How to know the will of God

Sometimes it is so clear. Other times it seems impossible to figure out. I am talking about God’s will in any given situation. What should I do or not do? What pleases Him and what disappoints Him? Does He want me to choose door one, two or three? Is it under lid one two or three? I wish His will were easier to figure out.

One time Paul, the Apostle, wanted to do some mission work in Asia, but the will of God was revealed clearly, “having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.” (Acts 16:6) How the Holy Spirit communicated God’s will, I do not know but it was a clear message.

So Paul then decided to turn to an area called Bithynia, and the response was the same, “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” (Acts 16:7) Again, I have no idea how the Spirit revealed God’s will to Paul but it was again crystal clear.

In a third move God revealed just where he wanted Paul to go with His message.
“During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:9-10)

Wouldn’t it be tremendous if God’s will for us was so clear, unmistakable, direct and understandable? Then maybe we would move into action as quickly as Paul did, but most of the time it is a struggle to know exactly what we should do, especially when it comes to crucial decisions in life or directions we are considering. Let me share with you very briefly the process I have developed in attempting to discern the will of God for any given situation. It is built on five key words.

COMMUNICATION
Communicate often with the Lord about your ideas, thoughts and plans. Lay it all out to Him and hide nothing. Talk to Him about it every day. Let him know how serious you are about discovering His direction and wishes for your life. Don’t hold anything back. Tell and talk about it all.

CONFIRMATION
Ask God to confirm your thoughts plans and directions in ways that are obvious that it is Him and not chance or coincidence. I believe that plans and desires that are pleasing to God will be confirmed by God in ways that only He could be responsible for. Look for confirmation.

CONSULTATION
Or maybe you can call it counsel. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Share your plans with some people that you trust and have shown sound spiritual judgment and ask for their honest response. And be willing to accept their insight. Make sure you seek out those who will be honest with you instead of those who will say just what you want to hear.

I believe this is the most difficult step to take. It involves other people in the decision making process. Many times we don’t want to know what other people think and we just do what we want to do. That is a set up for disappointment and failure. Bottom line, if you don’t want to consult spiritual advisors you don’t really want to know the best answer.

COST
Jesus said before you undertake a major direction first count the cost. That means not just the financial cost but the emotional, physical, spiritual, social as well as the cost to your family. Put it all out on the table and be nakedly honest about the price of it all, choosing as well as not choosing.

INCUBATION
Sorry, that’s not another “C” word but I didn’t have a good one to fit. I grew up on a chicken farm. Eggs, in order to hatch into baby chicks, had to go through an incubation period in which they were exposed to just the right conditions to birth the new chick. Major decisions need the same exposure time to these processes in order to settle on a decision that is pleasing to God. I guess what I am saying is, don’t rush the process. Give it time for God to reveal His direction in His time. Patiently wait.

So if you are looking for a quick fix on the will of God, I don’t have one. But I do have a process that I have learned to follow that has brought enormous direction to my life in a way that I believe is God directed. This process has saved me a lot of regret and second guessing when it comes to big decisions all because I gave the Lord plenty of time to reveal His will to me.

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Does my life matter?

We are taking a little time to answer the three most important questions in life. The first one is addressed in my previous blog posting. It is the question of existence: WHY AM I ALIVE? The second key question of life is the question of significance – DOES MY LIFE MATTER? Isaiah asked this question in Isaiah 49:4a. He said, “My work all seems so useless. I’ve spent my strength for nothing and for no purpose at all.” You were made for meaning, and if you don’t have a meaning and purpose in your life and you don’t know why God put you on this planet, life doesn’t make sense.

You are going to go through life living at one of three levels: The first and lowest level is the Survival level. The Survival level is really where most live today. They’re just in survival mode. They are just barely getting by. They’re just existing. They’re not living. They are controlled by their circumstances. They put in their time and live for the weekend. They’re just in survival mode.

A step up from that, a better way to live, rather than the Survival level, is the Success level. Honestly, this is where some of you are. By the world’s standards, you’ve got it made. You’ve got a comfortable living, compared to the rest of the world; you’re extremely wealthy, compared to the rest of the world. So you have possessions, you have freedom, you have good health and you may have prestige and you may be quite successful. But today there are a lot of books coming out that say things like, “If I’m so successful, how come I don’t feel fulfilled?” The reason is, it takes more than success and it takes more than status to satisfy.

You need to go to the third level of living, which is the Significance level. Not a Survival, not a Success but step up to the level of Significance. How do you live at the Significance level? Well, you get there through three things:

#1: You know the meaning of life – that gives Significance.

#2: You know how much you matter to God – that gives you Significance.

#3: You know God’s vision for your life and you’re living it out and that
gives you Significance.

If you want to know how much you matter to God, look at the next couple of verses from the Bible. God says, “I am your Creator. You were in My care, even before you were born.” (Isaiah 44:2) God was caring for you even in His mind, as He thought you up. The next verse says,”You (talking about God) scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book.” That’s how much you matter to God. He paid so much attention to your life that every detail was recorded in His book, before you even took a breath. That’s how much you matter to God. Do you matter? – Yes. He made you. He made you to love you and the Bible says you do matter.

And God wants you to know how much you matter to Him. God wants you to know the meaning of life. He wants you to know His vision/purposes. And He’s done a lot to help you out in learning these. In the next few weeks we are going to be going there in our Sunday gatherings. We are going to come to understand God’s vision for each of us.

God has extremely long-range plans for you. Look at the next verse, “His plans endure (what?) forever; His purposes last (what?) eternally.” Now listen, the vision we’re going to talk about the next few weeks is not just for the rest of your life on earth, it is for the rest of your life forever and ever, and ever and ever and ever. Because God’s vision for your life is eternal.

God says I have plans and purposes for your life, but they don’t end at death. Because when you die, your heart is going to stop and that will be the end of your body, but that’s not the end of you. You’re far more than a body. You were made to last forever. The Bible says this, Psalm 33:11, “His purposes last eternally. God says, ”I was made to last forever.” I was made to be loved by God, and I was made to last forever. This life is not all there is. One of the biggest ways you can waste your life is thinking all there is, is here and now. You’re going to spend far more time on that side of death, than you do on this side. On this side, you may get to live 60,70,80 or 90 years or so. But that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to eternity. The time you spend on earth really isn’t that very long.

It’s like if you stretched out a line around the world the first millimeter of that line would not even equal how tiny your life is compared to all the time you’re going to spend in eternity. You were made for eternity and life is preparation for eternity. You’re not going to find that in a self-help book, but it’s the truth. Life is preparation for eternity and in the next few weeks we’re going to talk about how you prepare, because this is not all there is. Oh, no. God’s purposes for you are eternal. They are forever. This is the key to the meaning of life, realizing that life is preparation for eternity.

The Bible says this. 2 Corinthians 5:1, “When this tent we live in – our body here on earth – is torn down. God will have a house in Heaven for us to live in. A home He himself has made, which will last forever.” You want to know how much you matter to God. Well, I’ll tell you – you matter so much to God; He wants to keep you with Him for the rest of eternity. For the rest of eternity – that’s how much you matter to God. He wants to keep you with Him forever. That gives meaning. Look at this verse, “Leave your impoverished confusion and live and walk up the street to a life with meaning.” (Proverbs 9:6)
So the question of existence – why am I alive? God answers it by saying, “I made you to love you, that’s why you’re alive.” In the question of Significance – does my life matter? God says, “Oh yeah you matter. You matter so much that I intend on keeping you with Me for the rest of eternity.”

How does that make you feel?

Made to be loved

Beginning Sunday, October 26, I am going to spend a few weeks in our Sunday gatherings addressing “God’s purpose for the rest of your life.” To get us thinking in that direction let’s talk about life’s three greatest questions:  1) The question of existence – why am I alive; 2) the question of significance – does my life matter?  3) the question of intention – what is my purpose? Let’s take them one at a time in three separate blog entries. This is a little lengthy but if you miss the ending you miss it all.

QUESTION OF EXISTENCE: WHY AM I ALIVE?

This first question, the question of existence – “why am I alive?” is not exactly a new question. It was asked thousands of years ago. In the Bible Jeremiah asked, “Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace?” (Jer 20:18) There have probably been times in your life when you felt that way, too. Was I born just to have a bunch of problems? Was I put on this planet just to have heartache, grief and stress?

Arthur Ashley Brilliant says “my life is a superb cast, but I can’t figure out the plot.” Jack Hanley wrote, “I hope life isn’t a joke, because I don’t get it.” A guy named Dr. Hugh Moorhead, who is the Chairman at the Department of Philosophy at the Northeastern University, once wrote to 250 well-known philosophers, scientists, writers and intellectuals of the world and asked them, “What is the purpose of Life.” And then he published all of their responses in a book. The book is quite discouraging and depressing. Some of these people offered their best guesses. Some admitted they made up a purpose in life. Some admitted they didn’t have any idea as to what the purpose of life was and if Dr. Moorhead knew, would he please let them know. Carl Yung, the famous psychiatrist said, “I don’t know the meaning, the purpose of life, but it looks as if something was meant by it.” Isaac Asimov wrote, “As far as I can see, there is no purpose.” Joseph Taylor authored “I Have No Answers To The Meaning of Life And I No Longer Want to Search For Any.”

You know, those are tragic statements, because life without purpose isn’t a life worth living. It is no coincidence that the suicide rate in our society has gone up. It’s now the No. 2 killer of teenage students. You see, if you take God out of the equation, you don’t really have very many alternatives. You can try the MYSTICAL APPROACH – the mystical approach says “look within and find your purpose within.” You know if that really worked, all of us would know our purpose. I’m sure you’ve tried that. I have and I bet everyone else has, too. And I didn’t find it there. It takes more than looking within.

Oprah Winfried did a show a while back on discovering your purpose of life. At every single break during that hour show, she would say “Now, come back because we’re going to tell you your purpose.” And every time they would come back and did they tell you it? No! They didn’t even come close. They didn’t even attempt it. In fact, as the credits were rolling at the end of that show, she kind of looks at the credits and says, “And remember, you’ve got to figure it out by yourself.” Looking within is not the answer.

Then you can try the PHILOSOPHICAL APPROACH – the survivalist says, “The purpose of life is just to stay alive.” In other words, live as long as you can. The Naturalist says, “The purpose of life is just to perpetuate itself.” In other words, you’re just here for biological reasons. Rap artist, Ice Tea, wrote, “The only reason we’re here is to reproduce. Just chill out and reproduce. Keep the species alive.” Doesn’t that just motivate you to want to jump out of bed in the morning? It may motivate you to jump in to bed, I don’t know. The Hedonist writes, “The purpose of life is pleasure – have fun, party-hardy.” The Materialist says, “Life is all about the acquisition of things.” You’re life is measured by the things you own. You know the problem with that is that he who dies with the most toys, still dies. And so, these are not really satisfying answers.

Or you can try the SELF-HELP APPROACH. You can go into any bookstore and find countless books that talk about discovering your life purpose. They all are basically the same thing. They say the same thing; “You’ve got to invent your purpose.” You’ve got to create your own purpose in life. And they all give the same basic approach –“ discover your dreams, go after your goals, have some ambitions, dream big dreams, aim high, believe you can achieve, have faith, figure out what you’re good at, never give up, involve other people.” Now those are all good advice and they will, if you do those things, make you a success in life. But being a success and knowing your purpose in life are not the same thing. You can be a raving success in life and still never know, “What on earth am I here for?” What did God put me on this earth for? You see, the purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment. It’s far greater than your own happiness, even your own peace of mind. You were made by God and you were made for God and you were put here for His purposes. And until you understand that, life isn’t going to make sense.

Okay, why does God want us here? Why are we alive? Why are we on this planet? Is there a reason? Well, the Bible says this in Proverbs 16.4, “The Lord has made everything for His own purpose.” It’s for His purpose. Now God has never made anything without a purpose. Every rock has a purpose, every plant has a purpose, every animal has a purpose and if you’re alive, you have a purpose. If you want to know if God still has a purpose for your life, check your heart. If it’s still beating, God still has a purpose for you here on earth.

So what is God’s purpose, God’s motive for our existence? Check this out. ”Long before He laid down the earth’s foundation, He had us in His mind and settled on us as the focus of His love to be made whole and holy by His love.” (Eph 1:4) Notice the words, “the focus of His love”. If you forget everything else don’t miss this. As we begin our discussion of God’s vision for the rest of your life, I want you to understand this, God says He made you, to love you. You were created to be loved by God. God is love and God wanted to create something to love and so He created you. He didn’t need you. He wasn’t lonely. But He made you in order to love you. He didn’t need you, He wanted you. And before we can talk about anything else, you have to understand this is what on earth you’re here for – to be loved by God.

How does that make you feel?

Mrs. Stout’s Home Makeover

On Saturday, October 4, about 25 to 30 volunteers converged on a little 78 year old lady’s house to do a makeover. It takes the TV program a week to makeover a house. We did most of it in a day for Mrs. Stout.

Workers ripped out and cut up an old dog pin area in the back yard, removed trees and old shrubbery, painted clothes line poles and replaced the line, tore out the kitchen floor and replaced it with a new one, replaced her stove, refrigerator, and washing machine, painted gable ends, rails and shutters, hauled out old cluttered items, planted fresh flowers and cleaned, cleaned, cleaned.

It was hard work and lots of fun. Here are a few pictures that only tell part of the story.

The Pornification Of America

I make no apology when I say that I believe the number one moral threat to America is not drugs, rampant and irresponsible sex or alcohol abuse. I believe our biggest moral threat is pornography. Pornographic use is at an epidemic level and growing every day with one click access through the internet.

I won’t even begin to argue the point that it is a victimless indulgence. There is never a victimless vice. It’s destruction of normal and healthy relationships is appalling. There are victims all over every community in America from this “victimless” pastime.

And then I read this article online from Newsweek on “The Pornification of a Generation.” Here’s a link to it. http://www.newsweek.com/id/162792 You have to take a few minutes and read it. I see all this happening right in front of our eyes.

Let me know what you think about what it says and most importantly what do you think is the answer to the question posed at the very end of the article? How do we help our kids today understand what is appropriate and what is not?

“I want to be a world changer.”

We finished talking about being world changers on Sundays but the desire and determination to be world changers has just begun. Here are recent comments from a couple different people.

“The sermons on “World Changers”, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I finally got it! “It’s not about Me!” I knew at that point I didn’t have purpose, passion, or my priorities right with God. He showed me it was time for change. He said to me, it’s okay; if you fall I will be there to pick you up. I am always with you.” That was it… I knew from that moment I wanted to truly know God.

Now, I can honestly say my relationship with God is changing. I am truly seeking Him, completely falling in love with Him, trusting Him with my whole heart, spending time with Him daily and serving Him sacrificially. God is now number one in my life!”

Another wrote, “Something you said Sunday hit home…DO IT NOW! When does being practical come into play? Jesus said to drop what you are doing and follow me…He told the rich guy to sell all his stuff, give it to the poor and follow me…I find myself torn…and time keeps on marching by and nothing seems to get accomplished… (Although my quiet time, Bible Study and prayer have become regular habits over the last 2 yrs…I haven’t missed a worship service (other than when working) in over 1 1/2 yrs…)

Appreciate any advice you can give me… Wanting to do more.”

So do you really want to be a world changer or do you just want to talk about it? Do you want to feel excited about the idea when you think about it or do you want to roll up your sleeves and get on with it?

If you really want to be a world changer let me briefly review the issues I addresses in the final message on the subject.

1. Write down the VALUES upon which your life is built. For more on values read the blog just before this one.

2. Identify the CHANGES you need to make in your life. “What do I value?” Write it down. Is it worth spending part of your life to figure out what’s important to you? What do I value in life? The second thing is “What do I want to change?” You’ve got to believe you can change but first you’ve got to identify what you want to change? The Bible says, “You have not because you ask not.” You ask not because you’ve never thought about what you want to change.

The Bible also says, “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial.” Some things aren’t necessarily wrong; they’re just not necessary. You don’t have time for everything. You’d better figure out what’s most important, what you really need to devote your life to. What is worth pouring yourself into? What’s really important?

The way you do that is ask yourself, “What’s going to last?” A lot of things just aren’t going to last. They’re urgent but they’re not important. Big difference.

3. One more item. If you ever become a world changer you need GOALS that are taking you somewhere and will guarantee that you make a difference in this world

We procrastinate working on our goals but before that we procrastinate setting them. Less than five percent of Americans have written down goals for their lives. Surveys also show that the five percent that do are the top five percent wage earners in our culture. Those who set written goals have greater income. It’s a correlation. They know what they want in life.

If you become a world changer you need goals that are deliberately moving your life in world changing directions for God, otherwise, all you have is a bunch of wishful thinking, dreams without any substance to them.

If you do this, you’re in the top five-percent. Tape these to your refrigerator door or the mirror in your bathroom. Somewhere that you’ll see it and remind yourself on a regular basis.

This is not earth-shattering or profound stuff. It’s not rocket science. But it is imperative if you are serious about being a world changer.

It may take a little time to work through these three area but is being a real world changer worth the little bit of time it demands to think this through and write it down. Until you write it down you have no clear plan of action.

There is so much more to this subject of world changing and goals. For all the subjects or for just the last one on “A Plan for Changing the World” click on this quick link. http://relaxedchurch.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=57