God’s Plan

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April 9

Friday, April 9th, 2021

We often hear people say something similar to this: “You need to see that God has something much better for you.”  Even though that is true, sometimes it smacks of insensitivity. It also seems almost meaningless because the person may not be ready to hear that or want to hear it.

I know what a person is saying when they do. We often get so myopic that we fail to see the bigger picture. We see the hear and now. Like a card player who keeps his cards close to this chest, that is all we see. Up close and personal.

When the truth is that God may have a bigger picture for us. If He gave us what we wanted all the time, we would miss that. I was reading Psalm 119 this morning (and yesterday and the day before) :). In Psalm 119:26 it says, “I told you my plans, and you answered. Now teach me Your decrees. “ It’s like he realizes God has so much more to teach him.

Here’s the reality: I would never have known what God had waiting for me if I had only aimed at my target. God has so much more than my eyes can see. His plans for my life are so much bigger than mine. He wants to give me so much more than my keep-things-close-to-my-chest-vision can see.

It’s good to pray for answers but leave a card or two available for God to show His hand.

“Father, You are good. Kind. Loving. And would NEVER give me bad things or do bad things. Help me to pray but then leave the door open for You to work.”

April 8

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

I like to tease Jo. Sometimes I know I really get on her “last nerve.” One of Tami’s students once her: “Miss Grandi. Are we getting on your last nerve?”  🙂  Yeah, that would be me with Jo.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like to tease Jo. One of those times is when she was watching a Hallmark movie-whether it is the two-month-before-Christmas-movie-marathon or even now. There is a word which describes those movies:

Predictability.

I bug her (not because I chit chat while she is watching the movie or I ask half way through what is happening), but because I tell her what is going to happen. This guy and girl will meet at a lodge or some vacation spot (they like resorts). They might know each other from the past. They will start having feelings for each other but then one will have a close friend (sometimes someone they soon plan to marry) who will get in the way. One will leave but that in the last 10 minutes or so will show up at the shindig. They will realize they have fallen in love with each other and kiss and live happily ever after…or so we assume.

Predictability.

There might be a variation or two depending on the story line, but ultimately they all come down to a couple falling in love.

We like predictability…to some extent. I tend to think it could get boring having the same old same old day in and day out. My vote is for variation, for unpredictability, for adventure, for not knowing.

Have you ever given some thought to our lives as Christ-followers? How important is variety? Truthfully, we should be used to unpredictability by now. We serve a God who might be “the same yesterday, today and forever” and never changes, but the way He works is priceless. There is no “one size fits all.” Nor does He operate the same way each time. Sometimes it is a gentle tap on the window. Sometimes it is in the storm. Sometimes it is in the clear and gentle breeze.

And one thing is sure: no matter how He works, the most predictable part of it all is that He loves us and wants the best for us.

“Father, thank you for being You. Thank You for being both predictable in Who You are, and yet unpredictable in how you will work. Help me to see it as part of Your loving plan.”

March 10

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

Let’s continue with some more thoughts on gratitude.

I personally think one of the hardest things to do and to see is to be grateful in all circumstances. But I believe some of that is because of wrong thinking. I did not say “Be thankful for all circumstances” but in all circumstances.

Of course, I’m not going to be thankful for cancer or MS or bankruptcy or (fill in the blank). I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would say, “I’m so thrilled and thankful I lost my home, my car, my family, etc because I lost my job and now I can’t afford anything. So I guess I’ll file for bankruptcy and be happy about it.” Or “I’m so thankful cancer is ravaging my body.” When I was going through my medical issues as a result of being a Covid long-hauler, I wasn’t praising the Lord for all of that.

But I can be thankful in that situation. Gratitude doesn’t hinge on certain or good circumstances in my life.  The opposite, however, can be true: I should be able to be thankful in those circumstances KNOWING God’s presence is there with me. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Philippians when he said, “He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion.” (1:6) We are all in the dark when it comes to God’s plans for our lives. All we can really do is trust Him in and through it all to complete His purpose and perfect will.

Can you say you are grateful in all circumstances? I certainly want to be able to say I am!

“Father, only You know what is ahead for me.  Help me to be thankful in all my circumstances, no matter what they may be, knowing You are there with me. I thank You for Your presence in all things.”

February 17

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

When most of you read this my day of an interesting adventure may either be in progress or about over. As many of you know I have had a rough time since being diagnosed as positive for Covid on December 21. Covid itself wasn’t bad. A week of no smell and no taste and extreme exhaustion. But I had residuals from that which make me what they call a “long-hauler.” I finally stopped losing weight at the 40-50 mark and have actually begun to slowly put it back on. I have been riding a lot inside and have found my strength at the Y returning. It amazes me how much one loses in a short amount of time. Anyway, the symptoms have let up for which I am eternally grateful. The scary words, “I want you to get an MRI because I think I see a mass of suspicious nature” turned out to be what I am calling renegade gall stones (4).  They had made it into the bile duct where I had zero pain but they caused havoc with my digestive system. I was hoping I was out of the woods. But it showed a gravel pit in my gall bladder so I’m having it removed this morning at 8:00.  Your prayers for the surgery and recovery would be greatly appreciated. I am voting for the laparoscopy and not the “Oh we had to open you up” version.

Some have asked me if I’m worried or scared. The answer is NO.  I know where I stand and with Whom I stand. I know in Whose hands I am held. Psalm 28:7 is the verse which came to me this morning as I read: “The Lord is my strength and my shield. I trust Him with my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.”

Those are good words for us all. What can be better than knowing we have Someone who strengthens us and also has our back? I choose to trust Him with all my heart.

“Father, my life is in Your hands. I go into this surgery trusting You completely.”

February 12

Friday, February 12th, 2021

It’s never too early. They say that, for example, when teaching a child. In fact, the experts tell mom to sing to their baby in the womb. Like I said, it’s never too early. It’s never too early to potty train!! 🙂 What parent, tired of changing wet or smelly, poopy diapers hasn’t wished their child was already potty-trained?  Can you say 6 months?  I joke, of course, but you get the point.

It’s never too early to talk about the cross. I’ve been reading a book called Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp. It is designed as a 40-day Lenten devotional.  I know. I know. Lent doesn’t actually start until February 17th but I started reading early to help me in my preparation for a 4 week sermon series on the cross and resurrection. I’m going to include-in its entirety-a paragraph from the book. It is THAT good!

“The cross is a powerful interruption to our ‘easy way out’ thinking. It catches us up short. It confronts our vain wishes. The horrible suffering and death of the perfect Messiah, Jesus, on a criminal’s cross, outside the city on a hill of death, tells us in no uncertain terms that when it comes to humanity’s deepest and inescapable problem, there is no easy way out. None. The cross calls us to quit hoping in , to stop searching for, and to give up on our belief in our ability to manufacture or stumble upon a cure. Sin brought death into the world. Sin separated us from our Creator. Sin turned us all into rebels and fools. Sin’s pathway is destruction, and its endpoint is death. There are no escape routes. We can’t buy our way out. We can’t earn a better destiny. There is nothing we can do. We are being propelled blindly down a roadway of death. We may smile and celebrate and accumulate, but left to ourselves we have no hope. Apart from some miraculous intervention, we are doomed. There is and never has been any easy way out of this terminal disease, the one that infects us all: sin. The cross screams to us, ‘Stop looking elsewhere. This is the only way!’ ” (Journey to the Cross-Day 10-p.62)

It’s never too early to be reminded of the power of the cross over our utter inability to save ourselves. Agree? Allow these words by Tripp to soak in.

“Father, thank You for the power of the cross over my lost state and my inability to solve that sin problem.”

February 9

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

I’d like to start out this devotion by asking you a question. Is that okay? Now, the important part of this is that you must answer honestly. You game? Okay…here it is:

Have you ever tried to fit someone into your mold of what a “real” Christian looks like? I know. I know. That sounds like a question I’d ask that would lead to a discussion on legalism. But please don’t head to that way of thinking. I want to take you in another direction.

I’m afraid many of us find ourselves in a “Christian” bubble. Everything is Christian. Christian gym. Christian church league. Christian TV (gag). Christian music. Christian. Christian. Christian. We even have Christian mints. I’m guessing to help our breath smell better around other Christians?

The Bible tells us not to be conformed to this world but be transformed.” So to make sure we don’t conform we withdraw. As I see it there are three ways to respond: 1) we completely adapt and get sucked into and are engulfed by the culture; 2) we completely withdraw thereby losing all hope of influencing anyone; or 3) we practice godly discernment.

The tragedy which arises is we often want to reach others but get so scared that we begin to want people who are “safe.” We are much more comfortable with people who are more like us. That is why I asked the question I did at the beginning. When people fit a mold our comfort level elevates.

But keep this in mind. Our goal is not to change anyone.  Our goal is not to get them to conform to our idea of the ideal Christian. Our goal is to love them; it is Jesus’ responsibility to change them. We are called to love; Jesus is to change.

People want to be loved. They don’t want to be a project. They want to be accepted; they don’t want to be seen as a home improvement project.

Frankly, I don’t like or want to be shoved into someone’s mold. Why would I try or expect them to?

“Father, You have asked me to take Your message of Good News. You have not asked me to try to change anyone. That is Your job. Help to love people where they are and leave the rest up to You.”

January 29

Friday, January 29th, 2021

When I was way younger (just yesterday I think) I once heard someone make a statement which has stuck with me:

We have been saved to serve, not saved to sit.

We might not say it that way these days, but we still say basically the same thing:

We are not designed to be consumers, but instruments.

You will probably find multiple variations I’m sure, but in essence they say the same thing. You see, God’s plan is to make His invisible presence and His invisible grace visible.  He wants us to flesh out, to incarnate if I may use that word, His good news in Jesus to others. Let’s ask a quick question: How else will people see if not for us? God’s call to every one of His followers is to be a light on a hill (Mt.5:14-16; Luke 8: 16-17). In fact, He tells us a light is to never be hidden.

Let’s take it a step further: when God blesses us or gives us a gift, it was never intended we keep that to ourselves. We were never meant to hoard what He has given- whether it be a lesson learned in a trial or a test, a gift, a talent, or something as “earthy” as money. It has always been His intention that we use it to serve Him. How can we keep the greatest story on earth to ourselves?

“Father, You have chosen me for Your use. I am to be Your vessel, Your instrument. Help me not to balk but to give in and submit to Your will.”

January 28

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

IMHO one of the greatest examples of the power of the gospel is not the cross, although that is most definitely the main one. It is not in the plethora of ministries- of all kinds, shapes, and colors- which have been started in response to the gospel. It is not in the cross-cultural missions all over the world in order to take the gospel to others. All of those are legitimate examples.

But I’d like to suggest another example. I’d like to suggest that one of the greatest example is the power of the transformed life. To see a life changed is beyond belief. To see a junkie, reliant on that next hit, to become satisfied and reliant on Jesus; to see an abusive and philandering husband become a tender and faithful man; to see a discontented and angry wife become a calm and patient wife; to see a violent and rebellious teenager become submissive and a picture of grace; to see a downtrodden, weary and compromising pastor become hopeful, lively and a defender of the truth; all are sights to behold. All of those examples and more are just the tip of the iceberg.

My point again: there is nothing more illustrative of the power of the gospel that seeing someone’s life radically transformed. It is hard to argue with the evidence. “I once was blind but now I see” is so appropriate, not only for those who hear, repent, and surrender to the gospel, but also to those who witness the change.

“Father, change my heart. But also, please help me never to stop rejoicing at a life changed by Your gospel, Your truth.”

January 25

Monday, January 25th, 2021

It is easy to feel (what word am I looking for?) less or inferior. Read the Bible and one reads stories of men and women who display magnificent faith and trust in God. Abraham. Jeremiah. Isaiah. Samson. Elijah. Peter. Paul. And we feel less than. Maybe inferior is the right word. We read Hebrews 11 and see theses giants. We even call that passage God’s Hall of Faith. But take a closer look at some of those people.

  • Abraham. Twice he tried to pass Sarah, his wife, off as his sister. (If I tried to do that? Oh boy). Ran ahead of God and gave into Sarah’s “push” with Hagar to have a child.
  • Samson. God’s chosen leader was more interested in lust than leadership. In the end God used him to bring down the temple and defeat the Philistines.
  • Elijah. He defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel then runs from Jezebel and wallows in self-pity wishing he was dead. 
  • Peter. So afraid he denies Jesus three times. A few months later he is standing before the Jewish leaders saying he wouldn’t back down and stop preaching and wouldn’t shut up.
  • Paul. Murderer. Hater of Christians. Converted and he becomes the greatest missionary ever.

God takes us as weak and frail as we are and uses us. He infuses the weak, powerless people with His supernatural Power. That’s me. That’s you.  Will you make yourself available to Him?

“Father, replace my weakness with your power. I am not inferior because You don’t see that. You see a vessel You want to use.”

January 20

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

I have a confession to make and it pains me to do so. I always wanted to be one of those rare birds. You know, the one who could say, “I’m me. I am unique.” In a sense I can say that. I am those and more. I’ve always believed-and still do-that God made me as I am and there is no one else like me. But then again, I am not quite that unique that I don’t share some qualities with others. Here’s one:

I.     H.A.T.E.     W.A.I.T.I.N.G.

Well, maybe hate is a strong word. How about “despise passionately”? 🙂  Anyway, you get my drift. There are times I do well with waiting, especially when it is someone else waiting on a decision!! 🙂  But me? Not so. You would think I would have learned by now. But there are times I have a hard head…or is that a hard heart? I’ve seen God come through on so many levels in the past-big, small and medium- that I ought to relax and trust. But like so many others on this planet- followers of Christ or not- I want…

INSTANT FULFILLMENT. Now! Not tomorrow. Not even later. Now! But instant fulfillment, whether we are talking national or personal, or anything in between, may satisfy our desires but does little for the relationship between me and God or me and another person. Sometimes it is in the waiting that the greatest blessings come. Trusting God’s promises and trusting in His promises bring a rich reward. I get to watch and see God move. In the process I can also see my relationship with Him deepen. And what can be better than that?

“Father, help me to wait patiently and trust your heart for me.”