Setting God’s agenda

“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?’” (Luke 12:13-14 ESV).

One of the most persistent human endeavors is to attempt to compel God to do our will. An observation of worldwide religious activities reveals that many of those things we call “worship” are actually attempts to persuade or coerce “god” to perform actions which we desire to be done. These include the many fertility rituals, much sacrifice, and even many prayers. Continue reading “Setting God’s agenda”

The sovereignty of God and the preposition of peace

At every turn of events in history, and in the midst of every disaster that falls upon mankind, and, as well, when personal tragedy knocks our feet out from under us, we need assurance that God is sovereign, that he is in control, that he is guiding our lives toward his benevolent outcome.

Not only when hurts and surprises happen, but every moment we need the knowledge that God rules the universe and moves the world.

God’s servant, James, mentions God’s rule and will early in his letter, writing to an oppressed people of God. He first disavows the idea that God is out to get us, James 1.13. Then he asserts that everything that is generous and good comes from God, James 1.17. Immediately thereafter, James makes a pronouncement of God’s great plan as he takes in all creation: Continue reading “The sovereignty of God and the preposition of peace”

Setting your mind

What would you do if the Lord called you “Satan”?

It happened to Peter. Why would Jesus deliver such a rebuke to such a dedicated disciple?

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21 ESV). Continue reading “Setting your mind”

Please don’t squeeze the bonbons!

At the check-out at the bread store, I saw this little sign above a basket of goodies: “Please don’t squeeze the bonbons.” I asked the cashier what that was about.

“Oh, you wouldn’t believe how many people squeeze them — not just children either — the adults do, too!” she said. (Is this just a Brazil thing?)

So why would an adult squeeze a bonbon? Are they resisting temptation to buy one? Are they checking for freshness? Or do they have some secret hatred of humanity, trying to destroy the enjoyment of a bonbon by others? Continue reading “Please don’t squeeze the bonbons!”

Your will, not mine

One more week until the madness ends. In my lingering euphoria over having my almost-daily migraines disappear, I agreed to let the local Master Gardeners add my yard to their summer tour of a handful of gardens.

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs16:9, NASB). In other words, things don’t always go as planned! Continue reading “Your will, not mine”

The complete will of God

Many people think it a trifle to talk about the existence of denominations, the details of conversion, or the specifics of discipleship. They see it as a waste of time, an exercise in futility, or, worse, an attempt to proselytize people whom God considers righteous.

Christians committed to following the New Testament, however, seek to be different from the world and, in the renewal of their minds and the transformation of their hearts, follow the complete will of God. Continue reading “The complete will of God”

What We Do

We are the church of God, the body of Christ, the family of our heavenly Father. So it is important what we seek to do.

We seek to do everything in the simplest way possible. We do not want to obscure the power of the Good News of Christ. We want to facilitate its growth in more and more cities and neighborhoods, Matthew 28.18-20. For this is the will of God. Continue reading “What We Do”

God’s will and providence

If God answers prayers by dramatically opening doors, this proves God has revealed his individualized plan for that Christian, right? The stream of popular Christian culture pointing to Proverbs 3:5 tends to respond with a resounding yes.

Wait a moment. Every parent knows this is not necessarily so. Just reflect with me upon your own ubiquitous experiences.

Like every other parent on this planet, my wife and I strove to provide our boys with what we deemed to be the best. As they grew revealing aptitudes and interests, our resources and efforts opened doors for them to grow and develop. We intentionally and specifically entered into shaping and guiding their lives in various situations. Continue reading “God’s will and providence”

The decisive vote

Decisive voteby J. Randal Matheny, editor

Every vote counts. So you’ve probably heard a few times in the past weeks, if you’ve been following the American presidential elections or accompanying American media. After all, democracy, and its less well known cousin, republicanism, are built upon the principle of the participation of the people.

Such participation, in theory, prevents tyranny. The American experiment has served as an example to many countries to throw off despotic governments and establish some sort of representative democracy. In my own adopted country, the US served as inspiration for its own changes, reflected in the name from 1889-1968 as the Republic of the United States of Brazil.

So in many places of the world we share the values of representative government, where the people, through their elected officials, decide the policies and directions of the nation. These are values that many countries believe in and promote.

The greatest symbol, perhaps, of such liberties is the vote. The ballot represents the power of a nation’s citizens to determine its path. As such, it is a protected right. In some countries like Brazil, it is legally mandatory. Free and honest elections are the guarantee of liberty. Nations zealously protect the election process, and the first attempts at subverting a government often begin at the ballot box.

As much as we value the right to vote and “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” there is a vote more decisive and determinative than all the numbers that will be tallied in the next election. That vote is God’s.

In a wonderful mystery of divine sovereignty—call it a paradox, even—the will of God does not impose itself upon human free will, but uses the evil and the righteousness of man to fulfill his plan. As Jeremiah marveled at the unfolding of God’s revelation and judgment over Judah, he exclaimed,

“Oh, Lord God, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you!  You show unfailing love to thousands. But you also punish children for the sins of their parents. You are the great and powerful God who is known as the LORD who rules over all.  You plan great things and you do mighty deeds. You see everything people do. You reward each of them for the way they live and for the things they do” (Jeremiah 32.17-19 NET).

These are the words of a prophet who on the one hand cries over the divine pronouncement of doom for his people, but who can simultaneously stand in awe of “the great and powerful God” who “rules over all.”

Human government can go bad, quickly and tortuously. Even so, it will still fulfill, in its worst manifestations, the purpose of God (see Romans 13). And while Christians may enjoy their rights as citizens of a nation, as did saints like the apostle Paul, government officials, and military officers in the first century, their heavenly citizenship is a far greater value, which guarantees to them rights and responsibilities, such as:

  • The confidence in the promise of God and the hope of eternal life:
  • The participation in God’s kingdom, that is, his people, the church of Jesus Christ;
  • The commission of proclaiming the Good News to every nation;
  • The holiness of life in imitation of divine fatherhood, without which no one shall see the Lord.

In the end, a child of God may vote in an local or national election, but he knows that the decisive vote comes from his Sovereign God. Forces larger than he are at work. Of earthly trends and worldly directions he has little idea, less than the averaging of political polls. But for real and lasting change, the disciple’s efforts are turned wholly toward the eternal salvation of the soul, for he can be certain that the Spirit of God who dwells in him cooperates at every step to that end.