Within or Without

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‘Do you see the will of God as outside you, or as in-built? Is it something you are meant to be doing for God, or is it mainly something God is doing in you? ’

I have been mulling over these questions this week. Thinking about how my attitude towards myself, others and God reflects my answers to the questions. The will of God is as big a concept as it is a minute and detailed one. There are two major ways of viewing God’s will; the panoramic view of the will of God encompassing plans for humanity as a whole, the story woven from creation right through to eternity. Or, the individual 20/20 vision of the will of God encompassing our daily decisions and lifestyle choices, how we practically walk out what we perceive to be God’s will for us individually in each moment.

I believe the will of God is not just something worked from without, but a mixture of within and without. It is working with God for God.

If we believe His will is something solely outside of us it is easy for us to become detached and distanced from involvement in it. Our responsibility to see His will worked out in our lives and in our world somehow seems ethereal, a product of Holy Spirit direction and not a collaborative effort with our own co-operation. In this instance, His will is external and aimed at reaching those around us; we take a backseat in the great cosmic plan. We retreat back to the age old refrain ‘the will of God is not about us…’

But, I think the will of God has everything to do with us and everything to do with Him. It is in-built within us from the day we were born. We have an innate desire to not only be with God, in His presence and in His glory, but to serve Him for a purpose much bigger than ourselves. To be creative in how we live out the story of our lives, to be like Him.

To be like Him means that we need to allow God to do something in us. Therefore, His will is not just something we are doing for God; it is something He is doing in us.

The will of God from without;

‘The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’– 2 Peter 3 v 9

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’– John 3 v 16

The will of God from within;

‘For those God foreknew He also pre-destined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.’– Romans 8 v 29

‘For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose.’– Philippians 2 v 13

Within and without, with and for– God is working out His will in our lives.

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God’s Got My Blueprint

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‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’– Ephesians 2 v 10

When I read these words I breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t have to plan my own good works (which can be overwhelming when I see the great needs in the world). God has planned in advance, and He has a tight reassuring grip on the blueprint.

There is comfort in knowing the blueprint of my life is in the right hands, in knowing that my job is not to run around creating good works but to discover them. After all, the government is on His shoulders.

God is a God of detail and specifics; He doesn’t fudge on clarity or circumnavigate the main issues.

He will readily share with me the details of my blueprint if I seek Him and look out for signs of it. He has promised I will find Him when I seek Him with all of my heart (Jeremiah 29 v 13), and aside from reading scripture and prayer, I am certain that ‘seeking Him’ manifests differently in each of our lives.

I love that aspect of God’s nature.

When I pray about my blueprint I can pray specifically, confidently waiting on God to show me a specific part of the blueprint in return.

I’m glad He took the time to plan my life’s good works in advance. To skilfully prepare how the works would come about, in which time and in which season.

Every detail planned out meticulously and lovingly- what a relief.

The passage in Ephesians suggests that we are God’s work of art, His handiwork that He wants to showcase to others. I believe good works are a way that He shows us off to the world. Believers in Jesus Christ should be renowned for good works; good works with a supernatural edge.

We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, like our Father who created and declared that it was good (Genesis 1), like His son Jesus who went about doing good and healing (Acts 10 v 38).

We are created for good works; therefore we are anointed for good works. Good works are not always easy to accomplish well, they take time, effort and sacrifice but with the anointing we are more than able to do them. It’s the anointing that destroys the yoke.

Not by might. Not by power. But by His Spirit do we fulfil the good works.

“It is hard to see how a great man can be an atheist. Without the sustaining influence of faith in a divine power we could have little faith in ourselves. We need to feel that behind us is intelligence and love. Doubters do not achieve; sceptics do not contribute; cynics do not create. Faith is the great motive power, and no man realises his full possibilities unless he has the deep conviction that life is eternally important, and that his work, well done, is a part of an unending plan.”
― Calvin Coolidge

Have you asked God about His blueprint for your life?

Something Like Serendipity

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“Sometimes serendipity is just intention unmasked.”
― Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures

But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

This may seem like stating the obvious, but God is never surprised. He does not wonder what will happen or worry about the future. He knows the end from the beginning.

A particular verse in Ecclesiastes emphasises this further and completely blows my mind;

‘Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account’– Eccl 3 v 15

Serendipity has been defined as ‘the fortunate occurrence of events by chance’ (Oxford English Dictionary). The thing is, we usually only know that a series of events has been fortunate for us after the events have occurred. The riveting thing about God is, He knows beforehand that each event is fortunate and for our good. Before we even get a whiff or an inkling of its blessing in our life.

I wonder how many times we fight against, moan, complain and agonise over situations and events in our lives, utterly ignorant of the awesomeness of the plan God ultimately has.

I believe our lives are divinely connected and intricately woven into an eternal pattern. A pattern which only the Father knows, but is revealed little by little in accordance with the measure that we can receive or handle at any point in time.

Do we ever stop to assess our lives, to ask questions and wait for answers?

Such as, why do we live in the place/ city/ country that we do? Why do we have that job? Why are we part of this family? Why do we love the things we love and hate the things we hate? Why do we have these friends? Why do we meet these people on a daily basis? The questions are potentially endless…

Yet, these are crucial questions to ask. Not just to ask, but to wait for an answer. When we dialogue with God in prayer, His promise is-

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know’– Jeremiah 33 v 3

Knowing why our lives follow a certain trajectory is a valuable thing. Knowledge, as they say, is power. This means determined seeking after God’s perspective, and when we have a glimpse of His perspective, we can partner much more effectively with Him in seeking and saving those who are lost.

Undoubtedly, we will be a part of someone else’s ‘serendipity’ moment. We will play a part in their ‘fortunate occurrence of events’, and hopefully this will involve leading them to the well of living waters- Jesus Christ.

God wants us to be connected to His serendipitous plans, He wants us to get on board with the way He does and how He thinks.

The things God has prepared for us can appear as something like serendipity… but they are not by fortune or by chance. We can know His plans in advance if we so seek, for God has revealed them to us by His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2 v 10).

Do you recognise God at work in your life?

The Intentional Jesus

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If we are not intentional in the kingdom of God, nothing happens.

At the moment my church is working through the Gospel of Luke. One particular Sunday I heard the phrase; ‘Jesus is intentional’ and it stayed in my mind for a long time. I was challenged and I had to agree, there was no doubt about it. Jesus is intentional.

Jesus was intentional about the things he did on a daily basis. He was intentional about the people He spoke to, who He called to follow Him, where He went, what He spoke about and what He revealed about Himself.

Jesus was intentional then, but He is also intentional now, He has not changed.

Intention has been described as;

‘In Scholastic logic and psychology, a concept used to describe a mode of being or relation between a mind and an object. In knowing, the mind is said to “intend” or “tend toward” its object, and a thing as known, or in the knowing mind, has “intentional being,” as with squaring the circle, which, though impossible, can be an object of intention’. –Merriam-Webster online.

I love this, the impression that the mind of God-Jesus is intended towards us. Or even the idea that we are an intentional being in the mind of God. WOW. Let’s pause and think about that.

There are several words that link to being intentional, and I believe they all point towards the goodness of our intentional God;

  • Conscious- Jesus is conscious of us, of our life and our hearts desires. He is conscious of where we are right now, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
  • Deliberate- Jesus was deliberate about drawing us into the kingdom of light and redeeming our lives from destruction.
  • Designed- Jesus has a design for our lives, a grand design for every inhabitant of the Earth.
  • Planned- Jesus has planned good things for our lives, so good in fact that the details would not even enter our minds unless the Holy Spirit specifically showed them to us

(1 Corinthians 2 v 9-12).

  • Pre-arranged/Premeditated- Jesus has thought deeply about the things He wants to do with our life and in our lives. As a result, He has a master plan already prepared and pre-arranged for us (Ephesians 2 v 10).
  • Studied- Jesus studies us, He knows us better than we know ourselves.
  • Wilful- Jesus wills for us to live intentional lives.

Therefore, because Jesus is intentional and we are called to be like Him, we can be intentional.

We may cry out at times; ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ But Jesus’s answer remains the same; ‘You know the way to the place where I am going…’ (John 14 v 1- 5).

We can consciously live intentionally in our daily choices– where we go, who we go with, where we live, how we see the world, how we give,  how we work, how we talk, what we do with our time and what we do with the word of God. What we do with Jesus.

Jesus is intentional…so we can be intentional too.

What is the intention of your life?