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Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 (NIV1984)

“It seemed like such a good idea at the time.”

How many times have you heard yourself or someone else mumble those words?

A couple sits across the courtroom from one another. Eight years ago they pledged their love to each other ‘until death do us part’. Now, the pieces of a family torn by doubt and infidelity and emotional abandonment are all that is left. As she looks at him she thinks back. He was a good Christian man. He was kind, generous, forgiving. Someone she could trust. Now, all she felt was hurt, all she saw in his eyes was anger. What happened?

The story is the same throughout mankind. We have plans. We have visions of what life should look like. Sometimes we make half-hearted prayers to God for wisdom, prayers which are really nothing more than asking his approval for our ideas.

Our plans can be for a successful career, a healthy family, or a large, burgeoning church. But things don’t go as we expected and we revert to our own strength and wisdom rather than look to God. We begin to compare, criticize, covet and complain about each other and about God.

Somewhere along the line we’ve gotten the idea that God’s plan for each of us is to live a fairy tale existence. The frogs of the world turn to princes. The princesses swoon at our kiss. The ‘magic seeds’ of entrepreneurial efforts become beanstalks that lift us to the heavens.

Jesus spent more of his time encouraging those who were down and out than he did catering to the social elite. Why? Because he knew man’s plans would inevitably lead to failure, pain, discouragement and destruction.

As the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, he assures us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) But that promise came to a people who were in exile at the time and far removed from Jehovah God.

God’s plan for us, as for the Israelites, was to prosper them AFTER they endured the trials of their own guilt.

God’s plan for each of us is first and foremost to have a healthy, vibrant relationship with him based on living a lifestyle according to his word. Anything that deviates from God’s word is man’s plan and destined to failure. Anything empowered by his Spirit and driven by his word will prosper; prosper by His standards, not the worlds.

Whether you are in ministry, a career or a blue-collar worker take a look at your plans. Make sure they are measured by relationship with God and not personal gain or tradition. God’s plans never go awry.

PRAYER: Father God. It’s so easy to superimpose my own desires and call them yours. Give me wisdom to earnestly seek your path and not the path more easily trodden. In Jesus name, Amen.


Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 (NIV)

My joy got stolen from me the other day. Ripped right out of my heart before I knew it. One moment it was there, the next it was gone. I thought it was secure, in fact, looking back, I was probably a little too smug about its secure position.

I don’t think I’m alone. You’ve probably had your hope snatched a few times as well. Hope is fragile and valuable. If you have hope, you can conquer most any obstacle before you. If you have hope the old phrase ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ becomes a truism. If you have hope the daily frustrations of life seem to run off your back like water off a duck.

But when the hope snatchers sneak in, all bets are off. The issues of life are the same whether you have hope or not. It’s not if you have hope that counts, but what you have hope in that matters.

Put hope in politics and you’ll be miserable indeed. Put hope in people and relationships, your heart will be crushed as the hope is ripped out. Finances? Healthy living? Social action and volunteerism? All fine and good, but put your hope in them and you are putting your hope in something that’s as full of holes as Swiss cheese. Even religion offers little hope beyond what we can see, touch and feel.

Where then can we get this hope in a world where hopelessness seems encamped on every street corner?

Paul writes, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) The key to the whole verse, and life, is found in the word ‘hope’. If you put your hope in something that is secure, solid and trusted then patience and faithfulness come easier. If, on the other hand your hope is put in something fallible, affliction will rob you of your joy and frustration will set in.

The key to hope, joy and patience is faithfulness in prayer. Prayer is the lifeline between you and the hope you have in Christ Jesus. Pray when your hope seems gone. Pray when your patience is thin. Pray when you have no desire to pray at all.

The next time your hope is ripped from your heart like mine was, step back and ask yourself where you were putting your hope in the first place. It may be time for a change in perspective.

PRAYER: Father God, forgive me for the times when I’ve put my hope in things rather than in you. Help me focus my prayers and my attitude towards you so that I can remain strong when hope-snatchers attack. Amen.


But the wicked are filled with terror, because God is with those who do what is right. Psalm 14:5 (NCV)

The reality of God’s existence is a refuge for some and a source of fear for others.

To those who believe in the God of the universe, the God of Jacob and Genesis, the God who sent Jesus Christ to earth to be the savior of all mankind, he is the foundation of our faith.

For those who believe in other gods, Jehovah God brings fear, frustration and anger. Albert Barnes writes in ‘Barnes notes on the Bible’, “People cannot, by an effort of will, get rid of the evidence that there is a God. In the face of all their attempts to convince themselves of this, the demonstration of his existence will press upon them, and will often fill their minds with terror.”

Jesus himself warns us that we would be hated by the world because the world hates him, and if the world hates Jesus it hates the Father God of the universe. What was the first emotion felt by Adam and Eve after they sinned? When God came looking for them to take his normal evening walk in the garden with his friends they were hiding. Why? “We hid because we were naked and afraid.”

Unhealthy fear of God is expressed in many ways. Some go to any effort at all to disprove his existence.

Others show fear though anger at God. He didn’t do what I wanted. He didn’t meet my wants. Therefore he must not exist and if he does exist, he isn’t interested in me or is angry with me.

Still others become frustrated in their walk with God. They live the way they want. They follow their own passions, their own desires and when the natural consequences of their decisions produce the expected outcome they are shocked. Where is God now? They ask. If he loves me why does this happen?

Referring back to the earlier quote from Barnes’ may help us to understand a little bit more about our enemy. Our ultimate enemy of course is Satan, but he works in the minds of his children (those who refuse to believe) to instill fear in a variety of ways in order to pull them farther from the God who desperately wants a love relationship with them.

What does this mean to us as Christ followers? Perhaps it is easier for us to realize that those attacks on us that seem to put us on the defensive are really the attacks of people who feel trapped. Cornered by the sub-conscious realization that God does exist, they have two options. Fight or give in.

Our responsibility as children of God isn’t to fight back, but to love and accept them into the kingdom. Show them the forgiveness available through grace. Realize their attacks are really an indication of the realization that we are right about our belief in a sovereign God and a gracious redeemer.

PRAYER: Father, I confess to you that I get angry when I see people around me mocking your name and living in ways that don’t please you. I get judgmental and critical of their ways. Help me to see what you see, a bunch of scared people seeking relief from their fears in the wrong way. Help me show them that you are the solution to the fear and frustration in their lives, not the cause of it. In the name of Jesus, my Lord I pray, Amen.


Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Philippians 2:1-2 (NASB)

Although I never wish disaster or crisis on anyone, something interesting, even refreshing happens when disaster strikes. All of the sudden race, gender, denominational affiliation and social standing don’t matter. People pitch in to clear trees, search for victims, provide food and supplies where necessary and sometimes just offer a shoulder for encouragement.

I’ve never once heard a news report where an angry homeowner said something like, “Why are all these people strolling through my yard with chainsaws and such to clear my property after that tornado hit? I don’t want them providing food and helping me clean up this mess after my home was destroyed!”

Never seen an interview where an earthquake victim stands in front of his house warning people to stay away while he searches the rubble for his wife and kids; or heard of a family demanding an apology from the fire department for saving their home; or heard an angry patient wake up from surgery demanding an explanation for why the surgeon worked so diligently to save his life.

Crisis tends to bring out the best in us. There are exceptions of course, but deep within each of us there seems to be some sort of trigger that says “When disaster strikes we come together.” A unity develops over a common cause and after that task is complete we all go our separate ways, waiting for the next opportunity to help where needed to save a life or provide for some physical or emotional need.

The Apostle Paul seems to have had a special relationship with the church he planted inPhilippi. He writes, “I thank my God every time I think about you!” The Philippians had been Paul’s partners in ministry from the very beginning and now they were worried about reports that he was in prison.

In the midst of Paul’s own personal crisis these dear friends wanted to help. Interestingly, Paul sends message to them not to be discouraged, but to rejoice in what God was doing in him and through him. Then he says “If you really want to make my happy; if you really want me to feel like this is all worth it; if you really want to show others what following Christ is all about, here’s what I want you to do. Be unified in your minds. Set your hearts towards one purpose. Don’t let divisions keep you from showing others what the gospel is all about.”

What would our world look like if we as believers in Jesus Christ handled every day as though it were a disaster? How would we treat those who are ‘different than us’ if we approached life with an attitude of urgency to rescue them from calamity?

If we truly had a sense of urgency about us would it matter what sexual orientation our neighbor had? Would it really make a difference which version of the Bible we read, or what kind of music we played in our churches? Would the sign on the front of our churches and the ‘denominational distinctives keep us from snatching people from the jaws of hell?

It’s not the stand we take that will win others to Jesus; it’s kneeling down to lift up those in distress. Seek to reach out to those who are in their own personal disaster and crisis. With one purpose bring them into the safety of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. Show them grace by your actions.

PRAYER: Lord it’s so easy at times to forget that our main purpose on earth isn’t to be right, but to show others your love. Help me to see the crisis’ those around me are going through. Empower me by your spirit to show grace to those in need. Amen.


 

They dig a hole to trap others, but they will fall into it themselves. Psalm 7:15 (NCV)

Remember the old roadrunner cartoons? I imagine you can still find them somewhere on the TV dial. Crafty Wile E. Coyote spends his entire life trying to trap the speedy roadrunner. In the process he blows himself up on numerous occasions, drops anvils on his head, goes headlong over cliffs and flies into rock walls and endures a multitude of other catastrophes in an effort to get the Roadrunner.

We can laugh at his antics but in reality each of us has probably fallen victim to a far more sinister version of old Wile. People in our lives who seem intent on bringing us down by luring us into thoughts and activities that pull us away from God; or continue to bring up our past failures; or remind us of why they are the better person for any given job.

For many of us this may have started in middle school or junior high. Just at a time when we were most vulnerable to attack we’re tempted to shun the family values our parents have instilled in us. We start to question the lessons of the Sunday School teachers, youth leaders and Pastors God has brought into our lives. Even religion can play a role when it strays from teaching the relationship with Jesus and focuses on the rules of dogma, and doctrine.

King David likens the trap set by our enemies to a big pit which was dug to entrap unsuspecting animals. The hole was large enough to trap the animal of choice and deep enough so they could never get out. Then, the hole was cleverly disguised and the victim drawn to the hole. Often it was chased so that it didn’t have time to really survey the area.

When it reached the hole it would drop through the covering, becoming trapped and at the mercy of its enemy. This ploy was used against animals as well as enemy soldiers in ancient times.

David teaches us two truths in this verse tucked away in Psalm 7. First of all each of us needs to be wary of our enemies tactics. Those people or activities that seem harmless but really are traps to pull us away from our relationship with Jesus. Being aware of the enemies trap is the fist step in avoiding being ‘captured’ by the lie.

Secondly, David assures us that in the end our enemies will fall victim to their own traps. They may think they are winning over us. They may think they are superior in their actions. But their fate is doomed.

One more thought. Perhaps you have fallen victim to the trap of the enemy. You look around at walls you don’t see anyway of climbing. You feel you are at the mercy of those who are intent on hurting you. Jesus came to lift us out of the trap the enemy sets for us. Think of Jesus as a ladder let down to the bottom of your pit. See him climbing down to carry you out. That’s grace. That’s forgiveness like only he can give.

David finishes Psalm 7 by reminding us that we serve a God who does what is right. He’s not intent of trapping us, or reminding us of our failures. His intention is to release us from the trap so that, like the roadrunner, we can run free!

PRAYER: Father, I pray for protection from the enemy today. Reveal his traps to me so that I don’t fall in. Empower me with your Spirit to lead others around the pit that may entrap them. Lift me up through your forgiveness when I fall victim to the enemy’s ploys. Amen.

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