Jewish family because of their obedience to God and His commandments, even though they were not Jews by lineage.

The Bible is universal, meaning the Message is for everyone, not just for some people in some time periods.

But does God choose certain people and not others?  Let’s again go to the Bible to look.

The Jews gathered around [Jesus], saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ,  tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.  The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”  John 10:25-30 (NIV)

Before Jesus dies, He prays an incredibly beautiful prayer.  Here is the beginning of His prayer:

When Jesus finished saying these things, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son can glorify you. You gave him authority over everyone so that he could give eternal life to everyone you gave him.  This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.  I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.  Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I shared with you before the world was created.

“I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from this world.  They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.  This is because I gave them the words that you gave me, and they received them.  They truly understood that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.”

What is the character traits of the people God the Father has chosen for Jesus to save?

  • They follow God.
  • They receive God’s Word from Jesus.
  • They understand that Jesus is God’s Son.
  • They believe God has sent Jesus.
  • They love Jesus.

Doesn’t it make sense that God would choose these people to be His own?  What if God chooses people with the knowledge of who will choose Him?  He is all-knowing!

An argument to this could be, “But no one can choose God on his/her own.”

This is true.  But it does not mean that God doesn’t give people the choice to choose Him.

Some people don’t come to God because they don’t know what He offers.  They see the brilliance of His creation, but they don’t know Him personally.  (Romans 1:20-22)  This is why Christians have such an urgency for mission work.   (Romans 10:12-15)  But ultimately, anyone who doesn’t come to God makes this choice because (s)he is in rebellion against Him. (Matthew 12:22-32, Mark 3:28-30, Luke 12:10)

Let us never forget:

“[F]or, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)