God's Plan

A Minute In It - Created For a Purpose

A minute in God’s Word will change your life. Take a moment to read the text below and then answer the questions at the bottom of the post.

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork [masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

What cannot save us?
What does save us?
What does it mean to be a masterpiece? God’s handiwork?
What were we created for?
What does it look like in your life to be God’s Masterpiece?

Investing in the Mess

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:4-8: (NLT)

Ever wonder why he did it? Why did God create us at all? It was clear that he knew we were going to be trouble. Even before he made the world, even before we were created he decided on the plan to save us. He knew we were going to sin. He knew we were going to be a mess. Yet, he did it anyway.

Why? It would have been so much easier to move on to another plan. Less mess, less suffering, less pain. Jesus wouldn’t have had to die. We wouldn’t be hurting each other all the time. Why?

Do you think it’s because God, who is love, saw all that and said “They are worth it.”? That love, the love we cannot comprehend, was the driving force behind investing in the messiness. The love that is so big, it had a plan from way before we were a twinkle in his eye. The plan was to love us no matter what.

I can’t fully comprehend that love. I can think it in my head but not totally understand it in my heart. Actually, if I am honest even my head has a hard time with it some days. But here is what I know. I am called to imitate it. As a recipient of this boundless love, I am called to imitate it in my world every single day. I am called to love in the mess; to ease pain and suffering, to share hope.

There is only one way to do that. I have to reflect on the gift I have been given by his grace and kindness. Reflecting on that slowly changes me so that I begin to do the things I cannot comprehend.

God's Devotion

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. Ezekiel 34:11 (NLT)

So often in life we think we have to earn what is given to us. In some ways that is true. We earn a paycheck. We see the results of our work when we work in the yard, around the house or on a project. But it is not true with God. There is nothing that we can do that will draw God to us.

Why? Because God is always the one initiating the relationship. Always. Let’s take a look.

All throughout the Old Testament, when God’s people continually turned toward idols, God still showed up. He still rescued them and talked to them about turning back to him. I heard one speaker say “He rejected our rejection.”

His ultimate rejection of our rejection was when he sent Jesus. It just didn’t matter what we did. He still planned for our redemption.

Jesus was crucified so we could come into God’s presence. The veil into the Most Holy Place was torn in two so we would always have direct access to God.

Jesus sits at the right hand of God mediating for us. He is forever there so our access will be open.

The Holy Spirit was given to us to speak to our hearts and to intercede for us before God when we pray.

All of this was done way before any of us decided to choose God. It was done before we made any conscious decision to follow Jesus. God reached out to us first; while we were still a mess.

Do you see? God hearing you, God responding to your prayers, God showing up in your life; it has nothing to do with whether you are good or bad. It has nothing to do with whether you are praying the right prayer or thinking perfect thoughts. It has everything to do with the fact that God loves you. He wants to be in a relationship with you and he has done everything to help you reach out to him. He’s not going to stop just because of a mistake you made. He can’t. Your life with God is based on who God is, not who you are.

A Minute In It - Hanging In There

A minute in God’s Word will change your life. Take a moment to read the text below and then answer the questions at the bottom of the post.

17 But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” 18 Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.

They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.

19 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” they asked.

20 I replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.” Nehemiah 2:17-20 (NLT)

As Nehemiah began to talk to the Israelites, what was the first story he shared?
How did the people respond?
Was everyone happy about the task Nehemiah was given?
What did the naysayers do?
Who did Nehemiah trust to complete the job?

Even when God calls us to a task, it doesn’t mean the task will be easy. Nehemiah was called, God miraculously answered his prayer and still he ran into problems during the rebuilding. When God calls us, we will face adversity but we should always recount the way God has moved so far and trust that he will finish the task.

You Want Me To Do What?

“Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied.” Acts 9:10 (NLT)

Ananias was a Jesus follower. One day he was minding his own business sitting in his house and God spoke to him. When Ananias heard God call his name he replied with a “Yes, Lord!” The Lord then instructed him to go to help Saul.

Wait. What? Saul as in THE Saul that killed people who love you? The SAME Saul that was there when Stephen was stoned? The very Saul who has shouted threats against your people and is making it his life mission to go around killing us. That Saul?

Yes, that Saul.

Right at this point Ananias had a choice to make. He could take everything he knew about this guy and decide it’s too risky and obviously the Lord wouldn’t call him to do something so dangerous because God loved him and wouldn’t want him to put himself in such a risky position. Or, he could go.

Ananias must have really trusted God. Because in spite of the reality before him, in spite of knowing he could be arrested, thrown into prison and die, he went. He went because he trusted God. He went because he knew the Person behind the voice and he knew that no matter what was going to happen, God’s plan would be better. God’s purpose for his life would be fulfilled even in his death and that was what he lived for.

He got up, went to Saul, He laid his hands on him and prayed for him. He commissioned the man that would further the Christian faith like no other. Of course, he didn’t know all this at the time. Afterward, he went home and felt good that he did what God said (and he didn’t die.)

What about you? What is God asking you to do that you are afraid to do? Maybe, like Ananias, you should remember the God you know and follow his lead. Maybe there will be a kingdom impact beyond what seems humanly possible. You see, when we follow God and say “Yes, Lord!” the kingdom impact is always more than is humanly possible. It is God ordained.

He's Still King

John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’” Luke 7:20 (NLT)

John was in prison. Can you imagine it? The prisons then were damp, dark cells in the bowels of some structure. While there, his disciples came to visit and told him of all the things Jesus was doing. Jesus was healing tons of people. He was casting out demons; he was raising people from the dead. Miraculous things.

John sent them to Jesus to ask him if he was really the Messiah. Wait. What?

John’s whole ministry was about declaring that Jesus was the Messiah. He said it over and over again. Early in his journey he saw Jesus coming and declared “Behold, the Lamb of God!” When he baptized him he saw the Holy Spirit descend on him. John knew Jesus was the Messiah.

So what happened? John knew his end was near. He knew he was going to be put to death. And I bet he was afraid. I wonder if as he sat in his cell and contemplated what was coming if he began to wonder why Jesus wasn’t helping him out of this. Do you think he reasoned that if Jesus was the Messiah, why didn’t he free him?. After all, John had served him faithfully all these years. Maybe the thought crossed his mind that Jesus was not the Messiah. After all, if he was, he could do something.

Ever happen to you? Have you ever been in the thick of it (whatever it is) and you have prayed and prayed and prayed. And no relief. No answer. It is so tempting to believe that if God were God he would fix the problem. Maybe he’s not. Satan loves to put that lie in our heads.

Jesus did answer John. He told John to look at everything that was happening; not just at his cell. Look broader. God is moving. Refocus and you will see it.

Jesus did not save John. There was a purpose and plan for John’s life. Jesus did not interfere with that. Even though John was beheaded, Jesus was still the Messiah. And he is still the Messiah today. No matter what your life looks like right now, Jesus is still King. He still died for you. He loves you. Even if you don’t get the answers to the prayers you are praying.

Ultimately It's Up To God

And may the Lord do what seems good to him. 1 Chronicles 19:13 (ESV)

David was King. The King from the Ammonites died so David sent a delegation to express his sympathies to the King’s son. His son, not trusting David, humiliated the delegation and sent them home. Afterward, he realized he made a mistake. I love how the ESV says it “When the Ammonites saw they had become a stench to David.” When the Ammonites realized they were stinky, they hired an army to fight for them. In response, David sent his might men and his army to fight.

Now David’s mighty men and his army had a great reputation. People from all around knew who they were. These were not ordinary men. As you read through the Bible, some extraordinary feats are listed. They were powerful.

David put Joab in charge. Joab realizes the odds are not in their favor and he puts together a plan. He tells everyone what to do, and then I love his next line.

And may the Lord do what seems good to him.

Some days, it feels like we are fighting a battle. It feels like the odds are against us. No matter how well we plan, the odds do not seem to be in our favor. We need to remember, just like Joab, that in the end it is up to God.

God is the tipping point. He is the One greater than everything we see. It’s His plans that get executed, not ours. Will He fight for us? Most definitely! But there will still be things that don’t work out the way we want them to…..and that’s OK. Because we know in the end that God is the One in control. And if He allows it, there is a purpose.

Like Joab, we need to plan. We need to do everything we can to succeed but after all that is said and done, we need to trust God in whatever the outcome.

Plans As Different As You Are

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

We were sitting around in a circle sharing stories. This is a group that gets together every other week to talk about our journeys with God; sharing and encouraging each other. As each person took a turn to share their story, one woman shared an amazing answer to prayer. She had been struggling with a situation for a while and God finally answered. He finally showed up in a very powerful way.

I was really happy for her. She is my friend. But, there was a part of me that wondered why not me? Now, believe me, I know this is completely selfish. And I know that this is not an appropriate thought to have when your friend was blessed by an answer to prayer. I know I should stay quiet about the fact that I thought this....but, I think more of us think this kind of thing than we’d like to admit. So, shaking my head, I am admitting it.

That night as I laid in bed, I talked to God about it. First, I asked him to forgive me for thinking so selfishly but then I honestly asked him “Why? Why has it taken so long for you to answer my prayers?” Then, I felt inspired to tell him what prayers I would have him answer if I could choose anything at all. And to my surprise, as I lay there and thought about it, I didn’t ask for the things I thought I would. The things I had been focusing on that I thought I wanted answers to, those were not top of my list. I was whining about him not answering this one prayer but when asked to prioritize, that did not fall in the top five.

I went to sleep.

The next day as I talked some more with God about all this, I remembered. I remembered some amazing answered prayers that I’ve had in my recent past. There was an answer to prayer for a reconciliation that I was praying about for 15 years. There was the prayer that asked God to send someone so I could share Jesus. There was the reunion with my biological brothers. There are so many more and each one has been amazing. 

Then I remembered what God says in his Word. “For I know the plans I have for you.....” Your plans are not everyone else’s plans and their plans are not for you. My plans for you are uniquely individual and the answers to prayer are the same.

All I could do was bow my head and rejoice in a God who loves me so individually and in a way that is uniquely me. He knew what my heart wanted even when I didn’t.