Tuesday, December 8, 2015

When God says no

Have you ever had a big decision to make? If you have and if you are a Christian, than you know that lots of prayer is an essential.  You also know if the above two things are true that the Lord doesn't always give us this clear answer.You pray fervently that God would show you his will for your life and give you a clear yes or no, but when he does not, it is our job to be obedient to what has already been revealed about God's will for our lives through his Word. Knowing that we should seek first the Kingdom of God, we should take action. "Just Do Something," as Kevin Deyoung's great book on this topic states (a book I highly recommend if you have bid decisions to make!). All the while, we can trust that if we truly give our lives to God, he will establish our plans. (Proverbs 16:3)

Sometimes, however, God is gracious enough to give us a direct answer to our prayers, one that is unmistakably a yes or no. Praise the Lord for this! It is great to receive this confirmation, and our hearts should rejoice in it!

But what if the answer is no?

Here's where it gets hard. Sometimes you pray and pray about a decision, convince yourself that it is the Lord's will for your life. You take that step of faith towards that open door--only to have it shut in front of you. And it doesn't feel good--kind of like stubbing your spiritual toes, if you will allow me to stretch the metaphor. But hold on a second, isn't this the answer to prayer you wanted? Shouldn't we be amazed that God cares enough about us to give us a glimpse of the perfect plan for our lives? Who are we to set up this farce with God that "Lord, I really want to know your answer to this decision, but since I already know what is best for me, your decision has to be yes, okay?"

So how do we learn to rejoice when the answer is no? Simply, I believe, by holding to the promise of God that He really does have a perfect plan for us! When we truly believe this, we can thank God for the closed doors. Thank you, Lord, for saving me from another rabbit trail and guiding me in those good works you have planned for me! (Ephesians 2:10) I don't know how to say it any simpler: trust God, and you can rejoice in all things and under every circumstance (even trials!)! (Philippians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, James 1:2)

Yes, this is on my mind because God did just answer no to one of the plans I had made. And yes, it didn't feel worthy of rejoicing in at first, but when I realized that God was gracious enough to give me this answer instead of letting me kick down a barred door, I found joy and thankfulness!

God is good, all the time.


(I wrote this a couple of years ago)

I think a lot about making money these days. Just this year I have embarked on my latest entrepreneurial enterprise, owning my own lawn care business, which I sincerely hope will start fattening up my nearly-starved bank account. Also, age eighteen is approaching rapidly on the horizon for me, the age where I will officially start becoming self-sufficient. The first step to this is paying my parents rent. At this point, I don’t think I could sustain that.

Yep, learning how to make money is definitely a top priority for me.

Money. It’s vital to human existence, yet at the same time, it’s deadly. Remember, for a hefty sum of 1,100 pieces of silver from each of the Philistine lords, Delilah enticed Samson to give away his strength (and eventually his life).  Judas betrayed the Son of God for a mere 30 pieces of silver! The love of money is most definitely the root of all kinds of evil, as the Bible says (1 Timothy 6:10).

But what is a healthy balance to making money and loving money?  Obviously, most of us will have to make money to support ourselves, and that is definitely not wrong. As Paul says:

For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)

It is a very good thing for us to work! We are to make profit so that we might eat! We have two extremes here. One, loving money to the point of worshiping it, or two, not making money at all . . . and paying the consequences of going hungry. So how are we to find the balance?

I believe it all comes down to what our motivation for making money is. Notice that money itself isn’t a bad thing; it is the love of money that is the root of all sorts of evil! Are you making money just for the sake of making money? Do you put in hours of work just so you have some “spending money”? If so, buckle down and listen up, because frankly, you are serving a master who is worthless!

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Mathew 6:19-21,24)

As servants and children of God, we must serve Him and Him alone. The pursuit of wealth for wealth’s sake will only lead to ruin. Instead, we should be making money so that we might fulfill our service to God. We should be motivated to make profit not so that we can buy the greatest and latest perk that catches our fancy, but so that we can continue to serve God, wherever He calls us!

That is my plan. Why do I want to make money? At this point in my life, it is mainly so that I can become self-sufficient (AKA: a man). I realize that it is God’s plan for young men to grow up and start their own families, and I want to live it! In my mind, the sooner the better.

That is not to say I am a perfect manager of my funds. I’m not. At all. I am still working to limit my “just for fun” purchases and pool all my resources towards the goal of becoming self-sufficient. That is also not to say that I will be self-sufficient anytime soon. Though it would be awesome if I made lots of money with my business, built my own house, and was completely self-sufficient by 18 or 19, it will probably take years!! Who knows where God will lead me and what He has planned for me in the next few years! But it will always be my desire to faithfully serve Him, not money.

The Greatest Story

What is a great story, I wonder? And do not all of us hunger for these stories? They are the ones that truly captivate us and move us, the stories that point to some bigger meaning that we long to discover. Where are these stories found? Are they found in the happy confines of average life--where nothing unexpected ever happens and the main characters live normal life all their days? No, surely not! To me, a great story is found in two little Hobbits leaving the comfort of the Shire far behind for Mount Doom. It's in a shipwreck and a deserted island or a land of perpetual ice and snow.

It's strange: the stories that truly mean something to me—and probably to a lot of people, come to think of it—are the ones filled with danger and dread. What is a story without woe, betrayal, and treachery?

But no, all that really doesn't make for a great story (unless you are a really, really messed up person I suppose). It's what comes out of the darkness that counts. In the great stories, betrayal is replaced by beauty, treachery by treasure, and woe by wonder.

But how does that happen? Isn’t it by the bravery and endurance of the main characters that darkness turns to light? Yes! Commitment and courage, friendship and faithfulness, Service and steadfastness--all are prerequisites of a main character in these epics. Samwise Gamgee, Robinson Crusoe's man Friday, and little Lucy Pevensie come to mind.

So what is a great story? To me, it's far from comfort and close to calamity. It's full of tension and even terror, but resolved in healing and happily ever after. Memorable characters burst from these stories and captivate us, and we only wish that they could exist outside the world of imagination and inspiration!

To take it one step further: what is the greatest story ever told? Is it found in the fictional worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia? Maybe, but what if even these great stories are only a shadow of the greatest story, the one that has been unfolding in our world since the beginning? 

What if it's found in the middle of the serene gift of a garden paradise, but then in the tragedy of a forbidden fruit and a fall?  What if it is in the mercy of the Maker and the suffering of a Savior? Surely, there is a story filled with betrayal and beauty, treachery and treasure, woe and wonder, and praise be for the mercy of the Maker, the end of this story is healing and happily ever after.

But what does that make us? What if . . . Imagine it! What if we are characters in this greatest story, this epic that outshines all others? Do we even dare to imagine that we could be a Samwise Gamgee or a Lucy Pevensie? When I consider who the Author is of this story, I dare to hope. Placing this hope in Him, I strive to be courageous and committed. I long to be found faithful as a friend and steadfast as a servant!

But no Samwise Gamgee is alone. There be warriors and weapons. There be fears and fortresses to conquer. There be a Lord and a Light to follow. So there is one more question I must ask:

Will you join me?

True Beauty--it's not crazy

True beauty is . . . "let's be crazy?"

I've recently been struck with yet another truth in the Bible that our culture has twisted. If you listen to any secular song, the girls guys sing about are always described as "wild" or "crazy". I once tested my theory by listening to a country station on my way home from work. Every single boyfriend/girlfriend song centered on how the girl was incredibly spontaneous and wild (and all the guys drank and had big trucks, but that is a subject for another day). It's almost as if the only girl worth pursuing in their minds is the girl who runs around in the rain singing "it's a party in the USA!" or the one stealing the guy's cowboy hats and hearts . . . or partying till the "cops show up to try and shut us down".

The more I think about this, the more I know it is a lie. And my heart is so sad for the many Christian young ladies who have unquestioningly bought the lie that to truly be beautiful, you need to have that wild side. But please trust me when I tell you that not all guys think that is really an essential to beauty! And more importantly, it would seem our God's description of a beautiful woman runs at an almost complete parallel to what our world says today:

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:30-31

To me, these are the girls worth singing about! I would encourage all of my sisters in Christ to carefully evaluate who you get your identity from. Would you rather believe Hunter Hayes and the gang of other high-pitched Pop-singer boys telling you to be wild and crazy? Which, to be frankly honest, are the same characteristics of a women no one should aspire to in the Bible: "She is boisterous and rebellious and her feet do not remain at home" Proverbs 7:11. Or would you rather listen to the words of the Almighty God who is infinitely wise and wants the best for all of us? One last verse I hope encourages you (think "sisters" instead of "brethren" below) ;0):

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 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 12:1-2

Post script: Just for a little bit of clarity: Obviously, there is a big difference between cheerfulness and wildness! A girl who is happy, cheerful, and kind-hearted is most certainly the virtuous woman in the Bible,  because all those characteristics are outward fruits of a woman who truly fears the Lord! Also, I know I am kind of preaching to the choir here, but I just felt like I needed to share these thoughts with you all to encourage you sisters in Christ, and hopefully to remind my brothers in Christ of what is truly beautiful! ;0)