Tag Archives: Discipleship

God, what is your will for my life?

God, what is Your will for my life? Do You even have a specific will for my life? If so, how detailed is it? Do You really care if I use paper or plastic? If I drive a foreign car? Does it matter to You if I decorate my house with antiques or IKEA?

Or maybe You’re only concerned with the really big decisions. Who should I marry? What career path should I choose? How many kids should we have?

I’ve heard men and women who I respect as mature believers talk about their desire to be “in the center of God’s will.”  I guess that implies that there is some latitude…that it’s possible be in God’s will but not quite in the center. Does that mean there is a menu of choices I could make and still be in Your will? Is there one specific choice in every decision that is “the center” of Your will, and all the others are merely acceptable? If so, how can I know what that is?

I recognize that there are some things about God’s will that don’t involve my choices at all. These things are decided and will occur with or without me. The creation of the universe, for example. “Let us make man in our image.” The fact that at some point “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” That will happen. Jesus will return at whatever time God decides.

But it seems there are other things that God allows. He doesn’t cause them to happen – and maybe He doesn’t even want them to happen – but he does nothing to stop them. This is the part of God’s will that I’m interested in right now. This is the part He leaves up to me. I believe that God created us with free will so that most, if not all, of our choices are up to us. So, if that’s true, I have already decided that I want to live in such a way that Christ is honored. Someday, I want to hear God say, “Well done.”  So, if God does have a plan for my life, I want to know what it is so that I can know that I’m doing exactly what God wants me to do.

I’ve learned that when we ask God a question like this, often He’ll respond with questions of His own. That’s sort of the basic thought behind the way I’m reading through scripture right now in my God Questions series.

So if I ask, “God, what is Your will for my life?” I can imagine that, instead of answering directly, He may ask me a few questions.

Questions like:

  1. What about the things I’ve already told you?

You can know a lot about God’s will for your life right from scripture.

For example:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Peter 2:13-15
13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,[a] 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

1 Thessalonians 4:3
For this is the will of God, your sanctification:[a] that you abstain from sexual immorality;

Ephesians 6:1
1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Philippians 2:14
14Do everything without complaining or arguing…

Hebrews 10:25
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

These things, and so many more, are God’s will for my life. I can know this without question. When I face tough choices, scripture will often give me the answer I need about God’s will. I’m not saying it’s always easy to do it. I’m simply saying that I don’t have to wonder about what He wants me to do.

So, when I ask God’s will for my life, He may well ask, “Are you doing the things I’ve already told you?” If I intentionally ignore the things God has already revealed about His will, why would He reveal anything else? What would be the point?

God might also ask:

  1. Do you really want to know?

Do I really want to see God’s whole detailed plan?

There was a time in my life when the idea of serving as a full-time member of a church staff was absolutely NOT something I saw myself doing. I had basically told God I wanted to serve Him, but not that way. Yet, that is exactly what I did for 35 years, and I can’t imagine my life any other way. The circumstances proceeded in such a way that it seemed like the natural and right thing to do. However, If God had revealed that plan to me ahead of time, I likely would have run.

God may not lay out His entire plan – I might not be ready for it. It might scare me away. It’s enough that I live in what I know to be His will…today.

And that brings me to the next question God may ask:

  1. Are you committed to doing My will, no matter what it is?

My preferred M.O. would generally be to have God tell me His plans and then I’ll decide if that works for me. But that’s completely backwards. Why would God give anyone a clear direction, if they haven’t already made the commitment to follow Him, wherever He may lead?

Another mistake I tend to make is trying to determine God’s will by taking a “spiritual gifts” inventory. Don’t misunderstand. These can be useful tools in some situations, but if God has something specific in mind for a person, He’ll make sure that person has all the necessary prerequisites.

Consider Moses. God wanted to use him to lead a million Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. But Moses took a hard look at himself and discovered he didn’t have the talents necessary for such a task. He couldn’t even speak in public without stammering all over himself. That didn’t seem to be a problem for God.

Introspection is not a bad thing – I find that I do a lot of that myself – but when it comes to determining God’s will for our lives, inside is not the best place to look.

One last thing: Remember, you can’t steer a parked car.

It’s so tempting to sit around and wait for God to give direction. I don’t want to screw it up by going too far down the wrong path! But the thing is, God can’t steer me if I’m not moving.

God has given intelligence. We have Godly friends who care about us. We have His own Spirit living within us. We need to use those resources to make the best decision we can make.

But here’s the most important piece. It’s a prayer that must be prayed continually and from the depths of your soul.

The prayer is this: “God, my desire is to live out Your will in my life. I want to do what You want me to do. I’ve thought it through every way I know how. I’ve gotten the advice of people who know me and know You, and this is what I think You want me to do. In fact, this is what I’m going to do starting right now. What I’m asking, God, is that if I’m wrong, please stop me.

I can tell you from experience that He will answer that prayer. It’s not fun when He does that. But in the stopping I’ve found new directions.

He will steer. But I have to start moving.



My Picks for Wednesday 11-11-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Playing it Safe — Not My Style — And, Often Not God’s Plan
-Ron Edmondson

“God never promised a safe-life. He promised an abundant life. God never asked us to “play it safe”. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He never promises a risk-free life. He promised a victorious life — as we trust in Him!”



Why a friend is suing me: the Arlene’s Flowers story
-The Seattle Times
Barronelle Stutzman in Arlene's Flowers in 2013 (Bruce Ellefson)“Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, explains why she felt she could not sell flower arrangements for a gay friend’s wedding.”

Nobody Brags About Being Mary -Danny Franks
“‘Oh man, so good. I just sit at the feet of Jesus all day. I soak in his teachings. I listen to everything that comes out of his mouth. While the pots and pans are clattering in the kitchen, his voice is resting in my heart. I am hashtag blessed.’

See? The Marthas of the world just read that and muttered something about you ridiculously lazy rascal underneath our collective breath…”

Debunking Stupid Statements about the Bible: An Exercise
in Biblical Transmission
-Greg Gilbert

“One American tabloid recently said this about the Bible:

No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we’ve all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.

First of all, it’s not true that we’re dealing with “a translation of translations of translations,” …No, we’re able to translate directly from the original Greek and Hebrew, so at worst we’re dealing with a translation, full stop. But what should we say about that last idea, the charge that all we have available to us are “hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies?”

Copypock. Er, I mean, poppycock. That’s what we should say.”

Is this sign necessary?


Remember when we used to _________?


“Remember when we_______________?”

“Man, that was great.”

“How come we don’t do that anymore?”

Have you ever been part of a conversation like that? I was a worship minister for 30 years. I’ve had that same conversation approximately a billion times. The blank has been filled in by different things at different times over the years but it was the same conversation. Here are a few of the things that have been inserted in the blank:

Had a Sunday night church service.
Did a Living Christmas Tree (Remember those?)
Had a handbell choir.
Used an organ.
Wore choir robes.
Wore ties when we served. (BTW-Research has proven that the first century Christians never wore ties.)
Did Broadway-style Christmas productions.
Sang the old songs.

The blank varied but the insinuation was always the same.

The implication was that what we do now is inferior. We think that the church has lost its former glory. We remember the way things used to be, the important place some of those things had in our lives and in the life of the church, and we have trouble seeing the wonderful things that are being done right now, and the way God is moving in our people and activities right now.

Maybe we need to open our eyes, and hearts, to the possibility that God has something in mind that we can’t imagine.

The Israelites were in captivity for 70 years in Babylon. When they were finally released and allowed to return to their homeland they undertook the huge task of rebuilding the temple. There were some older folks who were alive before the earlier temple was destroyed and they remember what it was like.

Ezra 3:10-13
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:

“He is good;
his love toward Israel endures forever.”

And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

There have been times in my ministry when it seemed like the same thing was happening. There were people who would be moved in powerful ways by the things that God was doing through our church while others could see nothing but things that upset them. The shouts of joy and the sound of weeping were occurring simultaneously. The celebrants couldn’t (or wouldn’t) understand the complainers and the complainers couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see what the celebration was all about.

Maybe we need to open our eyes, and hearts, to the possibility that God has something in mind that we can’t imagine.

God had something BIG in mind for the new temple. Listen to this:

Haggai 2:3,6-9
‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Maybe we need to open our eyes, and hearts, to the possibility that God has something in mind that we can’t imagine.



Who would I be?

Who would I be?

If I were then?

Would I stand on the curb and watch him go by? Would I have knocked off for the afternoon to see what he had to say? Would I have raised my eyebrows and wondered what all the excitement was about? Would I have stood with a few on the corner and wondered pettishly, when were the authorities going to put a stop to this thing before it got out of hand! Would I have drunk it all in, and been wide-eyed and wide-hearted with wonder? Would I have clinched my opinion as soon as I saw he was associating with some of “those” kinds of people? Would I have smiled benevolently at the stories of wonders and healings? Would I have wanted to get his autograph? Would I have stood aside and waited thoughtfully-oh so thoughtfully-for him to prove himself fact or fiction? Would I have slept soundly that Friday night, and the next night too?

Isn’t it nice to be

For we can’t make those mistakes.


Number eight in God Is No Fool by Lois Cheney

(I’ve always loved this little book since I first discovered it while I was in college. Click the image for purchase info.)



My Picks for Tuesday 11-3-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Thank God for Your Normal Boring Life– Kevin DeYoung
“If your life feels ho-hum and humdrum, if you struggle to find contentment in the ordinary and mundane, if you are tempted to break free from the predictable routine of life with stupidity or sinfulness, consider for a moment that your boring life is the envy of almost person sitting right now in a hospital bed or a refugee camp. Consider how many friends and family members would gladly trade in all their frenzied commotion and uncertain schedules for a single day of your plain-jane normalcy. The only people bored with boring are those who have never had to live without it.”

Ladies, this one’s for you…

Do You Have a Really Good Man?Melissa Edgington
men“If we will only learn to appreciate our really good men for who they are what they do, then one day, when they leave the last Oreo for us or when they make sure our car registration is up to date or when they wink at us across a crowded room, we’ll remember that real romance is so much more than diamonds and whatever Nicholas Sparks dreams up. The really good men deserve better than our constant criticism and dissatisfaction. The grass isn’t greener in chick flick land. It’s astroturf. Stick to your own yard, where your really good man is probably mowing. That’s true romance.”

Beyond the Ballot Box-Mark Taylor
Nov3_MT_JN“Today I will vote against legalizing marijuana in Ohio where I live. I will do so because I believe legalized marijuana use will add to family brokenness, traffic tragedies, and other kinds of heartbreak in the city where I live. I will cast my vote out of my Christian conviction about how the outcome of this election will damage the fabric of my community.

But if marijuana use becomes legal in my state, or if the next president of my country turns out to be an anti-Christian scoundrel, I will try to remember Johnson’s words and refrain from wringing my hands. ‘Even the best laws change only behavior,’ she said Saturday. ‘But we are in the business of changing hearts.'”

3801 Lancaster and the Mystery of Kermit Gosnell
-Trevin Wax
Gosnell-3801-Lancaster-620x4363801 Lancaster succeeds in giving us insight into the mind of Dr. Gosnell. But this documentary asks a bigger question: How did we let this happen? Following that narrative thread reveals a picture of breakdown at every level of government bureaucracy.”

“Pro-life or pro-choice, the viewer of this film is likely to agree that Dr. Gosnell was guilty and his imprisonment just. Still, the pro-choice viewer may be uncomfortable with the chilling logic of late-term abortion. What does it matter, really, if we are inducing “fetal demise” with toxins while in the mother’s womb or “snipping the neck” just moments later? What is the difference? In either case, we have a dead body in front of us and blood on our hands.

Today is election day. Vote smart…

Click cartoon for source.




My Picks for 11-2-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

I’ve always been drawn to “anti time management” articles. I’m sure that says something bad about me.

Five Ways to Stop Spending Time Managing Time -Rick Segal
Five Ways to Stop Spending Time Managing Time
“While in no way exhaustive, here are five applications Christians might employ for buying back time for the purposes for which they were given it by God.”

This will be very hard to read if you’re squeamish (like me), but ignoring it won’t make it stop.

We’re Burning Babies-Jonathon Van Maren
“I’ve now gone through the second set of leaked Planned Parenthood videos, the threepartseries entitled “Fetal Disposition,” or in layman’s terms, how to dispose of the babies once they’ve been turned into corpses. I’ve seen more in my work as an anti-abortion activist than I can possibly write, but for some reason, this series has left me more nauseated and heartbroken than the worst abortion footage I’ve ever seen. There is something so ghoulish, so hideous, and so cannibalistic about this panel of calm, well-spoken women discussing how to deal with the piles and piles of irretrievably shredded infants. It’s times like this when I shudder for our society, for our churches, for our communities, for all of us, as we calmly tramp down sidewalks while the sewers beneath us run crimson with the blood and body fluid of our silent, murdered offspring. Little girls and little boys should bring about questions like pink or blue? Not crematorium or freezer?”

This seems like the perfect follow-up to the above article…

Comforting Those Caught in the Crossfire of the Abortion Debate-Sue Liljenberg

When we talk about abortion in public, what is our default attitude—grief or condemnation? Do our billboards, bumper stickers, and social media posts wound or heal? Brothers and sisters, let’s reach out to post-abortive men and women. Let’s tell them they’re loved, and that Jesus makes all things new. While there is a much-needed effort to rescue the unborn, may we apply the same effort to reaching the wounded and the ashamed.”

I love these! I want to DO this!
Installed today

Click image for more!

My Picks for the Weekend 10-30-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

What do we give…and why?

Dear World: Let’s Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor -Kristen Welch
Dear World Lets Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor“Why do we give others-often those in service to the poor or the poor themselves-something we wouldn’t keep or give ourselves?”

There is a lot of wisdom in this little article…

Eight Life-Changing Things Someone Taught Me -Lore Ferguson

“There have been seven or eight lessons I have learned over the course of my life that have altered my thinking in profound ways. They have become markers of what Paul calls, “Glory to glory.” They marked a step forward, not in closer or better union with Christ, but in closer and better understanding of him. Today I thought of sharing them briefly with you…”

How we need to remember to speak to others with the recognition that each word could be the last…

Last Words -Ed Welch

“A child would not fully understand, but an adult does: with life’s uncertainty in mind, we are especially careful with our words and relationships.”

Four Things Joy Says -Michael Kelly

“… joy is one of those things we tend to confuse with something else. But if joy could talk, maybe she would clear up some of those misconceptions. So what would Joy tell us if she could? I think it would be at least four things…”

A Halloween perspective…



Can you imagine?

Book of imagination by t1na
What if you had all the time in the world?

What if money were no object?

What if you were fearless?

What if you had talent?

What if you never felt inadequate?

What if you had the ability to become friends with anyone?

What if you had the dreams of a child
combined with the wisdom of the ages?

What if nothing stood in your way?

Use your imagination…

What can you imagine accomplishing for God if you had all the resources of the universe at your disposal?

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
-Ephesians 3:20-21


Image by Martina Stipan at Deviant Art

Take the Next Step

Jesus loved to tell stories. He said and did things that were controversial. Things He said caused debate among the people and the religious leaders of the time and, in fact, are still being discussed today. And not just in church.

If you read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), the books that tell the story of His life, you’ll find that Jesus very rarely gave a straight-up answer to a question. His teachings were never bullet point lectures.

“6 Steps to a Better You.”

“5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Life.”

“7 Amazing Life Hacks – Your jaw will drop at number 5!”

No, “click-bait” wasn’t His style. Not exactly.

The religious leaders of the time would often try to stump Jesus with a trick question designed to tie Him up in knots. Whenever they would do that He would pause, look them in the eye, and say something like, “Have I ever told you the one about the son who squandered his inheritance?” And everyone would sort of roll their eyes and try to track with Him.

He would tell this open-ended story with His own question at the end, like a riddle.

I wonder why he did that.

His disciples wondered, too, and one day they asked Him…

Matthew 13:10-13
10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables…

Even their question about His teaching style was answered with a sort of riddle!

When I read these verses I get the feeling that Jesus is saying that there are certain answers discovered only by taking the next step. Sometimes you don’t really understand until you go on the journey. You may want to have all your questions resolved ahead of time but that’s just not going to happen.

Here’s an example: Parenting.

You can read every book and go to every class about being a good parent but until you actually get in the game you don’t know a thing. True? You have your first child and before too long you realize that you’re just making it up as you go along. But you learn. As new parents you can double-team the child. There are 2 of you and one of them so you figure out how to parent in that situation. And about the time you sort of get into a pattern and feel like you’re getting a handle on this parenting thing, the 2nd child comes along and you have to shift to a man-to-man defense. It’s 1 on 1 and it requires some different types of strategies. But you learn it as you go. I’m not sure what happens when that 3rd and 4th child comes along. I suppose you have to shift to some sort of zone defense, but we never got to that point. What I’m saying is that the book learning, advance planning, and parenting classes are all good things, but the truth is that you don’t really learn parenting until you become parents.

DSC_0898There are just some answers in life that aren’t discovered until we take the next step.

I believe this is profoundly true of the Christian life.

You and I may be in completely different places on our journey with Jesus, but I can pretty much guarantee that, anyplace along the path, the only way we get closer to Him, the only way we grow in our discipleship, is by taking the next step. By obediently putting into practice the things we’ve already learned. These things may not make absolute sense ahead of time, and we may still have questions, but it’s when we take that next step of faith that we get answers…

…answers that we would otherwise never learn.


PS – I recently went on little hike in the woods with my grandson Asher. That’s when the photo was taken.


Why do preachers talk so much about money?

money-02Why do preachers talk so much about money?

At WOCC we are in the final year of our ENGAGE vision campaign. The goal of this campaign was to get everyone excited about what God is doing here and where He’s taking us, and to fund this vision for the next three years debt-free. At the beginning, this campaign caused me to think quite a bit about money and it challenged Kathie and me to a whole new level of giving. (Now, the fact of my recent retirement has caused me to revisit that subject from a whole new perspective! But I digress.)

Inevitably, during a campaign such as this, and during the typical fall “stewardship emphasis” the question comes up: “Why do preachers talk so much about money?”

Seems to me there are two answers to that question, depending on what you mean.

If by “so much” you really mean “too much” the answer is simply this:

They don’t.

I can tell you sincerely that it’s just not true. Every single preacher I’ve ever known (and I know a LOT of preachers) hated talking about money. They just never got real stoked about preaching that yearly “stewardship series”. They did it because they knew they had to. And the reason they felt they had to is probably not the reason you’re thinking.

However, if by “so much” you really mean “at all,” here’s why…

Preachers don’t teach about money just to get the offerings up. They do it because they know that the way we handle money is as much a mark of discipleship as our sexual morals, our prayer life and our Bible learning…and anything else you can think of. From time to time you’ll hear (or maybe, say) something along the lines of: “We shouldn’t talk about money. Let’s just reach out to people with the gospel and the money will follow.” The thing is, we don’t approach any other area of discipleship like that. “We shouldn’t talk about living a moral life. Let’s just reach out with the gospel and the morality will follow.” While it’s true that the gospel changes lives from within it doesn’t mean we stop teaching about what it means to live life as a Christ-follower. Jesus’ teaching (Now THERE was a preacher who talked a LOT about money!) was that the use of our money is the BEST indicator of a person’s discipleship. In Matthew chapter 6 he tells us that where we put our money is where our hearts will be. So to determine what is really important to us and what it is that we value and trust the most, we have simply to ask ourselves the question, “Where do we put our money?”

So preachers talk about money.

And, just in case you think that your church doesn’t need to grow in this area of discipleship, I challenge you to do a little research and a little math.

Take a couple minutes and Google the average household income for your area (county, city…whatever). I did it for Colerain Township. Then check how many households would be considered members of your church. Multiply the average income with the number of church households and you’ll have something close to the total income of your church family.

Now I realize that the tithe was an Old Covenant requirement and we’re now under grace. I get that. But the point of the whole tithe thing was for us to learn that God really owns everything anyway. So, for convenience sake, let’s just start with a tenth. If everyone in your church gave a tithe, one tenth of the household income, what could your church budget be? I don’t care if you calculate it on gross or net, I’d be willing to bet your church budget is nowhere close to what it could be under those conditions. Imagine the good that could be done in your community if that were to happen.

So, do preachers talk too much about money?

It would seem not.