Here is the final group of questions from the Gull Lake Q&A session last Wednesday morning.
1. How do I know if something is the will of God for me? I think the question is asking how to determine which way to go when we are facing an important decision. Often the problem is that we want a level of certainty that God never promised. “If I take this new job, will it work out for me?” “If I marry Bob, will we be happy together?” “If I decide to go to Tulane, will I later wish I had gone to Georgia Tech?” “If we go to the mission field, will that be a wise decision?” The answer is the same in all cases. Maybe. Maybe things will work out, maybe they won’t. I don’t think God anywhere guarantees how our decisions will turn out. If you have cancer and the doctor advises you to take the chemo and you pray about it and decide to take the chemo, does that mean the cancer will disappear? Maybe, maybe not. The danger is that in seeking certainty, we will be so frozen that we can’t make any decision at all. Proverbs 3:5-6 challenges us to “know” God deeply, personally and intimately. As we do that, he promises to “make our path straight” from where we are to where he wants us to be. When facing a big decision, we should use all the tools at our disposal–the Word, prayer, meditation, research, wise counsel, considering our own desires, and so on. And when the time comes to make a decision, make the best decision that you can make, and then leave the results with God. I talk about this in detail in my book Discovering God’s Will for Your Life.
2. As you and your wife have progressed in your marriage, what have you done to grow in intimacy and commitment? To begin with, I asked Marlene about this to get some ideas. Someone suggested that was part of the answer, which I’m sure is true. Marriage is a duet, not a solo. It’s also a work in progress, not a finished product. And a good marriage, like a good symphony, has movements and melodies, with high notes and low notes, and an ever-changing tempo. Next month we celebrate our 35th anniversary by the grace of God. Looking back we’re both amazed at how we met and fell in love, how we survived so many difficult changes in our first couple of years, and how we’ve grown through it all. I don’t have formula for a lasting marriage, but if I did it would include respect, laughter, prayer, space to grow, godly mentors, a healthy sense of unpredictability, patience, and continual forgiveness. And what we usually call love, I call the commitment to stay married for the long haul based on our deep faith that God wants us to be together for life. See Love is Blind but Marriage is a Can Opener.
3. What suggestions do you have for raising non-passive kids? As parents of grown children, what are the most important things you feel you did with your children? Marlene and I don’t feel like experts in any way regarding child-rearing. When our three boys were growing up, we never played the “pastor’s kid” card and we tried never to let that be a burden to them. Because our boys were rambunctious, we told them that we prayed that if they did wrong, they would get caught. That prayer was answered on several occasions. We came to see that being consistent and keeping our word was very important to them. And we prayed this way–"Lord, raise up our sons to be strong warriors for Jesus Christ.”Sometimes we are too defensive in our prayers–"Lord, protect my children from temptation.” Nothing wrong with praying that way, but we ought to ask God to raise up our children to be strong in the Lord so that they can be world changers for Jesus Christ.
On a practical note, we tried to encourage our boys to be independent. We encouraged them to travel, to go on missions trips, to see the world, and all of them have done it. Travel is a tremendous broadening experience and an excellent form of education. And because we had a basement, we encouraged them to have their friends over any time. We always felt it was good to have “home field advantage” with our kids. So hardly a day passed without a group of guys upstairs or downstairs or both. It was loud, and we spent a lot on food, but it was worth it. See Mighty Oaks and Graceful Pillars.
What guidance to you have for a lay person who has been called to teach
God’s Word? Starting in September I’m teaching a Bible study class for
250 women. Congratulations on your new opportunity. I think
you’ll find this an exciting and stretching challenge. Here are a few
suggestions: 1. Spend time listening to men and women you consider good
Bible teachers. Via the Internet you can now listen (and watch) the
greatest Bible teachers from the comfort of your own home. As you
listen, ask yourself, “How is he doing that?” “How long did she spend
on the introduction?” “What were the main points?” “How did she wrap up
that lesson?” 2. Write down your lecture notes. Don’t wing it. Better
to go to the podium the first few times with too much instead of too
little. 3. Seek a simple and clear style. 4. Don’t mess around in your
introduction. It’s hard to explain what I mean, but sometimes I hear
speakers who are well-meaning but spend a long time fiddling around,
talking about this and that, telling story after story, slowly
meandering toward the topic. That drives people nuts. Get to the point
as quickly as you can. 5. Don’t try to be a “great” teacher, whatever
that is. In baseball terms, just get on base. You don’t have to hit
home runs every time. 6. Pray that God will help you to teach his Word
in a way that changes your own life. God bless you as you teach your
class this fall!