Little pink flower on Glen Eyrie hiking trail

How does God want us to live?

I’m not sure people understand what it means to seek God’s will. Seeking God’s will sounds so poetic and so epic. And Christians are forever seeking God’s will for their lives as though it’s some ethereal concept that no one can really understand. But the pure and simple definition of “seeking God’s will” is: how does God want us to live?

The answer is in Scripture. So if you’re not willing to read Scripture and you’re not willing to listen to people who do, you aren’t going to find the answer to that question. No other philosophers know. No other Christians under their own authority know. No experience is going to teach you.

There are many parts to God’s will, many components to how He wants us to live our lives. And I think many of us, even those of us who read Scripture and try to apply it consistently, forget sometimes that God has given us commandments about how to live. It’s not an issue of Him suggesting that we do something and giving us the option of obeying or not. No. There are specific principles in Scripture that we are commanded to obey.

Granted, it doesn’t mean that we’ll go to hell if we don’t obey. If we believe in Christ, we’re saved. Period. But many who have struggles in their lives might not have so many struggles if they were to take God at His word and actually live the way He says.

Little pink flower on Glen Eyrie hiking trail
Little pink flower on Glen Eyrie hiking trail – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s passage is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

I don’t think it can be plainer than that. I know it can’t get simpler, at least in concept. Actual application can be challenging, but if you want to know God’s will, here it is.

Christians are always to be joyful. It doesn’t matter where you came from or where you’re going. Be joyful. Remember that joy is different than happiness. Happiness depends on your situation. Joy supersedes your circumstances. If you have Christ in your life, you have joy. If you follow Christ, then even on your worst day, your joy should be greater than your situation because this world isn’t home. We’re just passing through here and our trials are light and momentary compared to the awesome eternity God has in store for us.

Christians are never to stop praying. It should be constant. Without ceasing. We should live a lifetime of prayer, constant communication with God. And it shouldn’t be the cute little prayers we learn as children. It should be personal, individual, in your own voice talking to your friend God and telling Him about what’s going on in your life. Praying for the people you love. Praying for yourself. Praying for everything, even the requests you think are small and insignificant.

And Christians are to be thankful in all circumstances. Good, bad or indifferent. Why do we think difficult circumstances give us the option to complain? Why do we think a bad day gives us a reason to grumble?

I struggle with this because bad days can really get me down. And it’s not bad to be down. Everyone has bad days, and everyone feels down every now and then. What’s bad is when you stay down. What’s bad is when you get so focused on the bad things in your life that you can’t see what God is doing. If you are at the point where you can’t see God working in your life and in the lives of people around you because all you can see is how bad you have it, stop what you’re doing right now and talk to Him.

Make a list of the things you have. Make a list of the things you’re thankful for. And if you can’t make a list for yourself, ask someone close to you to do it for you. Because I guarantee everyone has a page full of things to be thankful for. Those of us who forget are just so focused on ourselves that we can’t remember. And there’s always something in our own lives that someone else would kill to have–and we take it for granted.

The Message says it this way:

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

If we can do this, if we can really grasp these things and really live this way, it will change our perspective. It changes our lives completely. And suddenly the situations and circumstances that are weighing us down become non-issues. Because nothing can steal our joy, because we get to tell God about it and know that He will help, and because something God will always come out of it so we can be thankful even during the worst troubles.

The barn at Safe Haven Farm

Don’t build a bigger barn

Probably my favorite musical of all time is The Fiddler on the Roof. I loved it as a child before I really understood what it was about, and I love it as an adult now because of the music, because of the history, because of the characters, because of the setting. It’s a brilliant, beautiful story, and I’m super excited that Music Theatre of Wichita will be performing it this summer. Tevye, the main character, wants to be wealthy. And that’s what I thought of today when I read this morning’s verse.

The barn at Safe Haven Farm

The barn at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Luke 12:15.

Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

This is Jesus talking. This statement comes from the Parable of the Rich Fool. You can find it in Luke 12:13-21. It’s a story Jesus told about a man who lived on a very fertile farm that produced a lot of crops. And so he decided that he would build more barns and store all of his grain and be wealthy so he didn’t have to work anymore. This is also where we get the phrase, “Eat, drink and be merry!” because that’s what he told himself he would do. However, just after the man accomplishes all of this, he dies. And everything he worked for was for nothing because he couldn’t take it with him.

It’s very tempting to want to measure the worth of our lives by our possessions because possessions are easy to value. You can get to thinking that you are wealthy because you have so much money or so much land or so much of this or so much of that. And when you think that you are wealthy because of those things, it’s easy to rely on them.

There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. The Bible says repeatedly, not only in statements but also in concept, that it’s the love of money that is evil. It’s loving money more than God that is dangerous and leads to sin. It’s not money itself. Money is a tool to be used to help bring more people to Christ. But we have a difficult time looking at money that way.

Going back to Tevye from The Fiddler on the Roof, he wanted to be a wealthy man because he didn’t want to have to work anymore. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but what’s more important? Seeking wealth or treasuring the wealth you already have?

Most of us are more wealthy than the richest king in the world. If you live in the United States or if you live in a developed nation — or if you have your health — or if you have a family — you are wealthy. Maybe not in terms of possessions or in terms of your bank account, but if you have food to eat and a roof over your head, you are already better off than many other people in the world. And if you have a car to drive? That sort of wealth puts you in the top percentile of the world.

And, as my awesome Pastor likes to say, King Solomon was the richest person to ever exist, and he’d never had a hot fudge sundae. Think about that.

We. Are. Wealthy.

And where has it gotten us? We focus on money until we can’t see anything else. We focus on obtaining riches so we can live a comfortable life. Well, I don’t know if we were necessarily meant to live a comfortable life here. Yes, it’s good to take care of our families. Yes, it’s good to have a roof over your head. But spending the exorbitant amount of money we do on our things? On possessions that won’t last and do nothing to reach into eternity? Is that what we’re supposed to do? Is that how we’re supposed to use our money?

Build bigger barns? Eat, drink and be merry?

I don’t think so.

If you have money, don’t love it; use it. And do as Christ says. Don’t measure the worth of your life by what you own because when your life on earth is over, you won’t have your possessions anymore. What you’ll take with you into eternity are your good works and your heart. And if you spent all your time on earth pursuing money and wealth and fame, those things will burn to ashes because they’re made of nothing more substantial than straw.

But if you leverage your resources to do good for others who can’t do good back to you, if you spend your time and your effort helping the less fortunate, if you sacrifice to see that the things God is doing are done well, those things will last.

Don’t build a bigger barn. Fill up the one you have and give the rest away. That’s more than wealth. That’s how God wants us to live.

Write God’s will on your heart

Hey, everyone! Wow. Apologies for not posting at my normal time. I didn’t sleep at all last night. I don’t know what was going on, but my brain wouldn’t shut off.

For those of you who aren’t in Wichita and aren’t a part of NewSpring Church, we’re currently in the middle of a fantastic outreach program called Judgement House. Thousands of people come to it every year and last year nearly 2,000 people accepted Christ (that we know of). It’s just a huge ministry. But it often keeps us out late. Thing is, last night we got out early. It was really slow. I think the Chris Tomlin concert in town had something to do with it. Silly Chris Tomlin.

In any case, I actually had an opportunity to go to bed at a decent hour. But I couldn’t get my brain to shut down. So I selfishly nabbed an extra 15 minutes of half-sleep this morning instead of writing the devotional.

I’m going to keep this brief because I’ve got to get to work. But I wanted to share today’s verse:

Psalm 40:8

I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.

Okay, so this is an example of metaphorical language that we don’t hear very often in our very literal society. What does it mean to write something on your heart? Well, my first thought is that it means to memorize it. But I think it’s deeper than that.

What does it mean to share your heart with someone? What does it mean to give your heart to someone?

In Western culture, the seat of the emotions is the heart. And by referencing our hearts, we are really talking about who we really are inside.

When you give your heart to someone, you aren’t giving somebody your blood-pumping muscle. You give them yourself. You give them your life. You trust them with who you are as a person.

When you share your heart, you are telling other people about who you are, about your motivation, about why you do the things you do or think the way you think. You are sharing who you really are inside.

So what does it mean to write something on your heart?

To me, it means to know something so well that you don’t have to think about what you will do when faced with a challenge. If you know a route by heart, you don’t have questions about what direction to go. If you know a friend by heart, you know what they’re thinking before they do.

But then why doesn’t the verse say that we love God’s will so much that we know it by heart?

Well, that’s because God’s will is something you have to work at understanding every day. It’s not this ethereal concept that no one can comprehend. God’s will is a practical, relevant, day-by-day process that you walk through a step at a time. And we actively have to work at pursuing God and His will every moment of our lives.

And that requires action.

Write God’s will on your heart. Keep your eyes open every day for what God wants you to do and learn it so well that the next time the same problem happens, you won’t question what your response will be. You’ll just know.

God will work out His plans for us; we just have to hang on

Today’s verse is Psalm 138:8.

8 The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
      for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
      Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

It’s good to remember that God has plans for our lives. I forget that sometimes and feel like my life is a crazy, screwed up mess. It’s hard to remember that God has a plan when I can hardly get organized enough to keep a schedule together.

I love the Psalms. They just sound like my life. You start the day praising God and then something goes nuts and you end up depressed but then you remember that God is awesome and that He loves you and you end the day joyful again, remembering that God knows what He’s doing. The Psalms are a roller coaster of emotion. God’s always with me. God, why have you abandoned me? God, you make me strong. God, I feel so weak. God, you keep me safe. God, my enemies are attacking me and I am vulnerable. If everyone’s life wasn’t like that, you’d think David was bipolar or something.

But everyone has experienced what David went through. Everybody’s life has turned upside down at one point or another. Everyone has been abandoned and betrayed by friends. Everyone has sometimes wondered where God went (everyone has, so don’t act holy and say you’ve never felt that way). And I know we all wonder just what the heck God is doing. He makes no sense at all most of the time . . . but then I remember that if I could understand God, He wouldn’t be God.

If God revealed all His plans to me, I really believe my head would explode. He’s got a lot in store for me. I can tell you that because He’s given me a lot. He’s given me a wonderful family. He’s given me the best church in America and the most amazing Pastor in the world (who stopped in to see my grandma in the hospital yesterday in spite of having the busiest schedule known to man; I can’t say enough good about my pastor). He’s given me a job. He’s given me a brain that I use most of the time. He’s given me a lot of different skills and talents. And He’s placed me in a country that allows me (at least at this point) to speak my mind about the way I feel about things.

God has given me a lot. So I know that He’s going to ask me for a lot. I grew up with the verse, Luke 12:48. “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”

God has plans for my life. And He’s got plans for your life too, even though it may not feel like it now. What I struggle with the most is feeling like nothing is happening, feeling like all I’m doing is waiting, like the only thing I accomplish in a day is converting oxygen into CO2. But here’s where today’s verse comes in: Do we actually think we’re the ones who accomplish anything?

Today’s verse says God will work out his plans for my life. Not Amy will work them out. God will.

So when it comes right down to it, all I have to do is wait and listen and be ready to move. When God tells me to do something, I need to do it no matter how crazy it might sound because when He asks me to do something it’s going to be a part of His plan for my life. And when I’m moving in tandem with God’s plan, that’s when He can start to accomplish HUGE things that I would never have been able to do on my own.

All I have to do is take it a day at a time. So what is my job today? I’m going to work at my corporate American job. And even if everything falls apart (I’m actually expecting it to because I’ve got a Spanish web site that’s supposed to go live today and I don’t think it’s going to happen), my job is to stay focused on God and living the way He’s called me to live.  And if He opens the door to tell other people about Him, I will walk through it. And if He allows me to help people today, I will. And if I make it home tonight without having accomplishing any of my goals for the day, it will be all right. Becuase in the end, it’s God’s goal that’s the most important and it’s God’s plan that’s going to help people the most. I’m just along for the ride. . . . and, man, what a crazy ride it is!

God wills it!

I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to get ahead of God. I look at a situation and I just know — I’m just positive that I know — how it’s all going to work out. I can see all the different connections and I can see exactly how God is going to do whatever it is He’s doing. So, since I know so much, I start planning and I start plotting and pretty soon I have everything figured out and I can relax because I know what’s going to happen.

Then, the inevitable occurs. I left something out of my calculations or I missed something or God threw a wrench in the works at the last minute, and nothing happens like I thought it would. And I’m back to not having any idea what’s going on.

Does that ever happen to you? Do you try to figure out God’s plan? Do you try to figure out His will?

That’s something that gets talked about a lot in Christian circles. God’s will. God’s Will for your life. Like it’s some strange ethereal concept that no one can grasp or truly understand. Like it’s something out of a philosophy course that exists for people to debate it.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t all seek God’s will. We definitely should, but we should understand that His will is always a definite concrete action we should take — even if that action is simply waiting or even being still (because waiting and being still are both actions; if you’ve never tried them, you’ll find they’re among the most difficult actions you can do).

The verse I used for this devotion today is  Proverbs 16:1.

1 We can make our own plans,
      but the Lord gives the right answer.

And this same concept is actually repeated over and over and over all throughout the whole chapter. If you have a chance, you really should read the whole chapter.

God knows what He wants from us. He put us here for a reason, and if you’re still alive on Earth there’s a reason for it. He has something for you to do. And you can plan and plot and make as many assumptions as you want, but if it’s the wrong direction for you to take, He’ll let you know.

What I have learned is that most of the time God doesn’t reveal His will for us until we’ve taken the next step in our walk with Him. God’s will is for every man, woman and child to come into a relationship with Him. That’s the first, most important part of His will for every person.

Next, everyone who believes needs to be baptized as a symbol that they now belong to God. It has to come after salvation, otherwise it doesn’t mean anything.

These first two steps are universal. They’re the same for every person.

After you get saved, though, what next? What is God’s will for your life next? What great plan does He have in store for you?

I spent so many years looking for God’s will, and what I learned is that it’s God’s will for me to be where I am until He moves me. Throughout high school, God opened doors for me to go to college away from home; I went. Then, he opened doors for me to come back; so I did. He gave me opportunities to stay in Wichita, to move home to live in a house and property that was paid off. He gave me opportunities for a good job–and then He gave me an opportunity to move on to a great job. He gave me incredible opportunities to get involved at my church, opportunities that stretched me beyond what I was capable of. It allowed me to trust Him completely, and whether He used me during those times, I don’t know. What I know for sure is that I grew in my relationship with Him.

I really think that is God’s will for everyone too. That we all grow in our relationship with him. The relationship doesn’t end after salvation. It doesn’t end after you get dunked into a baptismal or a swimming pool or even the River Jordan. It shouldn’t stagnate. It should grow. It should get deeper with every passing day. And if you live your life like that, always seeking to know God better, you won’t miss the opportunities He sends to you. You actually might even have to choose between two or three good opportunities, and that is a topic for another post.

People get so obssessed with this concept, and they waste so much time looking for it. I’m reminded of another movie that made me laugh when I saw it. Kingdom of Heaven. It’s a great movie. A lot of fun, if you like battlefield/war kinds of movies. Set during the Crusades, it’s about the fight for the Holy Land. And the line that keeps being repeated over and over again, from both sides, is that “God wills it.” It was God’s will for the Christians to do such and such. It was God’s will for the Arabs to do such and such. Both of their actions were against each other, yet both sides believed that God was leading them to do whatever it was they were doing.

The most important thing to remember about God’s will is that it never contradicts the rest of His Word. God’s Will never goes against Scripture. For instance (and this is a bad example), if you think it’s God’s Will to murder someone — you’re wrong. Because the Bible says murder is wrong. God’s Will won’t ever contradict the Bible. The same for tearing your family apart or lying or being unfaithful or being disobediant to your parents. God’s Will will never lead you to do any of those things.

If you think it does, you’ve fallen into a religious trap where people think they can put words in God’s mouth. And that’s not a place I’d ever want to be.

So, can we ever grasp God’s will for our lives?

I believe the answer is no. I think it’s too big for us. I think it would scare us out of our wits. So, I don’t think we should even worry about it.

Can we grasp God’s will for us today?

Absolutely.

And for that, I will refer to the actual Bible verse of the day from Bible Gateway:

1 John 3:11

 11 This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

Love God. Love people. Go to work and work as though you’re working for God. Raise your children. Clean your house. Mow your lawn. Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Live your life for Him. Walk with Him. Read the Bible and learn what He has to say about you and your relationships and your family and your life and this crazy, messed up world we live in.

That is His will for us today. And that’s something everyone can do. And once you do it, God will reveal what He wants you to do the next day and the next day and the next day, and before you know it, you will have lived a life by God’s Will. And you’ll look back and you won’t be surprised why God didn’t tell you His plans for you from the very start.

So make all the plans you want. It’s not a bad thing to plan for the future. Just understand that God has the trump card.