Are You Willing to Submit Your Will to God?

Continued from here.

I have shared this several times, but it’s worth repeating. In his book Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Henry Blackaby says that two words never go together: “No, Lord.” If God is your Lord, then you will always say yes to His will. If you say no, then He is not your Lord. In other words, you are not His disciple.

Most of us want to straddle the fence. We want the blessings of being a disciple of God without having to the pay the cost, but it doesn’t work that way. We love to quote the scripture about not worrying because God will provide all of our needs, but we don’t “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). In the legal world, this is called a condition precedent. To activate “all these things will be given to you as well,” we must first prioritize God’s kingdom and righteousness. We accuse God of not being faithful in providing for us when we did not first do our own part of chasing Him rather than chasing what we want.

Another example is that we love the Bible verse promising that God will give us the desires of our heart. Who doesn’t want this, right? But the condition precedent is that we must first “take delight in the LORD.” James tells us that the reason we don’t receive the desires of our heart is that we are not delighting ourselves in the LORD but instead…

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)

James’ very next words are, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?” Why are they adulterous? Because they delight themselves in their own pleasures rather than in the LORD. We rail at God for not giving us what we want when what we SHOULD want is HIM, and He gives Himself to us freely.

So, are you willing to submit your will to God? If you are, you must do all that He tells you to do. That being said, it’s not about doing the right thing so much as it is about obeying Him to express your love for Him. God isn’t looking for people who do the right thing – He is looking for people who love Him enough to do the right thing. There’s a big difference, and it all comes out of our motivation. Do you love Him enough to submit your will wholly to God? If you say yes and actually do it, you will be blessed beyond measure.

[Graphic: Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Courtesy Amazon.]


Submitting Your Will to God Simplifies Your Life

snakeContinued from here.

Since I began submitting my will to God in 2013, my life has become much simpler – harder, but simpler. The reason is that I no longer put forth the mental energy of trying to figure out how to get out of obeying God so I can do what I want to do.

For example, as a young adult, I did not want to tithe, so I put forth much mental energy to figure out a loophole to get out of it that went something like this: “Back when tithing was commanded, people didn’t have to pay taxes at a rate like we have to pay today. God could not possibly expect me to pay this much in taxes and then, on top of that, 10% of my income to the church. And even if He did, how do I know how much to tithe? Is the 10% based on my gross earnings or my net earnings? And what about rebates or monetary gifts? Does God really expect me to tithe out of those? This all sounds too complicated to actually do.” Today, I simply give to my local church 10% of whatever hits my bank account, and I also give as the Lord leads me to give, so I wind up giving much more than 10% of what I earn. It’s simple – just not easy when I don’t feel like giving.

Satan’s way is complex, but God’s is simple. God says, “Don’t eat the fruit.” Satan says,

Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” … “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” ~ Excerpts from Gen. 3:1-6

See how simple God’s command is versus Satan’s mental twisting to turn God’s no into a yes? Either we trust God, or we do not. If we trust Him, we will do what He says to do, which is quite simple … it’s just not easy.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a snake coiled around her. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Choosing Obedience over Feelings

how_you_feelingContinued from here.

It’s easy to follow God when things are going well. When I have just received a blessing from God, it’s easy for me to praise Him with all that I have within me and shout His goodness from the rooftops. It’s a different story when His will requires me to suffer, such as when my son faced major back surgery a few years ago. It wasn’t easy to focus on God’s goodness as my son faced having two titanium rods screwed into his spine to correct his scoliosis. I did not easily praise God during this season, and yet I did praise Him – not because I felt like it but because it’s His will that I do.

One of my greatest obstacles – and this is likely true for you as well – is that I often don’t feel like obeying God. If I let my feelings drive my choices, I would only do what God tells me to do whenever it’s convenient or feels good. However, God’s ways are rarely convenient. He commands me to pray for and show kindness to the people I want to yell at or complain about. He tells me to drive the speed limit when I’ll be late for an appointment if I do. He leads me to extend grace and love to people who make my life difficult, whether it’s an incompetent waiter or a grumbling relative. If I let my feelings drive my choices, I would never do what God tells me to do. In other words, I would never be a disciple of Christ.

In my quiet time this morning, I read the passage about an exhausted Jesus sleeping through a storm that terrified his disciples. I found it interesting that Mark notes that when Jesus said, “Let’s go over to the other side,” Mark says,

Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.” ~ Mark 4:36

Note that they took Jesus “just as he was.” When I think of taking someone “just as he was,” it generally means not all cleaned up but in a state that the only someone who loves you would receive. As an example, one of my dear friends is going through a rough time and keeps apologizing for being “just as she was,” which is in emotional distress. I receive her “just as she was” because I love her. She’s not in a state that she would like to be, but she’s too overwhelmed with what’s going on in her life to “clean up good.” I wonder if that’s the point that Mark was making about Jesus – that he was in a state of exhaustion and too tired to cope, hence his ability to sleep through a raging storm. One does not get that way by taking the easy way. I suspect Jesus had to choose obedience over his feelings and that he was so exhausted because doing so took a heavy toll on him.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting on a chair and asking, “How ya feelin’?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Not My Will, but Yours be Done

painContinued from here.

I shared an example of what it looks like to submit your will to God in my last blog entry, but let’s take a deeper look. God gave us free will, so we are free to use it as we desire. We are free to use it to be selfish, to try to manipulate other people to our will, and to do evil – God won’t stop us from exercising our free will in vile ways that do much harm to ourselves and others. However, if we use our will in any way other than in submission to God, we are not Jesus’ disciple. That’s a tough pill to swallow, isn’t it? But it’s the truth. Jesus said that we cannot be his disciple unless we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. That means we must follow Jesus’ example of saying, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” Are you willing to submit your will to God as Jesus did?

Jesus said those words before going to the cross, which he certainly did not want to do. He did not spend the night praying and sweating blood because he wanted to be mutilated and killed. Yet he submitted his will to God. He had free will, just as we do, but he chose to submit that will to the Father, even when it came at the ultimate cost of being mutilated, killed, and separated from God as he carried all of our sins as he died. While we know the glorious end to the story, I wonder whether Jesus did in the dark of night as he prayed his anguished, earnest prayers as his disciples slept. I wonder if he simply knew that God’s will was for him to suffer and whether he simply loved God more than he didn’t want to go to the cross.

Regardless of what Jesus did or did not know on that fateful night, we generally have no idea what the end of our story is going to be. We face the crossroads of seeing that God’s way will bring us inconvenience or suffering while we could easily exercise our own free will to take the easier path. Which will we choose?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lying on the floor in pain. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Cost of Discipleship: Submitting Your Will to God

need_a_rideJesus advised us to consider the cost of discipleship before committing to follow him. One of those costs that I have been pondering lately is the cost of my will. The closer I grow in my relationship with God, the more I appreciate the degree to which I no longer have my own will because I have submitted it to God. I submit my will to God each time I drive the speed limit when I am running late as cars are whizzing impatiently past me. I submit my will to Him each time someone aggravates me and I chose to extend grace rather than express anger. I submit my will when I fill out my tax forms and provide an honest assessment of the value of my charitable donations when I could so easily inflate it. Submitting my will to God certainly comes with a cost.

I’ll share a cost that will likely amuse you but is nonetheless a price I pay to be a disciple of Christ. I live in a state that requires a minor to drive 60 hours using a learner’s permit before he can apply for his driver’s license after holding the learner’s permit for a year. That year ends for my son this week, but he has not yet reached the 60 hours required by law to apply for his driver’s license. I have been my son’s chauffeur for over 17 years, and I am ready to retire my chauffeur’s hat. But as of last week, he still had 10 hours of driving to go.

My son’s solution was for me to simply lie on the form. He says that all of his friends’ parents lied on it. Nobody will ever know the difference. One simple lie can release me from the responsibility of having to drive my son to school, sports, and other destinations. I can’t say it’s not tempting. However, as a disciple of Christ, I have submitted my will to God, who says that I am to submit to governing authorities, and I see no footnote excusing me from this command simply because I don’t like the law or because it is inconvenient.

Because I submit my will to God, I spent four hours on Friday night riding in the car as my son drove to a city two hours away and back, solely for the purpose of logging in the required hours. And I’ll do the same thing again on Saturday night – not because I have oodles of free time but because this is required of the governing authorities for my son to apply for his driver’s license. I submit to the law because I submit my will to God.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace driving a car and asking, “Need a ride?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


We Need Others to Be Christians

Continued from here.

A wise man pointed out that Christianity cannot be practiced in isolation. In other words, Christianity isn’t taking place if there is no investment in other people. Tony Evans puts it this way: Christians have a vertical relationship with God and a horizontal relationship with others. Without the horizontal beam, there is no cross. That’s the basis of the title of his book, Horizontal Jesus. The book is all about how to live your faith as you invest in other people.

Far too many people are selfish Christians. They want just enough of Jesus to avoid going to hell, which focuses only on their own needs. What about the other people who also need to avoid going to hell? Your reaction is likely like mine – I don’t want to be an offensive “Bible thumper” who annoys people by trying to “save” them.

However, Jesus and his disciples changed the world without thumping anyone with a Bible. They did it through LOVE! And love is expressed by investing in other people. In fact, if you aren’t investing in other people, you are not loving them, and God is love. Jesus commanded us to love one another as he loved us. The Bible even tells us that if we aren’t loving one another, then we don’t know God.

If we are living our faith, then Christians should be known as the most loving people in existence. We should be the people who notice someone’s pain first and reach out in love. We should be the ones who are the most willing to slow down to 3 MPH and listen to whatever is burdening someone’s heart. If we were to do this – to live as Jesus did – we would change the world just as surely as the disciples did in the First Century. People were – and still are – drawn to God because of His love, and they should be seeing this love through us.

[Graphic: Cover of Horizontal Jesus. Courtesy Amazon. ]

Community Groups

group_hugContinued from here.

I have been leading Bible studies through my local church for well over a decade. One of my concerns has been seeing people grow in their knowledge of God without becoming the hands and feet of Christ. Don’t get me wrong – I have interacted with many wonderful women (and men!) through these Bible studies, but something has been missing. There’s been a disconnect between the level of knowledge accumulated about the Bible and turning that knowledge into “love in action.”

In seminary, I concentrated on discipleship and learned the importance of leading holistic small groups that have not only an upward (God) focus but also an inward (group members) focus and an outward (missions) focus. Without an inward and outward focus, there’s nowhere for the accumulated knowledge to be applied. Jesus did not sit around with his disciples getting them to learn the Torah better. He led by example in the community and showed them what “love in action” looks like. That’s what our small groups need to be doing as well.

Last week, my church launched its first community group (although it’s using a different name for it) to apply what I learned in seminary, and I’m excited about the potential. The small group will spend half its time each week with an inward focus, encouraging group members to invest in one another. The second half of the session will be a traditional Bible study (upward focus). And then every fourth week or so, the session will consist entirely of a missions focus – either serving in the community as a group or meeting away from the church to discuss how members are serving as Jesus’ hands and feet in the community. My hope is that this balanced structure will help the group members grow as disciples of Christ who apply what they learn from the Bible study into their relationships with the other group members and with people in the community. I also hope that this structure will help meet each group member’s need for intimacy – of being seen and known as we travel this road together.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and standing between the words, “Group Hug.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Developing Intimacy

heart_thoughtContinued from here.

Another point from the documentary Godspeed is the importance of developing intimacy. We live in a world where people have 500 Facebook friends but nobody who actually knows them. The DJs on a Christian radio station were recently talking about a study that America’s Youth do not know how to carry on a face-to-face conversation because their communication is always through text and social media. American life has become very disconnected, and yet God calls us to intimacy, both with Him and with one another. How can we do this if we don’t slow down enough to make eye contact and to know one another’s names and stories?

One of my favorite names for God is El Roi, which means “the God who sees me.” I have spent most of my life feeling unseen. I have oceans of depth to my soul, but few people bother to look. However, God not only sees this depth, but he even understands the complexity in me that I don’t even understand about myself. He knows me intimately, which draws me ever closer to Him as He meets my deep need to feel seen and known.

In my Evangelism class in seminary, the professor said that someone set up shop in a mall and offered to spend 30 minutes listening to whatever someone wanted to talk about for $20. Per the professor, this person had no credentials but made a lot of money because people are that desperate to feel “heard.” However, nobody is listening because we are all racing from here to there, many of us with earbuds in our ears to ensure that we fail to hear as well as see the pain of those around us. This is not the way God designed Christian community to be.

The Church is supposed to function as a Body, but how can that happen when we do not see or hear one another? How can we learn to walk together when each one of us is racing to his or her own destination at 90 MPH? It’s a lot easier to move as a body at 3 MPH, getting to know another’s names and stories as we walk.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling with her eyes closed and thinking of a heart. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Slowing Down

snailContinued from here.

Slowing down is a concept that most Americans cannot even process. When I tell people that I observe the Sabbath each week (on Fridays so I can rest while my family is at work or school), they look at me like I have two heads! How could I possibly afford to take an entire day off from work, cleaning, running around, and getting things done? My response is that I cannot afford NOT to take that day. When I was working full-time and going to school full-time, my Sabbath was my day of sanity – a break from an overstuffed life. I actually get more accomplished in six days while observing the Sabbath than I could possibly complete in seven without it!

I also slow down in the mornings and evenings by spending both blocks of time with God. I don’t how I used to get out of bed and immediately go at full speed, but I did this for many years. I need that time of grounding – of filling up with God – before interacting with another person. The slow pace of my morning provides the foundation for hitting the ground running when I start my day.

A wise woman once told me that I am a human BEING, not a human DOING. A wise man said that America has it backward: Rather than “don’t just sit there, do something,” our motto should be “don’t just do something, sit there.” God did not design people to go at 90 MPH, and that is not how Jesus lived. If he was going at 90 MPH, he never would have noticed Zaccheus or the Samaritan woman at the well. How much do we miss as we zip through our lives to make progress on our endless to-do lists?

Many people tell me they wish they could discern God’s voice as well as I seem to be able to. I wonder how many of those people have any time during the day in which they are only walking 3 MPH so God has an opening to speak to them. God frequently “interrupts” my quiet time because that’s when I am walking slowly enough to hear Him. It’s harder to get my attention when I am racing from one task to the next.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crawling out of a snail’s shell. Courtesy Bitmoji.] 



godspeedMy church provides its congregation with a free subscription to RightNow Media, which is a streaming service of Bible Studies and sermons, kind of like a Christian Netflix. Because I have an account, RightNow Media periodically sends me emails promoting one of the available videos. I generally simply delete those emails because I have limited time for viewing them, but the latest one caught my eye. It was advertising a documentary called Godspeed, which you can watch for free here.

Godspeed is the story of an American priest who moved to Scotland and learned about living life at God’s pace (hence the pun in the title Godspeed). In the United States, life races by at a dizzying pace, but God led this priest to a parish in Scotland where everything moves at the pace that Jesus did – at 3 miles per hour. When we move at 3 MPH, we notice things that we simply cannot notice when we are racing from one place to the next. In fact, that’s the pace Jesus used to change the world!

By moving at only 3 MPH, Jesus had the time to notice people – to not only learn their names but also their stories. He got to know the people around him intimately, as they also did with him. This is what the American priest learned to do in his parish. His “office” was the village. He got out and walked, getting to know the people as he walked throughout the parish. He shared a powerful story of feeling led to do a sermon without notes, which was frightening because he didn’t want to freeze up in front of “the congregation.” But then he realized that “the congregation” was made up of individuals he had gotten to know intimately, so freezing up did not have to be scary. These were not nameless people congregated to hear him speak. He was speaking before a room filled with friends who he knew and who knew him.

I was blown away by the simple and yet profound concept of slowing down and developing intimacy among the people around you. I loved the line in the documentary about how we race through life, impatiently waiting for God to catch up with us while if we would simply slow down our pace, we would catch up with God.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling over the word, “Godspeed.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]