God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
It is interesting that when Jesus was talking to the woman at the well, he says to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father” (John 4:21). That is, there will come a day when it won’t matter where you are when you worship God. No longer will people have to trek to Jerusalem to worship God. What will matter is how they worship God. He goes on to say to her that “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” What is important to note is that there are two elements necessary to worship God rightly, to worship God in a manner that is honoring and pleasing to him—in spirit and in truth. Just one chapter earlier, Jesus said to one of their religious rulers, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (Jn. 3:3). When asked what that meant, he then says, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Those who seek to worship God must be born of the Holy Spirit—they must be born again. But spiritual re-birth is not enough to render God-honoring worship. Later Jesus will pray to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). God’s word is truth. Thus, to render to God worship which honors and pleases him, we must not only have repented and placed saving faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we must worship God in accordance with Scripture. We dare not create our own unique way of worshipping God. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.
If you’re a parent, then you know the challenge it is to get your children to choose their words carefully. With our children (we have four), we tell them often that it is not usually their behavior that gets them into trouble, but their words—sassy, argumentative, disrespectful, defiant. Hence, Proverbs 18:6 is a Bible verse we have shared with them often. “A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.” In other words, I like to remind them that if we ask them to do something they don’t like or disagree with, ‘Don’t say that out loud! You can think it, just don’t say it!’ But inevitably they just have to voice their opinion in very sarcastic or disrespectful tones. Don’t get the wrong idea. I have great kids who for the most part have been very easy to raise. Sadly, however, it is not just our children who seem to struggle to understand this. How often do we invite a verbal beating from our spouse or someone else because of our foolish words? The other person says something we don’t like or offends us and rather than respond in a Christ-like manner, with kindness and gentleness, we give into our flesh and lash out in response to get even. Fight fire with fire! Yet the apostle Paul commands that we “repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Rom. 12:17). In the end, if we would only pray for the Holy Spirit to help us control our tongues, to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19; 3:1-8), we would invite fewer beatings and be so much happier in the process.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
In the gospel of Matthew Jesus tells two interesting parables, back-to-back. He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (13:44-46). What is interesting about these two parables is that in both Jesus tells us that when these individuals discovered the treasure or the pearl of great price, one purchases the field and the other purchases the pearl. If these parables are meant to teach lessons about discovering and embracing the gospel, what’s with the idea of purchasing? Isn’t the gospel free? Yes, and no. It is free in the sense that we do not have to earn forgiveness from God or work for it. Jesus makes clear that all that is needed for salvation is to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). But this does not mean that God expects nothing in return for our salvation. This does not mean there is no kind of transaction which takes place between God and the sinner. There is indeed a transaction which takes place. God promises to give us all of Christ, all the blessings that come with Christ, all the forgiveness, reconciliation, and eternal life. In exchange, God wants all of us. That’s the deal. We get all of Christ in exchange for all of us—the whole of our lives and affection and devotion, the whole of our heart, mind, and soul. And if we withhold any of ourselves back from God, then we get none of Christ. The exchange with God is all or nothing. All of Christ for all of us.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
(1 Cor 13:1)
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, the apostle Paul makes a startling statement. He says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” In other words, a person could be the most talented and gifted Christian in the church, the one who serves and sacrifices more than anyone, the one who gives more to the church than anyone else, but if that person does not have a genuine love for others and for the souls of others, if he truly does not desire to place himself last and set the good of others and the glory of God above his own interests and ambitions, then all his labor and sacrifice are meaningless to God. All his righteous deeds are like filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). This is because the two greatest commandments, according to Christ, are not to ‘work hard for God and work hard for others,’ but to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39). Love is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.
Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding?
We live in a world filled with so much technology it seems as though there is nearly nothing we cannot do or accomplish. In fact, the last century has seen more leaps in technology than any previous one-hundred-year span. By the late 1800’s, the most impressive piece of technology was the locomotive. By the 1920’s, the first automobiles and airplanes had come into existence. By the 1930’s, radio. By the 1940’s, we had figured out how to split the nucleus of an atom. And by the late 1960’s, we put a man on the moon. Yet for all our scientific and technological advancements, as Job discusses (28:1-11, 16-19), we do not know how or where to find wisdom. The one thing that “cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx, or sapphire” (v.16), “nor can it be valued in pure gold. (v.19). Job will ask the question twice: “Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding? (vv.12, 20). He concludes with this answer: “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (v.28). Wisdom is found in God’s word and in living in obedience to God’s word. Specifically, the apostle Paul will say that true wisdom can only be found in Christ and in knowing Christ (Col 2:1-3). If you want wisdom, seek to know Christ.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Interesting conversation on Facebook the other day where someone asked if it is permissible for Christians to get tattoos. You can only imagine the plethora of responses to that kind of question. Seventy-four comments, last I checked, and growing. It is true that nowhere in the New Testament are Christians forbidden from getting tattoos. However, arguments from silence are never strong arguments. This is akin to paedobaptists arguing that nowhere in the Bible is infant baptism prohibited. Simply because God does not openly condemn a behavior should not be taken as implied consent. However, unlike infant baptism, the Bible does speak against tattoos. In Leviticus 19:28 God commands, “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.” In understanding this verse, many commit one of two fatal errors. First, it is in the Old Testament and not in the New Testament so it must not apply. This is a dangerous way of interpreting the Old Testament. The New Testament says nothing about marrying or having sex with your sibling (see Lev 18:6-18). Is incest now permissible? The second fatal error many commit is in thinking the basis for the prohibition is in the second half of the first clause: “for the dead.” Thus, so long as we are not cutting or tattooing ourselves “for the dead,” then these behaviors are permissible. However, the basis for the prohibition is the second clause which controls and explains the entire first clause: “I am the LORD.” God wants his people to understand we belong to Him—mind, soul, and body. We do not have the right to do with our bodies whatever we desire. The apostle Paul rightly understood this when he wrote: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (Jn. 3:36)
In the gospel of John, John the Baptist says two things interesting about Jesus. First, he says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life;…” That is, having eternal life, receiving forgiveness of sins from God, being brought into a saving relationship with Christ, is simply a matter of believing in the Son of God. The word “believing” from the Greek (pisteuō) means more than intellectual accent. It’s more than simply believing Jesus was who he claimed to be or that he died on the cross for sinners or that he rose from the dead after three days. The devil believes all those things as facts but is not any closer to getting into heaven than the day he first rebelled against God. Rather to “believe” (pisteuō) means to entrust the whole of your life to Jesus. It means to fully believe that he died on the cross for our sins and then, in light of that total belief, be willing to follow him and to live as he wants us to live. But the second interesting thing John says is that “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” He does not say the wrath (anger) of God will come upon the person who refuses to believe, but that the wrath of remains on him. In other words, God is currently angry with all those who steadfastly refuse to believe in him. We send a confusing message to the unbelieving world when we tell them, “Smile, God loves you!” Why bother to believe in Jesus if God loves them? We might get a better response if we wore t-shirts that said, “Frown, God is angry with you!”
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
Often it is believed that if one prays to God, he will hear them because God always hears those who call out to him. For that reason, we encourage friends and family, believers and unbelievers alike, to call out to God when times are tough. But is that wise advice? Proverbs 28:9 says, “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” If a person does not listen to and obey God’s law, when he prays, his prayer is an abomination to God. His prayer is an act of sin against God. This makes sense when we consider that scripture tells us that “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). That is, anything we do (good or bad) that does not proceed from a heart of faith in Christ, a heart which truly believes that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to pay for your sin, is an act of sin against God because it is a form of mockery. Hence, God does not hear the prayers of unbelievers. But it is not just unbelievers whose prayers God does not hear, but also believers living in flagrant disobedience to God. Peter tells us that God will not answer the prayers of believing men if they do not “live with [their] wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7), and Jesus tells us that our prayers for forgiveness will not be answered if we are living with anger and bitterness in our heart toward others (Matt. 6:14-15). However, there is one prayer the unbeliever can offer to God which he will always hear—a prayer of repentance and faith in God (Rom 10:13).
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
It’s been said that the difference between a morning person and someone who is not a morning person is that the morning person wakes up and says, “Good morning, Lord!” The non-morning person wakes up and says, “Good Lord, it’s morning!” To make matters worse--it’s Monday! Yet the psalmist writes: “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24). Regardless of what we may be going through, every day is a gift from God and a reason to celebrate and rejoice. I don’t mean to sound like Pollyanna, and I certainly don’t want to diminish the real struggles that people face in everyday life. But so often we can make the struggles we have even more difficult by focusing on them too long, by giving them too much of our attention. When reflecting upon past and present struggles, Paul’s response was to say, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). We cannot change the past, so then let us press forward toward the goal, toward the prize who is Christ Jesus himself. If we keep our eyes more focused on Christ than on the struggles of this life, the load we bear can be a little easier to carry.
O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved.
As I was doing my Bible reading the other morning, I was reading from Daniel 9 where the prophet is given a vision of the seventy weeks to come, which is then to be followed by another seven weeks and then sixty-two weeks. As I looked down to read the study notes in my ESV Study Bible, I appreciated the approach the author chose to take in saying, “There are many suggested interpretations of the seventy weeks,” and then went on to outline the three most prominent views. He concludes by saying that “the important point is that God has appointed a certain amount of time until the end of his people’s suffering, and thus they should not lose heart.” That really is the point. So often we get caught up in trying to figure out the details regarding the End Times as we study God’s word with a commentary on Revelation in one hand and a world news outlet in the other hand, when if God wanted us to know the details, he would have just given them to us. God could have easily spoken to Daniel and told him exactly how many years it would be. He could have named the future king by name and could have given Daniel exact details. But he didn’t. Instead, God gives us just enough information to know that he has a definite plan. God is like any parent whom after telling his children we are moving to a new city, when the children begin to ask for details about the move, how this is all to take place, the parent simply says, ‘Don’t worry about it. I have it all figured out. You just need to pack your bag and get in the moving van, and I’ll take care of the rest.’ God wants us to take comfort in knowing that he has a plan, and we simply need to trust him.
Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?
In my years of ministry, I’ve discovered that when it comes to counseling with individuals, so often helping people work through their problems is really just a matter of discipleship. It is really just a matter of teaching them God’s word and helping them grow in their knowledge of God and in their faith. Thus, the first question I always ask when beginning counseling with someone is, “Are you reading your Bible every day?” Sadly, the answer I am most often met with is ‘no’. This usually prompts me to take them to Luke 6:46 where Jesus says, “Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” It is a curious thing that Christians will call Jesus their Lord--their King—and yet not do what he tells them to do, not live as he tells them to live. God’s word provides us with all the answers to all of life’s most pressing questions. How do I fix my marriage? How do I fix my relationship with my kids, with my parents? How do I deal with a difficult boss at work? How do I stop being depressed? How do I forgive? So on and so forth. Our lives are often a mess because we do not do, we do not live and behave and relate to others as God commands us to, and this is because we do not know what God tells us to do because we do not read his word. Jesus goes on to say, “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” If you don’t want your house to crumble when the storms of life come crashing against it--read the Bible.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
It can be difficult to know what God would have us do, particularly when it comes to those aspects of our lives not talked about in the Bible. Where should I go to college? What career should I pursue? Should I marry this person? Should I take that job? We are told in Deuteronomy 29:29 that the “secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Thus, God has two wills. A secret will and a revealed will. The revealed will of God are those things written in “the words of this law”—holy scripture—for us and for our children that “we may do all the words of this law.” That is, so we might know how God would have us conduct our lives on a day-to-day basis. But then there is the secret will of God, those things about our lives which he has not made known to us—who we should marry, what job we should take, where we should live. Regarding these decisions, St. Augustine has been famously quoted as saying, “Love God and do what your heart desires.” His point is that so long as you are loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul, then your decisions should be driven with an ultimate view to glorify God and not by selfish motives or ambitions. If that be the case, then love God and do what your heart desires.
And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. (Luke 1:6)
In biblical times it was considered sinful to choose not to have children. According to rabbinic literature, the Law mandated that Jews were expected to maintain the race and pass on their faith through procreation (Gen 1:28; 12:3). Thus, for Jewish couples to choose not have children was viewed as sinful, and for Jewish couples to be unable to bear children was considered shameful and a clear sign of God’s displeasure (1 Sam 1:10-11; Lk 1:25). Yet we read in the opening words of the gospel of Luke, regarding the parents of John the Baptist, that Elizabeth and Zechariah “were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years” (vv.6-7). What an amazing epitaph—“both [were] righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” How would you like to be described that way? Elizabeth and Zechariah are proof that when things don’t go well in life, this does not mean God is displeased with us or that we lack faith or sanctification. In fact, in the case of Elizabeth and Zechariah, their suffering meant that God was preparing to use them for something great. Thus, suffering may be a sign of good things to come.
But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:2)
When it comes to evangelism and evangelism training, there are a variety of ways people have come up with when it comes to sharing the gospel. To be sure, how we approach evangelism will be different depending on the culture within which we are ministering. That is, how we seek to approach and present the gospel to someone in New York city will likely be different than someone living in Mobile, Alabama, or how we share the gospel with someone in the United States will be different than with someone living in South Korea. Nevertheless, while the delivery may differ, the content must always be the same. We must not think we can finagle people into heaven with our crafty words or lofty arguments. To the church in Corinth, Paul writes: “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart” (2 Cor 4:1). That is, no matter how difficult communicating the gospel might be and no matter how hard the human heart is, Paul will not grow discouraged by the world’s limited response to the gospel, nor will he resort to “underhanded ways,” “cunning” practices,” or “tamper with God’s word,” but will continue to present the gospel “by the open statement of the truth” (v.2). Paul understands that the pure undiluted gospel message is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). That message being that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out. (Proverbs 17:14)
One bit of counseling advice I often give married couples is that you can never over-communicate. This is especially true when they are not getting along or when one upsets the other. I tell them they must always be willing to talk through their disagreements even when they don’t feel like talking. It’s fine to walk away for a few moments to calm down and gather their thoughts but, at some point, someone must go to the other and say, “We need to talk.” Sadly, so often what happens is that they put off talking, and they put it off, and they put it off, until they reach a point where they think to themselves, ‘Oh, I’m over it. There’s no use talking about it now. We’re good.’ But stuffing bitter emotions down inside is never good. Over time those hurt feelings and bitter emotions build up pressure, then one day when the other person upsets us just one more time, we explode like Mt. Saint Helen. Here the Proverb is correct, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” No crack in a damn, regardless of how small, should ever be considered insignificant. Stop the leak when it first starts before the damn breaks and kills everyone in its path.
This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. (John 11:4)
We look out at the world, particularly what we see happening in Ukraine, and we see all the evil in the world, all the suffering and pain, and we can wonder where is God? Some will be led to think there must not be a God. If God exist with so much evil in the world, then either God is not good or God is not all-powerful. He is not able to control what happens in the world. However, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11) gives a different perspective on suffering. There we are told that when Jesus received word that Lazarus was gravely ill, he tarries two more days and allowed Lazarus to die. Then when he was ready to go to Lazarus, and the disciples wondered why, he says to them, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.” Jesus was glad that he was not there? What needs to be kept in mind is what Jesus initially says to them in v.4: “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” God allowed Lazarus to suffer and die. He allowed Lazarus’ family to suffer and mourn his loss. He allowed evil to wreak havoc on their lives and turn their world upside down, so that God would be glorified. This is always the case, though in this world we are not always given the privilege of seeing how God is glorified through our suffering. But know for certain, God uses evil like a razor sharp blade in the hands of a skilled surgeon—for our good and His glory.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
As we enter a political year, there will undoubtedly be lots of conversations and debates and discussion regarding domestic and foreign policy, the differences between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, socialism and capitalism. While living in a democracy where we are given the right to express our thoughts and opinions, per the First Amendment, it means we have the right, to some degree even the obligation, to express our disagreement with our government when we believe they are wrong. However, we must ever keep in mind that scripture tells us “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God… For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom 13:1, 6-7). In other words, we should vocally disagree with our government when it is necessary, but we should be careful about how we disagree, refraining from insults and slander. Even politicians are made in the image of God (James 3:9-10).
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." (Luke 11:1)
I find it very interesting to note that in the Bible Jesus’ disciples only ever ask him to teach them how to do one thing. We read in Luke 11:1 that “Jesus was praying in a certain place” and when he had finished, the disciples come to him and say, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” I find this incredibly fascinating that they do not ask Jesus to teach them how to perform miracles or how to cast out demons or how to properly interpret the Old Testament or anything else for that matter. In the three years Jesus spent with his disciples they only ask him to teach them how to do one thing--how to pray. Clearly the disciples understood the value of prayer on a much deeper level than we do today. Far better than we do, they seem to grasp more fully the power of prayer, the propensity of God to answer prayer, and their utter dependence on God. Paul Washer once rightly stated that “most of us do not pray as much as we should or as much as we would like because we do not fully realize how much we need God.” If we realized just how much we truly need God, we would pray far more than we do. But ultimately pride gets in the way. We find the time to eat three meals a day because we know we need to. We find the time and the resources to drink water every day because we know we need to. We find the time to put in 40 hours a week at work because we know we need to. But we cannot find the time to spend an adequate amount of time in prayer every day because…
A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise. (Proverbs 15:12)
I've had the unfortunate experience of seeing far too often a marriage that is in trouble and, rather than going to someone for help, rather than going to the elders of their church for counseling, they keep it to themselves, allowing their marriage to fall further and further into disrepair until it is too late, beyond salvaging. So often I have seen or heard of Christians who are exploring some new theology or contemplating leaving the Christian faith for a pseudo-Christian church or a completely different religion altogether. They have been studying this new theology or new form of Christianity for some time, never going to the elders of their church and seeking counsel, until they send an email to their church leadership, informing them they are leaving. Proverbs tell us that “a scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise.” Scripture condemns those who are too prideful to seek counsel or advice from those who are wiser. Don't be a scoffer. If you are struggling with something significant, be it theological or relational, seek the council of fellow believers, and especially of those God has placed over you for your protection and safety.
Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me
and to accomplish his work." (John 4:34)
What is it that drives you? What is it that gets you up out of bed in the morning and gets you moving? What is the thing for which you are desirous and willing to expend most of your time and energy and resources? While we all have different interests and goals and dreams and aspirations, the reality is all human beings are primarily driven to do all they do for one thing—food. Every war that's ever been fought, every invention that's ever been conceived, every nation that has ever been established has ultimately been driven by this one universal necessity. While oxygen is certainly more important, there is an abundance of oxygen and it's not something we need to worry about producing. So also, with water God replenishes our lakes, streams, and rivers with rain. But food is something we must either find or produce. If given the choice between having clothing or food, we would choose food. If given the choice between shelter or food, we would choose food. For this reason it is interesting that Jesus says in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish all that He has given me.” In other words, the thing that drives Jesus to do all that he does, to think the way he thinks, act the way he behaves, treat people the way he does, and travel to the places he goes, is his desire to please God in everything. This is and should be what it means to be a “Christian,” to be a Christ follower is to be driven by the desire to be like Christ in every way. My prayer for myself and for you, my friend, is that your food will be to do the will of God in everything you think, do, and speak.
And when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. (Gal. 2:9 ESV)
How does one know when he or she has been called by God into a particular ministry, whether that be Sunday school teacher, pastoral ministry, foreign missions, or some other ministry? The Bible gives us three guiding principles to follow when attempting to determine whether this is something God wants you to do or whether this is just something you want to do. These guiding principles are internal desire, external confirmation, and providential circumstances. Internal desires are the desires of one’s heart. Is there a desire to pursue a particular type of ministry? In other words, is this something you truly desire to do? This is an important question to ask because very often people will enter a field of ministry not because they desire to, but because they were asked or because the opportunity presented itself. While it is commendable to be willing to temporarily meet a need until someone more qualified can come along, it is never a good idea to enter long term ministry because one was asked to do so. We see this in the life of Paul who had a tremendous desire to reach the Gentiles with the gospel. External confirmation seeks to answer the question, do those who know you best believe you have the necessary gifting to fulfill a particular ministry? If you have a desire to pursue a particular ministry, however, those who are closest to you and know you best, individuals you trust and respect, believe it would be a mistake for you to pursue that particular ministry, you may want to reconsider whether this is God's will for your life. Again, we are told after Paul's conversion, when he met with the apostles in Jerusalem, they endorsed his ministry to the Gentiles and gave him the right hand of fellowship (Gal 2:9). Providential circumstances has to do with open-and-closed doors. When God calls someone into a particular ministry, he always provides an avenue for them to fulfill their calling. We see this happening throughout all of scripture. God never calls someone into ministry without providing an open door for them to pursue that ministry.
Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ (Genesis 2:18)
Within marriage, at least within a biblical marriage, so often it is thought that woman was created for man and not the other way around. Usually this is driven by the fact that Genesis 2:18 states, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” But does this mean that Eve was made for Adam, but Adam was not made for Eve? On the contrary, we read just two verses earlier, before Eve was formed, scripture says “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work [abad] it and keep [shamar] it.” The Hebrew word abad means ‘to cultivate’ or ‘to cause to flourish.’ The word shamar means ‘to protect’ or ‘guard’ or ‘keep safe.’ Adam, the man, was to do this for everything and everyone who was placed within the garden. Thus, Adam was created for Eve. His responsibility was to do what was necessary to cause his wife to flourish spiritually, emotionally, and physically. His responsibility was also to protect his wife spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Adam was created for Eve just as much as Eve was created for Adam, but for different reasons and with different obligations. Thus, a husband is given to his wife to help her just as much as she is given to her husband to help him. They are simply to help and support one another in different ways.
Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak,
for I am only a youth." (Jeremiah 1:6 ESV)
God often calls the least likely candidates to do his work, those who feel ill-equipped and inadequate (Exod. 4:10; 1 Cor 15:9). He does so in order to bring himself the greatest amount of glory (1 Cor 1:27-29). This was certainly the case with Jeremiah whom God called to be his prophet. And yet, though God had clearly placed a calling on his life to speak the words of God to the people, Jeremiah lived a difficult life. He served faithfully for more than 40 years (1:2-3), yet his messages from God were not well received. He suffered much persecution and even his hometown plotted to kill him. But despite his faithful ministry to the people, by the end of his life it appears he had only two converts, Baruch, his scribe (32:12; 36:1-4; 45:1-5) and Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch who served the king (38:7-13; 39:15-18). Thus, “success” in ministry is not always a reliable indicator of whether or not one has been called into ministry by God. Instead, the focus should be on staying faithful, not successful.
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