Posts Tagged ‘“God’s will”’

It may shock you to read this, but I always cringe when I hear that phrase. I know as someone in ministry, this should be my greatest goal and I guess it is, but for the most part I don’t think that’s what people mean when they say it. The thing is, the mind of Christ is really, really easy to find most of the time. The reason for that is simple. He published it. It’s the best selling book of all time and to know His mind, most of the time, one needs only to open it and start reading. Now I know some will want to take me to task here on the hard issues of the day and yes I know some of those are really difficult. Who told you it would be easy?

The reason I cringe though is because I have heard some people say things are “the mind of Christ” that cannot possibly be the mind of Christ because they stand in direct conflict with the Word of God. God and Christ are one and they are never in conflict. If you think you’ve found the “mind of Christ” but there is sin involved, you need to keep looking because you haven’t found it yet. People say God can do anything, but that is not completely true. God can’t fail and God can’t sin. Neither can Jesus.

I was at a church conference and people seemed to think that a favorable vote meant we had found the mind of Christ. Since when has a majority opinion always meant that God was behind something? It didn’t work at the foot of Mt. Sinai where Aaron was carving a golden calf while Moses was with God getting the commandments (but I already touched on that earlier). It didn’t work anywhere in the book of Judges. The people fell away as a group, cried out to God, got rescued, only to fall away again. As the old adage goes, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

Sometimes I think “seeking the mind of Christ” is a reaction not unlike disobedient children who don’t like what they hear from father so they decide to ask someone else. We need to remember the church of Jesus Christ is not a democracy. Voting has no power when God is control. His vote is the vote that matters and that’s okay because He is completely loving and completely perfect. He will let us go our own way if we want to. He will probably even come to the rescue when it fails, and it will fail, but never call our will the mind of Christ, because He always submitted His will to the will of the Father. “Thy will be done” remember.

The mind of Christ is to always, every single time to do the will of the Father. We find that will not in getting our own way but in being a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) submitting our will to the will of the Father.

matt10Yesterday, I wrote about not falling in love with our creations. I want to elaborate on it a little more today with a real life story. I’ve written about this first part before. What I am doing now, the speaking, the live painting, the storytelling, making videos, all of it feels very much like the fulfillment of a childhood dream. I was the kid who did the little plays for my younger sister and cousin. I was always making pictures and telling stories and doing puppets and ventriloquism when I was really young. My first pay check was for a dollar, for doing my ventriloquist/impression act for the Bernville Women’s Club when I was six. Then life happened. In school I was a human target and before long anything that made me stand out was something to be feared and avoided. By the time High School came around, I was terrified to speak in public and that dream was dead forever, or so I thought.

But one dream remained. I could make art. I was always pretty good at it. I now know it was a God-given gift, back then it just felt like the one thing I could do that wasn’t put down. I thought I would be a professional artist, perhaps a designer or illustrator, but my parents tried to stifle that. I do not hold this against them. They were looking out for me and they knew that to would be hard to make a living in the field. I went to school in an unrelated field, but when it became clear that track wasn’t going to work, I started to hustle and began eking our a living as an artist/designer. I even had some level of success, and while I never made a lot of money, I did get to do a few pretty high profile projects and somewhere in the midst of all that, I came to Christ. Here’s where it gets interesting. My art career began to be in conflict with my faith. It was fast becoming an idol. I fought this conviction for a long time. The reason for this was simple. I was in love with my plan. I was an artist, it was my identity. It was all I was good at and it was all I wanted to do.

The battle raged on and, no surprises here, God won. I came to the end of myself and I laid down my dream. My call to ministry was almost instantaneous but, to be honest, it seemed absurd. Public speaking was still a major fear for me, and it’s sort of a vital skill in ministry. None of it made sense, but God was at work. Through a series of developments, which will make this story way too long, God made the connection between art and ministry in my life. In the process, I began to tell stories, paint live and do all the stuff I was doing today. Please understand this, to be a professional artist, was a lesser dream than what God had in store for me, but in order to get to that point, I had to lay down what I knew and plunge into the great unknown. Today I have a better, happier, more fulfilling life than I could have ever known, but to get there, I had to fall out of love with my dream and love God more. I often wonder if that was what Jesus meant when He said, “Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.”

Hold your plan loosely and your God tightly. He will make a way.

worstbestToday is the anniversary of what felt like one of the scariest days of my life. After my day talked about downsizing my position for a number of years, it happened on May 7, 2015. I don’t mind telling you, I was scared. I had held my day job for almost 16 years and I understood why they cut the position, but I was still scared.

I’d been doing my speaking ministry for a few years pretty consistently, but wasn’t anywhere close to replacing the income from my day job. More than one night, in the early days, I worried and fretted and wondered how long it would be before I was going to be fitted for my blue Wal-Mart vest. I didn’t think my prospects were very good. I was pretty good at my job (or at least I thought I was) but my job skills were pretty specialized to the job I had and I wasn’t sure I could transfer them to anything else, but God was at work.

The bookings started coming in. People really seemed be taking interest in my ministry, before long I was booked nearly every week. Then as things were slowing down, I got a call asking if I would consider serving as an interim pastor for a church. The time schedule seemed to work with my slow times in the speaking ministry, so I said I would do it. I got to know the church, grew to love the church and it seemed to be mutual. Before long I was called to be their permanent pastor. The position is part time allowing me to continue the creative arts ministry as well. It turns out they understand and support my work in the larger church as well. It’s a near perfect fit.

Yes, May 7, 2015 felt like it might have been the worst day of my life, but God was in control. He took care of me through it all. There were several times before when I thought about leaving my job and pastoring a church and one by one they all said “no thanks.” I began to feel like God didn’t want me in the ministry anymore. That wasn’t true. Instead God was waiting to put me into the perfect position for His will for this season of my life. His timing was utterly perfect. My wife, Dawn, recently said this is the happiest she has ever seen me. She’s probably right. What could have been my worst day, really has been among my best days.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Trust God, prepare and wait. I would not have been ready to be where I am were it not for a lot of hard work, much of which didn’t always make sense at the time. Learn everything you can wherever you’re at. Wait on Him and try not to get too far ahead and one last thing. If you ever find yourself feeling like God doesn’t want you, you’re listening to the wrong voice. God loves you perfectly and in His perfect time, He will bring you to your “perfect” place.

In two weeks, Lord willing, I will be presenting at the Church of the Brethren Church Planters Conference. I was asked to speak on a favorite topic of mine, Imagination. I love to speak on imagination because it is at the core of everything creative. Let’s face it, every great thing ever created started out in someone’s imagination. Before anything is created, it must first be imagined. And of course the best things imagined come from the imagination of God.

As I was considering how to bring this message, I was taken back to Romans 4:17 “As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” This is referring to an interaction between Abraham and God. Abraham is old, over 80 and childless when God comes to him and tells him that his 70 year old wife is going to bear him a son. This seems impossible in itself, but we should also consider that it took ten more years to come to fruition. It is before all this happens that God tells Abraham (actually Abram at this point) that he will be the father of many nations. Childless at 80 and will be a father of nations. It’s impossible and yet we can see that nation today. God calls into being things that were not. And he still does.

So what should be our response to our great God as He calls forth the seemingly impossible in our lives? Well let’s consider what Scripture says about Abraham. James 2:23 says “”And Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness,” and he was called a friend of God.” What if the only thing separating us from God’s will for our lives is a lack of belief. It’s this simple really. God is still God. He is still in the business of calling into being things that are not and He is still working in the lives of people who will believe. The question then is will you believe and follow.

I can’t speak for you, but I want to be a friend of God. I want to live out His will for my life. This means when He puts something into my life that fires my imagination, I want to go. I want to do it. It might seem impossible, but I learned a long time ago that God is really good at chains of events. What I need to be good at is faithfulness. Taking the first step and trusting Him with each one thereafter. This imagination we have is a divine spark. It is very likely God moving us into His will. We need to discern, we need to pray. We need to make sure it’s not just my imagination, and then we need to move. Oh and by the way, if it is just my imagination, if my heart is on doing His will, He will steer and move and correct. He will keep me on course.

The best side of my imagination comes from God. Yours too, so trust Him and act.

Yesterday I had a great conversation. We talked art and ministry and a whole bunch of really cool stuff. We talked Christian arts organizations, the good the bad (maybe bad is the wrong word, more like differences), the ups and downs, ins and outs. It was a great conversation. I have to admit, somewhere along the way, I started to think, what do I have to do to be considered one of those upper echelon artist speakers? How many churches do I need to speak to before someone considers me to be a keynote at one of those larger events? How many blog posts? How many books do I need to write? Pride is ugly like that.

Fortunately, I was also in tune with the Spirit and I began to rebuke those thoughts. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in the upper echelon, but the matter at hand was the people at this beautiful camp in upstate New York. I did Pictures of Jesus, probably my favorite presentation, and it connected. The affirmations from the people were wonderful, but the sense from God was even better. I once again had the realization that I am doing what I was born to do and I felt His pleasure and His presence, maybe even a little “well done…”

Here’s the thing. I can’t pick my echelon. People will thrust that upon me I suppose. What I do get to pick is how faithful I will be. I get to make the most of the opportunities before me. I get to feel my Father’s pleasure. I get to see people touched and moved and blessed. I get to see a “hard earned” testimony bear fruit and some really painful memories begin to make sense in the context of God’s Kingdom. I get to see God move. I am meeting awesome amazing people and getting to see places I may never have seen had I not gotten into this ministry. Lastly, I am having fun.

I’m in God’s echelon. That’s enough for me.

How about you?

utdFirst a confession, I hate horror. I’ve never willingly watched a horror movie and walked out on the one that was on in my house (edited for TV) because even that was too much. As such, I really had no interest in reading Stephen King. Then a year or two ago, I read his book 11/22/63 because the concept seemed interesting and it seemed he was veering away from horror. For the most part he did in that book and it was a really thought-provoking read.

I assumed he would do the same with Under the Dome. I watched the first season of the CBS series based on the book, so before vacation, I picked up a copy to read on the beach. I really liked the series I figured the book would fill in some of the details and prepare me for the coming series. I doubt that is the case. This book is wildly different from the series.

Did I like it? That’s a tough question. There were several to many times where I seriously considered quitting it as some parts were so gratuitous, that I felt I had no business reading it. At times I felt it was needlessly gory and at other times, needlessly dirty. There is one thing to be sure, King knows how to let you know a character is capable of great evil. It’s a well written page turner beyond a doubt, I read all 1,074 pages in just under two weeks, but I cannot recommend it, because I know many would find it extremely offensive. That being said for every time I thought, “Oh, Stephen, why did you go there?” I also thought “How is he going to redeem this?” and “What is going to happen next?”

More than anything else though, what kept me reading is what he did with the main villain, Big Jim Rennie. You see one of the ways that the TV series differs from the book is that in the book, Rennie is a “Christian”, a bible quoting, “God-fearing Christian” convinced that everything that is happening is “God’s will.” Before the dome comes down to separate the town, his town, from the rest of the world, he’s a shifty egomaniacal big fish in a small pond, who thinks manufacturing Methamphetamine is okay because he uses the money (well some of the money) for the good of the town. After the dome, with no one to stop him, he tries to become “emperor” killing anyone who gets in the way of him doing “God’s will.” I think this is what hit me more than anything. There is this huge exploration of situational ethics, doing the wrong thing for the “right reason” at play in the pages of Under the Dome. And Big Jim’s actions show the disastrous results of combining this line of thinking with a misguided faith.

To me this book says when it comes to God’s will, we all need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. You see the danger of seeking God’s will isn’t God, it’s us. The Bible says the heart is deceitful above all things, and it can be really easy for us to assume that “God’s will” is whatever we want. The reality is God’s will is for us to want what He wants. We need to know and be in the Word and use the Word to guide our will to God’s.

Romans 12 gives the guidance and lets us know how to discern God’s will. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” God’s will and the ways of the world are nearly always diametrically opposed. While I can’t recommend this book, and I have no idea of whether or not this was King’s motivation, Under the Dome challenged me to test the motivations of my heart before assuming God’s will is whatever I want to do. In that respect it was worth the read.

Finding God''s Will for Your Gift
A lot of times I hear from people wanting to know God’s will for their creativity and for that matter their lives. They want to know if they’re really hearing from God about how to use their gifts or they’re just being selfish… Here are a few things I have found:

  1. Have You Prayed About It and Are You Continuing to Pray?: There are no shortcuts on this one. The best way to know God’s will is to ask Him? Pray. Ask God to guide your steps. Ask Him to open doors to good opportunities and close doors to the ones outside His will. Ask Him to help you faithfully pursue the things that are His will.
  2. Are You in the Word of God?: God wants us to know Him so He gave us a book and as we read that book (The Bible) we come to understand what God is like. The more you know Him the easier it is to follow Him so read His Word.
  3. Are You in Christ?: Have you asked Jesus into your heart to be your Lord and Savior? If not this needs to move to the top of the list. You see when Jesus is Lord of your life, His Holy Spirit comes into your life and helps you and guides you. If you haven’t done this yet contact me and I’ll guide you through it.
  4. Do You Love Doing What You’re Doing?: A lot of people see this as a selfish question, almost as if God doesn’t want us to be happy. Friend, God is a loving Father. He does want you to be happy. More than that, He wants you to be joyful. The Scripture tells us “The joy of the Lord is Our strength.” Will you always be happy? No. Should you quit at the first sign of unhappiness? Only if you never want to succeed anything you ever do. But who do you think wired you to like the good things you like? Who do you think gave you your gifts and talents? I’ll give you hint, the same one who has a plan and a purpose for your life. God didn’t design you for drudgery, He loves you.
  5. Are Sou Sinning?: If you are, quit now. God’s will for your life will never include sin, period. Repent and turn around now.
  6. Are You Being Faithful?: If you feel like God might be leading you in a direction, pray and then begin to take action. Try it. Do what you can with what you have right now to begin doing what you believe God might be leading you to do. Get started and take the next right step in the direction you think that God is leading. Ask Him daily to guide you in the process and follow Him.

At the end of the day, it’s this simple. God loves you. He wants what’s best for you so trust Him and follow Him today. Move into His will and allow Him to steer.

There’s a passage in the Bible that tells us how to be in God’s will. It’s Romans 12:1,2: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

It’s this simple really. Because God has shown us mercy by giving Jesus to die for our sins, we should offer our lives to God for Him to use as He sees fit. When we do this, we trust Him fully and our lives become and act of worship. We stop going the way the rest of the world is going and we pattern our lives after our perfect Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we pattern our lives after His we will know and understand God’s will.

Are you living in God’s will? If not, why not take the first right step today.

Today in my devotional reading, I found myself in Exodus reading God’s immensely detailed plan for the tabernacle of Moses. I am always struck every single time I read this passage by how detailed it is. There wasn’t a lot of room for creativity on this project. God had a very specific way that He wanted everything done.

Here’s a video from that shows part of the plan.

Creativity is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, not just those of us who are “artistic” but for everyone who has ever faced a problem. In much of our lives when it comes to creativity, the sky’s the limit, but then there are other times. In these times we need to respect God’s boundaries and His plan first and foremost.

This is especially true of God’s Word. Anyone who has read more than one of my posts will know I am all about finding creative ways to present the Gospel to the world around us. I believe God has given us immense flexibility for creativity in this area and that He has given us immense creativity for this very purpose. To find new ways to reach people with the truth that can and will set them free. There is however one area where creativity is neither needed nor allowed and that is with the Word itself. It is the Word of God and God has given it to us just as He wanted it to be. We dare not do anything that changes the meaning of what He said. When we either add to the Word or subtract from it, we remove it’s power because it is no longer God’s Word.

God has a really specific way and a really specific plan. We deviate from the Word at our peril. In these times creativity has to take a back seat, we must surrender our will and our way and follow God’s plan to the letter.

Isn’t that what it means to submit our creativity to God?

It’s not rocket science…

Seriously, we all seem to act as if it’s so hard to find out. Oh maybe the specifics are. Maybe the long range goal is hard to find or the way there is hard to achieve, but when it comes to day to day life, it’s pretty simple. Look at what’s coming next and do the next right thing.

Incidentally, that is also the way to reach your goal. Look at the opportunity, ask if it will help to take you where God wants you to go and if it is…


Ephesians 5:15 and 16 says: Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Wow, what a day! First of all, I want to thank whoever posted the link to my conference cartoons on your site. Please tell me who you are and about your site so I can share it. When I awoke this morning at 5:00 I was amazed to see that we had passed 150 hits for the day and at this moment we have surpassed the record number of hits for the day. What’s funny is I almost didn’t post those cartoons. It was sort of like posting my diary for the world to see. The conversation it has caused thus far has convinced me it was the right move and I thank all those who have joined the conversation. The conversation has led me to a topic I have been thinking of for some time. That topic is passion.

The denomination I am a part of is called a “traditional peace church” and to be really honest, the peace position always drove me a little crazy. It’s still a struggle of mine. My passion is evangelism and in this world it just kind of seemed that there were too many people who had to be reached to deal with an “unattainable goal” like world peace. I used to say things like “lay down your peace sign and take up your cross” and “World peace? We don’t have peace in our families and in our pews and you want to talk world peace?. The pacifists really drove me crazy. Why were they so emphatic about peace? There are more important things to be done.

Lately though I’ve been seeing something that has helped. It’s called passion. I’m coming to believe that passion is something God puts in us—something that fires us up and motivates us—something that causes us to need to act. Maybe God has made me passionate about evangelism and them passionate about peace and someone else passionate about something else and on and on and on. What if instead of being frustrated by one another, instead of wondering why they can’t be passionate about what we are passionate about, we cheered each other on? What if we realized we’re all on the same team with the same ultimate goal? What would happen if we all gave our best to our God given passions and loved each other? What would happen if diversely passionate people worked together for the good of the Kingdom of God? Seems to me we might just have a better functioning body of Christ. After all a body is not made up of one part but of many.

Don’t follow your passions, follow Christ, then let Him use your passions to further His Kingdom.