God’s Plan

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August 2

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

For the longest time I felt I “just had to read my Bible.” For several years I used a guide that took me though the whole Bible in a year. Three  years in a row. I can’t say it was that exciting or revolutionary.  I mean, I was reading the Bible but at what cost? It is hard for it to be exciting when “obligation” sets in.

That’s why I like the approach I use now. I’ll not belabor the details (unless you ask), but this past week and even now, I’ve been in I John. I’m taking my time.

Early on while reading I John, some Scripture “spoke” to me but I put it aside. Until this morning. I John 1:9 is a verse I hang my hat on. A LOT. But it is 2:1-2 that stuck with me and drew me back.  Here are three thoughts I’d like to highlight:

  • “If anyone sins”– we will. Trust me. Perhaps it is wiser to say it like this: “If anyone sins (and we will).” For further proof we will, look no further than I John 1: 8-10.
  • “Advocate”– Jesus is our Attorney.  He is the One who stands in our place, our defense. He is our Intercessor.
  • “Propitiation”– Jesus is our means of reconciliation. He is our sin-offering. Without Jesus we have nothing. No solution for sin.

It all comes down to Jesus. That’s Who we remember. That’s Who we worship.

“Father, may the memory of what Jesus has done for me make a difference in my life. Thank you for forgiving my sin, being my Attorney, and being willing to give Yourself for me.”

July 29

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

If I may borrow a thought from Paul David Tripp this morning: “Too many followers of Christ have schizophrenia” (schizo from here on). He calls it “evangelical schizo.” The following is my attempt to explain it, apply it and challenge with it (in my own words).

Schizo, according to medical journals is “a long term and seasonal mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning.” We might also see them as multiple personalities.

All that psychobabble aside, it is easy to see how this applies to many follower of Jesus-not mentally-but spiritually. One glaring example is how we see and say life is forever, there is something better, yet we live as if this earth-this life- is all there is. We talk about eternity, but we live as if this earth is all there is.

Paul once wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil.1:21). He goes on to write: “I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.” (Phil.1:23-24 NLT)

Paul’s struggle was not like ours is.  He didn’t want to stay here to fulfill his own wishes and desires and wants. He wanted to stay here for the folks. His unfinished business was not material; it was spiritual.

There is nothing wrong with desiring to go to heaven. There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay here. The schizo happens when we take our eyes off our heavenly prize and live as if life on earth is all that matters.

“Father, cure me of any schizo I may exhibit. While I’m here, use me and keep me focused on my greater prize.”

July 19

Monday, July 19th, 2021

I confess: I’ve never really been a fan of musicals.  My ideas have changed over time though. The first one I went to that I can remember was “Oklahoma!” Sadly, I wasn’t wise enough to keep my comments and opinions to myself and offended some people.  But over time I have changed. I realized it when we went to see The Greatest Showman featuring Hugh Jackman, Zac Effron, and others. The theater manager told me I will have trouble not wanting to move my feet and get up a dance. She didn’t know me very well. I was stubborn enough to do neither (I definitely would not get up and dance. Making a fool of myself is not in my playbook).  The second and third time I watched it -consecutive nights no less- I allowed myself the freedom to enjoy the movie…although I still didn’t dance. 🙂

One of the most moving parts was the song “From Now On” which comes after P.T. (played by Jackman) realized how he had hurt his family and friends by his actions. It still amazes me how he was able to sing while running and not be out of breath. 🙂  Anyway, the song celebrates the joy of coming home.

Luke 15, the story of the loving father and his wandering son, is a story of coming home. The cross is a story of an invitation to come home. Jesus dying on the cross because of His love for us and hatred of our sin, is a story of forgiveness and coming home.

It is actually an open invitation for all to come home. Perhaps you know someone who needs to know they can come home. Jesus is waiting for them. Maybe that person is you. Come home. The WELCOME mat is laid out.

July 9

Friday, July 9th, 2021

I apologize for the late entry and also the light entry. We left Ohio early so I could get back for an appointment. After the appointment I did some office work, we went to the Owen County Fair then came home and vegged. So I am sharing something short and late with you this morning. It is from Bob Goff’s book, Live in Grace-Walk in Love:

We don’t need to have all the information to start; we just need courage to take the first step. Don’t worry about next week’s potential problems. Give today everything you’ve got. Our stories are written as we live, so live fully. Our love is refined as we give it away genuinely, so love the people around you authentically. Let the story you’re writing be a page-turner.

Starting out on a task is hard, especially because we can’t see the end. We have no clue what the future holds (even with a DeLorean). 🙂 But we will never know the impact we may make or the influence we may have or the lives we may touch unless we get started.

“Father, help me to trust you in spite of the fact that I don’t know the end. But you do and that should be all I need to know.”

July 7

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

As my girls were growing up, I/we tried to be good parents. The nature of our personalities and the way we were raised made for an interesting mix. I tended to be more forceful; Jo more docile. I tended to be the one who used physical discipline (God gave a place on the human anatomy for that); Jo not so much. I tended to draw a line; Jo tended to fudge the line from time to time.  All in all though the girls knew we were on the same page as to why they were being disciplined.  There was no pitting us against each other.

We were (and still are) well-meaning parents. We are great grandparents since we can have all the fun and then turn him back over after we have spoiled him. 🙂  (Although living 4-5 hours away sort of short-circuited our opportunities to do that). Anyway, back to earth. Well-meaning parents,-no matter who you are-tend to think the way to mold a child, i.e. shape, control, and regulate behavior is to legislate. We do it by threats, manipulation, and even guilt.

But the truth is that no matter how often we use those different means, behavior cannot be legislated. No matter how much we say, “Don’t do this or that” sin enters the picture. Because we are sinners, sin is a matter of the heart.

Martin Luther King, Jr said that he “longs for the day when people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content and intent of the heart.” He was onto something. Not in the area of race (which he was referring to), but in the area of our behavior.

Until hearts are changed, lives won’t be changed.  Until my heart is changed, my life and behavior will not be changed.

I am grateful for God’s change in my life. I just want Him to keep transforming my heart day by day.

“Father, as Romans 12 says may I be ‘transformed by the renewing of my mind.’ May transformation be more than an outward show; may it be in inward heart change.”

July 2

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Bob Goff tells the story of Walt Disney (WD) which I suspect many of us have heard:

Before WD dreamed up Disneyland, he was fired from his job at a newspaper in Kansas City because his editor said he “lacked imagination.” Can you believe it? Whenever I’m at Tom Sawyer Island (note: his personal retreat), I think about what would’ve happened if WD had dug in his heels at the newspaper instead. The world would have never met Mickey Mouse. Failure forced WD to pursue his passion.  (p.224)

He went on to say elsewhere:

Our habits shape our days, and our days make up our lives. Without much thought, we can settle into routines that keep us stagnant for decades. (p.224)

While Mr. Goff went in one direction, I want to go in another. I want to talk about failure. It is something most, if not all of us, hate to discuss or consider. None of us go into a venture, no matter what it is, thinking we are going to fail at this. If so, it is wise not to even get started.

I recently read some quotes attributed to the late coach, Vince Lombardi:

“If you accept losing, you can’t win.”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

There are more but these ought to suffice in making my point. Failure happens. But there is a big difference between thinking you are going to fail from right out-of-the-box and failing because you tried.  WD failed at his newspaper job, but did not allow it to curtail his dreams. There are many (and I know some) who are glad he didn’t give up.

Perhaps another quote by Mr. Lombardi will be a good ending:

It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men.  It starts in ours.

“Father, help me to believe in Your dreams for me.  Help me not to cower in fear over seemingly overwhelming odds.”

Bob Goff’s quote from Live in Grace-Walking in Love.

June 30

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

Do you remember the song, The Gambler, by the late Kenny Rogers? It had lyrics familiar to the gambling trade:

You gotta know when to hold ’em/Know when to fold ’em/Know when to walk away/Know when to run.

Those words are easy to see when it comes to gambling, but when it comes to life? Not so. For example, it took a lot for me to quit (fold ’em) when I played baseball or basketball. I went by the philosophy that the “game isn’t over until the last out.” Even in basketball, when a team is down by 20 points with one minute left, it is hard to stop playing. Least it was for me.

I remember twice in my college career when I folded early. So did the team. So did the coach. Both times we played teams out of our league and it didn’t take long before we all realized we were in trouble and way over-matched. (Ironically, both were before important tournaments).  Finally, in the second half, coach mercifully pulled me and “let” me enjoy the rest of the game on the bench. First time all night I enjoyed the game! 🙂

In the spiritual race/war, there are times we gotta know when to fold ’em and when to walk away or even run. It is one thing to stay and fight; it is a wise person who knows when to get out of Dodge. Yes, fighting sin and temptation and the Tempter is sometimes necessary. But so is running. Running from the temptation. Pulling back to gather strength to fight another day.

There is no shame in running to recoup. There is a problem with giving in without a fight. What I need to remember is that as I fight, God fights right alongside me. He’s got my back. And my front. And my side.  The battle is His; not mine. Victory comes from surrender…to Him. But sometimes that surrender is absolutely essential before victory is realized.

“Father, take my life and help me to fight.  Help me to also know when to run so I can recoup and regather to fight another time, another day.”

June 25

Friday, June 25th, 2021

I want to help you to finish your week on a high note. I have a story to tell you that I believe will do that. It will also tell you and show you that we serve a phenomenally, awesome God. Here is the story:

Backstory first: We have been praying for a young man in our church fellowship named Robert Herrington for the past month or so. A month to the day on Sunday, Robert was lifting weights and sat up on the bench and hit his head. Not much. Didn’t hurt. He came home for the summer that same day and began preparing for summer boot camp (he is in a college ROTC program). He slept that next day because he was so tired and two days later began to stutter. Badly. Test after test showed no brain injury, except a concussion. But the stuttering continued. He lost strength (he was a weight-lifter). He lost cognitive ability and memory. And he wanted to sleep. A lot. The specialists told him it could be anywhere from 6 months to a year before he stopped stuttering and got relief for the other symptoms. His outlook has been to trust God because He knows what He is doing. I admire a 20 year old with that kind of trust. Anyway, he came to church this past Sunday still stuttering.  I mentioned him during our prayer time and prayed for God to intervene and astound the doctors. Sunday afternoon he, and his sister, Abigail, were driving somewhere and he talked to her in his stutter. The next sentence out of his mouth had no stutter and he has not done so since then!  IS THAT NOT AWESOME?  I don’t use that word except to describe God or something He has done. When I visited with Robert and his family on Monday I did not know what had happened until I came face to face with him and he spoke to me. I said, “Hey! You aren’t stuttering!” They could not stop talking about God’s intervention and goodness. But according to Abigail there was a downside to it all. Robert never stopped talking for 45 minutes after that!  Doesn’t that sound just like a sister?  I love the banter. But more, I love that they are giving all the glory to God. He still has a way to go on some of the other symptoms from the concussion, but Robert told the doctor that the others will eventually go away but “at least I can talk.”  🙂

What a fantastic story to finish the week with don’t you think? And what a way to go into worship this weekend. Let that story encourage you that no problem is beyond His purview; no glitch is beyond His fixing; no obstacle is too big for Him to have it come crashing down.

“Thank you Father that you are still a God who performs miracles and astounds us with Your way. Wake us all up to Your majesty and power.”

Note: I wrote this on Wednesday and posted it for today. I wanted to encourage you. We will be on our way back from Ohio today so prayers would be appreciated, especially since I am in a rental vehicle due to the accident.

June 21

Monday, June 21st, 2021

During my time of working through Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, I watched a movie that was different for me. John was talking about fathers and the wounds we often get from them. The movie was based on a book by Norman MacLean called A River Runs Through It. It was the story of a somewhat harsh (at times) Presbyterian pastor played by Tom Skerritt, and his two sons, one of whom was Brad Pitt. The father would preach on Sunday morning and knowing Sunday evening was coming and he would do it all again, he would take Sunday afternoons to walk through the woods with his sons or to fish. He especially loved to fly fish and taught his sons how to as well.

I am not a fisherman and make no pretense to be. Or to understand the mystery of fly fishing. Growing up near Pittsburgh did not afford many opportunities to fish or hunt, especially when you had a father who did neither.

It is easy to pick at our fathers-of not being there, of not teaching us or spending time with us. I’ve related that my relationship with my father was tenuous, as best. He loved baseball and so did I so I tried to excel.  I see now some of it was for his approval. He didn’t like basketball but I tried to excel regardless. But I’m not here to bash my dad. I tried to be a good father but didn’t always succeed. I know how hard it is.

I’m here to talk about my other Father, my good good Father. The Father who has unquenchable love for me. The Father who has unconditional acceptance of me. The Father who spoke the Truth and kept His Word. The Father who stuck by and continues to stick with me through thick and thin; through good and bad; through sin and service. He is my good, good Father. Check out this song.

“Father, I know I could never and will never be the Father you were and are to me. But I want and need you to be my Abba, the Father who loves me unconditionally.”

June 8

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

I have often said-and firmly believe- the phrase:

“God is seldom early but He’s never late.”

That is a useful thought when talking to someone who is waiting…and seems to have  been doing that forever. The big (unanswerable) question is “Why?”

“Why do I have to keep waiting?”

“Why is God not answering my prayer when He says He will?”

There are many questions centered around waiting.

But let’s look at the idea of God’s timing in another way. This past Thursday evening, I went to visit one of our graduating seniors and her parents. Due to a wedding on Saturday, I was unable to attend her grad party. (Bummer. They catered Mexican).  But it was even better visiting, laughing, and reminiscing in their home than at the party where details would not have allowed that. Meilynn had been adopted from China in 2009 at the age of 9. What a delightful little girl she was with a winning smile (once she got over her fear). And she has become a beautiful, young lady graduating from high school.

Back on topic. After several “I better get going” I finally did. Almost 3 hours later!!  (They like to talk not me).  🙂 🙂 On the way home, I came to an intersection, stopped, and since no one else was waiting, preceded. As I turned left toward home, I was the recipient of a Mini-Cooper running a stop sign and kissing the passenger door on the driver’s side. Yeah, he got me good (and I have not heard whether it is totaled or not).

To the timing: One minute later he is gone. One minute earlier I am gone. 30 seconds would have been enough time. There’s a reason for this. I don’t yet know what it is. But someday soon I will (I think). I do know this: I am grateful he hit just behind my door/seat.  Cars can be replaced.

Point: 30 seconds either way avoids the accident.  If I had left the house earlier or later. But God’s timing is perfect. I will trust that.

“Father, thank you for Your perfect timing. Help me to always remember that in big and small things Your timing is perfect.”