...[H]ow do we... grasp this guiding hand of God provided by His Spirit? How do I listen to God’s dreams for my future when serious decisions are placed before me? How do I find the still, calm voice of the Almighty amid the chaos of my life when everything I’ve known is suddenly turned upside down? Let me say, I don’t claim to have all the answers — far from it. But between the great minds I’ve read and my own life experience, let me suggest four check points.
First, apply the marvelous mind God has given you toward any significant decision. Apply the logic of love to the formula — will my actions help others? Does my decision fit into what I understand is God’s will for my life? Is this consistent with the ethic of Jesus to which I’ve committed my life? Will it make be a better person?
Journalist Norman Cousins once interviewed the great medical missionary Albert Schweitzer. Schweitzer had previously had a highly successful academic career as a theologian and musician. He gave all that up to go to medical school and then spent his life in service to the rural poor in the jungles of Africa. Cousins asked Schweitzer why he made such a change. Did he hear a voice or have some mystical spiritual experience? Schweitzer replied he knew some people who claimed such moments, but they were not his. Rather, he saw a need, understood he had the ability to meet that need and, believing Jesus’ command to love others as self, chose to alter his life. The missionary noted his choice was logical. So, if you want the guidance of God, first apply the mind God gave you.
Second, pray. If you want to hear the voice of God, you have to listen for it. Again, this may not be a "bells and whistles" moment. God usually speaks in gentle nudges and quiet impressions. Most directions from our Lord are not in some supernatural sign but an inner voice that confirms what we knew was right all along. One of the most legitimate prayers lifted is "Lord, what would you have me do?" And if you sense an answer, do it.
Third, rely on the wisdom of a person of faith you trust. This isn’t just lunch talk to a co-worker or chat with your spouse — although those might be appropriate. The ancients called one a "spiritual guide." Contemporary evangelicals often name them "prayer warriors." You might call such a "Christian friend." The key is seek out an objective perspective from one in which you sense God at work. They can honestly ask not "what do you want to do" but "what does God want you to do?" They will nudge you toward seeing your choices from above rather than from the middle of the hurricane. I believe one reason we gather as a church is because God’s wisdom often is heard through the voice of trusted fellow pilgrims.
Fourth, if at all possible, give yourself some space between the answer and the action. The early church fathers said if you could "rest" with a decision — that is, be comfortable and glean a sense of heartfelt peace — you could know God’s Holy Spirit — the "Comforter" — was in the decision. The decision may bring the chaos of the fires of hell down upon your head, but your heart is calm in knowing you’re doing the right thing.
In 1555, Protestant reformer Nicholas Ridley was sentenced to be burned at the stake for heresy by Catholic powers. On the night before his execution, his brother offered to stay with him in the prison cell as support and comfort. However, Ridley declined the offer because he planned to go to bed and sleep that night. He noted, he knew the peace of God and could rest in the strength of God’s gracious arms to meet his need. To "rest" with a choice finds calm even amid the chaos.
Finally, let me underscore one thing about God’s providence. In seeking God’s direction for your life, don’t expect to get a flashbulb insight or a vision into the decades. Life is often more a tangled mess than a single thread. We usually get thrown curves for which we’re totally unprepared. That means each day has it’s own struggles and we must ask daily for God’s wisdom and will. Theologian Karl Barth was asked late in life how he kept his faith. He indicated he simply kept a look out for God at work in the now of his life. "As I see it," he said, "my career has been a ‘succession of present moments.’"
Compare and contrast the love of God and the obvious compassion of Pastor Steve Jolly with the derisive and inflammatory comments we've heard from Pastor Josh Buice, who has written:
Science? Hahaha!... A gentleman — rather intellectual — named Kent Hovind — [the creationist who believes dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago — click here for an unflattering analysis of Hovind] has a standing offer for anyone who can prove evolution.... I am going to a literal heaven which has  literal foundations, a literal street of gold, 12 literal gates made of one literal pearl (per gate), and a literal city that is garnished with literal precious stones!.... I personally believe that the Masons are worshipping a false god.... Freemasonry is radical heresy and a true religious cult.... It embraces false gods and false religions. It forces people to deny Jesus Christ.... Freemasonry is dangerous and should be avoided and exposed... [Satan] has fooled, deceived, or tricked you into believing a lie.... your comments and rantings come across as pre-historic and primate... I oppose... [the Christian ministry of a fellow Southern Baptist ministry — JC's Girls — as] vile sin!
Now compare and contrast that version of Southern Baptist venom with Freemason Street Baptist Church....
From the Freemason Street Baptist Church website:
Continually progressive, Freemason Street has always promoted an inclusive attitude. Following the Civil War, it openly welcomed northern Christians and over the years has taken a stand for racial equality, care of refugees, the poor and the status of women. Such an attitude led the church to vote to leave the Southern Baptist Convention in 1993 and affiliate with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Freemason Street Baptist Church, located in downtown Norfolk, has a long and proud history of leadership and strength in local Baptist denominational affairs and that today is characterized by a formal worship service and a diverse congregation of independent believers who work to create an environment where people feel they are members of a warm and caring Christian family, and who are presently striving to revitalize their church’s role in the community.
I wonder how comfortable members of Freemason Street Baptist Church might be in Josh's "Mason's are going to hell" Southern Baptist church?
Heck, even the Widow's Son might fit in at Freemason Street Baptist Church....
Freemason Street Baptist Church | Stephen Jolly | Josh Buice
Kent Hovind | Creationism | Creation Science