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

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WHAT DO YOU WANT [and does He want you] TO BE?

14402714-man-walking-on-a-path-in-a-strange-dark-forest-with-fog

What do you want to be when you grow up?

We’re all asked that question over and over again in life, and as we move through adolescence and into being a “young adult,” it seems the answer often becomes less clear. Closing in on 26 years of age, I’m still asked this question, although usually in adult-speak, with people asking me things like, “so what do you do with that degree,” or just, “so what do you want to do with that,” and I still don’t really know the full answer. I don’t know if I ever truly will.

When I was young, I always knew the answer. I never really wanted to be a professional athlete, or an astronaut, or a famous musician. I never wanted to do what other kids dreamed of doing. I always wanted to be an architect – so much so, that in my free time I’d draw blueprints, or build houses with wooden blocks or legos. That was what I thought of as “having fun.”

So I made sure I could make it happen. I always did well in school, and eventually was accepted into a highly competitive architecture program, where I was soon kicked out after the first year because of a GPA 0.2 points lower than it needed to be.

So began plan B – go to my in-state school, get an engineering degree, and then head off to grad school to finish it off with a Masters of Architecture degree. And then I got to know God.

I’ve always been a “Christian.” I grew up in church, never swearing or drinking, and never getting into trouble. I was nice to people, smiled a lot, and prayed every once in a while. But I didn’t really know God. I didn’t start to know Him until my sophomore year in college – and that’s when my ‘dream job’ went out the window, because it was just that – mine.

I started to realize that it was my dream job – not His dream job for me. I started to realize how much smarter God is than me and how much better He knows me and my potential than I know myself. And because of this, I started to get scared. If God was calling me away from architecture, then he’s calling me towards something I’m not so sure that I’m good at. I was all prepared to design some buildings, give my ten percent, maybe join a bible study or two, and live my life – but God doesn’t let us off easy. He doesn’t let us off at average. If you don’t believe me, read the Bible and His plans for the people in it. He always sent them to do something that scared them, and they usually hesitated to act for a while. But eventually, they did it, and realized God made us stronger than we thought.

God sees potential, and strives to make sure we reach it. We, as humans, see pleasure, or money, or fame, or convenience, and think it’s potential. We see what we’re good at, and try to use it to cash in, or maybe we even try to use it to “serve Him.” And sometimes, using the talents we know about is exactly where He wants us. But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes he’ll ask us to do things we know we’ll have to work our butts off for – things seemingly unachievable – but we ultimately know that it’s where our purpose lies, so our cowardice to move from vision to action can’t last too long, because eventually, as we get to know Him, our dreams and His align and we realize it’s a better dream after all.

Are your dreams aligned with His? Are you still pretending you didn’t hear His voice, continuing to move forward on your own path? Acknowledge the voice. Focus on it. Quiet your own fear if you have to. Is He asking you to keep walking, or to switch paths?

THE EDITOR (a poem)

Not until our roads intersect
Will my purpose become His.
Not until myself is lost
Will I find my true direction.
For what good is a writer
if his work is never edited?
He will never exceed his own wisdom,
or notice his own mistakes.
He will write in his foolishness,
believing it to be cleverness.
Yet when we call upon The Editor our God,
His ultimate wisdom becomes ours,
And our mistakes are shown to us
and repaired by His grace.
Hallelujah!! Praise Him for His wisdom
and grace in the midst of our foolishness!

*I was looking through my journal and found this. I thought it related pretty well with the picture I drew of Proverbs 3:5-6, so I thought I’d share it.

DAY 1 – MEETING PATRICK

AUTHOR’S NOTE: From here to the end of this series I’ll be the secondary voice of this blog, with Terence acting as the main voice. Because of this, Terence’s journal will be in regular font. I’ll comment here and there, and my comments will be made in italics. Enjoy!

___________________________________________________________

I met this man today. It was on a field trip for Integrated Catchment, the day after FRESH camp 2011. If it wasn’t for FRESH and the things that were said this would never have been written. If God didn’t show up the way He did that weekend none of these events would have occurred.

We were in a group of 8 digging up some soil. There was this man that questioned whether we were doing it right. He seemed pretty smart. Immediately I knew there was something different about this man. The way he spoke was different – very soft. He had an issue with his speech; stammering and lost for words sometimes. I had no problem with that; I neither drew near to converse with him nor avoid speaking with him.

We moved to the next site. I was talking to another man I met about basketball and how they couldn’t settle the lockout despite earning so much. “You must be talking about sport!” That man again. We laughed and agreed. At the next site that man was trying to get the GPS to work. I helped him out – that GPS was hard to figure out. After collecting the samples we exchanged data. Someone didn’t roll the soil properly so we had to change out readings. This man asked me to tell him the updated readings with quite a stammer. I looked at him and gave him the new readings. He didn’t have to be ashamed of his stammering around me.

As we left to the next site I remember him telling me or asking me something. He stammered and struggled to get it out, more so than before. I blinked at him and answered. I think it was then that I saw this man smile for the first time. I didn’t think much of it at the time.

I didn’t talk to him much from then until the end of the field trip, although I overheard him talking about baseball with the other man I met.

Around the second site, I came late to a conversation this man was having, overhearing he was colorblind. He motioned to the bushes in the near distance. Red flowers on green shrub. “I can’t tell red from green” he said. I’m not sure if it was at that moment or later that I thought to myself, “I’d love for Jesus to come into this man’s life and bring some color.”

At the end of the field trip we got off the bus. We were hanging around to see who would volunteer to bring the supplies in for testing. That man came up to me and extended his hand.

“Patrick” he said.

“Terence.” I shook his hand and he shook the hands of my other group mates and walked off. I didn’t think much of it then.

After saying goodbye to my new acquaintances and driving home, I realized that something in me desired nothing more than to show the love of Christ to Patrick, and as I replayed the events of the day in my mind, I knew for certain that I would pray for this man and allow Christ to reveal Himself to Patrick at the end of this course.

When I replay the moment I saw him light up and smile I get chills that run up and down my heart. I want nothing more than this man to smile because of the joy that Jesus brings.

I sent an email to all the people that went to FRESH camp, telling them about Patrick and asking them to pray that Jesus would come into his life and bring some color into his world.

I’m filled with an inexpressible hope and joy for this man. I know for sure that Jesus would love to encounter Patrick and show him love.

Patrick, when you come to the LORD and read this you’re going to remember the time I first looked you in the eyes. You are never going to forget the moment you shook my hand and introduced yourself to me, because in that moment God did a work in my heart that I will complete until the day I die. Patrick, I’m coming for you. You don’t know it now, but I’m going to show you the Father and you’re going to thank Him all the days of your life that He chose someone as useless as me to carry out His work.

When you come to our church, you will be welcomed by a community that has been praying for you since day 1. Throughout the next weeks, months, years, or however long it takes, I will be recording names of people who give me verses to proclaim over your life and when you come to our church, you will read these letters and put faces to the names you read. Patrick, I will see you tomorrow for day 2.

Terence Wong

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I couldn’t help but see myself in Terence, specifically with his proclamation to Patrick, saying

“when you come to the LORD and read this you’re going to remember the time I first looked you in the eyes. You are never going to forget the moment you shook my hand and introduced yourself to me.”

You’re going to remember me. That’s basically what Terence is telling Patrick. Terence has no problem hearing God’s call, yet once the call is accomplished, he finds himself seeking recognition for the completion. (Terence recognizes the pride in his pursuit in a later journal, and we’ll see his focus shift as a result.)

Too often as Christians we feel we deserve recognition for accomplishing God’s will. I am guilty of this, and if you’re truly honest with yourself, you’ll probably find you are as well. We must ask ourselves: would we still strive so fervently to do God’s will if we knew we’d never receive any recognition for it?

We must be honest with ourselves, and if we answer no we must remember who the God we serve really is.

If we accomplish things with the sense that it was out of our own strength, we will never be able to grasp the greatness of our God. We must realize that we are worthless, helpless creatures without the strength of God in our lives. It is never by our own strength that we accomplish the will of God, but by God’s strength in us, and when that will is accomplished, we must praise our God! It is incredibly easy to praise ourselves in times of victory, yet without God would we have been victorious?

In humility and worship,

Joel

WHEN IT’S OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO BE IRRESPONSIBLE

Throughout history, those who have followed God’s plan have rarely done so in a responsible fashion. The disciples, being the best example, immediately left their careers when asked to follow a man they’d just met. What would the world say if we all left our careers one day to travel with someone we barely knew?  We’d be labeled as irrational, irresponsible, and probably insane. We’d be viewed as someone trying to avoid real life. We’d be asked why we left a steady paycheck for an uncertain future. But that’s just it – our future’s not uncertain.

When we’re young, we’re all told we can be whatever we want to be. We’re told if we try hard enough, we can get anywhere we want in life. We also know what we want to do “when we grow up.” We all want to be firemen, or princesses, or pirates. My brother wanted to be a shepherd – a sheep-saving, robe-wearing shepherd just like the ones in the bible.  Our dreams weren’t dictated by financial security, or at what age we could retire. We were more interested in doing something that we loved. We didn’t care how much it paid until we grew up.

With age the world told us about responsibility. We learned that responsibility is doing homework on time. It’s going to college, and being able to find a job that can provide a comfortable life. It’s always planning the next move, and being ready for the wrenches thrown in. We also learned that if we live irresponsibly, we’ll end up stuck in a low-paying job that we hate, unable to provide for those we love. We learn that irresponsibility will lead to a life full of unhappiness and missed opportunities.

But what if something comes along in the midst of all these responsible decisions that tells us to jump ship? What if this something has nothing to do with money or security, and more to do with trust and faith? What would have happened if the disciples were raised in the shadow of the American Dream?

Before Jesus interrupted, the disciples had promising careers ahead of them. Peter, Andrew, James and John were all commercial fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector – which is about the equivalent of a lawyer today.  Peter, Andrew, James and John were in a family business destined for the same futures their fathers and grandfathers carried out before them, and they left it at Jesus’ first request. Being a tax collector was among the most financially rewarding careers of the time, and Matthew left that for a life of homelessness and wandering. They each gave up their worldly security, and made an irresponsible decision to follow a man they hardly knew, and it led to the revolution of Christianity.

Now most of us won’t have the opportunity the disciples had, and most of us won’t be asked to leave everything we have. We will, however, be asked to do things we don’t understand. Often times it will involve one of our greatest insecurities.  For most of us it will be something small, like befriending a co-worker or volunteering around the community. For others, it may require a bigger commitment. When Henry Blackaby, the writer of “Experiencing God,” told his pastor he felt called to ministry, his pastor responded by telling him he had “too much promise” for that. Dr. Blackaby could have listened, but instead he didn’t settle for less than what God could accomplish. He is now among the most influential Christian writers on earth, and has now written over 20 books, published in up to 45 different languages.

Whatever we feel called to do, it’ll likely scare us to death. The things I’ve felt called to always have. Often times, it’s just telling something to a friend – something that they might not like to hear—in order to show them who I am on a deeper level, and letting them know that they can come to me with issues. Other times, it’s simply talking to a stranger and seeing what comes up. Of all my callings, however, writing has quickly become one of the most frightening. I’ve gone through school thus far thinking I’d graduate with one of the better paying degrees – going on to live a life of no financial worries. I then discovered I have almost no interest in my degree. So I started writing. In order to succeed, I must trust that God will provide, and won’t have to use my plan-b degree. Although the financial uncertainty is frightening, I feel that through writing I can truly impact those around me. I can impact them in ways that designing a building never could – in their faith. I know that by taking this direction, I have no idea what my life will be. I’m trusting that God will provide in the midst of these uncertainties.

What is God telling you to do in order to fulfill your potential in Him? All God needs is our trust, and He can put us anywhere. The disciples put their trust in something better, yet unknown, and were then used to spread the message of Christ throughout the world. Henry Blackaby trusted in things greater than his potential, and is now a leader in the Christian world. I’m trusting, without fully understanding, that God will lead me to things better than what the world could offer. Where does God need your trust in order for you to become who He wants you to be?