The Most Important Decision You Make Everyday

Dichotomies can be tough. Should I eat what I want or what I know will be good for my overall health? Should I spend my hour reading a book or watching the Braves? I can’t do both! These choices between two competing options may seem superficial, but not all such choices are. In fact, the first dilemma in recorded human history comes in the form of a dichotomy between two choices. Will Eve obey the voice of the serpent or the vhomeroice of the Creator God? We all know how that one turned out. We’ve been dealing with the consequences of that wrong decision ever since.

The New Testament often presents us with dichotomies in presenting the way we are to approach the Christian life. There is always an either/or decision to be made for those who follow King Jesus. Eve’s battle is not over. In one sense, this decision is made once and for all the moment we decide to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, for certainly this momentous decision redirects the entire course of our lives. But in a different sense, we have to keep making this decision daily, and sometimes—even often—we revert back to foolishly listening to the voice with a lisp. For example, the Bible situates our existence within the story of a series of battles. We are constantly having to choose between approaching life according to what is visible or what is invisible (2 Cor. 4:18), the present or the future (2 Cor. 4:17), the word of the cross or the competing word of worldly wisdom (1 Cor. 1:18ff.), the kingdom of God or the kingdoms of this world (Col. 1:13), living by sight or living by faith (2 Cor. 5:7), longing for temporal riches now or living for eternal riches in the future (Matt. 6:19-21).

All of these battles are really different ways to say the same thing. The main question that exists underneath all of these various portrayals is this: Will you and I live by God’s word alone or by the word of an alternative source? Will we interpret the story according to God’s wisdom or will we come up with a different story altogether? God says that the way the world appears is not always the way the world is. God says that there is far more to the story than the present moment and that death does not have the final say. God says that the climax of his own self-revelation is Jesus Christ crucified and that this event, in combination with Jesus’ resurrection, is the turning point in history. God says that his kingdom has come in Christ and will be consummated upon Christ’s return. No earthly kingdom compares. God calls us to trust his word over what our eyes see, and he tells us that the reward for this brand of faithful living is an eternal inheritance under his reign that puts anything achieved or attained in this life to shame. Our world has a different opinion about all of these matters, and we can encounter that opinion through a myriad of mediums at virtually every moment of our lives. In other words, this is not a choice you can easily avoid.

So which will it be? Will you choose to live this day according to God’s word? Will you decide tomorrow to shun the pathetic forms of wisdom that this world offers in favor of the word of the cross? Don’t assume that because you made this decision once, you never have to revisit the issue again. At any given point in our lives, we have capitulated and given ground to ways of thinking and living that oppose the wise ways of our Creator and Redeemer. However, don’t assume that because you made the wrong choice yesterday, there is no hope for today. The beauty of the gospel is that there is always grace available in Christ for those who repent and believe. As long as you are alive it is never too late to repudiate the empty version that this world offers in favor of the beautiful story God is telling that culminates in Christ crucified, resurrected, and reigning. This battle is the most important battle you will ever fight, because every other battle is rooted in this one. Everything is at stake. Which voice will you obey?

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The Majesty of Mundane

I’d like to tell you a story. Last Tuesday, I began my day by working out and spending time with God before waking my middle son, Elias, up for school. After breakfast, I drove him to the front of his school where I dropped him off. Then, I went to my office at church, where I met with three young men that I disciple in the faith. Next, I participated in a staff meeting and staff lunch with the greatest church staff ever assembled. We planned and prayed, made fun of each other and lightheartedly argued, before skyping with one of our missionaries in Peru. I came home late in the afternoon and spent a wonderful evening with my beautiful wife and children. We ate dinner together, read the Bible together, and prayed together. I wrestled with my boys and snuggled with my wife and daughters. My wife and I gave the kids their medicine and tucked them into bed, before spending some time together—just the two of us. We ended the evening by watching one of our favorite shows, and then we fell asleep only to arise the next morning to do it all over again.

That story probably seems boring to you. Nothing special. Just a typical day. But let me add some important details. Elias is our son that we adopted from Uganda. He was a two-year-old boy without a name, a birthdate, or a family, when people from the orphanage found him alone and abandoned at a hotel. He had markings from a witch doctor on his skin. When we brought him home he was on high doses of medication to stop seizures he was having every day. There was a time when we wondered if he would ever learn basic skills like talking and getting himself dressed. We’ve watched him mature into a typical little six-year-old boy who talks our ears off and gets himself dressed every morning. He now has a name, a birthdate, and a family. He now has a story. He’s a McCall.

The three men I disciple were at one time dead in their trespasses and sins. They were enslaved to sin and children of wrath. I used to be like that as well. We were all without a name, without a birthdate, without a family. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5). We now have a name—sons of God in Christ. We now have spiritual birthdates. We are now members of the family of God that fellowships locally in Lexington, Kentucky. In God’s wise providence he brought our diverse stories together. Our lives are intertwined by his design. There are no accidents in this story.

That church staff I mentioned comes from at least seven different states. We are radically different from one another. If college football fandom is a good indicator of diversity, we have it all: Auburn Tigers, Alabama Crimson Tide, Tennessee Vols, Ohio State Buckeyes, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Bulldogs, and Kentucky Wildcats. We have outdoorsmen and baseball fanatics, woodworkers and bookworms. Our interests and backgrounds are diverse, but our passion is the same: We desire to spread a passion for the supremacy of Christ in all things for the joy of all peoples. How did that happen? How did so many different personalities end up on the same team at this particular time and place in history? Miracle. God is writing this story.

That missionary to Peru? He was a college senior two years ago with the whole world in front of him. He could have begun his career and pursued marriage. Instead, he chose to take the gospel to an unreached people group in an obscure village 10,000 feet up in the Andes Mountains. He graduated from college and immediately stepped on a plane to commit the next two years of his life to serving the crucified and resurrected King of the universe. What makes a man die to his ambitions and sacrifice so much? “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:14-15). He realizes that he’s not the author of his story.

My family is another miracle. I can remember the birth of each one of my three biological children: Josiah Garrett, Lillian Joy, and Samuel Judson. I remember vividly the first time my wife and I saw pictures of the two children who would eventually become our son and daughter, Elias Owen McCall and Eden Hope McCall. Two stories from another continent and another ethnicity are now forever joined to five stories from Lexington, Kentucky. Our seven stories have merged into one. Those three rowdy wrestlers and three sweet snugglers are part of an unfolding drama that the Author of life is writing as we speak. We live in his prose. Our destiny is in his omnipotent hands. We rejoice in that.

My wife was eighteen when she married me. She had just graduated from high school and I was twenty-four and in seminary. When we first met she was fifteen and I was twenty-one. I had no idea at that point in time that she would eventually become my wife. Her mother did. The first time her mother saw me, she told my father-in-law that I was going to one day be their son-in-law. I’m thrilled that her prophecy came true. There’s no one else I could imagine sharing this journey with. My wife perfectly complements me. I love her more and more every day. The Author is good at his craft.

This story I’m sharing is nothing special. It’s just an ordinary day in an ordinary life. But I hope you can see that there is far more going on beneath the surface of things. Majesty is all around us, all the time. It takes a little bit of effort—a little bit of faith-filled imagination—but the glory is always there, hidden beneath the exterior of an ordinary life. Sometimes we don’t recognize it because we’re too busy checking our watches, waiting for the weekend, and saving our vacation days. Sometimes Martha wins the day when Mary is needed (Luke 10:38-42). But each new ordinary day, majesty is there for the taking. Every day the Creator invites us to taste his glory. Every day we are handed a script and told to act our part in a divine drama that encompasses all of human history—a story that features the mundane just as much as the spectacular. We’re not the star of this story—that part was given to Jesus. But we are privileged to get to play supporting roles. Will you spend your life looking forward to the next big thing or will you choose to embrace the majesty of the mundane?

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Prayer is not Enough

Prayer is a gift from God. It’s an indispensable part of the Christian life. John Piper calls it “our war-time walkie-talkie.” It’s the cry of a child to his Father in times of distress. It’s the bubbled over enjoyment that a sinner has when contemplating his or her redeeming God. We need prayer. We use it to express remorse, confession, repentance, worship, helplessness, and thanksgiving. It enables us to communicate with the Creator of heaven and earth. But prayer is not enough.

Why would I say that? Let me answer that with a brief story. There was time in my life as a young Christian when I allowed a certain temptation to rule me. The temptation seemed irresistible to me, and I gave in, over and over. I’ll never forget the cycle. I would sin, and then, feeling helpless, I would cry out to God in remorse. I would ask God to change me, to remove the temptation. But I wasn’t changing. I was simply resting in the reality of my remorsefulness, believing that I had taken the proper steps through prayer to alleviate the sin. I assumed God would just make it go away. I was wrong.

Prayer is necessary, but it is not sufficient. It is not an excuse to be passive. God could very easily remove us from the world and accomplish his purposes alone. But one of his purposes is our involvement. He has chosen to make us active participants in his work. What a privilege! So we pray and pray and pray for God to move. And then we get busy working in his strength toward the goal for which we are praying. Do I pray for God to help me in temptation? Absolutely! But that’s not all I am called to do. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Col. 3:5). “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14). I pray and I work, trusting in the provision that Christ has made for me in the gospel.

Prayer is a wonderful gift. It’s just not enough.

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How Do You Preach to Today’s Youth?

Here are some helpful thoughts from an experienced student pastor about how to relate to today’s youth culture without watering down the message of the gospel. Recommended to anyone who works with youth either as paid staff or voluntarily. Find the article here.

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What’s the Difference?

I’ve been a follower of Christ now for over 11 years. It’s crazy sometimes to reflect back on my life before Christ. Sometimes I tell my wife stories that don’t even seem real to me. “You did that?” she asks. It’s also been humorous to speak to people who only remember the Casey B.C. and have no idea about the Casey in Christ. Let’s just say that they didn’t expect that I’d turn out as a minister of the gospel.

I think it’s helpful to remember where I came from–who I used to be. It reminds me of the power of the gospel, and it’s a practice that Paul models in passages like Gal. 1:13-14 and Phil. 3:5-6. I don’t ever want to lose a sense of awe over what Christ has done in my life. There’s simply no way to explain the changes that have happened in my life apart from the gospel. Remembering my past keeps this in fresh perspective.

Over the years I’ve thought long and hard about how to explain the difference between the old me and the Christ-follower me to people. Is it that I no longer sin? Absolutely not! I sin daily. Is it that now I’m forgiven? Absolutely, but that doesn’t adequately explain the transformation. It’s certainly the cause of it. Here’s the description I’ve settled on: “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15).

Formerly, the dominating question in my life was, “What do I want to do? What will give me the most pleasure now?” Now, the dominating question of my life is, “What is His will? What will bring Him the most glory and pleasure?” I find my joy in His joy. There are still way too many temporary lapses when I think and live according to the old pattern. But the overarching orientation of my life has changed as a result of the gospel and the Holy Spirit’s work in my life. That’s how I would explain it to anyone who’s wondering.

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Is Church Supposed to be Cool?

Here’s a wonderful meditation by Randy Alcorn on the uncoolness of church. Here’s the money quote:

People who haven’t left the church but remain critical often fall into referring to church members as “they.” “Those church people are into doing this and not doing this. They preach at you and lay guilt on you and have music I don’t like. And they don’t do enough to help people.” But where is the “we”? Where is the “We don’t do enough to help people”? When the church you attend is “they”, your heart isn’t there and your body won’t be much longer.

Cool can only take us so far.  For example, it’s very cool these days for believers and unbelievers alike to stand up against sex trafficking and advocate for the victims of injustice. But it’s decidedly uncool to stand against killing those same children before they are born. So it’s not just that the church looks uncool or the music is uncool. It’s that they stick up for people that the world won’t stick up for.

I love it when young people and old people are part of the same churches, showing each other grace and tolerance and speaking the truth, but doing so in love. I love it when the old are not shaking their heads in disapproval of the way the young dress, their jewelry and tattoos, the way they speak, and the songs they sing. I love it when the young are not rolling their eyes at the way older people dress, the way they speak, and the music they sing.

I have a suggestion for older people (apparently I am one now, according to my birth certificate, even though of course I am still cool :). How about we lead the way and show young people that the exclusiveness of salvation in Christ and believing God’s Word does not lead to condemnation and expecting others to dress and talk and act like us?  And young people, I call upon you to respect and learn from older people as Scripture commands us to do (Leviticus 19:32Proverbs 20:291 Timothy 5:1).

A church is a gathering of people diverse in race, occupation, age and gender. When those who are already the same in these areas are united, it is not as great a testimony to Christ’s grace as when those who are very different are united in the same Lord.

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Eagles are Alone; Leaders Shouldn’t Be

ImageMy parents have a picture above their toilet that I’ve seen many times, but never really thought much about. It’s a picture of an eagle soaring through the air with a quote under it that says something like: “Leaders don’t flock. You find them one at a time.” I get the point. Leaders aren’t the type of people who unthinkingly go along with the crowd. That’s a truth that needs to be said and said again.

However, I can’t help but notice something is missing in the analogy. Just who is this lone eagle (leader) supposed to be leading? He’s all alone. An alone leader is a contradiction.

I realize that analogies are only meant to go so far, and that I’m probably over-thinking something that’s not supposed to be this complicated. However, I think the poster is actually pretty accurate in capturing the way the American imagination thinks about leadership. Leaders are people who don’t conform. Mavericks. They don’t follow anyone. Real leaders blaze their own trail. They make their own decisions. Imitation is mindless conformity.

But God has a different approach to leadership: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

My pastor and mentor, David Prince, once told me something that changed my life. He said, “You’ll never learn to lead until you learn to follow.” In other words, eagles may be designed to go it alone, but human beings certainly are not. We need other people to demonstrate for us how to live and how to lead according to God’s Word. We need to imitate a model who is showing us how to imitate the Model, Jesus Christ. And it’s only after imitating our model that we are best suited to lead others.

This is the way of discipleship that is taught and demonstrated in the New Testament. It’s not optional. You don’t gain spiritual maturity by holing up in your library, reading books and blogs about theology. You don’t lead others by getting people to “like” the witty head-nodders that you post on your Facebook wall. You learn how to be a man or a woman by following other Christlike men and women. If you can’t follow, you can’t lead. That’s how it works.

“Real leaders flock, so that they can one day lead their own flock.” That’s how I would put it.

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