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Posts Tagged ‘guidance’

A lot of Christians talk about the will of God.  Whether they are talking about a “call” for their lives, or direction for day to day choices, a lot of people are curious how they can know God’s will.  Part of the mystery is that whatever process we use for determining the will of God doesn’t seem to work.

We pray, sometimes using a specific method or for a scheduled amount of time.  We submit ourselves, “Thy will be done.”  We seek counsel.  We study.  And then a choice comes, and we listen closely.  Nothing.

We throw out a fleece, like Gideon, and still get nothing.  We put God in a box, making deals with Him, and however it works out we take it as confirmation that we should do whatever we want.  “God, if you want us to build that new sanctuary, supply the 1.2 million dollars for the down payment.”  Only $750,000 comes in, and we decide that God wants us to step out on faith. “I mean, it’s a big thing for God to bring in so much money for the project.”  Or we say, “God, if you don’t want me to do this, close the doors; stop me.”  And months later, we look back thinking, “The devil sure was resisting me in my service to God.  Look at all the persecution I went through!”  Which is the correct view?  Should we make deals with God?  Which voice is limiting Him?

Some people claim to know the will of God.  They get a sign.  They have dreams.  A quiet voice whispers to them.  How can we trust these mystical revelations, when the Bible has so many examples of people being influenced by other powers in the spiritual realm?

Why did the life of a prophet seem so much simpler?  How did he hear God’s voice?  When the early church gathered to pray, what did it look and sound like for the Spirit to say, “Set apart Paul and Barnabas”?  Men in the early church could not be stopped by chains or prisons or even stonings.  We see in these instances the disciples pressing forward, confident that God desires them out on the streets and in the courtyard, preaching the gospel.  What does it mean when Paul said that He tried to go to Bithynia (Acts 16:7) but the Spirit prevented Him?  If Paul wanted to bring the gospel somewhere, but God wouldn’t let him, he was obviously not just trusting that his desires were from God.  So how did Paul know?

But keep reading, because in 2 easy paragraphs, I’m going to solve the problem of the will of God!…  No, I’m not making that claim.  I think part of our problem is that we don’t want to walk by faith.  We want to know every step way in advance.  We want a list of do’s and don’t’s.  When we wait to hear from God, we get impatient and conclude that we won’t hear from Him.  God gave us brains.  Maybe we should work it out.  Or maybe God doesn’t care what we decide.

Some people really do take finding the will of God that far.  Should you give $50 to feed the poor, or $50 to send a missionary, or invest the $50?  None of those uses are sinful.  All can be good and God-honoring.  So it doesn’t matter which you choose.  God will bless you anyway.  God has a will for the big things, but the little things are up to us.  (People have to decide where to draw the line between big things and little things:  Prophecy must be a big thing.  Jesus coming to die for us had to happen.  Sometimes big things are whom we marry or where we go to school.  For other people, they consider those life-changing decisions to be some of the little ones where God leaves us to decide on our own.)  In any case, it takes a lot of study and extreme moral clarity to make sure that one of the options we’re considering is not sinful.  We’re left to make a score sheet for each choice.  And how do you add in factors like selfishness or vanity, good stewardship or discernment?  What is wisdom anyway?

Or maybe we should stop worrying about the will of God.  God’s in control, so everything that happens is what is meant to happen.  We’re not going to change that, so why stress?  Que sera, sera.  There’s an easy way to figure out God’s will: hindsight.

Here’s what I believe.  God is in control, and no one will change His plan.  His plan covers the details, even the details of how we decide and that we sought to please Him in our decisions.  His plan includes His guidance and revelation.  Wisdom is not knowing the tally sheet for all the different options.  It is a dependence on God’s perspective, even when His way doesn’t seem to be practical or likely to work out.  Part of having a relationship with God is waiting on Him.  He is faithful to provide the guidance we need, and merciful enough that, if we are seeking Him and asking for His help, our feet will not stumble; our lives won’t be ruined by our God-submitted choice.

Some things are clearly revealed as the will of God.  He desires our sanctification.  He desires us to be thankful and to pray to Him.  He tells husbands to love their wives, and disciples to preach the word.  To trespass those instructions would be sinful.  So the possibilities are narrowed down.

Duty is another way to make our decisions easier, by limiting our options.  We make a commitment (according to the will of God), and follow through.  A father may wonder whether to take a job in New Jersey or Texas, but he knows he must provide for his family.  A conference speaker may get to choose his topic or his wording, but he’s obligated to speak.  A mom must change a diaper.  My friend volunteered at an orphanage.  Once she was there, she had to do what she was told.  Her duty made the will of God for her simpler.  When Paul decided to heed his vision and go to Macedonia, he didn’t have to ask God:  “Should I move my left foot?  Now right?  What about my right foot?”

Of course God is helping us just as much to accomplish what we know He wants us to do as He helps us find out what He wants us to do.  It is easy to be relieved at knowing we are where God wants us, and forget to excel, forget to walk in the Spirit as we obey.  We think God sent us on an errand and now our own intelligence and strength will get it done.  There’s danger in duty, the danger of empty legalism.  But there is peace, too, in knowing what one ought to do: what must be done.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Simon says?  Exercises?  Arrests?  Hide and go seek?  Illegal hands to the face? 

 

My hands have spent a lot of time on my head lately.  Life is too big for me sometimes.  Like this week.  At my church I’ve been teaching a women’s Sunday morning Bible study on Ephesians.  Have you ever looked at a hill from a distance and thought you could get to the top in an hour or two, only to discover when you get closer that the hill is a mountain with no scalable paths?  And for a breathless, unmeasurable time, you think you’ll never make it; you wonder why you tried.  At the last possible moment, wings come in, sweeping you up like the eagles to hobbits on Mount Doom.  God’s grace comes beneath your weakness, and through no fault of your own, you’re at the top, taking down your hands from your face to enjoy the view. 

I watched a movie the other night.  It wasn’t a really good movie.  The cinematography was unique, and the acting was superb.  Anthony Hopkins, playing a familiarly dramatic role, was suppressing his emotions, and trying to hide them.  He kept holding his face in front of his eyes as if shielding them from a light, when really he was shielding tears from sight.  Even when there aren’t people to see me, I keep putting my hand over my eyes.  Actually, at twenty-three, it’s hard to cry anymore, so the gesture is an act of the will to indicate emotion I can’t express any other way.  But the emotions, even at my age, must be expressed. 

A friend and I are starting a small group for high school girls, and quite frankly, I don’t know where to start in connecting with them.  Emma describes Robert Martin to her friend Harriet (in the Gwyneth Paltrow adaptation) as a man as much above her notice as below it.  Is evangelism and discipleship like that?  Either people know they need discipleship and God’s grace because they’re that mature or because they’re that empty? And I’m looking at some of these girls seeing so much need, but they’re not quite broken enough yet to value it, and I don’t know how to start a conversation or to whet an appetite for a close relationship with God.  I guess it’s all up to Him. 

Psalm 32 contains God’s promise to guide me with His eyes.  So maybe putting my palms over my eyes is a way of getting me to follow Him, recognizing my own lack of wisdom.  Too bad God has to force me into faith. 

Then recently every time I try to get on the internet (check my library due dates, blog, check messages, look up movie times) I have to refresh a hundred times, and it still doesn’t work.  I’m so inefficient, and end up doing a fraction of the things I’d intended with a day.  That’s a cause of frustrated grasping of my head. 

Maybe excitement could explain the frequent movement, too.  This week quite unexpectedly I made my first sale on my business website: www.LadyofLongbourn.com  Another exciting find was a website about Hebrew alphabets and words that argues for a Hebrew – or Edenic (long story) – etymology for most words worldwide. True or not my mind has been spinning with possibilities, and I’m finding it incredibly easy to learn new Hebrew words.  But then I always have. 

On Monday I got a bargain at the thrift store, and spent less than $3 on a brand new CD of classic hymns sung by the amazing St. Olaf’s Choir.  St. Olaf is a Lutheran Bible College whose incredible music department was featured on TV this Christmas season.  My brother and I stayed up irrationally (but not atypically) late watching it one night.  The beauty – the gift of it so touched me that I put my hands to my head. 

Dad and I went to the Colorado Republican caucus on Tuesday, which was an experience in disorganization and disbelief you wouldn’t, uh, believe!  Do you know the actual rules stated that ties in our precinct should be decided by a coin toss?  No one had any idea what they were doing, and since I couldn’t help us out, I put my hands on my head. 

Sunday I sat on the floor in my sanctuary, which was an exciting change.  You’ve no idea how many times I wanted to sit on the floor instead of formal, uncomfortable, modern chairs.  Mary of Bethany sat at Jesus’ feet, and that is quite my preference.  I probably won’t do it all the time; I fought against feeling self-conscious.  But it was neat to experience freedom in that way. 

The Superbowl…  Ok, to stop all scorn in its tracks, I babysat for a neighborhood outreach party put on by a church plant in Denver, and then hung out with everyone for the last quarter, so it isn’t like I was idolizing football or anything.  The Superbowl was a nail-biter, quite exciting.  I couldn’t believe some of the plays I witnessed.  Nice escape, interesting throw, and impossible catch for essential first down.  Yep.  I even know what I’m talking about.  Hands over my eyes. 

Monday was a rambling day, much like this post.  How beautiful to spend unhurried time at the library, wandering around, thinking, scurrying back and forth from the movie shelves to the computers (which work!) there, as an idea of another movie to watch came to mind…  And then on Wednesday I got to go to tea with a new friend.  Tea, yes.  I had mint chai, which is just as good as the other varieties I’ve had.  With enough sugar almost any tea tastes good, I think.  I just needed to get tea done the British way, with milk, too. 

I’ve been doing much praying for a special person, name to be announced sometime after I learn it myself.  My expectations for him are so high that it’s only right I support him now, already, in prayer.  But then I miss him.  And I cover my face shutting out the vastness of the world that separates him from me – but, of course, all in God’s capable and good hands.  Um.  That was code.  It all means that I wonder where my husband is, and when he’ll come, and want him to be here sooner than later, but I have no idea who or where He is.  But God knows, and I trust God. 

This week I spoke with a few friends about honesty, and how we wish the world would let us say the truth, say what’s on our hearts without code or offense.  At least with them I’ll practice it.  I hope they will with me.  No mask here.  Which reminds me – I’ve watched several movies with masks or masquerades in them recently.  Lots of movies. 

But movies always make me think.  A movie I want to see as of today is Penelope, due to limited release on February 29.  The fantasy, fairy-tale-ish story has a message of honesty, of taking the hands from the face and being yourself for all the world to see and know – even risking the hurt. 

YLCF was a special blessing this evening, since the most recent post specifically addressed the topic of waiting for one’s handsome prince, and what to do while you wait.  I know those things.  I certainly rebel on occasion.  The reminder was important to get me refocused, to seek the most excellent and most fulfilling. 

I’m craving tea: my mom’s blackberry, which I never like.  The clock, at almost midnight after a long day, declines my craving.  In fact I even have to stop my ramble through writing.  This post is the way I used to write emails to my friends: late at night, a summary of a dozen thoughts and events that come together to form a sort of three-strand theme.  If my brother were writing, this would be a strongly metaphorical poem (trying to make sense of which would bring my hands once again to my head).  My other brother would tell a wonderful allegory.  I’m trying to get the latter to guest blog here sometime.  He has a great story about orange juice… 

Ramble away in the comments.  Feel free to put the unconcise, irrelevant, unfinished thoughts you can’t submit as an English paper, or publish on your blog, or tell your friends when they ask how you are doing.  Good night. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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