Brave Together

I’ve got a new idea. I wrote about this in my newsletter this week, but the idea continues to expand in my mind. What if we were brave together instead of trying to be brave alone? What if we said aloud what scares us? What if another person’s story of bravery helps us be brave? What if our story encourages someone else to step out in faith?

This came to me as I was thinking about my family’s recent trip to a theme park. One of my kids was really nervous about riding the roller coasters. In fact, on the first day, he would only ride the small ones. But then, his little brother (four years younger!) rode several! This inspired my older son. His little brother’s bravery was contagious, and our second day there, he rode every single roller coaster in the park. He was scared, squeezing my hand or his dad’s, but he was brave.

Our world has so drastically changed in the last few years that I think a lot of us are gun shy. We are scared to try something new. We’ve had our fill of change and transition, but there is a longing inside of us to be courageous and step out into the unknown.

It occurred to me this morning that uncertainty can be pretty scary. I’m in an uncertain place right now regarding my kids’ schooling for next year. Our plan fell apart, and we’re right back where we started. Everything feels uncertain.

I remember “uncertainty” was a buzz word in 2020 as far as Covid and its implications were concerned. We were all uncertain, and that made us feel extremely uncomfortable not knowing what was next. The other thing I realized about uncertainty is that it can actually be exciting, exhilarating, and adventurous. When we don’t know what lies around the next bend in the road, we might be tempted to assume it’s big, ugly, and scary. What if, instead, it was glorious, beautiful, and thrilling? What if we reframed our uncertainty as a chance to be surprised by joy?

What if it’s really true that we can walk in courage to face the new thing and not be defeated by it? What if it’s really true that we won’t walk the road alone but with others? What if it’s true that He, Himself, will go before us, behind us, and surround us in His love?

It is true, friend. I want to invite you on this journey with me. Would you share your story of fear or bravery or both? Let me elevate your story to encourage others to be brave in theirs. We can be brave, together.

Send your story to


anonymous barefooted melancholic woman embracing knees on floor
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We resumed homeschooling right after Labor Day (the irony is not lost on me), and I have been dead-dog tired ever since. I find myself pretty exhausted each day whether I actually get to exercise or not. There’s something about teaching that is both rewarding and depleting. I feel immense joy at seeing my kids learn and grow, whether we’re adding or dividing, learning to read, or memorizing a poem, but there’s also intense weariness that pounces on me from behind the moment I sit down. I’ve learned the importance of “self-care,” and I’ve implemented a day off for myself each Tuesday. I know full well that I can’t run on caffeine and fumes. Rest and renewal are part of God’s plan for us. So, my kids attend a drop-off homeschool co-op, and I am free to spend my day however I like. I like to exercise, read, write, and sometimes pick up a special drink at a coffee shop. Little acts like these have become very restorative to me in this full season of my life.

Now that I’m an adult in my 40s, I’m realizing a clarifying characteristic of adulthood is being tired. I look at my husband, a medical doctor, and ask, “Why am I so tired?” I do happen to have a medical condition that requires me to take a proper dosage of medication every day. If I don’t, over time, I will become very fatigued. Thankfully, I haven’t had to adjust that medication in quite some time and cannot blame my sleepiness on it. In his wisdom, my dear and loving husband reminds me that we have six children, four of whom are still homeschooled, a household that I run, women I minister to regularly, and the normal stress that accompanies life. I’m tired because I do a lot. Caring for souls is expensive, not monetarily, but in terms of physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional expenditure, the cost is astronomical.

This morning, as I was reading my Bible, I read 2 Corinthians 12 in which Paul is addressing the believers at Corinth. He has spent most of the letter reminding them that he has served them endlessly without compensation, without fanfare, without lording it over them as others had purported. Paul doesn’t complain about serving them, and despite their harsh criticism of his character, he declares, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Cor. 12:15, ESV). He loved this church. He helped start this church! They had begun to disdain him for his weaknesses and sufferings, embarrassed that he was not as impressive as these new super-apostles who crept into the church at Corinth and poisoned the believers against him.

Paul previously had stated all of his suffering for the churches, how he had been imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, adrift at sea (!!!), endless journeys, in dangers too numerous to list (though he tries!), hunger, thirst, out in the cold. The man labored for the church. He loved the church, warts and all. He also relates how he received “a thorn in the flesh” to keep him from becoming conceited about the revelations he had received from God. Despite asking God to remove it three times, it remained, and Jesus, Himself, spoke to Paul about it. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV). Paul concludes then that if he boasts, he will boast in his weakness so that the power of Christ will rest upon him. He tells the Corinthians, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV).

There are so many days when I crawl into bed, spent. I have labored until I feel there is not much left of me to give. I share Paul’s anxiety for those in my care. Are they rooted? Are they growing? Are they living in freedom? My weariness is proof of my weakness, and the only necessity is this: I need the power of Christ to rest on me. I am not enough on my own. My ministry to others is insufficient without Christ. It is only by His power and His grace being enough, I can keep going. Regardless of the sacrifices made, regardless of the hardships I face, I can rest in His work, and tomorrow, I can get up and most gladly spend and be spent for their souls, again. This is a life well-spent.

Fear and Imagination

We’ve all likely heard the phrase, “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” The inherent meaning is that we shouldn’t imagine a problem to be a giant mountain but recognize that, in fact, we can step over it because it is only a molehill. This has been something I’ve noticed about my imagination throughout my life. I frequently have imagined that things are worse than they actually are. Have you?

What sparked this thought in me was a small dry twig with three brown leaves lying on the sidewalk in front of me as I was walking in the neighborhood. I was far enough away not to recognize it for what it was, and so my imagination began jumping up and down, hand raised in the air, ready to answer my question. “Ooh, me, me! I know! I know! It’s a dead mouse!” Upon arriving at the object, I observed that, it was not a member of the rodent family; it was just a twig with leaves on it. Has this ever happened to you?

While we were on vacation in Colorado Springs, we turned down a particular street on our way to Garden of the Gods. One of kids cried out, “Look at that poor squirrel stuck in the fence!” All eyes shifted to the driver’s side of the vehicle to peer out the windows at the sad fate of the squirrel. We neared and came to a stop at the stop sign. My husband realized it first, “That’s not a squirrel; it’s a trash bag.” My child’s imagination had taken over to fill-in-the-blanks.

I told my husband my thoughts about this phenomenon, and he concurred, “No one ever sees an object on the sidewalk and says, ‘Look, it’s a gold nugget!” Perhaps it is part of our design to protect us from potentially harmful things like dead mice or rabid squirrels. Scientifically, we know all about the limbic system and how fear helps us survive via the fight or flight response. It seems though, there is a point where our imaginations decided to have a play date with fear, and now we make mice out of leaves and squirrels out of trash bags. It’s weird!

I’ve seen imagination and fear collaborate in our perceptions of other people as well. We assume they don’t like us. We assume they’re too important for us. We assume they said/did something because they want to crush us, slight us, or leave us out. We assume that they’re mad at us because they didn’t reply to our text. We’re assigning motives without proof. We assume far more than is capable for most people to actually carry out (unless they’re a sociopath, and that’s different). It seems it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy; our perception of them becomes reality in our minds. When we assume the worst about another person, it forms how we think about them and what we expect from them. And sometimes, when they have a bad day, they fulfill that prophecy in our imaginations, and we say, “See?” And that, my friends, is confirmation bias. defines confirmation bias this way, “bias that results from the tendency to process and analyze information in such a way that it supports one’s preexisting ideas and convictions.” You’ve already formed an idea in your mind about so-and-so, and when they behave in a certain way, you feel justified in your perceptions of them as a person. It’s all wrong.

The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:7, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (ESV). This is a hard verse. I understand love bearing all things, hoping all things and enduring all things, but what does “believes all things” mean? Heinrich Meyer says in his commentary that “believes all things” is the “opposite of a distrustful spirit.” Believing all things is not distrusting your neighbor’s intentions. Ouch. There it is. I do this. You do this. We all do this. We assign motives and distrust peoples’ intentions, and we find ourselves closing off to these people and making snap judgments about them. This is not love. We’ve made a mouse out of leaves and a squirrel out of a trashbag.

How do we change this? How do we bring our imagination into submission to Christ? When the Apostle Paul was writing to the church at Corinth for what we believe was the third time, he addressed some criticism he had received for being bold toward them when they were dealing with some serious sin issues in their church. Some criticized him and said he was walking according to the flesh because of the strong way in which he addressed their issues. He recognizes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (ESV). Whether there are accusations flying back and forth, imagined slights and assigned motives to deal with, the solution for all of them is to take them captive to obey Christ. When that little niggling thought pops up, “She didn’t reply to my text; she must be mad at me,” take it captive. Tell yourself, “No! You do not know her motives. Believe the best about this person. Believe that she loves you. Believe that she has something more urgent to deal with right now than your text. Believe that she will get back to you. Believe that she’s not a monster. Believe that she even loves you! Trust her intentions. Believe all things.”

Our imaginations are a gift from God. A gift given to help us imagine things being better than they are right now so that we can be a part of His restoration for all things in heaven and on earth. We have the glorious freedom in Christ to bring our imaginations into submission to Christ’s love so that we can walk by faith, not by sight. In this way, we fulfill Jesus’ words, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, ESV).

Trusting God Behind the Veil

The drive wasn’t bad for a road trip. It was longer than we normally drive in the car with six kids, but all in all, it was an easy day trip. After numerous trips to Colorado in my younger days, my favorite part of the entire drive was the anticipation of seeing the mountain skyline in the distance. The climax, however, was driving into Denver through the Eisenhower Tunnel and being greeted by the looming “purple mountains’ majesty” on the other side.

But we weren’t going to Denver or through Denver. We exited Interstate 70 onto Highway 24 to drive into Colorado Springs. I’d see faint outlines of what I assumed were Rocky Mountains, but then I’d lose sight of them. Highway 24 is full of rolling plateaus. That first day of August, the sky was heavy with clouds while the sun played hide-and-seek behind them. The sky was dramatic, and the landscape of these rising plateaus held a beauty all its own. I drank it in.

I kept expecting the mountains to surprise us, and we’d really talked it up with the kids. We’d set an expectation that any minute, they’d be confronted with a glory their mid-western eyes hadn’t experienced. But I began to have a sinking feeling in my stomach. Had I planned the wrong vacation? Was Colorado Springs the right destination? Would our kids be disappointed? Would this failure of my planning be added to the ever-growing list I’d made in my mind over the years? Every rise and fall brought a real sense of disappointment and worry.

The friends we were visiting live just a smidge north of downtown Colorado Springs. We were coming into town, and we were a mere ten minutes from their house. The sun was now fully out, and it was close to 5:00 when a barely perceptible line drawn across the horizon caught my eye. I lifted my sunglasses to verify I was really seeing something, lowered them again and cried, “There! There they are!” All sixteen eyes fixed on the horizon, and I felt in that moment that Jesus had surprised me. He wasn’t holding out on me, rather, He was waiting until the perfect moment to reveal His masterpiece.

Though darkness seems to hide His face, I rest in His unchanging grace.

“The Solid rocK,” Edward mote–1834

The outline of the Rockies grew more solid against the bright afternoon sky, though it was tainted with a thick haze, a result of forest fires to the west. which disguised the details of the mountains themselves. The kids finally saw them, and my heart lifted because my God does not fail. He established these very mountains with the command of His voice. They remain as a testament that we, too, are like a strong mountain when we trust in Him. “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20, ESV).

In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.

“the solid rock,” Edward mote–1834

Sometimes, when life is hard, grief hangs heavy, and the valley of the shadow of death feels like a suffocating blanket, we have to choose to see His grace and rest in it. If He was willing to take care of our debt of sin behind the veil of the temple, entering as the sacrificial lamb, how much more will He do for us in our struggles?

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things…Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

Romans 8:31b-32, 34b, ESV

The sunshine doesn’t always break through the clouds immediately. We have to rest, knowing that behind the haze and clouds, there is majesty waiting to reveal itself. He is there even when we don’t feel lighthearted, joyful, or excited. He is there. There may be veil, but it is there, behind the veil that we remain rooted and grounded in His love. The storm will pass, but right here, right in the midst of it, He is our solid rock, our foundation, our God in whom we can trust.

The Conspiracy of Distraction

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There’s a plethora of conspiracy theories circulating in the United States presently. I don’t even have to list them, because chances are, if you’ve utilized any type of social media over the last few weeks, you know what I’m talking about. What I’ve primarily noticed is that these conspiracies serve a purpose: distraction. Ironically, the whole concept of conspiracy theory is that the almighty “they” have distracted you with ________________________ in order to hide this other thing “they” were doing. And what ends up happening is people drawn into these conspiracies fall prey to the very thing they want to avoid–being distracted from what’s really going on.

Who is responsible for this distraction? Well, undoubtedly, the people creating the theories themselves are responsible, but I’m inclined to look a bit deeper to the bottom-dwellers who are stirring the pot. I believe this to be the work of the Enemy, the devil, the accuser. This is a spiritual battle. His tactics are simple. Divide and conquer. Distract and disable. A distracted Church is a disabled Church. How can you make space to share the Gospel if you’re sharing conspiracy? Who is going to take your Words of Life seriously and view them as reputable if you’re sharing theories you found on YouTube? How can you fight the real battle when you’re distracted by a conspiratorial one?

I have frequently found myself intrigued by the conspiracies over the years. Why is that? My guess is that mystery is alluring. Humans do have a longing for the truth, to know the facts, to be the one who uncovered the hidden gem that proves we’ve all been duped! No one wants to be an idiot. No one wants to live their life, come to the end of it, and realize that what they believed was a lie. This is normal. This is part of being human. But perhaps, what we’re really looking to uncover is treasure, and instead, we’ve settled for the cheap entertainment of conspiracy theory.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Matthew 13:44

Jesus came teaching and preaching about a kingdom. This kingdom had come down from heaven and was like a treasure–a pearl of great price, a valuable coin, a net full of fish, a treasure hidden in a field. This kingdom is for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. This kingdom comes in quietly and under the radar. This kingdom has a king, and His name is Jesus. In order to follow this king, to be His disciple, one has to be willing to give up everything one has. But in return, the one will inherit all the king has.

But there’s this settling…we settle for less than what he offers.

  • We say we believe in him, but we keep looking elsewhere for answers.
  • We say we’ve given up our rights to follow him, but we demand them from our governments.
  • We say we trust Him to provide, but we look to our own jobs, skills, and resources as our only source of income.

We’re not alone in this experience of settling for conspiracies and other empty answers. The disciples of Jesus struggled with this as well. Thomas followed Jesus for three years but refused to believe He was alive again until he saw His scarred hands and feet. James and John were looking for places of power in His kingdom, hoping He’d overthrow Rome, but didn’t realize that to sit at His right and left would mean death for them. The disciples collectively looked at the meager loaves and fishes and couldn’t see a way to feed 5,000.

The truth, friends, that I need to hear and you need to hear is this: “Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15, ESV). What we need right now is the Truth. God loves this world. He sent His Son to die for the sins of the world. He came to bring his kingdom and begin it IN US. He came to defeat sin, death, and the grave. We don’t need the distraction of conspiracy theory. It robs us of our calling as children of God. It robs us of the valuable time we’ve been given to share the truth of His love for the world. It robs us of the ability to live our lives with resurrection in mind–this is NOT all there is. His kingdom has come. And it will come fully, and we will rule and reign with Him on this earth. The time is short. The kingdom is at hand. Rise up.

Finding God’s Will for Your Life: Fear and Insecurity

Last week, I was writing about figuring out how God designed you so that you could have a better idea of what His purposes are for you in the Church. But like GI Joe said, “Knowing is half the battle.” And while I’ve never really watched GI Joe, my husband quotes this from time to time, and sometimes, it’s true. Knowing your gifts and your purpose doesn’t magically prepare you to step out and walk it out. It’s a great place to begin, but it sure doesn’t end with mere knowledge. Action must follow what we know to be true–this is faith. But actually, I think for many of us, instead of faith, our first reaction is fear.

We’re afraid that we might fail. We’re afraid that we might fail IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. We are scared of what others will think; maybe they won’t think we’re qualified. Maybe we will step out in faith only to find that we were wrong about our gifts. Maybe we’re insecure; we think we can’t hack it. We think we’re too young, too old, too opinionated, too much and not enough in the same instant.

When I’m thinking through my own dreams and feel stuck, I like to chat with my friend Nicole. She thinks things through pretty thoroughly, and she doesn’t mince words. A couple of weeks ago, we were taking a long walk and chatting about what it means to live out your gifting, dreaming big about the gift, and recognizing our humble place as one member in the very large Body of Christ.

We began discussing the role fear plays when we have longings and dreams that God has designed us to live out. There’s small living where you are doing what the world considers small and humble, and that can totally be where you’re supposed to live out your gifting. And there is a humility in recognizing that the Church is made of many members, and there aren’t unnecessary members! We’re all essential to the healthy life of the Church; however, we concluded that a lot of us say we’re living “small” lives and living “humbly,” but for many of us, we’re just afraid to take a risk and step out in faith into what God has called and purposed for us to do, whether that’s mothering, teaching, building a business, writing music like Nicole or writing articles like me. Nicole said this,

Whether it’s overconfidence or insecurity, both are rooted in pride because it’s just thinking about yourself. You can’t hide behind the lie that you’re doing something small when really you’re just afraid of going for it and possibly failing. If you think small, it’s gonna be difficult for you to see God in things because He is so big. Whether you’re doing something really small or something big, God is doing something way bigger than that. Your biggest dream is just a small part of the big things He is doing. We’re designed by God to do big things for Him in the kingdom. We need to dream big dreams and work toward fulfilling the design He’s given us. If we stay with the small dreams because we’re afraid, then we don’t actually live in the will of God.

Nicole Standley

Ouch! She’s so right! We may try to play the humble card when really, we’re terrified of stepping out into something new by faith. Do you ever feel that way? I do. Looking back over my adult years, I can see when I would shrink back from using my gifts because it’s costly–it’s costly to my pride, to my time, and to my illusion of certainty. I might mess it up and lose face. I may have to sacrifice other things I enjoy in order to pursue it. I won’t know for sure that it’s actually going to work out. And all of these prices to pay are risky.

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus told a story that we call “The Parable of the Talents.” A master has given three servants a certain amount of money to steward (talents–each talent was the equivalent of 20 years wages for a laborer according to the ESV footnotes). One received five, another two, and the last servant received one. The first servant doubled his talents through trading, and the second servant also doubled his to four. But that third servant, afraid, hid the money. The master pronounced the first two servants as “good and faithful servants” and promised to entrust more to them. He also invited them to enter into his joy. But the third servant feared the master’s harsh nature and hid the money so that he wouldn’t risk losing any of it and be punished. But the master was appalled at the servant’s wickedness and slothfulness. He would have been more pleased if he had accrued some interest on the money. So he gave the talent to the first servant, and had the third servant thrown into outer darkness.

This parable is so revealing! Which servant do you identify with? Are you willing to take the large gifts you’ve received and increase them through your investment? Are you willing to take a seemingly small risk with your small gifts and see them double and grow? Or are you simply satisfied with burying them, hiding them where no one can see you fail? What Nicole and I realized as we conversed was that God desires for us to take risks. He doesn’t intend for us to sit back and never use the gifts He’s given us. And though He doesn’t give everyone the same gifts or the same amount of gifts, just as these servants all received varying amounts, He still intends for us to use only what He’s given us and to take risks to watch them grow and multiply in our lives and the life of the Church. God is not pleased when we walk in fear and insecurity.

What is the remedy?

Our faith. Four times in Scripture, God says, “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38, ESV). We are the justified, the ones who have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus. Earlier I told you that Nicole said that your small thing is just a tiny part of the big thing that God’s already doing, and that big thing that God is doing is building a kingdom, and He is doing that through His Son, Jesus! Jesus died a criminal’s death, was buried, and rose again to defeat sin, to destroy the works of the devil, and to victoriously prove that He is Lord of all–not Satan, not Caesar, there is no other name but Jesus by which we can be saved. But “he was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3, ESV). Jesus Himself was not able to walk this path of suffering without faith. In fact, this was His prophetic faith-filled response in Isaiah 50:7, “But the Lord GOD helps me, therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore, I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (ESV).

The same is true of you, Christian. God has a purpose for you. He has gifted you to serve His church. Mere knowledge of what it is will never be enough. You must follow Jesus’ example, set your face like flint, knowing that God will help you to do what He has designed you to do. Fight fear with faith, never forgetting that this gifting was never really about you anyway. You were gifted to be a gift.

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Finding God’s Will for Your Life: His Design

There’s a myriad of tools to discover your personality type, your dominant traits, your introversion or extroversion, and even what “Disney song embodies your life right now.” These are a mixed bag when it comes to actual helpfulness, some are purely for entertainment’s sake, and some actually help you evaluate yourself and how you live your life. I don’t think there’s much conclusive evidence that any of these assessments are actually accepted by the scientific community. I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and I am an INFJ. I read about the Enneagram, and I spent so much time trying to figure out which number I was. The jury is still out, and I think that’s largely due to the fact that we humans are complex creatures, not easily placed in a box and labeled. Over the years, I’ve been compared to various animals and humors, and one teacher in high school assigned us each colors based on his perception of us. And for the record, the “Disney song that embodies my life right now” is “Into the Unknown” from Frozen 2, and it couldn’t be more accurate for my life and this particular blog post!

Humans, created in the image of God, have a natural tendency to categorize and label (Adam named the animals in the Garden), and we like to classify where we belong. It is immensely helpful to get to a place in your life where you can evaluate yourself with some insight and begin to understand why you are the way you are. Self-awareness is important, but it isn’t the final answer. Our hearts are easily deceived, and often our self-perception is wildly inaccurate. However, when you add the Holy Spirit into the equation, you’ll finally get somewhere. Understanding God’s awareness of who you are will lead you down the path He means you to walk. He has the most accurate view of your heart, your design, and your gifts. And it is precisely in that space where finding God’s will runs into your design. You have to know how He designed you, what He’s gifted you to do, in order to find His specific will for your life.

Our design is important when it comes to finding His will because God truly intends for you to use the gifts He gave you. And His gifts are intended to GROW the body of Christ, the Church, to build Her up.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…

Ephesians 4:11-13, esv

It’s so important for us to identify how He’s designed us so we can walk out His intentions for us. The Apostle Paul teaches,

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, esv

He has work for us to do; He’s already prepared it. We just need to walk it out.

Here are some questions to help you discern God’s will via your design:

  1. What makes your heart beat fast? I’m serious. Our former pastor in college asked us this question. What makes your heart beat fast? Get busy doing it.
  2. What do people ask you about? Do they come to you for advice? Do people need your help in a particular area of their lives?
  3. Have you been asked by leadership in your church or community to serve in a particular area because you’re good at it?
  4. Have you asked God for direction? Have you asked Him to open doors of service?
  5. Have you asked those closest to you to tell you what strengths they see in you?
  6. What actions have you been complimented for in the past?
  7. Have you taken a risk to try a few different things to see if anything clicks?
  8. What do you most enjoy doing?
  9. What gives you a sense of fulfillment? What doesn’t feel like “hard work” to you?
  10. Have you prayed about it?

Whatever it is that God has designed you to do will be a good fit with who you are. It will likely require you to step out in faith and trust Him to help you grow in it because that is God’s modus operandi. He loves to stretch us and show us that with His guidance and help, we can truly reflect His image to the world that desperately needs Him. Whichever path He takes you on, you can rest assured that He will be with you every step of the way. Ask Him! Ask Him to reveal it to you. He will be faithful to show you.

I’ve explored the surface of leaning on God’s Word in finding out His will, of looking for His goodness and grace toward you, and of looking at God’s design of YOU. But there are deeper waters to explore as we examine next week how to find God’s will when fear and insecurity come knocking. I pray you are blessed and encouraged to set aside some time to seek Him and His will for you because the Church needs you to step up and live out your gifts among us.

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Finding God’s Will for Your Life: The Goodness of God

When it comes to unearthing the treasures of God’s will in my life, they all have a similar thread–His goodness to me. When I say “goodness,” I do not mean a string of good circumstances that worked out in my favor, or that I’ve lived a life free from pain, suffering, or shame. Because I haven’t. In fact, my story is riddled with narratives about emotional pain, loss, grief, of not belonging, and other typical human storylines. I would most definitely be the underdog in one of those sports movies from the 90s. No, God’s goodness to me has been most bright and glorious in those dark moments.

Many of my not so pretty moments were sponsored by my own foolish choices. I wasn’t walking on the foundation of actually knowing God. I knew TONS about him. I grew up in church, I went to VBS, I went to a Christian school, I was in youth group and Bible studies. I had true faith in Him and all He’d done for me, but I didn’t really know His heart. I thought He was mad at me, disappointed in me, that I was never gonna measure up to His long list of requirements. In short, I didn’t really understand the gospel of grace.

Unfortunately, this wrong narrative about God had me either trying to earn His affection by being a good kid, getting good grades, singing at church, learning all I could from sermons, or it had me running the other way in rebellion and living a double-life. This dichotomous life came to a screeching halt my junior year of college. The Holy Spirit met me in my sin and rebellion and revealed the depth of His love for me during a communion service. I’ve never been the same since.

His goodness to me has always been His grace. No matter where I’ve found myself geographically–in the US or East Asia, He’s always been there offering more grace for me when I can’t go on in my own strength. He’s never berating me, beating me up for my sins or failures, rather, He’s always gently there, redirecting me and putting me back on course. No matter where I’ve found myself emotionally–afraid, restless, or anxious, He’s been my constant friend and comfort. No matter where I’ve found myself in the stages of grief, be they anger, withdrawal, denial, or acceptance, He’s been present–SO present in my heartaches.

Moses said, “Please, show me your glory.”

And He said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, The LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Exodus 33:19; 34:6-7, ESV

His goodness is His grace. His goodness is His kindness. His goodness is His glory. His goodness is His mercy. His goodness is His justice. His goodness is His wrath against disobedience. His goodness is His righteousness. His goodness is His very nature.

When I’m faced with any decision, I can rest in the confidence that no matter the outcome, God is good. And He’s not just good to other people, worthy people, He’s good to me. I have sometimes looked back and realized that I’ve made the wrong choice, not sinful, just not the best choice. And I don’t find a disappointed God rolling His eyes because I couldn’t see the future. I don’t find a God wringing His hands wondering if I’ll ever get it right. I find my friend, Jesus, who loves me and leads me on.

Sometimes, I’ve made a sinful choice. I’ve deliberately chosen to walk outside of His will. And what have I found there? An angry God? A taskmaster with his whip ready to send me into next Tuesday?

Not at all.

What I find is what Tim Keller calls “The Prodigal God.” He’s a father with a love that doesn’t make sense, a father who plans a party for me when I return, a father who invites me into the banquet when my sin is whitewashed unlike my conspicuous prodigal brother’s. His goodness never stops. His grace never runs out. He just keeps loving me back into His arms. Yes, I repent, because I can’t run from His goodness and mercy. They always catch me. My loving Father proves His love with discipline, but friends, even in my consequences, I have lived in the goodness of God.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23:6, NLT

You want to know what to look for when you’re seeking God’s will for your next steps? Look for His goodness. Look for His grace. Is there a decision that will give you an opportunity to show His goodness and grace with others? Chase it. Is there a decision to take a job that will give you more time to spend investing in others–your husband, wife, kids or neighbors? His goodness and His grace are there. Run after it.

But maybe you’ve found yourself in a place where you are choosing between sin and not-sin; if that’s the case, don’t choose the sin. Trust me; there’s nothing but extra heartache there. But if it’s too late, and you’re already there? Run home. Your Father loves you and wants you safe in His will.

Join me here again next week as I write about considering your own design when looking for God’s will for your life . And if you’re new here and wish to get this content conveniently delivered to your inbox as it goes live, just SUBSCRIBE HERE. Go in the goodness of God, friends.

Finding God’s Will for Your Life: Knowing God

As I began contemplating this past week about how to begin this series, what I kept coming back to was the character of God. Understanding who God is as a Person is the starting point when you want to know what His will is for your life. His character and personhood reveals what is important to Him, and concurrently, what is important to those who follow Him.

But getting to know the God of the Universe? Is that even possible? Is He accessible? I just want to know whether or not to move from here to there or whether or not I should take that job; what do those decisions have to do with knowing God?

The good news is that it IS possible to know the God of the Universe. He is absolutely accessible, and believe it or not, knowing Him will help you decide if that move is right for you. How can we get to know the God who created the world? How can we access Him? And even more than that, how can we know Him as a father and as a friend?

The good news is that God has been in the business of revealing Himself to humans from the first day of creation. When he began creating everything, He did so with the end in mind:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.

Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Psalm 19;1-4, esv

His creation proclaims His existence, His creativity, His order, His attention to detail, His sovereignty, His greatness, His vastness, and on and on. In fact, His very creation leaves all of us without an excuse for not knowing Him.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

romans 1:19-20, esv

God never intended to play hide and seek with us. He put Himself out there in plain sight. We can see His artistry in the sunset, the millions of light years away stars, the myriad of species of birds and bugs, the individually designed snowflakes and fingerprints, and to ignore His presence is to ignore the very nose on your face.

God didn’t stop with creation in His revelation to humankind. He also began telling men over hundreds of years to write down what He was saying to them. He decided to reveal Himself in the written word. The pages of the Bible are full of stories showing God’s character at every turn. We see Him as the God who provides when he sovereignly provided a ram in the thicket for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son, Isaac. We learn He is the God who Sees when pregnant Hagar is shunned by Sarah and runs away to the desert where she believes her life is over. We learn He is the God our Healer when He made the bitter water sweet in the wilderness.

As Christians, our very foundation of belief is found in the pages of this Book. Every claim I make in these blog posts about God and faith will be supported by the Scriptures because it is the authority on which I have grown to know God myself (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). In order to know a person, you have to know what they’re like, and I’ve found Him in these pages.

Thus says the LORD, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight,” declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 9:23-24, esv

I read the above verses this morning when I was studying, and though I’d read them before, they hit me as a clear and concise statement of who He is and His desire to be known by us in this way. He wants us to boast in knowing Him and that what we see in our knowledge of Him is that He is a God who delights in steadfast love (also called mercy), in justice (for wrongdoing), and in righteousness (right living). From this verse alone, I know that if I follow this God and know His heart for these three things, that I, too, ought to delight in steadfast love, justice, and righteousness. Which in turn would keep me from making decisions in opposition to those–I won’t pursue a life of sin because He delights in righteousness. I won’t steal or overcharge or cheat someone because He is just. I won’t persist in unforgiveness when someone has sinned against me because he loves mercy. When I see Him in the truth of who He is, in the pages of His Word, I come to understand His heart. And even better than that? He didn’t stop revealing Himself with mere creation or His Book. He took it a step further.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

matthew 1:20-21, esv

He sent His Son. His plan to rescue us would reach us on every level. He designed our world to speak His name. He designed His word to be written by over 40 authors over a period of 1600 years to reveal His character and dealings with the people of God. But He wanted us to see what He was like in flesh and blood form, so he sent Jesus. He was before all things (Col. 1:17). He was the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14). He was the ultimate revelation of God to men, and “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men and women by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, ESV).

Jesus came to show us what God was like. And He lived out of that identity–He healed the sick, he saw those who suffered, he provided food for the hungry, He was fully God and fully man in one person living His life in mercy, justice, and righteousness so that we could know the Father and be reconciled to Him. He would be both our Father and our Friend.

Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.

Jesus, John 14:9 (ESV)

There’s no denying we need Him to save us from our sins. There’s no denying we need His life in us so that we can live lives that love God and love others. Knowing His heart for us, that we are loved, sacrificed for, healed, restored, and ultimately, glorified is enough to make the weakest of us boast in knowing Him. He’s so good to us, how can we be silent? Understanding the goodness of God as shown to us in Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection will give birth to hearts who want to share that goodness with the world. And it’s there–His goodness–that I want to land today in terms of knowing His will for your life.

The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that He has made.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all His works.

Psalm 145:8-9, 17, ESV

God’s will for your life begins and ends with His goodness. In His goodness, He has made a way for you to know Him, to have His eternal life, and for you to live in His unshakeable kingdom. This is the first step to knowing His will is to realize that His will is for you to know Him. To know Him, look around you, see all He’s made, see His character revealed in the Bible, and look to Jesus, in whom the “fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19). Put your faith in His life, His death, and His resurrection as both the means of your salvation from sin and His victory over death and the grave and all other kingdoms of this world. Know Him. Pursue Him.

This is good news, friends! And if you already know Him, and know all of the truth I’ve already written about, you also know that there is more. This foundational truth of knowing God first in order to know His will is the first step to making decisions that love God and love others. Next week, I’ll be sharing my own story of how the goodness of God has chased me down in my choices. Don’t miss it! Subscribe here, and I’ll see you next week.

New Series: Finding God’s Will for Your Life

Where am I going to go to college?

Should I date _____________________?

What should I major in?

What kind of job should I pursue?

Should I pursue higher education?

Should I marry ___________________?

What city should we live in?

Where should we go to church?

How many kids should we have?

Should I work or stay at home with the kids?

Should we public school, private school, or homeschool the kids?

And lately, the most popular question: virtual school or in-person school?

These are the questions that keep so many of us tossing and turning at night and riddled with anxiety during the day. It causes some of us to research ALL the things, to ask advice from every trustworthy person we know, to pray hoping for a sign, to make endless pro/con lists, and even to, *ahem*, ask the Magic 8 Ball. (Yes, I’ve really done that. I was 10 if that makes you feel better.)

Sometime in my own childhood, I remember hearing the story of Gideon laying out the fleece and thinking that seemed like a pretty good idea. That is, until a pastor or teacher burst my bubble and said that laying out the fleece lacked faith. Okay, back to the drawing board, maybe I could cast lots. The disciples cast lots to decide who was going to take traitor Judas’ place. It’s IN THE BIBLE.

The question of how to find God’s will for my life plagued me in so many of the decisions I listed above. Because, as Christians, I think we generally really want to make the right decisions and not accidentally step outside of God’s will for our lives. We turn to the Bible looking for specific directions for who to marry only to be disappointed that God didn’t include a note saying, “Dave is the one.” (He was the one, in case you were wondering.)

After the craziness of the last six years of my own life and the myriad of decisions we’ve had to make with international moves, my husband and I have come to a conclusion: God’s will isn’t mysterious. It’s not hidden. He is not playing hard-to-get. In fact, His will is right in front of us. He has given us immense freedom to choose. There are obvious boundaries in place to keep us safe; His commandments are not burdensome. Walking in sin isn’t an option, and unfaithfulness to Him or to His Word are not on the table. However, what I’m coming to understand is that while He does indeed show us our steps through His Word and through godly counsel, He also guides us by our circumstances, through the wisdom He grants us, through the provision He gives, and even through the desires of our hearts. But there’s not a one-size-fits-all formula.

But there is one common denominator in all of the ways He guides us–He is good. Knowing God’s heart is the first key to His will, and His heart is revealed in His Son, Jesus, and in His Word. And that is where we’ll begin the journey next Tuesday, October 5th. I look forward to you joining me weekly, and to make sure you don’t miss a post, be sure to subscribe with your e-mail address HERE to get them delivered directly to your inbox.