Category Archives: HOW GOD GUIDES

Almost 30 years ago I wrote a paper on what I believed about divine guidance. Recently I decided to review, edit, and add to what I taught as a 20-something pastor. I thought it might take a few weeks to shore up the writing and insert some anecdotes from my decades of trial and error method finding God’s will. I wanted to tell some of the stories of me floundering and falling, and of Jesus running to my rescue. He’s good that way. Without his patient tutelage I’d be as lost as the lost I hope to find and introduce to our Guide. Anyway, It took me (off and on) over a year to rewrite what I believe at present about how he guides his followers.

You know it works in the world of the blog – though I’ll post the chapters in the order in which they make the most sense (at least to me), they’ll appear in the blog in the opposite order. I do recommend that you read the Introduction first (it’s particularly important in order to get a sense of where I’m coming from) and then after that maybe the next four or five chapters in order. After that, if you’re not up for reading all the sections, you could pick and choose what interests you most without losing the sense of the paper as a whole.

Here are the chapter titles, which I’ll publish in this original order:

• Some introductory thoughts
• The God Positioning System
• The Bible is your first stop
• Use your “Sanctified Common Sense”
• He speaks; can you hear him?
• Sometimes he’s silent
• Find out what he’s doing and do it with him
• Observe the burden…
• Listen to your friends (especially the good ones)
• There’s usually a “peace” when it’s right
• Sometimes it takes some serious seeking
• Open and closed doors
• You gotta live right to hear right
• How’s your “whatever”?
• Divine appointments
• Being led without realizing it (until later)
• Enjoy Jesus every day
• When you pray
• Keep moving
• My problem with the strategic plan
• You might have to wait a while
• Signs & Fleeces
• Dreams, visions, and angels
• Sometimes he sends a prophet
• Notice the repeated notices
• I think I “missed it”
• In conclusion

If you love God and care about his will, I sure hope that you’ll find this writing to be helpful. (My guess is that few who don’t love him will have even arrived at this point to read my musings, and if they have, would be less than enthused to read on.) But for those who genuinely want God’s will for their lives (in the big picture and the small), I hope to demystify rather than mystify the subject. If my approach isn’t helpful to you, then stop reading my words and give your fullest attention to God’s words in the Bible!

He speaks. Can you hear him?

listeningThe bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. John 3:29

As I started my arduous climb out of a time that I call my “hell of mercy,” I began feeling compassion in my heart for a certain needy neighborhood in San Francisco. I wasn’t nearly well enough to make a move into such a depressed inner-city neighborhood; nevertheless I was sensing some sort of inkling toward it. The fact that I had any impetus at all at that particular season of my life gave me hope that God was still talking to me at all. I found myself driving the half hour to the community doing what I call, “reconnaissance.” I wasn’t convinced yet that God was indeed asking me to relocate there in order to find some simple ways to serve him and help people. But it makes sense to me when I’m looking for the will of God I should pray “onsite” with as much “insight” as possible. Continue reading

Sometimes it takes some serious seeking

They fasted that day until evening… and inquired of the Lord… They asked, “Shall we go up to battle with our brother Benjamin or not?” The Lord responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.” Judges 20:26-28

One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:2 

guidanceSince it’s the beginning of a new year, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about how to know and do God’s will. It only makes sense that when we’re looking for God’s will about serious life situations that we’d take extraordinary measures to seek him. I’m not saying that in those circumstances that he always requires such seeking, because sometimes he just drops the clear picture on us without us making any effort at all. But I’ve found that he does sometimes require some more serious seeking than usual in order to dispense his guidance. It’s certainly not because he needs me to pray harder or longer or at an earlier hour in order to be able to give me his leading. It’s most likely because I’m supposed to get closer to him, and he’s using my crossroads to pull me in. So for me, in times of significant transition, in addition to praying about it, asking my friends to pray and advise me, being particularly attentive to anything God might want to speak to me in the Word – I’ll often spend an unusual amount of time conversing with him and might do some fasting, which is often part of serious seeking. Continue reading

Find out what God is doing and do it with him

 The Son can nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19

guidanceBefore leaving the States, Larry told us to pack some old shoes for our soggy hike through Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem. (Google it for info and photos of the ancient tunnel. Pay particular attention to how narrow and dark it looks in the pictures!) King Hezekiah ordered the tunnel to be dug underneath Jerusalem almost 3000 years ago to get water into the City incognito, so that their enemies wouldn’t be able to cut off their supply. In addition to Google and Wikipedia, you can read about it in 2 Chronicles 32 and 2 Kings 20. It’s about 6 football fields long, sometimes just a few feet wide, and often no more than 6 ½ feet high. Having been through the tunnel several times before, Larry assured us it was “relatively safe” for the non-claustrophobic. (If you suffer from a fear of small, dark, and wet spaces you might opt to do some shopping in the Old City on the day your tour group heads for the tunnel.) Continue reading

Whose Will Be Done?

I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for a man to direct his steps. Jeremiah 10:23 

A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way? Proverbs 20:24

Calling ourselves “followers of Jesus” implies he’s going somewhere and we’re going the same places he goes. At the beginning of each New Year a lot us set goals for ourselves and make plans. As the wise spiritual sage, Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans!” It’s not that planning is a bad idea. We should do it with our ears open to heaven.guidance

Many of us who routinely pray the Lord’s Prayer zip over the part about “Thy will be done.” We say it about as meaningfully as grace over breakfast. But if we’re honest with ourselves, do we really want his will to be done – I mean not just about world peace or a more stable economy? Do we want him to meddle in our lives as far as to tell us what he wants us to do? Continue reading

(Just) Enough Time (Part 1 of 6)

[Rather than read this piece-by-piece, if you prefer, you can see the entire essay at]

“My uncle told a good story with his life, but I think there was such a sadness at his funeral because his story wasn’t finished. If you aren’t telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died. But my uncle died too soon.” Donald Miller

When I was first diagnosed with cancer I worried about dying before my story was finished. I had, and still have, a number of things to achieve, people to reach, chapters to live and to tell. It wasn’t the dying part that bothered me so much as living long enough (and well enough) to complete my story (and complete it well). A number of things have comforted me since then, not the least of which is the assortment of passages strewn throughout the pages of my Bible – a selection of which come from John’s Gospel. These in particular, consoled me; on the one hand, with the confidence that God would give me with enough time to do everything he wanted me to do. His “To Do List” was still achievable even if I did have less time than I had previously thought. On the other hand, there were other verses that injected me with a conviction that he would give me just enough time. I’d have time, but no more than I needed to finish my assignment. Continue reading

Oops, I missed it…

[At long last, we’ve come to the 25th and final chapter of “How God Guides” (along with a brief conclusion. I began by saying that this is no exact science, and that even the best of us miss (or avoid) God’s leading at times – even lots of times. Well, I’m saying it again, not only because it bears repeating, but also because I’m sure I’ve missed it since I began writing all this! But don’t be so smug, for no doubt you have too. Anyway, thanks for reading. But do yourself and the needy world around you a favor and don’t be satisfied with reading about the will of God, begin doing it!]

Let’s be honest and admit that we’re not always going to get it right. We’re going to be mistaken sometimes about what we think God is saying to us. I said before that if I had a nickel for every time I missed the cues that God was sending my way, I’d be a rich man! Continue reading

Notice the repeated notices…

[Chapter 24 of “How God Guides.” He’s nice enough to repeat himself to those of us hard of hearing (or of doing).]

Peter had a series of things happen to him in three’s.  He denied the Lord three times, Jesus asked him three times if he loved him, the sheet-like object containing un-kosher animals came to him in a vision three times, and it was three men sent by Cornelius who came to the door. When Pharaoh dreamt about the seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, he had the same dream twice, only with different characters (Genesis 41).  When Joseph interpreted the dreams he said, “The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon” (Genesis 41:32).  Jesus’ life is recorded in fourGospels. The last of Moses’ books is called, Deuteronomy, which means “Second Law.”  The key word of the book is “remember,” because it’s basically the repetition of what was already recorded in Exodus and Leviticus. God knows our tendency to forgetwhat he says – so he says it again! Continue reading