His Plan. His Blueprints.

God has a plan, a blueprint for our lives. We love the thought. We quote, post, and have signs in our homes which proudly displaying Jeremiah 29:11 The reality though, we also have plans, a blueprint for our lives.  Another truth, the two plans often don’t merge well. There is conflict. Too often our life plan supersedes God’s. We’re great at taking our life plan to Him. We pray, ask, quote scripture, and sometimes demand that God respond, even relents to our plans. Rarely does this turn out the way we had hoped.

As a result, we get frustrated, even angry with God. We say that prayer doesn’t work. God doesn’t listen. Bitterness, hurt, and disappointment moves in. Too often we walk away from prayer, sometimes even God. God didn’t work out our plan so, like a child, we pout, and sometimes worse, throw fits and run away.

The reality is this. We don’t read Jeremiah 29:11 very well. It says, “for I know the plans I have for you.” Simply put, it’s not our plans for Him to orchestrate, but His plan we must yield to. His blueprint. His work. It overrides ours. He has a plan. He knows the plan, but unfortunately, rarely does He share the details with us.

We don’t see God saying, “Joseph, here’s my plan. You’re going to be betrayed by brothers, have your character destroyed by the lies of Potiphar’s wife, and go to jail.” He doesn’t share with Moses that his leadership preparation will involve 40 years in a wilderness, dysfunctional leaders, and people continually rebelling. God’s plans for us are His, and most often, unrevealed to us.

His blueprint rarely means a painless life. His idea of wellbeing and prospering doesn’t necessarily mean material or earthly blessings. In fact, His plan may, and often does, mean difficulty, abandonment, betrayal, pain, and sickness. It overwhelms us, “we see through a glass darkly,” Paul says, but be confident, if we yield, His plan works.

We like plans that look like nice homes, global vacations, money in the bank, 401K’s, and spending winters in a warm climate. We like blueprints that have no pain, sickness, betrayal, or sorrow. We call blessings prosperity, not problems.

What does His blueprint look like? Not like what we would like. John’s blueprint means he will be jailed and beheaded. Simon Peter’s and Paul’s means jail, persecution, and eventually death. In fact, with the exception of John, who was boiled in oil and ostracized to an island, all others die martyrs. Even Jesus, in His flesh prays, “not my will, but yours be done.” It’s difficult for anyone to fully embrace His plans, but they work.

Simon Peter likely dies disappointed and broken in the fact that God didn’t deliver him. In his last moments he probably doesn’t see his life as favored and blessed, but 2000 years later, while most lives are long forgotten, his message and his name are still talked about. In his final days, Paul knew his fate, that deliverance from a jail meant a martyr’s death. He likely wondered; did I make a difference? Did I impact my world? He had little earthly possessions, and even though he didn’t fully grasp it all, he died wealthy. His name. His work. His writings will impact millions and are still alive and powerful today. God’s plans were accomplished.

Walking through a storm? Neglected? Feeling abandoned by friends or God? Frustrated that God and heaven seem silent? Hurt by someone who betrayed you? Disappointed with your financial situation? Confused that the Healer hasn’t healed you? You are not forgotten. You haven’t committed the unpardonable sin. His love has not faded. His grace is sufficient. You are likely in the right space. He knows the plans that He has for you, even when they seem hard and unfair.

How do we respond? As those who have gone before us. Listen to their words. James says, “count it all joy when trials come.” Paul writing from jail to the Philippians and says, “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” John understood God’s plans and his didn’t mesh and says, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” As they did, we must do also. It may never make sense. The pain and disillusionment real. Yet as Paul said, in an often-misquoted Romans 8:28, “all things work for good for those who love God. I have to remind myself that Paul did not say, “our good,” but “for good.” We must choose to live in that revelation.

Two old hymns say it well.

Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow, And I know who holds my hand.

I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

What were they walking through? How difficult was their storm? Likely really challenging. Tough enough to cause them to pen the lyrics. Lyrics that outlived them. Lyrics that are a testimony that His will, His plan is best, even when it is painful. Embrace His blueprint.

Beauty in it All

Sitting at my desk watching nature through our windows I’ve seen life at its best. A hawk chasing a squirrel who is trying to escape for its life. A yellow finch continually knocking on our window (this has been happening for weeks). I’ve watched a red bird feed her babies in a pine tree and a chipmunk nibbling nervously on something he found to enjoy. And sounds. Leaves whispering their own song as the breeze blows through their branches, birds humming a beautiful melody, and squirrels making noises I’ve never heard before, only because I’ve taken time to listen. Our orange hammock hanging on a tree nearby blows in the wind, it’s a place to enjoy a good book and nap. I love this more than ever, a new incredible lease on life, I see beauty all around me. I was in a very dark place two years ago and couldn’t capture this kind of beauty if I would have tried. I was paralyzed with fear and anxiety, trying desperately to pray through it and survive it. Now, two years later, the miraculous hand of God is again working in mysterious ways in my life, I see life differently. I’m forever grateful; there are no words that can express how incredible the God we serve is. I mean it, I truly mean it when I say, that I understand that there is a devastating anxiety that can paralyze a soul. It’s real. I was there and know what it feels like to think, this will never end. I know this subject is something we don’t like to talk about, something we want to sweep under the rug, and never bring up, but we can’t do that if we want to survive. God sees where we are at even when we can’t feel him. Never, ever give up, keep getting back up. Your breakthrough is coming, and you will find, like nature, there is beauty in it all.

– Mary Hudson

Intentionally Impactive

Life’s vision involves three-segments. First, touch God every day. It may change daily, but includes Bible reading, prayer, worship, and devotion. Another segment of our vision is being involved in something that outlives you. A personal ministry, project, or a financial foundation; anything that will leave an imprint on the next generation. A final segment involves intentionally impacting someone’s life every day. That doesn’t mean grabbing a bull horn or bashing them with the Bible. It means being purposeful about making a positive impact on someone daily. Lately the Spirit has been prompting me to be more active in this area. So, I’ve been intentional. A cashier caught my attention with his amazing spirit and attitude, so I gave him a compliment. He lit up like the fourth of July, you would have thought I had given him a hundred-dollar bill. Making a run to the grocery, a group of elementary kids walking to a local park for end of the year festivities, spotted our little red car. They started giving us the “18-wheeler blow the horn motion.”  We gave them a beep, beep, smiled, waved and instantly the entire group exploded into laughter and cheers as we drove off. Finally, as we were walking through a park, I noticed a couple meandering slowly up ahead of us. Their spirit seemed heavy, so as we passed, I gave them a smile, “a good morning,” and instantly their countenance changed. The elderly lady said, “yes, it is” and before I knew it, I blurted out the first stanza of Psalm 118:24, “this is the day,” she responded with, “that the Lord has made, and I said, “I will rejoice,” and she completed it with, “and be glad in it.” We left them laughing and with a memory for the day. My point? Impacting others is simple, easy, and cost nothing. Start being intentional about impacting a world that is hopeless, hurting, and broken. Let your positive actions be the conversation at their dinner table.

And Just Like That

And just like that, it happened. The crowd was gone. In early January you would have thought the entire town of Noblesville had joined our health club. Whether it was seven in the morning or seven at night, the place was packed. February comes and the crowds were still steady. There was determination on people’s faces; they were going to get fit and lose weight. But as it often does, resolve and resolution fade into routine and old habits. Now it’s the committed. Those who show up day in and day out; those who are dedicated to making a change. This isn’t something new. Paul called out the Galatians, saying “you were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” It’s human nature to fade, to allow obstacles to overwhelm us and discouragements to defeat us. What is the difference between those who fade and those who fight? Often it comes down to just one thing, determination. We are awestruck by Paul’s incredible successes but realize Paul was given many opportunities to quit instead of continuing. Stoned, beaten, persecuted, misunderstood, shipwrecked, and jailed, all opportunities to quit. In 2 Corinthians 3:1 we see his resolve when we read, “I determined this for my own sake, that I would not come to you in sorrow again.” Paul went through bad times, often felt like a failure, and had seasons where so many misunderstood and opposed his teaching, yet he was determined. I will not quit. I will not be defeated. I will not give up. His determination, his passion and his vision pushed him past his problems and pain. How many churches would not have been established? How many books would not have been written? More importantly, how many lives would not know Jesus? When times are tough, don’t quit! Pray harder, fast longer, and be determined to finish what God has called you to do.

The Importance of Being Present

From the beginning of the year, God has laser focused messages at Life on the importance of seeing correctly, of being aligned with your pastors and the Spirit. Luke shows us the importance of being present in Acts 1. After Jesus ascends into heaven the disciples are left with the task of replacing Judas. As they begin the process, they first set the criteria for filling the position. What was the criteria? It was this, that whoever filled the roll had to have been with Jesus from His baptism until His death. Why? They understood that if the person had not been present, that they would not be able to align with the vision that Jesus had given them. How important was being present? All we have to do is turn to the first verse in Acts 2. Luke’s first line says it all, “they were in one place and in one accord.” You can’t get to one place and one accord without being present. Faithfulness brought vision, which brought possibility, which allowed 120 to experience a miraculous moment which would lead to a moment in Acts 17 when a society said, “these are they who have turned the world upside down. A question. How can you be aligned with the passion and heart of your pastors and the Spirit if you aren’t present? Over the past six weeks at Life we have cast vision on how to live a blessed life. Beyond the teaching of being financially faithful, we have talked about the importance of expanding your vision. Currently, Mary is leading a powerful study by Beth Moore called Entrusted. She spent days choosing the series, prays and studies each week, hoping ladies will catch the vision that Beth Moore is communicating. The adversary is subtle, he knows the power of “being present.” He understands when people aren’t present, they can never catch their pastors’ vision. A few have legitimist excuses, you live far from the church, but for others, it is simply a matter of priorities. What causes people to become discontent or drift? Most times it’s not sin, simply not being connected. It isn’t a lack of vision that will cause some to fade, merely a lack of being present.

A Dormant Dream

For forty days he had gotten a glimpse of the possibilities. He had seen the lush crops and amazing groves of fruit. He had walked the streets of large cities and touched their massive walls. He has walked through beautiful valleys, and now, he’s standing near picturesque farm on the ridge of a mountain. As a breeze blows through his hair and the sun sets, all he can hear is the words of the Lord, “go and spy out the land I am going to give you.” With that, he along with nine other spies, head back to camp. To his amazement, only he and Joshua have a good report, all the others see obstacles where he had seen opportunity. In a moment, his dreams are dashed by the lack of faith and vision in others. For forty years he will pay the penalty for the doubt of others. Finally, the visionless pass, and a new generation of faith stand ready. A generation with a leader who says, “we can conqueror, we can possess.” Passion and possibility are alive. Joshua leads Israel through a dry Jordan River and into the Promised Land. Victories come quickly, and within a short time, Israel has conquered the land. Within days of the final conquest, Caleb stands in the tent of Joshua asking, “give me my mountain.” Though his dream had been delayed, and journey difficult, Caleb’s passion for his promise had not wavered. He had not forgotten what he had seen standing on that ridge forty years earlier. I’m sure he often wondered if he would ever see it, but now possibility is reality. He holds the deed to his promise. What dream has God given you? Hang on to it. Though it may seem dead, it’s likely just dormant. Never let go of your dreams, don’t doubt God. What you have seen and what you have heard will come to pass.

What Do You See?

What we see is important, but how we see things is even more important. Our vision determines our direction and creates an environment of success or failure. Do you generally see with faith, hope and possibility or despair, hopelessness and fear? In 1 Kings 18 Elijah has told Ahab, “there is a roar of a heavy shower.” After speaking these words, Elijah sends his servant, seven times in fact, until he finally comes back and says, “I see a cloud the size of a man’s hand.” Seeing takes faith and persistence. In Isaiah 6, after the highly popular king Uzziah dies and the nation is in moral decay, Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” In a difficult time Uzziah saw an all-powerful God able to overcome any adversary. What we see and how we see in difficult times is important. Want to have proper vision? Set the correct atmosphere. Three principles for great vision. First, make God’s Word your focus, in it you will see His plan, His power, His authority. You will see how big God is. Second, pray. In prayer we see our weakness and His vision and His strength. Finally, make God’s House a priority. When we don’t stay around people with right vision, we start seeing things the wrong way. Be around people of faith, vision, passion, excitement and worship. In 2 Kings 6, Elisha’s servant fearfully tells Elisha that they are surrounded by a large adversary, instead of being overwhelmed, Elisha prays a simple prayer to God, “God, open the eyes that he may see.” In this hour where we can become consumed by what we see at the surface level of life, my prayer is God let us see what you see. Today, I see a God who is in control, that God will never leave us or forsake us and a God who is on top of everything. What do you see?