The Things That Should Really Be On Our Bucket List

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Repeat after me: I am not average. I am a beautiful, unique snowflake. I am a world-changer. I am a dreamer, a fighter, a kick butt and take names kind of person. I am a firework (see Katy Perry). I am the captain of my soul. Oh captain, my captain, I will “carpe diem” (see Dead Poets Society). I will pursue my dreams and chart my destiny. I am not average I am awesome.

This is the mantra and motto and manifesto of my generation. We are the bucket list generation. The “be all that you can be” generation. The “you can be anything you want when you grow up” generation. Our worst nightmare is failing to live up to our potential and failing to fulfill our dreams.

Maybe God doesn’t want us to be awesome.

We Christians aren’t immune to the awesome, dreamer, lover, world-changer talk either. Every year thousands of books and blogs and articles and tweets tell us we are supposed to do great, incredible, amazing, earth-shaking things for God. Exactly 23 minutes ago Joel Osteen posted the following on Twitter:

Now don’t get me wrong: I really do believe every Christian is supposed to live their life 100%, pedal-to-the-medal for Jesus. I believe God wants us to do great things for him. I firmly believe that the Christian life is a fantastic, wonderful adventure. I believe we are created in the image of God which makes us all inherently valuable.

But here’s the thing: the things that impress the world don’t impress God. In fact, for the most part, the things that impress God look distinctly average.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul says: “For this is the will of God…”

Okay here it is! Tell me Paul, tell me. What is God’s will for me? What awesome, incredible, world-shaking things does God want me to do? I’m ready. I’m psyched, pumped, and rearing to go.

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, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.

Wait, that’s it? God’s will for me is purity? I mean, I guess that’s cool and all but it isn’t exactly world shaking. I was hoping for something a little more…awesome.

Let’s try another passage. Maybe we were just looking in the wrong place. In Matthew 25:34 Jesus speaks of the day when all of us will stand before the judgment throne. The Lord will say: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Okay, now we’re getting to the good stuff! We’re talking about eternity here. Jesus is about to tell us who will get all the rewards in heaven. Who is it going to be?

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Well, crap. That wasn’t what I was hoping for. I was hoping for something a little more exciting, edgy, and awesome. Feeding the sick and blessing the poor and visiting the imprisoned don’t really classify as awesome. I don’t have any of those things listed on my bucket list.

Maybe we’ve got it all wrong. Maybe instead of pursuing awesome we should pursue average. The things that are average in the eyes of the world are magnificent in God’s eyes. The things that are boring in the eyes of world are breathtaking in God’s eyes.

God isn’t impressed by those who fulfill their dreams, he is impressed by those who faithfully obey. God isn’t impressed by those who claw their way to the top, he is impressed by those who fight their way to the bottom. God isn’t impressed by dreamers, he is impressed by servants.

On the final day God won’t say, “Well done awesome and killer person, you fulfilled your dreams.” He will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Let’s dream big for God. But we must always make sure our dreams really do line up with God’s dreams. Let’s have a biblical bucket list.

original photo by wales_gibbons

How To Pray For The Man Who Kills Babies

Kermit Gosnell is currently on trial for the twenty-plus years of atrocities that took place in his abortion clinic. The details of what actually happened in that clinic are enough to make you vomit, scream, and want to punch a wall. The more I read about the case the more it becomes clear that Kermit Gosnell was an evil man who did tremendously evil things. Horrific, holocaust-like things. Demonic things.

How should we Christians respond to this kind of evil? After all, Jesus commanded us to pray for our enemies and to do good to those who mistreat us. So how do we respond to a man who has killed babies, hurt women, and committed other untold wicked deeds? We respond in two ways.

PRAY FOR JUSTICE

There is such a thing as godly rage. In Romans 13:3-4 it says:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

God appoints rulers, judges, presidents, kings, and supreme courts to act as servants on his behalf. They are appointed by God to execute God’s wrath upon those who do evil. God has placed a divine sword in the hands of the men and women who rule our country, and they are to use that sword on behalf of the Lord.

Therefore, it is appropriate to pray that Kermit Gosnell would receive divine justice. It is right to pray that government would convict him of his crimes and appropriately sentence him for his crimes. If that means the death penalty, so be it. We should pray that Kermit Gosnell would receive justice for the wickedness he has done. It is right to pray that the government would fulfill its God-given duty.

And we can be assured that even if Gosnell does not receive appropriate justice now, he will receive appropriate justice when he stands before the throne of God. We serve a God of justice, and he will not let injustice win. There are no mistrials or hung juries with the Lord.

PRAY FOR MERCY

Strange as it may seem, we should pray for Kermit Gosnell to experience both God’s justice and God’s mercy. In Ezekiel 33:11 the Lord says:

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…

In this passage we see the beautiful complexity of God. He is a God of justice who will not let a single evil deed go unpunished. At the same time he is also a God of mercy who takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. God’s desire is that Kermit Gosnell would repent of his sins, embrace the forgiveness available through Christ, and receive eternal life.

When we’re confronted with wickedness on the scale of Gosnell’s, we’re also confronted with the scandal of the free gospel. If Gosnell turned to Christ, every one of his sins would be forgiven. Would he still be executed by the state? Possibly. And that would be right. Forgiveness of sins doesn’t mean escape from the earthly consequences of sin. But he wouldn’t experience the wrath of God because Christ took the wrath in his place. Christ became the baby killer in his place. Incredible.

When confronted with extravagant, Gosnell-like, Boston-like evil, we should pray that the perpetrators of evil would feel the sword of God’s justice. We should also pray that the wicked men and women involved would experience the incredible, life-changing, sin-forgiving mercy of God.

We don’t serve a safe God. His ways are not like our ways. But we do serve a just God and a good God. As we read the headlines, let’s pray for mercy and justice to prevail.

Before You Make That Decision

Every day we face hundreds of choices and decisions. Fortunately most of them are not life-altering.

Should I go with the honey hot wings, or the Cajun?  Should I get the ultra-whitening toothpaste or the kind that restores brain cells?  Should I watch Doomsday Preppers or Extreme Paranormal Makeover?

But as the new year begins, many of us face difficult and life-changing decisions.  I’m so grateful for God’s incredible promise in Psalm 32:8:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

This is the one of Scripture’s most encouraging promises. I regularly pray “Thank you Father, that you have promised to instruct me and teach me in the way I should go and counsel me with your eye upon me.  Please guide me in this decision I am facing. Please show me what to do. Please give me wisdom.  Thank, you, Father that you have promised you will.”

First of all, it is God Himself who instructs us – “I will instruct you… I will counsel you… My eye upon you.” God doesn’t delegate his counsel to an angel or anyone else.  The very fountain of all wisdom counsels us.  The one who devised the laws of nature, who knows how the whole universe works together, who knows all things, including the future; the one who knows us intimately, who knows what is best for us and loves us so deeply he shed his only Son’s blood to purchase us. This is the one who instructs us and counsels us.

God teaches and guides us for his own glory.  He wants us to lead lives of maximum effectiveness and fruitfulness.  He desires to display his goodness, kindness, mercy, and transforming power through us. God wants to counsel us more than we want his counsel.

He shows us the way to go because he is a loving Father.  If any of my children faced difficulties and ask for my advice I wouldn’t say figure it out on your own. I want my children to do well. I want my children to have every good thing. I want my children to know and enjoy God. If I desire these things from my children, how much more does our heavenly Father desire them for us.

He speaks to us his by his Word and his Spirit.  God’s word is a treasure chest of wisdom and guidance. It contains all we need to know about God and how to obey him. It is filled with his will from cover to cover. In addition, God fills us with his own Spirit, The Counselor, who guides us into all truth and shows us what to do in every situation.

God also speaks through the preaching of his Word and books written by Christian teachers. He also guides us through godly Christian counselors– our parents, pastors, wise friends and fellow believers.

What are you facing today? Before you make that decision, go to your loving Father and thank him for his wonderful promise to teach you guide you and personally counsel you.  Seek him in big decisions and small.  Then trust him and don’t fret. He will certainly fulfill his promise to guide you in his perfect timing.  If you have to make a decision, and have sought him, and still don’t know what to do, just make the best decision you can.  He will guide you.

Obviously you don’t have to ask God what kind of wings to get.  But I would recommend the Cajun.

God Is Not Working For Our Comfort (But Something Far Better)

Any time we find ourselves in difficulty or trial, it is easy to think we have been forgotten or rejected by God. This is because we do not understand the present process. God is not working for our comfort and ease; he is working on our growth. At the very moment we are tempted to question his faithfulness, he is fulfilling his redemptive promises to us.  –Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp, How People Change

“God is not working for our comfort and ease; he is working on our growth.”

When I became a Christian I heard someone say, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for for life.”  Which is true. Only I thought his wonderful plan for my life was to continuously bless me with good things. Which is true. Except my definition of good things and God’s definition of good things are often different.

Gods wonderful plan for my life is to conform me to Christ, not give me everything I want.  Sometimes being conformed to Christ is painful. Sometimes God conforms me to Christ by NOT giving me what I desire. Sometimes he conforms to Christ by sending people into my life who sin against me. Sometimes he uses pressure and suffering.  He’s got all kinds of wonderful tools to chisel, chip, shape, sand and smooth.

God in his infinite wisdom knows exactly what we need to make us more like Jesus. Because Jesus was humble, God needs to bring things into our lives to humble us.  Because Jesus was patient and forbearing with others, God brings people into our lives that require patience and forbearance. Because Jesus trusted God when mistreated by others God sometimes takes us through that challenge.

“At the very moment we are tempted to question his faithfulness, he is fulfilling his redemptive promises to us.”

If only we could always remember this. God is CONTINUALLY working to make us like his Son.  Every single thing that happens to us is part of this plan for our lives. Nothing happens by accident. Every single thing is focused on this one goal of conforming us to the likeness of Christ.

And won’t it be worth it? When we get to heaven and see the glory of Jesus shining through each of us we’ll rejoice and thank God for every painful thing God did in our lives to produce Christ in us.  Remember, our afflictions, in comparison with this wonderful goal, are momentary and light. If we take our eyes off this goal, they seem heavy and long.

So let us be like Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross.  Keep your eyes on the joy –  seeing Jesus’ face and enjoying him forever completely conformed to his likeness.

Good News For The Goal Challenged

I’m goal challenged.  I’ve never been real good at setting them.  Well, actually I’m good at setting them.  The problem is that after I set them, I forget to look at them.  I have goal amnesia.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s good to set spiritual goals especially, and try to build spiritual habits into our lives like having consistent devotions, because God uses these means to bless us.  So I believe we should have goals in our lives.  Check out Stephen’s post from last week.

But above and beyond our own goals, it’s so encouraging to me to know that God has goals for his children, and he will achieve them.  He has plans for us he’ll fulfill. God says,

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

God has good works already prepared for us to walk in:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

It’s encouraging to me to know that God has already prepared those works and he’ll make sure we walk in them.  We may forget our goals but God won’t forget the plans he’s made for us.

And God’s greatest goal for us is to conform us to his Son for his own glory:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

God has plans to transform us more and more into the image of Christ’s glory this year.  He’ll use blessing and affliction.  He’ll bring brothers and sisters into our lives to sharpen us.  He’ll use our feeble efforts to pursue him.  He’ll use his Word as we read it and listen to it preached. He’ll use our prayers and the prayers others say for us.  He’ll use wicked people.  He’ll use our failures and successes.  He’ll humble us and guide us.  He’ll make us wait patiently.  He’ll give us people to serve and encourage. He’ll give and take away.

And he will be successful in achieving his goal.  At the end of this year, we’ll be more like Christ than we are now.  I want to do all I can do to obey Jesus and become like him, but I’m so grateful it’s not ultimately up to me.  It’s the wonderful plan of the One who does all things well.