Knowing the Will Of God

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 it to him, as I understand it, that God’s will can actually be described in several ways. 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.

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.

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.

I don’t know what God’s individual will is for your life. (I hope for you it is Wheaties and a shiny red convertible.) 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 once you do, He will reserve you a place in Heaven!

One thing I’m absolutely sure of…you can’t be in a better place than within the “will of God”!

Situational Evangelism

Sometimes sharing your faith with them is a matter of helping them understand their circumstances in light of God’s plans and desires for their life.  If you can connect the two points, a relationship with God makes much more sense. 
 
Recently I received this email from an Internet friend through my devotional ministry (http://www.mustardseedministry.com).   My friend knows how to share her faith, but the situation appears so desperate it has her in quandary of where to begin.  (I have changed the names and deleted a few details to protect identities, but the crux of the story is the same.)
  
Dear Ron,
I need some advice.  I have a friend who has a daughter who lives about 600 mi. away from her, but she is involved in drugs.  My friend (Joan) and her husband are in the process of adopting her three grandsons (all under the age of 8 year old) due to the daughter’s inability to care for them. Joan doesn’t have a relationship with the Lord.  I have a feeling that she has some tough feelings right now.  I really want to bring her to the Lord, but I’m at a loss for some reason right now.  She is in so much pain and she misses her daughter so much. I need ideas on how to share and communicate God’s love to Joan. Thanks so much. 
Patricia
  
Dear Patricia
It will take boldness on your part Patricia, but the fact that God has placed her on your heart so strongly is probably God’s invitation for you to share your faith with her, so I would encourage you to act on it, as scary as it might be. Scripture is clear that when we speak on His behalf He gives us words to say.
   
I would probably approach Joan in terms of a relationship. She loves her daughter in spite of the fact that she is addicted to drugs. She loves those three grandsons. Joan’s heart hurts for her daughter and she would like nothing more than a renewed relationship with her, but the drugs are in the way. They are “separated” 400 miles by distance, but even farther because of the impact. the drugs have on her life. It’s sad, which is why you are concerned for her. 
  
Now take Joan’s situation and put it into context of her relationship with God. God feels the same way about Joan. He loves her. He wants a relationship with her, but Joan’s sins have separated her from a relationship with God. If she will only believe in Christ’s saving grace she can have the relationship with God she needs; now more than ever.

 
God bless you as you introduce your friend to Christ.
Ron
  
If God stirs your heart concerning someone near you who is absent of a relationship with Him, be bold and willing to share your faith. Put it into terms of a relationship, then trust God to give you the right words to say. 

Allowing Children to Explore Their Own Faith

I want to encourage you to release your children to explore their own faith.  Okay, that sounds very liberal.  I apologize, but let me explain. I hope your children have a solid faith in the one true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I would make that a part of daily prayer and intentionally lead them towards that reality for their own life.  The truth, however, is that your children are some day going to question their faith.  At some point in life, most people I know have questioned whether what they have always believed is true. My encouragement is to let some of that process occur while your children still live in your home or under your authority. 

 

With that in mind, here are five quick suggestions to consider to spur a life-long faith and to allow your children to explore their faith:

 

1.      When children are very young, set the stage for them spiritually with what you think is best for them.  For example, if church is important, and I think it is, then do not let a 2 year old determine whether you go to church.  Take them to church on a regular basis so it becomes a natural part of who they are as individuals.

2.      At the same time, let the children’s needs play a part in deciding what church to attend.  As tough as it may be on grandparents not to have their grandchildren in the same church, it would be better to have your children actually love their church experience than to attend somewhere they do not enjoy going. 

3.      Find opportunities to talk about faith and God in non-threatening, everyday environments.  Talk about God should never be limited to “church time”.  Make God part of your normal life.  (He is you know!) Model living a life for Christ in front of your child.

4.      As a child, having been raised in church and heard all the “stories”, attempts to explore his own faith, do not feel the pressure to answer every question they have.  If children are seeking truth, guide them towards the source of truth (God’s Word) and let them explore it for themselves.  This is the only way to make sure your children actually “own” their faith.  When one of my boys was questioning eternal security, for example, I suggested he read the conflicting passages on the subject and encouraged him to reach his own conclusion.  (He did, btw, and landed in the same place I land.) 

5.      Keep the lines of communication open even when your children are questioning what they believe.  I have known so many parents who “freak” when their children express opinions about their faith that are contrary to their parents.  I have never seen this reaction work to their favor.  It usually causes further separation between the child and the parent.  This is where I believe Proverbs 22:6 (Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.) comes into play.  Parent towards Christ early in your child’s life, release them to explore, keep praying for them and loving them, and the principle in Proverbs is that they will return to their roots in time. 

 

Children are going to question their faith someday.  Any faith worth having involves periods of testing over time.  Chances are good that you questioned your faith at some point.  Allow your children to test their faith in God, but pray it happens while they are still in your home or listening to your counsel so you will be there to help them find their way Home again. 

Getting Rid of Fear In Life

Most of us live our lives with some kind of fear. That’s probably uncontrollable to a great extent. We live in a very fearful world.

What would it be like to live your life apart from fear or with less fear?

Here are some points of understanding which can help us become less afraid of the unknown situations of life:


Life can be uncertain.

There are lots of unknowns in the world. That makes people afraid. Most people would prefer to know the outcome of a situation and yet many times, probably most of the time, we do not get that privilege. Most of the horrifying experiences of my life seem to come upon me suddenly. We tend to want the expected to occur, but we should always be prepared, at least emotionally, for the unexpected.

Fear is an emotion and not necessarily a reality.

Someone actually defined fear as a felt reaction to a perceived danger. We innately have the ability to respond quickly to danger. Sometimes we can feel that a situation is going to be scary before it actually is. Our reaction to that sense of fear often determines how well we handle the situation.

We must keep ourselves from allowing negative scenarios to build in our mind. People often take a fear and begin to build scenarios in their mind of what might, could, or is going to happen. Most often these scenarios are irrational. When the emotion of fear begins we must analyze its rationality and if it is based on an unknown occurrence we must dismiss it as strictly emotion and not reality.

Sometimes we must face our fears in order to receive victory over them.

We can’t allow fear to alter God’s plans for our life or steal our joy. We should not be too surprised if in our weakness and fear God encourages us to be strong. When Elijah was hiding out from Jezebel because he was terrified, God sent him back to face her again. (1 Kings 19) Elijah had to go back before he could go forward. God will often allow us to face our fears as well.

Ask yourself two questions:

1. What fear do you need to face before you can get on with your life?

2. Is fear holding you back from moving forward in some area of your life?

There are two consistent themes in the Bible. We are to walk by faith and we are not to be afraid. I think those two themes are related to each other. It takes doing the first to accomplish the second.

God has a plan even when our fear tells us that He doesn’t.

Since fears are an emotional response and emotions are not always reliable, fears will often cause people to lose their trust and dependence on God. At the same time, God will often use fear to draw people to Him. Most people grow best when they are being stretched by life. God often uses faith-stretching events; times when people are most afraid, to grow and mature His people. One time Jesus made His disciples get into the boat, even though He probably knew as the Creator that a storm was approaching. Faith must tell us that God’s plan is secure, even when our fear says otherwise.

Grow more in love with God.

Perhaps the greatest secret to overcoming fear in the Bible is found in 1 John 4:18, which says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” Perfect love casts out fear. If ever a person could perfectly know the love of God he would never have to be afraid again. Whenever we run from the challenges of life, God has to wonder why. He must wonder “Am I not enough? Do you think this is too big for me?” As we grow in our love for and our trust in God we will be better able to live our lives in a confident assurance that God is in full control.

To continue to mature as believers we must be working to rid our life of the fear that keeps us from completely following and trusting in God.

Questioning God When I Don’t Understand

My 17 year old son Nate (www.nateedmondson.com) works with our church’s youth group. Recently a 6th grader came to him with some questions.  He was struggling to understand two main questions.  1) How can God hear everyone’s prayers at one time?  And; 2) Why does God allow the suffering that has happened in his family?  My son asked me how he should address the boy’s questions. 

 

Of course, these are simple questions when you are as mature and experienced as a pastor as I am, so I quickly laid out for him the proper, convicting, easy answers for this 6th grade juvenile.      

   

NOT!

 

If I had easy answers to those questions I’d write my book and retire!  Those questions are just as relevant today if you are a 6th grader or a 60 year old.  God is big and I can’t fully comprehend all His ways. 

 

The dilemma of the ages is this: 

If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He stop all suffering? 

If God is all loving, doesn’t He care enough to intervene on our behalf?

If God is all knowing, then why doesn’t He stop the trials before they come into our life?

 

Yet the Psalmist David writes, “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. (Psalms 62:11-12 NIV)

 

John writes, “Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions.” (John 16:30 NIV)

 

I don’t have answers to those questions.  I have some, but as soon as I attempt to answer them something else will happen that I don’t understand and I will be faced with a new dilemma.  No, in order to make peace with questions like this my only option is to believe in what I cannot see.  I must have a faith that’s larger than my experience.  I must choose to trust a God who is the answer to all the questions that I have. 

 

 I close with the “answer” God gave Job when he was asking similar questions.

 

Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. (Job 38:1-3 NIV)  You can read God’s complete answer HERE.   

Don’t ever be afraid to ask the tough questions.  I’m glad this 6th grader is asking them.  Just know that God holds the answers and there are many questions in this life you and I may never fully comprehend. 

10 Goals/Dreams Yet To Be Fulfilled

I’m a dreamer. I always want to do more with life.  I believe dreams are a healthy way to stretch the mind, keep a person growing, and even stay emotionally healthy.  (“Where there is not vision, the people perish.”)  On a recent plane ride I jotted down ten goals that I still have for my life.  God willing, I’m going to spend my life dreaming they come true! 

 

1.      Train young leaders to be “giant killers” for the Kingdom of God.

2.      Help hurting pastors be restored to vibrant ministry.

3.      See dying churches revitalized.

4.      Help Cheryl fulfill her dreams; and help her dream bigger dreams for herself!

5.      Watch more boys marry godly women.

6.      Become a granddad!  (I’ll take number 5 first, but I’ll be ready!)

7.      Travel to Africa and Asia.

8.      See patriotism restored as a personal value for all Americans.

9.      Accept fully Christ’s love and forgiveness (with no regrets from the past).

10.  Hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

 

What dreams do you have for your life?  What are your current goals?  Feel free to share them here. 

Displaying Faith Through Troubled Times

Don’t be intimidated by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. Philippians 1:28 NLT
 
Of all the great promises in the Bible from God, probably one of the most repeated and clearly worded is that you and I, as children of God, do not have to be afraid. God has promised us eternal victory. We are on the winning side and we can walk with His power daily. We have nothing in this world to fear!
  
When you and I walk by faith, in the midst of our struggles, others see the size of our God. In fact, others view of God is largely shaped by the faith we display. Consider your life for just a moment. Does your life portray a faith in Christ? Can others see you trusting in God daily? Are you displaying a picture of a God through your life that is big enough to meet all your needs?  
   
Times are tough. The world is scary, but our God’s strength hasn’t been tested.  Let’s let others see us display our faith today.

 

Who Can You Trust These Days?

Figuring out who to trust these days is tough.  Years ago, while I was going through a difficult trial, I wrote these words really as a reminder to me of where to place my trust.  Seems like I need to read them again.   

 

Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, O Lord our God. Therefore our hope is in you for you are the one who does all this. Jeremiah 14:22

What is the price for your hope?  By what standard do you judge the things in which you put your faith? Let me offer one for you today: Can it/he/they make it rain?

Say you have a new shiny convertible? Can the car make it rain? So you have a great family? If they do just the right jig, do I need to get my umbrella? You have the job of your dreams? Do your responsibilities include sending down showers? You have worked hard to build a fat retirement account? Is there enough in there to buy one good ground soaking? What about just a little sprinkle? Could you fill a teaspoon? With all your wealth could you maybe afford just a little drop?

Can the things in which your hope is in make it rain?

Okay, let’s get elementary for a minute. Who makes the rain? Come on now, once again, who made the rain? That’s right, God did! Good! You’re learning.

Now put your hope in Him today…and in nothing less than anything than can’t at lease bring for rain. 

 

I would be interested in watching your family do that dance, however. I need a good laugh!

Purpose Driven Life Session 3 Questions

After a break to do another study centered on our church’s desire to serve others, my community group went back to reading “Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren this week.  In Session Three we offered some challenging questions to supplement the reading.  I think these questions are worth all of our consideration as followers of Christ.  (The quotations are from the “Purpose Driven” book.)

 

1.      What do you think of when you hear the term “you were created to become like Christ”? 

2.      How does the statement “God’s ultimate Goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development” strike you?

3.      How do you interpret “abundant life”?  What does that mean in your life?

4.      If “God is far more interested in what you are than in what you do” are you better or worse off if the opposite is true?  Is your heart better than your actions? 

5.      What is the deepest desire of your heart in a spiritual sense?

6.      What are some markers of spiritual growth from your own life? 

7.      How much control of your life does God have?  What areas do you need most to yield to Him?

8.      How faithful are you at reading God’s Word? What keeps you from reading it more?

9.      “What has God already told you in his Word that you haven’t started doing yet?”

10.  “What is one dark area of your life that you can now look back upon and see spiritual growth?”

11.  Are you currently closer to the calm or closer to the storm?

12.  How do you resist temptation?

13.  Do you need someone to hold you accountable in an area of temptation? 

14.  Are you old enough to realize you can’t do it on your own and you won’t get there overnight?

15.  “In what area of my spiritual life do I need to be more patient and more persistent?”

Operation Serve Community Investment Links

Today some 800 people at Grace Community Church celebrated God’s love by sharing it with the community of Clarksville.  It’s wonderful to see people get the vision of Operation Serve each year.  It really is about sharing God’s love with others.  Nothing less.  Nothing more.  Lots of people will be sharing their stories over the next few weeks.  Here’s a few links to help you understand what God is up to.  

 

The Leaf Chronicle did an article. Read it HERE.

 

Buddy Bartels took some great pictures as usual.  See them HERE.

 

Nate, our 17 year old, did a great job of capturing the day.  Read his thoughts HERE.

 

Hope to hear your stories too!