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Archive for August, 2012

Signs and Doors,

Often people try to figure out God’s will, make decisions, based on signs or “opened or closed doors.” There is no question that God can direct us through signs and He certainly can open and shut “doors.” However, on its own a signs or doors approach is a rather fickle way of discerning God’s will and making godly decisions.

It is possible to designate almost anything as a sign, “God, if you want me to buy this car have the salesman wear any color shirt but green.” “Lord, if you don’t want me to buy this car make the loan application not go through.” Even better yet do the wide open sign approach, “Father God (might as well use real spiritual language) just give me a sign if I should/should not …..,” and then determine what is a sign after doing what you wanted, which has the benefit of being able to claim divine guidance and approval. And if we don’t like the outcome of the first sign there is always the follow up sign to go to.

When it comes to signs we need to take into account that God isn’t the only one who can produce signs. We can produce our own. The devil, the great tempter and deceiver, is good at signs as well, in fact I think he would wholeheartedly endorse us using the above mentioned sign strategy. Beyond ourselves and Satan, people around us will often chime in and confirm our “sign.” We are naive if don’t think that signs can be arbitrary, misleading, or outright deceiving.

The dangers with the open/closed door approach are similar to the sign method. If we like what is behind the door in question is a small crack enough for a definite “Yes?” It certainly is enough to begin prying the door open. Kicking in the door and then declaring it open is an option as well. If the door seems tightly shut checking for a back door to make really sure can’t hurt, can it? What if I don’t like what lies behind the open door and really want what is behind the closed one? If I continue to knock will it eventually open (a favorite strategy of children)? And are we supposed to walk through every open door and capitulate in front of every closed door? Satan opened the door to all the “kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matthew 4:8-9) to the Lord Jesus Christ, but with an entrance fee.

All too often what lies behind the signs and door method of discerning God’s will and making decisions is laziness and an undisciplined spiritual life. When the Apostle Paul talks about open doors is in connection with gospel and the work of Christ’s kingdom, not purchases, relationship decisions, career choices, wants, etc. Signs and open/closed doors are no substitute for faithfully living for God, knowing the written word of God (the Bible), incorporating the values of God into our lifestyle and decisions, investing ourselves in the kingdom of God, loving the presence of God, practicing the love of God, and growing a heart that beats for God. These require diligence, developing godly habits, and making decisions that bring our lives and hearts into conformity with all God has already told us concerning His will. Until we navigate by the signage God has already posted, until we step through the doors God has already opened, and until we respect the doors God has lovingly closed seeking signs and pleading for doors to open or close is anything but spiritual and wise.

Can I encourage you to take a few minutes and take some honest inventory in regard to how you make decisions? How big of part do signs and open/closed doors play in your discerning of God’s will in making decisions? Are there some decisions you need to revisit and change because they do not square with God’s will and word? List three things you need to continually practice to grow in your ability to know God’s will and make godly decisions.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

PS. I asked God to give me a sign as to whether or not the church should double my salary. Right after that the phone rang. Not quite sure if I could trust that I asked God to not let the phone ring until I got to the end of this pastor’s note. It didn’t, and a bird flew right up to my office window, perched itself, and just looked at me. Right then I had complete peace. So I am placing the doubling of my salary on the upcoming business meeting agenda.

PSS. If I ever say something like the above and am serious about it that would be the right time to fire me and look for another pastor.

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Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time,…”                      Jonah 3:1 (NASB)

Have ever gotten a letter that said something like, “This is you second notice?” or worse yet, “This is your final notice?” I know this much, without a couple of those we would have lost our home owners and car insurance a few times. Somehow we simply forgot to do our part and send in the payment.

Jonah hadn’t forgotten, he didn’t like what God told him the first time. God had given him an assignment that challenged his prejudices, his patriotism, his dreams for the future. It wasn’t that he was ignorant about God, he just didn’t like the way he knew God operated. He wanted his and ancient Israel’s enemies dead and out of power.

Jonah didn’t just put what God told him with the stack of all the other “bills.” No he tried to get as far away as he possibly could from doing what God wanted him to. Somehow, with all he knew about God he fooled himself into thinking that he could actually get away from God. He couldn’t anymore than you and I can.

When God speaks to us, when “the word of the LORD” comes to us, we can be certain that God really means it. When God directs, when He assigns, when He says, “Go do …,” He is not asking us for our opinion or inviting us to discuss things. He is not trying to figure out how we feel about it, nor is He trying to generate some kind of buy-in on our part. He is looking for faith that responds with obedience.

The “second notice” Jonah got was an act of God’s mercy and grace. God does not owe us any second chance, any second word. Jonah didn’t really get that either. He finally did what God had asked him to do but about as grumpily and ungrateful as possible. To my amazement God spoke to him a third time (4:9) addressing his proud and cold heart. How quickly he forgot his rescue prayer in the belly of that fish.

Enough about Jonah, has God sent you a second notice? Is there something God has clearly told you and you have been pulling a Jonah? Have you have discarded the “word of the LORD” and are doing what you want? What are you going to do? Run some more? Act spiritual when you are totally out of sync with God? There is only one way to get back on track: respond with gratefulness and an obedient faith to what God has said – preferably the first time, but definitely if God has had to repeat it.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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When God says, “No.”

Having been involved in the raising of a handful or so of kids, and since I once was a kid myself, and having worked with people for more than three decades I can say with some confidence that we, people, young and old, don’t like to be told “No.” That little word just doesn’t come in any flavor we like. It is prone to ruin a good day, sour our attitudes, make us mad, cause us to forget good manners, make us instantly ungrateful, invite us to scheme, turn on defiance, and engage us in rebellion.

What about you when God says, “No?” And He does say “No,” any parent with even a little bit of maturity and wisdom does so, not because they are mean but because of precisely the opposite, because they desire what is good and best. There is no one better to guide us then God, our Heavenly Father. There is no one wiser, more loving, and better than Him. Yet somehow we still don’t like to be told, “No,” not even from Him. It is another indictment of our sinfulness, we would rather chose our own desires and impulses, engage in our own plans and lusts than trust in the infinite wisdom and goodness of God.

Both the Bible (God’ written Word) and human history are full of illustrations of people being told by God, “No,” or “Don’t,” and then doing what they want to do anyway. The consequences and results of living a life that defies God, blows Him off in some way or another is predictable, it lacks the blessing of God and reaps the discipline, judgment, and wrath of God.

However, there are also those who heard God say, “No,” and responded well:

  • When King David wanted to build a temple, God told him, “No, not you” (1 Chronicles 22:7-8).
  • God told the prophet Jeremiah not to marry (Jeremiah 16:2).
  • The apostle Paul asked for healing and deliverance and God told him, “No, my grace will do” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

We need to learn from these and others like them how to handle it when God says, “No.” No tantrums, no unfaithfulness, no grumpiness, no scheming  or rationalizing our way around it, no complaining, no feeling sorry for ourselves, but rather continued devotion, full obedience, and a willingness to adjust our lives, our hearts, our minds, and our attitudes to every word from God, even if that word is, “No.”

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Making Godly decisions – Christian decision making – God’s will

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.”
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
James 4:13-17 (NLT)

For a follower of Jesus, a Christian, God’s will is paramount in making both small and big decisions. Yet far too often we make decisions based on our intellect, our own wisdom, our experiences, the advice of others, how we feel, what we want, or by looking for some open door. The problem with that it that none of these require any kind of thinking about God’s will. Even adding a quick prayer and ending it in “if it be your will” does not necessarily indicate any real concern regarding God’s will.

James indicts the business men and women in the text above because they made decisions based on their own abilities, their pride, and the potential profit (their own benefit). When he tells them that they should say, “If the Lord wills,” he never meant for that to become a thoughtless phrase to rubberstamp our own plans. What he wanted them to do is to make their decisions based on considerations that made God, His will, His kingdom, His ways, and what He wanted them to do central.

Anyone who is serious about knowing God’s will, and make decisions based on His will, has to make a fundamental determination: Whatever God reveals concerning His will is not a discussion item, it is what I will follow, what I will do, what I will submit myself and the decisions I have to make to. Without making that determination God’s will merely be one option among many, and we will continue to have difficulty discerning God’s will.

In order to know and do God’s will we will have to learn to walk in the Spirit, die to self, know and obey what God has already revealed, pray, develop a spiritual mindset, serve, and be connected to the body of Christ/the church (Galatians 5:16; Romans 12:1-5; 1 Timothy 3:16-17;  Matthew 6:9-13; 1 Peter4:10).

The beginning point is what God has already revealed concerning His will. The word of God, although written by men, is authored by the Holy Spirit. God uses the Bible to show us His will in general and often in the specific. It is the first thing to apply to any decision that faces us, and the more we apply it the better we become in discerning God’s will. When it comes to God’s Word (the Bible) you begin with applying diligence in knowing and understanding it, and the second thing, but equally important, is faith which is expressed in doing what it says. In between those two, being diligent in understanding the Bible and acting in faith by doing what it says, are prayer and meditation which help us to make specific application to our own personal situation.

The time to start making godly, thoroughly Christian decisions is now. List three decisions you are currently facing. Now think of as many scriptures that you can think of that are clear revelations of God’s will and look them up and read their context. Next talk with God about both the decisions you listed and the scriptures you read. Follow that with some thinking time/meditation asking yourself tough questions as to whether or not your life is in sync with those scriptures and what adjustments/changes you need to make to be obedient what God has already told you, and what obedience looks like in the decisions you listed. Then go and make that obedience a reality.

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