Not Reluctant: What He Wanted

“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)

Here’s a weird thing to think about: If the story of God’s rescuing you from your sin and your future in hell were made into a movie, how would you imagine your character? Would you be the damsel in distress – or her obnoxious friend that gets rescued just because the hero came for the other girl?

leaf_350_bYou know what I mean. It’s a standard action movie plot. The hero risks everything to save the woman he loves, but that means he’s obligated to try to save whoever is with her at the time. He wouldn’t have made the effort just for them, but he can’t in good conscience leave them behind.

I think sometimes we think of ourselves as the lucky supporting character in the story of God’s great love for . . . other people. “Well, I guess I’d better save you, too. Just to be fair. Even though you’re annoying.”

That’s ugly wrong. As his children in Christ, God made the plan to adopt us – you – in love and “in accordance with his pleasure and will” – because it made him happy and he wanted us. God is no reluctant Father. Ever.

Think: How do you think of yourself as fitting into God’s story of love and grace? Why would we ever discount God’s love for ourselves or others?

Pray: If you are in Christ – a Christian – thank God that he made a plan to adopt you into his family because he loves you, because he wanted to, and because it made him happy.

Do: In whatever stories you read or watch this week, think about why the hero risks him- or herself to help others. Compare that to why God rescued us through Jesus.

Not Reluctant: Making Us Blameless

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1:4)

We’re rediscovering this week that God is not a reluctant Father. He is a joyful dad who made a plan to include us in his family because he wanted to. Because it made him happy.

leaf_350_bAnd to make it possible for him to be with us, he even made a plan for the barrier between us to be torn down. He is God, after all. He can’t, he won’t live with the stench of sin and death, even our sin.

So long before he assembled us in the womb, he gave us the gift of making a way for us to be “holy and blameless.” He would sacrifice his sinless birth Son as the payment for the sins of all his to-be-adopted children.

Bottom line: He always wanted you for his child, and he did what it took to make it happen through Jesus.

Think: How does the idea that God was planning for your future before time began make you feel about your place in the universe? Does it change how you think of yourself? How you think of Him?

Pray: As a Christian, thank God that he chose you in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Do: Look up definitions for “holy” and “blameless.”

Not Reluctant: With Every Blessing

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)

My wife and I were married for a long time before our son was born. My love for her started as infatuation then grew deeper and then I made a commitment to love her for life. The feelings that come with that are strong, complicated, romantic, exciting, and sometimes confusing.

leaf_350But on the night our son was born, I fell in love in a completely different way. It wasn’t complicated or fluttery. I didn’t have to make any decisions about it. I just knew immediately that I would do anything for him, give anything to him, suffer anything for him. I felt strong and happy beyond what I knew was possible.

This week, we’re going to try to believe what the Bible says is true – that God loved – loves us – in that exact same way (only God-sized). That’s why he has given his kids everything there is to have in eternity forever, as today’s verse says. But that’s just the beginning of the story.

Think: I did not understand what a dad’s love was like until I became one. How would you describe God’s love for you if someone wanted you to explain it to them?

Pray: If you are in Christ, thank God that he has blessed you in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Do: If you’re not one, ask a dad to describe some of the things he felt on the day his child was born.

Faith Works: Be Disciplinable

“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (Proverbs 3:11-12)

Here’s a hard idea: God disciplines his kids. That includes you if you’re trusting in Christ for your salvation. Listen close, though: God does not punish his kids for their sin. Jesus has already been punished for our sin. The punishment for sin is death and hell. God has zeroed out that debt for Christians.

fw_350But God does discipline his kids – and that is a huge difference. His discipline seems to involve allowing enough pain to come our way to get our hearts back in line with him, to get our feet back on the path he has called us to.

Not all kids take being disciplined very well. Some get angry and resentful. Others rebel even more. Some get discouraged and want to give up at the very thought that they aren’t perfect, after all.

Faith that works says, “I was wrong. God loves me and is right to correct me or discipline me. I will accept that and move closer to him by obeying him.”

Think: How do you receive being corrected, rebuked, or disciplined? Why is it so hard to take it well? How is correction and discipline evidence of God’s love for you?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to resent his discipline or correction, but to received it well because you know he loves you.

Do: Read more about God’s discipline in Hebrews 12:1-13.

Faith Works: Give Him Your Stuff

“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10)

Too many people have read these verses as some kind of formula for getting rich, as if God has set himself up as the best currency exchange system ever: “Put in $10, get out $100.”

fw_350But this chapter is about trusting God’s way, not using him to get rich so we can live our way. To honor God with my “wealth” means that I understand it all comes from him, that I refuse to use any of it to dishonor him, and that I give part of my income back to him somehow. Then God promised Israel to respond with abundant crops.

Jesus challenged his followers to even deeper faith, to see money as something to be used as a way of storing up wealth in heaven, not fickle fortunes on earth. He praised a poor woman who gave all she had because it showed she was trusting God to give her all she needed today and forever.

Think: How can you honor God with your wealth? Why would you do that? What would you expect to happen as a result?

Pray: Ask God to help you to show your trust in his ability to provide for you by willingly giving away some of your money and stuff to and for him.

Do: Ask a wise Christian you trust how they decide how much is right to give to God in dollars, time, energy, and attention.

Faith Works: Trust His Eyes

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:7-8)

It’s not that you and I don’t have any of our own wisdom apart from God. We do. It is based on our unique perspective of the world. Our experiences. Our point of view. And God tells us not to trust any of that.

fw_350Wow, is that a different message from what the rest of the world tells us. “Trust yourself.” “Don’t let anyone tell you that what you have to offer isn’t valuable.” And then God says, “Don’t be wise in your own eyes.” Your perspective isn’t reliable.

How much humility does it take to trust God’s perspective instead of mine? (Hint: Lots!) That’s what “fear the Lord” means. Whenever my POV doesn’t line up with his – his wins. Period. If I go my way, I go the wrong way.

The payoff here is that God’s way leads to a healthy life. Mine — when it’s different from his — leads to sin. And sin breaks things (including my mental, emotional, and physical health). Why not trust his eyes, instead?

Think: Has anyone ever given you the exact opposite advice from this, telling you to trust your own wisdom first in life? What’s wrong with that idea?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to be wise in your own eyes, but to fear him and shun evil.

Do: Ask a wise friend to tell you about a time with they trusted their own perspective and made a foolish choice. Or did the opposite.

Faith Works: Live Simple

“. . . in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6)

Want your life to be complicated? Really confused and stressful and messy? It’s easy to accomplish: Just give some of your life to the Lord. Just acknowledge him in some of your ways. And then save the rest of your ways for yourself.

fw_350Trust me. It’s like signing up for a multiple personality disorder. Why? Because God’s way is not your way. If you make a commitment to trust him in some things and not others, you’ll always be trying to keep the parts of yourself a secret from the other parts of yourself.

I’m not saying it can’t be done. Most of us do it every day. I’m just saying it sucks. James called it being “double minded and unstable,” this trusting in God some and me some. And it leads to foolish living and giant headaches.

Want to live simple? Want to walk a straight-ahead path that’s going somewhere? Trust God with 100 percent of your heart and acknowledge him in all of your ways.

Think: What would you lose if you trusted God by obeying him in every part of your life? What would you gain?

Pray: Ask God to help you to acknowledge him in all of your ways.

Do: Make a quick list of parts of your life that you tend to keep away from God, that you’d rather not let the “God part” of your life know about.