Knowing God’s Will

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. 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. Romans 12:1-2

I’ve read this passage hundreds of times.  I love this passage.  But, I was convicted by it in a new way this week.  Often, I’ve dissected the verses and just pulled out part instead of seeing it as a whole. I’d focus on the renewing of the mind or our spiritual act of worship. What I realized this week as I prepared for my Sunday morning Bible study was that the first part of the verses are very much connected to the end – determining God’s will. Simplified, it’s a cause and effect relationship.

It seems obvious to get that point. Live a life pleasing to God, don’t be influenced by the world, and we’ll be able to know and follow God’s will. But, in times of seeking God’s direction, I’ve often missed this very point. 

Because I have a plethora of ideas brewing in my mind at any time, I struggle with direction sometimes. What should I do next? I can’t tackle them all at once, so where do I start?  That’s where the prayer and seeking comes in.  Yet, at times, I sense no real direction.  So, am I just supposed to pick one and move forward?  Or, am I supposed to wait until I have clarity? 

Perhaps I’ve been my own stumbling block. In my efforts to seek His direction, I sometimes forget His primary desire for me – to live a life pleasing to Him. I forget to offer every part of myself to Him. I let worldly desires creep in. I become so focused on what I’m doing instead of focused on Him. 

These verses served as a wake-up call for me this week. I have some tidying up to do in my daily life and thoughts. I’m thankful for the new insight, because now I can focus on what matters most: Him.  As I do, I’m certain that my steps will come into focus at just the right time.

I pray that if you find yourself in a place of wondering what’s the next step in life that you’ll take the time to consider Romans 12:1-2 and see if there’s any work to be done.  May God’s grace and mercy wash over you as you do and bring cleansing and clarity to the lens of life.

The Ultimate Guide to Life

Much of my time and energy is spent trying to figure out what God wants me to do.  Perhaps this sounds strange, but I’m one of those people who is always thinking and processing.  I also run a small speaking and writing ministry so I feel the need to have a plan.  There are business bills to pay, requests to grant, and projects to complete. At the same time, I have a gazillion ideas swirling around in my head and a genuine desire to serve the Lord. The result: praying, planning and plotting… and times of frustration.

But, today I experienced an important reminder.

God will direct my steps when I entrust them to Him.  How do I know?  Well, His word tells me so. And, I lived it today.  Right in the middle of my every day, ordinary life, I had the chance to minister to at least two people. There were no prior thoughts or planning.  The opportunities simply appeared – directly in my path.  Once at Kroger as a hurting employee shared her worries. And once through a series of events that resulted in a stranger calling me – a stranger who had recently experienced the death of a daughter.  A stranger who stated that she was struggling with her faith.  A stranger who needed to be encouraged. 

In those moments, I responded and I was blessed.  I was renewed, refreshed and encouraged.  I needed the reminder that the plans for my life aren’t some big mystery that God plants and then leaves me to figure out.  Instead, I just need to walk with Him one day at a time.  He’ll show me what to do. He’ll open doors and opportunities.  I can relax and trust Him to point the way.

Where are you today? Perhaps you’re like me and always trying to help God along with His plans.  Or maybe you fall to the other end of the spectrum and are oblivious to the ways that God is working around you.  We’ve probably found ourselves in both places (and somewhere in between) at some point in our lives.  Let’s remember that God has a plan for each of us.  And He will shine light on the path in due time.  We can relax and enjoy the beauty of the day and the journey when we exercise trust in Him.  He doesn’t want our striving and struggling.  He wants hearts and hands are that are ready and willing.

My challenge for each of us today is that instead of offering God our abilities that we give Him the gift of our availability.  He’ll use us for His glory when we do.

Recalculating

Traveling with a group is fun.  We were filled with excitement and on our way to an evening promising good times with Natalie Grant and Chonda Pierce.  I was excited to be out with a group of adult women. No kids. No husband. No responsibility. Just the girls.

OK, so there was one little responsibility.  I was one of the drivers. I had co-pilots though to help me along. It wasn’t long though before we encountered our first navigational mishap. However, it was minor and we even managed to arrive at our destination before our other travelers in spite of our “detour.”

As we left dinner, we were headed to the main event.  Approximately one hour from home, I was familiar with the area, but it very general terms.  So, I activated the GPS on my phone. (Note: This was a first for me.) Likewise, one of my co-pilots input the data into her phone.

And that’s where the story goes downhill.

Her GPS and my GPS, both audibly giving commands, did not agree.  They had their own ideas about which way we should be going.  Then there was the driver in the car behind me, also part of our group.  I could see in my rear view mirror that she wanted me to turn left.  Only, my GPS did not agree with her either, so I continued a little further where I could turn around and get my bearings.  Meanwhile, some helpful directions echoed from the backseat.   

Overloaded with instructions, I wanted  — no, needed – to find the nearest parking spot. All I could hear were competing instructions.

This lane.

Turn left.

Not at this light.

Do a U-turn.

Turn right.

Pull in there.

Keep going this way.

Exasperated, I pulled over.  By then, everyone following (yes, I was leading the group of vehicles) had deserted me. Gone. Actually, I was relieved because I felt like an idiot and didn’t want to subject them to driving around in circles while I figured out what I was doing on this traffic filled street.

Recalculating – my brain, that is!

All was quiet and I could regroup. Fortunately, I had a car full of patient and forgiving riders.  We eventually laughed – they sooner than I.

As I reflected on what went wrong, it was clear that I had too much input from outside sources.  Most of it was conflicting and I was left to sort out the confusion.

Oh, how my life can be like this at times, especially when I’m struggling to make a decision. I call a friend, ask my husband, and start praying.  Sometimes, I even start looking for signs or let God know that if He could just send me a quick email or text I’d appreciate it.  I might read some books, try to Google something helpful in making the decision or even make a list of pros and cons.  But the reality is, I typically find my answer (or it finds me) in those quiet moments with God.

Quiet moments with God… they don’t happen often enough because usually I’m too busy talking to God and not listening.  Maybe that sounds strange to you.  Maybe you’re wondering what I’d hear if I took the time to listen.  It’s not an audible voice, but He does speak.  He brings to mind a verse.  Or He gives me a new thought that I hadn’t considered. He gives me clarity and peace.  It happens in a variety of ways, but I’m always reminded that His ways are best.  I’m reminded to seek Him because He’s interested in the big and small things of my life.  I’m reminded that He can be trusted to direct my path. 

I pray that you, too, seek Him for guidance, direction, and answers.  I pray that you stop to listen and then delight in His response. His ways are best – never conflicting, never misleading.  His ways will lead us to our destination.  I hope you enjoy the view along the way.

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer. Psalm 17:6