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Romans 12:2 says,

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Many Bible websites and apps have said this is one of the most looked up Bible verses on the web. The way it usually gets interpreted is like this: Don’t be like anyone else or who the world wants you to be. Be who God made you to be!

That’s all well and good; but when this verse is taken by itself, “who God made you to be” is typically “who you want to be.” And “God’s will for your life” is really “your will for your life.” After all, God’s will is for you to be happy, right?

God’s will for you is that you would be sanctified, abstain from sexual immorality, control your own body, grow in holiness, and give thanks to God in all circumstances.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Which, by the way, that happens to be Romans 12:1,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

Paul previously spent the first 11 chapters of Romans explaining the mercies of God into giving up His Son. Jesus died for us so we are to live for Him – holy and acceptable to God and this is worship.

So you must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)

Present yourselves then to God as those who have been brought from death to life… (Romans 6:13)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

do not conform to this world?To be holy means to be set apart. Don’t think like the world thinks. Have the mind of Christ. Then we’re able to know God’s will as revealed in His Word, the Bible.

Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Mark 8:33)

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to teach him?

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:5)

Being transformed in Christ, we desire to worship God in a way that is good and acceptable and perfect…

when we understand the text. 

(This video is by WWUTT. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network.)

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Should we invite unbelievers to church?

Should we invite unbelievers to church?

Sure! Why not? Church should be a place where anyone who comes through the doors will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed!

The Scripture says, “The wages of sin is death! But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 6:23)

May this message be preached from every pulpit! But, we need to understand unbelievers are not part of the Church.

In Romans 8:9, Paul said:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.

The church is the Body of Christ. Whoever is not of Christ is not part of His Body.

Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. (Ephesians 5:23)

Don’t let an unbeliever get comfortable. They need to be convicted.

We are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Though they’re in the doors, they’re still outside the Church until they repent of their sin and are reconciled to God in Christ Jesus.

And don’t use gimmicks to get them there. What you win them with is what you win them to.Should we invite unbelievers to church?

For the one who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)

Not one soul has ever come to Christ through pop music or door prizes. Give them the Word of God.

What’s more important than inviting unbelievers is going to unbelievers.

Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

This is evangelism.

How will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

But they’ve not all obeyed the Gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he’s heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14-17)

So yes, invite your unbelieving friend to church; AND take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the rest of the unbelieving world…

when we understand the text.

(This video is by WWUTT. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network.)

 

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What is God’s will for your life? Well the Bible says:

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Not the answer you were looking for?

That’s probably because what you actually want is to have your fortune told.how to know God's perfect will for your life

Many ask about the will of God as though it’s the Christian equivalent of ”wishing upon a star”. When they talk about God’s will for their life, what they’re probably talking about is the hopes and dreams they have and it’s God’s will for them to have him.

But the Bible isn’t going to tell you:

  • What career you should pursue
  • Where to go to school
  • Where you will live
  • What tax bracket you should be in
  • What church to attend
  • Whether you should get married or not get married
  • How many kids you will have
  • Where you should be buried

For those kinds of questions, the Bible says wisdom is found in an abundance of counselors.

Where there’s no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)

Ephesians 5:15-17 says this:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Now understanding the will of the Lord doesn’t mean what He’s going to reveal to you in a vision or a dream or some false prophet trying to con you. It’s understanding what He’s already revealed in His Word.

Know what the Word of God says and how to apply it, and it will make you wise.

The Bible also says:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

So what is God’s will for your life?

That you praise Him in all circumstances and that you live holy lives in Christ Jesus according to His Word, the Bible…

when we understand the text. 

(This video is by WWUTT. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network.)

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If things had worked out differently, you might have found Kenny back in his hometown of Corpus Christi, dressed in a stiff suit and tie, maybe in an office with the sweet smell of leather chairs and a view of the bay. He might have been poring over legal documents, using God’s gifts of speech and debate to disrupt human trafficking as an attorney. For a long time, Kenny imagined his life looking something like that. He wanted to do something meaningful, something his dad could point to and be proud of.

But Kenny’s Heavenly Father had different plans.

The summer after Kenny’s freshman year of high school, God first revealed Himself to Kenny at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) sports camp, an organization he got involved with through his time playing baseball. Though he had attended church his entire life and heard the Gospel numerous times, the FCA camp was his first experience with the emotionally raw kind of worship that causes people to unashamedly raise their hands and voices. The Lord continued to stir Kenny’s heart and, after winning a debate tournament and learning of the realities of human trafficking, he was sure God was calling him to use his talents as an attorney.God's Plans are Always Better than Our Plans

The following school year, Kenny moved from his small, suburban high school to an urban city and found that the FCA that he had grown to love was virtually nonexistent in his new school. Kenny got involved in the FCA leadership and, with him speaking and his friend leading worship on Wednesday nights, their numbers grew from five to 50. Revival was happening in Kenny’s new high school. Each week as he took the stage to speak, he looked at the expectant faces in the crowded gym and proudly thought, I did this. 

When Kenny started applying to college, he looked for three things: a place where he could continue to play baseball, a school known for producing attorneys, and a campus where he would have opportunities to share the Gospel. He found all of those at Southwestern University. There, he surrounded himself with Believers and, continuing in his self-righteousness, he walled off anyone or anything associated with the party culture on campus. When his entire baseball team was rushing fraternities, he refrained, thinking, That’s where the sinners go.

Eventually, Kenny started playing keys with two seniors who were leading worship on campus. The seniors, however, would be graduating soon and wanted to discuss the future of the weekly worship service with Kenny. They told him that he would have to take over or the service would come to an end. They asked him to pray about quitting baseball in order to keep it alive, but Kenny was hesitant. He had played baseball his entire life, and the sport was one of the main reasons he had chosen to attend Southwestern. He agreed to pray about it, but his pleas to God were meager, half-hearted attempts. Nonetheless, God used those prayers to incite a heart change in Kenny, and he began to despise baseball for seemingly no reason at all. His excitement for leading worship grew and grew until Kenny decided to quit baseball in order to devote his time to leading the worship service.God's Plans are Always Better than Our Plans

The next summer, Kenny felt the conviction of the Spirit. For the first time, Kenny saw error in the way he was treating the people around him. He began to understand God’s capacity for grace and that it is extended to anyone, regardless of their sin. Kenny had built himself up for so long as the example of an ideal Christian that he had grown disconnected from the people that God seeks to know and love.

The following year, Kenny devoted himself to building relationships and genuinely getting to know the people around him. Having quit baseball, he led worship each week with full dedication. All the while, he was continuing to pursue law school with no ambition of going into ministry. In fact, in all the years of leading in high school and college, he never thought about being anything other than an attorney.

When it came time for him to take the LSAT during the summer before his senior year, Kenny felt a lot of uncertainty about pursuing law school. He began to question the ambitions he had kept for so long. However, he felt joy in his time leading worship and even thought, Why can’t I just do this?God's Plans are Always Better than Our Plans

The most convicting affirmation of Kenny’s call to ministry came on a Sunday when he overslept for the morning service at his home church in Georgetown and found himself at a Sunday evening service at The Austin Stone Community Church. As he listened to Matt Carter describe his own call to ministry, Kenny started thinking, Law school doesn’t make me feel that way, but leading worship does. The band started to lead a song that Kenny had heard and led countless times, but, in that moment, he felt newly convicted by the lyrics:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

Over the next few years, the Lord led Kenny on a journey of faith and he is now in his second year as a worship resident at The Stone. He looks back on his ministry in high school and college, at the times when he was harboring sinful pride and self-righteousness, and is amazed at how God used him even then, a broken kid, to spread the gospel to his classmates. And, though he always wanted to make his father proud by gaining status and recognition, he recognizes how his parents are overjoyed in seeing him proclaim the glory of God instead.God's Plans are Always Better than Our Plans

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Bitia Buenrostro was born on November 13th, 1984 in the tiny border town of Brownsville, Texas. Much of her youth was spent carpooling back and forth across the border into Matamoros, Mexico. Summers were full of youth group adventures, family dinners, and plotting her illustrious Quinceañera, a life event that rivals the importance of a wedding day to a little girl in Mexico.

Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identityJust before she entered fifth grade, Bitia’s parents withdrew her and her little brother from the private school in Brownsville, to which they were commuting from Matamoros daily, and enrolled them in public school in Brownsville. But attending the public school required Bitia and her brother to live in Brownsville. So, Bitia began living with her grandparents during the week, and returning home to Mexico on the weekends.

Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identityAs if this transition wasn’t hard enough, she began to encounter resentment from her friends back home. “I’d be teased as the gringa since I was speaking English and spending so much time in Texas. This really hurt. All I wanted to do was identify with the people and the country I loved so much.”

Then, the summer of 1999 happened.

“My parents told us we were moving back to Mexico! I was pumped because that meant I could go back home… It was the best summer of my entire life. It was also the last time I ever had a carefree, youthful summer,” Bitia recalled, tears rolling down her cheeks.Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identity

That summer, Bitia spent many days going on mission trips with her church friends and finishing up the final details of her Quince. Toward the end of the summer, Bitia’s grandmother died, and the funeral was held in Mexico. Returning from the funeral would be the last time for many years to come that Bitia would cross the border from Mexico.

A week after her grandmother’s funeral, Bitia’s parents broke the news that she and her little brother would not be going back to school in Mexico after all, and her long-awaited Quinceañera would be cancelled… oh, and the past 14 years had been a total lie.

***

Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identity

Bitia Buenrostro was born on October 20th, 1984 in the tiny border town of Matamoros, Mexico. And for 14 years, Bitia was an undocumented immigrant.

After Bitia was born, a family friend of the Buenrostros encouraged them to acquire false identification for their children. This family friend frightened the new parents into believing that the legalization process was too laborious and expensive. So, in a terrified effort to secure a better life and future in America for their babies, the Buenrostros obtained false identification.

“I distinctly remember this day, this moment. My parents took us to the only Luby’s in Brownsville. They began explaining the school thing again… Then the story started unfolding so rapidly,” Bitia remembered. “Everything slowed down. I was staring emptily into nothing. I was crying. I was shocked. My entire existence was a lie—down to the day I was born.”Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identity

Bitia spent the next three years of her life quarantined in Texas, balancing both high school and immigration court. “It was the longest three years of my life. I was drilled every morning about my life, my grades, my hobbies, and why I deserved to be a citizen of the United States. Honestly? I didn’t care. I didn’t want to be a citizen. I hated Texas. I hated America. I was so angry and tired—I was constantly missing class for court,” Bitia recounted.

Behind in school, angry at the law, and devastated by the lack of mercy, Bitia found herself hopeless and lonely. And eventually, Bitia’s parents had enough of the legal rodeo, and they informed their immigration officer that they were going to self-deport and move back to Mexico.

“NO!” the immigration officer exclaimed. “You’re not taking your kids. Their future is not in Mexico. It’s here in the United States of America.”

And so the Author continued to write, though the characters had no idea what has going on.

The immigration officers, lawyers, and clerks working on the Buenrostros’ case were adamant that they continue the process. Why the change of heart? The family will never know.Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identity

At the start of her senior year in high school, Bitia finally obtained her green card, and was then able to apply for college.

On the outside, the life her parents had always wanted for her was finally coming together. On the inside, Bitia still harbored resentment for the States and a perpetual longing for her deeply cherished home.

With a green card, one is eligible to apply for citizenship after being a U.S. resident for five years. After putting it off year after year, Bitia dropped her lingering grudges and applied for full citizenship in 2012.

Ironically, during the time she planned to take her citizenship test, Bitia was an AP United States history teacher at a high school in Austin. A predominantly Spanish-speaking, non-US citizen was attempting to motivate a bunch of teenagers to learn about the history of a country she had spent most of her life hating.

The Author of our stories obviously has a sense of humor.

“My citizenship ceremony was a beautiful example of God’s grace. We deserved to be blacklisted from this country, but the authorities—by his mastery—offered us another opportunity to stay. The longing we have for our worldly home is the same longing we have for heaven. My ceremony allowed me to finally understand that whether it’s Texas or Mexico—this is my temporary home. Heaven is my true home.”

***

Today, Bitia is no longer a teacher. Now, she is the Mentor Coordinator with RBI Austin—a ministry within the For the City Network that exists to renew baseball in the inner city of Austin. Bitia feels that had her parents never told her and her brother about their undocumented status, they would not have experienced humility in the same way. They likely would have grown up as normal, privileged people, incapable of understanding that everything is at the hands of God.Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identity

“Seeing how the Lord has used every single thing in my life to keep us in Texas is just… incomprehensible. It’s beautiful, really.” Bitia explains, “It’s beautiful that I can help the people from the country that I love so much transition into a new life in America. He redeemed my family, and redeemed our story so that I could be here, right now, teaching and serving the same marginalized immigrants that we once were. I can use my experience to encourage these people, and reassure them that the Gospel is real and God’s grace is far more than anything they could ever need.

“Fifteen years ago I was an angry, wailing teenager. Fifteen years later, I’m still crying, but I’m crying tears of joy. By God’s grace I am able to bless people in this capacity. My heart is so full after being empty for so long.”

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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A podcast listener named Elisa, with a historical connection to you, Pastor John, writes in to ask: “Hello Pastor John! Thanks for your ministry over all these years. Incidentally, we [she and her husband] we met you when we were post-Stanford students attending InterVarsity’s Western Leadership Conference, sometime around 1985. I was one of the worship leaders at that conference and vividly remember you speaking on Christian Hedonism — a life-changing paradigm for us. Now that we’re empty-nesters, my husband and I are asking the question: How do we spend the next portion of our lives? However, for better or worse, my dear husband is something of a perfectionist and doesn’t want to make a mistake in answering this important question. So the question becomes: When the stakes are so high, how do you not become paralyzed with fear of making a mistake?”

Hahaha! I have to start by asking: How can you be a perfectionist as an empty-nester? No: How can you live that long and still be a perfectionist? Well, anyway. . . . So, we have got to deal with this. It is wonderful to be reminded of those days at Stanford. I remember them, and I remember them pretty clearly for reasons that are not altogether positive, because I remember that the leader of the Intervarsity group and I were moving in different directions, it seemed. I am going to close with that in just a few minutes and apply that to your situation.

So, here are the things that come to mind. And I am exactly in your situation. You are younger than I am, but I am thinking about that kind of question. So, here are my thoughts.paralyzed with fear of making a mistake

  1. One of the best ways to overcome the perfectionist fear of making a mistake in what you decide to do is to realize that deciding nothing is the biggest mistake. There is your deal breaker. That will get you going. In other words, you are not in a neutral zone. There are no neutral zones. Not to move toward a God-sized goal in this next season of your life is to disobey. So, standing still is not an option, because it means you are drifting. You are never standing still. You are drifting or you are coasting with the culture in the way of the world. That is the first thing.
  2. God loves to steer a moving ship. If you are tied up in the harbor of comfort and leisure, God ordinarily will not give you clear direction. He gives direction to captains who point their ship out of the harbor, into the storm. Think about Jonah — kind of a counterintuitive illustration. Even Jonah was moving in exactly the wrong direction. And God stopped him. He didn’t send him home and say: Start over. He didn’t send him home. He made that journey part of the journey. And he sent him exactly where he wanted him to be: not exactly in the way he wanted, but he got him where he wanted to go because he was moving.
  3. One of the ways to be moving without knowing exactly where you are going is what I might call investigative moving. You are moving when you are pursuing possibilities with serious investigation. That, too, is moving.
  4. Take heart from the many promises of God that in his great mercy he will give you the guidance you need when you trust him. For example,Psalm 25:8–9 say, “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.” So, we qualify, right? “He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble” — people who know they are sinners and admit it and cry out. “He leads the humble in what is right; and teaches the humble his way.” That is a precious promise of guidance.
  5. Pursue with all your might what is crystal clear as God’s will in Scripture. For example,1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “This is the will of God” — for Elisa and her husband — “your sanctification” — your holiness. If you have a full, deep, wide, rich understanding of holiness, it is not bad advice to say: Pursue holiness with all your might, and do as you please. Just do, because if you are passionate about being holy and maximizing your love for God, then it will happen. God loves to give direction, fruitful direction, to lovers of holiness who pursue it with all their hearts.
  6. In this process of prayer and investigation, dream bigger than aging fatalism would allow you. I find in my own heart at age 70 the temptation to think I don’t have long to live. So, I should probably be restricted in my dreams of what I can accomplish. Now, I think that is a mistake. I think it is a serious mistake, and I am trying to strive against that thought. I have no idea how long I have left. You don’t either. I never have had any idea how long I have left. But when I was younger, I assumed that I could accomplish more simply because of the amount of time that was in front of me, probably. But, in fact, the accomplishments came because of God’s blessing on a particular season. It wasn’t the length of life. It was the power of seasons. And who knows? Who knows what you might accomplish in the next season? So, don’t let the fatalism of aging limit your dreams of fruitfulness.
  7. And the last point relates to Stanford, 1985. One of the reasons I look back with some sadness on those Christian Hedonism talks is because, little by little as the series of messages went on, I saw myself — through interacting with students and the leader — I saw myself going in a different direction than the Intervarsity leader at the time. His stress was on the wonder and the glory of the fact that God works for us. We are not God’s employees trying to earn wages. We are the patients of the great physician who is using all of his wisdom and his skill to serve us and our eternal health. And that is true. And I love it, love it.

But the note I was striking then — and have been ever since — was: When God works for us, the goal of his work is to fit us for enjoying God himself. That is what the physician does — not like any earthly physician. This heavenly physician is trying to get our disease healed that makes us find substitutes for God so that in our wellness we will see him, know him, be satisfied in him. God himself is the all-satisfying treasure. And, as I recall, the students back then began to discern a different trajectory between me and the leader.

So, here is the way it relates to you. In your case, now, the question perhaps finally is this: What new vision for our next chapter of life would cause us to taste most fully the power of God, the wisdom of God, the grace of God in our lives? How can we get more of God? And I think if that is the passion, God will show you the answer.

Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes here.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

(By Desiring God. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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WWUTT Slider FINAL

In John 15:16, Jesus said,

“You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…”

Now, some have argued that this doesn’t apply to everyone, only the Disciples. God appoints His messengers, but He does not appoint people to believe in that message. So, when Paul said,

“But when He who bad set me apart before I was born, and who called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me in order that I might preach…” (Galatians 1: 15-16)

Or when God said to Jeremiah,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

That’s unique to them, because they were messengers, but God doesn’t choose anyone to receive the message against their will, right?

Wrong!

The only way we can receive God’s message is against our will!

“For we know, brothers, loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply in word but also in power, with the Holy Spirit and full conviction.” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)

In other words they were not only chosen to hear the message, but they believed it also.

As Moses said to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 29:4, 30:6), as Jesus said to Nicodemus (John 3:1-8), and as Paul said to Romans and Corinthians (Romans 8:5-11, 1 Corinthians 2:9-16),

You’re only able to understand God’s message when the Spirit of God has made you to understand.

Consider this another way,

On your own, you cannot believe in the Gospel

“The natural person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

“The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God… Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8)

If Romans 3:12 says:

“No one does good,”        

How can any person choose on their own to obey and follow God which would be a good thing? By God’s wonderful, amazing grace,

“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” (Ephesians 1:4)

He absolutely does work against our will to receive His Gospel. We would perish if He didn’t!

Praise God! 

(Many of the Bible stories and verses we think we know, we don’t! When We Understand the Text is an internet-based video ministry committed to righting some of the wrong understanding of scripture, all while advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Check out more at WWUTT.com!)

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School Circle Slider v1

Warning: Some of the topics discussed may contain accounts of real life violence, strong language, and other topics not suitable for minors. This podcast has remained unedited out of respect of those individuals who feel led by the Lord to share their testimonies.

We begin today’s show with Vince sharing an important story about a new direction his life is taking:

I got married back in 2011. My wife’s dream has always been to be a mother. Around the time I got married, I was five months away from deployment to Afghanistan and three and half years left in the Marine Corps. So, we made the decision to wait until I got out of the Marine Corps., because I wanted to be a father that was actually there and I didn’t want her to be a single mother in case something happened to me.

So, after I got out of the Marine Corps., we kept trying and trying for a year and a half and there was no luck. All of her friends had gotten pregnant. My heart’s prayer became that my wife got pregnant, even though I didn’t feel ready for a kid, because I could see her brokenheartedness. So, we made an appointment recently, to go see a doctor about it. Right when we made the appointment, we prayed one more time. When I come home the very next day, Megan is crying. I asked what was going on, and with shaky hands, she handed me a pregnancy test. It was positive. At that point my heart sunk into my socks. I was thankful, and it was great to see her so happy. She was glowing.

So, we thought about how we would tell my parents. We decided to buy a onesie, with a little saying, “Here Comes Trouble,” which is what my Dad always says whenever I visit, inside a little heart. Below the heart is the expected month and year. We order it online, and it’s adorable. We packaged and wrapped it up, and when Good Friday came, my wife and I took off to visit my parents. On the way there, I was thinking about what this baby means to my parents and as much as may be uncomfortable for me to have another mouth to feed and not be as flexible to dream, I knew my life was about my family.

I have a sister and a brother. My sister is a great woman who loves the Lord wholeheartedly, but there was a time in her life where she wasn’t living her life coherent with Christianity. She ended up dating this guy who was kind of a druggie and a loser. She got married him right after high school, since she had gotten pregnant her senior year. My parents fought with her and tried to give her wisdom, but nothing would work. So, she ended up having the kid and getting divorced six months later. She couldn’t take care of the kid and had made some more bad dating decisions, so she decided to give my nephew, Andrew, when he was nine years old, to my parents. At that point, he was running into some issues and was starting to run away from home.

My parents ended up taking him in, and my sister decided to skip town without keeping in contact with her son. He was living with his grandparents and they put him into a Christian school where he did really well academically. He was a great kid with a loving heart. However, he had been dealing with depression without any of us knowing about it.

At the time, I was in college, and when I graduated in 2006, I ended up commissioning as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. I was heading home and was super excited to start my new life. I had about six month to wait before I was sent off to the basic school in Quantico, Virginia. So, I had a lot of time to spent with my nephew. We had planned to spend a lot of time together. On July 5th, 2006, I was out shopping with my cousin who had just arrived from Australia, and while we were out I got a frantic call from brother. He told me that I needed to get home immediately and that he heard from my aunt that my nephew had shot himself. That didn’t make any sense to me, because I was with him literally ten minutes ago.

I called my mom, who was of course really distressed and telling me to come home immediately. So, I got my cousin and we headed back as quickly as possible, booking it at literally 100 mph in 25 mph speed zones. I turn a corner onto my street, and I can see that my house is surrounded by basically the entire police department, yellow tape, ambulances, and everything. So I slam the brakes, park the car in the middle of the road, and just run out. A cop grabbed me before I ran into the house, but I was able to see the that the coroner’s van was nearby. I remember that the cop was crying. I asked if my nephew was going to be okay. He said that he didn’t know and that he didn’t think so.

Image: Triblive.com

Image: Triblive.com

So, I go into the house, where my mom was. I remember hugging her and seeing the coroner with a gurney and a body bag on it. They wheeled my nephew out to the van and they put him inside. At that point, I had no idea how we’d ever make it through this. I remember praying for strength at that situation, and God really met me at that point.

My nephew ended up passing away. I was still supposed to go to the basic school and I began questioning what I was going to do my life. I remember talking to the coroner, a very nice lady, who confirmed that it was suicide and that he had shot himself with my dad’s gun. He was 12-years-old. We buried my nephew, and I had to basically spoon feed my parents for about four months. When I had to go to the basic school, they were back on their feet. Ten years later, my dad had lost the will to live. He took full responsibility for what had happened. It was his grandson and his gun, so he shouldered the whole burden. His health went down the drain, and it was terrible to see.

This was all going through my head as I was driving back home to tell my parents about their grandkid. That’s when it hit me that this pregnancy was a gift from God and was not about me. This child is not about me. It’s not about a legacy that me or my wife is going to leave. This is not about someone who is going to take care of me when I’m older. This is about other people. This child is going to be a warrior for Christ and save people in Jesus’ name. He or she (I’m hoping it’s a girl) is going to change the lives of people starting now when they’re in my wife’s womb. This a chance at redemption for my parents. This is what is going to keep my dad alive and change everything. I had faith and a peace about me that was from the Lord. So, we get there, and I sit down with my dad. I led him through this whole rat race, telling him about how we’re not interested in having kids, right before giving him the gift.

Image: Get The Party Started

Image: Get The Party Started

Then, when I give him the gift, I tell him that it’s pretty small, and if it didn’t fit, we could take it back. He opened it slowly, and when he saw it, he just started crying. He had this look in his eyes as if God had just forgiven him. I think that my dad felt that after my nephew passed away, his name was cursed. He thought he was punished for not walking with God at the time and that God would never bless his children with children. My dad is a new man, now. In those three days, he had different look in his eyes and a pep in his step. It was great.

Next, Justin shares an important message on God’s will and timing:

I am horribly guilty of questioning God, his timing, and his overall plan. When I was in Afghanistan during 2011, my best friend, my roommate during flight school FRS, didn’t come home. He went East Coast, I went West Coast, and that was the last time I ever saw him. I remember talking to his mother on the phone, and her saying, “Don’t be sad. He’s with God know.” I thought to myself, “That’s so stupid. He’s dead. He’s gone. How could you possibly think that?” Then I spent the next two years basically peeing on his grave, by using his death to justify my chronic alcoholism. I was angry with God for what he took from me, when in reality, that wasn’t mine.

Years later, I’d come across this verse from the story of the Job:

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you,  and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set,  or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;  here is where your proud waves halt’?

“Have you ever given orders to the morning,  or shown the dawn its place,  that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment. The wicked are denied their light,  and their upraised arm is broken.

“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.

“What is the way to the abode of light?   And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heaven when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen? (Job 38:1-30

Whenever I read this, it makes me feel like any idiot for ever questioning anything. It’s scary to see how God puts Job in his place. I am thankful for grace everyday, especially when I hear stuff like this.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

We have plans we have plans, goals, and dreams, but whatever happens, it’s what God wants. God gives us dreams and passions for a reason and uses them so that we can glorify him in that. Sometimes though, you may plan something a God will send you in a completely different direction.

Here are a few more verses on God’s sovereign will:

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalms 115:3)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

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Reflections of Grace Slider2

I know Someone who is wonderful.  Without Him walking besides me I would drown in my own delusions.

Life is hard folks.  But we have hope!!

If you are feeling lost or alone right now, allow me to take your hand and whisper a sweet, “I know”.  

The struggles.

The unbelief.

The fear.

I can relate to the fear that weighs you down at the whisperings of your enemy that it might always be this way.

You want to know what I want?

  • I want to sit there in my lack, holding my basket, and watch Jesus fill it to overflowing.
  • I want to step out of my boat, and skim across the water to Jesus!
  • For too long I have wanted Him to calm the storms before I leave my boat.
  • I have wanted the water to part into dry land before I put my foot in it.
  • I have wanted Him to tell me where I am going before I depart on my journey.

But, not so, with Jesus, my friends.

He is looking for a Church without spots or wrinkles.  Boy, do I have wrinkles.  Those you can see, and some you can’t see.

If we want to be mighty warriors we have to learn how to fight the mighty battles. Sometimes it might just be with only a lantern and a horn.

And sometimes He says to fight the battle by being still and waiting.

Most times it is believing what I cannot see; and always ever learning that it is Him that will fight for me.

But He can only do the fighting as I surrender my control.

And I have resisted so many times.  I hate waiting, don’t you? Sometimes I have allowed circumstances to be my dictator.  And then I am loaded down with despair.
Do you just sometimes want to stop the struggle and surrender?  Surrender is exactly what He wants.  Just to let go once and for all.

We get tired in our own strength, don’t we?

Yet, surrender is what He is looking for.  We cannot do it in our own strength.  As long as we want to try, He will stand back and allow you to try.  He is a gentleman.  He has all the time in the world.

But when I finally give up trying to make happen with I want to happen, and just relinquish my plans, He comes walking towards me.

I see Him approaching me with such love and desire on His face I come totally undone.  Once again, I am totally sold out to Him, no matter what is going on around me.

  • I don’t want my own concerns to obliterate the heavy loads others carry.  I want to see their hearts and their fears and help them get to the root of their pain and see it disappear as the light comes in and dispels the darkness.  I can’t do that as long as I am fighting for air myself.  So, I continue to hold myself to that standard of faith, to not look at my own issues, but the issues of others.

Whew, it is not easy!

Each day is a new day with Jesus.  I have no idea how or where this life will lead me as we are in a part of our journey that not even a lantern would illuminate.   I can only see one step ahead of me, but you know what?  That is enough.  I have what I need today.

Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Image: Nora Littlefield

Image: Nora Littlefield

All I know is right now I have got to lean hard into His loving embrace.  I hang onto His arm tightly like a little girl.  I will not let Him go.  I would rather hold His hand through the howling winds and thunder, than be on a silent seashore without His presence.

Awakening and owning isn’t about acquiring stuff, or a big name.  It is about embracing who we are in HIM.

We can’t love Him with our whole heart if we are asleep in our secure lives, can we?

To love Jesus is about taking the risk to stand on the mountaintop with lightening striking all around me. We can’t out love God.  To take a step towards Him means that He takes five steps toward you.  We were created for relationship with Him.

I hate to say it but if I was so secure in my earthly life, with all that I needed, and I knew where I was going every day, would I really continue pressing into an intimate relationship with Him?   Would I be motivated enough?

I do wonder.

And I pray I remember this time of molding on the Potter’s wheel, always.

All of humanity can be defined as a vast, gaping need. Our eyes observe men and women, young and old, throwing themselves into entertainment, recreation, technology, food, music, friends, and a host of other things as they grope for the answer to the riddle of why they are alive and seek to silence the screaming voice of yearning in their souls.

  • And it is within these searching masses that we find ourselves, languishing in the longing. No matter how much we buy, who we know, or what fleeting pleasures we experience, we find that none of it can quench the insatiable thirst in the depths of our being. So it is that day after day we go about panting and groaning for something that will satisfy the desires that dominate our inner man. It is in the gnawing ache of this restless discontentment so familiar to us all that the subject of intimacy with God finds its relevance.
  • Intimacy is a word being thrown around a lot in our day, both inside and outside of the Church. We all know that we want it because, on some level, we believe that only God can fill that void in our hearts. Still, for most of us, we don’t know quite how to get it, and what it actually means when we’re referring to intimacy with God Himself. We must realize that it is not just a certain way of speaking about God during a conference, nor is it merely a feeling we experience.
  • Intimacy with God consists of relational knowledge – we are most intimate with those whom we know at the deepest levels. Jesus stands at the center of this pursuit because in His face we see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God not just because He pointed perfectly to God, but because He is the fullness of the Godhead in the flesh.
  • Thus, to know Jesus is to know God, for He is God, and that is what intimacy is really all about. One of the most common misperceptions relates to how He feels about you. Deep inside we think that Jesus is mostly unemotional and distant, except for how disappointed He is with us – that is the one feeling we’re convinced He does actually feel.
  • Yet the truth is that His heart is full of love and desire for you. This isn’t just an idea or a sweet sentiment, but a reality that He put on display in every moment of His life. Your Creator actually took on a human frame and then gave His body over to suffering and death in order to redeem you. The Gospels aren’t just stories; they are the vivid, tangible expression of His fierce desire to be in relationship with humanity.
  • In the Bible, Christ is spoken of in many different ways, but the part of His identity that expresses this passion and joy of His heart most clearly is who He is as a Bridegroom. All throughout the Old Testament, God is revealed as possessing the heart of a jealous husband for His people and in Jesus we see the Divine Bridegroom right before our eyes, laying down His life to set us free from our sin and draw us near to Himself. This is where intimacy starts – in beholding the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross and realizing that He is inviting us to come close and enjoy our Maker and Husband forever…When this kindness, affection, and zeal dawn upon us, our hearts truly come alive for the first time, for we were fashioned for Him. But this is only the beginning, the doorway into something far greater. You see, as thrilling as it is, understanding that He likes us and wants to have us with Him isn’t quite the same thing as knowing Him, just like getting the invitation in the mail isn’t exactly like going to the party.

In drinking in the beauty of this Man, your soul will at last find its rest. This is intimacy, and this is what you were created for – to enjoy and adore the splendor of His glory forever. So forgetting what is behind, let us press on to know Him.

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Transform Slider

(The following was originally published at CareyGreen.com)

What would you say is the most important thing you do in business?

  • Customer relations?
  • Prospecting?
  • Sales?
  • Systems management?
  • Procedures?

Really, what is the best thing an entrepreneur or business owner can put at the top of their “must do” list?

You may find the answer surprising. Today’s video comes from one of my favorite authors of all time, Oswald Chambers. Listen to find out how you as a business owner can put your day in order the RIGHT way, God’s way, so that everything else falls into place.

In Oswald Chambers’ acclaimed book My Utmost for His Highest, he quotes Matthew 6:33 in his entry titled “Having God’s Unreasonable Faith”:

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.

Oswald then goes on to say:

“When we look at these words of Jesus, we immediately find them to be the most revolutionary that human ears have ever heard: Seek FIRST the kingdom of God.

Even though the spiritually minded of us argue the opposite saying, ‘But I must live. I must make a certain amount of money. I must be clothed. I must be fed.’

The great concern of our lives is not the kingdom of God, but how we are going to take care of ourselves to live.”

Doesn’t that resonate with you, as an entrepreneur? That’s why we work so hard, right? To make a living?

Chambers continues:

“Jesus reversed the order by telling us to get the right relationship with God first – maintaining IT as the primary concern for our lives, and never to place our concern on taking care of the other things of life.”

What a challenge: to NEVER make those things our primary concern! How can we do that while we are working every day to grow our businesses?

Chambers goes on to quote Matthew 6:25,

Do not worry about your life. 

Oswald then says:

“Our Lord pointed out that, from His standpoint, it is absolutely unreasonable for us to be anxious, worrying about how we will live. Jesus did not say that the person who takes no thought for anything in his life is blessed.

No – that person is a fool!

But, Jesus DID teach that His disciple must make his relationship with God the dominating focus of his life and to be cautiously carefree about everything else in comparison to that.

In essence, Jesus was saying, “Don’t make food and drink the controlling factors of your life, but be focused absolutely on God.”

I could substitute in there, “Don’t make revenue, a new client, good employees, or a hefty workload the controlling factors of your life – but instead be focused absolutely on God.”

“Some people are careless about what they eat and drink, and they suffer for it. They are careless about what they wear, having no business looking the way that they do. They are careless with their earthly matters, and God holds them responsible.

Jesus is saying that the greatest concern in life is to place our relationship with God first and EVERYTHING ELSE second. It is one of the most difficult, yet most critical, disciplines of the Christian life – to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us into absolute harmony with the teaching of Jesus in these verses”

Now, think about that: Our first order of business every day has got to be seeking the kingdom of God. Doing this is a priority issue. I mean, we are entrepreneurs – we know what it is like to carry a heavy load, to wear a lot of hats, and to understand the responsibilities of earning money, taking care of employees and clients. But, if we don’t first – and it is counterintuitive, as Oswald says – get our relationship with God on track and in focus, those other things are going to consume us. And God is going to fall by the wayside in our minds and priorities. We won’t be focused on Him and His purposes for our lives… and THAT is really what we need first and foremost!

We need God’s purposes to be fulfilled in our businesses and our lives.

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