How to Figure out God’s Will

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In his book The Catalyst LeaderBrad Lomenick lists some great questions to ask as you discern God’s will and God’s call on your life:

  1. What are your passions and gifts? At the intersection of these two elements, you’ll find your purpose in life.
  2. What would you work on or want to do for free? That is usually a good sign of what God has designed you to do.
  3. What energized you when you were a child? Does it still animate you? Knowing your calling is often directly connected to childhood passions and gifts.
  4. If you could do anything and take a pay cut, what would that be? You may have to blow up your financial goals in order to pursue your true calling.
  5. What barriers are preventing you from pursuing your true calling? Can you begin removing those?
  6. If you aren’t engaging your gifts and talents where you find yourself now, could you make changes in your current role to better engage those? Don’t rule out the possibility that where you are is where you need to be.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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  1. Jonathan Parnell on Figuring out what is God’s will for my life?
  2. Why team alignment is so important.
  3. Todd Rhodes on What churches can learn from Google killing Google reader. Lots of insights, I’m sad as I love google reader, but a great leadership move.
  4. If you read this blog through Google Reader, you’ll want to update to Feedly, now that Google Reader is shutting down.
  5. 5 insights behind North Point’s success.
  6. Ed Stetzer on Whether or not the church needs to “get with the times.”
  7. 3 practical ways to increase giving at your church.

Som Sabadell Flashmob

When You Shouldn’t Pray

You might read that title and think I’ve lost my mind. Why would I tell you not to pray? Aren’t pastors always telling people they should pray and pray more? Yes. There is a good chance you don’t pray enough in your life. As there’s a good chance I don’t pray enough in my life.

That’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is when you shouldn’t pray.

What I mean is that we often pray about things that Scripture is very clear on. Then, when we feel like God hasn’t given us an answer to our prayer (because He’s already given us an answer in Scripture), we decide to do something. Usually, not always, but usually this leads to us sinning in some way.

Here’s a few examples from recent conversations:

I talked to a guy who is a Christian, he’s dating a girl who is not a Christian. When I asked him why, he told me, “I prayed about it and I didn’t feel like God told me not to, so I’m moving forward with it.” The reason God didn’t tell him, is because he has already made it clear in Scripture that Christians shouldn’t date or marry a non-Christian.

Another:

A guy told me that he was praying about God using him more at his job to be a witness and serve his co-workers. The problem was that God didn’t seem to do anything. He told me, “God just isn’t speaking to me about how to do that.” One of the reasons might be I told him is that God simply wants him to just start serving people, start loving his co-workers. Nothing big, just small ways of loving people.

Another:

I talked to a church planter who worked only part-time while planting his church. He told me the difficulty he and his wife had when it came to finances, as she worked full-time, but he didn’t. When I asked him why, he told me, “I’ve prayed about it and God told me to wait and not look for a full-time job now.” When I pressed him on 1 Timothy 5:8 that says a man who doesn’t provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever, he told me, “God told me to just plant and for her to work.”

Another:

I talked with a couple who have 3 kids. One in school, two who aren’t. They were debating about whether or not the wife should go back to work. They told me they were going to have her go back to work because they prayed about it and God didn’t tell them no. When I asked them why they thought God didn’t move them in prayer, they gave me a blank stare. I explained to them how Titus 2 calls a wife to make her first priority her family at home, clearly when small kids are in the picture.

These are just a few examples of recent conversations, but my point is this: Many times we don’t need to pray about something, we simply need to apply what Scripture already says. We get so caught up in figuring out God’s specific will for something when he has already communicated clearly how we should live in Scripture.

No, your life is not the exception. You don’t get to disprove Scripture and live outside of it. When people tell me, “I know Scripture says this, but here’s why I’m _______________.” They’re simply telling my why it’s okay for them to sin.

Do you agree? Do we need to pray about things that God has clearly written in Scripture?

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The Sovereignty of God & our Free Will

All Christians believe in divine sovereignty, but some are not aware that they do, and mistakenly imagine and insist that they reject it. What causes this odd state of affairs? The root cause is the same as in most cases of error in the Church—the intruding of rationalistic speculations, the passion for systematic consistency, a reluctance to recognize the existence of mystery and to let God be wiser than men, and a consequent subjecting of Scripture to the supposed demands of human logic. People see the Bible teaches man’s responsibility for his actions; they do not see (man, indeed, cannot see) how this is consistent with the sovereign Lordship of God over those actions. They are not content to let the two truths live side by side, as they do in the Scriptures, but jump to the conclusion that, in order to uphold the biblical truth of human responsibility, they are bound to reject the equally biblical and equally true doctrine of divine sovereignty, and to explain away the great number of texts that teach it. The desire to over–simplify the Bible by cutting out the mysteries is natural to our perverse minds, and it is not surprising that even godly men should fall victim to it. Hence this persistent and troublesome dispute. The irony of the situation, however, is that when we ask how the two sides pray, it becomes apparent that those who profess to deny God’s sovereignty really believe in it just as strongly as those who affirm it. -J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

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Figuring out my Passion

I often get asked about figuring out God’s will for one’s life, making choices concerning career and schooling, etc. There have been 2 things that I have found extremely helpful. Separate, but connected.

When it comes to making decisions, instead of listing out the pro’s and con’s of a decision, I think a better question is one found in Spiritual LeadershipWill this get me to where I believe God eventually wants me or will it hinder me. I think too many people make decisions with little thought about where it will take them. From the time I was 18, I felt called to be a pastor. I knew at some point I would plant a church. So, when Katie and I were dating and when we got married, we talked through this. We started making choices to get to this point. I got my master’s right away. We used this lens as we thought through ministry opportunities and churches I worked at.

In SiftedWayne Cordeiro poses a helpful question to help in figuring out your passion: If you had 5 million dollars and never had to work another day in your life, what would you do? This helps to bring perspective. I can honestly say, I would do what I am doing now.

Many people hate their job and don’t do anything about it. They don’t get more schooling, take a chance and change careers, they stay stuck. Many also take opportunities that come along, simply because they came along and they seem like good opportunities. Those opportunities may not get them to where they need to be.

In college, I had the opportunity to intern at Willow Creek. It was a great opportunity, but not financially smart. I lost money being an intern there, but it opened a ton of doors and gave me so much knowledge and real life experience in ministry that it is hard to put a price tag on it.

I will add this caveat, in the midst of all of this, spend time praying. Seek what God has to say in his word about your life choices. Often times, God gives us very open ended instructions on life choices. We are to live on mission, spread the gospel, live in community, be part of a church, honor our spouse, raise our kids, make a living. I think, if we do the things God has already called us to in Scripture, our decisions become a lot easier.

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Praying about Sin

I blogged yesterday about how we often excuse what we do in our lives, the junk we carry around and the sins we commit by saying, “That part of the Bible doesn’t apply to me.”

Another response we have is that we do what we want to do and then pray about it asking God to bless it.

We will be confronted by Scripture or someone else about a sin in our lives. Pick any:  gossip, adultery, sleeping around, giving our heart away in relationships, lying, flying off the handle in anger, being late and lazy, porn. And say, “I’m praying about it whether or not this is okay.” This always cracks me up. The Bible says not to sleep around but “I’m praying to see if God is cool with me sleeping with my girlfriend.”

The Bible says to use my gifts but “I’m praying about whether or not I should get involved in a ministry and be on mission.”

In conversations like this people will tell me, “God hasn’t said anything in my prayers so I’m going to move in with my boyfriend, I’m going to not give back to God.”

The reason God hasn’t told you no in prayer is because he has already told you no in his word.

That Part of the Bible Doesn’t Apply to Me

One thing that blows me away whenever I talk with someone is that they respond to what God says with “that doesn’t apply to me” or “I’m praying about it to see what God says” (I’ll blog about this tomorrow).

We will often read Scripture, see what it says, think about what it will mean for my life if I actually do that and often see that it will be difficult, uncomfortable, not something we like and say, “That doesn’t apply to me.” I have talked with countless people who are in the midst of destroying their lives in relationships, work, sex, roles in marriage, dating, rest. I will show them what Scripture says and they’ll respond with “That doesn’t apply to me.”

Whenever someone says, “That doesn’t apply to me.” What they are saying is, “I am about to go and sin.”

I’ve had people tell me why the Bible is okay with them sleeping around, looking at porn, being stingy with their money, withholding sex from the husband, withholding words and affection from their wives, not pastoring their kids, being a horrible boss, being a crappy employee.

I asked one guy who was sleeping with his girlfriend and looking at porn regularly if he believed the whole Bible was true and he said yes. I asked him why he was going against Matthew 5 and 1 Corinthians 7. His response was that it didn’t apply to them. As one author says, “We only believe the parts of the Bible we do.”

To them, the Bible is okay with sin because that part of the Bible doesn’t apply to me.

How about this one? Many people when they talk about money and how we should live point to Jesus telling the rich young ruler in Luke 18 to sell everything he has and give to the poor. Now, Jesus didn’t tell everyone to do this so I’m not saying this is the call for every follower of Jesus. But I wonder if when we say, “Jesus doesn’t tell everyone to do that, just that guy.” If Jesus met us, I bet if we say that, he would tell us that.

Often times, the reason we can’t find God’s will for our lives or can’t seem to feel God close to us is because we are living in sin.

Figuring Out God’s Will (Is it as Hard as we Make it?)

When it comes to figuring out God’s will, we often make it incredibly difficult to figure out. We talk about it in mystical ways, heightening the sense that only a few find it.

We also look at people in the Bible, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Paul and see people that God used in incredible ways, but also people that God spoke to audibly and laid out his will. We see Noah being given the measurements of the ark. Abraham and Moses are told where to go.

For us, we have something they didn’t have. God’s will written out in the form of God’s word. We have been given God’s inspired, authoritative word. Over 31,000 words that God has given to us and preserved to show us what life is to be like.

This means a few things. I don’t think we will find a clearly laid out plan for every aspect of our life. God will not give us all the details. What he does do is give us a framework in which to live by and make decisions by.

Most people when they make decisions set out the pros and cons of a choice and then choose the way that has the most pros or the least annoying or uncomfortable cons. What if we thought about it differently? What if we looked at the framework God has given us in Scripture and ask, “Will this choice get me to where God wants me or will it hinder me?” Sometimes, the choice with the most cons will get us there.

Here are a few clues to the framework:

  • Marriage: God has told us in Ephesians 5 and Genesis 1 – 2 that there are specific roles for marriage. Men are to lovingly lead their wives and families. They are to pastor them. They are to lay their lives down as Jesus did. They are to exhibit servant leadership. They have been given responsibility and accountability by God for their families. Wives are to respond to their husbands leadership and submit to them. They are to be their partners in life, their helpers, giving pushback when needed. This doesn’t mean a wife is a robot or a doormat. The Holy Spirit is called “the helper” so I don’t think this is a negative thing as we speak of it.
  • Money: We are told in Malachi 2 and 2 Corinthians 8 – 9 that we are to steward the money and possessions God entrusts to us well. We are to honor God by giving back to him a portion of what he has entrusted to us. That portion is to be sacrificial, generous, worshipful and proportional. This means, we need to set this aside first and then live within the means of what is left.
  • Work: We are to work and rest. We are to live in rhythm. If we are married, 1 Timothy 5 says that a man is responsible to provide for his family, that if he doesn’t he is worse than an unbeliever. This means we need to live within the means of what we make. Titus 2 says that younger moms with small kids are not to find their identity in their jobs and careers but in the role God has given them as a wife and a mom. It doesn’t say it is wrong for a woman to work, but it does say her identity is not to be found in that. A simple question, “Are you more known as a woman for what you do for a living or for being a wife and a mom?” The answer to that shows your identity.
  • Mission: We are told in Matthew 28, Acts 1 and scores of other places that we are to live on mission. That the gospel should change us in such a way that we live our lives with the purpose of moving the gospel forward in the world in which we live. That we should live lives that are different. If you live out the passages mentioned above, do you think your life will look different from those around you?

I could go on and on. My point is that God has laid out what it means to be a follower of his, what it means to live in the freedom of the gospel, what a man, woman, dad, mom, husband, wife, child, boss, employee. What it means to date, to work, to pray, to eat, to sleep.

Our problem is that we don’t like looking for God’s will or else we don’t like what we find. It is laid out for us in Scripture and James 3:15 &17 says, “Do what God says” but if “we know and don’t do it, that is a sin.”

For more on figuring out God’s will, making decisions and setting goals, check out the sermon I preached recently on James 4:13 – 17.

 

Saturday Night Mind Dump…

  • Tired, but a good tired
  • Tonight was the first night of 2 services
  • So cool to see how many people stepped up to make it happen
  • It is humbling to me all the people who work to make Revolution happen every week and the passion they have to help people in Tucson find their way back to God
  • I am blown away every week by the caliber of our leaders, we really do have the greatest leaders a church could ask for
  • It was a pretty intense sermon for me tonight, very personal and pastoral for me
  • It is heart breaking to know people who are making choices contrary to God’s word and you see how the story is going to end and you just want to stop them
  • That’s what I felt tonight
  • We ended the sermon with a really powerful sermon that you can see here
  • If you missed it, I’d really encourage you to watch it
  • I was challenged, being 31 and thinking that my life is so short, it doesn’t last forever and how my choices would be different if I lived with the reality of that and the reality that Zac said, “You may have already lived past the halfway point of your life”
  • Wow
  • In case you missed last night, you can listen to the message here
  • I will admit, I didn’t know how tonight would go and if anyone would be there since Arizona had a big basketball game overlapping both services
  • Awesome to see how God continues to grow our church
  • We had more people in the 1st service than we did when we launched
  • Excited about taking a retreat day this week and head up to Mt. Lemmon
  • A much needed thing to clear my head and keep my heart close to Jesus
  • If something in tonight’s message jumped out to you and you’d like to do some more reading on learning how to set goals and make plans in a Godly way and learn how to trust in the character of God and his sovereignty as the basis of those goals, check out these books:  Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny by Mark Batterson, The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God by Mark Buchanan, and Chazown: Define Your Vision. Pursue Your Passion. Live Your Life on Purpose. by Craig Groeschel
  • Started reading a book last night that is really challenging me, great look at the inner life of a leader
  • Katie and I are heading up to The Crossing tomorrow night, the church we’re merging with to hang out with them and attend church
  • I’m really excited for Easter weekend when they join us
  • Hoping to wrap up the study guide for our next series this week
  • Really excited about spending 5 months preaching through the Old Testament
  • That’s all I got, barely keeping my eyes open

This Weekend @ Revolution Church: Making Decisions, Setting Goals & God’s Will

Saturday is going to be an exciting night at Revolution.

We are going to 2 services this week:  4:15 and 6pm.

We are kicking off our services this week with a bang, you seriously don’t want to miss the start of the service.

We are also continuing our series in the book of James on one of my favorite topics and a topic I get a ton of questions on:  figuring out God’s will and making decisions.

Figuring out God’s will is often made out to be this mysterious thing that only a few ever figure out. What if it isn’t that mysterious or difficult to figure out? What if God’s will has already been revealed and what if God’s will had more to do with our lives than just the big stuff? The only time we seem to worry about God’s will is when we are facing a major decision or major life change. But what if it encompasses more than that? What if God is actively involved in every aspect of our lives and cares deeply about the big decisions and the small ones?

If so, how do you figure it out? How do you make plans and set goals? Is it okay to do that?

This is going to be an exciting night for Revolution Church and a very eye opening night for many people as we think through our lives, our goals and how we are living our lives and the part God plays in our lives.

You definitely don’t want to miss it.

So, do whatever you have to do to be at Revolution this week (and bring someone with you, you never know how a simple invite can make an eternal difference).

Remember, we meet at 4:15 & 6pm at 6620 E 22nd St.

See you Saturday.