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The Radical Reformation

According to a recent Pew study, 53% of American Protestants couldn’t identify Martin Luther as the one who started the Reformation, and fewer than 30% of white Evangelicals were unable to identify Protestantism as the faith which embraces the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

On this program, the hosts will attempt to show that contemporary Christians, whether liberal or conservative, have more in common with the theology of the Anabaptist reformers than they do with the views of Luther and Calvin expressed in the great Reformation solas. Join us as we continue to think about the Reformation on this edition of White Horse Inn.

Host Quote:

“Much of the hoopla surrounding the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year has been, well, let’s just say, blather.  At a joint service in Lund, Sweden, on October 31st, 2016, Pope Francis and the president of the World Lutheran Federation exchanged warm feelings. Reverend Martin Junge, general secretary of the mainline Lutheran body said in a press release from the joint service, ‘I’m carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we’re working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn by conflict and violence.’  Clearly, the focus wasn’t on truth.

“Acknowledging Luther’s positive contributions, the Pope spoke of how important Christian unity is to bring healing and reconciliation to a world divided by violence.  But he added, ‘We have no intention of correcting what took place, but to tell that history differently.’ Perhaps the most evident example of missing the point is the statement by Swiss Pastor and President of an ecumenical church convention in Berlin last year, Christina Aus der Au.  She said, ‘Reformation means courageously seeking what is new and turning away from old familiar customs.’ That’s what the reformation was all about, why average lay people and archbishops gave their bodies to be burned and the western church was divided – a lot people just got really tired of the same old thing.

“The Wall Street Journal reports a Pew study showing that 53 percent of U.S. Protestants couldn’t identify Martin Luther as the one who started the Reformation.  Oddly, Jews, atheists and Mormons were more familiar with Luther than Protestants. In fact, fewer than three in ten white evangelicals correctly identify Protestantism as the faith that believes in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Three in ten. Many today who claim the Reformation as their heritage are more likely heirs of the radical Anabaptists.  It might sound crazy, but here is my thesis. The Reformation isn’t over because it hasn’t begun in America. Protestantism is definitely over and the radicals won.” – Michael Horton

Term to Learn:

“Inner Light”

The “Inner Light,” also called “Inward Light,” is often thought to be a distinctive theme of the Society of Friends (Quakers). This Inner Light is understood to be a direct awareness of God that allows a person to know God’s will for him or her. This expression is often attributed to the teachings of George Fox in the 17th century, founder of the Society of Friends, who had failed to find spiritual truth in the English churches. He experienced an inner light and voice within, “that of God in every man.” The Inner Light should not simply be a mystical experience, but should also result in a person’s working for the good of others.

The practice of Inner Light is believed to be the direct path of ascension towards the divine nature within man. The theme of Inner Light appears in various spiritual traditions as well as in the main religions of the world. Buddhism believes that the one experiences the highest nature of the mind, reaches enlightenment and liberation from the Wheel of Samsara (i.e. bodily existence).

The Society of Friends was influenced by a pivotal figure, Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), a German mystic who was raised in Lutheranism. Böhme had considerable influence on Pietism and various mystical sects including Rosicrucianism and theosophy. Böhme sought a melding of various alchemical and Kabbalistic traditions that focused on the inner path to God, which finds parallels with the ancient heresy known as Gnosticism.  Böhme was also an important source for German Romantic philosophy, influencing F.W. Schelling. Böhme is also an important influence on the ideas of the English Romantic poet, artist, and mystic William Blake. The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was profoundly influenced by him as well. The tradition of the Inner Light reaches back into ancient mystical philosophies which have come to profoundly shape modern thinking. (Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Inner Light;” “Jakob Böhme”)

(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Jesus taught us to pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come, your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

Known as The Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13 is like a blueprint on how to pray.

Through adoption in Jesus Christ, you are privileged to call God your Father. Still, you must revere His name as holy. He’s not your papa, or your “cosmic dad”. He is God, enthroned in heaven.How to Pray

He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons thorugh Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will. (Ephesians 1:5)

Desire God’s kingdom, not an earthly one, as Paul wrote:

Set your minds on things that are above, not things on earth. (Colossians 3:2)

Also, desire that God’s will be done and not your own so your thinking would be conformed to His and that we might see His will on earth as perfectly as it’s realized in heaven.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

The requests for daily bread implies that we begin every day with prayer – that God would provide for all our basic needs, which Jesus said he’d do if we seek first his kingdom and righteousness.

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

And also, that God would provide for all of our spiritual needs through the bread of His Word.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. (John 6:51)

Ask forgiveness for your sins, that you would have a heart to forgive others their sins. For if you don’t forgive others, neither will God forgive you.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

And, when you are tempted, ask God to preserve you from giving into temptation and that He delivers you from the schemes of Satan.

Jesus said, “Whatever you ask for in My name, this I will do that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)

…when we understand the text.

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Within 24 hours, they agreed that Jake needed to go to rehab. Tuesday, the Harrisons were on a plane to Florida to a facility that would take Jake.

The plane ride was terrible. The two-hour drive to the center was terrible. They got lost. They fought. But by Wednesday, Jake was in rehab, awakening to the truth of God’s love—that through Christ, Jake and Rebecca had the rest they so desperately needed.

October 20, 2010 was the first day Jake went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and the first day he admitted he’s an alcoholic.

Jake spent 37 days in rehab. At the end, the director of the program looked at the 10 recovering addicts and told them half would be back. To this day, Jake is one of two who never used again. “It’s all glory to God,” Jake says. “It’s nothing I’ve done.”

Rebecca joined Jake in Florida, and they began to rebuild their life together. They attended counseling together and separately, and Jake went to 90 meetings in 90 days. Rebecca began to deal with the pain Jake had caused her—something she’d set aside for a while, by God’s grace, to help care for Jake. She still wasn’t sure she was going to stay with him. Jake was still in touch with his mistress—a different addiction—and Jake thought he could handle it.

And at 34, he still hadn’t told anyone what his youth leader had done—not his addiction therapist, his friends in the program, or his wife. Though he had freedom from addiction for the first time in his life, this secret festered. It needed to be brought into the light, to become light, so that God could keep healing Jake’s wounds and taking on his burdens.

Even when Jake told his addiction therapist that he was bulimic and she asked point-blank if he was molested, Jake denied it. “I remember asking her why she’d ask that, and she said, ‘Well, you’re bulimic, a drug addict, an alcoholic, you had an affair, and you’ve confessed homosexual thoughts. So I figured you were molested,’” Jake shares. “Man, it was so ridiculous that I still couldn’t tell the truth.”

In late 2011, a news update about the Jerry Sandusky Penn State scandal came across the radio one day when Rebecca was driving with Jake in the car. The announcement elicited such a visceral reaction from Jake that Rebecca knew almost instantly. “It was an intuition thing,” Rebecca remembers. They rode in silence the rest of the way home. They went inside, sat on the couch, and Jake finally shared, “I was 11 or 12. It was a man at church.”

“That was all I could get out,” he remembers. “It was the first time I’d ever told anybody. It had been my secret for 20 years. It was terrifying. I thought she was going to leave me—but she just did what Rebecca does. She loved me.”

God’s ability to heal exceeds our imaginationSlowly, the Lord knit Jake and Rebecca back together. Their faith grew. They abandoned bad habits. They confessed old hurts. They had their first child, a sweet, blue-eyed girl, on August 26, 2012. Jake and Rebecca finally believed that God was loving enough and gracious enough to overcome their pain.

But they were still in Florida where it felt safe. Bit by bit, they began flying back to Austin for long weekends here and there. They never told anyone—Jake was still fearful of what would happen if he had contact with his old way of life or his mistress. God’s faithfulness and protection continued, and soon, Rebecca and Jake were ready to come back to their beloved city.

They moved back to Austin on October 20, 2012—Jake’s two-year sobriety date—and began attending The Austin Stone Community Church regularly.

Within a month, Jake and Rebecca heard Andy Kampman talk about going overseas to serve others and share the gospel. Memories of Nicaragua flooded them both, and they remembered how much joy they’d felt. That morning, both felt God wanted them to go overseas. “We’d always had a heart for it,” Rebecca remembers, “but finally, it was the right time. So we thought, Why not now?

As a next step, they joined a group at the Stone called a Goer Missional Community, or GMC, designed to train and prepare people to share the gospel overseas.

In that group, Jake and Rebecca found a community unlike any they’d ever experienced. At their first meeting, the GMC raised $2500 to help the Harrisons move into their community’s apartment complex. Their generosity and obedience to God was powerful to Rebecca and Jake. “I’d never seen Christians be that way,” Jake shares. “It was an instant family.”

Everything seemed to be working out. They were closer to God than they’d ever been, doted on their new baby girl, and their marriage grew stronger each day. They read the Bible and beamed. They knew now the joy of the psalmist who delights in God’s promise to lift his head up above his enemies and says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

But on the first day they moved into GMC housing, their beloved dog died unexpectedly, curled up on their bed. Then, Rebecca figured out that her eldest sister was doing meth regularly, often putting Rebecca’s niece, Julie, in danger. Rebecca’s sister refused help, and Rebecca had to call Child Protective Services to intervene. Then, Julie, who was 15, got pregnant by a man 10 years her senior. “I had a lot of guilt about that,” Rebecca shares. “I took her to church. I tried to save her. I felt like I failed.”

Everyone argued about what to do with the baby, including the Harrisons. Rebecca wanted to adopt the child, but Jake was worried she was falling into her habit of trying to save everyone. “That was the second biggest blow to our marriage. We fought a lot. We didn’t let God guide us,” Rebecca shares. “It’s just been so much spiritual warfare ever since we said ‘yes’ to going overseas.” While they were fighting and figuring out how to care for Julie’s infant son, Rebecca’s three-year-old nephew Isaac died suddenly in Dallas. “To come home from that funeral and have to find parents for my niece’s baby…” she pauses. “It was just two hard losses in a row.”

God’s ability to heal exceeds our imaginationWith each loss, the Harrison’s GMC wept, suffered, and prayed alongside them. One couple sat outside their door all night and prayed for them. Others buried their dog when the Harrisons couldn’t muster the strength. The GMC reminded the Harrisons of the truths from the Bible that their suffering was not in vain, that the God of the universe loves Jake, He loves Rebecca, that He is truly working all things for the good of those who love Him.

“If any good came out of that,” Rebecca says, “it’s the sense of urgency we have now to see the Great Commission completed. It made me want to see the kingdom come faster.”

They decided to stay in the U.S. another year while they recovered from the losses and allow God to heal them. Since they were staying, they decided to lead a new GMC, and they scheduled their first trip to Central Asia to confirm their desire to go serve the people of that region.

Over the past year, God has taught them how to speak about their joy in Christ and to use their story to demonstrate God’s goodness and faithfulness, even in awful circumstances. It can be painful to keep reliving, but Jake shares, “If I have to make myself vulnerable so God can allow others to be free of their secrets, then great.”

Each of them sees how their story and the choices they’ve made has allowed them to love each other better, to love God more, and to bring the freedom of a relationship with Christ to nonbelievers.God’s ability to heal exceeds our imagination

“We want to share about the affair, that God is bigger than it. It’s only God who can overcome what happened to us, what I did to Rebecca,” Jake shares.

“It’s beautiful to stick by someone through the mess and be made more like Christ as a result,” adds Rebecca.

“I think that’s why I love Jesus so much—from where we started, from where I started, now we’ve got two kids, we’re moving to Central Asia,” Jake says. “We’re just normal people. And He’s using us.”

And truly, Jake and Rebecca believe, God has shown them over and over again how His timing, His wisdom, and His plans are the way to find rest for their souls.

Their second child arrived in 2015. Jake celebrated that he’s been sober five years on October 20, 2015. They plan to move to Central Asia some time in 2016.

The Harrisons know more suffering will come, even as they obey Christ’s commandment to go and make disciples of all nations. But now, they have Christ’s example to follow in their suffering—an example of entrusting all things completely to God, even to the point of death.

And in this, they find the rest that only Christ can give. It is the promise found in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

God’s ability to heal exceeds our imagination

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Even with a new bride, a vow to drink more responsibly, and a job he liked, Jake’s depression deepened. He was drinking a bottle of Jameson whiskey a day. He planned his suicide on multiple occasions. He used cocaine regularly. He had an ongoing affair. They were the darkest years of his life.

He believed in God, but he ran to the comforts and escapes of this world to ease his pain. “I wanted relief. All I wanted was some kind of relief,” he recalls.

Rebecca saw her husband’s burdens and desperately tried to take them on herself, believing she could fill the hole in Jake’s heart. On her shoulders, she’d always felt the heavy weight of others’ salvation, both eternally and temporally. She needed to fix and protect the people in her life, and she carried this savior complex into her marriage with Jake. Inevitably, this burden unraveled her to the point at which she had no fight left in her. “His final spiral down felt like eternity, but it was really just a couple months,” she remembers.

It was the summer of 2010. Rebecca knew something was up—she knew Jake’s behavior had changed—so she confronted him. Jake admitted to aspects of the truth. Yes, he’d had an affair, but he promised it was a one-time thing with someone Rebecca didn’t know. In truth, it was habitual and with a mutual acquaintance from Jake’s work.Faith is seeing the unseen and brings the deepest healing

“You’d think seeking pleasure in that avenue would be satisfying, but that affair made me more miserable than anything else,” Jake recalls. “I hated that I did it. I hated that I couldn’t stop.” He hid so many things from Rebecca that he felt like he was living a complete lie. And Rebecca was frightened for Jake’s well being. He’d call her late at night, drunk and suicidal, and she wouldn’t know where he was.

“At that point, I was just really trying to control him—to get him to go to therapy, get him to see a psychiatrist, get him on medication. It was just about fixing him, because he was so suicidal I thought he was going to kill himself and it would be a reflection on me as a wife—that my husband killed himself because I wasn’t good enough. It was shameful for me to have a husband going through this and not be able to fix him. I even tried to get him committed and took him to a psychiatrist, but he’d had a good day that day, so he seemed fine and wouldn’t share the truth, so this plan just blew up in my face,” she remembers.

“I knew he was still having an affair. I knew he was still drinking. He didn’t come home at night. I felt like if I did nothing, I was going to come home and find him dead. I couldn’t watch him just kill himself.”

Rebecca spent that summer talking to a Christian therapist, her best friend, and God. They were the only ones who knew what was going on, and they were her lifelines. “God gave me this compassion for Jake—it wasn’t humanly possible,” she remembers.

“That’s how I could stay with him, even though he continued the affair, continued to drink, continued to lie.”

But even with that compassion, she was still terrified about what was going to happen to Jake. She called her best friend sobbing one Thursday afternoon, saying that Jake had to get help or she was going to leave. She remembers telling her friend, “There’s no way he’ll choose me.”

Rebecca’s friend replied, “Our God is a God of miracles—He can do anything.” And Rebecca deemed this would necessitate a miracle. There was no way. So she prayed for a miracle.

That night, she went home and gave Jake the ultimatum: pick your lifestyle, or pick me.Faith is seeing the unseen and brings the deepest healing

And he didn’t pick Rebecca. Jake packed up his things, left for his alcohol-and-drug-fueled weekend at ACL and a final fling with his mistress, and prepared himself to confront the youth leader who was, in Jake’s eyes, the root of all this evil—his alcoholism, his drug addiction, his affair, and his deep, deep pain.

He’d given up. He was so entrenched in shame that he couldn’t imagine God would ever want him. He remembers, “I didn’t want to be accepted back into God’s embrace. I wanted to die. I’d do a lot of cocaine and feel my heart and just beg it to please, just, stop.”

When Jake finally got back after ACL to his 1991 Buick La Sabre, isolated in the center of an empty parking lot outside BJ’s Brewhouse, he was ready to do what it took to end his pain. And then his car wouldn’t start.

Phoneless, he walked fifteen minutes to his wife’s grandmother, hoping to find Rebecca there. To her knowledge, Jake had planned to go visit his father in Florida. Rebecca opened the door to find the last person she expected. Head down, Jake asked for her help with the car. She paused, and then replied, “The only way I’ll help you is if you come to church with me.”

Hung over and out of options, Jake agreed. They fought the zoo of traffic and arrived, finding seats eight rows up in the back bleachers at Austin High School where The Austin Stone Community Church holds Sunday services. Jeff Mangum was teaching a sermon called “Faith Is: Seeing the Unseen,” and it seemed to Jake that God had orchestrated the whole universe so that he could hear this sermon at that exact moment.Faith is seeing the unseen and brings the deepest healing

Tears poured down Jake’s cheeks. People around him passed him tissues and squeezed his arm in comfort. Jake remembers so clearly, “I felt like God was in the building right there with me. Everything that Jeff said…”—he sighs—“It’s hard to explain. Jeff said that our God is going to push you to the edge where you have no other choice but to rely on Him—that it’ll feel like you’re falling, and He’ll catch you. I needed to rely on someone way bigger than me. That sermon couldn’t have been meant for anybody else but me. And it just crushed me. I felt like I could reach out and touch God, and He said, ‘Dude, just stop. Stop running, stop doing everything. Let Me help you.’ And I remember just crying. I bawled.”

“The snotty kind,” Rebecca interjects, laughing.

Filling his lungs with air, Jake remembers, “That was the most relief I ever had in my life.”

Here was that turning point they had thought was coming in 2007. And here it was, coming with the full force of God’s power and love in their lives. The Harrisons began to feel their burdens lighten, unaware that God’s plan for them was still very much in progress.

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Romans 12:2 says,

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Many Bible websites and apps have said this is one of the most looked up Bible verses on the web. The way it usually gets interpreted is like this: Don’t be like anyone else or who the world wants you to be. Be who God made you to be!

That’s all well and good; but when this verse is taken by itself, “who God made you to be” is typically “who you want to be.” And “God’s will for your life” is really “your will for your life.” After all, God’s will is for you to be happy, right?

God’s will for you is that you would be sanctified, abstain from sexual immorality, control your own body, grow in holiness, and give thanks to God in all circumstances.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Which, by the way, that happens to be Romans 12:1,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

Paul previously spent the first 11 chapters of Romans explaining the mercies of God into giving up His Son. Jesus died for us so we are to live for Him – holy and acceptable to God and this is worship.

So you must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)

Present yourselves then to God as those who have been brought from death to life… (Romans 6:13)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

do not conform to this world?To be holy means to be set apart. Don’t think like the world thinks. Have the mind of Christ. Then we’re able to know God’s will as revealed in His Word, the Bible.

Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Mark 8:33)

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to teach him?

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:5)

Being transformed in Christ, we desire to worship God in a way that is good and acceptable and perfect…

when we understand the text. 

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Should we invite unbelievers to church?

Should we invite unbelievers to church?

Sure! Why not? Church should be a place where anyone who comes through the doors will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed!

The Scripture says, “The wages of sin is death! But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 6:23)

May this message be preached from every pulpit! But, we need to understand unbelievers are not part of the Church.

In Romans 8:9, Paul said:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.

The church is the Body of Christ. Whoever is not of Christ is not part of His Body.

Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. (Ephesians 5:23)

Don’t let an unbeliever get comfortable. They need to be convicted.

We are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Though they’re in the doors, they’re still outside the Church until they repent of their sin and are reconciled to God in Christ Jesus.

And don’t use gimmicks to get them there. What you win them with is what you win them to.Should we invite unbelievers to church?

For the one who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)

Not one soul has ever come to Christ through pop music or door prizes. Give them the Word of God.

What’s more important than inviting unbelievers is going to unbelievers.

Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

This is evangelism.

How will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

But they’ve not all obeyed the Gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he’s heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14-17)

So yes, invite your unbelieving friend to church; AND take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the rest of the unbelieving world…

when we understand the text.

(This video is by WWUTT. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network.)

 

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What is God’s will for your life? Well the Bible says:

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Not the answer you were looking for?

That’s probably because what you actually want is to have your fortune told.how to know God's perfect will for your life

Many ask about the will of God as though it’s the Christian equivalent of ”wishing upon a star”. When they talk about God’s will for their life, what they’re probably talking about is the hopes and dreams they have and it’s God’s will for them to have him.

But the Bible isn’t going to tell you:

  • What career you should pursue
  • Where to go to school
  • Where you will live
  • What tax bracket you should be in
  • What church to attend
  • Whether you should get married or not get married
  • How many kids you will have
  • Where you should be buried

For those kinds of questions, the Bible says wisdom is found in an abundance of counselors.

Where there’s no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)

Ephesians 5:15-17 says this:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Now understanding the will of the Lord doesn’t mean what He’s going to reveal to you in a vision or a dream or some false prophet trying to con you. It’s understanding what He’s already revealed in His Word.

Know what the Word of God says and how to apply it, and it will make you wise.

The Bible also says:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

So what is God’s will for your life?

That you praise Him in all circumstances and that you live holy lives in Christ Jesus according to His Word, the Bible…

when we understand the text. 

(This video is by WWUTT. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network.)

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If things had worked out differently, you might have found Kenny back in his hometown of Corpus Christi, dressed in a stiff suit and tie, maybe in an office with the sweet smell of leather chairs and a view of the bay. He might have been poring over legal documents, using God’s gifts of speech and debate to disrupt human trafficking as an attorney. For a long time, Kenny imagined his life looking something like that. He wanted to do something meaningful, something his dad could point to and be proud of.

But Kenny’s Heavenly Father had different plans.

The summer after Kenny’s freshman year of high school, God first revealed Himself to Kenny at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) sports camp, an organization he got involved with through his time playing baseball. Though he had attended church his entire life and heard the Gospel numerous times, the FCA camp was his first experience with the emotionally raw kind of worship that causes people to unashamedly raise their hands and voices. The Lord continued to stir Kenny’s heart and, after winning a debate tournament and learning of the realities of human trafficking, he was sure God was calling him to use his talents as an attorney.God's Plans are Always Better than Our Plans

The following school year, Kenny moved from his small, suburban high school to an urban city and found that the FCA that he had grown to love was virtually nonexistent in his new school. Kenny got involved in the FCA leadership and, with him speaking and his friend leading worship on Wednesday nights, their numbers grew from five to 50. Revival was happening in Kenny’s new high school. Each week as he took the stage to speak, he looked at the expectant faces in the crowded gym and proudly thought, I did this. 

When Kenny started applying to college, he looked for three things: a place where he could continue to play baseball, a school known for producing attorneys, and a campus where he would have opportunities to share the Gospel. He found all of those at Southwestern University. There, he surrounded himself with Believers and, continuing in his self-righteousness, he walled off anyone or anything associated with the party culture on campus. When his entire baseball team was rushing fraternities, he refrained, thinking, That’s where the sinners go.

Eventually, Kenny started playing keys with two seniors who were leading worship on campus. The seniors, however, would be graduating soon and wanted to discuss the future of the weekly worship service with Kenny. They told him that he would have to take over or the service would come to an end. They asked him to pray about quitting baseball in order to keep it alive, but Kenny was hesitant. He had played baseball his entire life, and the sport was one of the main reasons he had chosen to attend Southwestern. He agreed to pray about it, but his pleas to God were meager, half-hearted attempts. Nonetheless, God used those prayers to incite a heart change in Kenny, and he began to despise baseball for seemingly no reason at all. His excitement for leading worship grew and grew until Kenny decided to quit baseball in order to devote his time to leading the worship service.God's Plans are Always Better than Our Plans

The next summer, Kenny felt the conviction of the Spirit. For the first time, Kenny saw error in the way he was treating the people around him. He began to understand God’s capacity for grace and that it is extended to anyone, regardless of their sin. Kenny had built himself up for so long as the example of an ideal Christian that he had grown disconnected from the people that God seeks to know and love.

The following year, Kenny devoted himself to building relationships and genuinely getting to know the people around him. Having quit baseball, he led worship each week with full dedication. All the while, he was continuing to pursue law school with no ambition of going into ministry. In fact, in all the years of leading in high school and college, he never thought about being anything other than an attorney.

When it came time for him to take the LSAT during the summer before his senior year, Kenny felt a lot of uncertainty about pursuing law school. He began to question the ambitions he had kept for so long. However, he felt joy in his time leading worship and even thought, Why can’t I just do this?God's Plans are Always Better than Our Plans

The most convicting affirmation of Kenny’s call to ministry came on a Sunday when he overslept for the morning service at his home church in Georgetown and found himself at a Sunday evening service at The Austin Stone Community Church. As he listened to Matt Carter describe his own call to ministry, Kenny started thinking, Law school doesn’t make me feel that way, but leading worship does. The band started to lead a song that Kenny had heard and led countless times, but, in that moment, he felt newly convicted by the lyrics:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

Over the next few years, the Lord led Kenny on a journey of faith and he is now in his second year as a worship resident at The Stone. He looks back on his ministry in high school and college, at the times when he was harboring sinful pride and self-righteousness, and is amazed at how God used him even then, a broken kid, to spread the gospel to his classmates. And, though he always wanted to make his father proud by gaining status and recognition, he recognizes how his parents are overjoyed in seeing him proclaim the glory of God instead.God's Plans are Always Better than Our Plans

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Bitia Buenrostro was born on November 13th, 1984 in the tiny border town of Brownsville, Texas. Much of her youth was spent carpooling back and forth across the border into Matamoros, Mexico. Summers were full of youth group adventures, family dinners, and plotting her illustrious Quinceañera, a life event that rivals the importance of a wedding day to a little girl in Mexico.

Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identityJust before she entered fifth grade, Bitia’s parents withdrew her and her little brother from the private school in Brownsville, to which they were commuting from Matamoros daily, and enrolled them in public school in Brownsville. But attending the public school required Bitia and her brother to live in Brownsville. So, Bitia began living with her grandparents during the week, and returning home to Mexico on the weekends.

Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identityAs if this transition wasn’t hard enough, she began to encounter resentment from her friends back home. “I’d be teased as the gringa since I was speaking English and spending so much time in Texas. This really hurt. All I wanted to do was identify with the people and the country I loved so much.”

Then, the summer of 1999 happened.

“My parents told us we were moving back to Mexico! I was pumped because that meant I could go back home… It was the best summer of my entire life. It was also the last time I ever had a carefree, youthful summer,” Bitia recalled, tears rolling down her cheeks.Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identity

That summer, Bitia spent many days going on mission trips with her church friends and finishing up the final details of her Quince. Toward the end of the summer, Bitia’s grandmother died, and the funeral was held in Mexico. Returning from the funeral would be the last time for many years to come that Bitia would cross the border from Mexico.

A week after her grandmother’s funeral, Bitia’s parents broke the news that she and her little brother would not be going back to school in Mexico after all, and her long-awaited Quinceañera would be cancelled… oh, and the past 14 years had been a total lie.

***

Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identity

Bitia Buenrostro was born on October 20th, 1984 in the tiny border town of Matamoros, Mexico. And for 14 years, Bitia was an undocumented immigrant.

After Bitia was born, a family friend of the Buenrostros encouraged them to acquire false identification for their children. This family friend frightened the new parents into believing that the legalization process was too laborious and expensive. So, in a terrified effort to secure a better life and future in America for their babies, the Buenrostros obtained false identification.

“I distinctly remember this day, this moment. My parents took us to the only Luby’s in Brownsville. They began explaining the school thing again… Then the story started unfolding so rapidly,” Bitia remembered. “Everything slowed down. I was staring emptily into nothing. I was crying. I was shocked. My entire existence was a lie—down to the day I was born.”Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identity

Bitia spent the next three years of her life quarantined in Texas, balancing both high school and immigration court. “It was the longest three years of my life. I was drilled every morning about my life, my grades, my hobbies, and why I deserved to be a citizen of the United States. Honestly? I didn’t care. I didn’t want to be a citizen. I hated Texas. I hated America. I was so angry and tired—I was constantly missing class for court,” Bitia recounted.

Behind in school, angry at the law, and devastated by the lack of mercy, Bitia found herself hopeless and lonely. And eventually, Bitia’s parents had enough of the legal rodeo, and they informed their immigration officer that they were going to self-deport and move back to Mexico.

“NO!” the immigration officer exclaimed. “You’re not taking your kids. Their future is not in Mexico. It’s here in the United States of America.”

And so the Author continued to write, though the characters had no idea what has going on.

The immigration officers, lawyers, and clerks working on the Buenrostros’ case were adamant that they continue the process. Why the change of heart? The family will never know.Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identity

At the start of her senior year in high school, Bitia finally obtained her green card, and was then able to apply for college.

On the outside, the life her parents had always wanted for her was finally coming together. On the inside, Bitia still harbored resentment for the States and a perpetual longing for her deeply cherished home.

With a green card, one is eligible to apply for citizenship after being a U.S. resident for five years. After putting it off year after year, Bitia dropped her lingering grudges and applied for full citizenship in 2012.

Ironically, during the time she planned to take her citizenship test, Bitia was an AP United States history teacher at a high school in Austin. A predominantly Spanish-speaking, non-US citizen was attempting to motivate a bunch of teenagers to learn about the history of a country she had spent most of her life hating.

The Author of our stories obviously has a sense of humor.

“My citizenship ceremony was a beautiful example of God’s grace. We deserved to be blacklisted from this country, but the authorities—by his mastery—offered us another opportunity to stay. The longing we have for our worldly home is the same longing we have for heaven. My ceremony allowed me to finally understand that whether it’s Texas or Mexico—this is my temporary home. Heaven is my true home.”

***

Today, Bitia is no longer a teacher. Now, she is the Mentor Coordinator with RBI Austin—a ministry within the For the City Network that exists to renew baseball in the inner city of Austin. Bitia feels that had her parents never told her and her brother about their undocumented status, they would not have experienced humility in the same way. They likely would have grown up as normal, privileged people, incapable of understanding that everything is at the hands of God.Bitia Buenrostro struggled with citizenship and identity

“Seeing how the Lord has used every single thing in my life to keep us in Texas is just… incomprehensible. It’s beautiful, really.” Bitia explains, “It’s beautiful that I can help the people from the country that I love so much transition into a new life in America. He redeemed my family, and redeemed our story so that I could be here, right now, teaching and serving the same marginalized immigrants that we once were. I can use my experience to encourage these people, and reassure them that the Gospel is real and God’s grace is far more than anything they could ever need.

“Fifteen years ago I was an angry, wailing teenager. Fifteen years later, I’m still crying, but I’m crying tears of joy. By God’s grace I am able to bless people in this capacity. My heart is so full after being empty for so long.”

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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A podcast listener named Elisa, with a historical connection to you, Pastor John, writes in to ask: “Hello Pastor John! Thanks for your ministry over all these years. Incidentally, we [she and her husband] we met you when we were post-Stanford students attending InterVarsity’s Western Leadership Conference, sometime around 1985. I was one of the worship leaders at that conference and vividly remember you speaking on Christian Hedonism — a life-changing paradigm for us. Now that we’re empty-nesters, my husband and I are asking the question: How do we spend the next portion of our lives? However, for better or worse, my dear husband is something of a perfectionist and doesn’t want to make a mistake in answering this important question. So the question becomes: When the stakes are so high, how do you not become paralyzed with fear of making a mistake?”

Hahaha! I have to start by asking: How can you be a perfectionist as an empty-nester? No: How can you live that long and still be a perfectionist? Well, anyway. . . . So, we have got to deal with this. It is wonderful to be reminded of those days at Stanford. I remember them, and I remember them pretty clearly for reasons that are not altogether positive, because I remember that the leader of the Intervarsity group and I were moving in different directions, it seemed. I am going to close with that in just a few minutes and apply that to your situation.

So, here are the things that come to mind. And I am exactly in your situation. You are younger than I am, but I am thinking about that kind of question. So, here are my thoughts.paralyzed with fear of making a mistake

  1. One of the best ways to overcome the perfectionist fear of making a mistake in what you decide to do is to realize that deciding nothing is the biggest mistake. There is your deal breaker. That will get you going. In other words, you are not in a neutral zone. There are no neutral zones. Not to move toward a God-sized goal in this next season of your life is to disobey. So, standing still is not an option, because it means you are drifting. You are never standing still. You are drifting or you are coasting with the culture in the way of the world. That is the first thing.
  2. God loves to steer a moving ship. If you are tied up in the harbor of comfort and leisure, God ordinarily will not give you clear direction. He gives direction to captains who point their ship out of the harbor, into the storm. Think about Jonah — kind of a counterintuitive illustration. Even Jonah was moving in exactly the wrong direction. And God stopped him. He didn’t send him home and say: Start over. He didn’t send him home. He made that journey part of the journey. And he sent him exactly where he wanted him to be: not exactly in the way he wanted, but he got him where he wanted to go because he was moving.
  3. One of the ways to be moving without knowing exactly where you are going is what I might call investigative moving. You are moving when you are pursuing possibilities with serious investigation. That, too, is moving.
  4. Take heart from the many promises of God that in his great mercy he will give you the guidance you need when you trust him. For example,Psalm 25:8–9 say, “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.” So, we qualify, right? “He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble” — people who know they are sinners and admit it and cry out. “He leads the humble in what is right; and teaches the humble his way.” That is a precious promise of guidance.
  5. Pursue with all your might what is crystal clear as God’s will in Scripture. For example,1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “This is the will of God” — for Elisa and her husband — “your sanctification” — your holiness. If you have a full, deep, wide, rich understanding of holiness, it is not bad advice to say: Pursue holiness with all your might, and do as you please. Just do, because if you are passionate about being holy and maximizing your love for God, then it will happen. God loves to give direction, fruitful direction, to lovers of holiness who pursue it with all their hearts.
  6. In this process of prayer and investigation, dream bigger than aging fatalism would allow you. I find in my own heart at age 70 the temptation to think I don’t have long to live. So, I should probably be restricted in my dreams of what I can accomplish. Now, I think that is a mistake. I think it is a serious mistake, and I am trying to strive against that thought. I have no idea how long I have left. You don’t either. I never have had any idea how long I have left. But when I was younger, I assumed that I could accomplish more simply because of the amount of time that was in front of me, probably. But, in fact, the accomplishments came because of God’s blessing on a particular season. It wasn’t the length of life. It was the power of seasons. And who knows? Who knows what you might accomplish in the next season? So, don’t let the fatalism of aging limit your dreams of fruitfulness.
  7. And the last point relates to Stanford, 1985. One of the reasons I look back with some sadness on those Christian Hedonism talks is because, little by little as the series of messages went on, I saw myself — through interacting with students and the leader — I saw myself going in a different direction than the Intervarsity leader at the time. His stress was on the wonder and the glory of the fact that God works for us. We are not God’s employees trying to earn wages. We are the patients of the great physician who is using all of his wisdom and his skill to serve us and our eternal health. And that is true. And I love it, love it.

But the note I was striking then — and have been ever since — was: When God works for us, the goal of his work is to fit us for enjoying God himself. That is what the physician does — not like any earthly physician. This heavenly physician is trying to get our disease healed that makes us find substitutes for God so that in our wellness we will see him, know him, be satisfied in him. God himself is the all-satisfying treasure. And, as I recall, the students back then began to discern a different trajectory between me and the leader.

So, here is the way it relates to you. In your case, now, the question perhaps finally is this: What new vision for our next chapter of life would cause us to taste most fully the power of God, the wisdom of God, the grace of God in our lives? How can we get more of God? And I think if that is the passion, God will show you the answer.

Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes here.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

(By Desiring God. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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