Knowing and Doing the Will of God

This week I’ve been reflecting on how to find a new direction.When life changes, how do we know where to go or which way to turn? It’s where I’m at–and I’ve had the same discussion with at least four others this week. Circumstances have changed, life has changed, there has been a loss–now what?

Here are some words of encouragement for myself and others:

God’s Word is vital. No, the Bible will not tell me which job to take, hobby to pursue, or which church to attend, but it will tell me “how” to make those decisions.

–  The Bible distinctly tells me God’s priorities–1) to love Him first, to love Him most and 2) to love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:36-40).

–  Scripture guides my motivation: I should do all things for the glory of God, not selfish ambition or empty conceit (1 Corinthians 10:31, Philippians 2:3).

–  God’s Word also gives me a goal: to make disciples.

Even if I don’t know which passages to study or where to look, God promises to make Himself known as I seek Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

The problem is that I’m often asking the wrong questions when it comes to decision making. Most of the time we want to know “what,” “when,” “where,” or “who:” What should I do? Which job should I take? Whom should I marry? Where should I go to school?

Instead, the Bible says:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality…. (1 Thessalonians 4:3

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Great. But but that still doesn’t answer the question of “what” to do. I have learned to be careful about making decisions based on the “open door” philosophy. If you’re not familiar with that form of Christianese, it generally means: “If you have an opportunity that’s an open door from God. Take it. If you face opposition, it’s a closed door. Stop.”

Instead, Scripture says:

[God] opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. (Acts 14:27)

I [Paul] came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord… (2 Corinthians 2:12)

… praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ (Colossians 4:3).

In God’s words, open doors relate directly to sharing the gospel of Christ, not making decisions. (Sorry to crash your party.)

So how does one move forward and make good, God-honoring decisions? Here are things a few things to keep in mind:

–  Pray. God promises wisdom when we ask (James 1:5). He commands us to ask for help (Matthew 7:7-11). And when we cry out, He hears and answers (Psalm 18:6).

–  Study God’s Word. What am I missing? What are God’s priorities? I know God calls me to trust and obey. Using His Word I can evaluate my heart–am I trusting? Am I obeying what I already know? (Psalm 119:105–God’s Word is a lamp to my feet (where I am) and a light to my path (where I’m going).)

–  Ask others. Proverbs teaches that there is victory in an abundance of counselors (Proverbs 11:14). I need to talk to people I can trust; people who know me; people with life experience and people God has blessed. I have learned there is wisdom in asking questions and listening even if I disagree. They may have insight that I need to hear; things I wouldn’t come up with on my own. Sometimes they tell me things I don’t want to hear but are truthful and helpful.

– Get busy studying God. If God’s priorities are loving Him first and foremost, I must start there. Am I committed to daily time in His Word and prayer? Am I faithfully attending church in worship and fellowship with other believers? Am I a witness of His goodness and the gospel? Am I a good steward of the resources He’s given Me–my home, family, time?

Get busy studying others. The only way I know how to serve and love others is to spend time with them asking questions and listening. Then I look for practical ways I can help? I can always pray–sometimes I can pray aloud with them in that moment.  Maybe I could watch their children, run errands, provide a meal, stop in and visit,  or make a phone call. If people are God’s priority they need to be mine, too. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might….

Get busy studying self. What do I do well? What do I enjoy? How might God use my gifts and abilities to bring Him glory and serve others? What do I need to do to improve in those areas? Take a class? Ask a friend to hold me accountable? Seek out someone who is willing to invest in helping me learn?

What God has given us is not simply for our benefit. His design, plan and purpose is for us to use everything He’s provided as a means of bringing Him glory and loving others. He wants the world to see Him and know Him. More importantly, He is worthy. He deserves all of my praise, every breath, ability, and resource He’s given (because, ahem, He’s the One whose given it and He’s the only One who is worthy to receive it). In other words, God’s will isn’t about the what. It’s about the Who–who He is, what He’s doing, what He’s given, what He’s worth.

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the [w]knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:3-23)

Thoughts on Suffering

One of the certainties of life is suffering. There is flooding in Texas. In my personal world, a young woman is fighting cancer and treatment is uncertain. Friends lost their 25-year-old brother unexpectedly. Our world is one of pain, grief, loss, disappointment, failure, betrayal, and anxiety. No one is exempt. It may come in different forms, but suffering is certain.

(http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1368215/images/o-GRIEF-MANAGEMENT-facebook.jpeg)

Relief at all costs: “Curse God and die.” This was Satan’s goal. If Job’s relationship with God was dependent on his circumstances, he would love God when life was good and curse Him when life was bad. Job’s wife, unfortunately, was on Satan’s team for this one. Isn’t it interesting that of all the things Satan asked to take away from Job, his wife was not one of them.Job’s suffering was unexpected and devastating. He lost material wealth, his children, and his health. Like some of us, this is how others responded:

  1. Experience is the solution: “I’ve seen this. It happened to ____.”  Job’s friend, Eliphaz, related Job’s suffering to his own experiences. We may have seen, heard, or experienced things in our lives but that is a) not a comfort someone who is suffering and b) not an accurate measure of who God is or how He works.
  2. Traditional practice is the solution: “If you’d done this (name it) this (name calamity) wouldn’t have happened.” We may not come right out and say it, but it’s easy to carry the same undertone as Zophar ‘s message: “We’ve always done it this way.” In other words, it’s your fault for not following the accepted pattern. “What did you do to bring this on yourself?”
  3. Rules or legalism is the solution: “You can fix this by ____.”  Bildad professes a health, wealth and prosperity doctrine: If you do such and such, you can make it go away. This is another form of, “It’s your fault” with the added burden of changing the circumstances.

None of them were helpful. In fact, they made things worse. On top of external forces, Job battled his thoughts, emotions and the untruths of his “friends.”

These friends were focused on why Job was suffering. If they knew why, they could escape, avoid, or control suffering in their own lives. They pointed the finger, “It’s your fault” as another way of saying, “As long as I don’t do what you did, I’m safe.” There is something threatening about suffering—something ominous, dangerous, and unpleasant—we want to avoid. In reality, we can’t. And we won’t.

What about Job? In the face of disaster and calamity, who, like him, doesn’t want to talk directly to God?(7:20, 10:2, 13:3, 15, 22; 16:21; 23:4, etc.)

Once they ran out of arguments–Job included–Elihu, the youngest, silent observer spoke. Unlike the others, Elihu persisted in presence with a listening ear and keen thoughts. Because he escaped God’s criticism, we would do well to listen to his words and attitudes.

In humility, he admitted his own failures. He found common ground with Job and proved it by sitting through this entire discourse (7 days of silence plus 28 chapters’ worth of discussion). He did not lay blame, tell Job what to do, or criticize him harshly. He practiced what Dr. Bob Kellemen calls, “climbing in the casket.” And after lying in that dark, despairing place with Job, he provides perspective: don’t forget God’s grace and generosity, look for God’s hand and purpose even in suffering, if God controls the lightning, wind and wild beast, He is able to care for you, and remember, God cannot be moved or manipulated by the works of man.

God, in His goodness, wisdom and sovereignty approached Job in chapters 38-41, but not to answer Job’s “why?” Instead, God assured him that He saw, knew, controlled, and governed in might, goodness and wisdom.

Job’s reply?

“I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’

Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)

Then the Lord spoke to Eliphaz (how terrifying!), “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has” (42:7). They offered sacrifices, Job prayed, and they were forgiven. The Lord returned Job’s wealth and “blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…” (42:12)

In our suffering—in suffering with others—we may never know why, but we can always know Who.

Behold, the Lord God will come with might,
With His arm ruling for Him.
Behold, His reward is with Him
And His recompense before Him.
11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge
And informed Him of the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.
16 Even Lebanon is not enough to burn,
Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
18 To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare with Him?
19 As for the idol, a craftsman casts it,
A goldsmith plates it with gold,
And a silversmith fashions chains of silver.
20 He who is too impoverished for such an offering
Selects a tree that does not rot;
He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman
To prepare an idol that will not totter.
21 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
23 He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
24 Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And the storm carries them away like stubble.
25 “To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
29 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
30 Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31 Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40)

Marriage – Design and Dysfunction

In God’s Word, we see His design for marriage but in our lives and world we don’t have to look far to realize something has gone wrong. What do we see when we look at God’s design? 

Design: 

In the first 3 chapters of Genesis, we must start with recognizing that both man and woman are created in the image of God. They both reflect the nature of who God is in their own unique ways. 

 

We see God’s design is for marriage to be between one man and one woman. This was God’s design from the beginning and is still His plan. 

We see Adam and Eve worshipping and walking with God and they are at peace with God, each other, and God’s creation. 

Then we see that they have an enemy, the Devil. He is their enemy, because he is God’s enemy and they belong to God. 

Later we see the woman and the man fail to live up to what God has called them to do and give into the lie that God is not as good as He says He is. That He did not really say what they think He said. That autonomy from God will provide freedom. 

When they eat of the tree and go against God’s plan, Word, and design, they are ashamed. Broken. Sad. They then are scared of the voice of God. They used to receive joy from God, one another and creation. Now there is no peace with any of the 3. 

They are now told 2 things about the future. 

  1. That their relationship and their work will be marred and marked by sin and suffering.  
  2. That God has a plan to redeem their lives and His people through their far-off offspring, Jesus. 

In the rest of the Old Testament we see 2 things that mark the marriages of God’s people.

  1. Their sin and the natural, God given, consequences of breaking God’s design for marriage. 
  2. God’s faithfulness to them and His promises despite their sin. 

In the New Testament we see Paul use marriage as a metaphor for the love that the Father has for His church. 

This is remarkable in a number of ways, but is instructive both theologically and practically for our marriages today. 

First, it shows that marriage is a picture of something bigger than our human institution. It is to be the most apt human picture of God’s love for His people. 

Second, it gives us a model for how to love in the context of marriage. 

Third, we see that marriage is to be a covenant, as the Father has made with us, and not a contract that is law based. 

Fourth, the passages in Colossians and Ephesians speak of Gospel-centered marriage as being a covenant between 2 people that are first submitted to their God. 

In 1 John 4:7-21, we see God’s definition for love. Love is not defined by feelings, contracts, romance, or human institutions. Love is defined for us in verse 10. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Love does not start or end with us. It starts and is perpetuated, recaptured, and defined by God’s loving action towards us. Our love for Him and for others is a response to He who first loved us! This is the supernatural power that brings marriages back from the dead just as it raises our dead in the flesh life out of the grave to give us spiritual life. 

What a glorious truth, but this is not the end of the scriptures and it is not the end of God’s story of marriage. 

In Revelation 19 we see the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. We are told that the Bride, His church, is prepared for the marriage feast. Who is the Groom? Who is the one the feast is about? It’s about the lone heavenly father and the sacrifice of the lamb, Jesus. Our marriages are to point to this moment in the future when God is ultimately glorified and we are most satisfied as we were in the very beginning in the garden. 

This theology and quick survey of scripture should inform our marriage counseling. 

We can get lost in the “he-said, she-said” part of marriage counseling where we find ourselves refereeing a couples latest conflict. We can find ourselves buried under the sheer volume of sin and suffering that a couple is experiencing and not even know where to start. 

We can reach a point where we find ourselves (sometimes rightly) taking sides and lose sight of the point and power behind marriage. 

When we look at God’s word and the reality of ALL of our marriages, we see that something has gone wrong.

We need to go back to God’s word to find not only biblical principles for marriage, but the power of the Gospel for marriage.  

Written by:
Jason Blackley
Grace Community Church

What if I fail?

In Biblical Counseling, as in the rest of life, we fear failing. Before we start counseling one of our biggest fears is failing.
If we are honest, even after counseling for years we can fear failure. There are things about counseling that make fear a difficult thing to shake. We are trying to help people at their most vulnerable point. They are sharing things with us that they have never shared with anyone. We are helping them overcome some of the hardest things they have ever gone through. We are meeting them at a time they are desperate and possibly feel as though they are at rock bottom. Talk about pressure! No wonder we are afraid. So what do we do to overcome the fear of failure as a Biblical Counselor?
  1. Realize we will fail – You. Will. Fail. You will not always turn to the Bible and will use your own wisdom. You will forget to pray for and with your counselee. You will forget what homework you gave them last session. You will misquote verses. You will give them counsel that they will follow and it will blow up in their face. We are sinners counseling sinners in a sinful and fallen world. Our own sin, inexperience and fallen brains will make mistakes. When we realize this, it is freeing! It reminds us of our need for Grace. It makes us dependent and prayerful and we remember that we need to be saturated in God’s word and walking in his spirit.
  2. Remember grace – His grace is sufficient. You are accepted and loved by God, through Christ’’s work on the cross not because of your ability, or fruit as a Biblical counselor. Let that sink deep within your soul.
  3. Pray – Fear of failure is just one of the symptoms of a lack of prayer with and for counselees. If we are not praying, we are trying to change people with our wisdom, education, experience and words. If it is up to us, we SHOULD be sacred! We cannot do the work of the Spirit.
  4. Fail – It seems nonsensical but something that has helped my fear of failure, is failing. Making mistakes. Erring. Forgetting. Misplacing. Not walking in the Spirit. I have learned so much from my own mistakes, and by God’s grace, he has made his strength known through my weakness. Our mistakes drive us to the Gospel and drive us to learn and grow.
Let’s be sure that as Biblical Counselors we are believing the same gospel that we are proclaiming to others.
Written by Jason Blackley

Benefits of Record Keeping

When a friend from church asked if I would help her with spiritual growth I said of course, then paused. “I’ve been to a couple of conferences on biblical counseling but I’m not sure how it works. Could I practice on you?” She said yes and we got started.

I didn’t know much about biblical counseling, but I had seen a case report form (found on this page) used by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and decided to give it a try. Here are some things I discovered along the way.

Recording answers to the questions on this form

  • Provided otherwise elusive answers. By recording changes a counselee made, what we talked about, unbiblical thoughts and patterns, and present circumstances, I was able to pray and think more intentionally about how to help biblically.
  • Gave future direction. As I considered progress made and topics discussed, I was able to prayerfully consider future growth and direction for each counselee.
  • Allowed me to see subtle patterns and habits I might have missed or left unaddressed.
  • Provided a consistent, objective way to present information to a counselee’s pastor, small group leader and/or my direct supervisor as needed.
  • Became a guide for each session, helping me lead with purpose and an end goal in mind.

The original form, helpful as it was, was tedious. I could only review one session at a time and struggled to create transitions and consistency. After praying and thinking, I put each question in one column of a spreadsheet and filled it in from top to bottom. When I needed a reminder or quick orientation, I could pull it up and scan a number of sessions at once. The spreadsheet format makes it possible to scroll through multiple entries of past teaching, homework assignments and changes (template HERE)

There is nothing magical about record keeping, but as people who reflect our Creator-God, we have the ability to communicate, plan, be intentional, and orderly. May He use us as instruments for His pleasure and glory as we minister to the lives of those He sends our way.

Written by Sydney Millage

The Role of Prayer in Biblical Counseling

If we are Biblical Counselors we all agree that prayer has a role in Biblical Counseling. However, if you are like me, sometimes it is relegated to the role of opening, or closing a session of counseling and possibly throwing up a prayer when you know you are really in trouble as a counselor.
There is nothing wrong with praying to open and/or close a counseling session and we have all prayed the “God help me know what to do here” prayers.  I have found over time, however, that if this is the only role that prayer plays in my counseling, there will be negative consequences and an overall lack of power in the counsel I give. Here are some thoughts on the role that prayer should play in our counseling.

Prayer for Us
If you are a human being, and not Jesus himself, you need prayer. There are sins to confess. Anxieties to “cast on him.” Things that scare you. Pride that its hidden. False motives to be exposed. Fear of man issues. Fatigue. Our busy mindedness. These are just to name a few. If we do not have a healthy thriving prayer life, we will not give prayer the proper role in our counseling.

Prayer for Counselees
I have found over time that when I am not praying for counselees, I am trying to fix them on my own. This leads to lack of power, pride, or anxiety.
Lack of Power: If we are not taping into, and relying on the supernatural power of the Spirit, we are trying to fix people with our techniques, wisdom, and experience. We also start to see a pattern of not knowing what to say, not understanding what others are saying, and a lack of lasting fruit.
Pride: Sometimes (often) the Spirit works in spite of us and does a work in the lives of those we are trying to help even if we are not praying for the power of God to do the work. If this happens, and we are not praying for our counselees, we are tempted to become prideful and think that we did something to bring about change. God help us if we try and take credit for what only God can do.
Anxiety: This is the most acute symptom I experience when I am not praying for counselees. I have come to realize that anxiety is actually an appropriate response if we are trying to fix people in our own strength. In 2 Corinthians, chapter 2:15-16 we read, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?”

Prayer During the Session (Out Loud) 
There are at least 3 occasions in which prayer during the counseling session is helpful. All 3, and any more that we can think of, show the importance to our counselee, and remind us of the same.
Opening: When we open a counseling session with prayer, we set a foundation for the session and send a message to the counselee that we recognize that the Wonderful Counselor is the one whom we need to hear from during the next 60-90 minutes.
During: There are many occasions in which praying out loud during the session might be helpful, but in particular, when we are stuck, struggling, or having trouble understanding something is a great time to stop, and pray. This does a number of things to benefit our counsel and counselee. It communicates what we should do as believers when we are stuck and in need of power and wisdom. It shows were wisdom and power come from. It can change the course of our conversation as the power of God is invited into the discussion afresh.
Conclusion: When we end our session in prayer it reminds every one in the room that any insight that comes from the time together and the homework is the work of God. This also helps everyone remember that the time together in the counseling room is actually not the most important time of the cousnelees life. Their time spent in the word, prayer, community, and mission during the week will have more long lasting ramifications for them than anything we say in the counseling room.

Prayer During the Session (Silent)
There is an account in the book of Nehemiah where Nehemiah is about to request of King Artaxerxes the time to go and rebuild the wall in Jerusalem. In between the King asking him why he was sad and what his request was, and the actual request of Nehemiah, we read in 2:4, “So I prayed to God in heaven.” This is a quick, silent, cry of help to God. This can and should be happening as we try and help others, with anything! We are in desperate need of the power of God in each and every conversation, particularly when we are trying to help someone.

Let’s make sure that we are not relegating prayer to the role of opening and closing our counseling.
Now, lets close in prayer…

Written by Jason Blackley

Recommended Reading! Punting on First Down by Mark Shaw

This article written by Mark Shaw is a timely word to the church about caring for those with self harm issues, specifically addictions who need biblical guidance and support through this difficult time in their lives. I find it timely because, now more than ever, we have people in our churches who are struggling with these issues. In addition on November 10th -11th  the EIBCC will be hosting a weekend workshop entitled “Dealing With Self Harm Issues in the Church”. This workshop is for all the leaders in your church and will be focused on equipping them to know how to care for a shepherd those people who are struggling with addictions and self harm so we won’t ‘Punt on First Down”.
– Dave Kirk

Article originally posted on the Biblical Counseling Coalition website.

Punting on First Down

Got Faith?

We tend to put faith in the domain of the unknown and unseen. It has a mysterious, nebulous component. After all, how do you define faith? You can’t see or feel it. Isn’t faith something you hope for that hasn’t even happened? Yes…and no.

When we view faith as something “out there” and distant, we are free to live life however we want. If it can’t be measured or quantified, I say I have faith–or think I have faith–without obligation. In other words, I can believe (in my head). I can say I’m a Christian. I can say or think I have faith. And I can move on with my life.

I would argue that faith is real, it’s a concrete doing, not just an empty set of words. For instance, when you visited your Facebook page, sent a text or made plans for this afternoon, what motivated you? Why did you do what you did?

One of the most common reasons for doing or not doing something is because we “feel like it.” We want to do something (or we don’t) and the wanting motivates our decision. My grandmother used to talk about being “in the mood.” If she was in the mood, it got done. If she wasn’t, it had to wait. Fortunately, she was always in the mood for MacDonald’s ice cream.

Here it is: Faith is doing what God says whether I feel like it or not. It’s taking God at His Word and acting on it. Period. That’s real. It’s concrete. It’s not wishy-washy. It’s not nebulous or mysterious. It’s actually straight-forward and obvious. Here are a couple of simple, but hard, ways to apply faith:

– God says marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman for life (Genesis 1-3, Ephesians 5). Faith not only assents it’s true, faith does it. Faith says, “No matter how I feel about this person, I am committed to this relationship. God designed marriage and He wants me to work this out.” Staying married and working through difficulties requires dependence on Him. seeking help, perseverance, forgiveness, and sacrifice. It’s real, walking, talking faith that lies awake at night, prays, gives, serves, and loves. Faith real, concrete acts that reflect Jesus–that believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection–in everyday life through our words, actions and choices.

– God says if we abide in Him, He will abide in us (John 15). Faith spends measureable time reading the Bible, studying, listening to, meditating on and memorizing God’s Word because that’s where we find Him. We must know Christ and His ways to abide in Him. Faith is evident in prayer (abiding). Faith is evident as I wait on God to provide and meet my needs.

– God says He will keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him because He trusts Him (Isaiah 26:3). Faith refuses to give in to worry or despair. Faith chooses, instead, to think on the character and works of God: His faithfulness, lovingkindness and goodness expressed in Scripture and past experience. Godly faith is demonstrated by peace and steadfastness.

The opposite of faith is my way-seeking relief, comfort, pleasure–in opposition to the revealed will of God in His Word. It happens as we justify, rationalize and excuse our behavior with circumstance instead of turning to God and holding fast. When I simply don’t believe God’s Word is true or will “work,” when I think I have a better idea, or just don’t feel like doing it His way, my unbelief and disobedience result in real consequences. God’s way or my way? It’s that simple.

Got faith?

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26)

Written by Sydney Millage

The Fear of the Lord; The Beginning of Wisdom

In 1 Samuel we see two men who have many things in common, but with a couple huge differences that make all the difference.
Those 2 differences were:
1. Anointing
2. Fear

 
1. As we know Saul was chosen by the people because of his might. God allowed this with the warning that they would regret it.
David was chosen despite being the smallest of the sons of Jesse.

2. Both men feared, but Saul feared man and David feared God. There are many examples of this, but the one I read this morning was the story of David sparing Saul’s life, twice, after Saul had tried to kill David twice. Here is David’s reasoning from 1 Samuel 26:23-24:

“[23] The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the LORD gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the LORD’s anointed. [24] Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the LORD, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.”

David says and does 3 things here that show us whom he feared:
– He sees that the LORD is the one who rewards and that is greater than killing the king who wants you dead and whose throne you will take if you do.
– He says Saul is anointed by the LORD. He knows the history, he knows that God allowed the people to have what they wanted. He knows and believes God is in control of history.
– He saw the kings life as precious and that this was an act of worship.

Saul and David both sinned.
Saul and David where both in the same position, king.
Both men where powerful in human terms.
One man was called a man after God’s own heart. The other was judged and found wanting by the King of Kings.

Lets see our identity today through the eyes of God. We are not just Pastors, Directors, Coordinators, Husbands, Wives, Parents, or Counselors today. We are his beloved. Our feelings today will come from whom we fear and who we are. Before this passage and God’s work this morning, I felt like a failure because of small mistakes. I am fighting today to feel like a worshipper who has a great God who is worthy of praise and who holds me, history, his church, and all people in his hands.

– Jason Blackley

When Life Happens

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Lest this blog get sin-heavy, let me be quick and sure to say that life happens. Suffering happens. There is no escape. It isn’t always tied to our sin and it’s not necessarily a consequence.

James 1 comes to mind when I think about “life” happening. Chapter 1, verse 2 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” It’s written to Christians, “brethren,” and it says when you fall, not if. I looked up”fall” in Greek and it means: “to fall; to encounter.”

Think Mr. Magoo. He walks along, minding his own business when, BOOM! he falls in an open manhole. In the same way, trials appear in our path. We don’t see them coming. We don’t “deserve” them. They just happen. I find that both comforting and beautiful. I didn’t plan it, but God did. And it’s part of a bigger, better plan. A plan for my good. God knows. He sees the future–inside out, forward and backward. He is at the end before the beginning, and He’s not One to waste anything.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

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, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-7 ESV)

As I fall into unexpected trials, based on James 1:2-7, I have started to ask: Am I leaning on Christ or myself? Am I asking for help? For wisdom? Am I growing in trust and patience? This trial is intended to make me steadfast; perfect and complete. Am I fighting God and my difficulty or submitting to Him?If I’m doing it right, it’s not my job to fix the problem, make it go away, or figure out the end. The joy is in knowing that God will use this present difficulty to make me more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).

It’s also a good reminder when I see others suffering. Their difficulty or situation may not have anything to do with their personal choices or sin. It could be something they “fell” into–just like I do, by God’s grace. God’s hand is not removed from the situation–it’s all over it.

When you and I “fall into various trials,” we can stop and look for Jesus. In that hard place, we can have joy. Jesus fell into suffering–and look where He ended up!

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NKJV)

Written by Sydney Millage