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Archive for the ‘Decision Making’ Category

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Daniel 1:8 (after sharing a bit about my teaching trip to Vietnam). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Daniel’s resolve came from a heart changed by God, a knowledge and submission to God’s Word, a deep love for God, an understanding of his situation, and a strong trust in God for the results.

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Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was about to be involved in a war. The Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites were gathered together and ready to attack Judah. When he became aware of the situation, he didn’t panic – he prayed. Like the man of God he was, he sought the Lord. He ended his cry to the Lord by saying, “O our God, will you not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You” (2 Chronicles 20:12, emphasis added).

“Lord, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You” was the appropriate thing for the king to pray that day. Humanly speaking, they were outnumbered by their enemies and defeat seemed like a certainty. They didn’t know which way to turn or what to do, but they knew the true and living God who had made a covenant with them. They were also convinced that the Lord God was bigger and stronger than any foreign army or coalition of armies.

This is a prayer and an attitude we should imitate. When we “get to the end of our rope,” and we don’t know what to do, we can keep our eyes on God. When a problem seems insurmountable, we can keep our eyes on God even if we don’t know what to do. When we need wisdom and guidance, we can pray, “Lord, I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on You.”

The prayer of Jehoshaphat may not be as well-known as another prayer of an Old Testament man whose name begins with “J,” but it’s just as important, if not more.

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To be tempted is not to sin. Bill Mounce has done an excellent job of explaining the matter in this post. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is, read this article – please!

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Kevin DeYoung, in his book Just Do Something, says that the way to discern the will of God, which he calls “the way of wisdom,” is to search the Scriptures, get the advice and counsel of godly people, and pray.

A good question, however, is what he means by prayer. Should we simply ask God to “whisper the answer in our ear?” What should we pray for and about? When a point like this is made (“pray about it”), the obvious question on our part should be, “What do you mean by that?”

DeYoung has given us answers to these questions. I’ll let him speak for himself.

But what do we pray if we aren’t asking God to tell us exactly what to do? Well, we pray for illumination. We ask God to open our minds so we can understand the Scriptures and apply them to our lives…Second, we pray for wisdom…Third, pray for things you already know are God’s will. Pray for an attitude of trust and faith and obedience. Pray for humility and teachability. (p. 96)

In the next chapter, DeYoung applies the way of wisdom to two specific situations: vocation and marriage.

In relation to vocation:

Let me give you an example that may give you some ideas of what to pray for when considering a job change. I mentioned earlier the decision I faced as to whether to come to University Reformed Church or to stay at the church in Iowa where I was quite content. I prayed a lot about the decision. But I didn’t ask God to tell me what to do. So what did I pray for? I prayed that God would make me honest in my interviews. I prayed that I would see a true picture of this church and that they would see a true picture of me. I prayed that mostly my heart would be right, that I wouldn’t be motivated by pride – either to stay because it was a big church or to move because I could be the senior pastor. I prayed that I wouldn’t make a decision based on fear: “What if I fail as a senior pastor?” “What if everyone in Iowa gets mad at me for going?” Or pleasing people: “I don’t want to let down the search committee that’s been working hard for this at this for so long.”…I prayed that I would make a decision based on faith, hope, and love – and not the praise of man and greed and selfish ambition. In other words, I prayed that I would be following God’s will of desire rather than praying to figure out His will of direction. (pp. 101-102)

In relation to marriage;

Ask God for pure motives. You don’t want to get married for lust or money or for fear of being single. You certainly don’t want to get married to spite an ex-girlfriend of show an ex-boyfriend that you are desirable after all. Ask God that He would help you to be honest about who you are and that you might know the other person for who she really is. Ask God for help not to make a decision based on your hormones, and that you won’t refuse to make a decision out of cowardice.

Finally, pray less that God would show you who is the right husband or wife and pray more to be the right kind of husband or wife. (Emphasis in the original) (p. 106)

Prayer is an essential element of discerning the will of God to be sure, but we’re not asking God to give us the answer. We are asking that He would make us more like Christ and build our character in the process of making a wise decision that will glorify Him.

Good question. Good answers.

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Just Do Something, by Kevin DeYoung has become my “go-to” book when the issue is God’s will.

The subtitle just about says it all: “A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will – or – How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.” That’s one of the longest subtitles I’ve seen in a while, but it summarizes DeYoung’s purpose – making sense of the will of God.

DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, presents a better way – the way of wisdom – than the conventional approach which seems to be the majority (and default) opinion in today’s church. If we would have wisdom and live the way God wants us to live, we must do three things: study God’s Word (drink deeply of it); get the advice and counsel of godly people; and pray continually.

DeYoung applies these principles to work (the question of “what job should I take?”) and marriage (the question of “whom should I marry?”) in an excellent chapter which was most likely directed to some of those he regularly ministers to in a university town. Pastors can attest that these two questions make up the majority of discussion regarding God’s will, especially with younger people.

I heartily recommend this book. It’s well-written, clear, and most importantly, consistent with Scripture. It also meets my criteria of a good book these days – it’s under 200 pages (128 including notes).

Tolle Lege!

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How do you decide what is right and wrong? Are your decisions based upon what you hear or upon what you see?

It’s my contention that we must use our ears and not our eyes to determine right from wrong.

In Genesis 2:15-17, God gave Adam and Eve specific directions regarding what He expected of them. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat from it you shall surely die.'”

Sometime later, Eve encountered the crafty serpent who tempts her to disobey God. Satan, the serpent, begins his assault by planting seeds of doubt – in God’s Word and God’s character.

Adam (who was with his wife, as we learn in Genesis 3:6) and Eve, in that moment, had a monumental choice to make. Would they use their ears to remember what God commanded them – and obey, or would they use their eyes, and make a decision based upon what looked good to them – and disobey?

The tragic decision of our first parents is recorded in Genesis 3:6 which says, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (emphasis added).

This judgment, which plunged the entire human race into sin, was made in large part because Adam and Eve gave more weight to what looked good, rather than what God had told them. Notice that two of the three rationalizations given in Genesis 3:6 involved sight. In other words, the eyes trumped the ears in this case.

This principle can be found throughout all of Scripture. The ten Israelites who spied out the land of Canaan and came back with a negative report (Num. 13) based their decision on what they saw rather than what they heard. So did Peter in his attempt to walk on water (Matt. 14:22-33), and Thomas when he refused to believe that Christ had indeed been raised from the dead (John 20:24-31). On the positive side, Daniel decided to obey what he had heard God say which led to his visit to the lion’s den (Dan. 6). So did the two Israelite spies – Joshua and Caleb – who presented a positive report (Num. 13), as did all the other saints mentioned in the “hall of faith” (Heb. 11).

The most important example of this principle is our Lord Jesus Christ as He resisted the temptations of Satan, the serpent, and endured the cross for the salvation of His people (Luke 4:1-13; Matt. 26:36-46). Whereas Adam, acting as our representative in His life, death, and resurrection, perfectly obeyed His Father. The decisions Jesus made were not based on sight, but upon what He heard His Father say.

So, we need to use our ears and not our eyes to determine right from wrong. When we make decisions, we cannot make them based entirely upon the way things look. The first thing we have to consider is what our ears have heard – what God has said (primarily through His Word). That doesn’t mean, of course, that we should never consider the way things look, but it can’t be our primary reason for doing something.

May we seek to glorify God by making decisions that are anchored in the Word of God (which we’ve heard) rather than the way things look, and that the Holy Spirit would enable us to carry it out.

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