My wife Carolyn is better at making difficult decisions than me. I tend to think it all through very carefully, weighing the pros and cons, taking time to analyze all aspects and so on. Carolyn, on the other hand, comes to a conclusion quickly, announces her decision without hesitation and it’s over. I’ve often been a little envious of her in this.
A good example is when we first met. Carolyn was quickly convinced that I was the one for her and that we should get married. (She made it clear to me.) But I was slower to come to that conclusion. In fact, she is happy to take credit for our marriage happening. She’s convinced that if she wouldn’t have pushed me along, we would never have gotten married.
In my weaker moments like right now, I admit that she’s probably right.
Maybe you’re more like Carolyn or maybe you’re more like me. If you’re more like me, this article should be especially helpful.
I’ve gotten better at making decisions, both big and small ones, based on my biblical understanding of a passage of Scripture in the Epistle of James.
So from James 1, here are 3 steps to know God’s will in difficult decisions:
Some missionaries serve in their own country. Others like myself live in their home country and travel to other places. Others like the Apostle Paul have an almost completely itinerant ministry. And others like my guest on today’s podcast are foreign missionaries.
Steve Barrett, missionary to Japan.
My guest on this podcast is Steve Barrett who is serving Jesus with his wife in Japan. They are foreign missionaries. Steve grew up here in North San Diego County. He learned Japanese language in college and after marrying and moving to Japan.
Steve works with church planting and evangelism. You can hear more of his story on this podcast.
On this podcast you’ll also hear why we need foreign missionaries.
Japan is a great example of the need for foreign missionaries. According to the Disciple All Nations website, “In 29 of Japan’s 47 prefectures [like provinces or municipalities] at least 50% of the towns do not have a church. Two prefectures have no churches at all. Just one prefecture has a church in every town. Thus we conclude that not only have a large majority of those in Japan never heard the Good News about Jesus Christ, but they have little opportunity to hear the Good News, since there are so many towns that do not have a single Church.”
Here are some of the verses related to this topic:
“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:13-15 ESV)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:17-19 ESV, emphasis mine)
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV)
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12 ESV)
“He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 NIV)
Here are other resources from this website on the need for missionaries and evangelism:
I sure know what it is like to feel inadequate. After high school I attended Moody Bible Institute. In summers I went back to my parents’ home in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. One summer, some friends and I were talking. One of them said, “I know what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna be a preacher.”
Church planter (me) wife (Carolyn) and new baby (Gabriel) 1981. We met in this recreation center here in Vista, California.
My response was like Peter who denied the Lord 3 times before the rooster crowed. I immediately answered, “Naw, not me. I can’t stand speaking in front of groups of people.”
In addition, an even greater hindrance was that I didn’t feel spiritually adequate. I thought that:
I didn’t know the Bible well enough.
I didn’t pray enough.
I didn’t have enough spiritual insight and discernment.
I wasn’t the man of God I needed to be.
I don’t know exactly where these feelings of inadequacy came from. But I’ve come to realize that they are quite common. We’re in good company when we feel spiritually inadequate:
Moses felt inadequate and almost refused God’s calling, even after God spoke clearly from the burning bush. (see Exodus 3-4)
Gideon was called, yet felt totally inadequate. He demanded miracles from God before he would respond. (see Judges 6:11-40)
Certainly Peter and the other disciples were totally inadequate to lead in the night of Jesus’ betrayal. When things got risky, they were nowhere to be found. Soon Peter was denying he even knew the Lord Jesus! (see Luke 22:54-62.)
I’m not condemning anyone—I was the same way!
But here’s the point: Each overcame their inadequacy and became great leaders.
Faith means acting when you feel inadequate.
So how can you act in faith when you feel inadequate? Here are 4 ways:
My entire ministry career since 1981 has been connected with church planting. Even before then, the first church Carolyn and I joined after being married in 1979 was a church plant. Even when both of us were children, our parents joined in to help start new churches. Yet some don’t have this background and wonder, “Why do we need new churches?”
This question is understandable, especially in some places and situations where:
There seems to be a church on every corner.
Churches are small and struggling.
People have tried to start new churches but they have failed.
The sacrifice and money used to start new churches doesn’t seem worth it.
So why do we need new churches? Listen to this podcast to find out.
Here are some of the verses related to this topic:
“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. The wine would swell and burst the old skins. Then the wine would be lost, and the skins would be ruined. New wine must be put into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22 CEV)
“On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18b NIV)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you. Then you will be my witnesses to testify about me in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 GW)
For more help in understanding why we need new churches, see my articles on:
My first mountain-sized goal came in the fifth grade. Students were offered the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. I wanted to play drums, but my parents vetoed that idea. So I chose slide trombone. Soon I was pushing out terrible tones that sounded like a wounded elk caught in a snowstorm. Our music teacher deserved a medal, or maybe a pair of golden earplugs!
Yep, that’s me with my trombone in 1969. Before “affordable” color photography!
Learning that musical instrument was harder than I expected. Soon I was ready to quit. I announced this intention to my dad who said, “No way Jose.” Then he quoted Winston Churchill’s famous speech, “Never give up. Never. Never. Never.”
So back to band rehearsal I went, even though it sounded horrible. It was hard to learn to read the music, and it wasn’t fun.
But jump ahead 5 years and it was a ton of fun. I played in my high school’s excellent marching band. In addition, I was in the symphonic band under a wonderful director, Daniel Nawrocki. He led us to first place in state band competition all 4 years I was in Reynoldsburg High School.
Later at Moody Bible Institute I played in the concert band under the direction of Gerald Edmonds. On winter and spring breaks we toured the Eastern and Southern USA. We even toured California and played at Biola University where I later finished my undergraduate education and met Carolyn. One summer we flew to South America and toured Colombia.
Band turned out to be a fantastic experience! What started as an “impossible” mountain-sized goal turned into one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable experiences of my youth.
Over the years I’ve tackled other mountain-sized goals and each time found tremendous fulfillment, no matter how difficult it seemed.
Perhaps you’re considering a mountain-sized goal and wondering how it can be accomplished. Here are 8 steps to tackle a mountain-sized goal in faith:
As a young church planter in the early 1980’s, I remember feeling like I just could not do the job. People opposed me, church growth seemed terribly slow, I was working so many hours yet seeing what seemed like so little progress. It seemed that either I was out of the will of God or that God’s grace didn’t extend to this calling.
In retrospect, that perspective was an illusion. The church eventually grew, we reached many with the Gospel, we became self-supporting right on schedule, I began to hire staff, God provided a building, I never missed a single paycheck. That church, started in 1981, still has an active ministry after 35 years!
As Billy Graham says in this quote, the will of God did NOT take me anywhere His graced did not sustain me. It just seemed like He wasn’t doing enough.
I don’t know how you’re feeling today. Perhaps you’re dealing with a terrible illness, perhaps the death of a dear friend or family member, perhaps financial shortcoming, perhaps opposition and unfair pressure or persecution.
But God will sustain you and He has a plan.
Recently my daily Bible reading brought me to the story of Joseph. Do you remember what happened to him? He was hated by his brothers, sold by them into slavery (although some would rather have killed him), falsely accused of rape, put in prison for about 2 years, had friends who were executed, and could have been himself.
But God was there to sustain him through it all. When vindicated and again face-to-face with his brothers he concluded, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20a ESV)
Did Joseph suffer? Yes!
Was he horribly betrayed? Yes!
Was he incredibly abandoned? Yes!
Did he have reason to wonder if God was working? Yes!
Yet the will of God never took him where the grace of God could not sustain him.
He faithfully served God, even in slavery and imprisonment. In the end, God lifted him to a remarkable place of second in the Kingdom.
You and I probably won’t ever be elevated to such a high position, but the point remains: “The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.”
When we suffer, when we are abandoned and betrayed, let’s remember that God is still working, still sustaining, still making “all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Romans 8:28 KJV)
For more help for handling pain, grief, discouragement, depression and suffering, see my articles and podcasts on:
Wow, we need to get back to the basics: why did God invent marriage in the first place?
Here are some of the verses used in this recording:
“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’” (Genesis 2:18 NLT)
“So I say to those who aren’t married and to widows—it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am. But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9 NLT)
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28a KJV)
For more help in understanding “why did God invent marriage” and how to make marriage work, see these resources on this website:
Years ago I was guest teaching at a small Bible College. My friend, a full-time professor there, had done the unthinkable. He had left his wife and literally run away with one of the students. It was a major moral disaster for his marriage, his family, the girl and the Bible school. I began to think about what to do to protect your marriage.
Here we are at church a few weeks ago.
As I write this, Carolyn and I are about to celebrate our 37th anniversary (on August 4, 2016). I’m so thankful that we’ve never had such a horrible marital crisis as this couple. Why didn’t we? One big reason is that we have implemented simple yet powerful protections.
How can you protect your marriage? How can you make sure nothing like this ever happens to you?
Here are 4 simple yet powerful ways to protect your marriage:
Many people wonder what will happen in the end times. What does Bible prophecy say? It seems like the world is getting more tenuous and the end is getting nearer. What will happen then?
In this podcast Dr. Hal Seed and I share about End Times events. It was recorded live at New Song Community Church in Oceanside, CA. Pastor Hal Seed and I were answering questions posed to us live that day.
This podcast release is timely in the light of the death a few days ago of Dr. Tim LaHaye at age 90. He was the co-author with Jerry Jenkins of the mega best-selling “Left Behind” series of novels on the end times. The Left Behind series sold over 62 million copies worldwide.
In addition, his ministry bio noted that:
He also founded two accredited Christian high schools, a school system of 10 Christian schools, San Diego Christian College (formerly Christian Heritage College), and assisted Dr. Henry Morris in the founding of the Institute for Creation Research, the nation’s foremost exponent of creationist materials.
LaHaye has written more than 60 non-fiction books on a wide range of subjects such as: family life, temperaments, sexual adjustment, Bible prophecy, the will of God, Jesus Christ, and secular humanism with over 14 million in print, some of which have been translated into 32 foreign languages. His writings are best noted for their easy-to-understand and scripturally based application of biblical principles that assist in facing and handling the challenges of life.
This podcast is dedicated to the memory of Tim LaHaye who had a huge impact on people understanding the end times.
For more help on my website with understanding end times prophecy and events check out these resources:
While in seminary I confess to having an overinflated evaluation of my abilities. Between college and seminary, I had traveled for a year with Josh McDowell. Josh had spoken to more college students than anyone else, was a best-selling author and was a bit of a celebrity. Just to be connected with him seemed very special.
So at Talbot Seminary, a guy writing for the student newspaper asked to interview me about my time interning with Josh. That was nice, but what happened in the interview wasn’t.
It seemed that whatever I said told the interviewer that I had an over-inflated ego. Apparently I sounded like I thought I was going to be the next Josh McDowell or Billy Graham.
I forget his exact words, but at the end of the interview he said something to the effect that I had a problem with thinking too highly of myself. It was even worse than that. In essence he said I was being a jerk.
Was he right? Probably so.
Since then I’ve pondered the difference between being confident and being cocky. Certainly confidence is important, especially when we are confident in the Lord.
But when does confidence become cockiness?
A verse that has helped with this is Romans 12:3b which says “I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” (NLT)
This verse is a great guide for avoiding being under or over confident by looking at our abilities in 3 ways: