How to Know God’s Will

The world and all its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17 NIV

Some of my best growth times with the Lord have been during teaching times with my children. I remember when my son asked an important question, “Daddy, what is the ‘will of God’?”

Now, he wasn’t asking, “What does God want me to do?” It was more general than that. He simply wanted to know what the phrase “will of God” meant. He had heard others say the term many times, but he never understood it. My hope is that you and I can also grow through this experience.

I explained to him in a way that has always helped me understand the will of God in my life. Understand this is a paradigm for understanding God’s will, not a script according to Scripture. I believe there are Bible verses that can further define each one of these (I’ve put a couple in parenthesis after each one for example), but my intent here is simply to help people process God’s will for their life.

First there is God’s individual will.

That is for the individual decisions you and I make each day. You know that God cares intimately for you, even down to the number of hairs on your head. God does allow, however, for you to make some decisions for yourself in life. You may choose what to eat for breakfast or you may choose a red car instead of a blue. It isn’t that God doesn’t care which you get, but He most likely will allow you to make that decision. (Proverbs 16:9, Jeremiah 29:4-6, Genesis 13:11)

Second, there is God’s moral will.

God’s desire for you is that you develop your character into the image of Christ. He will present you with every opportunity for you to do just that, but you will play a part in how far you grow spiritually. You may choose to love your neighbor as yourself or you may choose to be a very selfish person. God, however, is very concerned about your character, and for His moral will for your life. In fact, God cares more that His moral will for your life be done than His individual will, because God is in the character-changing business. (Philippians 2:5, Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 12:1-2)

Third, there is God’s sovereign will.

God has a will that is set in stone! It won’t change. It can’t change. It always stays the same! For example, God cannot help but love you because that is His sovereign will. God cannot break His promises, because that is His sovereign will. Some things God has set into motion, and they will never be different. (Job 42:2, Deuteronomy 4:39, Isaiah 45:18)

I don’t know what God’s individual will is for your life. (I hope today it includes your favorite cereal and a shiny red convertible…if that’s your color.) But I can tell you this. His moral will is that you be like His Son Jesus.
That begins with your sincere faith in Jesus as your Savior! And better yet, His sovereign will says that because of your faith in Him, He has reserved you a place in Heaven!

Do you struggle to know God’s will for your life sometimes?

Scripture Memorization, Week 33 (And a video)

This week, I want to encourage you to do something special with the memory verse. Write it on an index card or something similar. Place it where you will see it every morning…perhaps like a mirror where you get ready. Read it a few times everyday. Then pray it as a prayer.

Here is this week’s memory verse:

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. Psalm 57:5

See how it shapes your attitude each day this week.

As an added bonus, watch this video and sing it in the form of a song:

7 Ways to Encourage Your Wife

I’m not a perfect husband…

I’m not a perfect husband…

I’m not a perfect husband…

I would write that 100 times, but I think you get the message and I’d probably lose most of you at number 27. That’s the average number of times you’ll read the same thing. (I just made that up… :) )

But, I’m not a perfect husband…

I have learned a few things and I continue to strive to be a better husband. I know, for example, that part of my happiness is found in Cheryl being happy. That’s not a “if momma ain’t happy…nobody’s happy...” joke…it’s a reality. I love my wife enough that I want her to be happy.

Obviously, I can’t control all the things which happen in a day for her. I can’t stop people from being rude to her as she drives to work. I can’t help the co-worker who is having a bad day to take her bad day out on Cheryl. I can’t stop the pressures and stress Cheryl will encounter by being a pastor’s wife or by being a friend, mother, daughter, sister, or husband.

All I can control is the way I respond to Cheryl and the things I do that encourage her happiness. I have found that just as I strategically think for my ministry, I should strategically think how to encourage my wife.

Here are a few ways I try to encourage Cheryl:

Send flowersWhen they aren’t expected – This seems so trivial, but I honestly have to remind myself to do this. Flowers on a special occasion are nice, but I have found the ones she enjoys the most are sent on the days she’s not looking for flowers. (This could be something besides flowers if your wife isn’t into flowers that much, but I’ve also discovered many of the practical-minded women who say they don’t want flowers actually love receiving them occasionally.)

Reserve a day…just for her – I do this every Saturday. I let few things interrupt this day and none without consulting with Cheryl first. You may not be able to do this once a week and it may not be for a full day, but it should be consistent enough that she can anticipate it. During the times when life is most stressful and you are pulled in different directions, these reserved times give her something to look forward to and reminds her you’ll “catch up” soon.

Give a gift…that keeps on giving – This idea is brilliant, I must admit…but I love to give a gift that takes a while to receive. When the boys were at home and getting away was more difficult, I would give Cheryl a trip for Christmas every year. We would take the trip in May. I would usually pick a location, request brochures, and give them to her as her “big” gift at Christmas. We had months to plan for it, which built positive emotions leading up to the trip and then anticipating the next Christmas trip. (Plus, many of these expenses were paid outside the Christmas spending frenzy, which helped our budget.)

Be a responsive listener – I realize whenever Cheryl says something there is usually a deeper meaning, so I listen for the deeper meaning. I try to understand her thought process.(Girls, guys really do talk in simpler facts, which makes it more difficult for us to understand you sometimes.) Instead of dismissing what Cheryl said, because it wasn’t clear or assuming I know what she’s saying, I ask questions for clarification when needed. (Don’t argue this one guys…Just do it.)

Give her details – Okay, I know, this will hurt…just being honest, but it shows your love for her. Again, I’m not the perfect husband here. (Do I need to write that again?) I’m getting better at allowing Cheryl to ask me questions and I’m trying to tell her when I’ve told her everything I know. I realize details are more important to her than to me. (This may be opposite for you and your spouse.)

Listen without fixing – This is my toughest, but just last week I did this. I hope she caught it. :) I am a fixer. I fix problems everyday. Give me a problem and I’ll be quick to race to a solution. I realize that many times Cheryl simply wants my ear…not my expert insight :)

Brag to others – Let your wife hear you bragging about her to other people. She’s wonderful, right? Let her know you recognize it. Of course, this should be genuine, but I know Cheryl appreciates hearing me affirm her to others. (And Cheryl is wonderful…you heard it here first :) )

Guys, your list will be different from mine, because your wife is different. Some of them will be the same. The point of this post is to encourage you to think strategically about how you can encourage your wife. (So…where is your list?)

Ladies, help us men… We are slow sometimes…

What would you add to my list? How could your husband encourage you?

And remember: I’m not a perfect husband…

You may want to read 7 Top Needs of a Wife.

I Could Battle an Addiction to Pornography

I could battle an addiction to pornography…

There I said it…

I hate to admit it, but I must…

Now, let me explain…

I’m not an addict…

I’m not practicing an addiction…

I never really have…

I have just learned enough “by experience” to know it wouldn’t take much…

I have a wandering eye problem…

I don’t know many honest men who don’t…

Pornography grips a man’s mind and heart like nothing else…

I also have sat with dozens of men whose life destruction started with a pornography addiction…

I also know that addiction usually starts as temptation…

You don’t have to be practicing an addiction to be tempted towards an addiction…

My dad was an alcoholic…

The last 15 years or so of his life he wasn’t a practicing alcoholic…

I saw him avoid situations which could tempt him to give into his addiction…

He knew where he was vulnerable…

Do you?

It I wasn’t careful with my time; if I didn’t have people monitoring my internet usage, I could soon be held captive by images that would haunt me long after I left a site or page…

The fact is…if I chose to glance it would soon become a gaze…

I would soon be a statistic…

Again, just being honest…

I have to discipline myself not to sin in this way…

Who is bold enough to be honest with me?

What accountability measures do you have in place to keep you from battling an addiction to pornography?

Scripture Memorization, Week 32

It’s hard to believe we are in the 32nd week of the year…isn’t it?

Here is this week’s memory verse:

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Can I ask you a question?

What are you trying to handle on your own, and God would love for you to get out of the way, surrender to His will, and let Him handle? 

I’d love to know you’re still out there reading these memory verses.

Are you?

7 Things This Pastor Would Love From His Church

I have such a generous church. Every week someone sends me a note or an email to tell me they are praying for me. I routinely get encouragement when I need it most. Some of our closest friends are at Grace. I’m so thankful for the body of Christ.

A question I receive often is, “Pastor, what can I do for you?” or “How can I pray for you?” People think I do for others, so they want to do something in return. I’m so thankful for that kind of heart.

Actually, the church does plenty for me, but since you asked….

Here’s what I would love from my church:

  • Understanding that I’m human and will make mistakes…
  • Prayer that I would stay focussed, committed and faithful…
  • Seeing a need within the church or community and meeting it without being asked…
  • Not looking to be spoon fed but taking ownership and responsibility for spiritual growth…
  • Realizing that I can’t be everywhere or do everything I might wish I could…
  • Bringing new people with them as often as they can…
  • Making church services a priority over other activities, rather than the other way around…

I realize it’s a daunting list…

It’s not an easy list to complete…

But you did ask…

Or, at least, some of you did…

By the way…I love the picture with this post…

Can I get an Amen?

Pastor, what would you like from your church?

Simple Doesn’t Mean Easy

Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it is easy

Simple directions to a gas grille…never easy…

Simplifying things for people…may make them easier to understand…

But won’t make them easy…

You can simplify the terms or the make the process seem easy to follow…

But nothing of any great quality is ever really easy…

You can have a simple diet plan, but following it won’t be easy…

You can simplify for someone how they should train to run a marathon, but it won’t be easy…

I can even give you some simple principles to improve your marriage, your parenting or your leadership, (I try to do that every day) but they won’t be easy…

Becoming a mature follower of Christ…a disciple…I can tell you how to do that in fairly simple terms…I try to do that when I preach and teach…

Just remember…

Simple doesn’t mean easy…

Help this post: Name one thing that sounds simple, but isn’t easy…

One Secret to Having a More Productive Week

Here’s a secret to having a more productive week:

Spend 30 minutes Sunday afternoon or evening, or even early Monday morning, planning your week.

Give everything you have to do an estimated time and place it on your calendar. Make sure you allot time for recreation, exercise and family. Even schedule some time to read and/or dream.

Then try…as hard as you can…to work the plan. When interruptions come in your week, unless they are true emergencies, you have a valid reason to say no.

Let me know how it goes.

Shhh…Don’t give away our little secret! 

For a more detailed listing of how I do this, click HERE.

Hearing the Voice of God

Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:20-21

These verses aren’t my life verses…maybe they should be…

You see…

Most of my life I’ve been desperate for a word from God…

I’ve wanted to know His thoughts…

I want His input into my life…

I want to know His will…

Just being honest, I’ve probably spent more time wondering His will than I have obeying His will.

(I hope that doesn’t disappoint you…)

Sure, I know lots of His will I can obey everyday…right from the pages of His Word…

But, to know the will of the things not clearly outlined in Scripture…well…sometimes I’m left wondering…

I have learned this, however…

Many times God has to get my attention to get me to listen…

And then there’s…

Bread

Bread is pretty essential for survival. I’ve traveled lots of places…people love their bread. In San Francisco, they claim to have the best sour dough bread anywhere. Germany seemed to love their bread too. In Malta there was this bread of which I couldn’t get enough. Everywhere I’ve been, bread seems to be a staple. It’s a basic commodity.

Yet, God gives us the bread of adversity.

And then there’s…

Water

Everyone knows we can’t live long without water. There are whole ministries trying to provide water to people around the world, because people are dying without it. They say our city’s water has algae in it…or something like that…because of the heat. It’s supposedly safe to drink, but people are complaining. During my long training periods for running, when I start aching all over, I know I haven’t had enough water. Water is a critical commodity.

Yet, God gives us the water of affliction.

I don’t understand.

But, then the verse says, “your teachers will be hidden no more” …

“whether you turn to the right or to the left” …

“you ears will hear a voice behind you” …

“this is the way”…

That’s what I’m looking for, right?

Perhaps I’ve been looking at trials all the wrong way…

Perhaps trials bring me closer to the heart of God…

Perhaps a trial makes me desperate for my Creator…

Perhaps nothing like a trial produces in me a longing for God…

Perhaps God uses trials to show me His love…His provision…to teach and mold me…and to point me in the way I am to go…

Which is what I wanted in the first place…

I don’t know…just thinking…

What do you think?

I’ve written other thoughts on hearing the voice of God HERE.