Category Archives: Decision Making
Doing What God Has Revealed In The Bible
A Book Review by David P. Craig
When I was in my teens I read a great book (still in print) called Decision Making and the Will of God by Gary Friesen and Robin Maxon. It was a watershed book for me in helping me with how to make biblically informed decisions. Over the years I’ve recommended the book to many who have have sought my counsel on the question “How can I know the will of God for my life?”. The problem with the book by Friesen and Maxon is it’s length (It was based on Friesen’s doctoral dissertation at Dallas Theological Seminary). It’s a great book, but it’s length is prohibitive for many. Here’s the distinct advantage of DeYoung’s book – essentially the same principles and content – in 300 pages less!
DeYoung focuses on the facts of what God has revealed in the Scriptures so that we can best discern wisely what he wants from us. He makes a good case that God never intends for us to know “specifically” what He wants us to do (vocation), where He wants us to live, or who to marry (among many other questions we ask); however, DeYoung shows what God wants us to be like (Jesus) and how this purpose (sanctification) informs our decision-making. In the final analysis DeYoung writes: “Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God…the will of God for your life is pretty straightforward: Be holy like Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God.”
The author does a wonderful job of using practical illustrations to show how we worry, procrastinate, and flat-out sin by not doing what we know to do, as we put out fleeces, wait for signs, and pray as we wait for God’s discernment. He shows that oftentimes we are paralyzed by the fear of making a wrong decision or being out of God’s will, when what we really need to do is focus on what God has revealed in the Scriptures clearly that we are to do (principles, commands, and boundaries). Just Do Something is biblical, practical, theologically astute, and can be read in a few hours. I highly recommend it for any Christian of any age whose chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. This will now be my new “go-to” book when people ask me: “How can I know God’s will for my life?”
We cannot control the length of our life,
but we can control its width and depth.
We cannot control the contour of our countenance,
but we can control its expression.
We cannot control the other person’s annoying habits,
but we can do something about our own..
We cannot control the distance our head is above the ground,
but we can control the contents we feed into it.
God help us do something about what we can control,
and leave all else in the hands of God!
SOURCE: John Lawrence. Life’s Choices: Discovering the consequences of sowing and reaping. Portland, OR.: Multnomah Press, 1975. p. 115.
HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS REACT TO HATE?
By Dan Darling
It’s no secret that the biblical sexual ethic, a beautiful monogamous relationship reserved for marriage between a man and a woman, has swiftly fallen out of favor in our culture. The recent declaration that Jason Collins, a veteran NBA center, has exposed the deep rifts in our society on the issue of homosexuality. While most of the world celebrated Collin’s courage, ESPN NBA reporter, Chris Broussard, a committed evangelical Christian, had his own courage to say, into a stiff wind of opposition, that Collin’s lifestyle choices conflict with the Christian faith.
Nothing in this story should surprise us. Society has been moving this direction for some time now. But what caught me off guard, I guess, was the public shaming of the Christian position on marriage. I heard many, well-respected sports commentators, guys I’ve listened to and followed for many years, seemingly equate Christians like Broussard with bigots and with the ignorant and unlearned. The sweeping intolerance of Christianity, the crude names leveled at Broussard and others seems to mark a new moment in our country. The reality is that holding the biblical sexual ethic will now invite open scorn. I only expect it to get worse. I only expect those who stand firm on the Scriptures to experience further persecution and hostility. And we shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus himself promised that his followers would endure some level of persecution. “They hated me, they will hate you,” he predicted (John 15:18).
So the question is this: how now shall we live? What should our reaction be? In my view there are two wrong responses and one right one.
1) We can cave in and seek the approval of men rather than the approval of God. There is a growing movement in the evangelical world that is seeking to make complicated what the Scriptures make plain, namely that perhaps the Bible is not so explicitly condemning of homosexuality as we think. As a person wired to avoid conflict I’m sympathetic to the desire to find this in the Bible, but it is just not there. Jesus himself affirmed the law of Moses when he repeated the words from Genesis, “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to His wife” (Matthew 19:5). And while Jesus offered grace to the women who violated the biblical marriage ethic and condemned the Pharisees who wanted to stone her, he also told her, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t act as if her sexual activity out of marriage was okay. He said it was sin. Sin that brought him to this earth and nailed him to a cross. Sin he graciously has forgiven. Sin which invites the grace and holiness of God. As much as we want to cave in on marriage, because to do so would make our lives as Christians much, much easier, to do so is to abandon the way of Christ. I’m reminded of Peter’s words to the persecuted believers of the 1st Century, “Stand firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:19).
2) We can ratchet up the angry, hateful, personal rhetoric. As shameful it is to cave in on Scriptural truth, it’s equally sinful to sort of use our position as an increasingly marginalized minority to lash out at those who don’t agree with us. But if we’re to take serious the truth we claim to uphold, we have to listen to all the words of Jesus, including his words, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43-48). And we have to listen to the words of that same Apostle Peter. The same guy who told us to “stand firm” also told us to do it with civility and respect (1 Peter 3:15). I find it interesting that Peter, speaking to an increasingly marginalized, persecuted group of Christians, found it important to say, essentially, “Make sure you suffer, not for your own evil, but for doing good” (1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 3:17). In other words, we are to speak firmly, but with kindness, winsomeness, charity, and grace. If we are honest, we would admit that the Christian community does not always do this well. We should disagree with Jason Collin’s choices, but we should not mock him, we should not post crude or hurtful slurs online. We should not slander those who disagree with us. We should lead with grace, remembering that Jesus didn’t come to condemn, but to offer salvation and life. Jesus came for sinners and so we should seek to love sinners as much as He did. We should, like Paul, remember that we are counted in that group: we are as much sinners in need of grace as the unrepentant homosexual. I find it interesting that Paul, at the end of his life, nearing the time of his martyrdom at the hands of a cruel despot, surveyed the entire landscape and said, “I am the chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Imagine that. Paul looked around the entire world, saw wicked men like Nero and the soft Christians who betrayed him and yet said, “They may be sinners, but I’m worse.” What a spirit of humility! This is the spirit that should inform our engagement on these issues where most of the culture resists. We should as the Spirit to help us fight the urge to return rhetorical evil with rhetorical evil (1 Peter 3:9). We should reject the sort of knee-jerk, crude, mean-spirited kind of speaking that seems to characterize much of our public discourse. Civility is not unimportant and it’s not overrated and it’s not the enemy of courage.
3) We can respond with love and grace.
2 Timothy 3:12 reminds us that “all who live godly in Christ will suffer persecution.” The level of persecution we face today in America is low-level at best. Much of what we think is persecution is simply consequences of our own inability to treat people with grace. But we’re moving into an era where our positions on the issues may invite charges of bigotry. This is where we must not react with surprise or fear–remembering that trials are an opportunity for joy (James 1:2) and occasions for growth and Christlikeness (John 15; James 1:2-4). Fear stems from a lack of faith and fear causes us to react in unloving ways. But if we believe that God is completely sovereign and that we have been tasked by Him to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), it is incumbent on us to model Jesus’ behavior and react to hatred and intolerance with grace and love. We should be wise about responding to every charge with a countercharge. We should hold our fire sometimes, as Jesus did in the face of false accusations (John 18:33-38). We should forgive others, looking to Christ’s own forgiveness of us (Ephesians 4:32) and His forgiveness of those who crucified him, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:42). We should not be defensive, whiny, petulant. We should work hard to see every human as someone worthy of respect (1 Peter 2:17), created in the image of God (James 3:9). We should not make our fight personal or political (Ephesians 6:12). The real enemy doesn’t have a human face, but is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8). And our real hope is not in a short-term victory, but in the future hope of a coming kingdom, another world, a city whose builder and maker is God (Matthew 6:10; Hebrews 11:10).
As followers of Jesus, we’re not simply called to be counter-cultural with our sexual ethics, but also in the way we talk, speak, and articulate these things. If we are called to suffer for our faith, let’s pray God gives us the courage and grace to endure and that our lives are but a small glimpse of Christ within.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). For five years, Dan served as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of several books, including Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, iFaith, Real, and his latest, Activist Faith. He is a weekly contributor to Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal. His work has been featured in evangelical publications such as Relevant Magazine, Homelife, Focus on the Family, Marriage Partnership, In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley. He has guest-posted on leading blogs such as Michael Hyatt, The Gospel Coalition, OnFaith (Washington Post), and others. He is a contributing writer for many publications including Stand Firm, Enrichment Journal and others. Dan’s op-eds have appeared in Washington Posts’ On Faith, CNN.com’s Belief Blog, and other newspapers and opinion sites. He is a featured blogger for Crosswalk.com, Churchleaders.com and Believe.com, Covenant Eyes, G92, and others. Publisher’s Weekly called his writing style “substantive and punchy.” Dan is a sought-after speaker and has been interviewed on TV and radio outlets across the country, including CNN, 100 Huntley Street, Moody Broadcasting Network, Harvest Television, The Sandy Rios Show, American Family Radio, the Salem Radio Network, and a host of other local and national Christian media. He holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College and is pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and his wife Angela have four children and reside in the Nashville area. Daniel is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency
Today I can complain because the weather is rainy or I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free.
Today I can feel sad that I don’t have more money or I can be glad that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases wisely and guide me from waste.
Today I can grumble about my health or I can rejoice that I am alive.
Today I can lament over all that my parents didn’t give me when I was growing up or I can feel grateful that they allowed me to be born.
Today I can cry because roses have thorns or I can celebrate the thorns that have roses.
Today I can mourn my lack of friends or I can excitedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships.
Today I can whine because I have to go to work or I can shout for joy because I have a job to do.
Today I can complain because I have to go to school or eagerly open my mind and fill it with rich new bits of knowledge.
Today I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do housework or I can feel honored because the Lord has provided shelter for my mind, body, and soul.
Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped. And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping. What today will be is up to me.
I get to choose what kind of day I will have!
– Author unknown
A TEMPLATE FOR SHAPING MY LIFE WITH INTENTIONALITY
Developed by Dr. David Craig – Pastor and Life Coach – Vertical Living Ministries
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do. Do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31
Head – Convictions What do I need to Know? Personal
Heart – Communication What do I need to Say/Convey? Relational
Hands – Contribution What do I need to Do? Practical
For each of the nine areas below set goals in light of the above 3 questions: What will I study or need to know about_____; What will I feel or communicate about _____; and what will I do or what actions shall I take about ______. Each goal is meant to turn what you value into an intentional habit that will make a great difference cumulatively in others lives, your own life, and for the sake of God’s ultimate glory.
Nine Primary Areas of Living Intentionally:
(1) Spiritually – Your Relationship to God through The Lordship of Jesus Christ. Psalm 37:3-7; 1 Peter 1:3-11; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Thess. 5:17
(2) Marriage – Your triune covenantal relationship with Christ at the center. Gen. 2:18-25; 1 Cor. 7:1-7; 13:1-8; Eph. 5:22-31
(3) Family/Parenting – How to be a Christ-centered family and raise Children that love Jesus above all else. Deut. 6:1-9; Proverbs; Eph. 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 5:8
(4) Vocationally – Your Work in the World and with the Church. Genesis 2:15; Colossians 3:23-25; 1 Cor. 3:5-23
(5) Health – Taking care of the Temple that God will use on this earth until the day of your final glorification. 1 Tim. 4:7-8; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 10:31; Philippians 4:4-9
(6) Friendship – Your connections and building bridges with others as you reflect Christ in your community. Matt. 5:13-16; Gal. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:15-18; Col. 4:5-6; Lk. 6:27-31
(7) Financially – Your stewardship of God’s resources. Matt. 6:19-24; 1 Tim. 6:6-11, 17-19; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 9:6-8
(8) Mentoring – Your investing in Others Using your Unique Skills, Gifting, Talents, and Personality. Prov. 27:17; 2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 2:4; 1 Thess. 5:11
(9) Discipleship – Your Investing in the Spiritual Growth of other followers and would-be followers of Christ. Lk. 6:40; Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 3:10
The healing of the demon possessed boy (Matt. 17:14–20) at first glance seems to be only one more in a series of miraculous healings recorded by Matthew. What makes this one unique is Jesus’ emphasis on the role of faith. It is true that faith is prominent in the miracles recorded in chapter 9, but in chapter 17 it is the lack of faith that is emphasized by Jesus.
That God is not dependent on human faith for accomplishing His work is clear from the accounts of other miracles recorded by Matthew. The transfiguration of Jesus immediately prior to the healing of the boy is a prime example. It was a spectacular miracle; yet no human faith was involved. This is also true in the feeding of the five thousand (Matt. 14:13–21) and the four thousand (15:32–38). So the first thing we need to learn about faith and the power of God is that He is not dependent on our faith to do His work. God will not be hostage to our lack of faith.
The second thing we need to learn, however, is that God often requires our faith in the carrying out of His purposes. We see this in the healing of the demon possessed boy. Mark, in his account, brings this out sharply in Jesus’ conversation with the boy’s father. The father, in great distress, said to Jesus: “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:22). He had already experienced the failure of the disciples, so he was not sure if Jesus could help. His faith at this point may be described as no more than an uncertain hope that Jesus could do what the disciples could not do.
Jesus responded to the father: “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes” (v. 23). Biblical faith may be described in different ways depending on the situation. The description of faith in Hebrews 11:1 as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” was appropriate for the Jewish recipients of the letter, who were facing severe opposition and needed to be encouraged as to the certainty of their hope in Christ.
For the father of the boy, faith would mean believing that Jesus could heal his son. We are often like the father. We may face what seems to be an intractable situation, and because we have prayed a long time without an answer, we begin to doubt that God can answer our prayer. But we must believe that with God nothing is impossible.
Sarah, the wife of Abraham, doubted that God could give them a son in their advanced age, to which God replied, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). Centuries later, the prophet Jeremiah wavered in his faith when God told him to buy a field in the face of the Chaldeans’ invasion (Jer. 32:6-26). Again God’s response was: “Is anything too hard for me?” (v. 27). To have faith in God, even in the face of unanswered prayer or a seemingly impossible situation, means we continue to believe that He can do what seems impossible to us.
The importance of faith is further emphasized in Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question: “Why could we not cast it out?” (Matt. 17:19). He said it was because of their little faith. We are not told in what way their faith was deficient. We do know that Jesus had previously given them authority over demons to cast them out (Matt. 10:1–8), so why was their faith so weak at this time? Perhaps it was because the demon did not respond immediately to their command, and so they began to doubt the power of Jesus. Or perhaps they presumed that because they had been successful before, they would be at that time. So we see that faith not only involves a firm reliance on Jesus’ power and ability, but also a complete renunciation of any confidence in our own.
Last month we looked briefly at the subject of God’s providence. In Matthew 17 we see an example of it in action, in connection with a mundane event — the paying of the temple tax. Jesus, as the Son of God, was under no obligation to pay the tax. Yet in order to give no offense, He sent Peter to catch a fish in whose mouth was the required shekel. This brief account raises some questions: How did the shekel get into the mouth of the fish? How did Peter just “happen” to catch that fish and not another one nearby? It is possible that Jesus performed a miracle and created the coin out of nothing in the mouth of the fish.
It is more likely, however, that it was a work of providence. Someone “accidentally” dropped a shekel into the sea. A particular fish grabbed it, and it stuck in its mouth. The fish swam to the exact spot where Peter cast his net and the fish was caught. None of these events was miraculous; yet all of them were necessary to accomplish Jesus’ purpose, and Jesus was in control of each one of them. God’s power is as much at work in His providence as in His miracles. So as we struggle with our own faith, or lack of it, in the difficult situations of life, let us believe that God is able, whether through miracles or providence, to care for us.
About Dr. Jerry Bridges: an author and speaker, as well as a staff member at The Navigators in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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