Building a Life Worth Living: Building off of the Maker’s Designs

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. –Proverbs 19:21
And we come to it…planning.  I consider myself a “do-er”; that is, a person who must always be moving.  ALWAYS.  Especially now facing all the constant struggles that I do, I’m always looking, listening, analyzing…PLANNING.
“If X happens, then I’ll do Y, or if X doesn’t happen, then I’ll do B.”  It’s exhausting and it feels almost like manipulation.  
Life, according to the world, is nothing but a series of plans to be made and executed with all the fervor and efficiency our humanity has to offer. And we love to plan, don’t we? Even as believers, we get very motivated and focused on the plan; the road that leads us to the end of the task; the accomplishment of a mission that satisfies some deeply rooted need to succeed and be counted; to make our mark. And while this, in itself, may produce a well-intended work that bears good fruit, we are keenly aware and reminded of our particular failings as people – EVEN WHEN WE SUCCEED. We love to follow plans and we are good at it, but whose plan are we following exactly?
How many of us have had good plans; Even plans for ministry?  I am talking about intense, call-of-God type plans that compel us to action in various ways, sometimes life-altering and always purposeful. Ever have those?
How many of us, once the plan is in motion, suddenly realize that we have decided to take the reigns and steer the direction of that plan? At some point, we forget where our purpose, and our help, comes from.  I’ve known for some time now, that my tenure in the U.S. Air force is coming to a close.  The timing of that is still in question, but it is much sooner than I expected.  So, being the man in perpetual motion, I started to take action to secure my future!  I pursued a position in the secular community – for profit, for comfort, for security.  Then, despite a phenomenal interview and all signs pointing towards a safe and secure job…I was turned down – kind of…
So, after much prayer and a gentle reminding of my call to ministry, I re-vectored and am back on that unsecure, SCARY path that the Living God has called me to.  The hard road.  But, it’s in that uncertainty that I find hope, it is in that uncertainty that I find peace, it is in that uncertainty that I find my place!

Jeremiah 29:11 Says, “For I know the PLANS i have for you, says the Lord, plans for a future and a hope…”
If you notice that what MORGAN has planned is nowhere in that statement from the Almighty…not anywhere.
Ok, Ok, I get it, He has my best interests in mind…but what does that mean, why am I still tortured by a past I cannot forget…
1st Peter 1:5-9 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Remember, that for each of us out there who knows him, there are many others who do not. He has his heart set on those people; those who suffer in hopelessness. So how do we know that our plan is also God’s plan? Well, that is the question isn’t it? I am not sure there is a perfect answer apart from the generic ‘pray about it’ answer you might find in the coffee area of church on Sunday. I do know one thing though: If our plan is focused more on serving the lost and suffering and less on serving ourselves and our ambitions, well then it is probably mostly God.
The funny thing is, God will let us carry out our own plans until we see that His way really is the ONLY way!  Funny how he does that, isn’t it!?
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suffered under Pontius Pilate

(This is part six of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

We’re still talking about Jesus. Mainly because Jesus Christ is the definitive character of Christianity. This entry looks specifically at the line that says that Jesus:
“suffered under Pontius Pilate,”
Like before, we’ll break this passage down into several smaller sections.

Two thoughts on Ruth

This week I read the book of Ruth for one of my classes and wanted to share two things God revealed to me after reading it:

First, I would say this book beautifully illustrates the idea that sometimes God uses the least likely people to accomplish His will; in this book he used a foreign widow who had travelled to Bethlehem with her “bitter” mother-in-law. It’s likely that a man as well respected and important as Boaz could have had any available woman he wanted in such a small town, but he chose Ruth and the her grandson is was King David. From this lineage also came Jesus.

Second, I would say that you never know how your suffering will be used by God to accomplish His purposes in someone else’s life. Naomi lost everything! She was in the worst possible situation women could be in during this era (a widow with no husband or sons to care for her) yet God used the events in her life to bring her back to her hometown, with Ruth, so that the Davidic—and incidentally the Messianic—lineage could continue. The story doesn’t end with Naomi getting re-married, although she does get to hold her grandson, but Naomi was key to this story playing out the way it did. The point is that sometimes we don’t get the happy ending we want, but God uses our life as one small piece in His grand plan.

Grieve with hope

God never promised that life would be easy. In fact, Jesus promises pretty much the opposite in John 16:33. Jesus says we will have trouble. Life is full of pain, grief, and sorrow. These emotions are all part of the human experience. They’re a part of who we are and how we experience this fallen, broken world. Ecclesiastes 3:1 reassures us that this is normal. There are times and seasons for everything.

Specifically, Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there are times to mourn. There are times for sorrow; but there are also times to celebrate. Life is a paradox. One of my favorite quotes comes from the character Brian in Vanilla Sky, he says, “Just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and I know the sour…”

I think life is a lot like that. It takes the sour to appreciate the sweet. It takes death to appreciate life. And it’s okay to mourn when people die. In fact, it’s Biblical. Look at the Psalms. Sixty-seven psalms are regarded as lament psalms either wholly or in part. Sixty-one are laments in their entirety. To me, one of the saddest Psalms, is Psalm 88. Look at Psalm 88:14, 16, 18. Those verses are tragic. Yet in Psalm 88:1 the Psalmist refers to God as “the God who saves me.”

After Job lost everything, he went into a deep state of sorrow. In Job 2:13, his friends show up and just sit there with him for a whole week. No one says anything; they’re just there for him, supporting him, comforting him.

Even Jesus, in Mark 14:34 says that his “soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Even Jesus! Arguably the shortest verse in the Bible (depending on what translation you use) is John 11:35 where the text says that “Jesus wept.” If Jesus can mourn, so can we. If Jesus can feel despair, so can we. It’s okay.

It’s not a sin to feel sorrow, despair, or depression (although it can be easy to sin while feel like this). The problem comes when we try to hide our emotions from God; or when we try to “sterilize” our prayers. Many of the Psalms are full of questions to God. Questions like, “How long, O LORD, how long?” (Psalm 6:3), or “Why have you rejected us forever, O God?” (Psalm74:1). Those are just two examples but there are dozens of others.

My point is simply this, when time are hard and we feel pain, we need to be honest with God. We need to bring our pain to Him and lean on Him for strength. Psalm 142:1-2 talks about being open and honest with God. Psalm 143:1 asks God to listen, with verse 10 asking for guidance. And Psalm 144:1-2 gives praise to God calling Him our fortress, stronghold, deliverer, and shield.We need to admit that we don’t understand the world but that we trust in someone who does. God is in charge and it’s not our place to know all the answers to life’s questions.

The good news is that we have hope; if not in this life, then certainly in the next. God will be victorious and He will be glorified. Although most of the Psalms are lament psalms, read the last one, Psalm 150:6 is the last verse in the book of Psalms and it simply says, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”

God also promises that he will be with us during hard times. One of my all-time favorite Bible verses is 1 Peter 5:10. While it does promise that we may suffer for “a little while” it also promises that God Himself will restore us and make us “strong, firm, and steadfast.”

To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:11).