Best Intentions


Best intentions really aren’t enough. Addicts often have the best intentions but can’t break the vise of their vice. Children frequently have the best intentions, only to forget a few minutes later what it is their parents have told them to do. I don’t doubt that Presidents and senators and representatives, governors, assemblymen, all have the best intentions to rule well and keep their campaign promises. Sadly, we know how that works out more times than not.

Clearly, intending to do well isn’t the same as doing well.

The people of Israel were a perfect example of this basic fact. They declared their intentions as they prepared to follow Joshua into the Promised Land:

They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. (Joshua 1:16)

How quickly “all you have commanded” turned into Achan taking a bit of gold, some silver, and a fancy piece of cloth—things Joshua, at God’s direction, had said Israel was not to take.

In the end, best intentions are only as good as the act of following through. It’s not enough to intend to serve others if we turn around and serve ourselves instead. It’s not sufficient to intend to obey God if we go our own way when we don’t like what He says. It’s not OK to intend to keep our promises if we break them when it’s more expedient to do so.

Are intentions worthless? No. They reveal our hearts at a moment in time. But our hearts are fickle, weak, wicked, and deceptive. The person who says, “Mine isn’t” proves how deceived he is by his heart.

The point is, intentions need to be propped up by commitment which turns into action. God didn’t just intend to send a Redeemer, He actually committed Himself to that role, and then took on the form of Man and went to the cross to implement what He intended.

If we are to go beyond intentions—intending to obey God, to live righteously, to love our neighbors as ourselves—we will know we mean it when we commit, when we start, and when we stay with it.

The people of Israel intended to possess the Promised Land. They couldn’t stand on the bank of the Jordan and simply intend to conquer Jericho. The priests needed to step into the water, and the people needed to walk to the other side with a wall of water billowing up beside them. They needed to march around the city for days, and they needed to charge ahead once the walls were down.

Best intentions? They aren’t worthless. But they aren’t really even a start. They are hopes, plans, and for the Christian, the perfect thing to take to God in prayer.

This post is a revised reprint of one that appeared here originally in October 2012.

Published in: on February 19, 2019 at 5:07 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Show, Don’t Tell


Mike Duran

The old fiction writing adage “Show, don’t tell,” applies to a lot more than crafting novels or short stories.

Experienced writers will tell you that actions paint a character better than any grocery list of description or any clever narrative. Readers will understand the list or the explanation, but they will see and feel the actions. They will also have to wrestle with the meaning and try to understand on their own. Consequently, they will internalize more about a character.

It dawned on me as I read Mike Duran’s recent post about church youth groups that we all behave in this way. Someone can tell us what to believe, for example, but it is more powerful to see another person living out their faith. It’s easier to internalize the truth.

For example, I’ve heard countless sermons about forgiveness, but reading Corrie ten Boom’s experience of forgiving one of her German concentration camp guards showed the truth and power of forgiveness in a way I’ll never forget.

George Muller

In the same way, Elisabeth Elliot showed what it meant not to return evil for evil but to give a blessing instead, and her husband Jim showed what it meant to love someone to the point of laying down your life.

George Müller, the 19th century evangelist who started a number of orphanages, caring for over 10,000 children, because he believed God would provide, showed what living by faith and trusting God for daily provision really looks like.

William Henry Harding said, ‘The world, dull of understanding, has even yet not really grasped the mighty principle upon which he [Müller] acted, but is inclined to think of him merely as a nice old gentleman who loved children, a sort of glorified guardian of the poor, who with the passing of the years may safely be spoken of, in the language of newspaper headlines, as a “prophet of philanthropy.” To describe him thus, however, is to degrade his memory, is to miss the high spiritual aim and the wonderful spiritual lesson of his life. It is because the carnal mind is incapable of apprehending spiritual truth that the world regards the orphan Houses only with the languid interest of mere humanitarianism, and remains oblivious of their extraordinary witness to the faithfulness of God.'[42]

I wonder, then, who the heroes of the faith are for this generation.

We have some good talkers. I mean that seriously. I’ve been blessed to sit under some great preaching. In SoCal Christian radio makes other great pastors or apologists available, so I have heard from time to time men like Alistair Begg, R. C. Sproul, Dr. David Jeremiah, Philip DeCourcy, and Ravi Zacharias.

Others write. My book shelf is crammed with non-fiction from which I’ve been taught. A. W. Tozier, John MacArthur, Philip Yancy, and on and on.

Yet … I can’t help but think none of those speakers or writers would have had much of an impact if I didn’t have people in my life living out the gospel. And heroes of the faith who showed more than they told.

Who today is doing the dramatic things like Corrie ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, or George Müller? I can think of one, but I’m sure there are more. I’d love to hear their stories.

Published in: on November 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,

Best Intentions


Best intentions really aren’t enough. Addicts often have the best intentions but can’t break the vise of their vice. Children frequently have the best intentions only to forget a few minutes later what it is their parents told them to do. I don’t doubt that Presidents and senators and representatives, governors, assemblymen, all have the best intentions to rule well and keep their campaign promises. Sadly, we know how that works out more times than not.

Clearly, intending to do well isn’t the same as doing well.

The people of Israel were a perfect example of this basic fact. They declared their intentions as they prepared to follow Joshua into the Promised Land:

They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. (Joshua 1:16)

How quickly “all you have commanded” turned into Achan taking a bit of gold, some silver, and a fancy mantle–things Joshua, at God’s direction, had said Israel was not to take.

In the end, best intentions are only as good as the act of following through. It’s not enough to intend to serve others if we turn around and serve ourselves instead. It’s not sufficient to intend to obey God if we go our own way when we don’t like what He says. It’s not OK to intend to keep our promises if we break them when it’s more expedient to do so.

Are intentions worthless? No. They reveal our hearts at a moment in time. But our hearts are fickle, weak, wicked, and deceptive. The person who says, “Mine isn’t” proves how deceived he is by his heart.

The point is, intentions need to be propped up by commitment which turns into action. God didn’t just intend to send a Redeemer, He actually committed Himself to that role, and then took on the form of Man and went to the cross to implement what He intended.

If we are to go beyond intentions–intending to obey God, to live righteously, to love our neighbors as ourselves–we will know we mean it when we commit and start.

The people of Israel intended to possess the Promised Land. They couldn’t stand on the bank of the Jordan and simply intend to conquer Jericho. The priests needed to step into the water and the people needed to walk to the other side with a wall of water billowing up beside them. They needed to march around the city for days, and they needed to charge ahead once the walls were down.

Best intentions? They aren’t worthless. But they aren’t really even a start. They are hopes, plans, and for the Christian, the perfect thing to take to God in prayer.

Published in: on October 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm  Comments Off on Best Intentions  
Tags: , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: