Is God on your side?


Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ve got God on my side” as they endeavor in a new life chapter, as they make a big life decision or even as they walk through an ugly conflict with someone else?  Perhaps you have said it yourself.  You are a Christian, you believe the Bible, you pray and therefore you trust and expect to have God at your back.  The Bible actually says, after all,

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

 – Rom 8.31

I would like to suggest, however, that if we go through life expecting God to be on our team, we have completely missed the boat.

Is God on your side?
Or are you on God’s side?

This might sound like semantics to you.  Perhaps when you made the statement that God is on your side, you mean that you are on the same team as God, or that you are on God’s side.  But the paradigm is profound and we would be remiss to dismiss it without careful consideration.


Because it speaks clearly and acutely to our basic world view.  God is the only being in the universe and in history who rightly exists for His own glory and His own purpose.  He is not selfish to create everything to glorify Himself because He is God.  God exists to glorify, please and honor Himself.  He is perfect, He is the creator of right and wrong, He defines right and wrong, and He gets to judge right and wrong.  And sin is anything not done in faith and to His glory.  He does not need us and He has chosen to show mercy and grace to create us and allow us to know and enjoy Him.

Scripture teaches us that we were made in His image.  This is a glorious truth, but it also the crux of our downfall.  Being made in His image lends us the desire to want to make the universe all about us.  It is not sinful for God to have that attribute, but it is sinful for us to have it.  We are not God.  This is the definition of our sinful nature.  Yes, it is our image bearing of God, but it is also the disposition that enslaves us to sin.

When we come to salvation, we realize and embrace the fact that we are sinful.  That we have broken God’s Law and heart, and the only way to be forgiven is to confess that sin and to be covered by the blood of Jesus.  And then we get off our own team and get on God’s team.  We no longer exist for our own glory, pleasure and happiness, but for God’s.  And God, in saving us, does not then get on our team and exist for our pleasure and happiness, but his own.  He stays on His team.  But He allows us the privilege and honor of being on His team.  And being on His team does, consequently, insure our salvation and eternal happiness on the New Earth.  It’s a win win.

What then is the application?  Is this just a mental game?  It is of the greatest importance.  If you believe that since you have been saved God exists to get you lots of money, success, happiness and pleasure; that you can live life how you want and He will fill in the gaps and make things go your way, then you have missed the boat.  Salvation is about dying to ourselves, putting away the deeds of the flesh, joining Christ in His suffering and glorifying God.  We cannot make our decisions apart from God, His Word and the leading of the Spirit and expect Him to bless it.  Rather, we need to look around and see where God is at work, seek His Word for direction and pray; letting the Spirit lead and guide us in the direction that we should go.  To God’s glory.  On His team.  It’s not about us.  It’s about Him.

Even in the good times


Take a moment and consider your faith.  When we are called to salvation, when we first meet Jesus in a personal encounter during which He purifies us from our sin and places the Holy Spirit within us to guide and direct us, there is a very real emotional experience.  We are spiritual babes.  We long for the milk of the Word, we soak it up.  We rest in His presence.  As a gentle father, He supports us as we learn how to stand, and teaches us to walk by holding our hands, gradually using less fingers and ultimately letting us walk and fall on our own.  But His eyes never leave us.  His presence is always by our side.

Many come to faith initially out of fear for eternal damnation.  We know that we have sinned and we come to understand, through the Scriptures, the due penalty for that sin.  So we turn to God and plead with Him to forgive us and to save us from an eternity of suffering.  The health and wealth Gospel teaches immature Christians that God will also make our lives easy and comfortable while on the Earth awaiting eternity.  The call to Christianity, however, is the call to die.  The call to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus.  To join in His sufferings.  To be persecuted.  To put to death the desires of our flesh and to obey.

Most who have walked the walk of faith for an extended period of time have experienced these trials.  We are promised that,

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

– 2 Tim 3.12

We are also promised that,

You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

– Matt 10.22

Our faith is tested and purified by trials.  The mature in the faith often say that they were closest to and experienced God most in the hardest and darkest times.  I know it to be true for myself.  When the world falls down around you, and you cannot make it on your own, those are the times we look upward.  Those are the times we cry out, we are in despair, we are discouraged and do not understand what is happening or know what to do.

So what about the good times?  Do you follow God in the good times?  Do you walk with Him and commune with Him when things are going well?

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

– Phil 4.11-13

Paul gives us an excellent example of a godly lifestyle.  He knew that he had walked the walk of faith so well that he encouraged people to follow his example (Phil 3.17).  He expressed to the Church at Philippi that he was content and satisfied both when he had no food, when he was in prison and being tortured and also when he was safe and had an abundance.  He thanked them for their gift to him to help him get by, but that because of the benefit it provided them in giving (Phil 4.17).

Can you do all things through Christ?  Can you handle blessings to His glory?  Do you glorify God daily in the blessings and provision of your job, finances, house, children, food, car, relationships, church, everything?   Most of us know to turn to Him when these things are taken away, when we are in need, in want or in lust, but what about when things are going our way?

In everything give thanks.

 – 1 Thess 5.18

We know we are in right relationship with God when we do not consider Him our cosmic genie who fixes our problems and provides for our wants, but when we enjoy Him for simply being Him.  When we rest in the greatest gift of salvation and His presence.  When we love Him, apart from His blessings.  Do you enjoy Him in the good times?

I’m sorry for everything I’ve done and thought.

What if you could have a clean slate?  Perfectly clean.  No blemish.  Completely forgiven.  You can start all over, and everyone in your life gives you that freedom and grace.

Yesterday and today are Muslim’s equivalent of Christmas:  Idul Fitri (Eid al-Fitr).  They have just completed the month (29-30 days) of fasting, Ramadan, and are now celebrating the completion of the fast.  The fast requires that one does not eat, drink, smoke, have sex and other defiling acts as outlined by the Imam (local pastor) or sect when the sun is up.  Breaking the fast every night is a big occasion for which lavish meals are prepared to eat at sunset.

Muslims live with no assurance of forgiveness.  Saying the Shahadah (the declaration of god’s authority and Mohammad’s role as prophet),  prayers, giving alms, making the pilgrimage to Mecca and lastly, keeping the fast are the ways that one can earn merit with Allah and pay off sins.  But working on a scale system and with an unpredictable god means that one can never truly know if/when he will get to paradise.  It is up to Allah.

However, perfectly keeping the fast and prayers during the fast are believed to wipe the slate perfectly clean.  On the holiday following Ramadan, Muslims will visit their friends, family and neighbors to ask forgiveness for sins committed and sins internal, or thought.  The slate is wiped clean between friends, family members and neighbors.  It is believed that the sins were cleansed for keeping the fast, and so making peace between one another is exemplary of the merit that has been earned before Allah.  The goal is unity.  This is the only day of the year that it is forbidden to fast and extravagant meals are prepared and snacks are available at every house one visits to ask forgiveness.

Many Muslims will tell you that if you were to die after keeping the fast perfectly and making peace with your neighbors, that you have a blank slate and would go directly to paradise.  The only other guarantee of direct access to paradise, to many Muslims, is to die on the Jihad:  service to Allah.

This might sound very foreign.  Many of us in the United States have limited knowledge and exposure to Islam, so the concept is lost on us.  However, many of us who have been brought up in Christianity function on a self-written system of merit earning, rather than the grace of God.  Some sects of Christianity teach that when one sins, he must say a certain number of prayers, he must punish himself, he must confess to a man.  Some sects of Christianity believe that our sins can be washed away, as long as it is not that sin (divorce, adultery, having a child out of wedlock, homosexuality, whatever).

Some of us do not consciously realize that we are trying to justify ourselves with our actions.  We might say that we believe that:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

– Eph 2.8-9

But yet in the same moment we consider ourselves to be “a pretty good person” and not deserving of damnation.  We think God owes it to us to forgive us because we only tell an occasional white lie but we give our tithe, we go to Church, we are involved in a Bible study…

Here is the beautiful hope.  God, through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, does not give us a blank slate.  He does not let us start all over.  A blank slate would do us no good, because as long as we are in our flesh, we have a sinful nature and we will sin (Gal 5.17).  Not only that, it is not a blank slate that glorifies God.  It is a righteous and holy slate.  A life lived in accordance with His Law and unto His glory.  If a sheet of brownies is made with a tablespoon of dog poo, the entire batch is contaminated.  Even if we were capable of living a perfect, God honoring life, one small sin like eating a piece of denied fruit would damn us to Hell, as it did Adam and Eve.  Did you ever take your sister’s toy?  Cheat on a test?  Tell your parents you were going somewhere and you went somewhere else?  If so, then you are guilty.

But Jesus, knowing our incapability of keeping the Law, even if given chance after chance, clean slate after clean slate, took the punishment that you and I deserve and in exchange gave us His righteousness.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

– 2 Cor 5.21

Being forgiven is an elementary understanding of the transformation that happens at the moment of salvation.  Yes, our sins are counted to us no more.  But that is because they were appointed to Jesus and punished in His death.  We were given Spiritual life (Eph 2.4-5).  We were given a new heart (Ez 36.26).  We were made as new creatures (2 Cor 5.17).  We became the righteousness of God, by trading places with Jesus (2 Cor 5.21).  So now, when God looks at us, He sees Jesus.  He sees righteousness and worth.  We, by no merit or action of our own, may approach Him and are welcomed to spend eternity with Him (Heb 4.16).

So you can be forgiven.  And made new.  And given a new Spirit and a new heart.  But more importantly, you can be covered in Christ’s blood, and you can stand before God on His merit:  He who did keep the Law perfectly and He who alone can enter into Heaven.  Stop trying to earn it.  And obey in thankfulness and love.


He who does not marry does better.


This might seem a funny topic to discuss while myself being less than two months from marriage, but it has been on my heart while living in a city which has a larger population of professional singles than most.  It is a blindspot in the American church:


When God created the Heavens and the Earth, He created man and woman, named them Adam and Eve and put them in a garden to live as husband and wife and to procreate and fill the Earth.  God created us for the marriage relationship, right?  We are only fulfilled if we find our life partner!  And if we live in the South we must have a litter of children and teach them to be good little Christians.  We are to fill and to rule over the Earth!  Yes, this is a dominant part of the American Christian dream.  A godly spouse.  Singles have little place in the church, unless the church is a niche contemporary church that is filled predominantly with single people and organizes social activities like sports, service projects and meal gatherings.

Why do singles not fit in to our churches?  I once was told that married couples shy away from hanging out with singles because the same-gendered spouse subconsciously is hesitant to bring a competitor into the household.  I, as a single thirty year old woman, would pose a threat to a wife, just by nature of being single and available.  She might hang out with me one-on-one, but she would be hesitant or uncomfortable to bring her husband along.  I am no psychologist, but I am not sure that I buy that logic.

I do think, however, that we have become so accustomed to segregating ourselves by age, gender and status that singles often get neglected.  We split school children up by class, we divide college & career from young married, and then of course parents with children can only meet with other parents who have children.  And the senior adults get locked away in a corner somewhere.

But did you know, you cannot learn an abundance of life experience from your peers?!  Is it helpful to have a group of people sit around who are all wrestling with the same problem?  Sure, it can be.  Discussing problem solving tactics through faith with others in the same boat can be extremely encouraging.  However.  The picture we learn from Scripture is that it is more beneficial to learn from someone who has passed through the trials and succeeded.  Someone who is on the other side with stronger faith because of it.  A woman who has raised children and is now enjoying grandchildren, Paul says, should teach young mothers to love their children (Titus 2.4).  Is it not natural to love our own children?  Yes.  But a grandmother can teach well a young mother that spoiling is detrimental and discipline helpful.  And she can teach this because of her experience.  Segregation not only alienates the minority groups in your community, but stunts the growth potential of people who are not learning from a legacy of faith.

My point, however, is not necessarily that singles do not have a place in the church, though often times they do not.  My point is that Paul actually says it is better to not marry:

So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.

– 1 Cor 7.38

The woman who does not marry will do better!  Even in a society where women were always under the authority of a man, either their fathers or husbands, and a society where one needed children to ensure that she would be cared for in old age, Paul says it is better for her to not marry.  Why?

But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.  This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

– 1 Cor 7.32-35

When we marry, we get concerned about houses, children, money, providing, educating, meals, toys, enough visits with grandparents, naps, etc.  Our time gets absorbed and our energies focused.  But the single person has less distraction.  Yes, single people can and do get absorbed into the world.  They can be just as focused on houses, cars, toys, and pleasure.  But a person who is passionately in love with the Lord who does not have the distraction of a spouse and children can offer full time, total devotion to the Lord.

Yes, a spouse is a gift and is the picture of our relationship to Jesus Christ, but a spouse is also a distraction.  Yes, children are a blessing and gift from the Lord.  But they divert our devotion.  Yes, when we have a family we have a live-in opportunity to put someone else above ourselves, and we learn just how selfish we are.  But the point remains that Paul says even with the learning and sanctification potentials of marriage, it is better to not marry.  It’s in the Bible.

Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.  But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.  But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

– 1 Cor 7.7-9

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.  But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.

– 1 Cor 7.27-28

Marriage is not for everyone.  It is for some.  If one cannot control his sexual lust, it is better to marry.  And Paul is clear that God gives callings, faith and mercies to each person individually.  So for many of us, we are to marry.  However, if we believe the Bible to be true and to be the highest authority, then we understand that singlehood is a blessing and not a curse.  We should not feel badly for the single person in our midst and ask, “When are you going to find that special someone?”  We also should not force them into a corner to only play with other single people.  Single people make great friends.  They make great aunts and uncles for children.  They can serve when others cannot, and they have more time to invest in their walk with the Lord.

If someone is single there is a reason.  It could be that they are socially awkward and have never found a mate.  But it could also be that the Lord has called them to a life of service unto Him and without the distraction of a family.  So let’s get them plugged into our lives.  Let’s appoint them to positions of leadership in the Church.  They have less distractions!  Which would you prefer as your pastor?  One whose interests are divided or one whose interests are fully set on the Lord?


Does a person have to understand sin to be saved?


I was asked at one point in my life, “Does a person have to understand his sin to be saved?”  My generation has been taught, unashamedly, that it’s all about Jesus.  It’s about knowing Jesus, and His love.  Gone are the days of revivals teaching Hell, fire and brimstone.  Now are the days of acceptance, tolerance and love.  We may acknowledge sin in a general sense, but there is no specific naming of it.  Except, of course, when we get on our political high horse.

So the question is honest and characteristic of a tolerant, loving millennial who wants to find hope for eternity.

In short the answer is yes.  A resounding yes.  It is sin alone that separates us from God.  It is our wickedness and sinful nature that God will judge and for which God will condemn to Hell.  Adam and Eve lived in communion with God and it was only for the sin of eating the forbidden fruit that they were condemned, kicked out of the garden, separated from God, cursed and damnation to Hell became the standard for unrepentant humanity.  We are all born with a sinful nature, we are all born condemned; “conceived in sin” David says (Ps 51.5).

God is sovereign and He is the judge.  Yes, He is love and the fact that He has left us on this Earth to have an opportunity to hear of Him and repent is the most loving and gracious act possible.  He did not wipe us off the face of the earth when we ate that cookie our mother said not to eat, the first time we lied, the first time we hit our sister.  No, He is patient towards us (2 Peter 3.9).  But His patience will run out, and when we stand before the judgment seat, He will condemn the sinner to Hell; the sinner who is not covered in the blood of Jesus.

But acknowledging sin is not enough.  We must develop (be given) God’s heart and perspective on it.  We have all met the “Christian” who is fascinated with salvation stories, but who dwells on the wickedness that was before the conversion.  That person who says He believes the Gospel, but still thinks if he is good enough, if he goes to church and does all the right things, if he plays the game, he will be saved.

“A sign of sanctification is an antipathy against sin.  A hypocrite may leave sin, yet love it.  As a serpent sheds its coat, but keeps its sting.  But a sanctified person can say he not only leaves sin, he loathes it.”

– Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity

Thomas Watson, one of the puritans, wrote so clearly on the subject.  We must loathe our sin.  Detest it, hate it, abandon it and think of it as God thinks of it:  worthy of damnation.  If we truly believed our sin worthy of damnation, we would not cheat on our income taxes.  We would not break the speed limit.  We would not tell white lies or steal to feed the poor.  And we would refrain from these sins because we hate them.  Watson points out that the hypocrite leaves his sin, but remembers it fondly.  It is only the unrepentant who continues in it.

So what are you?  Are you being sanctified?  Is God saving you?  Or are you a hypocrite?  Or are you the unrepentant?  We are all sinners, we will all continue to sin until the day that we die.  But God is concerned about your heart towards it and the resulting resolution to die to it.

“Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.  If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.'”

– 2 Chr 7.12-14

God Himself said that if we humble ourselves, pray, seek Him and turn away from our sin, we will be saved.  Yes, we must understand our sin.  That it breaks the heart of God.  That every sinful action puts Jesus back on the cross.  That He hates it and will justly judge it by eternal damnation.  But that He also took the punishment we deserve for our sin and offers us Christ’s righteousness.  Jesus took our place.  So let us consider your actions today.  Ask God to reveal to you His heart about your decisions.  Rely on His strength to honor Him, and loathe your sin.

Does God have more important things to do?


Pray without ceasing.

 – 1 Thess 5.7

Have you ever heard someone dismiss prayer with the statement, “God has more important things to do than listen to me”?

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

– Phil 4.6

The apostle Paul was extremely clear that we should pray.  A lot.  All the time, even.  And about everything.  So what would lead someone to think that God is too busy or He has more important things to handle than our small little prayers?  It could be any multitude of things:  a false humility, saying that other people are more important so I will not bother Him; a lack of understanding about the nature of God – the simple fact that He is everywhere, all of the time; a lack of understanding about the character of God, that He loves to take care of His children and He actually is glorified by being the benefactor in our relationship!

James, the brother of Jesus, teaches us plainly that,

You do not have because you do not ask.

 – James 4.2

Jesus Himself said,

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”

– Matt 7.7-11

But Paul is clear.  We should pray in everything.  Not just in want.  Not just in distress.  With thanksgiving we are to make our supplications known to God.  We should be in constant communication with God, always with a heart of thanksgiving and then making our requests known.  Three types of prayer are exemplified in this one little verse: prayer (constant talking to God), thanksgiving (saying thank you) and supplication (making requests).

And it glorifies God to meet your needs!  To provide a meal, to provide a spouse (or with hold a spouse, if that will bring him more glory), to guide you through trials, to cure cancer, or to let cancer run it’s course and give the ultimate healing through death, and to end wars!

God is sovereign.  He is in control.  And He has ordained to use prayer to accomplish His ends.  And He is magnified in greatness when we ask Him, rely on Him, and trust Him – and He is the benefactor, the provider, the Almighty and all powerful who takes notice of His small, finite children.

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.

– 2 Chro 16.9

God is searching out the entire world looking for those who have devoted their hearts completely to Him.  He wants to strongly support them.  Is your heart completely His?  Do you rely on Him and rest in Him?  Do you communicate with Him constantly, with thankfulness, and making your requests known?  No one wants to listen to an ingrate.  Remember His privileges, His blessings, His gifts and thank Him for them.  All the time.  And let Him know your needs and desires!  He is a good father, who knows how to perfectly care for and provide for His own.  Nothing is too big or too small, and He is not too busy.

Does predestination mean I do not have to share?

Last night I had a wonderful conversation about God and His character, and the conversation topic arose,

“If God is sovereign, and if He predestines people, why then would we share the Gospel with an unbeliever?”

This is the paralysis under which the hyper-Calvinist functions (or does not function), believing that everything is predestined and therefore it does not matter what I do.  This is also a foundation on which those who do not believe in God’s sovereignty would argue their case for missions.  If God has elected and chosen people from every tribe, then He will figure it out.  I do not have to go.

In one sense, this is true.  God’s plan will not be thwarted.

“Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man of My purpose from a far country.
Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.
I have planned it, surely I will do it.

 – Is 46.8-11

God had the end planned and He declared it from the beginning.  He has set His purpose and guarantees that it will be established and accomplished:  in details as minute as a bird’s activity and in details as applicable as calling a man to travel to a foreign country to declare God’s glory.  Whatever He has spoken and planned, it will come to pass.

That being said, we may trick ourselves into thinking there is no responsibility or accountability on our part.  God, however, knew (and even planned) that we would disobey, become ineffective or lazy, and and therefore while we live in rebellion or ignorance, God is using others to accomplish His will.

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.

 – Eph 1.3-6

It is God who gives us the gift of faith, through grace, to believe and be saved (Eph 2.8-9).  And He gives that gift of faith to those whom He predestined before the foundation of the world.  Jesus said that all that the Father gives to Him will come to Him and they will not fall away (John 6.37).  God chose some and gave them to Jesus for salvation.

However, we also learn that,

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

 – Rom 10.17

So faith is a gift from God.  And He only gives it through the hearing of the proclamation of His word.  Paul, the apostle, wrote both of those passages as well as this:

“WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”  How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how will they hear without a preacher?  How will they preach unless they are sent?  Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”

– Rom 10.13-15

Paul believed that God chose people for salvation.  Look at Paul’s story!  He was a persecutor of the Church, and was traveling on His way to arrest more Christians when Jesus appeared.  Blinded him.  Called him.  Appointed him.  Paul was not seeking Jesus, He was persecuting Him by killing His followers.  Only Jesus Himself  could change the course of his life, and He did.  Radically.

Paul also knew that God intended to use believers to be the mouthpiece for the accomplishment of His work:  glorifying Himself by saving people from every tribe, tongue and nation (Rev 5.9).  Jesus, though He shamelessly stated, “I chose you, you did not choose me” and promised that all that the Father had chosen would come to Him would be effectively saved also gave the great commission and commanded the disciples to go out and make disciples of all the nations (John 15.16, 6.37, Matt 28.18-20).

We see most clearly the role that we play in 1 Corinthians, when Paul spoke of the role he played in starting the church.  Paul was broken for the lost.  He made it his goal to preach where Jesus had never been named before (Rom 15.21).  He wanted to spread the word throughout the world.  But he told the Corinthians that he only planted the seed (1 Cor 3.6).  Another teacher named Apollos watered the seed by teaching, but it was God alone who caused the growth.  Paul could not save anyone, nor could Apollos.  Only God.

Paul was concerned about glorifying God by obeying Him.  On the road to Damascus, when Jesus called him, he was appointed to take the Gospel to the world, and God would save people through his preaching.  Paul saved no one.  He obeyed.  And Jesus saved them.

There is a mutual responsibility here.  Paul had the choice when Jesus stopped him that day.  Jesus blinded him, called him and gave him instructions.  Paul listened.  God had predestined that Paul would listen, so it is to His glory and honor that Paul obeyed.  But Paul also, in his mind, made the choice to obey and therefore was counted righteous.

The opposite example would be Joseph and his ten brothers.  The ten brothers hated Joseph and wanted to kill him.  But they ultimately decided to sell him into slavery and lie to their father, saying that they had found his bloody cloak and must be dead.  They sinned.  They hated Joseph, they planned to kill him, they got rid of him and they lied.  But God had predestined and ordained all of that to happen for the delivery of Israel during a season of 7 years of famine.  Thus, Joseph could tell his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen 50.20).

God was responsible for Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt and ultimately raising to power as second in command over the whole country.  But the ten brothers are also responsible for their sin against Joseph and their evil intentions.  While they were functioning according to God’s perfect plan, they had wickedness in their heart.

So what does all of that have to do with missions?  And sharing the Gospel?  We have been commanded to share every day.  We have been called as the church to make disciples of every nation.  And people cannot believe unless they hear.  God will cause all whom He has chosen to hear, and He chooses to use us as His mouthpiece.  Therefore we go.  We go joyfully and we go in confidence.  Because we claim the promise that God will have some people from every single tribe, language and nation in eternity.  Therefore some people from the country where you go will believe.  It is promised.  God has proclaimed it.  His purpose will not be thwarted.  You do not have to convince or save anyone.  You only have to share.  And trust God to provide the growth.

But when we choose to not share and to not go, we are being disobedient.  And we will be held responsible for our wicked hearts, even though God has ordained it for the ultimate good.




Imagine you work at your church.  One day you get a call and it is a pastor from Venezuela who wants to bring thirty eighteen to twenty year olds to your city to do a mission trip.    Two weeks they want to “partner” with you and your congregation.  You will need to provide housing and food for them, as well as transportation for the whole two weeks.  You will need to set up service projects to keep them busy, like painting, feeding the hungry, building a house for someone, and also a few tourist activities so they can experience and enjoy your city too.  None of the people coming speak English, so you will need to provide enough translators for the group so that they can communicate.  Oh, they will also take over your Sunday morning services to sing, preach through a translator and encourage your people for at least one week, if not both that they are there.

Would this be something that your church would consider a blessing?  Would it help the ministry of your church?  Would you even consider doing it?

What if you were walking down the street and a Mongolian man walked up to you, gets out “Good morning sir”, and then through his friend, a translator, asks if you can chat.  He then proceeds to tell you about a peace that can be found through a god whose name you have never heard, and asks you to convert.  He even gives you a little booklet that outlines the basics of his faith.

Would you stop and give him the time of day?  Would you have the patience to listen to him talk to you and respond to him through a translator?  Would someone from a different country, who speaks a different language and has no idea what your life is like, your values or concerns, have an ability to speak into where you place your hope and trust for eternity?

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Christians have been given the commandment to make disciples of all the nations.  Every tribe, every people group, ever language will be represented in eternity (Rev 5.9).  And it depends on those who know Jesus to take Him to those who do not.  Crossing cultural, language and social barriers is part of the missionary calling.  Jesus said,

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.”

– Matt 19.29

But this phenomenon of short term mission trips whereby we think we are changing the world by taking our vacation time in a country with a group of thirty of our closest friends is new.  And difficult.  It is permeated by our narcissism, thinking that we are truly giving these people a benefit by our presence, and our ethnocentricity, thinking that since we have so much, everyone else is unfortunate and lacking because they do not have what we have.

Would you believe that there are Christians in China who pray for the American Church because they think we have too much stuff and we are enslaved to our lifestyles?  They feel badly for us because we have too much.  We feel badly for them because they have too little.

If a mission trip’s predominant outcome is to bring home the missionaries praising God for what they have, then it was unsuccessful.  If the goal is to help the Americans appreciate the blessings that they have, the toys, the church, the house, the food…then it is most certainly not a mission trip, but a reality check.  Yes, it is important for Americans to get over themselves and to realize that the rest of the world does not live how the Western World lives.  But the solution is not the make them like us.

The more mature churches are living in war-time mentality.  What happens in war time?  People ration themselves.  They give time, energy and supplies to the battle lines.  Food is rationed, car factories are turned into airplane factories, people are sent to the front lines, and life revolves around the battle.  The persecuted church is not building mega church buildings.  They are harboring one another, praying for one another, digging into the Word of God and trusting Him for their provisions and salvation.  They do not have multi-million dollar sound systems, lights and a tightly scheduled service.  They love God.  They enjoy Him.  And they fellowship with others who do the same.  They are not on a schedule because to unite before God is a great blessing.

So who has the greater blessing?  The church who has to preform to attract outsiders, and get them out in time to beat the lunch rush?  Or those who give everything they have just to gather secretly to pray, sing and fellowship?  Who needs to learn from whom?

Can short term missions be successful?  Absolutely.  But a few things are necessary to understand.  First of all, we must partner with someone on the ground who wants and needs our efforts.  It is very possible that a missionary in Cambodia needs help building an orphanage.  But will paying for a group of teenagers who have never laid brick before be the best solution?  Or would sending the funds to hire a national mason to build it make more sense?  With what does the missionary truly need help?  What will make an eternal impact?

The second thing we must remember is that a mission trip, while it will impact those who go, should not have the focus of discipleship for the travelers but salvation for the lost.  We can not and should not make a spectacle of a foreign country or foreign people for the sake of our own Spiritual growth.  Will we grow?  Absolutely.  But we will grow by seeking their salvation and long-term discipleship.  So we must partner with those people on the ground who can disciple, teach, train and grow into churches those people who respond.  If we lead someone to the Truth and then abandon them without someone to teach and fellowship with them, we have done them a grave disservice.

So go.  Make disciples.  But you cannot do that in two weeks.  Discipleship is a lifelong process.  If you cannot stay long term, then you must, MUST partner with someone who will stay long term.  And ask them how you can best fit into their strategy to reach the lost around them.  Many missionaries groan to host teams.  Let’s become a joy and a pleasure to them by understanding their work, partnering in their work and furthering their effort by being humble, teachable, and realizing that perhaps we do not have to bring physical aid.  Perhaps the lost do not need our clothes, our money, our stuff, or workmanship – perhaps they simply need Jesus.

Resting on Sundays


Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.  By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

– Gen 2.1-3

In the creation account, we see that God worked for six days and then rested on the seventh.  Because of this model, He ordained that the seventh day should be a day of rest forever.  He sanctified it – set it apart – made it holy unto Himself.  He wants people to give one full day a week where we remember Him, honor Him, do everything specifically for Him and His glory.  Thus we see in the Law that God established specifications for the level of effort that was to be made on the Sabbath (seventh day, day of rest).  Food was to prepared the day before, people could only walk a certain number of steps, and they were mandated, by Law, to do nothing but think on and enjoy Him.

By the time Jesus came around, the Sabbath was established tradition.  But Jesus rocked the boat by healing and doing good deeds on the Sabbath, and even allowing His disciples to pick the heads of grain and eat on the Sabbath.

For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.  But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”  

– John 5.16-17

When the keepers of the Law accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath, He did not defend Himself and argue that He was not breaking the Sabbath.  Rather he argued that the Father is working, even on the Sabbath, and He – in like form – was also working.  The religious elite were keeping the letter of the Law, but not the spirit of the Law.  The purpose for the Sabbath was to set aside a day for God.  To rest in God.  To remember Him.  To reflect on His goodness, provision and mercy.  But the mindset was no longer to glorify God, but to glorify one’s self by counting steps and appearing to others as pious.

But Jesus came with the purpose to proclaim the Kingdom of God, to seek and to save the lost and to teach the truth.  Thus we learn, by Jesus’ example that to work unto the Kingdom and to do good is permissible on the Sabbath.

For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.  Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.  “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.

 – John 5.18-21 

What does this matter?  Does it have any implication for us today?  Most Christians today are quick to sate that we no longer function under the Law, but under Grace.  Jesus died the death and suffered the punishment that we deserve and He raised from the dead to offer us forgiveness and victory over our sins through faith alone.  The topic of Sabbath keeping today is grounds for much debate.  Some say it is one of the ten commandments, therefore it must be observed and some say that we do not “regard one day as more holy than another” and Jesus abolished the Law, so we do not have to keep it.

Whichever side of that argument you happen to fall on, I adjure you to keep your conviction based on the teachings and example of Jesus:  He did nothing except that which He saw the father doing.  And because Jesus saw the Father working on the Sabbath (towards the salvation of sinners and glory of God), He was permitted to do the same.

Jesus did not redeem us from the Law to set us free to do whatever we please.  Jesus set us free from the Law to do whatever we see Him doing, and to follow wherever the Spirit leads.  We are to die to ourselves and live unto Christ.  In many situations we will appear as though we are keeping the Law, and that because we know from Scripture what it is that pleases God.  But we do not do it out of compulsion but out of love.  That is the change Jesus rendered.

What do you see God doing around you?  Around the world?  That is the work in which we should invest and imitate.  Let us not look for our freedom to live worldly lifestyles.  Let us look to our freedom to serve lavishly and share boldly.  Let us embrace the indwelling spirit who gives us confidence and favor before God.  Let us obey, follow and honor Him.  Every day of the week, not just the Sabbath.

Do you believe what you say you believe?

My boss told me a story yesterday about taking his wife camping.  They heard that there were bears in the woods and that scared her.  He tried to reassure her, saying “What’s the worst that could happen?  One could eat you and you would go to Heaven!”  But her response was, “I’m not afraid of dying.  I’m afraid it will tear my face off and I’ll survive and have to live with no face!”

Do you believe what you say you believe?  The greatest method of fighting fear is to consider the outcome.  If your plane crashes, you’ll go to Heaven.  But what about the day-to-day stuff?  Housing, job, free time, relationships?

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

– Phil 3.20-21

Do you live in your house as though your true home is in Heaven?  When I was in grad school, I knew that I was moving overseas in just a year or two.  I did not buy furniture, I did not invest in nice things, I saved my money and used the old leftover belongings my parents and friends had.  But as soon as I arrive overseas, I bought new furniture and furnishings.  I planned on living there forever.  Do you invest your time, energy and money in your house here or in your eternity?

How about relationships?  Do you believe that Jesus is all satisfying and that the goal of life is to glorify Him, and ultimately enjoy Him forever in eternity?  If so, do you talk about Him in your relationships?  Is it important to you that the people you know and love know Him too?  Does your heart break for those who do not yet know Him?

Is your treasure in Heaven or on Earth?  Do your actions and lifestyle prove that your treasure is in Heaven?  Are you eagerly awaiting Christ’s return?