10 Things I Wish They’d Told Me Before Starting Graduate School

It. Is. Finished.

As of May 7th 2017,  I have officially obtained my Masters in Divinity degree from Andrews University – my alma mater. The past few years have been some of the most humbling, exciting, and paradigm-shifting years filled with lots of learning, love, and life.

They say hindsight is 20/20 for a reason. Here are 10 things I wish someone would have shared with me when I started 3 years ago:

  1. Invest in your community
    Education without a nurturing, supportive, community can render learning a drudgery. I’m thankful for my friends and colleagues with whom I could process insights as well as enjoy much needed down-time.

  2. Reflect on your learning
    Taking notes in class is one thing, but taking notes of your notes is another. I may have forgotten most of the notes I took, but I’m still able to recollect a considerable amount of content I’d processed through reflection. I wish I’d spent more time to reflect via journaling, recording, and blogging earlier on in my grad school experience.

  3. Look for mentors
    I eventually felt the need to seek out mentors beyond those who were assigned to me in the form of teachers and required texts. Mentorship, I later realized, is a veritable hack and shortcut to excellence, and the more mentors I surrounded myself with, the more I was able to lead, learn, and love better. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that you truly become the company you keep. Seek out meaningful relationships which are mutually valuable.
  4. Find ways to implement learning
    This is a step above reflection. Learning is further concretized when one finds creative ways to actualize it. In other words, the best learning has happened when I intentionally contextualized and personalized ideas for personal or public benefit in the form of sermons, ministry models, write-ups, or even just plain status updates.
  5. Develop a filing system
    Oh how I wish someone would have taken me aside my first year and shared the importance of this! If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have paid someone to teach me the ins and outs of organizing any piece of information, digital or analog.
  6. Take care of yourself
    Exercise, diet, you-time, family time. All inestimable in importance. When the person is prioritized, the life is positioned for maximum benefit and impact. Taking a day off every semester for a personal retreat, for instance, has been a game-changer for me in so many ways.
  7. Choose your experience
    This deserves an entire post of its own. In other words, you will do well to exercise the God-given gift of your will to choose how you wish to respond to the vicissitudes of life. If you’re not intentional, your experience will be chosen for you by various people, projects, and pressures.
    An apathetic, laissez-faire approach to dealing with conflicts is directly proportional to an atrophied, disproportionate, life experience. Choose wisely, and choose daily for success.
  8. Schedule your values
    This is a practical way of being proactive about your experience. Scheduling values – in contrast to tasks – involves a two-fold process of identifying your values and then etching it on your daily and monthly calendar.
    For instance, if one of your values is to to take care of your health, then consider calendaring a regular workout regiment in your monthly planner. Your tasks should be an outflow of your values. Not the reverse.
  9. Construct your “why?”
    A recommended personal exercise during this time is to continually engage in the process of crafting your “why” – your one-sentence mission statement which articulates your passion and contribution to the world. The sooner you are able to do this, the better you’ll be able to distinguish between what drains you and what strengthens you.
  10. Have fun!
    Like, seriously. Take time to enjoy your friendships, create new ones, make new memories, and laugh! As one of my good friends from grad school used to say, make sure to get some “chill vibes” regardless of what you do or don’t do.

For my colleagues and friends who graduated: What else would you add to this list? Leave a comment below!

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How the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of Adventism Relate to the Cross

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Ellen White writes,

“The Sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary….*

So this Easter, I attempted to do this myself. How, in fact, does our system of truth – if it does – coincide with the aforementioned statement?

Here goes nothing:

  1. The Holy Scriptures : The Bible is the grand story book, inspired by God, which reveals the story of redemption through human agency. Every story enclosed within ultimately points to the resolution of our story found at the cross. 

     

  2. The Trinity : The Trinity is God in three Persons: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The cross was the historical juncture where, for the first time in eternity, the Son was ripped away from the Godhead.

     

  3. The Father: God, the Father, revealed his infinite love for humanity when He permitted his only begotten Son to die for you on the cross. 

     

  4. The Son: God, the Son; the one who was nailed on the cross for you; the One who took your shame but then “shamed the shame” (Hebrews 12).

     

  5. The Holy Spirit : God, the Spirit, who was present with the Son before and during His incarnation, is now active in the world drawing all to the foot of the cross to find healing and restoration.

     

  6. Creation : God created the world in 6-literal days, imbuing it with meaning, value, and purpose. The brokenness that crept upon it was ultimately absorbed by God on the cross, ensuring the promise of its restoration.

     

  7. The Nature of Humanity : Man was made in the image of God which was then marred by sin. God, in Christ, reconciled broken humanity with perfect divinity at the cross by becoming the very thing that destroyed us.

     

  8. The Great Controversy : The very weapon Satan devised against God was the very weapon that God used to defeat him. The cross rang the death knell to Satan’s dominion on this earth. Even though the war is over, we still decide whom to crown.

     

  9. The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ : As one of my friends mentioned, Christ was the only being who chose to be born, but only did that after He chose to die. The cross was, simultaneously, the ugliest and the most beautiful aspect of his incarnate existence.

     

  10. The Experience of Salvation : What the cross more than achieves for us.

     

  11. Growing in Christ : The process by which I am crucified with Jesus on the cross daily, through faith, so that His life becomes increasingly actualized in mine.

     

  12. The church : The community of believers which finds its mission, efficacy, and celebration at the foot of the cross. 

     

  13. The Remnant and Its Mission: The community of God which keeps the commandments of God and holds on to the testimony of Jesus Christ; both of which find their impetus at the cross. 

     

  14. Unity in the Body of Christ – The community of Christ is culturally, racially, ethnically, nationally, vocationally, and demographically diverse. The cross preserves the distinctive beauty of this community while calling it to a higher standard.

     

  15. Baptism : The symbol of your confession by faith to what the cross means to you. It’s an acknowledgment of the pre-eminence of Christ in your life and the permission of God to work through your life.

     

  16. The Lord’s Supper : The symbolic service of the body of Jesus that was broken and the blood that was spilt on the cross. It’s also a reminder that we are to be cross-bearing people in our daily existence.

     

  17. Spiritual Gifts and Ministries : God has gifted every member of the body of Christ with talents and abilities which are to be used for the sole purpose of illuminating the efficacy of the cross to those in and outside of it.

     

  18. The Gift of Prophecy : God’s gift to the remnant community to both help illuminate the beauty of the cross within Scripture and to educate it to live the life of the cross in the world.

     

  19. The Law of God : The transcript of God’s character which reveals how to love God and love others. This was perfectly lived out by Jesus, who through a perfect sacrifice on the cross, assures us that we will be made perfect by His grace through faith.

     

  20. The Sabbath : The 24-hour gift of time where God rested from his work of creation and the work of redemption. Christ honored the Sabbath not only during his life, but also subsequently after his death on the cross as He rested in the grave on Saturday.

     

  21. Stewardship : The cross is the penultimate model for stewardship given to humanity, where God leverages his highest capacities to serve the least of these.

     

  22. Christian Behavior: Christ paid the infinite cost at the cross to restore our bodies and characters to His likeness. An aspect of Christianity, then, is about dedicating the members of our being to serve others and serve God.

     

  23. Marriage and the Family : The Biblical ideal of marriage is fully realized when each one strives to manifest, through the power of God, the self-sacrificing love of Christ modeled for us on the cross. 

     

  24. Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary : Christ is coronated as king in the heavens, initiated as priest for his children on earth today, but these are only made possible because he was crucified as a criminal on the cross for you and me.

     

  25. The Second Coming of Christ : Christ won the victory as our substitute on the cross, paving way for Him to parade through our atmosphere as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to take us to our eternal home.

     

  26. Death and Resurrection : At the cross, Christ laid death in its grave. So that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

     

  27. The Millennium and the End of Sin : The time period between the first and second resurrection where the righteous and the unrighteous will be sensitized to the magnitude of the cross. 

     

  28. The New Earth : The ultimate existential paradigm where the science of salvation will be taught through the text-book of the cross, the song of salvation sung in the key of the cross, the substance of salvation lived out through the way of the cross, among the community of the cross, forever, and ever more.

    …I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption,–the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.”*
May it be so today, and every moment hereafter.

*Gospel Workers, 315.
What are your thoughts? What other relations do you see between SDA Theology and the Cross? Leave a Comment below!

Why I Can’t Celebrate Christmas

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Honestly, I could end this post in a few lines.

Fire in Oakland.

Chapecoense football team. 

Genocide in Syria.

Bombings in Germany. 

Explosions in Mexico.

Attacks in Pakistan.

Post-election America. 

Add to this your own personal pains – the passing of loved ones, loss of opportunities, stresses of life – and they still wonder why you can’t deck the halls with boughs of holly or jingle all the way.

This Christmas has been a tough one. It’s been a month since my grandmother died and our family is deeply feeling the void. The political and humanitarian crises at large have sensitized me to the reality of life and only exacerbated this pain.

No. I can’t seem to find a way to celebrate Christmas. Not with everything’s that’s going on. It’s hard to join in on the rampant consumerism and the religious tribalism when you want closure and comfort.

So as a follower of Christ, I’m at a crossroads:

How do I reconcile the pains of the world with the birth of the Promised One?
How can I celebrate Christmas while I’m grieving?
How can I be real with the truth while being truthful to my reality?

I came across a story recently that has given me perspective. It’s found herebut let me summarize it for you: 

The story happens during the time Ahaz was the King of Judah. Ahaz is chilling while he gets news that Rezin and Pekah ( enemies of Judah ) have formed a coalition against Ahaz to subdue it. While homeboy Ahaz is depressed, God sends Isaiah, his prophet, to send a message to him. Isaiah is like, “ Bro, don’t sweat it. God’s going to take care of this.” Ahaz is still petrified. So God Himself engages Ahaz in a crucial conversation. Probably went something like this:

God: Bro, ask me a sign. Any sign. I’ll give it to you. Don’t worry about Rezin and Pekah.
Ahaz: Nah, Lord. I won’t ask a sign. It’s not that serious.
God: Bro why? You guys never learn. So let me give you a sign:

“Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”

Sounds familiar?

If you are, you may have seen this text footnoted in Matthew’s rendition of the birth narrative. Scholars are split on whether the prophecy in Isaiah is foretelling the birth of Jesus or some other baby named “Immanuel”, but given the contexts of Matthew, the rest of the gospels, and the mission of the Messiah, it wouldn’t be too much of a contextual leap to assume the former.

What am I trying to get at? Two things:

1.God’s solution to a maelstrom was not a strategy, but a Son.

God offers a Son as a solution for the political, religious, and emotional mess that Ahaz has gotten himself into. He places his Son right in the middle of pithy platitudes, vacuous promises, and manipulative ends to both break destructive systems and redeem them.

2.God is “God with us.”

Immanuel means “God with us.” The Son was, and is, the fullest expression of God who moved into our neighborhood, enfleshed in humanity. The Son is one who can relate to us in the darkest of nights, the brightest of days, and every day in between.

“God with us” is community. “God with us” is intimacy. “God with us” is solidarity.

Yes. It is a hard Christmas. But it was then just as it is now.
The story points out that Christ was born not in spite of the griefs of his world, but into it. He was born into a political mess, into a religious war, into an imminent, indiscriminate genocide of children, into suffering, into inconvenience, into pain.

This Christmas I take comfort knowing that He is not indifferent to my pain and yours, but intimately acquainted to it. He is in the middle of the maelstroms of my life as Savior, and beside me as Immanuel.

So I may not be able to celebrate Christmas. But I can celebrate Christ. And that’s enough for me right now.

How are you dealing with the Christmas blues? leave a comment below!

5 Ways To Share Your Beliefs Without Being a Jerk

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Right + Rude = Wrong.

Someone mentioned that to me and it has stuck ever since.

The counsel is timely, especially in circles where truth claims are criticized and those who express them, in extreme cases, are dismissed as anachronistic.

But is there a way to share your convictions without being snooty or insular? Here are 5 ways you can share your beliefs without being a jerk.

1.KNOW

It is significantly harder to share unless you know what you believe and why you believe it. The “what” deals with the content of your beliefs and the “why” deals with the justification for your beliefs.

I’ve realized that the more unclear I am in either of these, the more insensitive I could appear to someone else. Consequently, the clearer I am able to understand the “what” and the “why”, the better I can articulate myself to someone else and prevent avoidable misunderstandings.

2.LISTEN

Knowledge is irrelevant if I do not listen.

Listening is the process of building a bridge between your experience and theirs. When they feel heard, people are not only willing to hear what you say, but are also willing to offer you their trust.

Stories are sacred. So the fastest way to boost your jerk-o-meter is to dismiss their story because it contradicts with yours or to ignore it because what you’re going to share is more important.

Listen to their story. God forbid, you may even learn something new.

3.START

Picture a container of water.

The force of the water out of the container is largely dependent on the size of its exit and the water pressure. i.e the larger the exit, the less water pressure. The smaller the exit, more water pressure.

Depending on how the amount of pressure and the size of the exit is calibrated, the same container can be used as a reservoir for a calming shower or for a lethal water jet.

You and I are pressurized containers of information.

Only when I listen to someone else and start from where they are, I’d know how to calibrate what to say and when to say it.

Because the right thing said at the wrong time is the wrong thing said. What was meant to comfort can, instead, cut.

4.REALIZE

As you share, realize your role and God’s:

Your role is to share if needed. God’s role is to translate it as needed.
Your role is to prioritize the relationship. God’s role is to bless it.
Your role is to be a safe place. God’s role is to transform that space.

5.UNDERSTAND

Lastly, understand that God is bigger than your beliefs.

Humbling? Yes. But internalizing this has inspired me to delve deep into His presence while alleviating me from much avoidable heartache and stress resulting from “not sharing the truth.”

We are sharing truth whether we verbalize it or not. The posture of our hearts and the attitude of our minds do more to communicate what we believe than even our own words.

When you understand that God is bigger than your beliefs, you will also realize that His ways are higher than your ways ( Isaiah 55:9 ).

You will also feel liberated knowing that your effectiveness as a believer was never dependent on someone’s willingness to change their story.

Know, listen, start, realize, and understand. What else would you add to this list? Leave a comment below!

Christmas Confessions of a Third-Culture-Kid

Christmas wont be homeChristmas is painful sometimes.

A significant part of the problem is being unable to identify what “home” really is.

Home is where the heart is, people say. But what if my heart is in many different places? Does that mean I have multiple homes? If so, then is there a place out of all these homes to really call “home?”

I am what they call a Third-Culture Kid (TCK). In short, this means that during my 25-year excursion of this world, I’ve spent developmental periods of my life in multiple countries apart from my place of birth.

Due to the high mobility shared by fellow TCK’s across the globe, home is characterized by a state of intermittence – it is fluid and in a constant state of flux.

I am a case in point.

For the first 12 years of my life, home was the verdant city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. Then till I was 19, the metropolis of Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman was home. Thanks to Uncle Sam and his provisional invite called the “Green Card”, home, since then, has been the United States.

Over the span of the last 6 years, I’ve gypsied from Maryland to Michigan, to Beirut, to Muscat, to Sri Lanka, and then back to Michigan, and will eventually head out to California.

“Where is home for you?”

If you are born and raised in your country of birth, the answer to that question would be pointedly singular and specific. But if you were to ask me that question, I’d state verbatim the previous paragraph supplemented by a geography lesson outlining the nautical distance between Sri Lanka and India and an anthropology lesson clarifying that Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans and Tamil Tiger terrorists from Sri Lanka are NOT synonymous concepts.

Home, therefore, is not where my heart is.

It is where my foot is.

Home is where I make it to be.

Home is everywhere. And home is nowhere.

Christmas, unlike any other season, unabashedly and unapologetically reminds me of home. This morning, however, as I was reflecting on the Christmas story detailed in the Bible, I was refreshed to find that my sentiments regarding home found clarity and purpose in the birth of the ultimate TCK – Jesus Christ.

God became flesh. Divinity was enshrouded in humanity. The One who knew no time was born in it. If there was anyone in history who knew the pains of being away from home it was Jesus.

While families across the globe are reunited with their loved ones during this joyous season, the Reason for the season was separated from his family, not just during his birth but for the rest of his life.

But this separation was not a complete separation. Jesus, through his life, exemplified the life of a human being who was in constant communion to his Heavenly Father. Even though there was a physical separation, Jesus felt the closeness of his heavenly home emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.

As I write this, I’m in California spending Christmas with the ever hospitable family of my significant other. At this time I can’t help but remember the many families who have adopted me in like manner by giving a bed to sleep on, food to eat, and a place to call home.

The warmth and sense of belonging I have received in these places have undeniably alleviated the pain of distance. They have taught me that while I may be physically away from those places I call ‘home’, I am and forever will be connected to them in my heart.

This Christmas I’m thankful for the many homes the Lord has provided for me during the course of my life. I truly have pieces of my heart in each of those places.

I’m also thankful that even though I may be seas away from my family, I am but a prayer away from God.

But above all, I thank God for the promise of a permanent home.

A home where I will no longer be concerned with my next flight away.
A home where I no longer need to validate my identity.
A home where I don’t have to live off of my suitcase.
A home of perpetual joy, light, and happiness.
A home that is not tampered by the vicissitudes of life nor the tyranny of time.
A home whose builder and maker is God.

I won’t be home for Christmas.

For now.

Are you a Third-Culture Kid? If so How do you deal with this concept of home especially during holidays? Leave a comment below!

The Only Reason Why I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian

SDA 1 reason

“Potlucks”

“Family-feel”

“Haystacks”

“My parents”

“My teacher”

“Sabbath”

“Sam’s chicken”

And the list goes on when one’s inquired about why they are a Seventh-Day Adventist.

In light of the recent notoriety the denomination has been getting through media and news networks, I had to revisit this question myself:

“Why are YOU a Seventh-Day Adventist, Kevin?”

I am not going to lie. This was a tough one. When I reflected on my 25 short years as an Adventist, however, I was able to boil it down to a single reason onto a single sentence.

The only reason I am a Seventh-Day Adventist is because I believe that we have the clearest, richest, and fullest picture of the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

That’s it. The following is the “un-packaging” of this  long over-due, comprehensive explanation I owe to you, my reader.

Hopefully by the end, you’ll not only get a better look into why I believe what I believe, but also understand why I do and say the stuff I do and say.

Here we go:

How we understand the Scriptures ( the Bible ) presents Jesus as a serious BOSS. He is the Writer, Editor, Compiler, Creator, Presenter, and Protector of this meta-narrative that my friend calls the “God-Story.” The Old Testament points forward to the coming of Jesus and the New Testament looks back at the Jesus who’s already come.

How we understand the Trinity exalts Jesus as One with the Father and the Spirit – distinct yet equal in authority. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit live out their lives in each other, through each other, and this other-centered love has been poured out full strength to the human race through the person of Jesus Christ.

How we understand creation presents Jesus as One through whom all things were made and in whom all things hold together. I believe that He is the soundtrack of all nature, and the sustainer of all life.

How we understand the seventh-day Sabbath reminds me of what was created through Jesus and what was redeemed by Jesus. This is a time where I can fully rest from my need for validation and rest in the love of God.

How we understand the nature of humanity let me know that I am known, valued, understood, appreciated, and enjoyed because I’ve been created by Jesus. Because I’m fearfully and wonderfully made, my life finds its purpose, joy, and function in and through Him.

How we understand the “God-Story” or the Great Controversy, presents Jesus as the conquering hero who has successfully completed the ultimate rescue mission in earth’s history. I find my place in this story as a beloved, victorious son of God who’ll one day see the face of his Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.

How we understand the life, death and resurrection of Jesus elevates Christ as the theme and song of all Biblical history. We believe that His account isn’t localized within just the first four books of the New Testament, but from Genesis to Revelation, every chapter and every verse, echoes His love ultimately manifested through His sacrifice on the cross.

How we understand salvation magnifies Jesus as the Author, Provider, and Finisher of our salvation. We are justified by His blood, sanctified through His Spirit, and will one day be glorified through his grace.

How we understand our spiritual growth transforms every waking moment of our existence as a spiritual experience through the spirit of Jesus. The dichotomous relationship between the “sacred” and the “secular” is decimated through Him. The more I’m aware of His presence in my life, the more I grow into his likeness so I can treat others as He did – with compassion, justice, and mercy.

How we understand the church honors Jesus as the foundational ‘adhesive’ who unites all His children together. This is a community where everyone is entrusted with embodying and telling someone the God-Story. It is a refuge in the midst of this stormy world where we pray together, play together, and process together all the while praising Him who has our back.

How we understand the mission of God’s remnant finds its reason and method in Jesus. We are to introduce others to His love, experience joy in Him, and live out our lives in him as we approach the end of this sojourn on earth.

How we understand Baptism as a symbol of our new birth, finds its impetus and rubric in the life and death of Jesus. As I rise up from the ‘watery grave’, it’s an outward expression of an inward change that has taken place because of Him.

How we understand the Lord’s Supper as an emblem of Jesus’ experience invites all His friends to authentic service, brotherly love, and faithful community in Him.

How we understand the gift of prophecy highlights Jesus as its theme of contemplation and admiration. The ministry of this prophetic gift through Ellen White has brought me closer to Jesus than anyone has ever done.

How we understand the law of God honors Jesus as the mode and purpose for relational faithfulness between God and us. Because of what He did for me on the cross, I no longer work towards victory but from it.

How we understand stewardship acknowledges Jesus as the Provider of my time, talents, and resources. I am entrusted with them to better the environments I find myself in, whether it be within the community of God or outside of it.

How we understand marriage as a heavenly institution finds its reason for existence in Jesus. His selfless love poured out to his bride – the church – gives me a model from which I can learn to love my spouse.

How we understand Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary elevates Jesus as not only my Savior and Friend, but also as my Judge, Advocate, and High Priest who prays for me even right now!

How we understand the end of life honors Jesus as the Conqueror of death! Death is not the end, but a sleep! The real and living hope of reuniting with loved ones energizes my life’s pursuits.

How we understand the millennium, the new earth, and the second coming lauds Jesus as the King of a new kind of existence – one where there will be no more sickness, no more pain, no more death, and no more sorrow. A place filled with inexpressible joy and unfathomable happiness and peace. A place where I can finally see my ever faithful Friend face to face.

There it is. The package and its contents.

I don’t have 28 reasons as to why I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist.

I have One. And He’s all I need.

What about you? If you are a Seventh-Day Adventist, why are you one? if you are not, ask me ANYTHING if you want to know more! I’ll do my best to answer them. Leave a question or a comment below!

What Christians Do That is Worse Than Rejecting God

lady backI recently read a quote last week that messed me up.

“The darkness of the evil one encloses those who neglect to pray.”
– Ellen White in “Steps to Christ.”

“Yep. Heard that before. Nothing new there. Obviously when I refuse to pray then…”

And that’s when it hit me.

She doesn’t say refuse to pray; She says neglect to pray.

Major difference.

One implies obstinance. The other indicates abeyance.
One is willful, the other is mindless.
One refers to a dismissal, while the other refers to a disinterest.

The author then goes on to make some piercing points regarding the sad reality of many Christians who don’t tap into the riches of God’s grace because they are not intentional about their spirituality.

Joshua seemed to get this towards the end of his life:

“Choose you this day whom you will serve” he said. “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

The more I thought about this, the more I’m led to believe the following:

A major reason why many Christians don’t experience growth isn’t so much because of a refusal of growth as much as a lack of intention towards it. 

And this is worse than an outright rejection of God. How? Bear with me as I work up to a hopefully compelling answer.

The Bible has a recurring theme of God honoring the intentionality of his children. God has always been a Divine Gentleman – one who is decidedly anti-coercive yet hyper-sensitive to the choices of his people. God is an intentional God who functions within the parameters of our choices.
That’s why I like to think that the most powerful force in the universe isn’t God, but choice; Even God doesn’t mess with it.

So when I choose to act in favor of God, when I choose to be intentional about my spiritual growth, and when I choose to be aware of His presence, God honors my choice and I grow.

Conversely, when I choose to desecrate the Sabbath, when I choose to abuse the helpless and downtrodden, and when I choose to lust, God honors that choice, and I backslide.

But we tend to think there’s another choice – a “non-choice” –  that comes from a place where all choices that are not chosen sadly congregate like last picks in a pickup ball game waiting to be chosen. They are usually remembered after the game is played, usually accompanied by a feeling of sharp regret. They look like this:

“man, I forgot to pray today..”

“shoot, I didn’t give tithe last month.”

“ wow, how did I not…”

“I didn’t even realize…”

In case you are sarcasm-challenged, let me be plain:

There is no such thing as a “non-choice.” We always choose. Even if it’s mindlessness.

In the final estimate, heaven is for those who chose to be there. The citizens of the heavenly kingdom are not going to be there by accident or mere happenstance. On the flipside, even heaven will be hell for those who don’t choose to be there.

“But bro, are you talking about working your way into spiritual maturity? What about grace? Isn’t God’s grace going to grow us?

Good question. Here’s what I’ll tell you:

God’s grace is not conditional upon my growth in Christ, but my growth in Christ is conditional upon my intentional choice to receive and act upon his grace.

If this weren’t true, then everyone who calls themselves a “Born again Christian” would be walking, talking replicas of our Lord Jesus. But we know that’s far from the truth.

Moreover, there also seems to be a confusion between desiring growth and deciding to grow. Many well-intentioned Christians have confused wanting to grow with choosing to grow and it is significantly, yet subtly, stunting their spirituality.

I love how Karl Haffner puts it:

“We don’t grow by trying; we grow by eating.”

The Bible says that it is God who works in us to give us both the desire and the provision to act according to His good pleasure. However, if we are not intentional about choosing to respond to this work by inviting Him in and making some decided changes in our life, we are not going to grow.

You can’t work it out unless He works it in. But He can’t work it in unless you choose to let Him in.

Let’s also not forget that we have an enemy who is literally hell-bent on making sure that we are unaware of the choices we need to make. It’s been said that if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. He’d rather keep you occupied in temporal matters and forget God than force you to reject God. The great deceiver usually comes in the form of things that we already love and cherish to distract us from the things that are timeless and eternal.

But here is the good news:

Your choice can be the difference between being deceived by Satan and being enlightened by God.
Your choice can be the difference between failure and victory.
Your choice can be the difference between spiritual decline and spiritual growth.

Passive spirituality is worse than active rebellion. In other words, neglecting God is worse than rejecting God, for even God cannot work in a person who won’t pick a side.

So choose. Choose to be intentional about your growth. Choose where you need to place the scalpel. Choose whom you will serve.

For when you don’t choose, you’ve already chosen.