A Heart for Yes

Have you felt “that nudge” lately—you know, the call of God to act or speak on His behalf? He probably prompts us more often than we know. The fact we sense His Spirit’s leading is a great thing, for it shows God knows us personally and delights in accomplishing His will through little ol’ us. It also confirms that we can and do hear Him. What a joy! And how humbling! He is faithful to honor us this way and to involve us in meaningful work of eternal impact, which leaves us to consider how we will RSVP to His invitation to join Him today. For instance, when God asked Isaiah, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” the prophet eagerly volunteered, “Here I am! Send me.”1 Perhaps we have had similar encounters and still savor the joy of heeding the call. Then there are the less stellar moments, such as when God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. “Who am I that I should go . . .?”2 he objected, adding, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”3 Surely, we can relate to both of these men, for certainly we have responded at times like each.

Responses come from the heart, so how do we become more faithful in our spiritual “yes” and less inclined toward our natural “no”? Several things come to mind. I share them not as a burdensome checklist, but as liberating truths to contemplate.

Know God has meaningful work for you. He has “created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”5 He has His plans for each of us, so we look to Him for direction.

Stay close. Christ lives in us, and no one loves us more intimately. It is safe to trust, rest and rejoice in His presence. So as James promises, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”4 The closer we are to Him through prayer and His Word, the more clearly we’ll hear His voice.

Embrace humble tasks. Paul counsels us: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves,”6 and he ushers us toward the mindset of Christ, who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”7

Remember God blesses us as we bless others. In washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus modeled in mere minutes what He had taught for three years, adding, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”8

Prepare your heart to respond His voice. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”9 This is our daily call to trust and obey.

Take heart. “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”10

Father, Here I am! Send me. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Isaiah 6:8 ESV
2 Exodus 3:11 ESV
3 Exodus 4:13 ESV
4 James 4:8 ESV
5 Ephesians 2:10 NLT
6 Philippians 2:3
7 Philippians 2:8 ESV
8 John 13:17
9 Hebrews 4:7 ESV
10 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (emphasis added)


UALC Podcast

It was my great honor and pleasure to record a podcast with Brodie and Andrea Taphorn—Upper Arlington Lutheran Church (UALC) staff members—about my new book, Working in Us What Is Pleasing to Him. It was so fun interacting with these talented co-hosts as they elicited my thoughts about the book and shared their own insights as well. They did a wonderful job. I hope you enjoy this podcast. -Paul


Life on God’s Terms

My second book was released two days ago. It explores different ways God changes us over time to be more like Jesus. I really hope people buy the book, read it, and share it with others, and I hope all who read it grow more in trust and rest more in peace. Yet something has been nagging at me lately, and that is this: It is very easy—a temptation even—to spend so much time learning about God’s Kingdom that we spend very little time working to grow God’s Kingdom. Reading and studying is important: we must discern what is true and renew our minds accordingly. Yet as a pastor once shared with me, there is more to Christianity than just being right.

Throughout the Bible, God defines His relationship with us through His promises and His commands, often speaking both at the same time. To Abraham, for instance, He commanded, “Go . . . to the land I will show you,”1 and promised, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you . . .”2 At His ascension, Jesus commanded His friends, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .”3 adding then this promise: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”4 Again, God defines our relationship with Him on His terms. Then what is our role? We respond. We say “yes” to God’s promises by believing them, and we say “yes” to God’s commands by obeying them. These are hardly separate from each other, in fact, the apostle Paul blends them in referring to “the obedience that comes from faith,”5 which is to say, when we really believe God, when we trust in His amazing character and receive His intimate love, our spirit leaps in response. Our enlightened faith in God pours out in effective obedience to God.

Does this mean we run around doing things “for” God in order to gain His favor? No, we ask Him to lead us in the works He has “prepared in advance for us to do.”6 Do we stop learning and focus on doing? No, that would be a false-choice alternative—there are other options between the two extremes. Instead, Peter charges us “to make every effort” to grow in godly character for a purpose—to “keep . . . from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”7 We draw near to God through His Word, so that as He calls us, we will go. And as we go according to His promises and commands, we will be effective and productive. He promises.

“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:18)

Father, quiet our hearts before you, that we would trust in you and go in your Spirit. Bear fruit through us, Your people, today. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Genesis 12:1
2 Genesis 12:2-3
3 Matthew 28:19 ESV
4 Matthew 28:20 ESV
5 Romans 1:5; 16:27
6 Ephesians 2:10
7 2 Peter 1:5-8