Excited about God’s Plan

After that generation died, another generation grew up
who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.
Judges 2:10 NLT

“Pa.” “Car.” “Go.” I filled in the blanks and knew what my grandson wanted.

Our second grandson is not quite two years old. The age his brother was when he wanted to start spending the night with Meme and Pop. Sometimes, he would stay several nights in a row. Now his younger brother wants to do the same—but only one night at a time.

One particular night, our daughter texted to say Colton was pitching a fit. He wanted his MeMe. We were at a movie with friends, but my wife promised she would check when we got home to see if he still wanted to spend the night. Sure enough, he did. So off we drove across town to rescue our distraught grandson.

When our daughter opened the front door and our grandson saw MeMe standing at the door and me sitting in the car, his face lit up. He was ready to go. “Bye” was all he had to offer his mom. When he got to our house, he played excitedly, as if he’d not been there in ages. I blew up his air mattress bed, and he slept soundly all night.

My wife and I normally accommodate any grandchildren requests to spend the night because we know one day things will change. They did with God’s Old Testament people. They once followed God faithfully. They were excited to have fellowship with Him. But somewhere along the line, things changed and they began pandering after the gods of the surrounding nations until finally a generation grew up who didn’t even acknowledge the God of their ancestors.

God’s plan for me to follow Him, trust Him, serve Him, and serve others should produce excitement. And it normally does in the beginning. Unfortunately, after years of serving Him, sometimes the new wears off—as it does with children and grandchildren as they grow older and don’t want to be seen with older folks.

Following God’s plan should remain exciting throughout our lifetime. His plan for us may change numerous times, but our eyes should light up when we realize it—as my grandson’s did when he saw my wife and me. Joining God in what He’s doing, and letting Him conform us to His image are the most exciting things we could ever be a part of.

Get excited about God’s plan for your life.

Don’t Fear the Light

No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.
Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.

Matthew 5:15 NLT

He saw her standing by the hand-drawn well, and he knew his life would never be the same.

Community residents were converting an old school into a church. Marvin decided he’d visit to see if there was anything he could do. As he approached the construction site, two young sisters stood by the well house. Looking at one, Marvin’s heart skipped a beat. Summoning what courage he could, he approached her, introduced himself, and asked for a date.

The young lady’s response caught him off guard. “I’m a Christian,” she boldly stated. “I don’t go where a lot of young women go, and I don’t do what many young ladies do. Now if you still want a date, you can have one.”

Marvin did, and sixty plus years later, he and Gladys are still together. But he readily confesses he doesn’t know where he might be today had he not followed Gladys’ light.

The purpose of lighting a lamp was to get light. Light to read by, light to clean house by, light to do whatever one needed to do by. Covering the light would defeat the purpose. Covered lamps or candles go out, leaving one in the darkness. Jesus had a spiritual element in mind, but the lesson remains the same. Covering our testimony for Him leaves others in the dark.

Like Gladys, I should not be afraid to speak up about what I believe and whom I follow. My beliefs are based on the Bible which contains commands and principles God wants all people to follow. But many don’t know them. If I don’t shine my light into their lives, they may miss the greatest opportunity they’ll ever have.

Nor should I be afraid of holy living. Gladys wasn’t—even if it meant she might miss out on what others considered having a good time or even on a desired relationship. God is holy and expects His followers to be also. Living that way is not drudgery, but exciting. Holiness leads to abundant life.

Neither should I should be afraid to wait for the right person. Too many relationships end unhappily because they weren’t designed to be entered into in the first place. Pray, hold to your principles, and God will send the right person. He did for Gladys.

Don’t be afraid to let your light shine. Amazing things happen when you do.

Acceptable Sacrifices

Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the Lord.
Psalm 4:5 NLT

“Jonestown” was synonymous with Guyana, 1978, and suicide.

Jonestown was the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, a project of the Peoples Temple—a religious organization headed by Jim Jones. First formed in Indiana in the 1950s, they eventually moved their headquarters to San Francisco. The church’s goal was to enlighten those drugged by the opiate of religion.

Eventually, work began on the project in Guyana. Five hundred members began the construction, and others were encouraged to relocate to the “socialist paradise.” Jones was revered by his followers. Children called him “Dad,” and adults called him “Father” or “Dad.” An on-sight nursery witnessed the birth of 33 infants.

Concern in America surfaced. A delegation led by Congressman Leo Ryan traveled to investigate. After the meeting, and before he could board the plane to return stateside, Ryan was killed. Jones stirred up Jonestown inhabitants, telling them hostile forces would soon infiltrate the town, capture their children, and turn them to fascism.

Only one solution—one sacrifice—was tenable: “revolutionary suicide.” As Jones delivered his “death tape,” some members prepared a tub of Flavor-Aid laced with poison. On November 18, 1978, 918 people made a sacrifice. They assumed it was an acceptable one.

The psalmist encourages us to offer the right kind of sacrifices to God, but what are they?

Repentance must be the first. Without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sins. Without forgiveness, there is no connection to God and therefore no hope. Repentance is more than just sorrow for getting caught. It is an intentional move in a different direction.

In close connection with repentance is confession. Repentance is a one-time act where I move in God’s direction. Confession is my daily practice of admitting my failures and sins. When I repent, I’m given Christ’s righteousness, but I’m not perfect. Confession is my admission of that.

Thanks is another acceptable sacrifice. Thanking God for salvation, for forgiveness, for life, for guidance, for wisdom, for friends, and for family. The list is endless. If not for Him, I would have nothing worth having and life wouldn’t be worth living.

The sacrifice of praise follows closely behind thanksgiving. Everything in life is worth praising God for. Praise for delivering me from hell down to praise that my liver is working properly.

Don’t give God just any sacrifice. Give Him acceptable ones.

Never Too Close for Comfort

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Psalm 34:18 NLT

There is such a thing as being too close for comfort—but never with God.

I love being close to my wife. Sometimes in the evening hours after the grandkids have gone and the kitchen is clean, we sit together and watch M*A*S*H episodes. We snuggle, me with my arm around her and her with her head on my shoulder.

Nights are similar. We only have a full-size bed, but it wouldn’t matter if it was queen- or king-size. We’d still occupy the same space. We lie close to each other, often holding each other throughout the night. She doesn’t want her own space, nor do I.

I also enjoy being close to my children and grandchildren. Although my daughter and son are 30 and 26 respectively, they still get hugs. And so do the grandkids. They get many hugs and kisses. I want them to know they are loved. Especially if they are sad or hurt.

My personal space is different. While I don’t mind family getting into my personal space, I tend to back up when others enter it. If I don’t know them well, they can get too close for comfort.

The person who never gets too close for comfort is God. Never have I felt so close to Him as when I went through an extremely difficult divorce. It seemed I had lost everything, but He reminded me I had not lost Him. My favorite time of the day was when I’d lie down at night and pray. It was as if He was right beside me. And He was. He is close to the brokenhearted and calms those who have crushed spirits.

God is close because He cares. We are His children, His friends, His masterpieces in the making. Sometimes the making requires guiding us through tough times and at other times bringing difficulties into our lives. But He never leaves us. I may not feel His presence. He may even seem far away, but He never is.

God doesn’t deliver me from every difficulty, yet He won’t leave me to walk through them alone. Like a shepherd guiding sheep, He leads me, giving me wisdom and courage to face what is crushing my spirit.

Regardless of how you feel when times are tough, remember God is never too close for comfort.

Ditching Discouragement

abuseI will boast only in the Lord; let all who are discouraged take heart.
Psalm 34:2 NLT

After thirteen years of marriage, her discouragement had reached a new low.

Michelle married as soon as she could. She was looking for a way out and found one in a relationship with a young man her parents disliked. She wasn’t interested in their opinions; she wanted to escape. As soon as she could, she married.

Soon after the wedding, Michelle discovered her mistake. She had married a loser. He migrated from one job to another. Had it not been for her job and her parent’s help, they would have drowned financially. Worse yet, he was an abuser: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Throwing objects at Michelle and hitting her in places where the bruises wouldn’t show was her husband’s normal pattern. He topped this off with a continual barrage of insulting remarks, belittling her while building himself up. And he never supported her spiritual pursuits.

After thirteen years of misery, Michelle was depressed and discouraged. She feared he’d kill her if she left, but she didn’t see how she could stay. Finally, she mustered the courage to leave. While he was at work, she packed her things and headed to her parents’ home. One year later, her divorce was final and she soon married a man who gave her the love and respect she deserved.

According to the psalmist, Michelle went to the right place with her discouragement: the Lord. Now she boasts in what God did for her. She tells people she married the devil the first time but an angel the second time. I don’t feel like an angel, but I’ll take the compliment.

Instances that can lead to discouragement are the bane of living in a sinful world. While there have been a number of occasions when I’ve slipped into discouragement, I choose not to live there. Because I believe God controls my circumstances, I choose to see them differently than I would have had I no one to turn to.

God never allows us into potentially discouraging times without a purpose in mind. What could discourage me can also mold me more into God’s image as well as prepare me for something He has in mind for me. Facing tough times also gives me ammunition to help others who may be passing through similar experiences as I have faced.

Don’t waste your discouragement–but don’t live with it either. Ditch it.