3 Questions to Ask Before You Act

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24 ESV)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

  1. Will this help the other person? Will what you are about to do satisfy a need (not necessarily a want) of the person for whom you plan to do it? Meeting every “want” someone has ultimately ends up hurting, not helping. Helping requires discernment. Sometimes people around you view wants as needs. Your “no’s” may be as critical as your “yeses.”
  2. Will the other person be better because of what I am about to do? To build up literally means to “build a house.” Will what you are doing add to the other person? This requires having a vision for the other person that sees them not only as they are but as who they can be. In parenting, Smalley and Trent call this “picturing a special future.” If you’re a leader at work, you see your staff member as a supervisor, shift leader, or vice-president. If you’re a teacher, you see your student walking across the stage and graduating one day.
  3. Will this glorify God? A simple non-theological way to approach this question is: will God’s reputation be enhanced because of what you are about to do or say? Will your actions make his name greater? When all is said and done, will people talk more about you or about God?

Without Him

O Lord God,

Teach me to know that grace precedes, accompanies, and follows my salvation, that it sustains the redeemed soul, that not one link of its chain can ever break.

From Calvary’s cross wave upon wave of grace reaches me, deals with my sin, washes me clean, renews my heart, strengthens my will, draws out my affection, kindles a flame in my soul, rules throughout my inner man, consecrates my every thought, word, work, teaches me your immeasurable love.

How great are my privileges in Christ Jesus! Without him I stand far off, a stranger, an outcast; in him I draw near and touch his kingly scepter.

Without him I dare not lift up my guilty eyes; in him I gaze upon my Father-God and Friend.

Without him I hide my lips in trembling shame; in him I open my mouth in petition and praise.

Without him all is wrath and consuming fire; in him is all love, and the repose of my soul.

Without him is gaping hell below me, and eternal anguish; in him its gates are barred to me by his precious blood.

Without him darkness spreads its horrors in front; in him an eternity of glory is my boundless horizon.

Without him all within me is terror and dismay, in him every accusation is charmed into joy and peace.

Without him all things external call for my condemnation; in him they minister to my comfort, and are to be enjoyed with thanksgiving.

Praise be to thee for grace, and for the unspeakable gift of Jesus.

From The Valley of Vision (a book of Puritan prayers)

How To Change

changeStudy God’s Word

On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law. And they found it written in the Law that the LORD had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should proclaim it and publish it in all their towns and in Jerusalem, “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.”

Obey God’s Word

So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. (Nehemiah 8:13-16 ESV)

Obey God’s Word With Others

And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. (Nehemiah 8:17 ESV)

Do the Right Thing Again and Again

And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule. (Nehemiah 8:18 ESV)

7 Questions

In the Lord’s Prayer (probably more accurately known as the disciples’ prayer), Jesus teaches us how to pray.  Ken Hemphill has written seven accountability questions connected to this prayer.  Let me encourage you to ask these questions of your spouse or your accountability partner.  They take Jesus’ prayer and make it applicable to everyday life.

1.  What did you do today (or this week) that hallowed God’s name?

2.  What actions, words, or deeds may have brought reproach on God’s name?

3.  What kingdom opportunities did you encounter, and how did you respond?

4.  How have you responded to God’s will throughout the week?

5.  How have you experienced God’s daily provision this week?

6.  How is your spiritual debt ledger?  (What do you need forgiveness for, and who do you need to forgive?)

7.   Have you avoided all issues of temptation and experienced spiritual victory throughout the week?

Be honest and watch God transform your time with him, and as a result, your very life.

Humble Confidence

Pray this confident in what Christ as done for you. (From The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers)…

O God, you are very great,

My lot is to approach you with godly fear and humble confidence, for your condescension equals your grandeur, and your goodness is your glory.

I am unworthy, but you do welcome; guilty but you are merciful; indigent, but your riches are unsearchable.

You have shown boundless compassion towards me by not sparing your Son, and by giving me freely all things in him. This is the fountain of my hope, the refuge of my safety, the new and living way to you, the means of that conviction of sin, brokenness of heart, and self-despair, which will endear me to the gospel.

Happy are they who are Christ’s, in him at peace with you, justified from all things, delivered from coming wrath, made heirs of future glory.

Give me such deadness to the world, such love for the Savior, such attachment to his church, such devotion to his service, as proves me a subject of his salvation.

May every part of my character and conduct make a serious and amiable impression on others, and impel them to ask the way to the Master.

Let no incident of life, pleasing or painful, injure the prosperity of my soul, but rather increase it.

Send me your help, for your appointments are not meant to make me independent of you, and the best means will be vain without super-added blessings.


The Broken Heart

Pray deliberately through this Puritan prayer:

O Lord,

No day of my life has passed that has not proved me guilty in your sight. Prayers have been uttered from a prayerless heart; praise has been often praiseless sound; my best services are filthy rags.

Blessed Jesus, let me find a covert in your appeasing wounds. Though my sins rise to heaven your merits soar above them; though unrighteousness weighs me down to hell, your righteousness exalts me to your throne.

All things in me call for my rejection, all things in you plead my acceptance. I appeal from the throne of perfect justice to your throne of boundless grace.

Grant me to hear your voice assuring me: that by your stripes I am healed, that you were bruised for my iniquities, that you have been made sin for me that I might be righteous in you, that my grievous sins, my manifold sins, are all forgiven, buried in the ocean of your concealing blood.

I am guilty, but pardoned, lost but saved, wandering, but found, sinning, but cleansed.

Give me perpetual broken-heartedness, keep me always clinging to your cross, flood me every moment with descending grace, open to me the springs of divine knowledge, sparkling like crystal, flowing clear and unsullied through my wilderness of life.

From the Valley of Vision

The Unthinkable

When I heard the news I was floored. How could a pilot intentionally fly a plane into the mountain in the French Alps? And the tormenting final minutes the passengers endured–the agonizing attempt by the main pilot to get into the cockpit. It’s unthinkable. The experts are hard at work trying to figure out what could have motivated copilot Andreas Lubitz to kill himself and 149 others. Thirteen of the passengers were exchange students returning home from a year-long stint away from their parents. It is gut-wrenching.

What was going through his mind? We will never know the details, but we do know his human condition. And though we don’t like to admit it, apart from Christ we share that same human condition:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8 ESV)

Notice the qualities of the mind set on the flesh. Death. Hostile to God. Unable to submit to God’s law. Unable to please God. Lubitz adds his name to a list of people who fit that description. Saddam Hussein. Adolf Hitler. Osama Bin Laden. Kim Il Sung. Joseph Stalin. And, believe it or not, you–before Christ.

I know…it takes my breath away too. Our capacity to sin is only limited by God’s grace to save. What Lubitz did pains me, breaks my heart, and makes me angry. And I’m saddened to say that things I have done have pained me, broken my heart and made me angry.

Today, pray for the families of those who died.

And thank God for his grace–grace that saves us from doing the unthinkable.

A Long, Slow, Steady March

On January 28, 1945, as World War II was groaning to a close, 121 elite Army Rangers liberated over 500 POWs, mostly Americans, from a Japanese prisoner of war camp near Cabanatuan in the Philippines.

The prisoners, many of whom were survivors of the infamous Bataan death march, were in awful condition, physically and emotionally. Before the Rangers arrived, the primary Japanese guard unit had left the camp because of Japan’s massive retreat from the Philippines. The new situation was precarious. Japanese troops were still around and in the camp, but they kept their distance from the prisoners. The men of Cabanatuan didn’t quite know what to make of their new freedom—if freedom was in fact what it was. And then, without warning, the American Rangers swept upon the camp in furious force.

But one of one of the most interesting facets of the story was the reaction of many of the prisoners. They were so defeated, diseased, and familiar with deceit that many needed to be convinced they were actually free. Was it a trick? A trap? Was this real? One prisoner, Captain Bert Bank, struggling with blindness caused by a vitamin deficiency, couldn’t clearly make out his would-be rescuers. He refused to budge. Finally, a soldier walked up to him, tugged his arm, and said, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you want to be free?” Bank, from Alabama, recognized the familiar southern accent of his questioner. A smile formed on his lips, and he willingly and thankfully began his journey to freedom.

Finally, well away from what had been, for years, the site of an ongoing, horrific assault on their humanity, the newly freed prisoners began their march home. In the description of one prisoner, contrasting it with the Bataan nightmare years earlier, “It was a long, slow, steady march …but this was a life march, a march of freedom.”

Fighting Well

I published this post on Saturday…and realized that many people didn’t get to read it. The principles in it are worth reading again…and internalizing. So here goes.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:24-25 ESV)

If we are going to win the battle against sin, we have to…

  • Have the right view of ourselves.
    • Paul says, “wretched man that I am.” John Newton got this right in the old hymn: Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. The word wretch comes from the Greek word “pierce.” To be wretched is to be pierced through with the reality of your sin. God saves wretches. God saves sinners.
  • Ask the right question.
    • Paul’s question is as important as his answer. He doesn’t ask, “what will set me free.” Rather, he asks “who?” His question calls for a rescuer, a person, someone to step in and save the day.
  • Have the right view of our sinful nature.
    • Paul calls his old sin nature, “this body of death.” This is war terminology, referring to a prisoner of war who has the dead body of a fallen comrade attached to his own body–nose to nose, toe-to-toe. The POW must walk around with this dead body staring him in the face, maggots included. If the POW doesn’t die from the emotional strain, he will die from disease. Your sin nature is that nasty, that gross, that capable of sin–even after you come to Christ.
  • Trust the Answer to the question
    • Paul answers, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” God provided an answer–his only Son. God offered his best for our worst, his strength for our weakness, his Son for our sins. In J.D. Greear’s book, Jesus Continued, he writes:

So when you feel abandoned, that’s all it is, a feeling. A lying, deceptive feeling. It has to be. Jesus faced the full measure of our aloneness in our place and put it away forever. By his death, he reconciled us to God, so that we can know that he will never leave us or forsake us. In some strange way we can never hope to comprehend he was abandoned…for us.

A Done Deal and a Daily Walk

There is therefore now no condemnation for those Finish Linewho are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 ESV)

Freedom is a done deal and a daily walk. Don’t miss the tenses of the verbs…

  • “the law of the Spirit of life has set you free”—vs. 2
  • “what the law could not do, God did
  • “sending His own son”
  • “He condemned sin in the flesh”
  • “so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us”

Our freedom was granted through Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice on the cross. Did you know that all your sins have been forgiven–sins past, present and future. David Jeremiah once said that most people don’t struggle with the sins they committed before coming to Christ. They know that God has forgiven them. However, they struggle with the sins they committed after coming to Christ. I love his response. “I can illustrate that all your sins have been forgiven. How is that? Because Jesus took all your sins on the cross. And every sin you have ever committed was committed after Jesus died on the cross.”

You only need accept that forgiveness. That’s what coming to Christ is all about. Will you accept the forgiveness available through Christ? And for those of you who already know Christ, will you accept His forgiveness for the wrong you did this week. Freedom is a done deal. You are free.

Freedom is also a daily walk. Remember, freedom is an inside job that works out in our lives.   Notice Paul’s next phrase (vs. 4b) “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Walk is simply defined as “to move over a surface by taking steps with the feet at a pace slower than a run.”

Freedom is a walk. We take one step toward freedom and then another…and another. Walking is a one-step-at-a-time experience. And one step leads to another, and another, and another. Aren’t you glad God said, “walk” instead of running. Be patient with yourselves.

Here’s where the rub comes. We have a choice. Who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. The flesh will always be the flesh. The question is, “Will we walk as free people, bound no longer by our sin nature?” That is the question of the daily walk. I am not talking about having a quiet time, although that is very valuable. I’m speaking of a daily walk according to God’s Spirit.

How do we do this? I am convinced, first of all, that it isn’t easy. To walk by the Spirit is a moment-by-moment attitude of surrender. It is living your life, not for yourself, but for God. What are the fruits of the life of one who walks by the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

If freedom had not been a desperate need, Jesus would not have died.

If the regiment of the law had worked, Jesus would not have come as God in human flesh.

If life had been intended to be miserable, Jesus would not have undergone the misery of your sin in your place.

If freedom were not a daily walk, Jesus never would have said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”