Don’t-ing or Doing?

In my early Christian life, a lot of teaching I heard seemed to emphasize what we as Christians don’t do. We don’t dress like that. We don’t listen to that kind of music. We don’t watch those programs. We don’t play those games. We don’t use that kind of language.

During part of this time I had a job in retail sales. I wanted to be a good testimony. I politely said no to invitations to places I didn’t feel comfortable going with my coworkers. I quietly absented myself from certain conversations. My style of dress was noticeably different from that of others. They knew I didn’t do a number of things. Some were even kindly protective of me, careful not to put me in situations where I might be uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, what these actions (or inactions) indicated to my coworkers and customers. They knew I was “religious.” But could they tell the difference between me and an adherent of any number of other religions? They saw my standards, but did they see my Jesus?

The Bible does have a lot to say about what we should not do. Freedom in Christ doesn’t mean we live any way we want to. God’s command for our holiness filters down into every part of our lives, and our love for Him does influence our choices of dress and entertainment. We need to understand what things are wrong. We need to realize we’re innately drawn towards wrong. Paul said, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7). It’s important to remember the Bible’s warnings against sin. Some people fall off-balance by minimizing or even overlooking the “don’ts” in the name of love and positivity or an effort to be inoffensive.


But the Bible doesn’t stop with a list of “don’ts.” “So flee youthful passions,” 2 Timothy 2:22 says. But it goes on to say, “and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Colossians 3:5-9 tells us to “ Put to death ” or “put away” “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry . . . anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another.”

But the passage doesn’t stop with “putting off.” “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (verses 9-10). The next verses enumerate what that new self we put on looks like:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (verses 12-17).

Ephesians 4:17-32 has similar instructions to “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (verses 22-24). We trade lying for truth (v. 25), stealing for honest work (v. 28), corrupt talk for edifying words (v. 29). We don’t let anger linger (v. 26), and we replace bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness “as God in Christ forgave you” (verses. 31-32).

We’re not aiming just for “positive thinking”: we’re seeking a balanced focus. “Putting on the new” not only keeps us balanced, but it actually helps us put off the old. We have known of preachers who have fallen into sexual sin after years of preaching against it. Surely a number of factors contributed to their fall, but one may have been an undue focus on the forbidden.

Erwin Lutzer shared a helpful illustration in How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit: if someone tells you not to think of the number eight—suddenly that’s all you can think about. The more you try not to think about it, the more it fills your mind. But if you start thinking of other numbers or working equations, you’re distracted from eight.

Likewise, if I try to diet by repeating to myself, “Don’t eat chocolate cake, Don’t eat chocolate cake, Don’t eat chocolate cake,” what is my mind filled with? Chocolate cake. I’m thinking about it so much, I am likely to give in and have some. But if I turn my thoughts toward other things I can eat, chocolate cake lessens it’s hold on me. Now I can focus on the positive, on what I can do rather than what I can’t.

Years ago I read in a forgotten older book about “chastity meetings.” The author didn’t elaborate, but evidently these meetings were held to help young people make a decision to pursue purity. His wise advice was, “Have your chastity meetings, but then go on to another subject.” If every single week these young people were warned about sexual sin and urged to avoid it, their thoughts would be filled with it just like mine would be with the chocolate cake I needed to avoid.

Concentrating on “doing” rather than just on “don’t-ing” not only helps us avoid sin and pursue good, but it presents a better testimony. If all we talk about is what we don’t do, we sound either curmudgeonly or self-righteous.

Pursuing the positive also creates joy in Christ rather than mourning what we can’t do.

But we don’t follow a list of impossible good works in order to gain favor or rack up points with God. We focus on these good traits not to become righteous but to demonstrate that God has changed us and made us righteous. The Ephesians passage mentioned above says the goal is to  “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (verse 13). It also says we effect these transformations by being “renewed in the spirit of [our] minds (v. 23) and because that’s the way we have learned Christ (verses. 20-21). Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Colossians 3:10 tells us our “new self…is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

How do we renew our minds in the knowledge of Him? By beholding Him in His Word: “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). As we see Him in His Word, we get to know Him better, and we become more like Him. As we pursue the pure and good and holy, the lesser things fall away.

(Revised from the archives)

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Remembering How God Has Led

I don’t know what triggered my trip down memory lane. I sat with my Daily Light open but unread, and began to pray for God to open my understanding and speak to my heart from His Word.

I thought back with wonder of the many different paths my life could have taken. Several events led to my salvation. What if one of them hadn’t happened?

There were different temptations, some of which I regret failing. I could have been done in by any of them.

My life could have followed any number of paths, not just theoretically, but due to influences at the time. I could have become an alcoholic. I had planned to get married right out of high school, not realizing I would be marrying the wrong person. I not only would have missed meeting my wonderful husband, but I would not have experienced all I learned both intellectually and spiritually at a Christian college.

I could have fallen for a television evangelist’s false doctrine (I actually called the number on the screen once). People are so vulnerable just before and after salvation, when their interest in the Lord is aroused but they have no discernment yet.

In 8th or 9th grade, we moved to a new town. The school I attended was the most cliquish place I had ever been. Well-defined groups didn’t allow for new members. My mom had to plead and almost push me out of the car at school in the mornings. I spent many lunch breaks walking around the grounds by myself in tears. Finally I became friends with another girl who was also, for some unknown reason, outside the school’s social circles. I discovered years later that it was the Lord’s mercy that kept me from getting involved with the popular crowd, as they were into a lot of unhealthy activities. What if I had gotten in with them? I probably would have gotten into some kind of trouble and possibly would have become proud and condescending.

Between my sophomore and junior year, my mother left my father and took my siblings and me to Houston. The break had been coming for years, but it still hurt when it finally happened. We moved from a very small town of less than 200 to the teeming metropolis of Houston. The culture shock was very real. In those days before the Internet, I had little contact with my friends from school. I had no opportunity to make new friends since school wouldn’t start for months yet. It was the loneliest time in my life. I remember lying on my bed clinging desperately to Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Looking back, I didn’t know fully what that verse meant. But I knew that, to the degree I knew how, I loved God, and I trusted Him to work things out for good. Though that was one of the lowest points in my life, it was also pivotal. It was through this move that God provided miraculously for me to go to a Christian school for two years, led me to a good church, helped me make sure of my salvation, and let me know about a Christian college.

Somehow God led me all the way.

My heart was tender thinking back over God’s working in my life. As I opened my Bible reading for the day, I came to Deuteronomy 8:2: “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness.” It’s amazing how God prepares me for what I am going to encounter in His Word. I thought my mental wanderings about my past were just daydreams and rabbit trails, but here He had led me to do just what the Scripture said.

Several times in Deuteronomy 8, Moses urged the Israelites to remember the Lord and not forget Him. Peter wanted “to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Peter 1:13; 3:1). Jesus told the Ephesian church, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:4). As God called Israel, back to Himself, He said, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown” (Jeremiah 2:2).

This is what I most want my children, grandchildren, readers, and anyone with whom I have any influence to know, to remember: that Christianity is not just a culture, not just a set of doctrines, not just what we do and don’t do. It is the basis of all of those. But first of all it’s that personal relationship with the Lord.

Do you have that? Have there been times in your life you knew God was at work in you, drawing you to Himself? Do you have warm and tender moments where He met with you personally?

If you professed faith as a young child, you may not remember a definite “before” and “after” to your life of faith. But you can be grateful for God’s preventative work in your life and the scars and bad memories He kept you from. As you’ve walked with the Lord, I am sure you’ve found that the “big sins” are not always the dramatic ones that everyone sees. Inner wrestlings with pride and self-will are just as deadly. You’ve discovered that it takes as much of God’s grace to battle those as it does to defeat addiction. You’ve probably experienced times when God answered prayer or something in His Word met your need of the moment. It’s not the drama of one’s initial testimony that determines what kind of Christian life we have: it’s simple faith, not in our faith, but in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Nothing stirs up our love and gratitude towards the Lord like remembering how He saved us and led us. It’s a blessing to sometimes review the “Ebenezers,” those special times of help that we’ve experienced along the way. Then we can say along with the psalmist:

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
 when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
 for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
 My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:5-8

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

I found lots of good online reading this week:

What’s Next? 8 Questions to Get You Ready to Roll. Evaluating and preparing for post-pandemic life.

I came across two good posts about praying for lost loved ones: A Prayer for When They Don’t Believe and A Parent’s Prayer for an Unbelieving Child.

Coping with Publishing Conflict. Though written in the context of publishing, the advice is good for any area of conflict.

10 Ways God Desires to Set Apart His People. “The purpose in being set apart is to be set to something else. Biblically speaking, something else is desiring what God desires for us. It means desiring someone else—God. And not desiring the things of this world more.”

Stretching Application Beyond the Big Three. “It is good to be reminded to read the Bible, pray, and talk to our friends about Jesus, but that doesn’t mean these are the only applications we should draw from Scriptural truths.” Ryan provides some helpful tips and a worksheet for getting to the heart of a passage’s applications.

Who Will Roll the Stone Away? Good take-aways from the women who went to anoint Christ’s body that first Resurrection morning.

What Does Binding and Loosing Mean in Matthew 16:19? HT to Knowable Word. Probably the clearest explanation of this verse I can recall reading.

With Independence Day last weekend, there were some good posts about patriotism. Since patriotism isn’t just for the 4th of July, though, I’m including them now:

Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy in a Patriotic Church Service. A good, balanced article about some of the positives and some of the problems of a patriotic church service.

How Can an Ordinary Citizen Begin to Practice a Radical Patriotism? “Viewing a flawed nation led by deeply flawed individuals, G.K. Chesterton asked:  ‘Can we hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?'”

If you need a dose of cuteness, try this:

Happy Saturday

The Incredible Privilege of Drawing Near to God

The privilege of drawing near to God

In Old Testament times, God’s people were aware of a great distance between themselves and God.

One of the first times God met with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt, the experience was scary: “a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear’” (Hebrews 12:18-21).

Getting a glimpse of God’s holiness brought people to their knees and made their sin stand out all the more in contrast. Isaiah reacted by saying, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-7). Peter responded to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:1-11). John, called the beloved disciple, “fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:9-19).

The children of Israel had to go through detailed rituals to have their sin forgiven. In Exodus they were instructed to build a tabernacle with an inner Holy of Holies which only the high priest could enter once a year. Leviticus had instructions for the different kinds of sacrifices. The tabernacles, sacrifices, and priesthood all carried wonderful symbolism of what Jesus would come to be and do. But at the time, the clearest message was that the people could not draw near to God without sacrifces and mediators because God was holy and they were not.

But even with all those rituals, “since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 10:1).

But then Jesus came. The Savior, the Messiah promised ever since the first sin separated man from God. He fulfilled all the OT prophecies about Himself. His death was the reality pictured by the OT sacrifices for sin. At His death, the veil covering the Holy of Holies was torn open, signifying that the way was open to God.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

The OT sacrifices had to be offered continually because they were insufficient to take care of sin for ever.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:12-14)

The OT priests died and had to be replaced.

But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:24-25)

Though Jesus was God, He was also man. He was holy, but He faced temptation and weakness and dread.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and symbolism given to the Jews. But what about the rest of us?

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

How do we draw near? The verses above mention faith and cleansing: faith Jesus is who He claimed to be, faith that His atonement took care of our sins. This privilege is open to anyone willing to repent of sin and believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrew 11:6)

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9)

We have the incredible privilege to draw near to God—for salvation, for cleansing, for fellowship, for grace and help.

What a privilege to come into God’s presence,
Just to linger with the One who set me free.
As I lift m eyes and see His awesome glory,
I remember who He is and bow the knee.

-Ron Hamilton

For more information, see 4 Conditions to Draw Near to God.

(Sharing with Scripture and a Snapshot, Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth)

Laudable Linkage

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I’m waaaay behind on my blog reading. But I wanted to go ahead and share the ones concerning Christmas before it was all over.

We Need a Little Christmas! I love both meanings of this post by Lesley.

This Is Not How I Thought My Story Would Go, HT to Diane Heeney. Good applications drawn from Mary’s life.

We Wait in Darkness: Some Thoughts for Advent. “In Advent, we wait in the darkness. But we do not, I am convinced, wait hopelessly. For while we wait, we can tend the flame. The stories each of our homes are telling can be ones that lend flesh to truth, goodness, and beauty, so that the waiting we do can tend the flame of the Gospel flickering inside our hearts.”

Goodnight Till Then. Those of you who know Tim Challies know that his college-age son died suddenly and unexpectedly a few weeks ago. Also from Tim: When All Seems to Be Gain, Plan for Loss.

Do You Ever Wonder? Lessons Learned from Rebecca. Both Rebekah and Sarah manipulated events instead of trusting God’s promises. We all leave a string of failures in our wake, but thank God He redeems them.

Looking for Joy? Abide. “In addressing His disciples hours before His arrest, Jesus tells them over and over to abide, to remain, to dwell in Him. He knows that they’re worried about what life will look like without Him, so He gives them these instructions for a specific reason: “that [their] joy may be full” (John 15:11).”

On Benedictions, Part 1: He Who Is Able. “This passage doesn’t promise that we’ll never stumble into sin. But it does promise that God’s grace can enable us to persevere to the end—to stand before his throne still blameless, still washed by the blood of Christ, still cleansed from the sin in which we all too readily engaged.”

Assurance in an Age of Cancel Culture, HT to Challies. These days of being so easily “cancelled” when the culture at large doesn’t like what we say can make us fearful of speaking out. “This article is an outpouring of my inner war with ‘cancel culture’ and fear of man. These Biblical truths are weapons of warfare for me in the middle of my fight with ‘cancel culture.’”

Meatloaf Ministry. If you’ve ever been part of a church food ministry or any behind-the-scenes ministry, this will bless you.

Social Justice in Our Divided Age. Not everyone means the same thing by that term, which causes confusion and even hard feelings at times. I thought this was a good explanation.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here are some of the latest good reads I’ve come across. This also might be a good time to remind that linking doesn’t imply 100% agreement. In some cases, I have never before read the writer, but I followed a link someone else provided. In some cases, I might agree with the majority of the article, but the small thing I have a difference with isn’t worth mentioning.

Counseling Children Who Have Professed Faith in Christ. “Like many children who’ve grown up in a Christian home, Clara professed faith in Christ at an early age. But, like so many other young people who professed faith early, she struggles with doubts.”

No One Shared the Gospel with Me, HT to Challies. “Rather than hate that lost person because he or she is doing what any biblically informed Christian should expect a totally depraved sinner to do, namely sin, we should pray for them. Show them the compassion and love of Christ. Tell them that life is not meaningless. Tell them that with Christ, there is light at the end of the tunnel, eternal light. We cannot simply assume that a lost person is a lost cause.”

Love is Inconvenient, HT to Challies. “Love is inconvenient. It actually has the audacity to ask us to drop what we’re doing in order to attend to the needs of another.”

How to Respond to Social Media Enemies.

The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. “Shrier writes as one who is sympathetic to people who have diagnosable gender dysphoria and for such people she affirms their decision to transition. But she is dismayed that ideologues have made transgenderism a valid and desirable option to those who are not truly diagnosable. She laments the way it has spread among young women as a kind of social contagion. She fears that many of them will go on to have regrets but be left with permanently damaged bodies.”

Not White Fragility—Mutual Responsibility, HT to Challies. This makes better sense to me than anything else I’ve read on race relations. “The concept of white fragility is an academic way to tell white people to be quiet and listen. Bottling up the expressions of white people, though, is not the path to addressing our society’s racial alienation. Indeed, it’s a path that will continue to frustrate attempts at correcting racism’s genuine effects.”

It’s Alright To Just Be Pals, HT to Challies. “They wanted to formalise something that, as far as I was concerned, didn’t need formalising. They wanted to stick a label on something . . . that we were essentially already doing as mates.” Yes! I agree that we don’t have to formalize and label relationships in order for them to be beneficial.

Maher panel blasts ‘cancel culture’: It’s a form of ‘social murder.’ HT to my husband. I don’t follow Fox News (or CNN) and would rarely agree with Maher, but I agree with these concerns. ” If conversation with people that we disagree with becomes impossible, what is the way that we solve conflict?”

Delight in Loveliness for the Glory of God. Productivity is important, but it’s not everything.

And to end with a smile:

Happy Saturday

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineHere’s my latest short collection of thought-provoking reads found online:

White Fragility and the Bible’s Big Story. “I want to turn to the Bible to suggest how it might help us understand issues of race and racism, for it also contains a narrative structure. It describes the world and the history of humanity as kind of unified story whose plot unfolds through a number of movements. We can title these movements Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.”

Learning to Read People’s Eyes. “So instead of shouting to the world on social media about all the horrible things that are happening, how about finding some people like Isaiah mentions here? Let’s find the poor, brokenhearted, captives, prisoners, and mourners. They are all around us. Look at those fearful and wearied eyes peeking out from behind all those masks.”

You Can’t Avoid Criticism, and responding in kind doesn’t help. But we can evaluate and learn from it.

Sex Offenders Can Find Hope in Christ But Not Necessarily a Place at Church, HT to Challies. It can be tricky to try to minister to sex offenders and help them change while also protecting the congregation, particularly children, from abuse.

Since we’ve recently roasted marshmallows for s’mores, this was timely from xkcd:

Happy Saturday!

Come, let us return to the Lord

IMG_2191?ver2God pictures His relationship to His wayward people in the prophet Hosea’s relationship to his adulterous wife, Gomer. Gomer didn’t just drift away, nor was she seduced unaware. Chapter 2:5-7 says she pursued other lovers. She had children by men other than her husband. She thought they would give her “my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink” (2:5).

However, God declared, “she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal” (2:8). She not only didn’t acknowledge God, didn’t even thank Him for His gifts, but she used His gifts to worship a false god.

Later God likened Israel as a child whom He loved and taught to walk, yet “they did not know that I healed them” (11:3).

The Bible says God “richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17). “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything…In him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:24-28).

God gives us everything we have, even our very breath. Do we acknowledge Him? Thank Him? Or use His gifts in wrong pursuits?

Warren Wiersbe says, “The essence of idolatry is enjoying the gifts but not honoring the Giver” (Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship).

Romans tells us:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:20-21).

The chapter goes on to say that since people persisted in living without acknowledging God,

  • “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (1:24).
  • “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (1:26).
  • “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (1:28).

Wiersbe says, “One of the greatest judgments God can inflict on any people is to let them have their own way.”

Fortunately, God doesn’t give people up easily. Further in the Acts passage that we looked at earlier, Paul says God  “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).

Back in Hosea, God disciplines His people and then shares these “I will” promises:

  • I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her” (2:14).
  • I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” (2:15).
  • For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more” (2:17).
  • I will make for them a covenant on that day” (2:18a)
  • I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety” (2:18b).
  • I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord” (2:19-20).
  • I will answer” (2:21).
  • I will sow her for myself in the land” (2:22).
  • I will have mercy” (2:23).

God draws us with “cords of kindness, with the bands of love” (Hosea 11:4). He seeks out the lost sheep.

From Wiersbe’s book one more time:

The key word is return (Hos. 3: 5), a word that’s used twenty-two times in Hosea’s prophecy. When Israel repents and returns to the Lord, then the Lord will return to bless Israel (2:7–8). God has returned to His place and left Israel to herself (5:15) until she seeks Him and says, “Come, and let us return to the Lord” (6:1 NKJV).

Sometimes the return we need to make is a simple confession of loss of focus, lack of acknowledgement, thankfulness, or love. Sometimes it’s a full-blown 180-degree change of direction.

That’s the essence of repentance: turning from our way to God’s way (for more on repentance, see here). That happens at salvation, but it also needs to happen throughout our Christian walk. As we learn more of His will and Word, we continually adjust ourselves to them as we walk with Him.

May we return to His gracious love quickly and wholeheartedly.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul,
Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode,
Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday,
Let’s Have Coffee, Instant Encouragement, Grace and Truth,
Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

Laudable Linkage

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These are some noteworthy reads if you have time today:

Look for Life Among the Living. “Don’t seek the living among broken mirrors, unfulfilled longings, and external doings. He is not there. He has risen!”

Never Read a Bible Verse (and Never Listen To a Sermon Clip). “I read the paragraph, not just the verse. I take stock of the relevant material above and below. Since the context frames the verse and gives it specific meaning, I let it tell me what’s going on.”

Allow Parenting to Push You Toward Humility. “We can admit our own shortcomings while also pointing our children to the truth of God’s word. To do one without the other is not true discipleship”

We Are Okay, and We Are Not Okay, HT to the Story Warren. From a family 40 days into quarantine in China. “If I only go where I feel safe, is that trust? If I only follow where I am guaranteed to be okay— health or otherwise— will my faith grow? If I only wander as far as I have placed my own protective boundaries, will I know the ever-sweeter presence of a Savior who would take me to the heights? Or will I be safe, but stunted?”

Your Child May Not Ask Questions, But He Needs Answers Anyway. “Kids are interesting little people. They are always thinking, always assessing, always making decisions in their minds about how things are. I think we forget that about them. We assume that if they aren’t talking about it, they aren’t thinking about it, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

And to end on a smile:

Happy Saturday!

Wanting My Own Way

We’re born wanting our own way.

Babies, of course, don’t know any better than to demand that their universe revolves around their needs. That’s all they know at first.

But even when children make their first conscious, deliberate choices, they demonstrate a “me first” mentality. If they want a toy another child is holding, they grab it. If they don’t want their food, they spit it out or throw the plate on the floor. They scream or cry at any displeasure.

We recognize such responses as immaturity and understand why God gave kids parents. We try to patiently teach them that the universe does not revolve around them, they have to sometimes acquiesce to others, it’s rude to grab things from away from people, they sometimes have to do things they don’t like to do (and can’t do things they would like to do). As they get older, we teach the concept of taking turns, negotiation, and compromise. It’s a sign of growth and maturity when they can take the next steps to give sacrificially: to let someone else play with the toy they want, to give someone else the last cookie, to let someone else choose what movie to watch.

Even as adults, we note and dislike signs of selfishness in others and in ourselves.

Yet we’re still prone to want our own way.

Wanting our own will isn’t always bad. I think God gives us certain innate desires and tendencies that guide our futures. Someone who hates math will probably not be an accountant. Sometimes God nudges us out of our comfort zones, even out of our natural gifting, to cause us to depend on Him more and to show that the results could only have come from Him.

The problem comes when what we want conflicts with what He wants.

For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want (Galatians 5:17, CSB).

Some years ago, I did a study of phrases like “own way,” “own thoughts,” own heart,” etc., in order to find plenty of fuel to remind me that my way is not usually best. I ended up with four pages of types verses. Here are just a few:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts (Proverbs 21:2).

Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices (Proverbs 1:31).

What’s so wrong with wanting our own way? Sometimes nothing. But if our will clashes with God’s, then guess Who is right?

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (I Corinthians 6:19).

For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them (Psalm 44:3).

One of the worst things God can do to us is give us up to our own ways.

Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me! … But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels (Psalm 81:8, 11-12, ESV).

Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices (Proverbs 1:29-31, ESV)

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves (Romans 1:24).

And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul (Psalm 106:15).

When I struggle with wanting my own way, I try to remember these things:

God has a right to call the shots.

He’s the creator. He made me; He made this world. Everything I have, my life, my breath, even my righteousness, is from Him. “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

He is wise. He knows best.

He is kind. He is loving.

If He allows bumps in the road, delays, frustrations, unpleasantness, and even outright pain, He has a purpose. He promised His “grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Therefore, I should:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In
all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8, ESV)

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:13).

Elisabeth Elliot said, “To pray, ‘Thy will be done,’ I must be willing, if the answer requires it, that my will be undone.” That’s not always easy.

But I am heartened that our Lord Jesus, in His human nature, prayed in Gethsemane, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

He taught His disciples, and practiced Himself: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

And what was the result when He yielded to His Fathers will? Besides obeying, pleasing, and glorifying His Father, He accomplished what was needed to save multitudes of people.

It’s one of those seeming paradoxes of Scripture that “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Luke 17:33). Whatever we want to hold onto for ourselves we will eventually lose. What we yield to Christ He will keep for us and give back so much more.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…(1 Corinthians 13:4-5, ESV)

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
while I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
as in thy presence humbly I bow.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Adelaide A. Pollard (1906)

I was blessed by more songs about God’s way here.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging,
Senior Salon, Hearth and Home, Purposeful Faith,
Tell His Story, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement,
Anchored Abode, Recharge Wednesday,
Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday,
Literary Musing Monday, Let’s Have Coffee,
Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth,
Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network.
Links do not imply 100% agreement)