When I Don't Feel Like Doing What God Wants Me to Do

We often hear that we should follow our passion and our calling, use our spiritual gifts.  This is true, but sometimes God calls us to do something, and we may not feel very passionate about it, or gifted enough, yet we know it is what He wants us to do.  We get excited to follow Him anywhere, but when the rubber must meet the road, our flesh screeches us to a halt.

Jesus was in turmoil and anguish when he and his three disciples approached the Garden of Gethsemene.  He wandered a short distance from them and dropped to the ground, overwhelmed with distress.  Deep distress.  Face down physically in the garden but emotionally before the throne of His Father, seeking His face, he expressed his deepest emotions.  He lived his whole life in submission to His Father’s will.  Everything he did, every act of service, was an act of submission.  But this was too hard. 

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Matthew 26:39.

Jesus asked if there was some other way.  He knew His Father could do anything, so he asked that the cup of suffering be taken away.  He still wanted the Father’s will, but perhaps there some alternative to fulfilling His Father’s redemptive plan?  As he converses with the Father, he bravely accepts the reality that there is not, but that the Father would give him the supernatural strength He needed to follow through.  At the end, he wakes his sleeping disciples who seem oblivious to the significance of the moment, and says “Rise, let us go.”  The time had come, and he was ready to face it head on.  He was ready to fulfill what he was called to do, whatever the cost. 

Our spirit may be eager to follow Jesus, whatever the cost, excited to do His will, whatever it is, but when it gets right down to it, when that moment comes, we hesitate.  Maybe we don’t feel emotionally prepared to handle it, or we feel tired, or we are afraid we won’t do it right, or it’s just completely inconvenient.  Maybe it doesn’t jive with what we feel like doing. 

In the moment, we have a choice.  When we know God wants us to do it, but our feelings or emotions are in conflict, we must drop to the floor on our face and ask God for the strength, to submit our flesh to His will.  And if even then our feelings don’t match up, maybe God just wants us to move forward in obedience, in spite of our feelings.  While our feelings affect our actions, it is also true that our actions affect how we feel, and once we act in obedience, then God will bless with the alignment of our emotions.  

A Heart for the Community - Book Review

A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry, is a selection of writings addressing the issues of church planting – issues that used to be urban in nature but have now migrated into the suburbs.  I selected this book to read because I was involved in a church plant in the southwestern suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas that did not appear to ‘succeed’ very well, and I was intrigued as to how the methods compared to my current Kansan church’s efforts to connect with less materially privileged areas of the city.    

John Fuder and Noel Castellanos, editors, collected writings for this textbook on practical community development from the people down in the trenches who have seen the problems, particularly with racial, cultural, and economic barriers that inhibit effective ministry .  Along with the issues that are raised, strategies to attack these problems to break down barriers offer hope in how to address the needs of our neighbors.  The community is viewed in a holistic manner in addressing needs. 

The book is divided into four parts.   The first part revolves around critical issues of church planting, such as the importance of exegeting the community and the benefits of collaborating with other community groups.  The second part presents various church-planting models to reach different ethnic groups and provides hospitality methods.  The third part discusses ministering to suburban needs – diversity and unity, multi-ethnic communities, and poverty and luxury side by side.  The fourth part is titled ‘parachurch ministries’ with outreach models for specific types of people.  Each chapter concludes with reflective questions and recommended reading.  How-to guidance and lessons learned are sprinkled throughout the book.

This selection of writings is a valuable resource for church planters, missionaries, and other people involved as leaders in reaching out to communities.  While it is academic in nature, it is practical and does not read like a textbook.  I highly recommend this book for those who want to prepare to minister effectively in their communities.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Press in exchange for my honest review.

Fear Versus Faith

Fear is one of those emotions that sneaks up on us. We don’t choose to feel it; it comes naturally.  However, we CAN choose NOT to fear.  That's why there are so many passages in the Bible that command us to not be afraid.  God wants us to have faith in Him.  This faith overcomes fear.

Like the disciples on the boat with Jesus during the storm.  Have you ever wondered what would’ve happened if the disciples had not woken up Jesus?  Would the boat have keeled over? Could some of them been washed overboard?  Was Jesus just sleeping, subconsciously waiting for them to wake Him and ask for help?  Maybe the biggest problem was that they stayed afraid after calling out to Him. 

Choose faith – but what is faith?  When my husband was having a heart attack in the ER, I could have succumbed to fear.  In that moment, the battle of emotions raged beneath the surface of my calm exterior.  Whether I consciously realized it or not, I could choose - choose to fear life without my husband, or choose faith in God and His goodness. 

But what does that kind of faith in God mean? It doesn’t mean the kind of faith that declares God was going to heal him, the kind of faith where all I had to do was name it and claim it.  It was the kind of faith that trusts Him to carry me through, whatever the outcome, knowing that no matter what happened none of it took Him by surprise. It was faith in His goodness even if it wasn’t obvious in the moment of my circumstances.

Maybe it’s easy to say since God has given me more time with Him.  When the day comes that we must part from each other on this earth, I pray God will give the strength, grace, and endurance to finish the race with faith in God’s goodness not only intact but firmly believed with every fiber of my being.

Where there is faith, there is no room for fear.

Pray without Ceasing

On the elliptical machine, in the car driving down the road, in the middle of a conversation with her son—these are the places where my friend Laura ‘hears’ God speak to her.  In the morning, with coffee mug in one hand and Bible in the other – this is where I expect God to speak to me. 

Last Saturday morning, I was thinking about how I know God speaks to me through His Word, but I wanted to ‘hear’ Him speaking regularly in the midst of my work and in the mundane activities too, like Laura.  Perhaps this is what it means to pray without ceasing - to be consciously aware of God’s active present, whether driving or waiting, and thinking His thoughts according to what we know of Him, then just listen and observe.     

That afternoon while doing yard work alongside my husband, he had a heart attack.  I don't remember verbalizing words to God but I know I leaned on Him to guide my decisions.  As I bowed my head while the hospital staff worked on him furiously, God was near. While I was unable to cry out to Him verbally, He entered into an exchange of wordless conversation, a trading of emotions.  I handed Him my fear. He filled me with peace and strength.

My friend Kirsti's mother slipped on into heaven last week.  Unable to open the Word of God, listen to music, or even verbalize a prayer at times, she grieves with Him in groans.  And He hears her.  He holds her up and helps her to keep taking the next step.  A conversation with God does not have to use words.

Two ears, one tongue.  Pray without ceasing - listening twice as much as speaking - with or without words...

Revealing Jesus: A 365-Day Devotional - Book Review

Darlene Zschech, renowned worship leader, song writer, and speaker, pours out her heart of praise in the book Revealing Jesus: a 365-Day Devotional.  Based on her personal prayer journal and rooted in her longing for Jesus to be revealed in her life, she engages the reader to draw closer to God and know Him more.  Styled in the typical traditional format of opening with a Scripture passage and closing with a short prayer for each day of the year, she begins each month centered on a theme and introduced with the lyrics of a hymn. 

In the easy-to-read and concise one-page daily reading, she reminds of God’s love and care and points to His Holy Spirit for our strength and joy. She reminds us of the various facets of His character as revealed in His names in the Bible.  While drawing on many characters throughout the Bible as relatable examples, she shows how God is also calling us to Himself, calling us to a bold and gutsy faith that stands and reflects Christ wherever we find ourselves.  Through themes for reflection and meditation, she inspires us to live knowing that everyday life itself can be an act of worship. 

The classy cover and page designs invite the reader to open it and ponder the words and reflect.  This book would be a great gift book for a wide range of people – new or mature believers or worship leaders, etc., whether or not you are an actual fan of her music.  A companion CD is also available.

Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.