God’s Plan

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September 25

Monday, September 25th, 2023

Bryan Johnson is sad.

Not sad as in “Boo-hoo” sad. Not the “cry-me-a-river” type of sad.

But sad as in the “clueless” department.

So you might be wondering, “Who in the world is Bryan Johnson?”  (No, I am not talking about the lead singer of AC/DC. Besides, he spells his name with an “i.”)  You can Google his name or you can take my word for it in my short synopsis. Bryan was a tech millionaire who sold his BioHacking company to PayPal for $800million.  Yeah, you read that right. That’s not a bad thing. I don’t begrudge that at all. More power to him.

Here’s what is sad. Bryan Johnson is on a quest for immortality. You read that right: I.M.M.O.R.T.A.L.I.T.Y.  To accomplish that he has some strange habits.  He takes 111 pills a day.  He goes to bed every night at 8:30 and is up by 6:00.  There is nothing in his bedroom besides his bed, except a laser face shield that shoots collagen into his face, and one unmentionable item I’ll let you research. He avoids the sun. He doesn’t go out at night.  He drives 16 mph (He would be one who would put me in an early grave if I was following him). He has multiple other habits.

I’ve seen stickers on trucks that say, “Silly boy.Trucks are for girls!” I want to say to Bryan, “Silly Bryan. Immortality is for One.” He believes at age 46 (which he is as I write this) that he has a heart of a 37 year old and the bones of a 30 year old. His goal is to be 18…and to live forever.

Sadly, he is moving in the area of F.U.T.I.L.I.T.Y. There is only ONE who has conquered death and it isn’t and won’t be Bryan.

I hope Bryan learns soon enough, i.e. sooner than later, that he is wasting his time and $2million/year for nothing. Envious? Not a bit. One half of what he is spending is more than I’ll make my entire lifetime.  Personally, I hope he learns the lesson of the rich man that Jesus taught about in Luke 12. It says the land of the rich man produced plentifully so he thought to himself, “What shall I do? I know. I’ll build bigger barns. You know…eat, drink and be merry.” But that night God said to him, “You fool! This night your soul is required of you.”  What good was his money then?

I sincerely hope Bryan learns sooner than later that one thing is certain: we all die.  He won’t cheat that. His money will not get him out of the one date we all will keep. No concoction will save him. There will come a day when Bryan will go the way of all of us. I just hope he finds out before it is too late.

To die in his lost condition? Now that would be sad.

September 14

Thursday, September 14th, 2023

Without a doubt our world is always changing. Besides the way we operate, other things change. Our morals. Our values. Our standards. Sometimes that is good; most often not so. Post-modernism’s basic philosophy is there are no absolutes. “Whatever floats your boat.” “If it feels good do it.” And so we make up our own rules, sometimes even changing them midstream. We wouldn’t do that playing Monopoly or Backgammon or even Chutes and Ladders. There are rules to follow. And yes, we don’t want to live that way. We want to make up rules as we go along to fit the situation, or even our mood.

One constant in the life of the Christ-follower is that God never changes. He’s not willy-nilly in His dealings with us. He’s not phlegmatic (wishy-washy) in His feelings toward sin. He doesn’t okay it one time and then come down hard on us the next. I know as a parent, even though I tried to be consistent, there were times I wasn’t depending on my mood, my schedule, or even how I felt. But God is consistent.

This coming Sunday I’m preaching on Our Unchanging God.  This morning I read the following couple of sentences:

The strength of the covenant God made with Israel (and with all who would believe thereafter) doesn’t lie in our ability to measure up to God’s standards. If it did, we’d all fall hopelessly short. It rests on the unchanging nature of God’s character. {From Refresh Our Hope-Lori Hatcher-p.88)

God made a covenant with Noah; He kept it. He made a covenant with Abraham; He kept it. He made a covenant with the people of Israel of a Messiah; He kept it. He made a covenant with us; He kept it (that is where Jesus come in). God never changes. His character is always the same. His standards are always the same.

As for me? I’ll trust the ONE who is always the same. Always kept and keeps His promises. Said He would never leave me or forsake me. Never fails. Steady as a rock.

Change is good. I’m all for it in most cases. But I prefer a God who doesn’t change.

August 7

Monday, August 7th, 2023

When I was a teenager (that would have been back in the ’60s in case you are counting 🙂 ), one of the big questions floating around-in my mind and in others-was “Why am I here?” Put another way: what is my purpose in life? In all honesty, I’m not sure that question ever goes out of style.

One of the “go to” Scripture verses for many is Roman 8:28- “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (ESV)

You can see why it is a favorite. It is reassuring to know God has His hand in all that happens. What happens may not be good-death, cancer, drastic injury, etc-but the result can bring good. God can make all things new and good.

But much to our detriment, we stop at verse 28 and fail to see verse 29. Please take a look at that verse. Getting past the big words of “foreknew” and “predestined” we find the deeper purpose: “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” It is good to believe that “all things work together” and we often stop at that, BUT we really need to see that those things which are happening are designed to conform us to Christ.

Day in and day out. Easy in and easy out. Tough in and tough out. GOD HAS A PURPOSE. Yes, it is to show His power. Yes, it is to show His strength. Yes, it is to show His will. But even more, it is to shape me and you to conform to the image of His Son.

It is just that some of us are harder to mold (Hand shoots up in the air). But He won’t stop until I am. 

August 3

Thursday, August 3rd, 2023

Today is the first day of school in the county in Indiana in which I live. Several of the teachers attend the church I pastor. Some of them are new to our system so there is a little nervousness involved. And even though they may have taught somewhere else, or even here, there is a struggle with confidence. Not necessarily of being able to teach but not being sure of what’s ahead. That is to be expected since we don’t have a crystal ball that will tell us what it will be like.  Truth be known: that is in all of us to some extent, but maybe more so with a new teacher in a new grade and new surroundings on the first day.

It isn’t surprising then that God would lead me to start reading Proverbs again beginning August 1. Today’s reading-August 3-finds a familiar passage in chapter 3: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

Good advice for every teacher. Every student. Every factory worker. Every line worker. Every computer geek. Every dad. Every mom. Every student. Every pastor. In fact as you can see…E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E.

No matter what you do…trust Him. He’s got your day in His hand. He’s got your class/job/family in His hand. He’s got Y.O.U. in His hand. 

July 12

Wednesday, July 12th, 2023

Disclaimer: longer than normal devotion.  🙂

As I sat down this morning in my familiar chair at my familiar table to have my Encounter Time (time alone with God), I had an idea for my devotion this morning. Actually two. Jo, Tami, and I went to the fair last night at the Owen County Fairgrounds. We like to walk around and see the displays, talk with the kids and vendors (least I do) and eat. We did the first two but only Tami the latter. It was like 89 degrees and I think we were all ready to find some A/C. I thought about writing about the “pride” I take in each of the church’s young people.

I also thought about writing that Ryan, our youth pastor, and his family (a family of 5)  leave today for their “Easts meets West” trip-a 4 week excursion out west with stops at many of our national parks.  Today begins his 7 week sabbatical. I was going to write about making memories and ask you to pray for their safety. (I guess I just did!) 🙂

But then I read Psalm 69 & 70 for my OT reading; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 for my NT reading and I was stopped dead in my tracks. I think common to all of us are questions like, “I wonder what’s next?” “I wonder if I’ll get through this?” “I wonder how long this will last?” “I wonder if God will show up?” My one or two word answers to those questions are “Don’t know.” “Yes.” “Don’t know.” “Yes.” I know…not very sufficient and it does seem like the easy way out, but honestly, can you give any other answers?

In Psalm 69 & 70, David seems almost mercurial. On one hand he seems in distress (69:16-18); on the other hand totally okay with it all (69:29-30, 34). He for sure knew where to go to get the help he needed (70:5).

The Apostle Paul wasn’t mercurial but confident. In verses 3-10 he gives his experiences as a follower of Jesus. In verses 8-10 he says, “Our sole defense, our only weapon, is a life of integrity, whether we meet honor or dishonor, praise or blame. Called ‘imposters’ we must be true, called ‘nobodies’ we must be in the public eye. Never far from death, yet here we are alive, always ‘going through it’ yet never ‘going under.’ We know sorrow, yet our joy is inextinguishable. We have ‘nothing to bless ourselves with’ yet we bless many others with true riches. We are penniless, and yet we possess everything.” (Phillips)

I especially like that last phrase. After writing what it looks like vs. the reality, Paul says, “We are penniless, yet possess everything.” Appearances can be deceiving on so many levels. In this case, what appears to be heartache and hardship, is not; it is instead a testimony to God’s goodness. David said it well, “But I am afflicted and in pain; let  your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” (69:29,30)

What appears just might not be; the reality might be something totally different.That goes especially for those who are going through tough times and wonder if God-or anyone for that matter-cares.

July 6

Thursday, July 6th, 2023

I want to continue my thoughts from yesterday’s devotion. I wrote about listening to God, about being aware of His “voice.” But the opposite of that, or perhaps the offshoot of that is how do I know the choice I made, or the way I am going is God’s or mine? There have been many times I have pursued a path believing it was Him leading me when I found out it wasn’t. It was more my own desire or maybe desperation that led me to choose that path.

So…how can I know?  I think there may be several answers to that question.

One, is a general unrest that develops. Call it lack of peace, a sense of incompleteness, a general disgruntledness which develops. The calling isn’t there. The fit doesn’t square with the giftedness. Extreme example: someone who feels called to be a Marine working in a flower shop. I know…silly…and I’m not putting down working in a flower shop. But some people just don’t fit the square hole because they are a round peg. God’s peace is just not there. A growing dissatisfaction develops.

Two, a door is closed. I remember wanting to leave a church I was the pastor of and everything looked positive. I had had good interviews and the leader of the group said it looked good. They would be contacting me. So I waited. And waited. I found out a couple of years later that that leader was actually getting into his car to come hear me preach when he got a call from the interim pastor who said, “We aren’t interested in him anymore.” Come to find out he had his own agenda; the man he hand-picked didn’t last very long; and I didn’t go there. Less than two years later I was here at my current church. Ironically, that leader left that church to pastor another church here in town and we actually rented our first house from that church. After meeting him in person, we had lunch together and he told me the story and apologized for not calling me to tell me. He then took me to the head elder of that church and we all talked and he also apologized. Long story short: that door was closed. No…make that slammed in my face. But I’m also here today to tell you I am glad.

Third, sometimes life events happen. A sickness. A sudden change of health status of you or someone you love. A significant event with a child or spouse alters your course.

Here’s the truth though: God loves you; He loves me; and His greatest desire is that we know that and trust Him to have His will and way in our lives. He has His will. He has His way. It may be different than mine, but it is ALWAYS RIGHT AND BEST.

July 5

Wednesday, July 5th, 2023

I confess to be envious of others from time to time.

For example, Jo & I were driving back from church camp after visiting some of our high school students, when she asked me about a certain situation that we were both familiar with and if I was jealous. I told her no because that doesn’t “float my boat.” “What I am envious of,” I told her, was “the handling of his money, that he could do what he is doing because of it.” There are other circumstances involved, or course, but I am not jealous.

What I have envied, in many way, are those who “hear” from God and change course or maybe take a certain action because of it. Like Acts 16:6 where Paul wanted to go to visit the churches in Asia Minor but was forbidden by the Holy Spirit. To be honest, part of me says, “Why would God forbid that? I mean, Paul had the Good News of Jesus but was told no.” Makes no sense to me but there it is in black and white. Why? Well…I don’t know. But I don’t have to. God does.

Paul listened. I want to be that open to the leading of the Holy Spirit so I can recognize His voice. Each time I get on my bike to head out for a ride, I say a short prayer: “Lord, protect me as I ride. Keep the drivers alert and me also. Let me “hear” Your voice, Your warning, if I need to get off the road to avoid getting hit.” I hope that never has to happen but I want to hear His voice of warning if it does. Been hit; don’t want to go there again.

One of my daily prayers is “God, speak to me through Your Word.” The key is to be ready to hear and obey.  Have you ever “heard” God’s voice of warning or direction?

July 3

Monday, July 3rd, 2023

“Change of plans.” I suspect all of us have at one time or another used or heard those words. Those words have a different effect on different people.

For example, if you are one who likes “to go with the flow” or “fly by the seat of your pants” then those words are like music to your ears. Plans? What plans? 🙂

For others, those words bring terror to your heart. They are like a death knell; they are like the end of the world. You hate change to begin with and to ask you to change your plans sets your heart racing and pulse pounding.  I mean, like “Seriously, you are changing plans?”

I had those words become real yesterday (Sunday). After our church celebrated 3 baptisms and the three of us (wife, daughter, and myself) grabbed a bite to eat at the local Mexican restaurant, I took off for a hospital visit over an hour away. I made it to the small town north of us (about 20-25 minutes), when I stopped for something to drink. I had been watching the clouds to the north as I drove and saw how ominous they looked. By the time I came out of the store, the sky had opened up. Can you say deluge? I contacted the wife of the man I was going to visit and power had finally been restored to their house so she was going to be able to bring him home today (Monday).  After talking we decided it would be best for me to just come to the house to visit this week, so I decided to change my plans and head back home.  The deluge continued and I even considered pulling off until it subsided some. But I wanted to get home so I kicked the speed down, put my wipers on high and after about 10-15 minutes caught a break. I hit dry-as-a-bone roads. I made it back to my office until the storm hit our town, took the power out at the office and I drove home (2 miles) in a deluge.

I’m glad I changed my plans. The weather was even worse the farther north I would have gone.

The famous lines of Robert Burns written in 1785 say, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I used to say, before I knew the quote, that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go down the tubes.” 200+ years later, we still have trouble accepting that fact.  Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6). James tells us life is a vapor and that we have no clue about tomorrow (James 4).

For the Christ-follower, it is best to say, “Lord willing, I will do __________.” Who knows the mind of the Lord? Most certainly not me. So…Lord willing…I will celebrate today. I will celebrate July 4th. And I will post here again. 🙂

June 28

Wednesday, June 28th, 2023

There are many verses in the Bible that are misused or misunderstood. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of them. The prosperity teaching and Word of Faith movement misuses a number of Scriptures to justify their heresy that God wants all people healthy and wealthy (Please don’t get me started on that!). There is one verse that is often misused, misquoted, and misapplied and I’m almost afraid to say it because so many “hang their hat” on it.

Romans 8:28-“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (ESV) That verse, unfortunately, has lost its oomph in many cases because it is so misinterpreted. I’d like to point out a couple of thoughts on that verse.

1. That verse does not promise us that all things are good. Frankly, and I hope I’m not too strong here, not all things that happen are good. I wouldn’t wish cancer, or dementia, or paralysis on anyone. While it is true that Joni, for example, has come to accept her 50+ years in her chair and has used it to minister to others, I don’t believe she would say, “This is good and I hope you experience it.” The same for cancer or any other sickness.

2. God can use what has happened to mold us into the person He wants us to be. The key thought in this is found in the words “work together” which could also be translated “working together.” The process is not a one-and-done deal. God is continually molding us by His work in our lives.

3. Now for the coup de grace: I think we do a great disservice by leaving out verse 29 and the phrase “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” I see verse 28 and the powerful truth of it finding its linchpin, its purpose, in that short phrase of verse 29. All that is happening to me-good and bad-is designed to make me more like Jesus. God’s purpose is to conform me to the image of His Son. No trial is wasted. No work in my life is wasted. It has a goal! God is working all things-not the just the good and not just the bad-all things together.

Enjoy the truth of verse 28. It is real. But always combine it with verse 29. “I want to be like Jesus” should be our daily song.

June 21

Wednesday, June 21st, 2023

Many years ago, whenever Jo and I would visit her parents/family, we would play a game called Trivial Pursuit. As you moved your disc-like piece sectioned off like a pie, you filled it with different colored tiles as you answered trivial questions from different categories. It was aptly titled: Trivial Pursuit. The questions in each category were random and often very, very trivial, unless, of course, you got a specialized game like the music of the ’60s or ’70s (I was good at both of those).

I thought of that game as I read Proverbs 21:21- “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.” (ESV)

We pursue many things, most of them trivial. I knew a guy whose pursuit was to be financially independent by 30. I’m not sure if he ever made it or not; I lost track of him.  Others pursued being married and having a gaggle of kids. I used to hear that a lot. We all know people who pursue fame and fortune. From simple, everyday people to Hollywood stars who seem to have it all.

And yet, I just read the other day of some actors who pulled away from acting in order to spend time with family, to find solitude, or to move to another country to spend time with a wife who sacrificed much for him to pursue his career. Now he is turning the tables.I say, “Good for him.”

There is one pursuit which is not trivial. It is the one which really matters. It is the one with real eternal rewards. All the fame and fortune, accolades and possessions will amount to nothing. It all withers. We leave it all behind. We may be mourned, but eventually life moves on.

The only pursuit that matters is the pursuit of God. THAT one has eternal ramifications. Some may say, “I don’t believe that. I don’t believe in God or a hell.” That may be true, but do you really want to take that chance? You see, if you are right and I am wrong, I have lost nothing. BUT, if I am right and you are wrong, you have lost everything. Do you really want to take that chance? If Richard Dawkins was right and there is no God (as he proclaimed even on his death bed), he has lost nothing. HOWEVER, if I am right and there is, he has lost everything.

I don’t believe I’m wrong. Who or what will you pursue?