Follow the Leader

By following God and learning more about what God thinks is just for our lives we are able to discover his day to day will.

You know what I like to do? Pray for God’s will.

I pray for God’s will all the time about, well, almost everything. When I am registering for classes, contemplating relationships or even just taking a test. For a while I was starting to think I was a pretty good Christian, after all, I was getting pretty good at saying “Lord, your will, not mine.”

Don’t get me wrong, praying for God’s will is great. I think that praying for God’s will has made a great impact in my life and that I’m where I am today (which is a pretty dang sweet place) because God has opened the doors for me to get here. When I’m praying for God’s will, I mean it.

But for a long time I’ve treated God’s will as a destination, something I was searching for.

The more I learn about God and the way he has called us to live, the more I understand that God’s will is more than that.

It’s something we listen for. It’s something we learn. It’s the way we live our day to day life.

God’s will is more than who we are going to marry or what city we live in. God’s will is choosing to serve on a Thursday afternoon. The “plan for us to prosper” isn’t just a happy ending, it’s a reputation that we develop as we work to be more like Christ.

In Philippians 1:9-11 it says

 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

By following God and learning more about what He thinks is just for our lives, we are able to discover his day to day will. By following the One who created the will, we are able to make the choices that lead us to the right cross roads. Through acts of love, justice and mercy we are able to live lives that bring glory to God.

We can’t just ask for the destination, we have to follow the Leader and the directions He gives us.

So as this semester heats up and we are moving towards another time of transition, decision making and crossroads, I pray that we’ll seek God’s instructions. Not only for the big picture, but also for routine. Then we are able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless.

So that our lives are filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. So that our lives bring glory and praise to God.

Center of the Scene

God first.

Then Family.

Then School.

Then Friends.

That was the order my life was supposed to follow. I have always been told that your time should be poured out in that order. The problem is that this is really, really hard to practically do as a student. Nothing in my life follows a recipe or a schedule anymore. I am making a thanksgiving dinner in drive thru timing. Some days I spend 3 hours playing Risk and somedays I spend 8 hours in the library. Balancing time and commitments is harder than I could have ever imagined. I imagine that as I get older and add my kids, job, and spouse into the mix it isn’t going to get any easier.

How can I keep God at the top of that list when most of the time I just need his strength to get to my 9 AM? How can I keep family above friends when I live with my best friends and my family lives an hour away? How can I keep school below God when I spend hours working for good grades and forget to read my bible so much it is embarrassing? If the rest of my life takes 12 hours a day how can I possibly match that with the effort I put into my relationship with Christ?

This morning my whole perspective was changed when our lead pastor at The Net Church, Ryan May, explained the way we should focus our lives. He showed us a picture of the nativity scene. In the center was baby Jesus in the manger. Jesus was next to his parents, wisemen on one side, shepherds on the other, and of course the animals were scattered around the scene. He said this scene is how we should model our lives. God was there in the center of our lives with everything looking at Him.

The thing that is in the center of our lives should be what is most important to us and where we take our cues from. The center of our life will be what tells us whether things are going to be ok in the future, whether we should be happy or anxious, and how we should behave. We look to that center to make the decisions that effect the rest of our lives. Having Christ in the center of our lives, as we know, means that we will not be anxious, that we will have joy, and that we will love others.

We have to be careful to not replace Christ with any of the other things in our lives, even the good things like family or friends. When we put family in the center, we let our families dictate how we feel or what we do. We put our parents or spouses’ will for our lives above what God’s will is. When we let our friends be the center we seek their approval above God’s approval and unconditional love. Things that fail can’t be at the center of our lives, it just doesn’t work that way.

My life doesn’t work as a list. Family, friendships, school, and service are all equally important to me and without them I wouldn’t be who I am. Above all of those things, at the center of who I am, is Christ. He is there to tell me who I need to be and what I am supposed to do. He tells me how to be a part of my family and reminds me of their importance. He rejoices when my friendships strengthen my faith and help me grow as a person. He teaches me about the plans he has for my future in my studies. He shows me his love for the world when I serve.

Bible study is important, but I learn so much more from God when I don’t limit him to what he can teach me through daily devotion. I live my life for Christ when I put him in the center of it all and take my cues from him. I have the Holy Spirit in me and it serves as a constant reminder that God is with me at all times.

I don’t have to exclude the good things in my life to make time for God. They are all there. A part of the scene of my life. They have a place. It just isn’t the center.

 

Expectations are the Thief of Joy

Expect more from your expectations.

Here it is. The first day. You wake up excited to get started on your new adventure. You look extra nice. You take the time to do your hair. It is going to be different this time.

But when you get there, something goes wrong. He doesn’t open your door. The boss treats you like you just graduated from first grade. Your hall smells like ramen in the worst possible way. All of the sudden things aren’t as great as you expected and your excitement turns into dread.

When we set up expectations of how something is going to go, we set ourselves up for disappointment. By fantasizing about an ideal world where everything goes our way we allow our hopes to become the reality. Reality, however, can never be perfect. Just like I wrote in my last post, excellence is possible, but perfection is unachievable.

I don’t know about you, but I have a wild imagination and I love planning. That makes avoiding expectations almost impossible. I love new beginnings because of all the possibilities and new outcomes. How could I not think about how great things could be? I have to come up with some kind of replacement for expectations.

You can give up expectations when you give over your planning to God. This is one of those solutions that is simple, but not necessarily easy. We know that God has the best plan for our lives and that when we give him control he will always do what is best for us. That doesn’t mean that it won’t take a daily surrender to Him.

In Jeremiah 29 it says,”‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.” 

We know that God has plans for our lives. That is the expectation that we should carry in our hearts. We should expect that God is in control and that by trusting in him, we are living the life he is calling us to. When there are bumps along the way we can call on God and he will show himself to us. By replacing our own expectations with the expectation that God is working in our lives we can find hope in any circumstance.