Monthly Archives: December 2013

Finding Joy (God) in Reading

Heaven books

Therefore, I proclaim that the library is the greatest tranquil secular mega-mall in the planet earth.Period.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
-Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!-

When we pray we speak to God;but when we read,God speaks to us.
-St. Jerome-

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How can I know if the desires of my heart are from God?

Wishing

Answer: Jesus answers this question for us: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). And then: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:20-23).

In these passages, Jesus reveals the very springboard of our wants: our fleshly desires come from our innermost being. Sin does not just come about as a result of outside forces. It is borne from those hidden little niches residing in our thoughts and intentions, from the secret desires which only the mind and heart can envision. The bottom line is that, in our fallen state, the desires of our hearts do not come from God. Jeremiah further confirms the nature of man’s heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

It has long been the view of many that all humans are basically good and decent and that it is the circumstances of life such as poverty or poor nurturing that turn us into murderers and thieves. But the Bible teaches that all men suffer from a common frailty—sin. The apostle Paul calls it our sin nature. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:18-20). Our evil hearts lead us to sin.

Furthermore, the heart is so corrupt and deceitful that our motives are unclear even to ourselves. As sinful creatures we devise and create evil things in the arrogance and self-sufficiency of our hearts (Proverbs 16:30; Psalm 35:20; Micah 2:1; Romans 1:30). The truth is that only God can examine our deepest motives and inward desires and only by His power can we ever hope to untangle the uncertainty and depravity that is bound up within our hearts. He alone searches all and knows us intimately (Hebrews 4:11-13).

Fortunately, God does not abandon us in our struggles with hurtful desires and sinful tendencies. Instead, He provides us the grace and strength we need to resist and overcome sin when it crouches at the door of our hearts. The psalmist tells us to: “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:4-6).

Here we see that God can literally plant His own desires into the heart of man, the heart that, without Him, is desperately wicked and deceitful. He replaces the evil with good and sets our hearts on the path toward Him, removing our own desires and replacing them with His. This only happens when we come to Him in repentance and accept the gift of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. At that point, He removes our hearts of stone and replaces them with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). He accomplishes this by the supernatural implanting of His Spirit into our hearts. Then our desires become His desires, our wills seek to do His will, and our rebellion turns to joyous obedience.

What are the biblical principles for solid decision-making?

Discerning

Answer: Solid decision-making begins by discerning the will of God. God delights in revealing His will to those who are eager to follow His precepts (Psalm 33:18; Psalm 35:27; Psalm 147:11). Our attitude towards decision-making should be that of Jesus Himself who affirmed, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42; Matthew 6:10).

God reveals His will to us primarily in two ways. First, through His Spirit: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13; see also 1 John 2:20, 27). And, second, God reveals His will through His Word: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105; see also Psalm 19:7-9; 2 Peter 1:19).

The process of decision-making includes making a judgment about an attitude or action. Decisions are an act of the will, and they are always influenced by the mind, the emotions, or both. The decisions we make actually reflect the desires of our heart (Psalm 119:30). Therefore, a key question before making a decision is “do I choose to please myself, or do I choose to please the Lord?” Joshua set the standard: “If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15; cf. Romans 12:2).

God sees the whole picture—the past, present, and future of our lives. He teaches and counsels us as He reveals Himself to us through His Word and Spirit. God has made this promise to us: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8; cf. Psalm 25:12). There will be times when God’s will may seem undesirable or unpleasant, when our heart follows our own desires instead of trusting God. But we will eventually learn that God’s will is always for our benefit (Psalm 119:67; Hebrews 12:10-11).

Again, the chief key to solid decision-making is knowing God’s will and not following the desires of our own hearts: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12; cf. Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 21:2). As we put our trust in God, rather than ourselves, we soon discover what decisions are pleasing to Him.

First, God blesses those decisions that He initiates and that line up with His Word: “I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness” (Proverbs 4:11; see also Psalm 119:33). Second, God blesses decisions that accomplish His purpose and depend on His strength: “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13; see also Philippians 4:13).

Additionally, God blesses those decisions that result in His glory: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). He blesses decisions that reflect His character, that promote justice, kindness and humility: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8; see also 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Timothy 4:12). And He blesses those decisions that come from faith: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

We must not forget God’s promise to give His children wisdom when they ask: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17). And when we pray for wisdom, we must trust God to answer our prayer: “When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-7). Patience is important, too, as we wait for God’s timing: “After waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised” (Hebrews 6:15).

Decision-making is more difficult when it involves a painful choice. Sometimes, the right course of action will also hurt us in some way. This is where we need grace the most. Are we really willing to suffer for the glory of Christ? “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2).

Making a decision today? Look to God’s Word for direction.Take comfort in the peace which only He can provide (Philippians 4:7). Ask for wisdom,trust His promises,and He will guide your path: “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”(Proverbs 3:5-6; see also Isaiah 58:11;John 8:12).

Is it true that everything happens for a reason?

Surprises

Answer: Does everything happen for a reason? There are several known factors that help us to answer this question: the law of cause and effect, the law of grace, and the doctrine of the providence of God. These factors demonstrate that everything does happen for a reason, not just by happenstance or by random chance.

First, there is the natural law of cause and effect, also known as the law of sowing and reaping. Paul said: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8). This means that in every action we take or word we utter, whether good or evil, there are certain inevitable results that follow (Colossians 3:23-25).

All that we do is geared toward one of two things—an investment in the flesh or an investment in the Spirit. We shall reap whatever we have sown, and we shall reap in proportion to how we have sown. Paul cautioned us: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). The believer who walks in the Spirit and “sows” in the Spirit is going to reap a spiritual harvest. If his sowing has been generous, the harvest will be bountiful, if not in this life, certainly in the life to come. And conversely, those who “sow” to the flesh are going to reap a life without the full beneficent love of God, both in this life and the life to come (Jeremiah 18:10; 2 Peter 2:10-12).

Secondly, Jesus makes it clear that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). In other words, God reveals His undiscriminating love (Romans 2:11) to everyone in allowing the sun to rise and rain to fall on both the evil and the good, the righteous and the unrighteous. Though this passage refers to physical blessings on earth, not spiritual, those blessings are given without respect to merit. If they were, no one would receive them. This is called the law of common grace, meaning that God is indiscriminate in His benevolence. His divine love and providence in some ways benefit everyone, even those who rebel against Him or deny His existence.

The Psalmist tells us: “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:13-16). This is why we sometimes see good things happen to bad people and bad things to good people. Even Asaph addresses this seeming injustice in the 73rd Psalm.

However, the Psalmist continues: “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy” (Psalm 145:18-20). While God is indiscriminate in the common grace He bestows upon all, we must realize that God will curse those who disobey His commands (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). We reap God’s reward for obedience or His curses for disobedience, both now and hereafter.

Then we have what is called the providence of God. The doctrine of providence holds that God quietly works through the law of cause and effect in the natural world to manage events. The miracles of God differ from His providence in that God’s miracles exceed the boundaries of known natural laws, i.e., instantaneous healings, raising of the dead, etc. Such miracles ceased at the end of the apostolic era and are no longer evident today.

Providence, on the other hand, is a term theologians use to express the conviction that God works out His purposes through natural processes in the physical and social universe. Every effect can be traced back to a natural cause. Within this law of cause and effect there is no hint of miracles. The best that man can do to explain the reason why things happen in the course of natural events is to point to “coincidence.”

However, believers proclaim that God not only intervened in, but arranged these “coincidences.” The unbeliever derides such ideas because he believes each event can be traced back to natural causes that “fully explain” what happened without reference to God. Yet followers of Christ are wholly assured of this one profound truth: “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).

The book of Esther vividly illustrates the truth of divine providence by identifying “coincidences” which led to the deliverance of the Jewish people from a plot to exterminate them. Although this is a book about providence, God is not mentioned. Yet the string of coincidences, leading so naturally to the deliverance, is so striking that His work in the story’s outcome is obvious.

We also learn from the book of Esther that God is always at work in the lives of His people. The “coincidences” that define our lives are not simply products of cause and effect or of random chance. The coincidences that mark our lives are ordained by God and are intended for our good. It was only when looking back that Esther and Mordecai could clearly see the hand of God in what had happened to them. We often fail to sense God’s hidden guidance or protection as events in our lives unfold. But when we look back, we are able to see His hand more clearly, even in those times when such events or circumstances appeared as tragedies in our lives.

In looking back and studying those coincidences that changed the course of our lives, we discover that God has been right there all along. As believers, it behooves us to examine those incidents and realize that God was at work in each one; even those which brought us suffering, including what we thought were unanswered prayers. The doctrine of providence tells us that God is at work in the life of His people. Though His activity may be hidden, it is very real. In retrospect, we invariably discover that God is working for us right this very moment, right where we are. But, more importantly, we uncover the glorious confirmation of His unending love (Romans 8:38-39).