God’s not a Magic Eight Ball

When was the last time someone trusted you with a huge responsibility? What did you do? How did you react?

I frequently encounter situations where I end up having to make big, important decisions. But just the other day, one of those decisions that only come around in a blue moon landed in my lap.

I hate decisions like that because no matter how you choose, you always feel like you should have chosen something else. Maybe that’s just me.

So what do you do when you’re faced with a difficult choice? Or even a choice between two good options? How do you choose what’s best? Whether it’s a family decision or a personal decision or a professional decision, those big, scary, intimidating choices always come along when you least expect them. And if you don’t take them seriously, you could have major trouble in the future.

Is there a Magic Eight Ball somewhere you can shake that will tell you exactly what you’re supposed to do with yourself?

Well, not exactly.

8ballToday’s verses are James 1:5-8.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

God is nothing like a Magic Eight Ball. Well, I say that. Maybe there are a few similarities. When you do get an answer, it’s usually terse. Go. Now. Stop. Wait. But God doesn’t just hand out answers because you ask for them. You don’t get to determine when God answers your questions or your prayers, and that’s frustrating.

When we’re faced with a choice we don’t know how to make, we’re instructed to ask for wisdom. The Bible is full of examples of people who asked God for guidance who received it, so God certainly is in the business of sharing His wisdom with us. But the thing about God’s wisdom is that He doesn’t just drop it in your skull because you ask for it. No. In most instances, you have to be willing to seek it—in the Bible.

The Bible is God’s Word to us, and it’s full of His wisdom for how to live and how to think and how to choose. Our culture—and even the church to a certain extent—has convinced us that the Bible is too complicated for Everyman to understand, and that’s a lie. Of course, the enemy wants us to think the Bible is too difficult to understand. The more we read it, the more we know how to live for God, and that’s the last thing our enemy wants.

But one thing is true. You can’t read the Bible by yourself and truly grasp what it means in your life. To truly understand what the Bible is saying, you need the Holy Spirit. You need God to reveal it to you.

That’s what you ask for. That’s how you ask for wisdom. You ask God to reveal it to you.

But then, notice what the rest of the verse says? Ask for wisdom, yes, but then you have to trust that wisdom comes from God. You have to believe that God is the one who gives it and no one else. Not politicians, your teachers, your parents, your pastor, your church, your friends, or yourself. God is the source of wisdom, and He’s the only source you can trust.

It can’t be that you’ll accept God’s wisdom for Problem A but not for Problem B, because you don’t like what God says about Problem B.

No.

We don’t get to pick and choose. We don’t get to tell God when He’s right or not. He’s either right all the time, or He’s not God.

And if you spend your time wavering between two differing opinions—because God’s wisdom is the opposite of what the world tells you is the truth—you’ll be unstable. You’ll be insecure. You’ll be uncertain. And you’ll make unwise decisions.

So do you need wisdom today? Ask for it. And then trust what God tells you through His Word, whether you like it or not.

One of you is God, and the other one isn’t. There’s no middle ground. And the more you try to make middle ground, the more unstable you’ll be. You won’t have time to make wise decisions. You’ll be too busy cleaning up the mess from all the foolish decisions you’ve made.

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A rocky path with a light at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Follow your heart?

What does it mean to follow your heart? I’ve started hearing that a lot recently and not just from secular movies and television shows. I expect it from them. But I’ve started hearing it from Christians. Christians have started saying “follow your heart” when faced with a difficult decision. But I’m afraid it’s turned into one of those statements that everybody says but nobody really understands what it means.

In my understanding, following your heart or being true to your heart means that you should make the choice that reflects who you are inside.

Okay. Well there would be nothing wrong with that if our hearts were trustworthy. But they’re not.

A rocky path with a light at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

A rocky path with a light at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Jeremiah 17:9-10.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
    and desperately wicked.
    Who really knows how bad it is?
But I, the Lord, search all hearts
    and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
    according to what their actions deserve.”

The heart is a Western euphemism to refer to the seat of the emotions. The Western world uses the heart to describe the core of a person, who they are, what they’re about, etc. So if you tell someone that they have a kind heart, you’re telling them they are a kind and compassionate person. And if you tell someone to follow their heart, you’re telling them to judge a situation for themselves and make a decision based on what they think is right.

I think I understand what Christians are trying to say when they tell me to follow my heart. They’re telling me to do what I think is best. But I’ll be honest, if I’m involved in a difficult situation, and if going to do what I think is best, it won’t turn out for the best. If I’m going to do what I think is right, the whole situation will all come crashing down on my head. Because on my own I don’t know what’s best. Because on my own I don’t know what’s right.

If I want to know what’s right and what’s best, I need to consult with God. Not my heart. Not my inner self.

And yes, I’m redeemed. So is my heart. But I can’t trust my heart. My heart will tell me that I want something that God has already told me I shouldn’t have. My heart will tell me to react harshly in conflict where God will tell me to be kind and humble. My heart is never satisfied where God calls me to be content.

Christians, we shouldn’t follow our hearts. We follow Christ.

Your heart won’t rest until you’re ruined. And even then, it will still try to keep you down. Our hearts are dangerous, dark things. They can’t be trusted at all.

Does that mean you can’t be who you are? No. Not at all. Who you are isn’t dependent on your heart. Who you are isn’t dependant on your physical body or your actions anyway. Who you are depends on who God made you to be. And no one knows you better than God does, so He won’t guide you to do something that contradicts His plan for you.

If you don’t know what to do in a situation, don’t look deep inside yourself for the answer. You don’t have it. If you don’t know what is right, ask God. If you follow Christ, the Holy Spirit lives inside you anyway. He’s right there. So just ask Him what to do. Read Scripture. And if you can’t think of a good Bible story that matches your situation, Google it. And if that doesn’t work, ask a trusted mature Christian friend.

But whatever you do, don’t follow your heart. You’ll end up in deep trouble. You’ll cause more problems than you solve. And in the end, your heart will only dig you a deeper hole to fall into rather than lighting the path for your escape.

Decisive

I am an indecisive person when it comes to what restaurant to eat at. I like food — a lot. So when you give me twelve awesome choices, I have no hope of picking just one. So usually I leave the decision of where to eat with someone who has a stronger opinion.

And I feel, oddly enough, like my normal indecision when it comes to eating establishments has started creeping into other areas of my life. I haven’t really struggled with indecisiveness previously. Usually I can make a choice and stick to it fairly well, but recently? Not so much. I don’t know if I’m just tired. Or if I’m burned out. Or if I’m just so overwhelmed with life, the universe and everything that I can’t make a decision.

Either way, though, it has to stop. Because being indecisive is dangerous. It’s unstable and it can be damaging, not only to myself but to people around me.

Joshua recognized this in the Old Testament when he had completed his task of leading the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. At the end of his story is where today’s verse comes from.

Joshua 24:15

15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
 
Joshua announced to the whole population of Israel that he and his family would serve God. Along with that, he told them pretty much that he didn’t care what they did. They just needed to choose to do something.
 
Joshua recognized the danger of indecisiveness. It’s dangerous because it keeps us unsteady. We’re not committed to anything. We have no solid ground to fall back on when we are tested because we’ve never given our whole heart to anything.
 
Christians today have one foot in the world and one foot in the Bible. We’re straddling the fence and we think it’s okay.
 
Well, it’s not.
 
Whatever we choose, we need to choose to do it with our whole heart and our whole mind and all our strength because everything we do will be half hearted until we make that final decision.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hand God something half hearted.
 
I have chosen to follow God. So I need to follow Him with everything I have, not just when it feels right and not just when I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I need to do the things He’s commanded me to do whether I can see the good rewards at the end of the path or not. And I don’t just need to walk the path He’s laid out before me. I need to run it. I need to be committed to it. And when the road gets rough and the path takes me up the side of a mountain, I need to keep going.
 
It takes discipline and devotion and dedication . . . . and faith.
 
I am as guilty as anyone of falling prey to the thought that I have enough time to live for myself. I have been running so hard for so long that taking a break and stepping back for a while was necessary — but I think I’ve rested long enough. And now I have to get up and get back into the game.
 
And like Romans 13:12 says, the night is nearly over and the day is coming. So I need to get my perspective straight and get over myself because life isn’t going to continue like this forever. There’s a change in the wind — and in the earth for those of us living in the Wichita, Kansas area.
 
God chose to put me where (and when) He put me for a reason. And I chose to follow Him. So I need to follow Him. Break time’s over. Like the old song says, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.”