God is Good

We are who we are because of our choices (and because God allows us to make choices). If the fruit of the Spirit is self-control that means part of God’s nature is self-control. Have you ever thought about the idea that part of God’s sovereignty means that he has the ability to control, and even limit his interaction with us. That’s right, God is self-controlled. If I were him I would have smitten everyone a long time ago. It’s good for us that God has self-control. We are who we are because God has given us the freedom to make choices. He has already chosen us in Christ, but he waits for us to choose him.

Theologically, I am a Wesleyan-Arminian. We do not have a problem with God’s sovereignty. We believe God is in control. Within the boundaries of God’s permissive will, we believe God allows evil to exist because he created human beings as free moral agents. God is sovereign, however, he does not control things in such a way that he forces people to do anything out of necessity. That’s what you call self-controlled control. It’s how God rules the universe, not with an iron fist, but with a heart of love and compassion that allows us to make decisions.

God does not decree sin as some believe. If God controlled us in such an absolute way that forced us into evil, it would make him the author of sin. This would mean that freewill is non-existent, and that all things happen according to God’s perfect will. The scripture even negates this idea in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise… He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Question: Will everyone come to repentance even though it’s God’s will? No. In this, we can only conclude that God desires a relationship with all of creation, yet many refuse.

Bad theology declares sin and evil comes into the world through God’s sovereign rule. God has a perfect will, yet he also has a permissive will in which he allows us to make mistakes. Wesleyan-Arminians would not oppose the idea that God is in control of all things. The difference is that we believe he allows it, not that he causes it.

We trust that God works all things together for good for those who love him, yet allows people to live in the sinful reality that they create for themselves. It’s a very strange thing to think that an all-loving God would create a race of living beings, desire a legitimate love-based relationship, and then force some to love him and others not.

In the context of God’s permissive will, we believe God sets limitations on evil and the extent to which it impacts creation. In other words, it’s not as bad as it could be because God is on the throne. He’s a good king. He’s not a tyrant (he’s self-controlled). God rules over evil, and in no way does he force anyone to become evil. This is very different than saying that sin entered the world because of God’s decree. If sin and evil come by the hand of God, how can anyone resist what God sets into motion? This makes God a puppet master, not a loving father.

God did not create sin in order to make himself look good. In other words, God didn’t create sin so he could rescue sinners. He rescues sinners because he loves us. God did not invent evil, but he allows it in order to give us the ability to authentically embrace or reject his love. Therefore, in the process of life God turns bad to good. He redeems our choices when we love him. Even when we make bad choices, God is wise enough to make all things work together for good to those that love him (Romans 8:28).

God leads people in the direction that he knows is best, and even if they choose not to follow, he patiently continues to point the way. This means that through sinful choices God still seeks us out. He is so intelligent, clever, and well-meaning, that even the sinful choices of people cannot prevent his ultimate purposes being fulfilled. God uses our choices, good or bad, to accomplish his will in the earth. He’s that good!

Missio Dei starts with God, not with something we decide that we are going to do for God. Mission does not start by implementing a new program or starting a new class at church. God’s mission starts with God himself. We too often assume that it begins when we discover a felt need and respond by giving money or doing a service project.

The “sending” Jesus speaks of in John 17 is plural. This means that we do not merely send people and funds out of the church to solve problems in the world. In other words, the church is not just a “sending agent.” The church is “sent” itself: as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One, when we participate in God’s mission to the world we are one on mission with God.

The church has no mission apart from its participation in God’s mission. As God expands the kingdom we either participate in what he is doing or we do not. To be missional means that the church actively engages kingdom-expansion by identifying where God is working and joining him in his activity. God is always working, but we must have eyes to see and ears to hear.

God is not just working in the church. Instead, he is always working in every part of society and culture. God is at work in the margins, in the places where no one is looking. God never starts in the center and works his way out. It’s his nature to start on the fringes and work inward. “Participation” means that we intentionally look for ways to join God in his mission. When we share in the life of God for the sake of the world, by default, we participate in the mission of God.

In Philippians 2 Paul uses the Greek word kenosis. Literally, it indicates Christ participating in the act of “self-emptying.” It demonstrates the out-poured love of God for the world. Emptying oneself is what being incarnational looks like. If you really want to take on the mind of Christ, if you really want to follow him… it requires kenosis.

How is this relevant for the church? Missional means moving away from attractional models of ministry to incarnational ways of existing with God for the benefit of the world. Only as we identify with the suffering of humanity can we identify with the suffering of Jesus.

God lives on the fringes. That’s where the story of the mutilated Body of Christ begins. This is where we see redemption being established. When we enter the margins intentionally and incarnationally we become the hands and feet of Jesus. Through this participation the kingdom of heaven is revealed.

You cannot afford to live without joy. The culture of heaven is established in celebration. Scripture contains various commands for us to rejoice. Giving thanks is good for the soul. It creates an inner territory that isn’t easily affected by external circumstances. All of heaven rejoices in the presence of God. As kingdom heirs we should join in the celebration of heaven. Joy is the nature of the Father and the chief element of the atmosphere around his throne. Joy is a necessity.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoicing is the will of God for your life; it’s the desire of God for every believer. The power of joy cannot be overestimated. Delighting in the Lord is an infectious way to live. Joy spills over into others people’s lives when we allow it to be an authentic part of our own.

God is happy, and we live daily under his smile. Grace is favor, and favor means God is satisfied (Jesus did that, not us, we just benefit from it). God delights in us and we in him because of Jesus. As you learn to be thrilled by God your enjoyment in life increases; you cannot afford to be without joy.

The perspective that we develop through our rejoicing is our best aid to faith. It’s the joyless areas of our lives that must be submitted to fierce examination. Return to joy with the utmost urgency. Reclaim your inner being as a place of rejoicing. Joy is something that is unaffected by circumstances. It is an orientation of the heart.

Joy is a place of contentment, confidence, and hope. It’s a state of mind (we are what we think, but we’re not always what we think we are). If joy is the atmosphere of heaven then the environment that we reproduce must reflect that. If we really want to learn to reflect the culture of heaven then thanksgiving, gratitude, rejoicing, and celebration is part of the deal.

Elton Trueblood said, “I don’t trust the theology of any person who doesn’t laugh.” The reason is because they are claiming to understand something about the most joyous being in the universe, yet they don’t exhibit one of God’s primary qualities. How can a constant spirit of heaviness be trusted?

Return to joy all ye negative persons! Take off the spirit of heaviness. Put on the garment of praise. I think I’m going to blow my shofar now…

(Sources: Elton Trueblood; Graham Cooke)

Can something beautiful come from something desolate? Certainly. Beauty can be found in everything. The beauty that exists in the ugliness of life’s happenings is a great paradox. In understanding God we learn to find joy in suffering, fulfillment in denial, and life in death. In understanding faith for what it really is, one must conclude that it’s paradoxical. God created it this way so we would learn to live in the tension of “what is” and “what is to be.”

I’m a realist, which means I’m only interested in what works. I am so pragmatic that I often catch myself railing against idealism. Ideals don’t work in the real world, it’s too messy. God is too mysterious for us to figure everything out. Neat packaging and systematized concepts about God don’t work as it pertains to God. Besides we wouldn’t need faith if everything made sense.

What is a paradox? Jesus is the God-man. By losing our life we save it. God is sovereign, yet we are responsible. Confessing weakness as a source of strength. The Church is a house and a city, an army and a bride, and a building and a body. I believe God intends for these concepts to shape our thinking beyond the typical human experience.

God functions from a place of paradox because of the vastness of his nature. His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are radically different from our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). Therefore, he is not seeking a influential group of people to represent him. Instead he’s looking for people who are weak, despised, and written off. Only then does he inhabit them with strength.

One can only come to Jesus by realizing they are needy. In other words, we must come to grips with our vulnerability. This is where we discover that all of God’s dealings with us are to create maximum dependence on him. Times when things are functioning well, we often stop relying on God. It would be God’s nature to push us out of those comfortable places and into a bit of turbulence so that we will learn to trust him all the more.

God calls us to the impossible. Think about it. He demands that we see the invisible and calls it faith. He often thrusts us into overwhelming situations and expects us to trust him. Think about it: Noah built a mammoth ship when there was no body of water large enough for it to float. Moses rescued more than a million people from the bondage of the most cruel and oppressive government of the day. Joshua was ordered to seize the most fortified city of the world by ordering a week of silence followed by a single shout. These instances no doubt created insecurity in these great leaders. They saw the natural and didn’t understand how it would work. Their only option was to trust God.

God works in paradox by making vulnerability powerful. We don’t equate weakness with power, but God does. These leaders didn’t give in to insecurity, but they did give in to vulnerability. They were weak but willing. They were weary but faithful. They believed the unbelievable and it became so.

We too often see our own smallness rather than the magnificence of God. Like the Israelites before entering the Promised-Land said, “We are like grasshoppers…” Such people are prevented from achieving breakthroughs because they cannot translate their weakness into power. Insecurity cripples people, but vulnerability knows that God is happy to send us out as sheep among wolves because he is certain of his own ability to work in spite of our weakness.

When we are vulnerable we see our inadequacies in light of God’s sovereignty and in turn we discover faith and hope. The whole point of vulnerability is to bring us to a place of restful dependence in a God that is able to do anything… and I mean absolutely anything!

My prayer is to be more vulnerable, to stop trying to make sense of everything God wants to accomplish in my life. It’s not my place to make sense of it all; it’s my place to trust God. It may mean stepping out on a limb that looks like it’s going to break. It may look like running face first into a hurricane. It doesn’t matter. Discovering the will of God for my life and being vulnerable in my faith means not looking back, but only looking ahead and believing that God makes all things possible. In the tension of paradox is where we find God.

(Sources: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton; Soren Kierkegaard)

youve heard it said

Some of what God said in the Old Testament he further established in the New Testament, but it was only to increase our blessing. In the NT God uses the power of the former to establish the blessing of the latter. There was a time in history when the Old Testament was not the “Old” Testament. It wasn’t until the “New” Testament came along that the other one became “Old.”

The OT is God’s established covenant for a relationship with his people. Anyone who lived during that time knew all the blessings and requirements of the covenant. Then comes Jesus. He takes everything to a new level, but it’s only because God was thinking about what’s best for us.

The most common phrase in Mathew 5 is “You have heard it said, but now I say…” Jesus fulfills every jot and tittle of the Old Covenant. He completes it and then reveals a new way of understanding it. Of course the main difference is that the Old Covenant was for people who had God coming “upon” them and the New is for people who have God living “within” them. Therefore, all the ideas of the Old have to be expanded upon in the New.

The OT now becomes a covenant of “types” and “symbols” that reveals the scope of the New Covenant. The New is built off the Old, except it reveals God in a more profound way. Now everything coming out of the Old Covenant has to actually pass through the teachings of the New Covenant in order to us to find application in an era of grace.

Things that don’t make it into the NT are curses and penalties. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” Thank God no one gets rocks thrown at them behind the church for stealing. In the OT God said things like, “If you disobey cursed will be you, cursed will be the ground, and so on…” In the NT there are no curses for God’s people because Jesus became the curse for everyone. He paid the penalty for sin’s curse to be broken.

There is no judgment upon us because Jesus took away our judgment, but there are consequences for our actions. Curses and consequences, two very different things. Remember, you reap what you sow. The law of reaping and sowing makes it into the New Testament without any alterations. There is no judgment upon us, but you will reap what you sow. Example: If you say something unkind to someone, as sure as you are reading this someone is going to say something unkind to you. If you take something from someone that isn’t yours, you can count on someone taking something from you.

The idea of treating others as you would like to be treated teaches us to be sensible in our human interactions (a message many evangelicals need to consider). You want to make sure that the things you say and do come back to you in a good way. With this mindset we need to consider when someone is treating us poorly that it may be a consequence of something we’ve said or done. That’s not always the case, but it helps us examine ourselves nonetheless. Examination is beneficial, don’t run from it, embrace it. Remove consequences. Say something kind to someone today.

(Sources: Brennan Manning; Graham Cooke)

Whenever God says something for the first time he sets a precedent. By God’s precedent you know him forever. God doesn’t change toward us because his love is eternal. What can separate us from the love of God? Nothing. His love for us remains whether we choose to love him back or not. However, God does change the way he relates to us depending on where we are in our relationship with him, but he never changes his heart toward us. The heart of God is love.

I often explain this by using the relationship with my son as an example. I have a love for Jake that is ongoing. My love for him never changes. However, the way I relate to him does change. I don’t talk to him the same way today as I did when he was five years old. Our relationship has grown and now we understand each other on a different level.

The decisions I made concerning Jake when he was five was to benefit our relationship as he got older. I ordered my thinking so that my relationship with him would get better with time. God is ordered in his thinking. He is always considering what is best for his family.

As appropriate for a Creator, God thinks sequentially. Scripture is the perfect example of his thinking out from himself. In other words, God is very deliberate and extremely intentional. He is continually thinking about what is best for us now and in the future. This means there is significance in everything he does. This is how “all things work together for good…” God designs his relationship with us that way.

So again, any time God says something for the first time, he sets a precedent. By that standard you know him forever. As God reveals himself in scripture, he’s saying, “This is who I am for you, forever.” His love toward us never changes. What can separate us from the love of God?

As God speaks into your life through the Holy Spirit you can rest in what he is saying and doing. He is establishing himself in your life forever, and you can trust what he says and does. In Christ God displays his eternal love for creation, of which we are all a part. He reveals himself by becoming one of us… there is no greater love.

Accept who you are in Christ. Don’t run away from the story that is your life. Trust what God has done. Believe there is significance in everything. Look for God in the subtle things. God relates to you in all of life’s situations because he loves you deeply. And when he shows you the way, it’s always through a precedent of love.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” John the Baptist declares these words as he proclaims the advent of our Savior. He was announcing the coming of a new way of understanding life in relation to God. It wasn’t that God’s kingdom was coming in the future; it had arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. John announced the inauguration of a kingdom and if the kingdom has already come then that makes us subjects of the King.

This way of thinking disorients many evangelicals. They like to think of God’s kingdom only in physical terms. In this they often neglect the spiritual development of a present experience with God. Many become so consumed with future apocalyptic doom of the world that they are no earthly good. They swallow the pill of Left Behind theology and subscribe to the late night televangelists who make a living pedaling fear. It’s not to say that the full realization of God’s physical presence will not be established in the future, but only to say that we need to be celebrating the kingdom as a present reality.

Christ has come. He is incarnate. God dwells among us. The Spirit never forsakes us. God is making all things new and making all wrongs right. It’s called redemption. Valleys will be full, and are currently being filled. Mountains will be made low, and are currently being flattened. Rough ways will be smooth, and are currently being made level. What does this mean? Drastic changes in the way we think… old ways shattered and new ways recognized.

The key to understanding the kingdom of God is revealed in what you allow yourself to think. What you hear the most is what you think about most. You are what you think. If you listen to doom and gloom often, you will think about doom and gloom more than anything else. What you think affects how you act. What you think is what you become. As a person thinks in their heart so is that person (Proverbs 23:7). This means that if you want to change, you must start by changing your mind.

Jesus started his ministry with one message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mathew 4:17). Repentance means, changing your mind. It means altering the way you think. It means living in a new reality as a citizen of a Kingdom. Bottom-line: to enter the kingdom of God, one must learn to think properly about God.

Repent. Stop of thinking about the kingdom as if it is not yet. The kingdom has come and is coming. It has come in the person and work of Jesus Christ and is continually coming though they indwelling of the Holy Spirit.. The kingdom of God is a central message in the teachings of our Lord. The theme of the “kingdom” is the essence of God’s message to the world.

What did Jesus want us to understand through this message? To live inverted. To live counter to the spirit of the present age. To live in such a way that our presence in the world flips the world’s economy on its head. It is opposite of everything prevailing culture and society wants us to believe. It’s an upside-down way of life that challenges the prevailing paradigms of popular religious culture and societal norms. You are what you think… so what are you?

(Sources: Shane Claiborne; Donald Kraybill; Brian Zahnd)


Solitude is a discipline. In solitude we make sense of life’s happenings. Solitude helps us find rest and escape the busyness of life. When we remove ourselves from the hustle of daily activity we are able to process the meaning of life’s occurrences in deeper ways. Interestingly, the very first thing God did with the first person he created was rested. God knew something that most of us still haven’t realized: rest is good for us.

When we get alone with ourselves, we realize that we’re not really alone at all. God is with us. Solitude helps us to hear him. God never moves from a place of anxiety and hurriedness. He doesn’t have to, he’s too vigorous and confident. I’m convinced that only in silence and solitude are we able to reconnect to our inner person: the person we are created to be.

A strong spirit always sustains a weak body and drained mind, but a weak body and fatigued mind sustains us not at all. All the words we process on a daily basis are hollow until we are able to get alone with God and allow him to pour life into them. Finding a quiet place helps develop ears to hear the small still voice of the Holy Spirit.

Relationship is what we are created for. Solitude not only helps us make sense of life’s happenings and hear God more clearly, it also helps us make sense of our relationships. Life’s distractions undermine the quality of meaningful relationships. Many people are only concerned with their own needs, but when we practice solitude we learn how to be honest in our interactions with one another.

Religious structures create an atmosphere of judgment, but in my alone time with God I’ve learned that he is not mad at anyone. God wants us to process life well, he wants us to have new thoughts about him and learn to interact with Jesus on deeper levels. Solitude helps us create an inner atmosphere of celebration and sacredness. If you want authentic relationships with others, get alone with God on a regular basis. God will bless your rest and help you process the significant investments he makes in your life on a daily basis.

We keep the words of St. Augustine in mind: “If you love the world it will absorb you; for the world knows not how to support, but only how to devour its admirers.” For this reason each of us must find our own mountain or desert where we can withdraw into the peace that’s only discovered by practicing the discipline of solitude. Christ himself told his followers to pray in the solitude of their room and to “come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).

(Sources: Richard Foster; Dallas Willard; Brian Zahnd; Graham Cooke)