The Only Way You Can Do God’s Will

I can’t.

Our culture despises those two little words. Hatred for weakness and inadequacy is why we tell our kids never to say, “I can’t.” It’s why we love the inspiring words of Thomas the Tank Engine: “Yes, you can!” The belief that we’re capable of anything, if we set our minds to it, pervades our worldview.

This “I-can” mentality also colors our reading of Scripture, specifically how we understand and respond to God’s commands. If we aren’t careful, we’ll be deceived into thinking we’ve “got this” apart from the power of the gospel motivating and empowering us.

When God’s Will Is Impossible

Consider a familiar passage. Many of us can recite it from memory. It’s one of the few answers we give to the common question, “What is God’s will for my life?” We affirm it—

But struggle to apply it:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

God couldn’t be clearer: His will for his people is a life steeped in rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving! We never have to wonder if we’re on the right and godly path with these actions. They are God’s will for us. Yet—

They’re some of the most difficult commands to obey.

Think about it:

  • Why does God command us to “rejoice always”? Because it’s more natural for us to grumble and complain about our circumstances than to see God’s character and purposes at work in them.
  • Why does he tell us to “pray without ceasing”? Because, in an age of distraction and entertainment, it’s easier to give our focus and time to nothingness, wasting it on self-centered, temporary pleasures, than to give ourselves to eternal, Kingdom matters.
  • And what about his command to “give thanks”? We usually forget or refuse to because, somewhere deep within our hearts, we fail to remember that everything is a gift from God. We think we’re entitled to what we want and deserve an easy life.

Friends, I’m preaching to myself here. I often fail to fulfill God’s will in these particular commands. I’d rather complain about what he hasn’t given me than praise him for what he has; and I’d more quickly scroll social media for the umpteenth time than set aside what feeds my pride for the prayerfulness that will expose it. Turns out these basic commands to do God’s will are much harder to obey than they seem.

Yes, on our own, obedience to God is impossible. We need his help and power, secured for us through our union with Christ, to do his will.

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On Mothering with Chronic Pain

Since being diagnosed with Lyme disease about four years ago, my body has been in a daily wrestling match with chronic pain. Some days are easier than others, but my pains are usually present in some degree. Though we have every reason to believe the Lyme is gone (praise God for modern medicine!), as my husband and I often say, “The war is won, but the city is ravaged.”

The disease left me weak, and my body has rebuilding to do.

Two years ago, my Lyme doctor gave us clearance to try to conceive. This clearance came after years of strong warnings against conception because the risks were too high. We rejoiced at this good news: My immune system was strong enough, and my body was healed enough, to try to have a child!

Yet—  

I didn’t know if I could be a mom. In fact, I shrunk back at the possibility. When we were contemplating our newfound freedom to pursue children, the thought struck fear in my heart: There’s no way I can be a mom. I can hardly manage our home or do my job without pain, let alone care for another human life.

How would I carry a baby, or hoist a car seat? How would I be able to keep up with an active child? Although the thought of growing our family biologically was incredibly exciting—the idea of motherhood paralyzed me.

Since that season two years ago, we’ve welcomed our daughter into our family. God, in his kindness, has provided all that I’ve needed to carry her, deliver her, and mother her in these early months. My health is significantly improved and I’ve found ways to manage my pain, but it hasn’t gone away; the addition of the literal, physical load of a baby has only presented new challenges and with them, new opportunities to trust God and mother in his strength.

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Turn My Eyes from Looking at Worthless Things

The eyes are the lamp of the body. It becomes what they behold.

Lured by desire and the passions of the flesh, the eyes look upon secret loves too dark for anyone but their Creator to fully see and know. Prone to wander, how they feel it—the pull to gaze upon worthless things…   

Worthless Vanity

She rolls out of bed and gets ready for the day, wrestling through outfits, but finally choosing the deep blue shirt. People say it compliments her eyes. Her friend, the mirror, is also her greatest foe, faithfully awaiting her gaze and reflecting what she wants to see—but only after it condemns her, only after she heeds its brutal, silent critiques.

Do people see how hard she’s working to maintain her figure and erase her years? And if they did, would it matter?

Would the mirror be any gentler, any kinder to her?

Worthless Attention

The bright screen bores itself into his brain. A constant barrage of entertainment, his phone never leaves his sight or lacks for his attention. He fears missing out—yet he doesn’t hear the flesh-and-blood voices around him when they call his name.

A like outweighs a life.

But it’s never enough; the attention feels like an endless black hole. He’s not even sure who he is anymore since he can change his reality at the touch of a button, with the swipe of a screen—  

He’s got others fooled. He’s even got himself fooled.

Or does he?

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A Journaling Template for Your New Year’s Resolutions

How will you be intentional about the next 365 days?

As we’ve closed another year and started a fresh one, there’s much to thank God for, to process, and also to pray over and anticipate.

Over the past few years, I’ve found a concise and clear way to journal these thoughts and prayers. And I hope it might be useful to you!

So grab your Bible, along with a pen and notebook, and find some time to be alone with the Lord, seeking his will and wisdom for the coming year.

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A Question About Christian Satire

Love is patient and kind.

Our God commands us to love him first and foremost, and to love our neighbor as ourselves—but are we doing this online? Especially when we disagree with our neighbor?

I’ve been saddened by the lack of love strewn throughout Christian circles on the web in recent years. Lately, someone brought a satirical article to my attention that called out by name a person with whom the author disagreed, poking fun at them and attempting to make them a laughingstock to the reader.

My heart broke.

Is satire funny and helpful when it deals with ideas? Yes. But this was about a person. Someone created in the image of God. Someone who genuinely believes they’re following Christ.

Loving Our Neighbor

Doesn’t our great God call us to more than this? Doesn’t he command us to love others because he first loved us—even when we sorely disagree with them?

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Evil Predestined by God’s Hand and Plan

Today, we remember the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City. We lament. We grieve. And we hope.

There is nothing new under the sun. What can be said when terror strikes? I find myself deeply disturbed and yet uncomfortably familiar with the hatred and death that is ravaging our world. Another attack, another groaning. “How long, O Lord?”

Our comfort is the cross.

In Acts 4, we read that John and Peter were praying, on behalf of all the believers, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that they might continue to speak God’s gospel with boldness. The men had just been arrested for speaking the truth in the public sphere. Here is what they pray:

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The God Who Heals

She trails behind the crowd, uncertain if she should approach. The mass of people surrounding him overwhelms her; she can’t see what he’s doing, where he’s going, let alone hear him speak.

She’d heard the reports about Jesus, amazing reports. Of healing, demon-expulsion, miracles. And Lord, did she need a miracle. It had been 12 years—12 long years of the incessant flow, of her very lifeblood draining from her. And not only that, but her savings, her possessions, her strength, her hope that anything would ever change.

Here, standing before her, was the man they said was a miracle-worker, a change-maker, the one who could cause impossible things to happen—and stop them from happening. This was Jesus of Nazareth.

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No. 1 | Christ Came into the World

Advent begins. With it comes strife, hardship, and sorrow. You wonder how you’ll be able to rejoice this season, if any of Christmas’ delights will delight you, if any of its warmth will warm you or penetrate the heart you’ve kept guarded from further disappointments and grief.

Christmas is either the most wonderful time of the year, or the most difficult. It’s either laden with nostalgia and favorite things, or it’s full of memories that cause your heart to ache and your spirit to yearn for relief. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

For the suffering, Christmas seems to carry with it a sharp edge and a sour taste. When the pain feels unbearable, the relationship unchangeable, the grief immovable, and the disasters irreparable, what we need most isn’t relief; we need a Savior who can enter into our pain.

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Seven Lies You’ve Been Telling Yourself About Church

Church is so boring…

Or is it?

I recently finished the short, but loaded, book How Church Can Change Your Life by pastor and author Josh Moody. In less than 100 pages, Moody responds to ten common questions about church—objections like the above—posed by Christians and non-Christians alike. He covers subjects such as Jesus’ view of the church, the purpose of baptism and communion, and why believers should not be duped into believing they can “be the church” through podcasting sermons and listening to Christian radio, while privately meditating in their pajamas.  

Moody’s book made me think more deeply about common objections I’ve heard from friends, family, and others regarding local churches, along with the lies that fuel these objections. Here are seven lies that you may also have encountered, whether personally or from other people, about church:

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How to Share Your Testimony

When preparing your testimony, ask yourself, “How do the details of my story ultimately point to God’s bigger story in the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie explains the importance of this in a powerful way:

There are lots of voices out there today who will say that there is power in simply telling your story. To an extent that is true. But our stories alone have little power to inspire or change lives. What is more important is figuring out how to use our stories to tell God’s story.

Preparing Your Testimony

It is tempting to get caught up in the details of our own experiences, making our story an end in itself. But, as Christians, preparing and sharing our stories should be about so much more. Our testimonies should point people to the bigger story of God’s gospel.

Share your testimony in about two minutes.

Unfortunately, we’ve all heard ten to twenty-minute testimonies which lost their effectiveness because of their length! Regardless of how interesting we believe our personal stories are, we should keep in mind the limited attention span of our listeners:

People now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects [sic] of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain. (Kevin McSpadden, TIME Magazine)

An eight-second attention span may be exaggerated, but it makes a good point. We do not have limitless amounts of time to share what God has done in our lives, so we must be concise, clear, and compelling.

A good rule-of-thumb is to prepare a two-minute testimony on paper. Write down your main thoughts, then edit the testimony to include only the most compelling and clear points about how the gospel of Jesus Christ has transformed your life. Pass along your words to a trusted member of the body of Christ, someone whom you trust will give you honest and helpful feedback.

Then practice sharing your testimony out loud in about two minutes or less.

Share God’s story through your testimony.

Follow Nancy Guthrie’s wisdom by figuring out how to use your story to share God’s bigger story. If you do this, the opportunity may present itself later to talk more about Jesus Christ.

Here are some questions to help you share God’s story through your testimony:

  • At what point did I understand that Jesus Christ reigns over creation as Lord? When did I first grasp his authority over all things, including my life?
  • At what point did I understand that I was an enemy of God by nature? (This could address outward, rebellious acts or the more hidden, inward sins of pride, lust, shame, etc.)
  • When did the Holy Spirit open my eyes to see the gravity and consequences of my sin?
  • How did I first grasp that Jesus Christ came to save sinners by bearing their sin on the cross?
  • What was my response to God’s free gift of grace given through the righteousness of Jesus? How has believing on Christ changed my perspective on the world and my circumstances? How has Christ changed my desires and pursuits? What have I learned about God’s character through the gospel?
  • How would I encourage someone to put his or her faith in Jesus?

These are only several questions to spur on your thought process. Listen to various testimonies to hear examples of how other believers have structured their stories. There is not one right way, but there is only one truth — so make it your goal to share it!

(Some great Bible passages that clearly explain God’s story are Romans 8:31-34, Isaiah 53:3-6, Romans 5:6-11, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.)

Share an invitation to faith in Christ.

Finally, wrap up your testimony by inviting the listener(s) to faith in Jesus Christ. Consider Peter’s testimony to Cornelius in Acts 10:34-43, when he finishes with this invitation: “Everyone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Use whatever opportunity God has given you — whether at a church event, in your workplace, or while hanging out with unbelieving friends — to encourage people to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ’s gracious Lordship and rule.

A Final Word

Always remember that your testimony is a miracle of God’s grace. This is true of every believer! Some of our stories may seem more dramatic than others, but all believers were raised from death to life when Christ saved us…and that is a miracle.

How do the details of your story ultimately point to God’s bigger story in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

[Post Credit: Unlocking the Bible]