God’s Plan

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April 30

Friday, April 30th, 2021

First, I need you to stop and read Romans 8: 31-39. This is perhaps the most beautiful passage in Scripture (personal preference) and one of, if not, the most powerful chapters in the Bible.

Then please read this…something I read this morning:

“There is a love that will never forsake us. there is a love that will never fail us in any of its commitments to us. There is a love that is so strong that nothing in all of Creation can break it. There is a love that is faithful and true, no matter what. There is a love that is unbreakable, even when we are unloving and undeserving.” (p.7)

“There us simply nothing like the love of God. It is the most powerful force in the universe. Love is what we need-God’s love, that is. You and I could never earn it, deserve it, or achieve it. It reaches into the sinful muck of humanity, cleans us up, draws us close, and launches us to a brand-new living while staying faithful to the end, even if we are not. In loving us, God gives us the greatest gift ever given-the gift of Himself.” (p.8)

How can I improve on that? I can’t say it any clearer. I can’t say it more pointed.

What I can say is, “You are loved…by Him.”

“Father, thank You for Your faithful, unending love. May I bask in it and also share it with others.”

Quoted sections from 40 Days of Love by Paul David Tripp.

April 28

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

I read recently about a British ski jumper named Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards. I vaguely remember him in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.  He competed alright. In fact, he has his own entry in the Oxford Book of Words and Phrases. “Pulling an Eddie” is defined as “doing something extremely badly, and doing it in the most embarrassing manner possible.”  I think I will let your mind show you his jump.

But here’s the thing: at least he tried. As someone has said, “It is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.”

We often hold back from enjoying life, or challenging ourselves, or even living the adventure (my slogan) for various reasons. John Eldredge, in Wild at Heart says, “Every man has a battle to fight; an adventure to live; and a beauty to rescue.” It is the second part of that statement which intrigues me today-“an adventure to live.” I hesitate saying this but the older I get the more I regret what I haven’t done. One of my dreams was to ride across the USA at my speed with a friend or two, a motor home to sleep in, and Jo driving or riding along to witness my fete. It never happened and it will go down as one of my disappointments.

But at the same time, I am grateful for what I have experienced, including but certainly not limited to Colorado, Daytona Beach, and Alaska (I want to go back). Friends. MLB games in person (before they got all politically stupid).

You know, Peter walked on the water and failed. He “Pulled an Eddie” right in front of Jesus and the other disciples. But we also know this: least he walked on water. None of the others who stayed in the boat can say that!

Life is an adventure. You can choose to live it or hide from it. I may be getting older (what do I mean “may be”?)  🙂 But whatever time I have left I want it to be an adventure.

“Father, You call me almost on a daily basis to walk on the water with You. ‘Step out,’ You say.  ‘Come to Me. Here, take My hand.’ Help me to not be afraid to follow You.”

April 16

Friday, April 16th, 2021

One of the phrases we heard a lot of during the pandemic -ad infinitum, ad nauseum- was “we’re in this together.” I know. I know. It was supposed to be true. And yes, I know what it was supposed to mean.

But if I want to be cynical (Who me?) I would say this: if we were supposed to be in this together, why was 2020 a year of unrest and riots and upheaval and hate speech and vitriol? We may have been going through the scourge of the pandemic together, but we weren’t really together.

But I digress. The point I really want to get to is found in I Cor.12: 22-26. Take a moment, please, to read it. Several points stand out to me:

  1. Those who think they are the most important very often are not.
  2. We need to take special note of those who seem less important. I’ll call them the “behind the scenes” people.
  3. A real “in this together” body laughs and cries together. They experience life together.

This pandemic has done several things to the church. One has been to separate people. The church is a body, uniquely put together and made up of different people. We were designed to need each other and no amount of zoom meetings, or even cards or phone calls, can take the place of personal, in-person contact. I’m not delusional enough to think all will come back-at least not right away.  Maybe never. But when we do and when we do see each other I pray we will “honor” each other; know our place, and laugh and cry with each other.

I don’t think that’s asking too much. Do you?

“Father, may Your body- the church-truly be an example of being in this together.”

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.”