God and Decision Making

Many years ago, I had a friend I was working with who was presented with two opportunities. He prayed. He invited others to pray with him. We talked many times. But in all the prayer and discussion, my friend was left feeling like he hadn’t heard from God. He became paralyzed by anxiety because he wanted to make the right decision. He scoffed at the idea that maybe God was allowing him freedom and that there wasn’t one right decision. I had a client who was in the process of choice and made the statement that “if it is easy, then it is God’s will.” We had a lot of conversation about that falsehood of that statement, but it is a common way to think about God’s will. Many times we treat God like a genie in a bottle. Saving having him part of the decision making process until we are at a crossroad or crisis. Then we demand that God’s intervention be instantaneous and obvious. We don’t like to wait. Other times, we make a decision that suits us and then turn back and invite God to join us. A classic example of this is when Abraham and Sarah decided to fulfill God’s promises through having Hagar be a surrogate mother. They had made the promise a higher value than the One who made the promise. Paul highlights the problem we have in discerning God’s will in Romans 12:2: 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...

Wholeness and Expectations of God

We live in a world that view wholeness as circumstantial. In place of the word wholeness, we have learned to substitute happiness or comfort. So, being complete is not a state of being, but rather an emotional state. When we bring this view into our relationship with Jesus who is the source of our wholeness, we then place the mantle of responsibility for our circumstances upon his shoulders. In our minds the shift may be subtle or not so subtle. If Jesus loves me, then the things in my life should be ok; everything should work out fine. Whether we apply to mindset to parenting, our jobs, healing, addiction, the state of our relational life, the growth of our church or ministry, etc., we have made our devotion completely conditional. In return for our faithfulness, we expect God to restore our circumstances so that we can be happy. Instead of conforming to the image of Christ, we would rather add Jesus to who we already are. Just enough Jesus sprinkled in to make things work out. But, what happens when things don’t ‘work out’? How do we respond when Jesus does not enable our false sense of identity? Frustration with God. Accusing God of withholding what we know is best for us. This may lead to an epic wrestling match with God for control. Questioning God’s presence. We pray for band-aids. God does not enable our false self. Many times what we deem unanswered prayer is God leading us to a deeper awareness. Living in anxiety. If my circumstances are not changing or something bad does happen, does that mean...

Hating this Life

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. – John 12:25 As Jesus is preparing his disciples for his upcoming sacrifice and resurrection, he describes what a follower of his looks like. Like a grain of wheat, that must fall to the ground and die in order to bear fruit. A follower of the Christ must be willing do die to the false self in order to begin to experience the blessing of new life. We must all be willing to go through the same Paschal transformation in this life that Jesus stepped into through the cross. But within this passage, Jesus also uses a contrast between one who loves his life and one who hates his life in this world. He likens the grain of wheat that dies to one who hates his life in this world. What does it mean to hate this life? Is it a sin to enjoy a sunset? To delight in a good meal? Look forward to sexual intimacy with our spouse? Does this teaching mean we are to avoid things that are pleasurable? Must the one who follows Christ become an ascetic – abstaining from all forms of pleasure or enjoyment? Historically, this is just what some have done. Practicing asceticism, moving to the wilderness, living in isolation and in intentionally hard circumstances to avoid enjoyment. Yet, we see a lot of this in our churches too. Not that it would be called asceticism, but those whose mindset is that to experience happiness is spiritual weakness. But Judaism is filled with...

Praying for the Storm

I live in the land of hurricane season. This year we had a couple of very active weeks that saw several hurricanes pass very close by and one slow-moving storm that took a path directly up the center of the state of Florida. Watching hurricane tracking charts is very emotionally draining. A refrain that becomes common is such seasons – particularly as the storm bears down on your location – is to offer prayers and hopes that the eye of the storm will change directions and follow a new path. But, the more I thought about this line of reasoning, the more unsettled I felt. At the most basic level, I was praying that the storm would move on and hit someone else. This was not prayer that was offered in humility with Christ at its center. Such desires had me at the center. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that so many of my prayers and the prayer requests I see from others have the same misplaced center. Little thought is given to the implications for others, instead I ask God to ensure my comfort, security, and affirmation. Such requests of God are rooted in the false self. Christ in the garden faced a storm and asked for another way. But His prayer did not end there. Almost immediately He offered “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus returned to the proper center for His prayers – the Father. We hate storms. With good reason. But, good can happen in the storms of life. They can help us release our...

Seeing Jesus

It is election season. From things I’ve read, if Jesus were alive today, He would support every political candidate. Or at least that is the case people make. There is a proliferation of bumper stickers saying that “Jesus is an environmentalist” or “Jesus is a capitalist” or some other such identification. Many churches teach their opinions as if they were doctrines of Jesus. Things like kids must be home-schooled or that some standards of discipleship are old-fashioned. Here is the truth: we view Jesus through the lens of what builds up our false sense of self. We want Jesus to affirm the things from which we are seeking value. Thus, we don’t see Jesus as He actually is, we see a Jesus created in our own image. Jesus did not come to affirm our broken philosophies, He came to show the world the love of the Father. When we make Jesus in our image, that leads to division rather than unity, condemnation rather than acceptance, and judgment rather than forgiveness. Jesus was concerned that we do two things: love God and love people. Loving God is about rooting our full sense of identity in Him. Loving people is a fruit of the freedom that source of identity provides. Where loving God and people conflicts with our desires we are to abandon our self. In what ways does Jesus look more like you rather than you looking more like Jesus? ————————————————— I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and...

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