Discerning God’s Will for You

We are two Sundays into the new year, and I have heard two sermons related to accomplishing God’s will for your life.  The first Sunday my brother Andy was the guest preacher at our church.  His sermon focused on not allowing sin to creep into our lives.  He used Samson as an example of someone who allowed the ministry God had given him to be destroyed by sin.  Sin separates us from God and prevents us from hearing from God and accomplishing God’s will for us.

The focus of Pastor Jackson’s sermon this week was that God does have a purpose and plan for each of our lives.  He used Jesus as an example.  Jesus followed the will of His father and perfectly accomplished all that the Father planned for him in only three short years of ministry.

So, it seems more than a coincidence that while organizing our home office that I should come across notes I took 5 years ago on finding God’s will.  God had my attention.  So I’ve been giving a lot of thought to doing the will of God so far this year.

Here are some of the steps I go through to discern God’s will for me.

1) Maintain regular contact with God through prayer, reading the Bible, worship, and listening. I cannot know God’s will for me if I am not spending time with Him each day.  I usually begin my time with the Lord with a few minutes of worship and a quick prayer asking Him to open my heart to what He wants to say to me.  Then I spend some time reading the Word.  Generally some portion of what I read will stand out and I write it in my journal.  I end with prayer, asking that God will guide me through the day and help me to honor Him in all I do.  During the day, I catch myself whispering quick prayers and listening for what God is saying to me.

2) Hold everything up to the light.  When I believe God has spoken to me, I consider if what I believe I heard is in accordance with God’s word.  God will NEVER ask me to do anything that goes against the instructions He has given us in the Bible.

I recall a story on a major evening news show many years ago in which a woman was interviewed for making an ‘unusual’ life change.  The woman claimed God told her to leave her husband and children to become a stripper; she said she was sharing God’s love with those who patronized the night club in which she worked.  WRONG! This woman was clearly acting in opposition to God’s will for her and her family, yet she seemed to firmly believe in what she was doing.  The problem was that she was following an idea that popped into her head, without spending time in prayer and reading God’s word.  If she had communicated with God, He would have revealed to her that her behavior was wrong.

3) Seek input from other Christians. Share what you believe God is saying to you with your close Christians friends and/or your pastor. Ask them to pray with you for you to clearly discern God’s will. Proverbs 15: 22 tells, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”  Ideally, you will get godly counsel and your friends will also pray for your success and may even assist you in fulfilling the work you have been called to do.

4) Fast and pray.  When the disciples wanted to hear from God, they typically spent time in prayer and fasting.  An example of this is found in Acts 13:2 -3, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”

5) Ask God to close the doors you are not to go through.  Often we are presented with multiple opportunities which seem to be equally good.  Examples would include being offered jobs by two different companies or being accepted at more than one college.  In these cases, there may not be a wrong choice, but often there is a best choice.  When I was applying to college and when I am looking for a new job, I specifically ask God to let me only get one acceptance or job offer, so it will be absolutely clear where He wants me to be.  In the case of applying for colleges for undergraduate and graduate school, God made it clear to me where I was to go and I only applied to one school each time.  There was some risk to this strategy, as the colleges could have rejected me. But, I was absolutely certain that I had heard from God and was accepted into both schools.  Of course, when I am job hunting, I apply to multiply companies.  God has been faithful to let me be rejected by all by one possible employer.   Knowing God was guiding me, I have been able to go to job interviews with confidence.  God has not let me down.  I have loved each job I have held and knew that God put me there.

God does have a plan for each of us.  As we accomplish tasks and grow in our faith and our dependence on Him, He is able to give us bigger tasks to complete.  I encourage each of you to earnestly seek God’s plan for your life.  His plan will be more amazing and fulfilling that any plan you could device.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

A Timely Word


Proverbs 15:23 says, “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word!”  That verse sprung to mind this morning as I spent a few minutes on Facebook yesterday.  I had awaken up feeling a bit overwhelmed and burdened.  The last couple of months have been more stressful than our normal life.  

Some of the stress, such as dealing with the declining health of older loved ones, is a normal part of life.  It’s not pleasant, but it is unavoidable. Other stress is productive, as it pushes us to accomplish tasks that need to be done.  Some other stresses are really external to my life, involving loved ones walking through difficult situations.    Those are not really my burdens to bear.  I can’t affect those situations except through prayer and offering godly wisdom when I am asked.

Even though I knew all that, I awoke feeling the weight of those burdens.  I was feeling a bit ‘woe is me,’ and went so far as to ask the Lord, “Can’t we just have a couple weeks without so much stress?”   That’s what I was feeling when I opened Facebook and the first status update I read was from a dear friend Joe:

So………. to all my friends………… remember and repeat after me,
“THIS!……… is the day that our Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad!”Let no one define you today but you. Think about this, if you were writing the story of your life, why would you give the pen to someone other than yourself?

You are valuable and worth much to your Father in Heaven!. and to me too.

jus sayin’


Wow.  What a timely word.  As if that wasn’t enough to get me back on track, I skimmed down further and read a post from my friend Becky.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” 

Another very timely word. I am so thankful that God knows just what we need to encourage us as we walk through the trials of this life.  Sometimes He speaks to me through His word, and other times He allows someone to speak a timely word to me.

Have you noticed God speaking just the words you need to hear at the time you need to hear them?

Oh How He Loves Us

Have you ever been totally blow away by the magnitude of God’s love for you?  His love for us is overwhelming.  He loves us so much that He sacrificed His son to pay the price for our sins. When I really stop and think about what God and Jesus sacrificed to save me, I am overwhelmed by God’s great love for me.  Most often I experience this overwhelming passion when reading David’s psalms and when engaging in singing songs of worship to God.

woman worshipping

There are many songs of praise that express God’s love to us.  One of my favorites is “Oh How He Loves Us” by The David Crowder Band.  This song captures a bit of the incredible power of God’s love for us.  I invite you to experience this song for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7CQ96uohcM

There are people in my life, whom I love and admire, who believe in predestination.  They believe that God predetermined before we were born whether we would be saved and spend eternity in Heaven or whether we would be condemned to Hell.  I agree that not everyone will go to Heaven, but I cannot believe that God, who created us and loves us passionately, would condemn anyone to Hell.  This belief is not based on my emotions or hopes but on the Word of God. 

John 3:16 is perhaps the best known verse in the Bible. It says, “For God so loves that world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (King James Version)  I believe that ‘whosoever’ means everyone and anyone who will accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will be saved.  Furthermore, Peter tells us that the Lord is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 KJV).

These truths were reinforced this week as I read David Hill’s book , Whirlwind.  David describes a near-death experience he had when he was lost in sin.  He knew without a doubt that if he died he would go to hell.  He felt the horror of spending eternity separated from God.  Furthermore, he realized that the greatest pain of hell was the agony caused to God by those who rejected His love.  The following is a quote from David’s book:

As much agony as I experienced on the night that I tasted hell, there was a greater pain.  During the entire experience, I was aware of how much sorrow I had caused the Lord.  You see friend, the real tragedy of hell is that God’s heart is broken for those people who reject Him.  Although there will be no sorrow in heaven, Jesus will forever bear the scars that paid the price for all of mankind’s redemption.” (Whirlwind, page 56)

God does love us–every single person He created–completely and passionately.  If you have not yet experienced God’s love, please consider accepting Jesus’s free offer of salvation today.  Please click on the ‘Basics of Salvation’ page to learn how to do this.

Honoring God With Our Money: God Provides for Us

In week 4 of our study ‘Honoring God with Our Money,’ we are looking at how God provides for us and what He asks of us in return.  We began the lesson by asking you to consider how God has recently provided for your family. 

Every day God is providing for us.  We don’t also acknowledge His provisions and often we aren’t even consciously aware of the many ways God provides for us.  I encourage people I speak to, particularly women, to keep journals of clear incidences of God’s provision. Some financial blessings are quite apparent–you receive an unexpected check in the mail or someone treats your family to lunch.  Others are less apparent–you discover a small leak in your roof before it becomes a major problem, a bill is less than you expected, or many of the items on your shopping list are on sale this week. 

God’s provisions are not always financial–God provides words of encouragement, helping hands, open doors and closed doors, solutions to difficult problems, and other clear demonstrations of His love when we need them.  I encourage you to record those provisions as well.

 

In Deuteronomy 8:17-18  we read, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’  But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to product wealth.”

It is God who gives us our mental and physical abilities.  Without his grace and provision, we are able to do nothing.   I am always pleased when I hear athletes, actors, songwriters, and other celebrities thanking God for the talent He has given them.   Like them, we should daily acknowledge that it is only through God’s  provisions for us that we are able to work to provide for our families. 

We need to trust God for our provisions.  The following verses are just two of the many times in God word that He promises that His people will never go without food and that He will provide for us when we ask Him.

Psalm 37:25  “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.”

Matthew 7:7 – 8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

 

God wants us to ask Him for what we need and to thank Him when He meets are needs.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you become more aware of the many ways God blesses you financially each week and make a habit to acknowledge these blessings and thank God for them.

Please feel free to share ways you have seen God provide for your family recently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honoring God With Our Money: Warnings to the Rich

In the final part of Lesson 2, we will look at God’s warnings to the rich.

The story of the Rich Young Ruler is told in Matthew 19:16-30.  Jesus used this story to demonstrate how difficult it is for those who love money to be saved.  To recap, the young ruler asked Jesus what he had to do to earn eternal life.  Jesus replied that he should keep God’s commandments.  He responded that he had kept that commandments and asked what he lacked.  Jesus then told him to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor.  In verse 22, we read, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth”

Jesus then told his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  Matt. 19:23-24 

 

Think About:  Why do you think it is so hard for the rich to be saved?  Their riches make them feel self-sufficient, so they have a harder time realizing their need for God.

 Why was the rich ruler sad?  He wasn’t willing to give up earthly treasure for true riches in Heaven.

 

The Bible provides many additional warnings to the rich.  Read the following verses and allow God to show dangers of seeking riches for riches sake.

 

1 Tim. 6:9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation, and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

 

Job 36:18-19 Be careful that no one entices you by riches; do not let a large bribe turn you aside.  Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts sustain you so you would not be in distress?

 

Luke 6:24 Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.

 

Luke 1:53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

 

James 5:1-5 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you…Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.  Your gold and silver have corroded…You have hoarded wealth in the last days…You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.

 

 Think About:  After reading these verses, why might you still desire to be rich?  Riches allow us to be debt-free and live in financial freedom.  They also give us the ability to help others.  Being rich is not a sin, but loving money above others is a sin.

 

Life Application:

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Honoring God With Our Money: Lesson 1 Life Application

It is important to have a proper perspective on money.  If money takes on more importance than it should, we begin to desire money above all else.  This desire can lead people to engage in foolish, and often illegal, actions to obtain more money.  Many murderers, thieves, and embezzlers have been motivated by greed and the desire for wealth to commit their crimes.  Failure to place a proper value on money will lead to poor money management and the inability to meet the needs of our family.

Solomon provides us with a proper perspective on how much money we truly need. He wrote in Proverbs 30:8,  “Give me neither poverty or riches, but give me only my daily bread.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

Money is a necessary and important aspect of modern life.  We should desire to have enough money to meet the needs of our family and assist those less fortunate than us, without feeling pressured to engage in illegal activities.  We should also desire to never have so much money that we feel independent and self-sufficient.  God wants us to recognize that He is our provider.  He gives us talents and the ability to work and earn money.  We need to acknowledge His help and His gracious provisions for us.

How has God provided for your needs this week?   How have you seen His provisions for you in the past?

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

In Matthew 20:1-16 Jesus tells the story of workers in a vineyard.  In the parable a landowner goes out to the marketplace to find workers for his vineyard.  Those he chooses agree to work all day for a fair day’s wage.  Later the landowner goes out and finds others who have not been hired.  He sends them to work, promising to pay what is fair. Three more times throughout the day, the landowners returns to the marketplace and hires additional workers.  At the end of the day, he pays them each the same amount–a fair day’s wage.  Those who had worked the longest grumbled that they should have been paid more than those who had worked only a portion of the day.  The landowner responds that he is not being unfair, as he paid them the agreed-upon wage.

Many scholars interpret this parable as having to do with salvation.  Eternal life is promised to those who accept Jesus as their Savior, regardless of whether they make that decision early in their life, later in life, or at the very end of their life.  As a parable reflecting salvation, I am thrilled that Jesus continues to offer the free gift of salvation to people throughout their lives, particularly as I don’t find ‘laboring’ for Jesus to be hard work.  I find that living for Jesus makes my daily life rewarding, fulfilling, and more meaningful. I am glad that Jesus allows people to make the decision to follow him even up till the time they take their dying breaths.

Taken literally, however, I would be equally bothered as the first workers were.  This parable violates our sense of fairness.  If I’d been toiling hard for many hours, I would feel that I deserve more pay than someone who only worked for a few hours and particularly those who only worked one hour.

Yet, as Jesus pointed out, all the workers got the pay they agreed to accept when they were hired.  The owner of the vineyard paid those who worked all day a fair day’s wage.  He simply chose to be more generous with those hired later. Of course, this wouldn’t be permitted in our society today, unless the employer did it clandestinely.  Those workers who had labored all day would file a lawsuit and the landowner would be forced to pay them more or those hired later less. 

As I read this story this week, God opened my heart and I envisioned this story in the present day with the workers as unemployed people (and perhaps homeless) who have been waiting all day for an opportunity to work as day laborers. My attitude toward the workers changed. Many day laborers wait all day hoping and praying for the opportunity to work. Their need to provide for their families and pay their bills is no less great than the laborers who get hired.  These men and women want to work and they want to meet their obligations. 

So, how can I feel indigent if a kind employer shows mercy to them by paying them for more time than they worked? 

Jesus demonstrated once again that God’s thoughts are higher than ours and that He cares deeply for each individual. I pray that as I study God’s word and spend time in prayer that I will come to see people through Jesus’s eyes.  The world would be a much better place if we all worried less about what is “fair” in our own eyes and considered how we could show Christ’s love and compassion to our neighbors.

Letting Go and Letting God

The phrase “let go and let God” has been popular in Christian circles for many years.  It simply means give your problems, concerns, and worries to God and allow Him to take care of them for you.  It’s a catchy phrase–easy to say and easy to remember.  However, it’s very hard to put into practice.  More times than not, I find myself praying about a situation and then spending many hours or days trying to work out a solution on my own.  A beloved former pastor of mine calls that “picking the problem up again.”

Yesterday I read a great blog post by Pastor Tim Burton entitled “Get Rid of Self-Imposed Limitations.”  (http://readfreshmanna.blogspot.com/    January 7, 2013)  Pastor Tim addressed this very issue and his struggles with “letting go and letting God.”  In this post, Pastor Tim described a situation in which a friend confided to him before the Sunday morning church service that he had been laid off from his job and asked Tim to pray for him to find a new job.  Pastor Tim agreed to pray for his friend and provided him with the name of a contact who might be able to assist him.

Pastor Tim had been supportive and offered his friend useful information.  His sole responsibility at this point was to pray for his friend.  However, as he tried to worship, his mind kept trying to come up with solutions to assist his friend.  I could relate to Pastor Tim’s experience.  Too often, I ask God to handle a problem and then begin working out the ways God could best accomplish the task.

Pastor Tim reported that he had come up with three possible solutions when he felt God reprimand him with these words, “You are trying to solve what belongs to me. Can you see how limited your thinking is? Stop your limited thinking and turn this over to me! There are no limitations for me and you could not figure out how I will be directing his life.”  

To his credit, Pastor Tim immediately stopped interfering and stepped back to allow God to work.   This simple story illustrated to me that when I spend time trying to solve a problem that only God can solve, there are two unintended consequences: (1) I waste my time and (2) I put limits on God.

Isaiah 55:8 says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”  This tells me that God has plans for me, or my friends, that I could never fathom.  If I will get out of the way and allow God to enact His plans, the results will be far better than any I could come up with on my own.

I believe that this illustration will help me to truly be faithful in letting go of the problems I bring to God and allowing God handle them in the way that He knows will be best for me and will bring Him glory.

Do you find yourself asking God to help you and then not allowing Him to work?  If so, I hope that Pastor Tim’s inspired words will bless you and help you to let go and let God.

Learning to Accept and Embrace Change

Change is something I rarely seek and often resist, but lately God has been working on me to accept and embrace change.  I’m not speaking about change that arises from boredom or the desire to do something different, but meaningful change.  Changes that leads to a better way of doing things or  spiritual or emotional growth is productive and healthy.  But, it so much easier to stick with what we know than it is to change.

Amidst several staffing changes at our church recently, my pastor said to me, “People see change as bad.  Change isn’t good or bad.  It’s just different.” I don’t think he was saying that because he felt I was resisting the changes that had taken place; however, I do believe the Holy Spirit inspired him to make that comment to me at that time.

I know that he’s right and that the changes that took place were God ordained, but I would have preferred that things had stayed the same.  I liked the people who moved on to other callings and I couldn’t envision our church without them.  While I still miss them, I have accepted that God had a plan and His plan is best.  Those who moved on are ministering in congregations that needed them and new leaders are being developed from members of our congregation. Those particular changes have provided new opportunities for growth in leadership for members of our congregation.  The new leaders have stepped up to the challenge and God is blessing their work.

I think some of my resistance to change has its roots in my childhood.  Growing up as the daughter of a Marine, I attended 6 different elementary school in four different states.  Just as we settled into a new home and a new community, Dad would get orders and we’d be off again.  My sisters and I would have to get accustomed to a new school and make new friends.  I was constantly saying good bye to old friends.  Of course, each move allowed us to meet new people and make new friends.  God used these moves to bring people into our lives that lead our family to Him and helped us grow.  He also used those changes to help me quickly become comfortable in new situations and taught me to reach out to those who are new and make them feel welcome.

I know that changes that God initiates are for His glory and my growth.  I trust that God loves me more than I love myself. The changes He wants for me will help me to become more Christ-like and to draw closer to God.  I want to not only accept those changes but learn to embrace and celebrate them.  My ultimate desire is to honor God in all that I do each day and I can only do that as I allow Him to change me and my circumstances to conform with His will.  I don’t know what changes God has planned for me in the coming months and years, but I fully trust Him and know that those changes are for my ultimate good.

Recommitting to Living Intentionally

In late February I wrote a blog about choosing “My One Word” for 2012.  I choose the word intentional and declared my intentions of “focusing my time and energy on what is truly important rather than simply responding to situations that present themselves.”  It’s now mid-June and the year will soon be half over.  It’s time to take stock of how I’ve done, and the scorecard is not encouraging, although it is not as dismal as I thought it might be.

I previously declared my goals to be intentional (1) in getting deeper into God’s Word and growing closer to Him, (2) in seeking His will for every aspect of my life, (3) in putting relationships ahead of accomplishing a to-do list, and (4) in taking steps to maintain my health, which will include losing weight and exercising more.  I also declared that I would spend less time mindlessly watching whatever show happens to be on television or surfing the Internet, less time playing Solitaire and Angry Birds, and less time stressing over situations that may or may not occur and that won’t matter to me a week later.  

Of course, as soon as you declare a course of action, it seems as if life conspires to interfere with your plans.  Shortly after writing my Intentional blog, we made an offer on a house, my brother-in-law died Bob unexpectedly, we closed on our house and moved, and we began a major renovation project.  Chaos ensued and I found myself reacting to situations rather than focusing my time and attention in productive ways.  We are now somewhat settled into the new house, we are adjusting to the big hole left in our lives by Bob’s absence, and the master bath renovation is awaiting shower doors to be complete.

It’s time to get my life back to some semblance of normalcy and my focus back on being intentional in my actions.  During this period of great distractions, I was faithful in my daily devotions.  I start each day by spending time reading the Bible and asking God to help me glorify Him in all that I do.  I think it is human nature to seek God’s help and draw closer to Him in troubled times and that was certainly true for me.   That is the positive side of the scorecard.

On the negative side, I’ve fallen back into old habits of playing solitaire and wasting time reading meaningless tripe on the Internet. I justify these time-wasting activities as stress relief; however, I am generally more stressed afterwards because nothing has been crossed off my to-do list.  I have managed to lose 4 pounds–not much for four months of denying myself bread and potatoes, but at least it is a loss and not a gain.  It probably goes without saying that I haven’t been exercising.  And I haven’t been writing.  My third novel which was to be completed by May 1 is no further along than it was in February.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines repent as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.”  That sounds like a good plan for my life.  So, I hereby repent of my lack of living intentionally and declare that I will turn from my sin and rededicate myself to those noble goals which I set earlier this year.  For the remainder of 2012, I will live intentionally and make the most of each day and each opportunity to grow in my relationship with God and those most important in my life and to improve my health.