I have decided to follow Jesus

I heard an inspiring story during one of my trips to India. But before I share the story, a little background. Northeast India for many decades had been known as the missionaries’ graveyard. Primarily because nearly every missionary who had moved there and attempted to establish a mission station was faced with unbelievable rejection and failure. The region has been a demonic stronghold for centuries. It was rare that any missionary team would last over one year. It is reported that many got sick and some even died. But most left defeated by an unbelievable hardness of the people’s heart toward the gospel.

Even though the region was considered closed to the gospel, somehow there was one family who became a follower of Jesus. The story is told of a man who lived in a small village in this region of India. We are not sure how he heard the gospel but he was a passionate follower of Jesus. His conversion and commitment to Christ plus his zeal for the gospel had so irritated the villagers that a mob formed. They rushed this man’s house and shoved him and his family to the public square.  The village chief questioned him about his faith and gave him and his family a chance to recant. The man didn’t know what to do. So he began to sing a song that some believe he had composed.

” I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

With that his children were horrifically killed as he and his wife watched in horror. He was given another chance to recant and save his wife. Again, not knowing what to do, he sang another verse.

“Though none go with me still I will follow, though none go with me still I will follow, though none go with me still I will follow, no turning back, no turning back.”

He watched as they brutally murdered his wife. Then he was given one more chance to recant. He continued to sing.

“The cross before me the world behind me, the cross before me the world behind me, the cross before me the cross behind me, no turning back, no turning back.”

Even though that man and his family were killed that day, something remarkable happened. A seed was planted in the heart of the chief. It was a seed that began to grow over time. Then one day he gathered the villagers in that very same square and renounced his previous faith and he declared his allegiance to Jesus Christ. A celebration began to break out and the gospel spread not only through out that village but through the whole region. It spread because they had seen true faith and had seen the real character of God.

I believe this is one of the events that God used to open up this region of India. In the last couple of decades hundreds of thousands Indians have come to Christ. I have personally witnessed this incredible move of God.

Bottom Line

There are several lessons we can learn from this inspiring story.

1. When you make a decision to follow Jesus you will be called on to “draw a line in the sand”. We may not be called on to give our life in martyrdom like this family but we will be faced with a decision(s) that will set us apart from the world. Will I chose to follow Jesus absolutely or will I compromise just to keep my personal dream alive?

The world is not for us. The scripture tells us that we are ‘strangers and pilgrims’ in this world. In other words, we are not familiar with the territory (way of life), and we are pilgrims, just passing through on the way home (heaven).

2. God can take any tragedy, disappointment and turn it into an incredible victory. The principle of Romans 8:28 (“all things work together for our good”) is that God takes all of the successes, failures, unfairness, sacrifices and tragedies and is able to blend them all together to accomplish His will for your life.

For every tragedy and failure God has already gone ahead of his children to begin a process of turning our greatest hurt and disappointment into an incredible work of God.

3. Make sure you have absolutes in your life. We live in a “relative world” where the culture dictates what is right and wrong. As a committed follower of Jesus our life is dictated by absolutes. The old saying is true, “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.” Absolutes encourages us to be firmly planted on the absolute faithfulness of God.

God’s Economy of Things

I am not one to throw around theological jargon, but there is one phrase that I think is important for us to learn. The phrase is “ God’s economy of things”. The general meaning of the phrase has to do with how God works in our lives. Just as each society and culture has its own “economy” that drives its business model, God has an “economy” that drives how he deals and relates to his children.

For example, the Scripture teaches and implies that this world is not our home. (1 Peter 2:11) Therefore, in “God’s economy of things” our way of relating to our problems is “other-worldly”. That means we deal with every challenge, every failure, every out-of-control situation, and every opportunity in light of God’s economy of things.

As committed followers of Christ we now live with an awareness that God is, to some degree or another, involved with everything that happens in our life. No, He is not behind our sinfulness, even though He is there to forgive and restore us when we fail, but He is in the middle of every event. Because the Spirit of the living Christ indwells us, wherever we are, Jesus is also. He is fully aware of our plight including our anxiousness and fear.

In God’s economy of things there is often a perspective that is opposite to the world’s thinking. We could even call it paradoxical. For instance, the phrase in 2 Corinthians 12, “when I am weak I am strong” is opposite to the average human mindset. In our culture the one who is weak is portrayed as a loser. To survive and win in this world you don’t display or admit your weakness. You have to be strong, and overcome your weaknesses in order to succeed in life.

But we know that in God’s economy, weakness is a spiritual virtue. We understand that in the context of weakness we let go of our own life and Christ becomes our strength. It’s no longer “God and me make a majority”, but it’s “Christ in me is my strength”. I like the rendering of this verse in the Message when Paul is speaking of his thorn in the flesh:

“At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (2 Corinthians 12, Message)

The above passage is our “other-worldly” perspective on our trouble. Because in God’s economy of things His intention for us is to allow the cares of this life to bring us to weakness. It is in our weakness that we will surrender control of our life and circumstances to Him. And in doing so, we can “cast all our anxiety on Him.” (I Peter 5:7)

Bottom Line

If you are a serious and committed follower of Christ, then seeing your life in light of God’s economy of things will allow you to live fully out of your new identity in Christ.

Just before Jesus went to the cross he prayed for us. He asked the Father to make us one with Him and one with the Father. (John 17:20-21) God desires that we live in our rightful position of oneness with Him. We can only do that if we are willing to change our thinking from a cultural perspective to a Christ-centered perspective that is driven by “God’s economy of things.”

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a Holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.“ (1 Peter 2:9 NAS)

Six Spiritual Truths that Guide My Life – Part 1

1. I will live with the daily assurance that God loves me.

Knowing you are loved is one of the greatest needs humans possess. Knowing you are loved by someone, no matter what, is a basic God-given need. God wired us that way, to have an ever longing need to feel loved and accepted. He designed us that way in order that we may be driven to get our need of belongingess and love from Him.

Throughout Scripture we are told how God loves us and constantly cares for us, even more than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. (Matthew 6). I know His love is constant and absolute because His love is a “vested love” because I am in Christ. God can never “unlove” us. Because we are in Christ, to stop loving us He would have to stop loving Christ.

2. I know God has a path for me.

All my Christian life I have heard the phrase, “God has a plan for your life.” It has become such a common place saying that most people glaze over when they hear it. But I think God’s plan goes deeper than the generic saying. God created us with a purpose in mind and a path to walk. The path includes lots of choices along the way, and it may include several different places we live and things that we do.

I don’t believe that there is a difference in the secular and the sacred. To a follower of Christ, everything is sacred. Your occupation, who you marry, how you train your children, where you live, how you spend your spare time is all sacred. There may be phases of your life you want to forget or do over, but as a committed follower of Christ, God is at work in and through you accomplishing His divine purpose.

Through the sovereignty of God, He opens and closes doors dependent upon His end purpose for you. You may think a certain part of your life was a failure, but God had you there for a divine purpose for a specific time in history. That even means your screw-ups and sin would somehow be woven into His overall purpose.

3. Trust God Completely.

Some prefer to say “put God first” but I think a more accurate phrase would be, “trust God completely.” Learning to trust God is a lifelong learning experience. As we go through the different phases of life, I am convinced that God’s intention for us is to grow in our level of trust.

New levels of trust are reached when we go through a trial or a difficult issue. Those things that cause you to be out of control when you were in the beginning of your trust level, is now just a little bump in the road. The more difficult the trial, the greater the trust level.

Sometimes we misunderstand the passage in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear.” Some believers think that nothing we deem unbearable will ever come our way, but that is not true. He will sometimes allow you to go through trials that you know you can’t handle. Matter of fact, you may even feel that you had rather die than go through the trial.

When God allows some seemingly, unbearable circumstance in our life it may seem we can’t bear it. But God is faithful to His Word. The rest of the above passage says, “…but He will provide a way of escape in order that you can bear it.”

God is stretching your trust level. He wants us to go through things that put you out of control. Sometimes those things will shake our faith and cause us to question all that we believe. He wants us to have no place to turn for help but Him. That increases our trust level.

Bottom Line

This does three things for me.
1. When I have an unshakable assurance that God loves me I can run to Him with confidence that He loves and accepts me. That creates a state of rest and peace, even when the storm is howling.

2. Knowing that God has a path for me allows me to approach everyday as a new day. A new day where God can reveal Himself to me in a new and fresh way. Even though sometimes I can’t see it or feel it, I know He is at work in me manifesting Christ’s life to the world.

3. Learning a new level of trust creates a new level of fellowship with the Father. There is an inner circle of fellowship with the Father for those who are willing to have a greater level of trust.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path. “ (Proverbs 3:5)

God Has a Plan


“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Cor. 2:9

What a marvelous promise. Many times I have used that verse to give a glimpse of what Heaven will be like, yet it is still unimaginable to our finite minds.

Even though it’s a wonderful thing to imagine all God has prepared for us in Heaven, the proper context of the verse has to do with what He reveals to us today. Paul was describing to the Corinth believers how God has chosen to reveal Himself to the common man, instead of the socially and politically well connected influencers of society.

“For consider your calling brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despise, God has chosen the things that are not so that He might nullify the things that are, that not man may boast before God.”(1 Cor. 1:26-29)

This is good news for two reasons:

First, we are assured that God’s power, and His calling is for everyone regardless of our social, cultural or educational background.

It’s always been that way. A walk through scripture will reveal that God has always chosen shepherds, fishermen, carpenters, poor widows, and even harlots to be His most effective servants. He reveals why He chooses ordinary people in the above verse: “so no man can take credit for what only God can do.”

Many who are gifted, talented and successful are so “self-made” that it’s sometimes difficult for them to possess the humility to give God the credit. That’s the reason the scriptures say that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved.

One of the most vivid pictures of this principle is the Dalit people of India. As you may know, India is a culture that uses a caste system. This is a system that socially classifies its citizens from the most socially acceptable to the least acceptable. The Dalit are the least acceptable. They are the street sweepers, beggars and possess the least desirable jobs in society. They have virtually no possibility of higher education, home ownership or wealth. Their destiny is set and controlled by their social status. Low class does not mean ignorant, many are very intelligent; they just don’t have the same opportunity for education and equal access to the job market.

However, God in His mercy and infinite wisdom has visited the Dalit and there are hundreds of thousands of them coming to Christ. There are many churches being planted among this rejected and neglected people group. I have had the wonderful privilege of being around these believers in India.

Status and ranking in society mean nothing to God. The late Dr. J Vernon McGhee would say, referring to Balaam’s donkey that stopped in the path and talked to Balaam, “That just proves that God can use any ole jackass.” That’s a crude way to put it but he nails the point.

God uses me through my natural/spiritual giftedness

I am sure you will agree that God is a god of order. He is predictable and unpredictable at the same time. He is unpredictable because He can use unusual methods to accomplish supernatural results. In other words, God often surprises us by accomplishing His purposes in ways we could not even imagine.

But mostly He is predictable. He is predictable by observing how He has worked throughout history. He is predictable because of the cause and effect of the promises of His Word. He is predictable when we know and observe his character.

God chooses to use common, ordinary men and women whom He has given natural and spiritual gifts. If God leads you to do a certain things it means that in a natural and supernatural way he gifted and equipped you to do those things. When I sensed a calling to vocational ministry I felt incredibly inadequate but as I began to do the work of the ministry I discovered that God had given me a natural gifting to communicate.

A close observation of the Bible characters will reveal that even though they were common ordinary people they possessed a natural giftedness that God worked through. Take Joseph and David for example. They were lowly shepherds. But what we fail to observe is that proper management of a herd of sheep required certain natural giftedness such as patience, livestock management, compassion, and the ability to protect and lead.

God almost always uses us through our natural/spiritual giftedness. For example, if you do not enjoy teaching He is not going to call you to be a minister or school teacher. If you can’t sing or find it difficult to understand music He is not going to call you to be a choral director or solo singer. If you find it difficult to balance your checkbook it doesn’t make sense that you would go to college to train to be an accountant.

Just because someone is trained to do something does not mean that they have the natural giftedness to do that kind of job. Matter of fact Marcus Buckingham wrote a book based on that very premise. In his book Strengthfinder he tells of a multi-year survey that reveals that millions of people were working in jobs that were outside of their natural giftedness. The result was over 80% of workers were unhappy, unfulfilled or downright miserable with their job. Why were they unfulfilled? Because even though they were trained to do a certain job, it was outside of their natural giftedness.

The Bottom Line
God created you for a purpose. (2 Timothy 1:9) Your gifting and talents are always connected to God’s overall intentions for you. He gave you natural and spiritual gifting just for that purpose… to be used by Him. God’s overall purpose is for you to be a conduit for the life of Christ. Your gifting is not your signal to “go it on your own,” but your gifting is for the sole purpose of equipping you so that the life of Christ will flow effortlessly through your life. That’s the reason this old saying is a true statement, “God always equips those He calls.”

God wants to reveal Himself to the world and He has chosen and gifted you to be His unique example and mouthpiece to a hurting world. You can rest assured that whatever situation you find yourself in, God is at work in you reveling Himself to someone within your little world.

One of God’s Gifts

The Lord is the source of all good things. He is not only the sustainer of life but He is also the giver of life. He gives us our physical life, but He also gives us a quality of life. This quality of life is directly related to our ability to choose. One of God’s gifts is “the ability to make our own choices.”

God gives his children a instinctive ability, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to make proper choices. He sovereignly guides our life, but at the same time, He also fills our life with choices. For example, we can choose leisure over labor, entertainment over education, doubt over truth and fear over confidence.

Or we can choose to believe that “we can do all things through Christ that strengthens us” (Phil. 4:13). We have within us the power of the risen Christ. Can you think of a power greater than the power to raise the dead?

Our failures do not define us. Our failures give us the opportunity to draw on that supernatural source of life and strength. That enables us to choose just the opposite, we now choose labor over leisure, education over entertainment, truth over doubt and confidence over fear.

The majority of mistakes I have made in my life were based on wrong choices. Even when things fell apart, due to no fault of my own, the responsibility of recovery was up to me, based on my choices. I could have chosen to live as a victim or I could choose to set my mind in a new direction.

God’s gift of allowing us to make choices and to “choose life” is a magnificent gift. He doesn’t just birth us into his family and then send us out into the world to be devoured by the wolves. He sends us out equipped with the mind of Christ which helps us make good decisions (1 Cor. 2:16). He then fills us with the Holy Spirit who gives us discernment that will eventually lead us to truth (John 16:7-15).

The Bottom Line

As followers of Christ, we have both the ability and the responsibility to make better choices – starting today. God has endowed us with the power and ability to choose life. It starts with using the gift that God has given us, the gift of choice. Change your thinking and you will change your life. If you don’t like how things are, change it. You’re not a rock or a robot, you are a child of God who has the gift to choose. It all begins with the power of choice. Begin today to change the way you think and make choices that reflects the real you.

“The fault is not in the stars, but in ourselves.” William Shakespeare

Mercy and Destiny

Have you ever considered how God’s mercy and destiny are connected?

All through Scripture we see a pattern of God’s mercy being extended to an individual or to a nation because He has a divine purpose or destiny for that nation or individual. We see this pattern repeated during every period of history from Adam to the present day.

A clear example of this principle is Romans 9:10-12:

…When he (Abraham) married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins. 11But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” (NLT)

Again in the New Testament we see this principle at work in our lives;

“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. “ (2 Timothy 1:9 NLT)

So when we consider God’s mercy it’s important for us to see the bigger picture. When God extends His mercy it is directly attached to His foreknowledge and His divine plan for us. Why didn’t God just utterly destroy the Israelites when they continually erected shrines to foreign Gods? It was because of His mercy and its attachment to His plan for Israel.

When God extends mercy to us, it is because in God’s scheme of things, we are a player in His kingdom plans. I have to admit; I can’t fully explain or understand this attribute of God. But when I consider that in Christ I have been chosen to have mercy extended to me because God considers me to be a component in His kingdom plan, I am overwhelmed by His love and commitment to me.

He allowed me to be born into a committed Christian family, to hear the gospel at an early age and to live most all of my days walking with Him and serving Him. It’s all because of His mercy, a mercy that is attached to a plan He had for me.

Some of you reading this devotional didn’t have the privilege of being raised in a Christian home and were not exposed to the gospel until you were an adult. That makes God’s mercy even more amazing. That means that Jesus found you and then in His mercy pursued you, and then He called you to Himself in order to be a part of His kingdom plan.

Are we putting a low value on God’s mercy by not having a proper response to His love? That’s why we should take a close look at our lives, and examine our commitment to loving Him with all our heart, our mind and our soul. If we have a proper understanding of God’s mercy toward us, then we realize that God has chosen us to be a kingdom player. Mercy is more than God’s kindness and long-suffering, it is His clear indication that we are called, at this time in history, to fulfill our role in His kingdom.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe…”(Ephesians 1:18-19 NAS)

God Has a Plan

Some would like to think that the whole human race is the children of God, but not so. It is true that we are a creation of God, but from a relationship perspective, all are separated from God by sin. The Scripture tells us that before salvation we were children of wrath; “…you were by nature children of wrath, but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:3-5)

When we put our trust in Christ we became someone we have never been before. We passed from death unto life. We are now a new creation with a new worldview. We once followed the world’s perspective on life, now we have a new perspective.

This new perspective/worldview affects everything in our life. We now see the world through the eyes of God’s Word. Our reaction to the world’s disappointments and failures now has a spiritual component. We realize God is involved in every aspect of our life, and with that involvement He has a divine plan and purpose. When we hurt or suffer a great loss God is there to comfort us, but sometimes He often reveals a divine purpose in our suffering.

To illustrate my point I want to share a story recently sent to me by a dear friend. It’s the story of how the old gospel song “Precious Lord” came about.

“Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago’s south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn’t want to go; Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child, but a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis. I kissed Nettie goodbye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.

However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back. I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.

The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped open the envelope. on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED.

People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was “Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead.'”

When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that same night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart. For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to St. Louis.

Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie. Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died.

From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him. But still I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially one friend. The following Saturday evening he took me up to Maloney’s Poro College, a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows.

I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody. Once in my head they just seemed to fall into place: ‘Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn, through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.’

The Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.

And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.”

Tommy Dorsey

(For those too young to know who he is, Tommy Dorsey was a well-known band leader in the 1930’s and 40’s.)

God’s answers are wiser than our prayers.