God’s Will

If you are a faithful follower of Jesus Christ then one of your goals should be to find and to do God’s will in your life. So an important question is, how do you find God’s will? This question probably seems pretty obvious, and it is on certain levels.

For example, if you are deciding what to do about a struggling business, your list of possibilities might include murdering your competitors, or stealing their merchandise. By being familiar with the Ten Commandments you can eliminate these two options and therefore you have come closer to finding God’s will by eliminating some possibilities. Other possibilities on the list might be eliminated because they don’t pass the test of basic morality.

In other words the simplest way to seek God’s will is to eliminate those things that are immoral or opposed to Scripture. But then how do you go further; how do you discern the issues about your personal life that are not scripturally grounded or morally based? For example, who to marry, where to live, what job to take in the church and in life—these decisions also need to be under God’s direction.

So in the details of life, how do you find God’s will? I am going to suggest three ways people approach these decisions. These are ranked from the worst to the best, in my opinion. If you disagree, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

  1. Don’t bother seeking God’s will on the ordinary matters of daily life. Instead assume God does not care about these things, and therefore those are the decisions that are up to you.
  2. Put the matter before the Lord in a prayer by giving Him a choice of a sign to speak through. A Biblical example of this is Gideon putting down the fleece. For you it might be anything from what the weather will be like on a certain day to whether a light stays green as you approach it.
  3. Allow God to speak to you in relationship. This means being active in prayer but instead of seeking God’s answer in an external sign, listen for an internal, still, small voice.

I believe the Christian life is a relationship and it’s in that relationship you will find God’s will. The first possibility above is not accurate because it assumes a disinterest on God’s part, or partial lordship. The second can have some application, but is so easily abused I would prefer people shy away from it. It quickly becomes the equivalent of putting God in a box, making Him do what we want instead of vice versa.


Primary Election Day

There are times in the life of a pastor when I get a sudden rush of urgent activity that crowds out all other priorities for a time. This past week was one of those times. Being in a smaller church, I do not preach a lot of funerals. Last week I had two. I mention this as way of explanation for those of you who noticed that several posts I usually make were skipped.  I want to apologize if you were disappointed. I will get back on track as soon as possible. But since I am a working pastor I can almost guarantee it will happen again sooner or later. As long as we are both (both being me the writer and you the reader) willing to accept the realities of an unpredictable life, it will work out alright.

Having said that I want to pretend its yesterday, sort of, and post what might have been yesterday’s post if I had not been otherwise occupied.


Voting in the Primary

Today is Election Day here in Arizona. Today we vote in the primary so that the people of Arizona can choose which candidate they want to represent each party. Now in some other places they hold the primary to determine which candidate each party wants to put forth, but that is not how it works here. What is the difference between these two?

In some places only members of the party get to vote for that parties candidates, but here in Arizona, we allow independent voters to vote in the primary. I personally don’t think this is the best idea.

Since this is the case, there is a lot less incentive to be registered with a particular party. In fact, I think it might be preferable for people to not be affiliated and therefore when it comes time to vote they can either vote for the best qualified candidate within the party they most closely align with, or if they prefer they can vote for the least qualified candidate within the party they oppose.

I am pretty sure the law was not put into place with this idea in mind, but it does open up the possibility. In fact, this year I have seen a number of ads emphasizing independent voters can vote in the primary. After listening to the ad I have in mind, for the millionth time, I began to think they were implying this strategy.

So here is my advice. Get out and vote. But first educate yourself on the candidates and their positions. I also want to suggest you vote for candidates you actually want, and not use the vote as means of weakening the opposing party as described above. I don’t think it should be a legal option, and I don’t think it is a morally correct option.

The Centrality of Missions

One of the Biblical passages which is commonly talked about in missionary minded churches is Matthew 28:18-20, commonly referred to as The Great Commission.

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In this passage Jesus is instructing the disciples, immediately prior to the ascension, to make a concerted effort to reach all nations with the gospel message. Notice also that the instruction is specifically extended to the end of the age, verifying we are to keep at it until He returns. This process of trying to spread the message, church and life practices of Christianity to all the world is commonly called missions.

I have a very high view of missions.

I believe that a church which ceases to work toward missionary actions and purposes has ceased to be a church. Yes, I know that is a very strong statement. Just as we would say a person who does not believe the Bible and will not submit themselves to Jesus is not a Christian, a congregation that is not interested in reaching their neighborhood nor their world, is not a church. Of course there are other things a church needs too, but for this discussion on missions I will confine my evaluation of the church to this one qualification.

In the same, ‘by their fruit you shall know them’ way that we evaluate believers, we can evaluate groups of believers. A group which is not interested in missions is fundamentally defining itself as having different purposes, or at least different priorities, than those assigned the church by its founder.

For my readers, here is what I want you to take away. When your church is meeting, teaching, planning, budgeting, worshipping, and whatever else they happen to do, be a strong advocate for missions. You will do a great deal to protect your congregation by keeping it busy on the task assigned to it by our Savior. As a rule of thumb, it is when a congregation loses this missionary focus that they begin to fail.

God is Big

CoverOn Wednesdays I promote my book, The Storeroom of the Heart. You can get it anywhere books are sold, regular bookstores will special order it, Amazon or Nook can give it to you as an E-book, or you can contact me and arrange for me to mail you a signed copy.  Here is a link to the publisher site if you want to buy it from them.


Here is a short excerpt for you to consider.

If we are willing to be used by God, there is no telling what He might accomplish through us. Perhaps what God would accomplish through us would be the next great accomplishment of humankind – finding a cure for some disease, inventing a life-changing device, unlocking a better source of energy, or awakening revival in our times. Maybe what God would accomplish through us would be the redirecting of public attitudes, which are currently shifting hard and fast toward hating God and everything He stands for. I can only imagine and dream about the great things God might do in us. I can’t help but dream big, because I know God. God is big. God does big things in people who are committed to Him. God knows how to use a person whose heart is undivided.

Truth Seeking in Ferguson

A few points about Ferguson gleaned from the morning news.

This morning I watched video, reported to be from last night, of a crowd marching on a police line chanting ‘Hands up, don’t shoot.’

The governor of Missouri and the feds condemned the release of a video showing the robbery with someone resembling Michael Brown stealing cigars.

The feds are planning to perform a third autopsy on Michael Brown hoping to come up with a result that will satisfy the crowds which have rioted every night in Ferguson.

One point from yesterday’s news.

The arrests made over Saturday night were fewer but also were predominantly non-residents.

The number one question that should be asked at this moment is, what really happened in the Michael Brown shooting? The media and the public have fallen in love with a version of the story that is incomplete. They are in love with thinking that Michael Brown was the innocent victim of police brutality. They are in love with thinking the police cannot be trusted to investigate the event. And the political activity around the event is aimed at appeasing the crowd rather than seeking the truth.

People who want to know the truth, do not seek it through inciting violence and looting. People seeking truth do not rebel when evidence points to a conclusion they didn’t want to hear. People wanting to protest peacefully will organize their protests in the daytime rather than in the night.

Ferguson is a town that has been victimized. Possibly the start of it was when Michael Brown was murdered by police. But it is also possible that Michael Brown was interacting with the police in exactly the manner that justifies the officer defending himself. If this is the case then the bigger problem started with witnesses not understanding what they saw, the media reporting what they have not understood and the public jumping into a situation they did not fully understand.

Truth takes time. Incendiary actions stand in the way of truth.


Dueling Politicians

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in sequence.

The first battlefield was The Battle for the Mind.  Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake HouseDancing with Egopods, Lunch with Aliens and Kilkian Alignment

The second battlefield is The Battle of the Hands, Here are the previous episodes in this battlefield Learning to SeeMaintaining Common SenseMeeting CompagnoUnseating DibolocosThe Journey HomewardAmbush on Platinum 9, Refit, Retrain and Rethink, Saved by Rodent Weed, Convoys and Propaganda,  Changing the Moon, Expanding Horizons, and Running the Blockade.  Today we get Episode 32.


Dueling Politicians

They arrived at the capital city, and the delegates were shuttled to the planet’s surface. They were assigned luxury housing in the downtown area. The compound had been built just for them. It had elaborate security systems and a contingent of troops assigned to protect them. They settled in and planned to meet together the next morning to begin the process of designing what system of government they would choose.

To everyone’s surprise the CDF commanders informed them they would be giving them an orientation for the next couple of days that would acquaint them with the history of the colonies, the past styles of government, the resources and economy of the different planets and the basics of political theory. It made sense when you realized that most of the representatives were completely new to politics. But on the other side of the coin, it also made sense that the military leaders wanted to have as much input into the new government as possible.

Jamison felt a certain amount of suspicion about the arrangement. He saw the distinct possibility that the CDF would ultimately not turn control back to their elected government. But no matter what fears he had, there was no real choice, except to go along with the program.

The first day they were escorted into a meeting room. It was arranged with lots of small desks, all facing a stage. Up on the stage were larger desks for three leaders to sit, between these leaders and the delegates desks, was a podium for whichever delegate had the floor. They were all assigned desks, and for now at least, a CDF officer named Commodore Galvez moderated the delegation.

Jamison was seated on the third row and a little to the right of center. He looked around the room and realized every single desk had a delegate at it. He settled in for the first day of instruction, presented by the CDF. He found it to be a lot more helpful than he had expected. He took extensive notes, on a console provided for the purpose. It was set up with some impressive tools he found genuinely useful.

When it came time to return the second day he was surprised to discover he was looking forward to further education. He noticed one of the desks was empty. He asked several others about the politician who had been there and he either got someone who didn’t know or else someone who seemed to know, but still answered vaguely. He then sent a message to Chambers and asked her if she knew anything about it. She didn’t, but promised to look into it.

By the time the first break came around a message was waiting, explaining what had happened. During the previous evening delegates were gathered informally and discussing what they hoped would be the policy and shape of the new government. Two of them had a heated disagreement about the best direction, and it ended with the two of them stepping out back, with their weapons. A little while later the CDF was quietly disposing of a body and only one delegate returned.

After lunch another delegate was missing. A few questions later and Jamison realized there had been another duel. By the third day they had eight fewer delegates than they started with. Those who were unaligned or aligned with the Dibolocos were fighting for who would be in control. This was a cruel way to sort out a new government. Jamison took note of how little the Dibolocos cared if their minions killed each other off. He also noted that the winner of the duels was gaining greater respect among the representatives. His name was Richards, and Jamison figured he would cross paths with him sooner or later.

That evening he saw Richards looking for his next victim. He challenged one of the unaligned men to a duel. The man refused to step out back for the fight, he said he would settle his battles through debate. Jamison thought he was being wise.

Then Richards smiled broadly and said, “Have it your way, but no one will listen to a coward.”

Jamison thought about that statement. The group was working out a pecking order. With the CDF not allowing them to begin active debate, they were finding other ways to wrestle for control. When Richards walked away from the first victim he started straight towards Jamison.

“How about you, sniper, or are you chicken too?”

“Gunplay won’t determine who’s right, only who is left.” Jamison responded.

Richards cackled out a laugh. “How do they expect us to rule the colonies with a bunch of cowards? We’ll see you in the slaughterhouse yet, boy.” And with that he walked away.

The other man Richards had challenged was visibly shaken, so Jamison walked back with him to his suite. But along the way they found themselves surrounded by hostile delegates who pushed and prodded the two of them out to the back alley where the duels were taking place. Jamison immediately felt the danger of people trying to kill him. He felt the presence of a Dibolocos nearby. Colopher spoke to his mind telling him to focus on the men and Kilkians would remove the Dibolocos. A moment later he no longer felt the Dibolocos presence.

Richards stepped out to the middle of the alley on the far end, and asked which of the two victims would go first. Jamison knew the other man stood no chance, so he stepped up. As he surveyed the situation he sensed there was a shooter on the roof too. The second shooter nearly guaranteed Richards the win.

“So how do you go about this?” Jamison asked.

Richards laughed, “We will use a timer, one of the spectators will set it for 1 minute, and when it beeps we both draw our weapons and shoot. Should be easy for a big shot sniper like you.”

“Okay. Mind if I take a practice shot first, to range in my weapon?”

“Knock yourself out. It won’t help.”

Jamison drew his weapon, set it on small explosion and blew a hole in the wall just below where the man was hiding on the roof, the blast killed the man who was thrown up into the air. When the body landed the eaves of the building were shattered, allowing the body to fall into the street beside Richards.

Jamison watched as Richards began trembling and sweating. Jamison asked, “Maybe you changed your mind about dueling?”

Jamison thought for a minute he was going to back down, but after a second he called out. “Start the timer.”

The men on the side did as he asked and after a long minute the timer beeped. Jamison ignored it and watched for Richards to reach for his gun. But he didn’t. The men on the side started yelling at Richards. They called him names and commanded him to finish what he had started.

Then he tried. Jamison shot him before his gun was clear of the holster. He had forgotten to reset it to the appropriate setting. So the man was blown to bits with most of the audience being splattered by the bloodsport they had been encouraging.

Jamison spoke to the group. “Are you satisfied now? Or does anyone else want to try their luck?”

The men found their way to their suites. Jamison walked his friend back to his suite, before returning to his own and vomiting.

Sacrificial Giving

What do you believe about giving and worship? For the past few weeks, I have been talking about different perspectives on worship. No discussion of worship is complete without also approaching the topic of tithes and offerings.

In 2 Samuel 24 King David followed God’s command to set up an alter on the property of a man named Araunah. When he arrived the man offered to give David everything necessary for the act of worship, in response to this offer David said “I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

This statement helps to illustrate that worship should include some personal cost. In Old Testament worship that would likely include sacrificing some of the best of the worshipper’s produce and flocks. In our world the sacrifice of worship is most often in the form of our tithes and offerings. Many people have a hard time with the concept of tithing because they find it easy to associate the idea with funding the church, rather than as an act of worshipping God. It is true that the given money will be used in this manner, but this doesn’t detract from its worshipfulness.

As I have discussed worship over the past few weeks, I have defined worship as the expression of our relationship with God. The primary component of this relationship is our trust in God, this trust is more commonly called faith. Sacrifice expresses trust because we are giving up what we would trust in, instead of God. In the Old Testament they were tempted to trust in their own abilities to raise herds and grow crops. In the church age we are tempted to trust in our own ability to make a paycheck.

In both cases it is noteworthy how the guidelines on what we give is just enough that we cannot follow through unless we trust His provision. A lot of people don’t tithe, dismissing the idea with the statement, I can’t afford to. What they are saying is they don’t believe they can meet their financial obligations without that money. It is clear evidence they are not trusting God’s provision but instead are looking only to themselves to meet their financial needs. But the person who does tithe often says they cannot afford to stop tithing. This person will look at it that God’s provision is empowered by their giving. It is often phrased this way, God stretches the 90% so that it covers more of the bills than the 100% did.

When the worshipper experiences God’s provision, the relationship is strengthened. Every act of obedience strengthens this relationship, and every act of obedience is worshipful in this sense. Tithing is an important ingredient in the individual’s obedience to God, their spiritual growth and their worship.

Clinton, Obama, and Political Mantras

Hillary Clinton did an interview for The Atlantic magazine in which the former secretary of state criticized President Obama’s foreign policy. She reduced his foreign policy down to a mantras, specifically the phrase “don’t do stupid stuff”. Although, we are told that in the Obama version the word stuff was actually a cruder word.

Politics is often a harsh arena, where loyalties are for convenience only and truth is spun in whatever direction the speaker wants to exert influence. It’s a bummer for President Obama that someone so close to his administration is already turning against him. Chances are her statements are a simplification to accentuate the president’s weaknesses. She is likely taking this action in order to make it appear she was hindered by the president during her role as our top diplomat, and therefore cannot be held accountable for the problems that occurred during her tenure.

I would like to make a couple of observations here.

First, reducing Obama’s foreign policy to a mantra is likely unfair, but it probably has a degree of truth to it. If you think of the coverage of almost every policy change  we have seen come from the Obama administration we only hear the overarching principle. In regards to the economy, ‘some agencies are too big to fail.’ But he wasn’t the least bit wary of how this would contradict free market principles. In regards to health care, ‘America is great enough to provide every person with coverage.’ But when it comes to working out the implications he is seemingly caught off guard as each new problem comes to light. In regards to immigration, ‘children brought here by their parents are not at fault.’ But again he didn’t  foresee or deal with the problems these policies generated.

Second, if Clinton was aware Obama’s administration was headed in the wrong direction, and if she was not allowed input or action to improve the situation, then she should have resigned. If she remained in such a position she must have believed she was doing some good, either for the world or for her own career.

Running the Blockade

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in sequence.

The first battlefield was The Battle for the Mind.  Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake HouseDancing with Egopods, Lunch with Aliens and Kilkian Alignment

The second battlefield is The Battle of the Hands, Here are the previous episodes in this battlefield Learning to SeeMaintaining Common SenseMeeting CompagnoUnseating DibolocosThe Journey HomewardAmbush on Platinum 9, Refit, Retrain and Rethink, Saved by Rodent Weed, Convoys and Propaganda,  Changing the Moon, and Expanding Horizons.  Today we get Episode 32.

Running the Blockade

As they began the return trip it was instituted that evening meals would be diplomatic gatherings. Chambers hoped they would begin to form a cohesive group by being together, but the meals sometimes had the opposite effect. Each night 5 of the representatives were allowed to take 10 minutes to introduce themselves, and to briefly discuss what they felt should be the priorities and course of action for the new government.

The speeches were sometimes elegant and moving, well thought out, and articulately given. Other times though they were tirades against common morality, public welfare, and common sense. Jamison worried about how they would ever find common ground. Chambers and he decided that Jamison would wait and be among the last to give his speech. They hoped that by being among the last, and perhaps working off his name recognition, he would be placed in charge of the group.

When they were about two weeks out, there was a night when the speeches had been particularly bad. The politicians had been advocating the legalization of all kinds of unsafe and cruel behavior, everything from the marketing of highly addictive intoxicants to slavery was lifted up as essential to the survival of the colonies.

The last speaker went even further by stating that alignment with the Kilkians must be made illegal at all costs. Both Chambers and Jamison, of course, already knew this man was aligned with the Dibolocos. But unlike all the other speakers of the past couple of weeks, this man said he planned to cleanse the delegates of the Kilkian menace. He announced they would soon meet a blockade, and they would either, allow the Dibolocos to board and kill all those sympathetic to the Kilkians, or they would all be destroyed.

Chambers quietly slipped to a communication panel, she ordered the convoy stopped and had discreet probes sent ahead which confirmed the presence of the blockade. Given this information she arrested the man for treason and assigned him a cell in the brig. To her surprise several co-conspirators immediately confessed and asked to also be put in the brig. She quickly realized they expected to be safer down there once the impending conflict started.

The other candidates had wanted to return to their quarters, but Chambers directed them to stay together in the formal dining hall. They would be less vulnerable in the event they were boarded by hostiles. Jamison remembered well the attack on board the SS Grover Cleveland, and he hoped they could avoid a similar attack here.

Chambers returned to the bridge after assigning a sizable contingent of armed soldiers to the dining hall. She spent the next few hours sending additional probes trying to find a spot where she could get through the blockade with a minimal amount of conflict. She didn’t see any spot where the blockade was truly weak. In fact, she was startled by the amount of strength she saw in the group of ships. There were hundreds of vessels, including a number of them which had previously been CDF vessels.

Because of the large number of ships, going around the group was not a good option. They had enough ships to shift the ones on the lee side to whichever side they were attempting to use to go around. Facing this reality gave Chambers the plan she ultimately settled on. She sent her convoy up to the point where they might slip over the wall of opponents. She instructed they use the disturbance created by a quasar to mask their approach for as long as possible. But they would be detected before getting through. She even communicated these plans to the candidates. She knew it was likely that some of them were still in contact with these enemies.

When the convoy began moving out from the interference of the quasar the enemy ships shifted as expected to seal them in. As they approached the blockade the number of ships in front of them increased dramatically. But also ships further below thinned out and Chambers slipped through this now barely defended area. She had the delegates and was making haste toward the capital. Prior to engaging the superior force, the rest of her battle group turned and beat a hasty retreat, causing the combatants to give chase.

Just as Chambers began to think the ruse had been a total success, she felt the presence of Dibolocos boarding her ship. Three of them, near the dining hall. From Jamison’s perspective, with the candidates, he felt the presence of the Dibolocos just outside the door, he called the alarm and pointed just as the doors exploded inward. The three aliens marched in swinging their axes at everything and everybody. The small group of Dibolocos had a few humans with them, which were quickly taken down by the defending soldiers. After this, many of the CDF guards scattered, but a few tried to stand their ground and fire on the aliens.

Their attempts were totally futile, since humans cannot harm Dibolocos. Those brave enough to stand and fight were the first casualties in the skirmish. Jamison, moved safely away and tried yelling commands to everyone as to how to avoid the enemy, but in the pandemonium no one was listening.

Half a dozen Kilkians materialized and joined the battle on behalf of the humans. The Dibolocos were able to kill several more people including two candidates, but the Kilkians were able to subdue them before any other damage was done. As these battles must end, the Kilkians allowed the Dibolocos to reform and then transport off the ship.

The two dead candidates had both been unaligned. In addition to these two, eight soldiers were dead and eleven humans who had boarded with the enemy. But to everyone’s surprise, it was also found that the group down in the brig was also dead. No one saw how it happened. There was no electronic record of the event despite the fact the brig was under constant recorded surveillance.

They continued toward the capital. Chambers crew recorded interviews with everyone present during the attack, in keeping with her mission. Jamison and her were amazed how many of the candidates were blaming the attack on the Kilkians. They assumed the candidates in the brig had been killed by the Kilkians as retribution for their cooperation with the Dibolocos. Furthermore, the CDF Central Command was ordering her to report the event as an attack by pirates rather than by the Dibolocos.

Preaching and Worship

Over the last couple of weeks I have spoken about worship. I plan to continue this week, but by thinking about the role of preaching in congregant worship. Remember for our purposes I have defined worship is the expression of our relationship with God.

If you have read my two previous posts, you know I am cautious about calling the music in the service, worship. This caution is partially motivated by the fear of people calling sermons discipleship as opposed to worship. I fear this transition because it empowers the minimalist commitment of today’s Christianity. In other words by thinking this way the believer thinks they get both worship and teaching in the service and therefore don’t need to attend a Bible study.

The other side of this issue is that teaching sermons is only one type of preaching. I almost hate to bring it up, because I am as much a product of the age as everyone else. What I mean by this is, my own preaching is almost entirely instructional. Yet, if you look at sermons through history, those messages that history recorded were largely exhortational rather than instructional. If you look at the practice in Scripture, confrontational preaching is the most common. By this term, I mean a sermon which confronts the failings of the people and calls them to repentance or commitment.

These forms of preaching are largely missing in today’s churches. But find the church which still holds the occasional revival, find the pulpit willing to bring in an evangelist, and you will hear a sermon of a whole different type. And chances are good, the church will not be practicing minimalists Christianity.