Chapter 2: Guidance on Guidance

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Seeking Guidance on Guidance

Which Direction?Interesting huh? This book is about seeking guidance on guidance. Think about it! When we receive advice from others, it is scary how often it is contradictory. Someone says, “Just love God and do what you desire.” Someone else says, “To find God’s will you should deny your desires.” Another person insists, “God’s will is normally the most logical alternative.” Then you hear, “Abraham went out not knowing where he was going, so God’s will may seem illogical to you.” If that is not confusing enough, then another person says, “God’s will is known through your feelings.” The opposite view is then given by another friend, “Feelings are misleading, God only directs through a rational thought process.” Sounds a bit like the Job story. Recently, while I was driving, I heard a person talking on the radio about a view of life he had adopted. He concluded the conversation with, “This feeling I am expressing just came to me.” When I heard this, it was almost like déjà vu of church services I attended when I was a kid. The trick is to discern which ones of these have biblical precedence and which do not. Even though some may be found in Scripture, they are often abused in today’s church world.

We have lots of practices that we employ to try to “discover God’s will.” We practice “putting out fleeces.” We hope to have a sign, vision, or prophetic word to give us direction. Some fast their favorite foods hoping to hear from God. Still others suggest that God’s will is only found through a certain chain-of-command relationship. Numbers of believers turn to a different storyline such as astrology, Ouija boards, séances, or palm reading. Yep, seeking guidance on guidance is a broad subject.

googling God in all the wrong places

“Finding” God’s will, as if it was lost, seems to be a high priority for believers. There are many ways in which googling God’s will can simply be unhelpful. The following seven ideas that are sometimes employed as we “search” for God’s will may be inappropriate for us to follow. Why seven? Because it is complete, why else? Okay, okay, don’t get too serious here. You should probably ask yourself what you felt when you read there were seven ways. Enough said. Wouldn’t you know, the first one on the list is “searching.”


When you search on the Net, you will get a large listing of what you are searching for whether you use Bing, Google, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, or WebCrawler, or one of the many other search engines available to you online. We often receive far more information than we can possibly look through. We are a people who like options and searching provides some basic itch that we feel that we need to scratch. The phrase “searching for God’s will” is a popular one on Google. It has 37,700 results.[ref] Google search accessed December 16, 2010.[/ref] Think about it, there are 37,000 plus opinions about just the idea of “searching for God’s will,” which to some degree makes my point that folks seem to think it is lost. The phraseology reminds me of “hunting for Easter Eggs” or Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October. Something is lost and needs to be found.

Searching seems to be the way we would like to discover the will of God. We would like it really simple. Who should I marry, we ask on the search page. Press the search button and up comes a possible list. Well, that’s not exactly what we really wanted. What we wanted was just one name to appear, plain and simple. It’s as if we are googling God for his will and somehow magically it will appear in front of us on our monitor with the highest value for our lives listed first, of course, after the ads that are always first. It is more likely that God will reveal his will one-step-at-a-time, as we will see later. Searching on the Net: Go for it; googling God’s Will; well, maybe you should take another look at that concept.

Cosmic Killjoy

Some believers are not ready to search wholeheartedly for the will of God in their lives because they are afraid of what God will require of them. Someone has taught them that God is a cosmic killjoy, ready to cause anything that you would really like to do to die. Folks have come to believe that God delights in sending people to unheard of lands where the climate is unbearable, the language is unspeakable, the food is indigestible, and the spouse God selects is undeniably hideous-looking. For them, God has become, “Mr. I’m going to rain on your parade!” This is not a picture of the God of the Bible. Who do you know that has been haunted by this storyline. Have you? The good news is that God is not like this caricature. He is loving and kind and wants the best for you. It’s the other guy that wants the worst for you.

White Hair Only

Only your hairdresser really knows the color of your hair, or so ads sometimes have told us. In just a few short seconds, or so the ads say, you can reduce the white in your hair and look young again. White hair has often been seen as a person’s badge of maturity and wisdom, except in the commercials where it is seen as something that needs a “do over.” Some Christians believe that God’s will can only be found by those who are mature. Only the older followers should apply to find his will because of their years and maturity. It is hopeless for new followers to search successfully. Good news again: You don’t need to have white hair to know how God wants you to live your life. Young men and women, like Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament and Joseph and Mary in the New Testament, found God’s will for their lives and they were really young. The latter couple may have only been in their teens.

Volcanic Explosion

Some believers have assumed that God only speaks his will when there are earthshaking events, which are about to blow one’s life into pieces. If this were really true, don’t you think that our lives would be just one catastrophic event after another, given our reluctance to hear God. I think it is safe to say that God will speak in any way and at any time he chooses, seeing how he is God. However, he seems to be more naturally inclined to guide us in a natural way.

The Nose Ring

Some followers of Jesus have a “nose ring” mentality about God. They have been led to believe that he just likes to jerk people around by the nose and put misery in their lives. This theory makes a person a victim. These jerked-around-folks believe they are not at fault for their circumstances. In fact, they often feel like they have an entitlement to discover the will of God before anyone else does. If we are not careful, we can become victims in the blink of an eye. Did you catch the metaphor? Just listen closely to most conversations and usually somewhere, sometimes veiled and sometimes not, there is an insinuation that the person telling the tale is thinking of him or herself as a victim. Don’t get me wrong, there are real victims, but surely everyone is not a victim. I used to tell folks that believed this kind of theology that “bad theology is a cruel taskmaster!” Recently, I have started telling folks that “bad theology just makes you stupid!” God does not jerk people around![ref] When we feel jerked around, it may be our infancy as God’s kids that is showing up. Paul exhorted the troubled Ephesian church that in reality “ … we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” [/ref]

You’re Getting Warmer!

When we talk about guidance, there is a subtle presupposition among Jesus’ followers that we have to find God’s will. The very nature of this belief suggests that God’s will is lost and that the follower must become Sherlock Holmes and discover all the clues to lead him or her to God’s perfect will. This is where googling God’s will is felt to be helpful. Remember the old hot and cold game? Someone would hide something and then another person would look for it. You were greeted by the words, “You’re getting colder,” or “you’re getting warmer!” That was a fun game! Many followers are still playing it today as they go googling God’s will. They believe God has stashed his will completely out of sight in some great cosmic database and they are constantly searching for it, sometimes being hot and sometimes being cold. If I only go to the next results page, surely the answer will be there. And when it is not, I push myself to go for just one more page, then one more, then….

While some play this game, others are waiting for their divine leading to arrive in some super phenomenal way. Most have heard of the person who goes running down the street, slips on a banana peel, and lands on a map of New York City. The person gets up and declares that God has given clear, unmistakable direction. He is off to New York City without another thought. Then, later in life, he returns with a full apologetic for how what he did was really the will of God and it all worked out. Really?

Open Doors

We are always looking to our circumstances to give us some indication about what God is saying to us. Being led by circumstances comes from someone teaching us that God is a “door opener” or a “door closer.” Just think of how busy he must be with just this one chore. It may be common to look at circumstances in the following two ways. First, if we are being blessed in the choice we think that God has guided us toward, it is a confirmation that this must surely be his leading. What we must remember is that Satan is the prince of this world system and that sometimes our subjective feelings could be caused by him. Those who teach this position say that if the door is open, it must be the will of God and if the door is closed, it is not God’s will. Often it has been said, “If one door closes, God will open another.” One might want to ask how this helps a follower who is faced with two “open doors,” which are equally valid. Usually, those with this theology do not know how to proceed at this point. Another question one might ask is, “Does a closed door automatically indicate that this is not the direction to go? That an opportunity is no longer available is only a fact: that the opportunity is no longer available. It means nothing by itself. One more illustration, listen to Paul’s words of 2 Corinthians 2.

Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-bye to them and went on to Macedonia.

The “open door” for Paul did not mean it was God’s will for him to stay and minister to those in Troas. Doors that are open, doors that are closed, two doors, doors to walk around, or open doors with no peace of mind, are only part of the consideration of what God may be saying. They are not the primary factor. When did God become a locksmith, locking and unlocking doors so we can proceed? Does he give out a “secret decoder ring, too,” so we can enter the door without incident? Using a different metaphor: Is God really a master chess player moving us as pawns from one place to another at his whim so that he can win a game? Bad theology makes you….

While these concepts may seem humorous, they are occurring daily among Jesus’ followers. One might be ready to ask: “If not these ways of ‘finding’ his will, then what?” Here’s a beginning answer: we need to understand how God acts and learn from his actions how he may act with us. In short, we need to know his story, his complete story, not just some favorite fragmented parts of his story. We need to stop putting on a Band-Aid as a solution to the problem of guidance and try to provide some possible biblical solutions and in so doing, we might need to kill a few sacred cows. It’s not a pretty job, but it needs to be done. So, as we move along, we want to explore the ideas behind why we ask questions about the will of God. What are the things that have helped us form our way of thinking about how God leads?

End of Session

googling God’s Will

God’s EPIC Adventure


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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)