Tag Archives: decisions

Enabled to Attempt

“What God expects us to attempt he also enables us to achieve, and committed Christians have proved it throughout the centuries. So let us take heart in knowing that the grace of giving is also the grace for giving.” Stephen F. Olford

One of the biggest decisions we must make as followers of Christ is what God desires us to attempt. There are so many things we might do with our career and our time, but what is God asking us to do?

This takes a level of Kingdom focus and spiritual discernment that is not common in today’s Christian discipline. We have been so programmed by the world’s definitions of success, that what we attempt usually has more to do with worldly success than Kingdom impact.

But this is the challenge. How do we set aside the world’s criteria for success and attempt great things for God? They may look foolish or insignificant in light of what the world values, but those are the things that God will bless.

As GMI continues to go through our transition as an organization, this is one of our great challenges. We must ask God to help us see what He is empowering us to attempt and then have faith that He will give us the strength to achieve it.

What is God asking you to attempt? Do you believe He will empower you to achieve it?

Preparing for a Busy Day

A day can slip away so quickly. Two meetings in the morning, a lunch appointment, a few hours working on a project and the work day is done. Then throw in dinner, a quick project around the house and some time with family or friends and you are ready to fall into bed.

The decisions you make that fill up your days are important ones. They define what you accomplish and what you push to the side. They also highlight your priorities.

How do you make those small decisions? What criteria do you use in allocating your time? Have you ever thought about the values that rest underneath those decisions?

Take some time to ask God to guide your daily time management decision-making and see how that impacts the way you spend your days.

A Decision to Trust

As you start this week, you have a very foundational decision to make. On this one decision, the rest will rise or fall. It is not a tactical decision about what you should or should not do. Instead it is a relational decision. It is a decision of orientation.

Solomon spoke of this in his third Proverb. As he sets the stage for how someone should live their life, he states clearly “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) Solomon goes on to talk about how we should not be wise in our own eyes but we should focus on God. He is challenging his charge to reorient life around the God of the Universe rather than around his own strength, skills or ideas.

We need this same reminder as we begin another week. We need to orient our lives God and His agenda and trust Him to guide the activities of the week. That decision does not mean we do not plan or be intentional in our work.

Our decision to trust means that all of our plans and intentional actions flow out of waiting expectantly on God and depending wholly on Him. Our pastor said it this way in this weekend’s service, “It is always a bad idea to try and do God’s work for him.”

When we design our plans and rely on our strength, we do the work that only God can do well. We take His job and do a poor job of it!

Why is it so hard for us to hold off on the action and let God lead in our lives? Part of it is that letting others lead is seen as laziness. We look like we are without initiative or drive. Another reason this is a challenge is that when we don’t make the plan, we don’t always get our way.

But what does it look like to make the first decision of our week to trust God with our efforts? I’m not very good at it, but I’m committed to learning as I serve through GMI. So here is a real-life example:

We are going to be hosting an event and we have sent out an initial invitation to gauge interest. Tomorrow we need to send out a full invitation but I am still not sure whether we will have enough people to attend. My natural response is to push through and force the event to work. I have done that many times in the past. This time, I’m going to take a different tact.

  1. I have been praying with the coordinator and asking God to show us the right direction for this event.
  2. I am going to write two emails before we make the decision – one announcing the event with all the details and the other modifying the event.
  3. When I have my meeting in the morning to plan our next steps, I’m going to come to the meeting having prayed asking God to direct our plans and show us His will through the details, pricing, participation and personal input of those planning it.
  4. I am going to listen to my team and to God more than I am going to talk myself.

So will you decide to trust as you start the week? Will you make trusting God your first decision rather than an add-on? If so, how? Share your plans very practically here and ask the GMI community for prayer as you seek to make this important decisions!

Retreating to “activity in unimportant things”

Bonhoeffer was sitting in New York during the summer of 1939 while Germany burned . . . and it was killing him.

There were things of great significance that he knew God wanted him to say and do but because of the situation in Germany he had retreated to Union Seminary in New York. The retreat was well intentioned and in a spirit of protecting those around him, but it was a retreat all the same.

But as Bonhoeffer began his time in New York, he knew he had to return. In his diary he said, “This inactivity, or rather activity in unimportant things, is quite intolerable when one thinks of the brethren and of how precious time is. The whole burden of self-reproach because of a wrong decision comes back again and almost overwhelms one. I was in utter despair.” (Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas, pg. 330)

Many of us routinely suffer the “activity in unimportant things” that Bonhoeffer describes. We have retreated from the things God cares about and are fully engaged with small things that we can control and that God has no interest in being a part of.

Sometimes we retreat because we lack the courage for the Kingdom work. Other times it is a retreat after years of work with little fruit. Still other times we retreat for good reasons but not Godly ones. Whatever the reason, retreat always leads to the unimportant.

As you begin this week, ask yourself whether your decisions are leading you forward into God’s Kingdom or whether they are beating a path of retreat for you into a world of your own making. If you are walking towards the Kingdom, your time may be hard but it will be meaningful.

If you have retreated into your world, don’t despair. Recognize the unimportant around you and ask yourself where you turned around. Just like Bonhoeffer got back on that ship and returned to Germany in the face of war, persecution and ultimate death, God will give you the courage to get back on the path towards Kingdom significance.

Are You Serving in a Cause or Trapped in an Agenda?

Cause: a charitable undertaking <for a good cause>*

Agenda: an underlying often ideological plan or program <a political agenda>*

Most Christian workers want to participate in causes but end up pushing agendas. This has to do with how we approach the work God gives us to do. In Galatians 5:25 Paul says that, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Engaging in one of the causes that God cares about and allowing that work to grow as the Spirit leads is far different than identifying a need in the Kingdom and then building our own solution in order to solve the need. In one we allow the Spirit to remain in control and in the other we take the reins and drive the process.

There is a fundamental difference between a cause and an agenda. Sadly today they are almost seen as synonyms. A cause is an area of God’s work in the world that has room for many actors and many approaches. Examples of Biblical causes can be seen in Eric Foley’s book The Whole Life Offering. Click here to see his chart describing the various causes at work in God’s Church. An agenda is a personal tool and is designed to benefit others only as they come in line with the one who holds the agenda. We see examples of agendas everywhere. Whether it is a politician who is pushing a certain approach to government reform or a ministry pushing a specific strategy for Church planting, both are agendas that the entities have designed around specific needs that their political parties or organizations have.

But even though agendas don’t leave much room for God’s Spirit or work, agendas are popular because:

1) they are personality driven and we like to align with people we agree with
2) they are programmatic and easy to get our hands around
3) they reduce ambiguity and affirm a certain solution to a known problem.

Causes, on the other hand, are based on value systems and perceived needs. They don’t prescribe a solution to the problem but instead create a context and define values by which the problem can be addressed. These are much more powerful than agendas because many people can join a cause and tackle the issues at hand from a variety of angles. They are free to respond to the Spirit in the context of the ministry challenge.

The sad truth is that many people start out joining a cause and then quickly get trapped in an agenda. This happens because our consumer society demands that we package, design, distinguish and brand our particular contribution in order to be a valid and affirmed solution to any given problem. This is what we involved in Kingdom work must resist.

As we actively join in and engage with the causes that God cares about, we must keep our hands open as to how they will be addressed. God can use anyone from any part of His Kingdom to bring His love to this troubled world. We must be prepared to embrace those who are in step with the Spirit and encourage anyone who is obediently responding to His call.

*From The Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Decision-making is Fundamental

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” - Genesis 2:16-17

As I have been researching the process of decision-making and the role it has in our Spiritual life, I have come to a simple but profound conclusion. Decision-making is fundamental to our humanity.

That sounds like a very grand statement to make, but think about this with me. What makes us different from the animals and the angels? God gave us a free will and asked us to turn around and surrender that will to Him of our own accord. That means that our ability to make a decision is at the core of what makes us human and is the very thing that God wants us to give back to Him in an act of obedience.

This means that as we strive to understand Spirit-led decision-making, we need to see it as a cornerstone of our offering to our Savior. Every decision in front of us gives us the opportunity to surrender more to Christ as we die to self or to elevate our selves as we push Jesus further away.

On that day in the Garden when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they made a decision focused on themselves and pushed God away in the process. It seemed like such a small thing, but when it comes to this most fundamental of activities there is no such thing. Each decision we make either leads us closer to Christ or further from Him.

How will you approach the decisions you have to make tomorrow with this in mind?

Settling for Worry instead of Wisdom

“Worry is undisciplined foresight.” E. Stanley Jones, The Way

You are probably worrying right now! You might be concerned about some decision you have to make at work or a situation you are wrestling through with a family member. Whatever it might be, our brains are wired to plan and process all of the time. Since we are constantly processing, our sin nature takes over and focuses our planning on speculation and consternation.

When Jesus warns us against worry in Matthew chapter six, he is trying to reorient our minds and our efforts to plan. He knew that his disciples (like everyone else) naturally fixated on things that most directly impacted their quality of life. So Jesus mentions clothes, food and drink as examples of those immediate and all-consuming things. But this passage isn’t about clothes or food. It is all about reorienting us around the Kingdom instead of the concerns in this world. In verse 33, Jesus challenges the Disciples to “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness”.

So why is this reorientation so important? We are wired to process our future, seek insight, and make decisions. God made us that way! But unless we are seeking Kingdom insight, we are squandering the gift of foresight God gave us. On most days we use God’s gift poorly and we miss the chance to engage with what God is doing in His Kingdom. We focus our desire to seek insight on worrying about how this or that might turn out and how it might affect us. This makes it almost impossible for us to make wise decisions for Him. We settle for worry instead of wisdom. This is a tragedy and a victory for the Evil One.

But it doesn’t have to be. If we will seek God each day and ask Him to reorient our thoughts in order to seek His Kingdom, then our thoughts would lead to the discernment we desperately need. Are you settling for worry instead of wisdom? Ask God today to transform your self-focused foresight into God-focused discernment.

Making Shifts When the World Changes

How are we at shifting our assumptions and decision making when the world changes around us? It’s harder than we think isn’t it? But it could not be more critical to our success as leaders.

Take the most recent conflict between Israel and Gaza. The November 24th issue of the Economist led with this title “Old battles, new Middle East . . . Gaza, Israel and the Arab Spring.”

What we have all learned from watching the latest outbreak of violence in the region is that the rules have fundamentally changed since the revolutions of 2011. These changes require all the parties to adjust their thinking and expectations as they seek a way forward.

The same is true for all of us on mission. The rules of global mission have fundamentally changed. These changes are being documented well in many corners of the Kingdom, but much of the time we fail to change our decision-making accordingly.

We read the latest book on mission trends and then go out and make our next major ministry decision as if those words had never been written. Why do we do this? Partly it is because of familiarity, it could also be a lack of discipline in our decision-making and it may have to do with the inherent risks involved in making decisions in new ways.

Whatever the reason, the affects are obvious. We see poor decisions being made in every corner of the missional endeavor. People are working off of old rules and wondering why they do not see the expected results. This is so sad because most of the time people do not mean to make these misinformed decisions. They simply don’t have the framework necessary to make a successful decision.

But these failures in decision-making can be avoided. Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself before you make your next major decision:

  1. Are the rules that I am using to make this decision still in place or have they changed?
  2. What new realities are influencing the decision I am making today? Have I considered their implications?
  3. How would someone in a different generation or culture look at this decision differently? Do they bring key insights I need to evaluate?
  4. Do I have relevant and up-to-date information that will allow me to pray intentionally for God’s wisdom?

Try asking a few of these questions and give me some feedback about what you hear as a result. Let’s strive to shift with our world and seek God about decisions with a more realistic understanding of the situations that we are called to influence.

When Your Decisions Fall Apart

What happens when the decisions you think are made bathed in prayer and the Holy Spirit’s guidance fall apart? It does happen . . . and for many reasons too numerous to list here in this blog. What do you do?

This weekend CNN released an extensive story of the dramatic events around Charles and Andy Stanely’s relationship, falling out and reconciliation. It is quite story. One that I was not aware of. As I read it and think about the dynamics at work in the Stanley home and in their public ministry, I thought, “I bet they wondered why things fell apart as God seemed to be blessing so much of their work.”

This is an important question as we consider what it means to make Spirit-led decisions. It is important because our assumption is that a decision bathed in prayer is guaranteed to succeed. But that simply is not true.

A Kingdom decision is not so much a moment of accomplishment as a step in a process. And like any step, it can come right before a fall. We can make an excellent decision in one area and then find ourselves stumbling in another. We can feel God’s hand of blessing in one area and his hand of discipline in another.

That is because God is using our decisions as tools to shape our lives. He is highlighting His work through us and also the sin in our lives that must be dealt with. Each decision is part of that process of seeing God at work in exalting His name.

So as you look at the decisions in front of you this week and the situations that seem to be unraveling, don’t question God’s work through what you decide. Simply know that as you seek to ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, there will be some decisions that have wildly successful outcomes and others that look like failure. But God is using each one to mold you into His servant on His mission in this world. And His mission is what truly matters