ON DECISION MAKING.

The older I get, and the better I start to know God, the more I believe He doesn’t really care about a lot of things.

Before you call me a heretic, calm down. I’m not saying God doesn’t care. I’m saying we care too much about the inconsequential. We find ourselves worrying about decisions throughout every step of life, praying, and hoping, that at no point we step off track of the decisions God wants us to make, believing He only has one direction for us to go at every opportunity we come across to decide.

We do this all in good ambition, but our good ambition, in reality, does nothing except shrink the greatness of our God.

At 26 years old, I’m old enough to know that I’m not brilliant. I know I have much more to learn about myself, God, and the world. I know many of the things I believe right now will probably change by the time I’m 30, and I know there are still a lot of things I want to do in this life. Many of these things, I’ll find success in, and in just as many, I’ll fail. Yet as it has been throughout my life, I believe each decision I’ve made in my life up to this point – each success and failure alike – has led me to where I am today, and I believe God has used each decision to bring me to the perfect place of capability for Him.

But I also know I could’ve made different decisions. I know I could’ve worked harder at certain things. I know I could’ve been a better person. I could’ve ended up in a different town, with a different career, and spent a much longer time running from the grace God offers than I did. I know I could’ve kept living my life in fear of what I could achieve, and in comfort of not achieving my true desires. And I know, no matter what other path I may have chosen, I would still be in the midst of God’s use.

Yet I didn’t always feel this way. I used to worry about every decision I made, hoping it was the one God wanted me to make, worried that if I made one wrong decision, I’d end up in a place I couldn’t be used. Worried that with one decision, my relationship with Christ might be destroyed, and I’d be left scrounging for whatever insignificant task He had left to trust me with; worried there was never more than one door open at a time, and I had to make sure I chose the right one or face a life of mediocrity and meaninglessness. I was a kid, praying the prayer of worry, asking God to tell me His purpose for my life, and believing that purpose was extremely specific.

Now I realize this prayer, while full of good intentions and a great attitude, is completely short changing not only our own potential, but God’s potential as well.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying quit praying for God’s purpose to be done in your life. I’m just saying God’s purpose isn’t based around which college or major you choose. I’m just saying God is much more flexible than you might think, so when you pray about a decision, don’t expect him to close every door but one.  Don’t expect Him to make decisions for you. Instead, be ready to make decisions with the confidence that as long as you are pursuing Him, He can use any decision you do make.  Our God is creative enough to do many things in our lives with many different decisions we might make, and through His creativity, I believe He lets much of our life happen in process. He lets many of our decisions happen based on whether or not we want to make them. I honestly don’t think He’s sitting up in heaven, looking down on our lives as if it’s a reality TV show, saying to himself, “No! Not that college! He was supposed to go to a Christian college and major in youth ministry! The rest of his life is ruined!”

Yet this is exactly how we pray. Sounds completely ridiculous, but it’s exactly how I went through that part of my life, and it’s exactly how people around me are going through theirs. We’re so intent on living our lives as if it’s a sitcom – as if every moment has already been written, and every applause has already been suggested to the audience around us, when life is more like improv comedy. There’s no practice. It’s unwritten. We’re simply given a topic, we decide how we want to approach it, and the rest is free form. One line won’t end the show, it will just define the approach taken in response. I think it’s time for us to take comfort in the fact that the response just happens to be coming from the One who created us, and time for us to trust the fact that He will deliver the best response possible.

Maybe I just happen to see God as unendingly creative and imaginative. Maybe I’m just not a big fan of pre-destination thinking because it seems to me like it limits God’s inordinate amount of creativity exhibited in our lives moment by moment to a map, written before our existence. I can see God drawing up a map for our lives, but I see him taking His time. I see him drawing it up one step at a time, knowing He can use each step – whether Godly or sinful – in giving us a story to bring Him ultimate glory and us ultimate joy. You might say I just don’t completely understand pre-destination, and you’d be right, but I honestly don’t believe it’s that important of an issue, because I know I could’ve made thousands of different decisions in my life, and God would still have me in His hand, leading me towards a life bringing Him glory.

There’s a story in the bible of a man who was eaten by a whale. You’ve probably heard of it. The man’s name is Jonah, and God told him to go to a city full of the most sinful people of the age (which would probably be the most sinful people of our age as well), but Jonah didn’t go because He was afraid of that city and it’s people. So instead, he, completely literally, ran the other direction. He got on a boat sailing into the sea, away from the inland “city of sin.” But God’s will was done. He sent a storm, the crew on the boat kicked him off and threw him into the sea, the storm died down, Jonah was eaten by a whale and taken closer to Ninevah, and eventually he went, told them God was going to destroy them if they didn’t repent and turn towards Him, and they all repented, while Jonah pouted outside the city walls because he wanted God to destroy them.

I know you’re probably reading this, thinking, “doesn’t this story mean we have to make the right decision immediately or we’ll get eaten by a whale?” No. It doesn’t. It means we should consult God in our decision making, and sometimes He’ll give us clear direction. When that happens, trust Him and go. But when it doesn’t, trust Him and go just the same, with the confidence that any door left open is a door leading towards His purpose for you.

Here is The Simple Guide to Christian decision making:

Pray, Read, Ask, Trust, and Go.

Pray about your decision, and lean on the bible to give you guidance. Ask Him (and wise people around you) which decision to make, trust God’s creativity, power, and in some cases redemption in that decision, and step forward.

The biggest step in making a decision in life is to quit making it the only one.

Jerimiah 1:5

-a pitiful masterpiece

I’m not sure we’ve realized . . .

Simply love.

This is the Gospel defined.

The older I get – the more interaction I have with God – the more I recognize the faults of humanity-defined Christianity, and the more I am taught Christianity is a simple definition. The more I recognize the attempts the church makes to earn it because of the denial to just simply receive. We even do it with good intentions, saying things like, “faith is shown by deeds,” yet changing the definition of Paul’s words to mean “If you don’t do good deeds, you must not have faith.” We believe in God’s grace, we sing about it in songs, and we even thank God for it when we do something stupid. But our minds are programmed differently.

Time for a reprogramming.

It’s not in our nature to just simply accept. We’re not taught to be given something without giving something in return. Human relationships are often defined by give and take. We’re given to, we give back. We feel loved, we show love. Christianity isn’t like this – at least not consciously.

Christ asks for nothing in return. Nothing we can possibly do can be done to earn what He did. And He knows that. He knows that the more we try to do good deeds, the more we look at ourselves and rate ourselves based on those good deeds. He knows the more we try to not to bad deeds, the more we think about bad deeds, and the more likely we are to do them.

The truth is, there is no checklist in gaining acceptance or overcoming temptation. Because checklists say the wrong thing at the top: “Here’s how you do it.” Nothing in Christianity can be accomplished with the right motives if we write out a list of how “you” can do it. Because the word “you” is not the word “him.”

This is where love comes in.

The more focused on God I become in life, the less I consciously try to have an impact for Him, and the more impact I have, because the more I fall in love with Him. Look at all the greatest evangelists you know. How many of them have testimonies full of failure sin and destruction, only to reach a point where they realize God forgives? I find myself jealous of “born again” Christians sometimes, because they’ve been through the worst of the worst, and fall deeply in love with God when they truly realize that He forgives and the past has been erased by His blood. They never have a moment where they can take Christ’s actions for granted. They never have a moment where they’re doing it for approval.

They never have a moment where they worry about being a “good Christian,” because they realize there’s no such thing. There’s only a good God. And there’s only one response to His goodness – unbridled, passionate love. They’ve recognized that they’re story has a joyful ending, and they don’t understand how they can’t share that ending with people whose story might be in conflict.

If you’ve experienced the source of Joy, why haven’t you told anyone yet?

I’m not sure many Christians have truly experienced The Source. I’m not sure many Christians have moved past the stage of “good Christianity” in order to recognize the good God behind the to do lists. I’m not sure many Christians have changed the heading on their checklists from “how you can do it” to “because He did it.” I’m not sure many Christians are doing it because they love Him, and want to get to know the One they love. I’m not sure many Christians have realized the dysfunction found in a relationship centered around giving to the Lover rather than loving the Giver.

When our purpose is to love the Giver, it makes it a lot easier to truly love everyone He gives to. Because along with giving life, He also gives His heart in exchange for ours – and His heart is one of love. And when He overtakes our old hearts with His, we become givers as well.

All because He gave, and we simply accepted.

THE ‘MAGIC’ PRAYER (and why it often doesn’t work)

“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”   – John 14:13-14

This a verse that, when we look, we immediately think of the things we’ve asked for and haven’t received, and almost feel cheated by this verse and what it says.

But that is only because we aren’t really hearing what it says!

“Ask and you’ll receive.” This is what we hear when we read this verse. What it actually says, however, is “ask for anything that brings glory to God, and you will receive.”

This verse is a promise to us, but it is a promise given by a God who is much more wise than us! We can ask for anything, and we might believe it is for God’s glory, but only He truly knows. Only He truly knows the end result, and the true motives of our hearts in everything we ask.

Remember this next time you ask and don’t receive, and praise God for knowing your true needs and desires! Praise Him for His wisdom, and your foolishness in the midst of Him! Don’t hold a grudge against God for not giing what you’ve asked; for holding a grudge against God is simply pride and selfishness. It is you telling God you know better than Him, and that is never the case!

“We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.

People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.”  -Proverbs 16:1-3

It isn’t until we are one with God that we can truly ask for anything in His name, and when we are at that point, the things we ask will be of Him, and undoubtedly bring glory to Him because of His presence in every essence of our lives. “Ask in my name” isn’t a magic trick to get what we want, but simply an example of what can be done when we live completely in the Holy Spirit rather than under our own ambition. Ask in the Holy Spirit, in unity with God, and you will receive. And if you ask out of the Holy Spirit’s prompting, that which you receive will undoubtedly bring God glory!

CLINGING TO LIFE (Pull the plug)

“I have been crucified with Christ.” – Galatians 2:20

“Since we have been united with Him in His death, we will also be raised to life as He was.” – Romans 6:5

Possibly the largest lesson of the New Testament is the need we all have to die to ourselves. Have you reached that point? I haven’t. I know that my own selfishness has yet to be completely killed. I know I still find myself ignoring God at times in order to indulge in my own desires, and those desires definitely aren’t glorifying to God.

I know also that I’m on life support. I know I’m close. I’m in a coma to this life, largely unaware of myself and focused on God, but my nature makes it extremely hard to just pull the plug. I know that once that plug is pulled, I no longer have control, and the only life I’ve ever really known is gone. Once that plug is pulled, I have no say over myself or my life, and am an eternal servant of God’s . I know that God is good, and His way is better than my own, but I also know that I have control when it’s my life, and His life for me is completely unknown.

We, as a broken humanity, thirst for control, which is why the Gospel is so hard for us to fully accept. The Gospel requires us to forfeit all of our control. “If we lose our lives, we will save them.” The Gospel requires us to be totally dependent on Him, and that is counter to our nature.

Some people will tell me they have completely given up control, and 90% of those people are liars. They are liars with good intentions, but liars just the same. Killing 100% of ourselves is the hardest thing for us to do, because there is always something to grasp at on the way to the grave, even when the grave is really just the place new life begins.

Do you see your death as your birth? Are you ready to die to your own will? I don’t know if any of us can be until we realize  where we are now is not life, and we realize how cheated we have been while living under our own power. I am ready to quit cheating myself – are you? Pull the plug and let’s start life.

-A man on life support.

THE LAST TWO DAYS: BEYOND THE HUMAN PLAN

As I start to write this journal, I realize that the focus is completely off my situation – it’s just a small record of God’s overarching plan – and it’s amazing.

As I sit in the lecture I watch Patrick speaking to a lecturer. The girl sitting next to me leans over and tells me how Patrick is so strange. I stare at her, unfazed as she tries to justify that comment. I disagree whenever she stops, and smile at her as I say Patrick’s a good guy. No one has any right to belittle another under God’s love. Patrick, there is no compromise to love – it knows no conditions. Love is our highest calling.

At lunch Patrick sits with us and seems to think deeply and suggests tiredness could be an internal problem. I’m glad he sees through the face to the deep.

Though that is all that happened today, I know what was spoken that day touched hearts and the rest of the day God calls me as a witness to His overarching plan for the world and this city.

I am a witness to the work God does in Jonathan that day. Last night we prayed for a lost sheep to be drawn back into the Father’s arms. Low and behold, he meets with Jonathan which we all see as no mistake.

As I get home I am immensely weary and I go to lie down.

I wake to my mum telling me I have a missed call from Jonathan. I call him up and listen to the excitement and life in his voice as he tells me how he wandered around Adelaide city praying for God to use him. He came across an Aboriginal couple – one in a wheelchair that beckoned him over. Within 10 minutes he had prayed for healing upon this man, god the ward number of the hospital he stays at and got asked to take him to a church.

We’re going to visit him tomorrow Patrick, and the saints are breaking into this man’s life and loving as their own. Somehow, someway, in the beautiful symphony of life God has drawn me into the story of Bradley and Michelle’s life and I obey the calling.

The plans of God are truly majestic and perfect. As you read this journal, know that it is only part of a beautiful and glorious story – one that intertwines and crosses borders to present the fullness of glory to God.

The LORD is raising up a brotherhood in Adelaide, restoring the title of ‘brother’ to its original position. We are raising an army capable of destroying strongholds doing everything out of love, dying to self and living for Christ.

The city of Adelaide will be helpless as the Kingdom of Heaven forcefully advances while forceful men take hold of it. We will set this town on fire with the glory of God. We restore the title of this city, ‘The city of churches,’ to its rightful place.

Praise to God for he will be pleased to do so!

DAY 12

DAY 12

While waiting for the Aboriginal couple at the hospital, I get a call from Patrick. He doesn’t want to come out tomorrow. This is alarming, as my plan was to share all with Patrick tomorrow. I call him up with urgency, wanting to talk.

As I arrive, I begin to share all that’s been happening the last 12 days. He agrees with parts of it, yet other parts just do not relate at all. As we talk more and more, I seem to be caught up in my original epic plans, and he stares at me unfazed as I soon realize that Gods plan these last 12 days have been far more epic than I ever imagined.

Some of the things I wrote down these past 12 days may have been bold, out of context, rash at times, but in all I did I wrote my mind, and spoke my mind for that matter.

What I realize now is this journal is a testimony of God’s work. It never had any focus on me, Patrick, or anyone. It was always going to end up about God. Let’s recap what occurred in 12 days of my life.

I originally think I was meant to ‘show the love of Christ’ to an unknown man. I take it as showing the gospel. Turns out, this man is a pretty serious catholic who prays often and reads God’s word.

What actually occurred is a different story:

–          My heart is moved to love a man unconditionally as Christ would

–          My brothers and sisters are moved with me in prayer

–          I am taught an invaluable lesson in obedience, realizing that I must adjust to God’s plan, realizing His plan never fails, but mine does.

–          My faith and belief in God has exploded, doubt has been cast out

–          I have a new heart for the unloved of the world and God’s creation

–          Prayer groups have been formed

–          I now count everything as loss

–          My brother and six other people had the courage to go out into the world to seek out the lost

–          I feel like I’ve been given the gift of love to others, having no conditions.

–          Close, covenantal friendships have been formed

–          I am obsessed with obeying god and His coming kingdom

–          Jonathan has stepped out in faith like I wrote about

–          Our youth group is beginning to step out and walk by faith.

Patrick, they say you are blessed more in giving than receiving. I gave it all for you and God, and held nothing back, and I now look at the rewards of only 12 days. I feel no regret or shame that my plans fell on their face – God couldn’t have written a more beautiful story.

We welcome you if you choose to come tomorrow with open arms, and if you know Christ like you say you do, keep me in your prayers that I would continue to give it all to Christ.

Thanks to God for this wonderful experience! I know it doesn’t end there, and I obey and love Jesus to the grave and when this life is over. I hope to look back and say my plans failed miserably, but God’s plan was better.

In Christ,

Terence

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”                 – Proverbs 19:21

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Thoughts from Joel:

The journey has finally come to a close. Throughout the 12 days, we have all seen Patrick go from a man seeking glory for obedience – prideful and arrogant – to a man seeking only to reflect the glory of God back to all who witness what Christ has done through him.

Ultimately, we have seen a man fail. And succeed.

“I feel no regret or shame that my plans fell on their face – God couldn’t have written a more beautiful story.”

We all struggle with pride at one point or another. Are we willing to let it go? It may be manifesting itself in a small thing, like apologizing to a friend, or it may involve something bigger, like a career choice or job relocation. For many, we’ll try to hold on as long as we can. But eventually, God will overcome our own pride and lack of faith, showing us what we are truly capable of in this world when we embrace Him and overcome the uncomfortable situation He has put us in only through His strength.

It’s not until we experience the uncomfortable that we will experience the comfort found in Christ. Where is God asking you to trust, and surrender your comfort for Him? Don’t hesitate – Christ is leading the way. All we have to do is follow.

*a note to Terence: A big thank you to you, Terence. You’ve caused me to question, analyze, study, meditate, and pray in the writing of  your journal, and I’ve come out stronger, more bold, and more willing to completely identify with Christ. Thank you for making me stronger – you’ve been a blessing through your obedience.

Joel