Category Archives: Bible

God’s Will: Can It be Found and Followed?

What if knowing God’s will for your life was not as complicated as it seems?

Compass

pic courtesy pdpics.com

I have a friend who has struggled for a very long time to understand what God’s plan is for him. Like all of us, he longs to know that he’s in “the center of God’s will.” He’s wants to find that sweet spot where his work, relationships, family, and church jive perfectly and if feels like he’s enjoying God’s very best. Some of you know what that feels like. Some of you – like my friend – have no clue what that is like, but you wish (and pray) that you did!

I’ve been in your boat—a lot.  But there is good news for all of us who ask, “Can God’s will for my life be found and followed?”  It can. It absolutely can. And it’s not as difficult to figure out as we tend to think. Continue reading

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Not Opposed to Effort: Two Roadblocks to Discipleship

sheep in the road

(This post is the 2nd in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today. Click here to read the first post.) 

In last week’s post (Read it here) I argued that our misunderstanding of the oft-used phrase “grace is enough” causes us to misrepresent the Christian life and miss out on what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus.

We have a shallow view of grace and an incomplete definition of discipleship. In our addiction to “the easy life” we have eliminated the rigor of discipleship and simultaneously cheapened the grace God has given.

Dallas Willard’s phrase, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning,”[1] is good news. Though a life devoted to God in Christ is more difficult than we have often heard, it is also much better than we have often experienced.

To right the ship, we need to understand two roadblocks that prevent us, and others, from following Jesus into the life of discipleship we were created for. 

Roadblock #1: It’s Too Easy to Be Good

The “accept Jesus into your heart and you won’t go to hell when you die” approach to making disciples is too easy to be good. Let me explain.

Continue reading

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Not Opposed to Effort: The Work of Discipleship

steel worker

Grace is not enough.

That sentence alone will send the reformed crowd into orbit, and it just might make the rest of you scramble for Bible verses that refute works-based righteousness.

But when I was recently asked to comment on Christian discipleship today, I could not help but think that grace is not enough.

Obviously the truth of that statement relies on one’s definitions of “grace” and “enough.” Continue reading

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My First Baptism

Stock_Water_Image_by_jewles654

Photo Credit: Jewels654 via CC

Actually, it was Zack’s first baptism. And I did the honors. For the first time.

For the last 4 months, a small crew of like-minded Christian fellas have been meeting at my house. It’s a typical church small group. Or community group. Or life group. Or whatever your church may call it. There are five members – Ross, Zack, John, Shane, and me. And each of us began attending the group for various, but similar reasons.

Continue reading

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How To Know God’s Will (Thank you Mother Mary!)

Konstantinos Mavroudis via CC

Image Credit: Konstantinos Mavroudis via CC

 

I am reading through the Christmas narrative in my Bible as I work on a Christmas writing project. It feels kind of weird to do it in August. But hey, if my little brother Andrew can record a Christmas album in August, I can write a Christmas book. (Andrew-Greer.com – How about that for a shameless Greer family plug?!).

As I read Mary’s journey with fresh eyes, I’ve thought long and hard about just how crazy of an experience it must have been.

Imagine being told by an angel that you would play a major role in God’s plan for the world; while you were still a teenager. And imagine that plan including an out-of-wedlock pregnancy in a society that stoned women for unmarried sexual activity.

With just those two things in mind, would you have believed that an angel actually appeared to you? Continue reading

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Super Jesus

Super Jesus - Emily Carlin

Photo Credit: Emily Carlin (CreativeCommons)

 

In the late 1930’s Superman made his comic book debut, and for the last seven decades readers and moviegoers of all ages have been thrilled by his use of super-human capabilities to rid the world of evil.

The idea of Superman resonates deeply with the American psyche. Though a fictional superhero, the man from Krypton embodies the independent, self-sufficient, nobody-to-somebody kind of story we love. He’s a loner. An island. “Supe” is the kind of guy boys dream of being and the kind that men actually try to be. Superman is the one guy everyone turns to and the one guy who never needs to turn to anyone else. And we admire that about him.

Sometimes we admire the same thing about Jesus.

Jesus is the one man who changed the world forever. He stepped to earth from another place, humbly rose to epic fame, and conquered evil all by himself. But unlike the fictional Superman, we believe the Bible tells the true story of how this no-name carpenter rose to the occasion to single-handedly defeat death itself.

It’s a good story. But it is not the whole story. Continue reading

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The House that Obedience Built

Lightning road

Photo Credit: tpsdave at CC

If you look at the road ahead, what do you see? When projects snapshots about life in the next five or ten or twenty years, what do they look like?

Let me tell you about a few of the signposts I picture in my future. I see happy and healthy years with my wife, quiet and beautiful children sleeping soundly within the comfort of a new home, and a fulfilling career as a writer and a pastor who helps others know Jesus better.

What are the important mile markers in your journey ahead? Take a few moments to imagine them.

Now, what’s missing? What is conveniently absent from your life in the years to come?

Joy? Nope – it’s there. Peace? It’s there too. Health? Success? Safety and security? They are all there. If you look close, you’ll see them around every corner enveloping every significant moment.

What is missing are the storms. The scenes we all omit from the movie trailer of our future are the stormy ones. But our omission of them now does not mean we will bypass them later.

As one of my pastors, Bryan Eckelman, thoughtfully pointed out in a recent sermon, no matter who you are or what kind of life you live, storms will come. For some of us, the storm is already here, banging on the door like an angry criminal hell bent on snatching the last bit of happiness we hold.

So the question is not Will the storms come? The question is How do we survive when they do?

Jesus of Nazareth told a powerful story about life and storms. In Matthew 7:24-29 he makes pointed comments about the lives of a wise homebuilder and a foolish one. The wise one builds his house on the rock, the foolish builds on the sand. You may remember this story. If not, it doesn’t take an English major to decipher the imagery Jesus employs. The rock is a solid foundation and the sand is not. When the storms come, the wise man’s foundation proves solid. The foolish man is not so fortunate.

But despite the details about the builder’s differences, Jesus’ story has one constant: the storm.

Unfortunately, our response to this reality is not to take Jesus’ advice in the face of the inevitable. Instead, we all work very hard to avoid the unavoidable.

We build stronger buildings, drive safer cars, and move from the inner city to gated communities. We take preventive medicine and stock pile retirement funds. We scrub our hands with anti-bacterial wipes after touching a doorknob and before getting behind the wheel of a grocery cart.

We’re so addicted to the idea of storm-free life that we have tried to inoculate ourselves with pure delusion.

But face it brother and sister, the storm’s a comin’. We may not know when or what kind, but she’s a comin’. So I repeat the question: how do we survive when they do?

Jesus’ answer is clear: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house solid rock….But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.” (Matt 7:24, 27)

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it.

This is not a statement about intellect. Our recognition of Jesus and knowledge of Scripture are not the things that makes us buoyant in a rising flood.

“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this.” (James 2:19)

Rather, Jesus says, the foundation to a life that withstands the storm is obedience.

For my life, and for most of our churches, I worry not about our belief that Jesus was a special guy. I’ve got that one down pat. You probably do too.

What I worry about is that my life will suffer far more damage from unstoppable squalls because I willingly choose not to make peace, give to the needy, keep my word, love my enemies, pray real prayers, or stop objectifying women and judging men.

Hear me here: I’m not worried that God’s unrivalled love and grace in Jesus Christ will make me right before God. I’m worried my failure to act in response to that love will add one more shack to the shanty town of the disobedient, and when the storm comes, I’ll be blown away like the rest of them.

So I turn again to John 16:33 and read Jesus’ words to his disciples as they faced a giant storm: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

And I remember that God moved through the disciple’s obedience, not simply their belief. By him they weathered a kind of storm few of us have ever faced, and because of it we are here today with an opportunity to build our house on the same Rock they did.

Are you one who listens and obeys? And how’s your house holding up?

 

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