Are We Just Having Coffee Dates with God?

Written By Ross Boone, USA

Sometimes, after a good, long time of Bible study, I go right into sinning. When I am alone at home, those sins that prey on solitude can easily sneak in. For me, it is often lust.

And sometimes I don’t stop it. It feels good so I feed it. But afterwards I tell myself, “I spent some quality time with God this morning, and I know He forgives all our sins, so I think we’re still cool.” And I continue my day without a second thought— with no regret, nor a plan to change.

But a little while ago during my quiet time, I came across Matthew 7:21 where Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

That was sobering.

Growing up, the main message I got from church was that having a relationship with God was the most important thing. And I thought the right relationship mostly meant just getting quality time with Him each day.

But that verse got me thinking. Maybe I had been looking at my relationship with God in the wrong way. The messages from the pulpit made me think God was soft and happy and doesn’t care too much about little sins. The contemporary worship songs I was exposed to were mostly about God’s grace and love for us. Sermons were often about God’s love, how we should love others, and about God’s infinite forgiveness.

I learned that Jesus is “super relatable” because He has gone through everything I have gone through. I got the idea that God was my buddy. He’s cool with me just the way I am. The vague message seemed to be, “It’s okay if you sin; you can be forgiven. What’s important is relationship, relationship, relationship.” I seemed to have convinced myself that although God was super powerful, He was ultimately my nice, and infinitely forgiving, buddy.

In my nice, Christian, American culture, staying in right relationship with my “buddies” usually just means hanging out every now and then. Grabbing coffee from time to time. I think that’s what I projected onto my relationship with God. I just had to get some quality time with Him every day or so. Even if I continued in my favorite little sins, we were still pretty much in good standing.

But as I considered this verse on doing the will of the Father, I started thinking that maybe my relationship with God was meant to be more than just hanging out every now and then.

 

The true nature of relationships

I thought about how relationships were before social media was the norm, and when families and neighbors didn’t disperse across the country. I thought about societies before this independent, ever-changing, quick-in-quick-out lifestyle we live today. I thought about when communities depended on each other to survive and neighbors were neighbors for generations. Those times required deeper, more multifaceted relationships. Relationships were a lot more than just getting coffee once a month.

I think a key element of those old relationships was honoring and respecting the other’s requests. If, in a moment of weakness, I stole one of my neighbor’s sheep and ate it, that wouldn’t be cool. And if I simply didn’t care and kept stealing his sheep when he asked me to stop, I definitely wouldn’t be doing my part of the relationship very well. It would make being neighbors very hard.

This principle applies to present day relationships as well. If it were my very own father who asked me to stop something that was hurting him and I didn’t even try, I would not be honoring him.

I’m also reminded of John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.” And this was recorded by the disciple who called himself the “disciple whom Jesus loved” and who was such close friends that he laid his head on Jesus’ chest at the last supper. They were buddies, but this commandment-keeping-love isn’t what comes to mind when I think of hanging with my buddies. What I think this means is that a relationship with God is also about a deep respect and obedience because He is powerful and sovereign.

It can be likened to the relationship that kings had with their servants. In modern terms, it’s like getting a phone call from our most respected world leader asking something of us. Or a little closer to home: think of the relationship you have with your best teachers or your parents. I think our unique relationship with God is not just having a close friendship, but includes the most honoring elements of all of these as well.

So what do I do about these sins that I keep returning back to? Romans 7:19 recognizes this tendency: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” But it certainly isn’t saying that we can and should continue in our sins.

To me, part of the solution involves picturing God as more than just our “buddy.” When we deeply value someone and hold them in high esteem, we take their requests of us seriously. In the context of our relationship with God, that means we start to take our sins more seriously.

I’ve since started to pray for God to help change my desires, I’ve made a plan, and I’ve partnered with one of my buddies to help keep me accountable to my commitment.

Thank God, it’s helping.

 

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.

Are We Really #Blessed?

Written By Eudora Chuah, Singapore

Recently, I was intrigued to learn that one of the hashtags that took social media by storm in the past few years wasn’t a new concept—or new word, for that matter. It was the word “blessed”.

A quick scroll through Instagram will show at least 72 million posts tagged with #blessed. They cover a variety of things, from prized possessions and luxurious holiday destinations to pictures of friends and family. They’re also commonly used with an image of an inspiring quote, some from the Bible.

Although I have not personally used the hashtag on social media, I’ve found myself using the word in my conversations—sometimes quite casually. For instance, I tend to say, “I’ve been blessed to be able to know certain people, do certain things, or have certain opportunities”.

So what’s the big deal? you may be thinking. Well, here’s why: More often than not, blessed does not mean what we think it does.

As Christians, we use this word all the time—and certainly not only where possessions or wealth are concerned. But it may be surprising to note that even in a secular context, the word “blessed” is not defined as being materially well-to-do or privileged. In fact, the Oxford dictionary defines “blessed” as “being made holy, consecrated”, or “to be endowed with divine favour or protection”. Other dictionary definitions of the word include “bringing happiness and thankfulness”, or being “worthy of reverence or worship”.

It was interesting to read several news columnists voicing their displeasure at the use of #blessed. These writers observed that overuse of the word has stripped it of its meaning. To them, using the hashtag actually disguises an attempt to humble-brag—to promote oneself rather than express genuine gratitude for what one has.

What, then, does the Bible say about being “#blessed”? Ephesians 1:3 (ESV) tells us that we have been given “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”. One might wonder if this suggests that God has promised us material possessions such as holidays and prized possessions, or the assurance of good friends and a loving family. Yet, while these may indeed be good gifts from a loving God (Matthew 7:11, James 1:17, Luke 11:13), they are certainly not what the Bible has in mind when discussing “every spiritual blessing”.

How do we know this? Just after Paul talks about it in Ephesians 1:3 (ESV), he immediately explains that we are blessed because we are chosen before the foundation of the world (v. 4) and redeemed from judgment of our sin (v. 7). After God has redeemed us from judgment, He reunites all things in Christ. This is seen in the establishment of the church, made up of both Jews and Gentiles (v. 10). Lastly, we are blessed because we are sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit (v. 13). God gives us these blessings “to the praise of His glory”—in other words, that He may be glorified in giving us these blessings.

How should we respond? For me, it’s about recognizing that being “blessed” is a status God the Father gives us because of what He has accomplished through His Son. Our focus should not be on the benefits we receive. Instead, in knowing that God alone is the author of our faith, our rightful response should be to ascribe greatness to Him—to take delight in God Himself and not just in His gifts.

Personally, this gives me great comfort and hope, because I know that being #blessed remains true regardless of circumstances and what I have done.

It is my desire that God will remind me of this truth constantly, that I may learn to be content with what I have—knowing that being #blessed has nothing to do with material wealth, but everything to do with having received the greatest gift of God Himself.

13 Words that Changed My Life

Written By Stacy Joy, USA

There are certain moments in life we will never forget. We remember these times vividly because they have a profound impact on the way we view the world, ourselves, and how we approach life.

I can point back to a few key people and events that have influenced me significantly, but one moment in particular sticks out. At the age of 14, my parents handed me a book list to complete before the new school term started. I initially thought my life was over—what 14-year-old wants to do that during a break from school?

The torture of this assignment subsided though when I read the book Don’t Waste Your Life by the great preacher John Piper. A single line in it changed my understanding of God, myself, and the world around me: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

These 13 words answered life’s biggest question: what is life all about? I knew that I loved God and needed to tell others about Him, but I hadn’t realized that every single part of my life, not just attending church or reading Scripture, is to be directed towards one goal: glorifying my Creator (1 Cor 10:31, Isa 43:6-7). This includes the movies I watch, the way I talk to others, what I allow my mind to dwell on, the way I approach relationships, and even the way I spend money. I had to stop and ask myself, am I making God’s name famous through all these?

Every machine is made for a specific reason; to accomplish the purpose of its maker. Similarly, God created us for a purpose, and that is to bring Him glory. A machine that is not doing what it was created to do is broken. When we start living for the glory of ourselves, seeking our own praise and recognition above the Lord’s, we become like a broken machine—not accomplishing the purpose we were made for. As a result, we feel empty, lack purpose, and anxiously pursue a meaning to our lives.

The truth is that God created us in His absolute wisdom and grace to not only accomplish a purpose but to be ultimately satisfied as we are accomplishing it. This reality makes life fully satisfying. Satisfying, but not easy. Living for God’s glory above all else is truly the most difficult thing we will ever be called to do, yet it is the most rewarding task to faithfully fulfill (Psa 16:11).

Sometimes in ministry and in life, the discomfort of not meeting the expectations of those around us in our quest for God’s glory is overwhelming and burdensome. As a new, young pastor’s wife, I have to regularly choose between glorifying Him and seeking my own glory in the choices I make.

I also faced this battle growing up as a pastor’s kid, especially on an occasion in my early 20s when I was faced with a difficult decision. After getting out of a destructive relationship, God grabbed my attention like never before and my need for Him became insatiable. Such a radical change happened in my heart and soul during this period of time that it made me wonder if I had been converted earlier in life as I had previously thought; a question that I still do not have a definitive answer to.

I decided to get baptized again, knowing that if I had only just become a believer, getting baptized post-conversion was walking in faithful obedience to God (Matt 28:18-20, Acts 2:38a, 1 John 2:4-5). So, in front of a 1,500-strong congregation who had watched me grow up, teach their children, speak into their lives, and be their pastor’s daughter, I got baptized once again—thus admitting to everyone that I may have only just recently been saved. From a human standpoint, this was absolutely humiliating. But I was able to boldly and joyfully do so knowing that my goal was not to win their approval; it was to be faithful to my God in Heaven.

I want to share two of the most powerful ways I believe this concept of glorifying God can and should shape our everyday lives.

 

We can have peace amid an ever-changing world

If nothing matters more than glorifying God with our lives, things become pretty clear. In a world where black and white has been turned to gray and the existence of absolute truth itself is being attacked, Christians can have peace. We rest assured knowing that we glorify God by studying, understanding, and affirming His Word and truth above all other religious beliefs, scientific claims, or cultural trends.

To keep these truths forefront in my life, I have found that I must spend time immersing myself in Scripture, reading books written by Biblically-grounded solid evangelicals, and listening to those whom I trust as I desire to remain teachable and pursue being conformed into the image of Christ. If God is glorified most when we are most satisfied in Him, studying Him and drawing closer to Him is the most valuable thing any of us can do with our time. Our minds so quickly become sponges for the deception peddled by our culture (Prov 4:23), so our time with God must be prioritized, guarded, and treasured. The beautiful part is that the more we seek God, the more our desire to seek Him intensifies. This, coupled with the daily crucifying of indwelling sin guarantees that peace before a holy God is attainable.

 

We can find our full satisfaction, worth, and pleasure in glorifying and knowing Christ

It doesn’t matter what others’ opinion of us is as long as we can answer the following two questions with a “yes”. One, does the way I am living please and glorify God Biblically, and two, am I finding my value and contentment in Christ alone? If we can answer these questions with a “yes” and are truly seeking to surrender ourselves to the daily call of glorifying God above all else, then our satisfaction will not be rooted in the fleeting opinions of man, but in knowing that God alone is pleased (Gal 1:10).

May we be reminded today to joyfully and unashamedly ground ourselves in truth and pursue Christ for our very sanity because we were created to find rest and satisfaction in Him alone (Ps 62:1).

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. I pray that God uses these 13 words to continually have a great impact in every area of our lives, leading us to better glorify Him with this one life we have been given.

 

Poem: Salvation

Salvation-Poem

Written By Michelle Lai

Close your eyes and see
The hour you first believed
Jesus knocked on your heart
You answered and that’s a start
Salvation is a free gift for all
If only you answer His call
It is a precious gift
So don’t give it a miss
The moment might be now
You were lost but now found
Wherever you might be
Jesus has set you free
I want to worship now

There is nothing sweeter than this

Click on the image or click here to download.

Salvation(1)