Archive for God’s Will


Playing Checkers with Dad

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My dad was never one to play cards or board games. He did, however, enjoy a game of checkers. If I wanted him to play with me, checkers was my go to. In all of the years I played him I never could beat him. Not. One. Time. He learned to play the game from his father, who he reports he could never beat. It must have been a regressive generation trait.

I can remember those games with him. He never really cared if he was “black or red,” and always let me make the first move. We would play at a very slow and deliberate pace, each taking his turn with no one seemingly possessing an advantage. Then after several moves, almost out of the blue, he would go on a massive offensive, making double jumps and reducing my number to one or two checkers. After the offensive, there was nothing left to do but concede defeat. And it went that was whenever we played. Every. Single. Time.

When I got older I finally possessed enough wisdom to ask him how he became so good at checkers. I knew that he had learned from his father and was hopeful that he could teach me some amazing trick or sprinkle magic dust on me to grant me these mysterious powers. He simply smiled and said, “You just have to look ahead to your next move.” By looking ahead, he meant the next 10-12 moves.

While I was messing around making my individual move he was strategizing his next series of moves. All I could see was his move. I could not see within his mind and uncover the checkerboard that was in his brain.

I think God works in our lives in similar fashion. We go through life, plodding along one move at a time, complete with our questions and doubts as to why particular things happen to us. And then all of a sudden, God unveils his plan and we can look back and see how all of those individual moves led to one great moment where things seem to come together and everything becomes clear.

Life certainly has more value than a game of checkers. But like the game of checkers, things rarely happen all at once. There is usually a series of moves that occur that do not seem like much…coincidental events that, in and of themselves seem benign. But it all matters and it all counts. Even the things that don’t appear to mean much, if anything.

Checkers reminds me that I can trust God is at work, even when I cannot or do not see or sense him. And when I feel as those things are barely moving forward in the daily grind of life, God unveils his will and when I does, I can look back and see how he set it all up.

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Those of you who know me are aware that I have recently made a transition in ministry. For the last six years I’ve served as Lead Pastor of Ashworth Road Baptist Church in West Des Moines, IA. That position ended for me in December following my call to serve as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Greater Des Moines, IA. This transition, as would be true for any vocation I suppose, was difficult. How should a person evaluate the options? How can one discern the leadership of the Holy Spirit? I used three questions to help me work through the decision I faced.

Question 1: Have I finished the work I was called to do in my present position?
Or to put it another way, have I accomplished what I was supposed to accomplish? Notice the question is not, “Have I done everything I can do?” There’s ALWAYS more that can be done! No, this question is more about gut than to do lists. There comes a point when you realize that you’ve accomplished the main objective that you were supposed to accomplish.

When that happens for me personally, I experience what mystics will call “a sense of release.” Being “released” is the awareness that the burden and calling that brought you to the present position has been removed by God. I don’t want to over simplify it, but it is the conscious recognition that you’re finished. This may even happen prior to an invitation to a new opportunity. When you sense that you’ve been “released,” your attention needs to heighten for the next thing that God is preparing for you. If you haven’t sensed God’s release from your position, it might be that you need to re-engage with what is before you. You may be closer to a break through than you think!

Question 2: Am I called to the new opportunity?
I don’t think its healthy to leave a position to escape problems or adversity. When you leave because of problems you usually just transfer the same issues to the new position. After all, when you run away you take you with you. When you have a sense of release from a position then you’re free to explore the new opportunity based on its own merit. You go forward to a position rather than go from a position. “To” and “from” are basic prepositions that we use multiple times every day. But when it comes to making a change, the difference is immeasurable.

Question 3: Is my family on board with the transition?
I grew up in a pastor’s home, so I know the implications of making transitions in ministry from a kid’s perspective. In my personal career, I’ve never made a change without the full support of my wife. I’ve also done my best to consider my children and to take into consideration their best. During the past year I’ve had several inquiries from churches, each which would have required an out of state move. After considering this third question, however, I recognize that each of those changes would have required some significant sacrifices by and potential risks to my family. It became, in effect, a “deal breaker.”

You may have your own set of questions that you consider as you evaluate a transition. These questions have helped me so I share them with you today. They aren’t limited to ministry changes. Anyone considering a potential career change or job transition can benefit from these diagnostic questions.


When God Speaks

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In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,  to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.  Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”  Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”  The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.  What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God.”  Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
(Luke 1:26-38, NLT)

It was in the quiet routine of the ordinary that the angel appeared to Mary. Mary, who was probably around the age of 14, was engaged in life as she knew it. It would not have been uncommon for a young Jewish girl to have plenty of regular household duties. It is not beyond reason that a young girl like Mary would work in the fields. In addition to her many responsibilities, she would have been preparing for her marriage to a young man named Joseph.

One of Mary’s becoming qualities is faithfulness. There were and still are plenty of people who are faithful for the sake of noteriety. But Mary would not have had any means of being the center of the public eye. She was faithful to God in ways and in places that people would never see, hear, or know.

Her character and faithfulness garnered the attention of heaven’s throne. She would be selected to live the dream of every Jewish girl that age:  to be the “God-bearer.” In the midst of her faithfulness God watched, then spoke.

Mary’s story stands in contrast to what I see, hear, and read people do to get heaven’s attention. It’s as though we have tried to develop processes that guarantee God’s visitation to our lives. We need to be reminded that we cannot manipulate God, nor can we conjure God’s voice through formulas. We must trust that if God could find Mary in her quiet obedience, He can certainly find us right where we are.

After all, God found Abram in Ur, Joseph in prison, Moses in Midian, David on a Judean hillside, and Peter, James, and John in a fishing boat.

God speaks to faithful people in their faithfulness. Mary is a wonderful example of one who was tuned in to God’s voice. She lived in anticipation and readiness. When God spoke, she heard and responded. And when God speaks, He changes the world.

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Seeking God’s Will?

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Perhaps no other question is more frequently asked than how to discover God’s will. Certainly it’s an important question, because God does have a will. If God has a will, then we have a significant responsibility to discover it and live in compliance with it. But before a person goes through the steps of discerning God’s will, I think its important to first of all discover what the Bible has already said about the matter. The reason this is important is that people waste a lot of time fretting over looking for answers to questions concerning things that God has already gone on record about.

Think about whatever it is that you’re concerned about. Is your concern really a question of legitimately needing God’s will and direction? Or do you need to simply obey what God has already said? If you’re “seeking the will of God,” hoping that his “will” will come in contrary to the Bible, you’re wasting your time. Obey. That’s the will of God for your life.

Categories : God's Will, Obedience, Obey
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