God’s Plan

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July 6

Monday, July 6th, 2020

My reading from John MacArthur’s book One Perfect Life covered Jesus’ time on the cross (6 hours). Several events stand out to be:

  • His first words were “Father, forgive them…” Not a complaint or a cry of agony or of unfairness. Words of forgiveness.
  • The soldiers unwittingly fulfilled prophecy by gambling for His robe. Check out Psalm 22:18.
  • The chief priests didn’t like what Pilate wrote on the inscription he put on the cross.  He wrote “This is”; they wanted “He said He was.”  Answer: “What I have written I have written.”  Pilate-1/ Priests-0
  • Two robbers were crucified with Jesus. I’ve always wondered about the one.  Did he originally join in the antagonism? Did he see and hear Jesus and come to his senses? Did Jesus talk to him as He hung there? (Remember John 21:25). Did he know at one time and return? Answers I will will never know until I see the thief or Jesus.
  • The utter agony of Jesus the last 3 hours on the cross seen in His words: Forsaken. Thirsty. Finished (task completed). Giving up (committal to His Father).

All for me. Undeserved.  Not asked for. Unmerited. All for me. And you. Sinners. To the core. Unlovely, yet loved.

“Father, how can I say thanks enough? How can I find the words? They fail me. Accept my heartfelt gratitude for your undeserved love and mercy and grace.”

June 23

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

Memory foam. Touted as the mattress material that “remembers” its shape. It always goes back to its original state. It bounces back.

The big C church has always been that way. Kick it; punch it; slap it; tackle it; it always come back. Not that if ever left. It has had to hunker down a time or two.  It has had to go underground for awhile. It has taken blows that looked like it was down for the count. It took on the look of the culture and about camouflaged itself out of sight, but it was always there. Like a phoenix it would rise out of the dust and ashes to become a champion.

How do I know that? Because Jesus said it would. He once said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” I read the following quote that got me thinking:

Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave. G.K.Chesterton

The big C church is under attack today. Speak out and we are accused of being homophobic, bigoted, opinionated, etc. Stay silent and we are accused of bigotry, prejudice, pride, and a lack of compassion. Many want to hide. But the church will never die. It may cloud over; it may become a funky gray color; it may appear misty; but it will stand. Why? Because we will remember Jesus’ word that the gates of hell will never prevail.  Never win. But the church will win. We have His Word on it.

“Father, thank you for the words of Jesus. No matter how bad things get; no matter how rough they get; no matter how disturbing and accusatory they become, the church will prevail.”

June 19

Friday, June 19th, 2020

The term pro-life has come to mean several things. Say, “I’m pro-life” and it will be (rightfully) assumed you are against abortion. It should mean so much more though. Sadly, it has come to be a point of contention. It should mean you are for life. From prebirth to death life is precious. We have a couple who knew before birth their son would be born with health-challenges, particularly the heart. But abortion never entered their minds, never even crossed them. A handicapped child deserves life. An older person who suffers from dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers, or any other debilitating disease deserves life.

Yesterday I took part in a special dedication ceremony. A Safe Haven Baby Box (SHBB) was placed in Spencer. There are only 32 of the boxes in the country- Owen County is #32. The SHBB is for mom’s who have realized their end of taking care of their baby to be able to put their baby in the box. A door opens and inside is a baby incubator, where she can place her baby. The door locks, an alarm sounds both when the door is open and when a baby is placed in the box. It is both heated and air-conditioned. The alarm is sent to 911 where a dispatch is sent to retrieve the baby and put it in good hands. Every life matters and this gives an “unwanted” baby a chance at life. That is being proactive about pro-life! Two of our ladies-Shelby and Vicki-were a big part of making this a reality. I was honored to be asked to pray a blessing over this endeavor.

Every Christ-follower should be pro-life. That is not a political statement. It is a “life statement.”

“Father, Jesus came to give life and to give it abundantly. Help me to not only relish that life in and from Him, but to also show others life in Him.”

June 2

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

I’ve been doing a lot of listening to podcasts and reading blogs during this crisis. I’ve also been trying to enrich my life with reading books. One of my all-time favorite leadership books (Possible #1) has been Love Works by Joel Manby. I recently read the updated and revised version. Joel has some seriously good things to say. His philosophy of leading by love was easy at one place of business but extremely difficult at another. In an interview on a podcast Joel said a couple of gems:

You always learn more in a failure.

I take that to mean when things are going well and firing on all cylinders, it is easy to get lax. But crisis or failure stops on in his tracks and makes re-evaluation an essential.

He also said:

Sometimes in the very darkest moments, you don’t see a way out.  But you get through it. And then you realize that God was waiting to teach you something.

Been there; done that.

God speaks to us through His Word, but there are also times He uses events to teach us. Remember Elijah? It wasn’t in the whirlwind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but in the whisper that God spoke to him. (See I Kings 19:11-13)

Who knows how God will speak? But I do know we have to slow down enough to hear.

“Father, slow me down to hear Your whisper. Use this crisis to show me Your desire for me.”

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I’m in Ohio for a couple of days visiting Janna and Braden. Please comment and I will approve it in time.

May 25

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Today has been set aside as Memorial Day. It’s a day of remembrance for those who served in the military. In my 67 years, I have met many who have served. WWII. Korean. VietNam. Desert Storm. Gulf War. Afghanistan. Marines. Navy. Army. Air Force. Reserves. National Guard. Coast Guard. I know some who have come back wounded-physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. I know of spouses back home-families-who anxiously waited for their return.  I simply cannot fathom the agony of ones back home receiving word their loved one-husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.-are coming home, but in a casket. I shudder as I think of that even now.

But I am grateful for each and every one who served to keep something we value-freedom. I hate war. War is a necessary evil though. Sometimes we have to resort to that to preserve something so important. Freedom from the crown. Freedom from slavery. Freedom from oppression and evil. Freedom from terror and fear.

Each week we celebrate another kind of memorial-a memorial of a life given for others. We call it the Lord’s Supper. Someone went to battle for us. Only it wasn’t a battle with swords and guns; it was a battle against sin. Someone who didn’t deserve it went in our place. It was at the cross where the defining battle took place. Seeming defeat became the prelude to a death-defying victory.  This victory is far more important than any battle fought here on earth. This one had eternal implications.

“Thank you Father for the cross. Thank you for Jesus’ willingness to die in my place, to secure my freedom from death, hell, and the grave. I thank you also for each man and woman who served our country. May they know our gratitude today and always. And finally, and more importantly, I thank you for Jesus.”

May 22

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Is there any of us who hasn’t struggled with prayer? I’m not talking about frequency, or seeing the necessity, or posture, or any of the varied ways to pray. I’m talking about believing God will answer our prayer. Or to put it another way: Is God even listening?

You know how it goes:

  • A dearly loved grandmother is diagnosed with dementia.
  • A much-loved child is diagnosed with cancer.
  • A husband or wife is only given weeks, maybe months, to live.
  • A job ends and days of unemployment turn into weeks then months.
  • A much prayed-for child goes AWOL and chooses a lifestyle we don’t approve of.
  • A pastor/youth pastor goes rogue and leaves everything to pursue lust.
  • A child we have prayed for and prayed over since before birth becomes a prodigal, abandoning their faith.

The list seems endless doesn’t it? Is God listening? Is He deaf? We are praying in faith believing, but it just doesn’t seem to be heard. The prayer hits the ceiling and slaps us in the face, laughing at us.

We may never know the “why” of God’s work. Least not at the moment. Maybe later. Maybe. I honestly have no answer except to say, “Been there; done that; keep praying.” God is listening. It may not seem like it, but He is. Sometimes no matter the sincerity or the fervency or the heartache the prayer goes unanswered. That doesn’t mean God is not listening; it does mean our wish is not His command. God is not deaf. He is not out relieving Himself (as Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal about their god).  God is heart-broken over your heart break. He is shedding tears with you as you shed tears before Him. He does care. He is listening.

“Father, in spite of long lag time, help me to trust, to believe You have things in Your sight.”

May 20

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

These are interesting times. And, as can be expected, times like this brings the conspiracy theorists out of the woodwork. Along with the cultural conspiracy theorists (who did this; where did it start; who’s behind it; what are they hiding; etc.), we also have what I will call the “prophecy theorists.”  This time is a link to something in the Bible-Daniel or Revelation to be sure- that is a “sign” of or the beginning of the signs for the second coming of Jesus.

Now, I’m not knocking prophecy. It is obviously a vital part of the biblical landscape, but there are some who spend every waking moment looking for signs. On a recent visit someone asked me about my eschatology. I gave my stock answer: “I’m a panmillenialist because it will all pan out in the end.” I’m not trying to be disrespectful to prophecy buffs, and especially to God and His Word, but how many times does someone have to be told that not even Jesus knew when He was coming back? I went on to tell this person that my rule of thumb is to say, “I don’t know the signs or the when, but what I do know is that when Jesus returns, you better be ready.”

I think that has credence thanks to Luke 12:35-48. Jesus says, “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find them watching…And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.” As I see it, my responsibility is not to look for and interpret “signs” but to be ready and help others be ready when Jesus returns. I will continue, and always will continue, believing Jesus is returning. When? Who knows. All I do know is I want to be that servant who is ready and expectant for when He does. I sincerely hope you are also ready.

“Father, You have promised Jesus will return. I believe that. You have said He could come at any time. I believe that too. Help me to live as a servant who is ready for his master to return.”

May 12

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

We all face tough days. We use different phrases to describe them:

From the frying pan into the fire.

Going from bad to worse.

Between a rock and a hard place.

My mother told me there would be days like this, but she never told me they would run in packs.

The light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an oncoming train.

There are still a few hymns I like but my favorite-hands down- is Great is Thy Faithfulness. Rich theology. Steeped in Scriptural truth. It tells the Gospel truth of an unchanging, powerful, sovereign God. When all else around me shakes, rattles and rolls, I have a faithful God. He stand as a rock. He never wavers or waffles. He never stumbles or slumbers. He never falters or fades away. He never ducks or disappears. He is steady, sovereign, steadfast, and solid.

And He surprises me with new insights each day. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  (Lam.3: 22-23) I did not say “new revelations” because I don’t believe that happens, but each day I am the recipient of His mercy. No matter the storm. No matter the negative stuff. No matter what hits the fan. No matter the height of the mountain. He is there. Unmovable. Giving me fresh strength. Fresh eyes. Fresh hope.

“Father, even in the midst of this current struggle; even in the midst of a storm; even in the midst of seasons of change-YOU. NEVER. CHANGE. You are faithful.”

April 24/Weekend

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Should I or shouldn’t I? Do I go or do I stay? Is God calling me to do this or to do that? Those are questions probably most of us have asked from time to time.

I remember once when I was in a pastorate that had sucked me dry. I had sought to get out and the time was finally here. I had already interviewed and preached at a church and had been asked to accept the call to pastor that church. I asked for a couple of weeks to pray. In the meantime, I had already had an interview lined up with another church just in case church #1 didn’t work out. So I went ahead and interviewed with church #2 and found them to be wonderful and engaging and seemingly eager to break out of their mold. I was unsure and said something to a friend. He said, “Bill, take church #1. They have already extended a call. Plus even if it ends up being the wrong choice, God won’t abandon you.” He was right. I did. And church #1 did end up being the right choice for several reasons.

We often work ourselves into a frenzy or get frazzled trying to figure out “God’s will” for a certain situation. Should I or shouldn’t I? What choice? You know the questions. In his devotion book Good Morning, Lord…Can We Talk? Chuck Swindoll gave four great suggestions we should consider before taking a step of faith:

  1. Be sure it’s the Lord who is speaking.  We ought to make sure it is not just our wish or someone else’s for us.
  2. Be sure the decision doesn’t contradict Scripture. To leave a good, honorable, stable job to manage a porn store, for example, is not the right choice.
  3. Be sure your motive is unselfish and pure. Motive. Motive. Motive.
  4. Be sure the “leap” won’t injure others or your testimony. See #2. I think it would be wise to seek counsel and most definitely the “go for it” from those close to you.

Those are some good suggestions. I wish I had had them when I was trying to make that decision back in 1984. I now know it most certainly was the right one, but I could have saved a lot of unnecessary questioning back then. Not that either one would have been wrong, but church #2 never again did contact me. (Later one of the couples involved in the interview apologized. I don’t think they were thrilled how it went down). 

“Father, thank you for freedom of choice. As I choose-big or little-may the choices I make be Your desire for me. Open my eyes to see Your leading.”

April 15

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Did you know on this date in 1912 Titanic sunk?  108 years ago. Okay…on to other things.

As I write this-April 15, 2020- our lives are being “determined” by the COVID-19 virus. I use the word determined in quotes because while some people see it that way, I don’t.  I still see God in control of this whole scene and firmly believe my steps-all steps- are determined by the Lord.

One of the safety steps we are told to take is social distancing. At home it is called self-quarantine. Do not expose yourself to anyone nor allow anyone to expose themselves to you. It, for many, has become a lonely existence, a lonely time. Sure, there is social media if you use it. There is texting and phones. But interpersonal interaction in minimal, at best. I was reminded of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy. He is in prison with his life soon to  be snuffed out when he writes this letter to Timothy. He asks Timothy to come to him soon (v.9). He’s alone, deserted (v.10). Bring Mark with you and join me and Luke (v.11). Oh yeah, bring my cloak with you also and my parchments (v.13). Is Paul feeling sorry for himself? No, I don’t think so. He is simply gathering his friends around him for one last hoorah. How do I know that? Several reasons:

  1. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure has come. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…” (4:6-8)
  2. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (4:18)

Paul may have been in isolation in a dingy prison cell. But the last thing on his mind was defeat. On the contrary, his lips were filled with praise (v.17). In spite of our circumstances, we are not alone. Not by a long shot. God knows and provides all we need. If you are feeling alone, isolated, or just plain fearful, reach out to Him and also reach out to people as Paul did. In this age of social distancing and isolation and self-quarantine, you are never alone and you don’t have to be isolated.

“Father, help me to find ways to reach out while respecting others’ need for space. If I’m lonely or feeling isolated, please bring someone into my life whom I can help.”