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Coffee with a Bug

I was sitting on my patio enjoying the privilege of taking my time with a good cup of coffee.  No daily rush just relaxed and letting my mind drift.  I spotted an interesting little bug.  I am not a fan of bugs but I believe in live and let live the best that I can.  He was not like any other bug I had seen.  He was a colorful little guy.  Busily going about his day.  He was extremely purposeful.  He showed no doubt in his mission.  Gave everything he had to its goal.  Never stopped to look around.  He was committed to his destiny.  His only distraction was if something got in his path.  He always corrected direction and continued on.  There was no doubt the bug knew its purpose and path and plan for his little life.

In some ways I began to envy him.  In others not at all.  From what I know of science this little guy had no choice.  He was programmed with only one thought. Locked into a life of no choice. Sounds kind of dull and unexciting and certainly restrictive from a people perspective. 

I am pretty sure he didn’t know any other way and seemed content in his life chore.  Or at least so it appeared.

Just about every Christian can recite Jeremiah 29:11.  They may not know it is Jeremiah 29:11 but when they were saved, they heard and adopted it into their heart.  “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.”  It’s the “plans” part most of us struggle with.  How many mornings when I walked out of my house, I had wished that God had just written those plans on my fence for me to read.  Then I would know which way to turn, what choice to make.  What distraction to turn from.  What was the most important goal for that day, besides drawing close to him?  Ah but there in that last one is where you find the answer.  God doesn’t give us a map that says turn here, nope wrong way.  Or my favorite thought to myself often after an apparent wrong turn.  “Are you kidding me!”  

We aren’t programmed.  Instead, He has gloriously given us talents, and abilities beyond our wildest understanding.  Not one but many.  Supportive of each other in ways that often don’t make any sense to us.  But as Jesus said to His disciples in John  “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever.  That Helper is the Spirit of truth.”

That truth, if we draw close to it and learn its voice can and wants to guide us through every step, every choice of our day.  Talents and gifts and abilities are gifts to be valued and used to bring glory to our creator.  However, it is the voice of truth, the Holy Spirit, that guides us to fulfillment on both the easy and hard days. 

The “plans” aren’t programmed into our DNA like the little bug.  The plans are placed in our heart when we seek them.  The Holy Spirit is our guide and the Word is our truth.  Without both of them working together it is easy to get lost in the endless choices we face each day.  The little bug had no choice in his life but was secure in his mission.  We have choice and sometimes get off the intend path and our not so secure in our mission.  Unlike the bug we have a loving Lord who sent the Holy Spirit to guide us back when we get “off path.”. 

Matthew 7:8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

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Adopted into the Family

With all the benefits that go with it…

The Bible has several stories of adoption. Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Esther was adopted by Mordecai. Jesus was treated as a son by Joseph, even though Joseph was not his biological father.

Adoption is amazing. It turns strangers into family and turns orphans into sons and daughters. But the deepest, strongest, and most amazing act of adoption is not when people adopt children, but when God adopts people.

For it was always in his perfect plan to adopt us as his delightful children, through our union with Jesus, the Anointed One…and this unfolding plan brings him great pleasure!

Ephesians 1:5-6

We are more than just God’s creation. We are more than just his servants. And God is more than just our judge. He is our father. When we give our lives to Jesus, we become part of God’s family, with all the benefits and rights that come with being his adopted child. Our God-planned destiny from the beginning was to be adopted into his family.

It’s hard to believe, but it gives God great joy and pleasure to adopt us. We weren’t cute, cuddly, and captivating. On the contrary, we were a mess. We were all born with evil, selfish natures. Our lives expressed the depravity inside us, as we pursued any wicked thought springing from our selfish nature. We deserved God’s anger. Yet, when we were unlovable, he still loved us. God loved us so much that he adopted us. He made us his very own children.

What does that mean? When someone adopts a child, they make that child part of their family forever. They give that child their family name, invest their time in that child, bear the necessary costs to support that child, and make that child an heir of their estate. Adopting a child is a huge, weighty, life-altering decision.

God made that decision for us from the beginning. He knew how much trouble we would be and the price it would cost, but he never wavered. He adopted us and gave us the right to call him, “Daddy.” He didn’t do it out of obligation or pity. Our heavenly Father adopted us out of love. We are part of the family of God, dearly loved, forever.

If you are a Christian, you are a child of the living God, adopted into his family. Because you are his child, God loves you, protects you, and provides for you. He will never leave you. He will hear and answer your prayers. He will make a way for you. Always. That’s what a good father does…and God is a very good father.

Father, I am thankful to be adopted into your family. I’m overwhelmed that you loved me enough to adopt me and make me your child. I want to grow into your image. Thank you for your grace, your presence, and your overwhelming love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

God's plan

Am I Too Far Gone?

But I’m so messed up…

I have a shirt that’s comfy, and cute, and it says, “Dillon Panthers Football,” on it. When it was new, I wore it all the time. Then I got some stains on it that wouldn’t come out. I wore it anyway, but the stains bothered me. Later, I noticed it was getting little holes in the fabric. It’s still hanging in my closet, but every time I put it on, I wonder if it’s too far gone to keep wearing.

Sometimes our lives get so wrecked and so jacked up we wonder if we’re too far gone for God to use us. We look at the stains and the holes and wonder how God could ever make anything good out of the mess we’ve made.

Let me introduce you to the poster boy for being too far gone. I wish we knew his real name, but the only name we know for him was Mob, a name given by the thousands of demons living in him. He was a madman who lived in the cemetery, sleeping in the graves. He roamed around naked, shrieking loudly and mangling his body by cutting it with rocks.

The locals tried to subdue him, but he broke free every time, even when they bound him with chains. (See Mark 5:1-5.)

Too far gone, right? His neighbors would have said he so. Maybe even his own family would have said he was too far gone.

But Jesus knew better. Mob wasn’t so far gone that Jesus couldn’t help him. He wasn’t so far gone that Jesus couldn’t use him.

Jesus crossed a lake and calmed a storm to reach this madman who appeared to be unreachable. Jesus rebuked the demons and brought peace and clarity to the man’s mind. (See Mark 5:6-13.)

The next time we see Mob, he is wearing clothes and in his right mind. Jesus healed him. Jesus clothed him. And Jesus called him: “…Go back to your home and to your family and tell them what the Lord has done for you. Tell them how he had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).

The Bible tells us that this naked, raving, body-mangling, cemetery-inhabiting demon-possessed madman became a missionary, spreading the good news of salvation to Jordan and Syria, winning many people to Jesus.

You see, God doesn’t ever look at us like I look at my old shirt. He never wonders if we are too far gone. He never, ever looks at one of his children and sees a hopeless case. He refuses to give up on us. He pursues us. He extends his love and grace to us. He invites us to fellowship with him. He whispers to us, “Your life can be better. Follow me.”

Friend, if you feel your life is so messed up that you can’t see any way to ever make it OK again, that’s awesome, because God’s power finds its fullest expression in our weakness.

God doesn’t just forgive us, he makes us new. He moves us step by step into the life he planned for us. He heals our wounds, even self-inflicted injuries. He clothes us in righteousness. God graciously moves us out of the stench and stagnation of the cemetery into the glory of an abundant life and purposeful calling.

He did it for Mob. And he’ll do it for us, too.

Dear God, I’ve spent enough time focusing on the mistakes in my past and the challenges of my future. I surrender my past, my present, and my future to you. Shape it according to your will. Bring healing, direction, and hope into my life. Thank you for your love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

God's plan

God’s Unfinished Business

Unfinished. When Charles Dickens died, he was working on a murder mystery. To this day, no one knows who committed the murder in that story.

In 1822, composter Franz Schubert began work on a symphony. He died six years later without completing what is now known as “The Unfinished Symphony.”

There’s something sad about things left unfinished. What might it have been if it had been completed? What potential was lost? What greatness was never seen?

Friend, right now you and I are God’s unfinished business. We are in the process of becoming what he intends us to be. Philippians 1:6 says, “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

We are a work in progress. Have no doubt, God will finish the work he’s doing in us. We will be complete, mature, whole, and perfect—crafted by God’s own hand and molded in his own image.

Because we are unfinished, we sometimes mess up. We disobey. Or doubt. We make mistakes. When that happens, we don’t have to give up. Yes, we should be sorry and repent. Yes, we must make a sincere effort not to keep making the same mistake.

But messing up never means giving up on God, because God will never give up on us! He will keep working, keep shaping, keep healing until one day we perfectly reflect the brightness of our Lord. He will repair what is broken, restore what is damaged, and straighten what is crooked as he steadily marches through the inevitable process of making us complete.

David, Peter, Moses, Thomas—they all made mistakes, but God still used them. God specializes in flawed people. That’s good news for me because I’m flawed. But God still loves me. He still wants to use me. And regardless of what mistakes you may have made, he still loves you and wants to use you.

It’s so comforting to know that God WILL NOT leave us unfinished. He is 100% committed to moving us from unfinished to complete. We are not like an unfinished Dickens novel or Schubert symphony. God will not stop working on us. He wants to see the full expression of the potential he placed inside us. We are his bestselling novel, his masterpiece symphony. He is committed to our salvation, our development, and making us complete in him.

So cut yourself a little slack. You don’t have to be perfect—yet. Right now, you’re God’s unfinished business, a work in progress. But one day, if you don’t give up, the grace and determination of God will make you perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for loving me enough to keep working on me. Give me wisdom to learn from my mistakes and faith to accept your generous forgiveness. Help me trust the process as you change me into your image. Thank you for not leaving me unfinished. In the name of Jesus, amen.

God's plan

When the Clay Knows More than the Potter

What we perceive as trouble may be the potter finessing the clay.

I’ve never thrown pottery on a pottery wheel, but I’ve played with Play-Doh a whole lot. I’m really good at making Play-Doh snakes and, with enough snakes, I can create a lop-sided bowl-type vessel. I have decades of Play-Doh experience.

In all those years, the Play-Doh has never grumbled back at me.

The Bible often refers to people as clay and God as the potter. Just as a potter creates what he wants to from the clay, God creates us just as he chooses. But unlike real clay, we humans often complain about how he’s shaping our lives. When things go wrong, we question God’s presence. How could God allow this to happen to me? Doesn’t he care about me?

The Bible explains that when we complain about God, we’re like clay criticizing the potter. How ridiculous is it for the creation to criticize the Creator? Isaiah 45:9 says, “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’”

The potter, out of his wisdom and creativity, shapes the clay into whatever vessel he sees fit. And God, out of his wisdom, creativity, and abounding love, shapes us in the way he knows is best for our lives and for his glory. How absurd is it for us to second guess God’s plan for our lives?

God dropped some knowledge about potters and clay on all of us through Jeremiah. (See Jeremiah 18:1-6.) At a potter’s shop, the vessel the potter was forming wasn’t turning out as he wanted, so he broke it down to a lump of clay again and reshaped it to make it the vessel he envisioned.

There are times when we are broken, like that vessel on the potter’s wheel that’s been crushed into a lump of clay. I know—I’ve been there. Some of you may be in that place right now.

In times of brokenness, we have a choice to make.

We can choose to complain about our Creator, criticize how he orders our lives, and doubt his ability to craft us into vessels that bring him glory.

Or, we can choose to rest confidently in his loving hands, acknowledging that he knows best.

Our choice shows who is really sovereign in our lives. When we act as if we could do a better job running our lives than God does, we dethrone God and put the crown on our own head and the scepter in our own hands. And, friend, no good can come from that.

But when we yield ourselves to God’s plan and trust him through the difficult and broken times, we discover he is worthy of our trust. Our faith grows stronger. And we find enduring joy as we become the glorious vessel he always intended us to be.

Dear God, I acknowledge that you are the Creator and I am the created. Help me trust your wisdom and your plan through the difficult times of my life. Give me faith and courage to embrace your order for my life, even when it may not make sense to me. Use me for your glory. In Jesus’s name, amen.

God's plan

Are We Unknowingly Limiting God?

Mike Posner started walking on April 15, 2019. He left New Jersey on foot and just kept going. Six months later, he triumphantly dove into the Pacific Ocean. His dream was to become tougher by walking across America. And he did it—one step at a time.

There’s no telling how far one next step after another will take us. Probably much further than we expect. Our low expectations often set limits on how God works in our lives.

Charles Swindoll tells the story of two men ice fishing. The first man cut a hole in the ice the size of a dinner plate. The second man cut a hole the size of a Volkswagen van—and in the shape of a whale! The first man’s small expectations limited what he could catch.

So much of what we undertake lacks vision,” says Swindoll. “We cut our tiny holes in the ice and make plans to go home cold and hungry.”

What size hole have we cut in the ice? Do our low expectations limit God’s ability to work in our lives?

When Gideon was hiding in fear, God called him to fight the mighty Midianites. Gideon didn’t think he was the right man, but he went on to lead Israel to victory over their enemy. (See Judges, chapters 6-8.)

The victory didn’t happen instantly. It came through steps. Fifty-two verses and many next steps later, Gideon led his men to war and then to victory.

God saw something in Gideon that Gideon didn’t see in himself. By following God step by step, he was transformed from a timid, cowering farmer into a daring warrior and leader.

What does God see in us that we don’t see in ourselves?

Listen to this life-changing promise in 2 Corinthians 9:8: Yes, God is more than ready to overwhelm you with every form of grace, so that you will have more than enough of everything—every moment and in every way. He will make you overflow with abundance in every good thing you do.”

God is more than ready—ready to shower us with infinitely more than our greatest request, our most unbelievable dream, or our wildest imagination! I can imagine big things, wild and crazy things. Can’t you? Yet, even the most impossible thing we can imagine becomes completely doable when we trust the overwhelming, abundant grace of our God.

We may not be interested in actual ice fishing because, well…brrrr! But God is interested in seeing us cut a whale-sized hole in the ice, to look past what we think we can do, and expand our vision to what God wants to do through us. When we obediently take our next steps, God overwhelms us with every part of his great grace. And that means all limits are gone and all things are possible.

Dear God, give me faith and grace to do things for you. Expand my vision. Show me my next step. Overwhelm me with your abundant grace so I may accomplish everything you want to do through me. In the name of Jesus, amen.

God's plan

Finding God’s Vision for Our Lives

Have you ever tried to navigate around a strange house in the dark? I have and I had bruises and a stubbed toe to prove it. Because I couldn’t see, I lost my way. With vision, I would have had no problem getting where I wanted to go.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18). Other versions of the Bible say that people without vision wander astray, run wild, or stumble. Without vision, we get lost and we fall. With vision, we have purpose, direction, and guidance.

God has a perfect vision for our future. I have sometimes struggled to understand God’s vision for my life. Maybe you have, too. Sometimes we make it harder than it really is.

God doesn’t try to keep his vision a secret. A lot of what he wants us to do is plainly written in his Word. God wants us to love our families, to share what we have with people less fortunate, to be kind.

Also, God promises to direct the steps of his children: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…” (Psalm 37:23). He makes sure we don’t walk in the wrong direction: “Your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).

God may not announce his vision for us with lightning, thunder, and a shout. It’s more likely to come through Scripture, prayer, and a still small voice. And we may not see the plan for our entire journey. Often, we are just shown our next step.

Taking that next step is vital. It connects where we are today to the place God wants to take us in the future. It’s the process that turns the vision into future reality.

God has a vision for my life and for yours. Through prayer, reading the Bible, and taking steps of obedience, we can live out his vision for our lives. I pray God will open our spiritual eyes to see his vision and give us courage to take our next steps.

Heavenly Father, I need your direction in my life. Give me a vision of your love and your mighty power. Give me a vision of what you want to do in my life and show me the next step I need to take to move toward it. I ask for faith to believe that what you plan for me, you will bring to pass. In Jesus’s name, amen.

God's plan

Choosing Worms

“Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by these many distractions? Are they really that important?” (Luke 10:42)

Do you have any stories in your family so amazing they become part of your family’s lore? We have a lot of stories like that. One of them involved Brianna and the worms.

When Brianna was about three years old, her dad, Wade, wanted to take her fishing. He packed some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, and milk, and gathered the fishing poles and bait. Both were excited as they pushed the boat into Mud Lake, ready to catch some fish.

Not too long into the trip, Wade noticed the lid was off the nightcrawler container. Then he looked at Brianna, and a fearful suspicion grew in his mind. Brianna’s mouth was dirty. Surely, she did not eat worms. Surely, it was not nasty nightcrawler dirt covering her mouth.

Wade asked a question he never expected to hear come out of his mouth: “Brianna, did you eat the worms?”

Brianna smiled a dirty, wormy smile, and said, “Yes, daddy!”

We’re more like Brianna than we think. Our Father plans peanut butter sandwiches and cookies for us, and we get distracted and eat the worms instead.

Our Father plans peace and we choose to worry. Our Father plans a perfect blessing and we ignore it, grabbing the first distracting object we see. Our Father says, “Wait for lunch,” and we say, “Ooh, yummy worms!”

In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus was at Mary and Martha’s house. Mary planted herself at the feet of Jesus and absorbed every word he said. Martha was distracted and exasperated by all the work needed to make a beautiful meal for her guests. Martha’s Father planned spiritual growth at the feet of Jesus, but Martha chose instead to impress people with her elegant hospitality. She chose to eat the worms.

There’s an element of warning in the story of Brianna and the story of Martha. We’re cautioned not to become so distracted by any earthly thing that we miss what our Father offers. It’s always better to reject the worms and eat the peanut butter.

But there’s a second, probably even more important, lesson to learn. Even though Brianna chose to eat the worms, Brianna’s father still loved her. Though Jesus didn’t approve of Martha’s choice, he didn’t stop loving Martha. And our heavenly Father still loves us, even when we look up at him with nightcrawler dirt on our faces.

We may mess up. We may make some bad choices. But nothing we do will make God love us less. He won’t kick us out of the boat because we ate the worms. On the contrary, he will do what Wade did. He will clean us up. He will offer us the good things he has planned for our lives. And he will look at us with eyes of love, smile, and call us his beloved.

Dear God, I choose to eat the worms more often than I like to admit. Life often distracts me from the perfect blessings you long to put in my life. Thank you for loving me even when I mess up. Help me trust the wisdom and goodness of your plan, even when I can’t see it. In Jesus’s name, amen.

God's plan

When the Problem Is the Solution

“I am raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people.” (Habakkuk 1:6)

Have you ever been through a difficult season that eventually worked for your good? That’s how our God works. God tells us straight out that he has the superpower of turning what we consider bad into something good. (See Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28.)

What if the pain you’re experiencing now is actually part of God’s plan to bring good into your life?

The book of Habakkuk tells of a time when God’s people in the nation of Judah had lost their way. The prophet describes it like this: “Violence is everywhere! I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds?…” (Habakkuk 1:2-3).

Habakkuk asked God why he didn’t do something about the problem of Judah’s disobedience and evil behavior. God answered Habakkuk, but his answer was disturbing. God said he already was doing something about it: He was raising a powerful army to invade and conquer Judah.

Conquer Judah? What a shocking answer! Habakkuk wanted revival or repentance, maybe sackcloth and ashes—but certainly not a hostile takeover from a violent horde. On the surface, the solution seemed worse than the problem—but it wasn’t.

God is always most concerned with our hearts, and he knew that the people of Judah weren’t ready to turn their hearts back to him. God knew what it would take to restore Judah. What appeared to be a calamity was actually a merciful God leading his people on the journey back to him.

Joseph’s life is an example of God bringing good out of a bad situation. He was sold into slavery but God placed him in a position to rescue his family and many others from a devastating famine. What seemed to be a tragedy was actually the catalyst for the solution.

Same story with Jonah. He was swallowed by a whale but learned obedience. Out of Jonah’s pain came the rescue of Ninevah.

What seems disastrous to us may actually be the act of a loving and merciful Father. Often, when we look back we can see that what seemed harmful at first glance actually worked for our good. That’s the promise of God to his children—he takes what the enemy means for evil and uses it for good.

So I ask you again: What if the struggles you are facing in your life are not the problem, but the solution? What good thing will God bring out of this season of your life? God is on your side. He will use it all—every bit of your life—for good!

Dear God, I give you this season of my life. Use it for my growth and for your glory. I believe you will redeem my pain and loss and turn it into good. Thank you for your presence. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who comforts me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

God's plan

Yet I Will Rejoice

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be happy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:18)

As Habakkuk observed the state of his nation, Judah, he was worried and confused. Judah was flooded with immorality and iniquity. How could God allow such evil? How long would God remain silent and let evil thrive?

Habakkuk questioned God in Habakkuk 1:3: “Must I forever see this sin and sadness all around me?”

Sin and sadness surround us today, just as it surrounded Habakkuk in his day.

Evil exists. Evil is real. But so is God, and God will triumph over evil.

When we wonder about God’s purpose in the world, and in our lives, we must remember that God has a plan and it will not be thwarted. God told Habakkuk, “Look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it” (Habakkuk 1:5). God was already doing something. God had a plan, and it was a plan beyond Habakkuk’s comprehension.

We may not understand God’s plan for our lives, and that’s OK. If we always understood God, he wouldn’t be any smarter than we are, and what a mess that would be! But even when we don’t understand it, we can be confident his plan is for our ultimate good. God’s plan is always gracious, wise, and loving. And it’s always better than our plan.

God’s job is to guide our lives. Our job is to trust him. Because he guides us and because he is worthy of our trust, we can rejoice in any situation.

Habakkuk 3:17 starts off with these words, “even if…” For Habakkuk, it was even if the fig tree doesn’t grow figs. Even if there are no cattle in the barns and even if the fields lie empty and barren.

What is your, “even if?” Even if I’m sick. Even if I lose my job. Even if I never get married. Even if I don’t understand what God is doing in my life.

You know what comes after, even if? Verse 18 says, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord!” Whatever your “even if” is today, remember the words that come next: “Yet I will rejoice.”  

Be filled with courage and determination. Trust in God’s plan. Rest confidently in his love. And, regardless of your circumstances, rejoice in the One who saved you and holds your life carefully and lovingly in his hands. “Even if…yet I will rejoice!

Father, thank you for blessing me and my family. Thank you for your love for me. May I rejoice in your salvation every day, in every circumstance. Even if I don’t understand your plan, yet I will rejoice. I put my faith in you. I trust you with my life. In Jesus’s name, amen.