All of us have made big decisions that we later realized wasn’t the best choice. Think about one of those specific decisions. Now think, were the determining factors in making that decision? Did you take someone else’s advice? Was it what your friends were doing? Peer pressure? Did you follow your heart? Your feelings? Did you think it would make you happy?
In Acts chapter 1 this Sunday, Peter decided they needed to replace Judas with another man who was qualified to fill that apostolic office. But did you notice his determining factor? He based his decision on the inspired Word of God as he prayerfully considered what God had to say. The Word of God gave Peter clear application for making that decision as a leader.
As believers, when we go to make a decision, the first and natural thing we should do is ask ourselves, “Does God’s Word say anything about this decision I’m about to make?”
Boy, I tell you what, had I considered what God’s Word had to say before making decisions when I was a young man, it would’ve prevented a ton of unnecessary stress and problems in my life. I realized this after I got saved and started reading through the book of Proverbs. It was hidden wisdom finally revealed to me! That book became like a father to me (which is no surprise because it’s written as a father’s instruction to his son).
I’ll tell you about one of my poor decisions. Before I should have, I bought the big, fancy truck of my dreams. I had a solid job at the time, but the decision was based more on the pursuit of happiness than anything else and in the end, I was left as Proverbs says, “the borrower is slave to the lender.” That truck glued me to that job, making me fearful of losing my job. It also prevented me from being able to freely serve the Lord wherever He might eventually call me. I could not really be available to go anywhere for the Lord as long as my taskmaster was the bank. And I was willing to go anywhere!
This world says, “Buy now and pay later!” but Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first His kingdom and righteousness and the rest will be given to you.” Now, with biblical wisdom and hindsight, I see what they mean by “pay for it later” because 1 Timothy 6:6-10 says those who desire riches pierce themselves with many griefs. Living and operating by the wisdom of the Word would relieve so many unnecessary problems and struggles in life and marriages.
Another example: Let’s suppose a single Christian is thinking about dating someone they’re attracted too. In that situation, it is easy to make a decision based on feelings alone. Before the single Christian does anything, they should consider the clear precepts of God’s Word: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” 1 Corinthians 7:39 says to marry only in the Lord. A man named Esau in the OT disregarded this kind of advice by marrying outside the Lord and it made life bitter for his family (Gen. 26:34-35). Remember, decisions affect not only us, but our relationship with God and those around us.
The best thing you can do to start making the solid decisions and operating consistently according to a Christian worldview, is to get to know your Bible. I know that reading the Bible through and getting familiar with your Bible can be a daunting task, but think of it this way – by reading only 3 chapters a day, you can read through the whole Bible in one year! Whenever you start a new job, there’s always new manuals to read and learn. As believers, it’s important that we get to know God’s manual for life. Jesus uses people of the Word, who know it and live it.
When you go to make that next big decision:
In Christ with you,
This last week in my social media timeline, I was reminded of a special memory from one year ago this week when my family and I moved into our new home. As I looked the pictures over, I was struck by how you could tell exactly where the previous owners watered the lawn and where they didn’t (actual picture above). It’s not much different this year. Where we water, it is lush green grass. But where the water stops, it is dead and brown, or weedy.
This reminded me of a sermon I heard about 5 years ago from Berean Fellowship of Churches president Scott Mathis. If I remember correctly, I was in my tractor at the time listening to his message as I prepared the summer fallow for September wheat planting. It was in August, so everything was very dry. In the message, Scott told about his old cowboy friend Keith who was assigned to teach him how to irrigate a pasture on this ranch he worked for in the mountains of Colorado. On the horseback ride to the pasture, Keith told him,
“Son, water don’t lie.”
What he meant by that was that if water didn’t get to a certain section of that pasture, before long it would be obvious. It wouldn’t grow the grass needed for the cattle.
One of the symbols of the Word of God is water. Water is often used in industrious applications today to cut materials. God’s Word cuts right to our hearts (Heb. 4:12). Water cleanses us as well. God’s Word, too, has a cleansing effect on our lives (Eph. 5:26). Water also comforts and refreshes us, as does God and His Word (Rev. 22:17).
If the water of God’s Word isn’t getting into our lives or certain parts of our lives, we shouldn’t be surprised to find dead, brown spots and weeds in place of lush, green grass! With the church’s vision of a tree that has deep roots and is bearing fruit, it’s going to require us to constantly be watered by God’s Word. What are the dead brown spots in your life? What areas of your life reveal that you aren’t getting the water of the Word that you need?
In a research project by The Center for Bible Engagement, a division of Back to the Bible with Arnie Cole, they sought to answer this question: Why do so many people own Bibles but so few read them? Since its inception in 2003 asking that question, they have surveyed more than 400,000 people around the world about their spiritual lives. A key discovery they found is that if someone engages God’s Word 4 or more times a week, their life will look radically different from the life of someone who doesn’t.
Among those Christians who do not engage the Bible most days of the week, their lives are statistically the same as the lives of non-believers. For those in the Bible once or twice a week, it had an insignificant effect on them. If someone was in the Bible 3 times a week, you could start to tell there was a heartbeat – a tiny bit of a difference. But for someone who engaged the Bible 4 or more times a week:
On top of that,
The research is incredible but not surprising if we believe “water doesn’t lie.” God’s Word is powerful and the best counselor. This research proves Isaiah 55:10-11,
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Ask God today to water the brown spots in your life as you consistently begin the discipline of spending quality time in His Word.
“Remember son, water don’t lie.”
In Christ with you,
What do you think of when you think of paradise? Most of us probably think of white sandy beaches, palm trees, crystal-clear blue water, and a slight breeze to go along with it. Another majority might think of mountainous vacation spots like a log cabin with a great view of the mountains. Inside, a crackling fireplace, cozy blanket. Outside, the snow is gently falling down. Both are unquestionably paradisiacal pictures we long for.
Having spent so much time dedicated to the study of Genesis 1-3, I’ve come to realize that as amazing as those pictures are, we have far too small a picture of paradise. I would put forth that paradise is much more than enjoying the physical beauty and comforts of creation. If we were to define paradise according to the garden of Eden before the Fall into sin, then paradise would be more than a place where creation flourishes, though creation flourishing is part of it (Gen. 3:17-18; Rom. 8:20), but many of us miss that paradise was, most importantly, a place where relationships flourished. Creation’s curse is the result of a relational breakdown that has occurred between man and God.
In the original paradise, there was perfect harmony between man and God. God walked with man in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). I understand that to mean that when Adam’s purposeful and rewarding work of tending of the garden was done for the day, God would come regularly to hang out with him much like we enjoy spending time with our families in the evening. Adam walked with God and found purpose in doing His will.
In the original paradise, there was perfect harmony between man and man. Adam and Eve understood they were made for each other. Genesis 2:23 suggest that when Adam saw Eve, whom God has fashioned from his very own flesh and bone, he looked at Eve as though she was perfect: “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh[!]” I always want to add an exclamation point there. They say the original Hebrew suggests it could have “Wow!” tone to it. Genesis 2:24 closes the chapter with Adam and Eve’s marriage. They are described as one flesh, cleaving to each other, and being naked and unashamed. There is no conflict. No shame. Their focus had not turned inward (they hadn’t seen the need for fig leaves yet!). There was an intimate oneness between them as they reflected the image of the Triune God.
In the original paradise, there was perfect harmony between man and himself. Man understood his intrinsic value that wasn’t based on looks, feelings, or performance. Guilt wasn’t a thing, as there was no true, judicial guilt before God. They hadn’t wronged God or each other. There was no fear – no need to run and hide from God or cover themselves up. There was no empty pursuits because man was satisfied with God and His love (1 Jn. 4:18) and who God made him to be.
We all long for this paradise, don’t we? I think if we were honest, much of our attempts to “get away” are the attempts to try and run from our interpersonal conflicts with others at home or at work. Many are also “escaping” by trying to find the satisfaction their soul longs for in the world, rather than in God. God is a last “resort” for them – pun intended. Like Onesimus in Philemon, we run from our Master and run from the consequences that come with broken relationships in our lives. The truth is though, we can be in the middle of nowhere on an island but if we have a broken relationship somewhere 1,000 miles away, we can be an anxious, bitter, and sorrowful mess on the inside. Running doesn’t help the situation and “giving it time” just won’t do the trick.
The good news is that Jesus came to restore us to paradise through the gospel. For those who’ve received Him as their Savior, they have the ultimate hope that He will come again one day and after transforming our bodies into glorious, sin-free bodies like His own. He’ll take us by the hand and lead us to a New Heaven and New Earth where paradise is restored in all aspects.
In the meantime, as we studied in Philemon today, the gospel is still the answer to making life a little more like paradise – a place where interpersonal relationships flourish by the enabling work of the Spirit in us. As we live out the gospel by showing each other the same mercy, grace, kindness, love, and forgiveness that God has shown us, we become like a little pocket of flourishing in the world. Our churches, homes, and relationships become little glimpses of paradise – the paradise that was and is to come.
My heart breaks for those who’ve never genuinely experienced a church where they really lived out the gospel. Many churches are known for biting and devouring one another instead of being known for extraordinary love of their neighbors. Would you join me in the pursuit of giving this longing world a glimpse of paradise by living the gospel?
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