God’s will

Work Where God Placed You

green leaf trees under blue sky

Jonah 3:10, When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Jonah 4:1-3, But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

John 4:4, But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Work Where God Placed You

I don’t know which side of the political aisle you stand. I don’t want to know. However, my question to you is this: If God told you to join the other side and do His work inside that party’s camp, would you do it? Would you do it if you knew that God would extend compassion to that political party?

That is basically what Jonah faced and what drove Jonah to flee God and to become livid when God changed the hearts of the people of Nineveh. Jonah certainly had a tough assignment. To be told to go to an evil society. To tell them that God was going to punish them, knowing that God would change their hearts. That they would repeat and make Jonah look like a false prophet. That was Jonah’s assignment. Ouch!

Don’t look at others’ fields and say in your heart, that’s where I should be. Don’t say in your heart, “I would be better.” Don’t waste your prayers pleading with God to put you in the place you want to be, that you thought you would be. Don’t allow bitterness to displace gentleness. Don’t run from God; don’t hinder God’s work in you. God called you for a purpose. His timing and His place may not align with your agenda but our purpose in God’s kingdom is to do His will.

A People, A Place, and a Purpose

God calls every Christian, and He chose you and called you for a purpose. He has a people, a place, and a purpose for each of His children, including you, if you are His child.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:10

Your life will never make sense until you receive the Father’s beloved Son, yield to the yoke that Jesus has personally crafted for you (Matthew 11:29), and entered the field which He has prepared for you. Don’t be a tone-deaf musician, an inarticulate teacher, a clumsy craftsman. Rejoice in the work that was prepared for you before you were even born.

God’s Heavenly Call

Allow the radiance of Christ Jesus (Hebrews 1:3), through the abiding Holy Spirit (John 14:17), to shine from you and upon those around you. Allow no hate, no malice, no discontent to discredit the work Christ is doing through you. If your Master has called you to weave baskets or build bridges, do it all unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). If He has called you to go into the enemy’s camp, then go. For there is a day on God’s heavenly calendar when you will stand before Him and give an account of what you did with your life (Acts 17:31). Don’t let your answer be, “I buried it.” (Matthew 25:18) Instead, do your Master’s work so that you will hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into thy rest.” (Matthew 25:21)

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Qualifications

graduate from college

Each person that God calls, He calls for a purpose. God is not subject to times or circumstances. So, if He has called you then He has already gathered the provisions for you. Neither man nor virus can stop the will of God.

You may say, all around me are problems that seem to block God’s call upon my life. What am I to do? Recall what God said to Moses:

The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” – Exodus 4:2

Stop and look at what God has placed in your hands. God placed a staff in the hand of Moses to overcome an insurmountable obstacle (Exodus 14:16). God put a horn of oil in the hand of Samuel (1 Samuel 16:13) to anoint Israel’s new king while King Saul was still on the throne. And God put Elijah’s cloak in the hands of Elisha (2 Kings 2:14) while a group of prophets watched him to see if God was really with him. So, pray, ask God what He has placed in your hands? Ask Him to anoint your gift as He anointed the gifts given to Moses, Samuel, and Elisha. God will make a way for you where there is no way.

No doubt, many of us are familiar with Isaiah 42:8 (ESV) – “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” We know that where God guides, He provides. Many of us know the testimonies of Andraé Crouch, who God instantly gave the ability to play piano for his dad’s church and that God also, instantly, gave the gift for playing the piano to Annie Herring (2nd Chapter of Acts). But those people are the exceptions.

The Responsibility Rests on You

God usually puts the responsibility squarely on us to act in faith and develop the qualifications we need to meet the call He places upon us. That’s the reason for Christian universities, seminaries, medical schools, and such. God places His call upon us, but He typically requires us to acquire the qualifications. We see qualifications recognized in Christ’s parable of the talents.

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.” – Matthew 25:14-15 (ESV)

The servants didn’t get the same opportunity or responsibility but were given “according to his ability.” Ability implies talent, training, and time, otherwise known as qualifications. We are not born with skills. God gives talent, but skill is talent that has been refined and perfected over time. As God’s Word states in 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV): “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” By saying “do your best,” the Holy Spirit shows us that our effort is measured by God.

Making it Personal

Even while you are preparing for God’s purpose for you, there is no substitute for spending time with Him. Praying to the Father in the name of Jesus under the unction of the Holy Spirit is the only way for you to journey from talent to the skill that God has called you to. Don’t believe anyone that tells you that there is a shortcut.

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Destined for Greatness?

China's terra-cotta army

“Spend it now ’cause you can’t take it with you.” That’s an old but accurate colloquialism. Many cultures in the past didn’t understand such a simple idea.

We’ve read about the terra-cotta army buried with China’s First Emperor as an afterlife guard. And we’ve learned, countless times, about the gold artifacts buried with Egyptian pharaohs. Of course, we can’t leave out the Celtic burial sites, such as the one in France holding a gold cauldron. The fascinating thing is that when we look in these tombs that are thousands of years old, we discover a skeleton and all of the items buried with them. None of them were able to retrieve a single thing after their deaths.

Destined for Greatness

Like emperors, pharaohs, and Celtic warriors, we each face a day when we will die. The Bible says it this way:  And just as it is appointed for people to die once–and after this, judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.Hebrews 9:27-28.

For all of us, any wealth we’ve accumulated has no eternal value. Why? Because “many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21

We each feel like we are unique and that we are destined for greatness. In Christ Jesus, that is true. When we live for Him, then the words of Ephesians 2:10 are at work within us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has prepared a purpose for each of us. He sees who we should be, and, for Christians, He builds us up to become those people; that’s true greatness.

The Chasm Between “Should” and “Might”

It’s a different story for people that reject Jesus. For them, God sees who they should be, but they can only see who they might be. There’s a chasm between “should” and “might.” “Should” means that His prepared works for you are not just possible but, by God’s power, they are achievable. “Might” means that perhaps, if you catch a few breaks and work hard, you might become who you envision, but all of that will end when you die. You can be buried with your guitar, but it will stay in the casket while you go on to judgment.

Jesus told us to do the things that have eternal value. He said it this way: “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.” – Matthew 6:19–20

Transformation

My good news for you is that, as you obey the commands of Jesus (John 14:15), God will transform you into the person you should be. Now that’s exciting!

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Beauty

baby-shoes

God does not do anything in haste. When He acts, He creates beauty. He is unconstrained by dimensions or time or space, or human opinion or expectations or prejudices. His measure of success is that His will has been done, and His will is always done (Isaiah 55:11).

The thing that God impressed on me today, as I was praying, was that His work is always beautiful. We may not see the beauty. It may take 1,000 years before any son or daughter of Adam perceives its beauty. Perhaps, no child of Creation will even discover the beauty God has placed in His work, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for it, for it is always there. Great tragedy can still contain beauty, for, on God’s timeline, tragedy lasts for a moment, but the beauty of God’s fulfillment will last for eternity.

God Creates Beauty Through His Children

This truth of God is at work within all believers. John 15:16-17, “You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. 17 “This is what I command you: Love one another.

Exodus 28:2And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.

Psalms 50:2Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.

Isaiah 53:2You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Romans 8:28Let’s be slow to judge “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

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Why Pray?

person praying with hands on a Bible

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1)” This is how Jesus began what we know as the opening to the 14th chapter of the book of John. 

You may rightly ask, “How can our hearts not be troubled when the whole world seems to be upside down?” But before you even ask this question, you already know the answer. We can find solace in Jesus, and we do find comfort in the very next statement that Jesus made. In John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” 

Not Our Final Destination

Thankfully, this world is not our final destination. In this world, we will have troubles. Jesus told us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) “

Now you may wonder, “why pray” if it’s inevitable that we will have troubles. I’m glad you wondered that. 😉

Jesus taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Jesus taught us to ask, to seek, and to knock (Matthew 7:7–8) so that we might receive good gifts from our Father in heaven. And Jesus taught us to be persistent in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). Therefore, God’s will is for us to pray and for Him to answer prayers. Within the sovereign will of God, there are actions that He will only do if a person or a people ask it of Him.

Join In

It’s rather staggering to consider. We come before the God of all creation to ask Him to intervene in situations, and if we ask within His will, He does! That is unfathomable love. Let’s not miss any opportunities to ask God for His help.

If you wonder how to pray, there’s a great answer on GotQuestions.org.

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A Lesson From My Sears Guitar

kid playing guitar

I learned to play guitar when I was in grade school. My parents doubted my commitment, thinking it an interest that would soon pass, like my love for school. They bought me the least expensive guitar that Sears carried. I’m confident Sears gave the guitar to my parents, just to get rid of it. With that Sears guitar in hand, my dad said, “Teach yourself to play a hymn, and I’ll get you a better guitar.” That was like saying, “Win the Indy 500 in this VW Bug, and I’ll buy you a real car!”

The strings on my new guitar were nearly impossible for my young fingers to press down to form a note – “a” musical note and chords were impossible. Since this was way before the Internet, the only guitar information I had was a booklet that came with my Sears acoustic. So every day after school I’d go to my bedroom and try to figure out how to read music and how to make my guitar play those notes. Having at least a modicum of musical talent would have helped.

Show Time!

Finally, the day came when I was confident. Dad got home, Mom finished up in the kitchen, and then I said I wanted to show them something. With my track record, those were frightening words to my folks! They both sat down on the sofa, braced themselves, and stared at me; I don’t blame them.

I ran to my bedroom and ran back into the living room with a hymnal and my guitar. I don’t remember which hymn I chose; no doubt, I’ve blocked it from my memory. Anyway, I played the hymn all the way through including each verse, note perfect’ ish. By the end, my fingers were bleeding; that week, Dad rented an electric guitar and amplifier, and signed me up for lessons – the horrid sound of that Sears guitar was a real blessing!

Wait, you’re writing about fasting?

So what does this narcissistic story have to do with fasting? Before I answer, let’s read what Jesus said about fasting.

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward…” Matthew 6:16

Jesus said, “when you fast,” not “if you fast.” He left us no elbow room. Fasting should be part of every Christian’s life. For those celebrating Lent, your fasting and abstinence from meat are already underway; I’m proud of you! For others, fasting and/or abstinence may be a new or atypical aspect of your walk with Jesus.

Fasting doesn’t need to be total self-denial of food. In fact, that can be dangerous or impossible for many people. The self-denial of food (i.e., fasting) is something you must discuss with your family doctor before trying it.

We each need to pray and ask Jesus to show us the things that have control over us. Food, TV, video games, shopping, and so forth; things that aren’t sin until they are. From your list allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to one and fast it. How long? It’s between you and Jesus.

Why Fast?

Why fast? Well, there is that directive from Jesus we just read. Also, fasting is intended to help us hear from God. We don’t change His will by fasting, and we don’t fast to lose weight. We fast to carve out more time for us to spend in prayer and to draw closer to our God.

Oh, how does the story about my first guitar fit with fasting? Well, learning on that Sears guitar was really difficult and really painful, but I didn’t care. I was learning something I loved; I still play. Like the Sears guitar, fasting is something that can be difficult and uncomfortable, but those annoyances pale in comparison to what we gain from walking more closely with Jesus.

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My Beloved Son

elderly hands folded in prayer

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:16-17 ESV

Prayer is a Healing Activity

Prayer is a healing activity for us. As believers, we pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But when we get alone with God (Matthew 6:6) and pray to the Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, hears us, consoles us, and acts on our behalf.

As part of our healing, before we pray, we need to settle any matter where someone has something against us (Matthew 5:23). As we enter into prayer, we believe that God is and that He answers prayers (James 1:6), knowing that “if we worship God and do His will, God listens to us (John 9:31).

Preparing for Prayer

Entering prayer, we draw near to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). We are entering our prayer time with confidence (1 John 5:14-15). We give thanks to God (Matthew 6:9-13). We confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9 ) and forgive anyone that has wronged us (Mark 11:25). As we pray, we should take time to be at peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

We Ask

Praying, we go before our Father, praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18 ). We pray on behalf of others that are in need (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We ask our Father for spiritual things, material things, emotional things, human things. We ask because our God has told us to ask (Matthew 7:7) and we remember that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)

We pray to our Father, trusting that the Spirit leads us as we pray, and we know that Jesus is our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5 ) between our humanity and God’s divinity. Most importantly, we pray for the will of Jesus, our Lord. That is what Jesus meant when He taught us to pray in the name of Jesus (John 14:13).

God’s Beloved Son

So, whether we begin our prayer in the name of Jesus or close our prayer in His name, when bringing His name before our Father, I think it’s good to acknowledge that our petitions are in the name of God’s beloved Son (Matthew 3:17).

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God Is In Control

cockpit of airplane

I was reading a commentary about the birth of Jesus and Herod’s attempt to find Jesus and kill Him, and this statement jumped out at me: Thus are the very errors and crimes and cold indifferences of men all overruled.” Isn’t that encouraging? We know that Jesus and His family did escape Herod’s trap. As God’s Word states, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Beyond The Pale

The pervasive pettiness that permeates our institutions is beyond the pale. Treachery and vile accusations have always been go-to tools for those that have no fear of God. My statement is not specific to politics, for I see this problem within both the public and private sectors. Nevertheless, it is heartening that schemers can make their plans, but it is God’s will that prevails. We see this in James 4:13-15

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Be at peace, for God is in control.

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Pray God's Will

Many times when I have a need, or I intercede for someone, I first talk with Jesus. He has been hungry, thirsty, tired, ridiculed, and rejected. He understands me. So I may take a few minutes or several days with Jesus for talking, listening, and discerning before I am ready to take my request to God, our Father.

I do these things because of John 16:23 (ESV),“In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” Regarding John 16:23, MacLaren’s Expositions states, “Our Lord here sums up the prerogatives and privileges of His servants in the day that was about to dawn and to last till He came again.

You see, if I’m going to pray in Jesus’ name, it only seems right for me to be sure that He agrees with that for which I’m asking. Using His name is serious business. While I’m preparing to go before our heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit, who abides within me, guides me, and I receive the confidence that I will pray God’s will. If I pray God’s will, whatever I ask in the name of Jesus shall be accomplished.

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Stay or Go?

A childhood memory popped into my head as I prepared to write this devotional.

When I was a boy, I lived on a farm. It was a small farm, but to a young child it was my world. A world to be explored, studied, conquered and be conquered. My imaginary adventures took place on that land of woods, pasture, field, and home.

One summer day, a black and white collie happened upon my domain. Instantly I could tell that the dog was poorly cared for. His coat was full of burrs and other prickly things. The hapless dog’s fur was overgrown and matted. I had never seen an animal in such a pitiful state.

Though I thought that sad specimen of a collie needed me, when I approached him he ran away. Days or weeks later I spotted the collie a few houses down the road from home. 

He appeared to live at that place. Why didn’t he leave? His life couldn’t be worse. It seemed so odd to me.

Wasted by Familiar

This memory got me thinking about how easy it is to let ourselves waste away in familiar situations. Certainly, there are times when it is God’s will for us to represent Jesus in woeful environments. And there are times when it’s God’s will to be wasted for Jesus. I wrote a devotional about being wasted for the Lord.

Still, I know people that God called to be missionaries, but they didn’t go. They stayed in their familiar world, like that poor collie, rather than launch out into a life of faith. A life that God’s heart had crafted for them.

Missionary is just an example. God may be calling on you to advance your education, open a business, or teach. The question is the same as that collie faced: stay or go. If God says “stay”, then rejoice in God’s will. If God says “go” then go, you’ve got a great adventure ahead of you. As 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

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